Time for a Change


So I’ve been having reasonably good success with the following plan, but it is time to change it up after about a year. Gains are slowing down (significantly), so I could use help. Now, I work out from home, so my equipment is limited to free weights. I have a squat rack, bench, etc, but no machines. Also unlimited dumbbells. I’m still, despite training for 20 months, as weak as a kitten. I make progress with strength, but very slowly.

I am not ever going to be a competitive bodybuilder. But when I want to improve my body, this is the place to be. I want to keep getting stronger, as I’m not that strong, and I want to get bigger. I can workout from Monday - Friday, but I can’t do weekends. Here is my old plan with numbers from last week:

Bench press: 182 1/2 x 3 x 5 (pure strength exercise, go for sets of five then increment. 3.5 minute break between sets)
Incline dumbbell press: 50 x 3 x 11 (work up to 3 x 12, then increment weight and reset at 3 x 8. < 60 seconds between sets. 3 second eccentrics)
Pushups: 12 11 11 (<60 seconds between sets)
dumbbell flies: 40 x 3 x 10 (same incrementation as incline dumbbell flies above. 3 second eccentrics)

Pullups: 3 x 5 (finally made it here. 3.5 minute breaks between sets)
Neutral grip pullups: 8 6 5 (with minimal assistance from a chair. <60 seconds between sets. 3 second eccentrics)
Bent over DB rows: 55 x 3 x 11 (same progression as Incline dumbbell press)
Inverted rows: 12 11 10 (< 60 seconds between sets)

Wednesday (my legs are still the most dominant part of my body, so I don’t currently need to work them too much:
Low bar back squats: 235 x 3 x 7 (ramp from 3 x 5 to 3 x 8, then increment. 3.5 minutes between sets)
Romanian deadlifts: 180 x 3 x 9 (same progression as incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)

Thursday (the bottom 4 exercises are to avoid shoulder injury. See Cracking the Rotator Cuff Conundrum for info):
Strict shoulder press: 145 x 3 x 5 (for strength. 3.5 minutes between sets)
lat raises: 22 1/2 x 3 x 13 (sets of 12 - 15, then increment strength. < 60 seconds between sets. 3 second eccentrics)
reverse flies: 17 1/2 x 3 x 15 (sets of 12 - 15, then increment strength. < 60 seconds between sets. 3 second eccentrics)
barbell cuban press: 30 x 3 x 11 (progressions like incline dumbbell press)
L-lat raise: 22 1/2 x 3 x 8 (progressions like incline dumbbell press)
Side DB abduction: 22 1/2 x 3 x 9 (progressions like incline dumbbell press)
DB external rotation: 17 1/2 x 3 x 10 (progressions like incline dumbbell press)

Fridays (each bicep is supersetted with tricep exercise in pairs):
Hammer curls: 32 1/2 x 3 x 10 (progressions like incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)
bench dips: 25lbs, 15, 15, 13 (working up to 3 x 15 then incrementing weight. 3 second eccentrics)
One arm db curls: 25 x 3 x 11 (progressions like incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)
narrow grip bench: 100 x 3 x 10 (progressions like incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)
barbell curl: 72 1/2 x 3 x 10 (progressions like incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)
skull crushers: 60 x 3 x 11 (progressions like incline dumbbell press. 3 second eccentrics)

So this is what I’ve been doing. Problem is my strength gains have stalled, and I’m still not strong. My muscles seem to have slowed down their growth as well. My arms are stuck at 16.5" (hey, who doesn’t want big guns?) and the rest of me doesn’t look much bigger.

So my question, I guess, is this. With the limitations of free weights only in addition to only being able to work out (consistently) 5 days a week, how do I get, well, bigger and stronger from here on out?



P.S. Yes, I know my lifts aren’t anything to write home about, which is why I need help getting stronger. Please be gentle.

no need to apologise for your lifts, there’s always going to be people out there stronger than you, and people out there weaker than you, so just worry about your own progress.

I would look into 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler. It’s a very well laid out, simple program, with strength as its main focus. Progression is the name of the game with that program, with 4 workouts built around the big lifts, namely squat, bench, military press and deadlift. It’s based on percentages but designed so that even if you don’t hit a max weight every workout, you should hit a PR for reps at least most of the time. Really good program. You can stay on it for years.

It also gives you a bit of freedom to pick your own accessory stuff so you can tailor it to suit your own individual goals and weak points you might need to address.

It’s all online, but be a good guy and buy a copy of the book. It’s a good read and you’ll make Jim Wendler happy.

Thanks for the response. I’d looked at 5/3/1, but it is a strength specific program. I am looking for a bodybuilding program that allows for decent strength gains (understanding that it wouldn’t be as quick as something like 5/3/1). I want to look good nekkid, as it were.


Look into Phil Hernon’s old program and routine.

There’s an old thread on this site about it I believe, with all the info you’ll need, search for “Phil Hernon Training”, the thread was made by Iron Dwarf I believe.

Look into the “Iron Sport Method” EBook by Steve Pulcinella. You can find it at www.EliteFTS.com. Either that or 5/3/1

If you want to look good naked, keep your bodyfat low by adding in both high-intensity interval training and some steady state cardio as well.