What’s Your Default?

These are turning into my questions of the week… not really on purpose, but because Monday mornings are times to ponder the meaning of life (42!).

Anyway, what’s your fall-back/ baseline plan? What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

For me, it’s always a bodypart split. Typically I’ll do legs, chest/ shoulders, back, arms.

My actual day will go:

  1. Activation. This could be something explosive but lately ends up being a joint-friendly movement (leg curls or machine press).
  2. Main movement. This is the one that matters - squats, bench, whatever.
  3. Hypertrophy. This is something safe (leg press) where I’ll do the rest pauses or whatever sucks.
  4. Structural. This is where I’ll do the rear delt raises or dips or whatever I know needs to be done but don’t care about.
  5. Cardio. 10 minutes HIIT or 20 minutes MISS.

I think the value of the default is not skipping the gym when you don’t have a plan or hard goal.
I’m also convinced most of us will fall back to however we started lifting…
Anyway, I’m curious: what do you do when you don’t know what to do?


My default is legit self-destruction. Left to my own devices, I will just grind myself down to the sub-atomic level through hellacious conditioning and lifting efforts.

These days, I “give myself permission” to train that way when I’m NOT gaining weight. It’s my break from sticking with the plan as far as diet and training goes. But I NEED a plan to keep me from doing that too long.

My standbys are (1 day for each training)

In general, I like one BIG set for lower body, and lots and lots and LOTS of reps for upper body.


Dorian Yates split.

Shoulders/ triceps
Chest/ biceps

6-8 sets per muscle
2 working sets to failure
Top set and a back off set
6-15 reps

Walking 45-60min everyday. Usually walking my dogs.


Push Pull Legs and chill.

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No thought required.


Well don’t I feel sheepish, haha.


Pick the body part I hit the least recently and hammer it.

These days I do a much better job of listening to my body when training.

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I default to a powerlifting split. Days for bench, deadlift, and squats. I’ll usually throw in a day for overhead pressing, and I do upper back every session in some way (either chins, BB rows, or cable rows).

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There’s just nothing this program can’t do. Makes you stronger, conditioned, and sexier! What more could you ask for? :rofl:


I identify with this concept myself, not with the crazy conditioning you do but with too much volume of heavy/ failure sets. I probably should try to overdo it on conditioning, so I get up to the right amount. I used to be dumb enough to run 5+ in those toe shoes and wearing my kit just because I could, so I thought I should, so that self-destruct button is in there!

I think this has got to be the hardest and most beneficial skill to develop.

I like it. Does it have to be an “extended set” (forced reps, drops, etc.) to count as failure?

@ChickenLittle i should have known someone would bring 5/3/1 into this!


Binge-read old T-Nation articles and find something new to try. :slight_smile:

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But if they’re old articles…how are you finding something new?

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I know this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but (for myself) I have the default to avoid this: I hate getting in my head and trying to find what’s best. I do think it’s valuable to try new things and just give a new idea a whirl, and I’m way happy to hop around and do whatever, but I like having the default loaded up so if all the brainpower I can muster is a drive to the gym, then that was enough.

Currently something like upper/lower/athletic day, then rest if I need it or repeat the 3 day cycle if I don’t.

Upper and lower days:
Main lift heavy
Accessory bodybuilding (generally just 1 hard very intense set per muscle or some sort of light circuit to sweat and get out of breath)
either stability work or conditioning work emphasizing the main lift.

The moving day ends up either light and pushing conditioning or heavy carries for 2 or 3 events/exercises

I also do quite a bit of knee rehab stuff as warmup on lower and moving days. oh, and I tend to do work throughout the day in 2-4 mini sessions.

This is all probably going to be changing here soon because I’m talking to some coaches.

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If you marry a geriatric, is she not still your new wife? (I mean, damn, some articles really are old. So old that the website completely messes up their parsing sometimes)

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You don’t want to walk down this path with a sophist my friend!

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I default back to a body-part split (chest and shoulders, arms, legs, back days). It’s what I first started on and I am most comfortable with. I know I can get in a great workout with 9-12 total sets per body part. And arms is always a superset day with 9 sets of bi’s/tri’s piggybacked on each other.
Dips and pullovers are mainstays in my workouts if left to myself to decide movements.

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Seems an odd question. I always have a plan regardless the situation. I have no need for a default plan.


LOL. I just competed at strongman nationals without ever really having a training plan.

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If I’m not following a program, I normally fall into 3 day a week full body workouts, or a 4 day upper lower split, with focus on sets of 5 on one big compound lift for the day, then Giant set accessory work.

I burn out on it if i do it too long, as hitting heavy sets of 5 that often tends to fatigue me, but man it does tend to work wonders for my strength the first 5-7 weeks getting back to it.

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