T Nation

The Perfect Program?

Firstly I’d like to say a big hello to everyone at T-Nation. I am a long time reader who has gained lots from this fantastic site but in all honesty contributed nothing, this is a small attempt to rectify the situation.

Now we all know that there is no such thing as the perfect program so the title is intended to be a little tongue in cheek but allow me to explain. I studied Exercise Science and Sports Nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University and the only reason I mention that is so you know Im not biased when I say that I dont think a degree counts for much when it comes to designing routines that work in the real world and actually produce results for regular people.

I’m sure every new super high-tech program that comes out is backed buy a wealth of scientific data that shows how it increased the IGF-1 of the average rat, vole, weasel or field mouse (depending on the study) by 2000% but when you need a stop watch, a razor blade, 50 feet of bungy cord and a firm grasp of quantum physics just to complete a workout consistency is always going to be a problem.

I have by no means escaped this internet phenomenon and have at one point or another tried most of the weird and wonderful routines out there with varying degrees of success or disappointment. I am fortunate in that I train with a great group of people including a relative novice a former pro heavy weight boxer and a current British Record holder in powerlifting and we all bounce ideas off each other and usually come up with decent results.

In the summer of last year I went to Thailand for 3 months to both holiday and fight Muay Thai, when I came back I was 30 pounds lighter and with the best abs I’ve ever had but a long way down on my best lifts and looking rather to much like one of the weeners who post pictures on the internet claiming they dont want to get “too big”.

I was super keen to get back on the weights and read loads of articles and played around with a few programs but nothing that really hit the spot. I decided to take a look back through my years of training and try to strip it down to its bear essentials leaving nothing but what had worked for me before. I discovered that I dont like full body workouts… or body part splits!!!

I feel there is a general misconception about full body exercises, just because a muscle is involved in an exercise does not mean it’s fatigued enough by that exercise to produce an adaptive response. The deadlift is a great exercise, its one of my favourite exercises but to me its a back, glute and hamstring exercise I would never improve my calves, quads, chest or arms from deadlifting.

This is my main problem with full body workouts I just dont feel they fully fatigue all the muscle groups and although you might work hard I dont think every muscle gets its fair share of that hard work. At the other end of the scale if you divide the body up into specific parts you can certainly blast each part but there’s a tendency to do lots of different exercises and lots of isolation stuff that im not convinced contributes much to the final result.

Its like your adding things just because you only have to train one body part that day and you’ve done the basics so why not through in some fancy stuff just to pad out the session and use up that last half an hour of your allotted 1 hour training time. I also dont think training each body part once a week is optimum.

So what to do what to do? Well its very very simple we now train Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on upper/lower splits. Monday and Wednesday are always conventional gym days, we pick one basic compound move for each body part and perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps no forced reps, drop sets or anything like that and we dont lower the weight at all so the weight we start with is the weight we finish with but obviously the reps drop slightly due to fatigue.

We never perform the same exercises 2 weeks in a row instead we pick from a pool of 3 or 4 “money” exercises for each body part that we like the best and rotate these. An upper body workout for one week could be;

Incline Bench Press
Bent-Over Rows
Dumbell Shoulder press
Barbell Curls
Tricep dips
Rotar cuff or any re/pre hab work

The Friday and Sunday workouts are what really give this routine a lot of flexibility. They are also upper/lower splits but depending on your goals could be, another conventional gym workout using a different selection of exercises, strongman days we do tyre flipping, barrel pressing, and farmers walk on the upper days and mainly car pushing/dragging on the lower days (crazy leg pump!) or if you want to loose body fat and get fitter they can be high intensity cardio days for this we do Boxing and MMA for the upper days and hill sprints for the lower days.

I can honestly say since starting this program 6 months ago I have increased all my lifts and am now the strongest I’ve ever been after 7 years of training and whats more all my training partners have made similar gains. Simple but very, very effective and I just dont think we’ll be changing to a new routine any time soon.

I hope this article proves of some use to someone because I’ve really learnt a lot from reading all the good stuff you guys post on here. Feel free to throw in some stuff of your own regarding training and program design or anything else thats relevant, cheers guys take it easy.

just a heads up, paragraph breaks and line spacing will make it much easier to read.

I won’t even read as is

MOD NOTE: Fixed.

Jesus! Somebody just puked the alphabet all over my screen.

MOD NOTE-- Fixed.

Note: Its “by” not “buy”

I read most of what you said, and dont really know what you were trying to get at.

Deadlifts are not meant to target your arms, quads or chest. Its a posterior chain movement.

Full body exercises or workouts are beneficial, but only if you know what full body means.

A full body exercise would be a clean and jerk, or clean and press. Deadlifts, are essential to these movements, as well as cleans, high pulls, push press, jerks, etc. You stick to these exercises and you’ll pretty much be set.

As for a full body workout:

Workout A


Workout B

Push press

Those are full body workouts, and they are also beneficial.

The fact is there is no perfrect program, because everyone is different, and even the “perfect program” will be useless if applied poorly.

Wall of text crits you for 10,000 damage.

OK i will be nice seeing as you haven’t experienced that yet!!

I like it, simple and various and good.

The 2 gym days, i mean shit you cant go wrong with a rotating exercise, compound lift, 5-10 rep, upper/lower split workout!! I mean it, it is a great split, and a great choice of exercises and rotation.

The other 2 days, well they are gonna help to keep you interested, your body guessing, the calories burnt, your functional strength way up and your max effort strength waaay up too! And make sure you can kick some ass with that bench and squat strength accrued. You have a great all round workout that i am sure i could fault if i tried, but i wont - Simply because it would only be nitpicking, not a constructive thing. It is a good, working, balanced workout and it should see you good for a good 6 months with a couple of minor edits.


Hey guys, firstly im sorry about the terrible presentation that was the first thing I ever wrote on the internet and it came out a little garbled thanks for tidying it up mods.

I didnt plan to write it I just had half an hour to kill before work I’d just had an awsome session and set a couple of new PR’s and I thought what the hell I’ll share what we’ve been doing with the T-Nation people.

dankid I understand what your saying bud but I still dont think a clean and Jerk is a true full body exercise. By that notion you could perform nothing but clean and jerks and develop your whole body and whilst I love them and do them regularly they have never made me sore in my calves, quads, chest or biceps. Im aware this is different for everyone and depends on your own leverages, biomechanics and development of different muscle groups.

The workout you’ve listed looks good but I would say for me personally the deadlift is as you pointed out a posterior chain movement, rows are a back exercise and push presses only maximally stress the shoulders and triceps on me so thats a little short of a full body workout. Oh and I did say the perfect program thing was tongue in cheek mate no need to be so serious we’re just chatting about training if you think im wrong about something thats cool, no big deal.

Finally Joe, thanks for throwing me a bone mate! I really was just trying to share something thats worked really well for us and we enjoy doing. Im glad you like it and like you said the 2 sessions at the end of the week really keep us motivated and they seem to assist the gym stuff and the gym stuff assists them so we keep moving forward. Thanks again guys, take it easy.

Sorry I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. But really just because you’ve never gotten sore from a specific lift, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

Look at olympic weightlifters, they are some of the strongest fittest athletes out there. I highly doubt you’ll ever see them targeting their calves, yet they probably have calves stronger than 90% of the people that do target them.

Sure with olympic lifts you might not be getting enough direct work for you biceps and chest, but thats easily fixed by throwing in some bench press, and chinups.

I guess your right by saying there is no true full body lift, but the O-lifts come damn close.


I use to be all into the “perfect” program trying to go by science and all.

I would draw up great programs that looked good on paper; but found that the real perfect program was one that i would follow even if it conflicted with science.

This is not to say that i try not to base my program on some type of science; but only saying that sometime there are mental motivation barriers that can form if you take a purely scientific approach.

I recently posted my routine here and everyone was saying i should put my deads on squat day. And you know, i agree with them …; but the problem is that i cant do squats and deads on the same day as it just drains me to the point where i do not even feel like working out because i know the physical drain its going put on me.

It looks great on paper having the squats on the same days as my deads; but man; mentally it just does not work for me.

I know from a scientific point of view my program is not the best; but the most important thing is to develop a program that “you” can do “consistently” as it is one that will work. I think the mental aspect is sometimes overlooked when developing a program.

dankid, no worries mate you didnt come across as a jerk just a little tense thats all :wink: I totaly agree the olympic lifts are about as much bang for your buck as you can get. I think the muscle snatch is an awsome variation thats under used but great for developing power.

ds77, Im with you on the program thing 100% if you dont get fired up about doing it then your not gonna give it your all and the results will be second rate. Better to do an average routine with everything you’ve got than do a great routine half assed.

Im not saying I wont change programs again I just think from now on whatever I do will be simple and something I enjoy doing and am motivated to realy go to town on.