Framework For The Masses…

Since I’ve been writing on the theme of sustainability, I have decided to stray into the mainstream this week, and offer an outline of a sustainable strength training workout, which might be a good fit for many.

This is a workout which can benefit everyone from the prep-athlete, to the working professional desiring to stay in shape, to hardcore fitness enthusiasts, and even seniors.  What makes this framework able to fit anyone is in how it is scaled.  That is, the weights used, and the intensity given, should be relative to the individual’s ability and desire.  Relative that prior statement, this can be anybody’s workout.

The tenets:

·         Exercise should make your life better, not worse.

·         Use the heaviest possible poundages, in the best possible form.

·         Cheating to enable more repetitions increases the opportunity to become injured.   If you have to sacrifice perfect form to enable another repetition, stop.  The body doesn’t know 7 repetitions from 9, or 10.  The body knows good form, and failure.  When good form and failure meet, results happen.

·         Train through as complete a range of motion on all exercises as you are comfortable with.   The act of strength training, through a complete range of motion, is also the act of stretching.  It is just stretching with weights in your hands or at the ends of your feet.

Cursory definition of fitness:

The sum of strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, and overall command of one’s physicality it applies to everyday living, as well as athletics, and recreation.


These exercises, performed as directed, should enhance all athletic and physical endeavors.  Done properly, these exercises will also help minimize the risk of injury which might occur in other forms of athletics and recreation.


This is the rotation of 2 exercises performed with a minimum of rest in-between sets. While your upper body is working, your lower body is resting.  While your lower body is working, your upper body is resting.

Every day is leg day:

Sixty-five to seventy percent of a woman’s muscle mass is carried from the hips down.  Fifty-five to sixty percent for men.  Since a majority of muscle is in the lower body, legs are to be included in every workout.

Aesthetic fitness:

Increases in muscular detail, hardness, and fullness, though initiated through strength training, are largely functions of diet, and recovery.  The most consistent person executing these workouts, will see few results in these areas without adhering to structured and consistent nutritional minimums.

Machines, Dumbbells, And Free Weights:

There are unique values in all of these.  There is no one, which is better than the other.  Gravity works — period.

Anyone who suggests that free weights are better than machines has little understanding of how machines can be manipulated to enhance flexibility.  Machines can also provide a unique plane from which strength can be improved, and muscle growth can be stimulated.

In the end, strength training is about gravity management.


This workout is evenly balanced.  Every muscle from the neck down is included.  I have included isolateral, and bilateral movements.

I have included vertical pushing and pulling movements, as well as horizontal pushing and pulling movements.

I have included wide, and narrow stance movements for the lower body.

The split:

Day 1: Chest/legs

Day 2: Shoulders/arms/legs

Day 3: Back/legs

Three sets of 6-10 repetitions are suggested for athletes and and hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

One – two sets of 8-10 repetitions for general fitness enthusiasts, and for seniors.

Emphasis should be on slow negatives; 6-8 seconds , with force applied for 3-5 seconds

Last word before the workout:

I used the term “outline” in the first paragraph of these instructions.  What you will read and view below is just that, an outline.   Substitutions can/should be made for the sake of variety within this framework.

An example of that relates to what I wrote earlier about free weights and machines.  If I do my incline bench press one week with dumbbells, the following week I might do it with a barbell, and the week after with a chest press machine.  There are unique values in all of these.

The same idea can applied to lat pulldowns.  If I do them with a narrow grip one week, the following week I might do them with a wide grip attachment.  The next week, I might substitute them with an underhanded grip, or with pull-ups.

If I do bench curls for biceps one week, I may do concentration curls the following week, and so-on.

The idea behind this workout is less the movements themselves, and more the idea of placing attention on equal parts pushing and pulling, isolateral and bilateral movements, as well as working through vertical and horizontal planes.  That said, the exercises I have selected here, are the ones which I go to first for any of these movements.

I don’t offer instruction during these videos.  The whole idea is to make a study of them.  Take note of the form you see, and strive to replicate it.

Day 1

Incline Bench Press/Prone Leg Curls

Chest Fly/True Squats With Stance Outside Shoulder Width

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press/1-Legged Leg Press

Day 2

Cable Lateral Deltoid Raise/Leg Extensions

Lying Triceps Extensions/Standard Lunges

Bench Bicep Curls/Seated Calf Raise

Day 3

 Lat Pulldowns With Narrow Gripr/Smith Machine Squats With Narrow Stance

1-Arm Seated Row/Walking Lunges

Deadlift/Low-Back Extensions


I currently have an aspiring female fitness athlete using this exact framework – she’s the one seen deadlifting 135 lbs. for FLAWLESS repetitions.  Her transformation this  year has been significant.

I also have a student athlete using this framework.  Her performance on the field has never been better.

I have used this framework myself, and have seniors using it as well.

I wish to restate the utility and the benefits of these exercises comes from using proper form through a complete range of motion.  Keep the poundages, and the intensity relative to individual ability, and desire.

I will end this with a quote from Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting legend, Precious McKenzie,

“The routine is not what matters; the sets, repetitions, and so-on.  What matters most is the effort and the consistency.  When people come to understand this, they will enjoy results regardless of the routine they are on.”

I fucking love that quote.  I heard it young, and it has been formative, to say the least.  Be well.  rc…


Please check back in 2 weeks, when I step back out of the mainstream, and into the comfort of the blender of my head.  Oh, and there is this from UK upstarts, Henry’s Funeral Shoe.   Enjoy…

20 responses

  1. Okay, I just got really excited & interested. I can train legs every day? No rest period needed between leg sets? Why are you the only one saying this? And you know what, instinctively I believe you! This is such an awesome post. May I share it?

    • Thanks Dawn. This reply could be a blog post itself, or even a book, but I will do my best to keep it short.

      Most of what is assumed about strength training today, arose the gym/bodybuilding culture of the 70s and 80s. It was frequently written that recover days between muscle groups was a requirement. This was largely based on the training of bodybuilders who did many sets of the same body part.

      If you look closely at the workout, it is a 3-day routine, and I suggest a rest day, or cardio day in-between them. That is plenty of recovery time between workouts. Also, the supersetting of upper and lower body movements enables brief enough rests between sets, so the legs are recovered enough for the next set.

      I have one female CrossFit athlete training with me in this fashion 2-3 times er week on her non CrossFit days. She is in her 40s, and has had no problems with recovery.

  2. My comment got eaten. I shall try again 🙂

    Roy, you and I agree on so many facets of training philosophy that I don’t know where to begin. Really though, you’re right when you state that it doesn’t really matter which exercises you choose, as long as you’re consistent in following these principles. Perhaps that’s why I get so annoyed every time I see an article that starts with the words “The best exercise for…” Thanks for a great read!

    • Agree Tamara. The next person who sends me a Yahoo article on the top 5 butt exercises, will not like my response.

      Jeez, there a better formula than hard work and consistency…?

  3. Roy, this is such a keeper. You’ve distilled a ton of wisdom (decades of experience, right?) in a single post, and I’m going to share it with my peeps.

    One of my favorite lines: “The body doesn’t know 7 repetitions from 9, or 10.”

    I never thought about it that way . . . but hell yes!

  4. This framework reads like a Bible for strength. I’ve been a tad frustrated with the progress of my arm development, but now I realize that the load has been too light. Fixing that immediately. Will continue to focus on your principles for form, control and (slow) speed.

    • Thank you Josie, very much. A good rule of thumb for how heavy an exercise should be is simple: If it feels too light, it probably is. If it feels too heavy it probably is. It’s really that simple.

  5. FINALLY had time to sit and read (and scribble into my workout log! ) THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS! I love that it isn’t 100 angles to hit your biceps 😉
    Start next week – will let you know how it goes!

  6. 1 legged leg press. Oh crap, yes. I love this. Thank you for sharing. I needed a kick in the arse about my form. I try to fail as my form fails but some days I am ridiculous….what can I say. You’re awesome.

  7. This workout looks great! If you want your trainings to be effective and also bring you pleasure, you need to mobilize all available energy resourses of your body. This requires proper nutrition. To provide my body with enough nutrients without overeating I am taking dietary supplement Multipurpose High-Potency Super Nutritional Complex, by Military Grade. Sometimes people feel tired. This is normal. But due to this supplement, I forgot when I felt fatigue last time. I am able to hit the gym whenever I want and still have lots of energy for active recreation with my family. I live in constant motion and I enjoy it!

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