My Workout Approach for the Ultimate Lean and Powerful Physique

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I have been rigorously working out and watching what I eat from the early age of fourteen and reading everything I could on fitness, health and nutrition. I don’t have any university degrees in nutrition or exercise science but I do have a burning desire to constantly improve my physique in both performance and aesthetics. As a result, I am always seeking out new information to take my body to the next level. But more importantly, I am hacking away at the unessentials, the hype that doesn’t produce results that everyone seems to get caught up in. This is the philosophy of Bruce Lee, to take that which works and discard the rest.

I am starting a whole new series of articles. I am going to discuss strength training, core training, nutrition, supplements and fat burning. I will be covering everything you need to know to build the ultimate lean and powerful physique as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Alright. Lets get started. This is the very first article of the series and I am going to cover strength training. If there is one type of exercise you can do then strength training is it.

Strength Training 

Whether you want to look like Cam Gigandet, Brad Pitt or Chris Hemsworth you are going to need to strength train. This is by far the most important type of exercise you can do and strength training will have the most profound effect on your physique. If you want to build muscle then strength training will make it possible. If you want to lose weight then strength training will ensure you maintain muscle while doing so.

1. Focus On Getting Gtronger in the Kinobody Core Lifts 

Incline Bench Press, Chin ups, Shoulder Press, Bar Dips and Heavy Curls. These are the movements you want to get stronger in. Getting stronger in these lifts will transform your physique and these lifts will carry over to every other upper body lift. However chest flyes and triceps kick backs will do nothing for your incline press or any other lift for that matter.

2. What About Squats and Deadlifts? 

Squats and dead lifts are great exercises if done properly. However, for most people squatting and deadlifting in the long run will build up your legs and butt too much. This is what happened to me and I got to the point where my legs would rub together when I walked. In addition ,if you’ve ever had any back problems (I have) then squatting and deadlifting can be a nightmare. I now focus on short sprints and hill sprints to build lean and powerful legs. I feel explosive, agile and limber and more importantly, free of back pain

3. Strength Train 3x per week 

I have found that 3 strength training sessions per week is perfect. Any more then that and you’re doing more harm then good. Your muscles need time to rebuild and recover and your central nervous system needs rest too. Lifting heavy 5x per week or more and you will drain your nervous system and strength levels will drop. If you are on a diet and trying to lose bodyfat then no more then 3 strength training sessions per week. Seriously when you are on a diet your recovery rates slow down.

4. Low Reps, Long Rest Periods 80% of the Time 

Lift heavy in the 3-8 rep range and take 2-3 minutes rest in between sets. Heavy, low rep training is the way to build hard, dense muscle. If you want to trigger more muscle growth then increase the number of sets to 4-6 sets per exercise. High rep training can be useful if used properly. Use high rep, pump up style training for short 2-4 week blocks a few times per year to build quick muscle size via increased muscle glycogen. After 2-4 weeks of high rep training muscle growth will be limited. Your body is not good at doing two things at once. Your body can either increase glycogen stores or grow new muscle tissues. Focus on increasing muscle tissue by lifting heavy in the 3-8 rep range 80% of the time and focus on increasing muscle glycogen by using high volume workouts 20% of the time. Before you can benefit from high rep training again you need to increase strength.

5. Failure is Not an Option

Lift as heavy as possible but never let yourself fail. Training to failure is teaching your body to fail. Failure is unacceptable. Don’t go for another rep if you’re not going to get it. Doing so will over tax your nervous system and lead to stalled strength and muscle gains. I push my sets hard but never go to failure or do forced reps with a spotter. I believe this is one of the reasons why I have developed great strength. Most people I know who reach a plateau on the bench press do so because they take all their sets to failure.

My Workout Routine 

Below is the workout program I have been following for a few months now and I absolutely love it. My strength has gone through the roof and my physique has improved drastically. The workout program is pretty basic and looks like nothing you will see in a fitness magazine but it works.

Workout A 

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 x 4-6 reps 

Close Grip Barbell Bench Press: 2 x 4-6 reps

Weighed Chin ups: 3 x 3-5 reps

Bent Over Flyes: 2 x 6-10 reps

Standing Barbell Curls: 2 x 4-6 reps

Workout B 

Seated DB Shoulder Press: 3 x 4-6 reps

Weighted Bar Dips: 2 x 6-8 reps

Weighted Chin ups: 3 x 4-6 reps

Lateral Raises: 3 x 6-10 reps

Standing Dumbbell Curls: 2 x 4-6 reps

Workout Notes:

  • Perform three workouts per week on non consecutive days alternating between workout A and B
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Perform 2-3 progressively heavier warm up sets for 4-6 reps per exercise
  • Use the heaviest weight that you can use within the repetition range but stop one rep shy of failure
  • Record the weight used, sets and reps performed every single workout to track progress. Each workout you should know what you did last time so you can improve upon that
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  • http://www.behindtheworkout.com Tim @ Behind The Workout

    Seems like we are both fans of low volume high intensity workouts! I like how you picked out the most important exercises for building the most visually impressive muscle groups (delts, upper chest, arms etc). My routine is very similar – the only differences are that I throw in more back work, like rack pulls and rows, and different variations of calf raises.

    Looking forward to seeing your take on core training and nutrition.

    Best,
    Tim
    Tim @ Behind The Workout recently posted..Behind The Workout Special: The THOR Workout

  • Steven

    Greg, good stuff as usual. I’m a little confused about the rest time in-between sets. I’m about 69 inches tall/150lbs. My goal is to gain muscle mass. What’s the philosophy behind this workout as opposed to Phase 1 of Visual Impact?

    • admin

      @Steven

      I take long 2-3 minute rest periods when I’m lifting heavy (80% of the time). If you are doing a high rep / high volume routine then you need to keep the rest periods brief (45-60 seconds)

  • http://www.notyouraveragefitnesstips.com Dave – Not Your Average Fitness Tips

    Great start in your new series of articles. I’d say our routines are pretty similar so far!
    Dave – Not Your Average Fitness Tips recently posted..Convict Conditioning 2 Review: Paul Wade’s Advanced Prison Training Tactics

  • Josh

    Good Article Man!! This is one of your best posts. One question though…Do you use a seat with back support for seated shoulder press?

    • admin

      @Josh

      Yes. Definitely use a seat with support.

  • John

    How does someone create their own health blog? Where did you go to create yours?

  • Vince

    Should I follow this workout instead of the greek god or christian bale workout? What’s the differences?

    • admin

      @ Vince.

      They are all quite similar. They are based on 3 full upper body sessions per week. However this one you alternate between two different workouts.

  • João Silva

    I Greg, in Visual Impact Muscle Building, Rusty say’s if you want to gain the maximum muscle mass you should use a reps in the 12 to 15 range, but in this post you said to use the 3 to 8 rep range for mass. What you think is the best for an intermediate and advanced lifter?

    Thanks

    • admin

      @Joao

      I have always found that the best long term muscle growth comes from gaining strength in the 3-8 rep range. High reps I find useful for a short period of time (2-4 weeks) – great for the shrink wrap effect too. If you stick mostly to high reps / high volume then you will quickly reach a point where you need to get stronger in order to get bigger.

  • Vince

    Do you do any ab work after these workouts?
    And is the tempo of the exercises still slow and controlled?

    • admin

      Vince.

      Sometimes I will finish off with a few sets of L-sits, hanging leg raises and planks.

  • Isaac the Emperor

    Excellent post Greg. I find your updates the best advice. You need to post pictures of your current Physique if you got great results on this new three day program. Make your body rival Thad Castle.

  • Josh

    What are the rules of eating in this kind of phase? I have been doing high rep low rest now for 3 weeks and I have one week left, until i will do the strenght routine, like this one. Should the rules of eating ( like your post about building muscle and lose fat ) still apply in this type of workout? or should we limit something to not gain fat ( the reason why is we arent training to failure , so we arent restoring anything lose , like glycogen as supposed to the style of high rep and low rest style, but we need carbs for energy , strenght and building muscle, witout it we are not gonna build anything ) or just do something else??

    • admin

      @Josh

      Even when training heavy with low volume I will eat high carb on training days. Stick to the diet guidelines I talk about in the post on how to build muscle and lose fat.

  • Chaba

    Hey Greg,

    Just in case you missed it, I sent you an email. (To your hotmail account.)

    Please look at it.

    Hope to hear back from you.

    Best,

    Chaba

  • DeShawn

    Yo Greg. I think my muscle size is ok for now (I might work on it when I get stronger) but I need to know 2 things. 1. Would I lose fat faster if I do your high-low calorie cycle diet or a diet like the American Psycho or Eat Like a Model or Exuberent Health type diets? 2. Which of these would be the fastest but most effective? 3. How much of a role does cardio play in weight loss, like how much of a differance in pounds will it make? And if the American Psycho type diets are the best, how long should they be done at a time? And im sorry for all the questions. Thanks

    • admin

      @Deshawn

      The high-low calorie diet is a slower approach to fat loss but it will maximize strength and you may even gain a bit of muscle while losing fat. As for the other three diets you can try them all and see which suits your preferences the most. You can continue the diet until you reach your fat loss goal. Just give yourself a carb up day at-least once per week on a workout day. Every 4th day might work better.

  • Johan

    Does working out 3 days a week while on a diet apply to Phase III of Visual Impact?

    • admin

      @Johan

      In visual impact phase 3 there are four workouts per week. Alternating between chest/back/abs/cardio and shoulders/arms/cardio. This can be a useful approach for a few weeks but if you cut calories too low then you can quickly burnout. I prefer to stick to 3 strength training workouts per week and strategic cardio on my off days.

  • http://www.bloomtofit.com Srdjan – Bloom to Fit

    I like the part about “Failure is not an option”.

    A lot of people are under the impression that training with big weights and lifting until you can’t lift anymore is the way to build impressive strength. If you want to build strength, lift heavy, go one rep short of failure and lengthen your rest periods.

  • http://www.twitter.com/johnnytran Johnny

    @Greg and @Johan

    I was just about to ask Johan’s question, thanks! I’ve been on phase III for 6-7 weeks and have been feeling very fatigued. Going down to 3 days of strength training sounds about right, but how many days of separate strategic cardio would you say is reasonable per week?
    Johnny recently posted..johnnytran: RT @TheIlluminati: Be happy, then successful. The reverse order isn’t nearly the guarantee you think it is.

    • admin

      @Johnny

      2 days of strategic cardio is plenty. So you’re looking at 3 strength workouts per week and 2 days of 45 minutes of strategic cardio. On the other 2 days I would try and get 30-60 minute leisurely walk. Walking has tremendous health benefits, good at burning fat if done for longer periods of time and it is great for recovery.

  • DeShawn

    Oh ok thanks Greg. 1 more thing, whats strategic cardio?

  • http://somebodylied.com Michael @ somebodylied

    strength training is the way to go. when you perform this with a clean diet, cardio isnt even essential for fat loss. I still perform cardio however to stay in athletic shape
    Michael @ somebodylied recently posted..Adriana Lima Diet- How To Look Like A Model

  • vince

    Im confused u seem to deviate away from the shredded 3day workout split where u recommend 5 days a week routine…. or is that only for trying to quickly lose fat?

    • admin

      @Vince

      The 3 day shredded workout routine works well. However each workout is pretty short and low volume so it won’t cause overtraining.

      I now prefer to limit strength training to 3x per week and train hard each workout.

  • Chaba

    Hi Greg,

    So, I resent my email to your gmail account but I haven’t heard back, so I don’t know if keeps ending up in your junkmail. Anyway…

    So, what I would like to know is… Who makes the power rack I see in your videos. That silver looking one. And what model it is.

    Thanks,

    Chaba

  • http://www.kinobody.com/1402/workout-lean-powerful/ Deividas

    Hey Greg, nice webpage, very useful :)
    Quick question, could you post a Taylor Lautner workout for NewMoon? ;)

  • Riz

    Hi Greg

    Does doing HIIT on the same day as strength training impair muscle growth by any chance? Rusty Moore recommends doing HIIT after the strength training in phase 2 and 3.

    • http://comcast Bob Cirillo

      Greg, You asked me if I had any questions. I said, I am interested in the shredding sheets. If I purchase them, am I financially obligated to purchase anything else. Of course I probably would – your stuff and advice is helping me. BUT I HAVN’T HEARD FROM YOU???? QUE PASE???

      • Greg

        Of course not.

  • Sufi

    So is there 2 warm up sets and 2-3 work sets?

    • Greg

      BINGO!

  • Anthony

    I like this split but I’d like to put some more size on my legs, would you be averse to adding leg work (ie. 2-3 sets of Squats or Deadlifts) to the end of each workout?

    • Greg

      If you want to hit legs then I would suggest adding a third workout. A leg workout. Hit squats, dead lifts, lunges, leg curls and calves. Lift 3x per week and hit each workout once per week. Adding squats and dead lifts at the end of each workout would be way too strenuous.

  • http://kinobody.com dan

    Hi

    If i do 3 strength training workouts a week of 3-5reps would it be ok to add in some high rep body weight circuits at the end of the strength session to improve at functional body weight movements ? and also would you get the same strength gains or would the body weight circuit effect the strength you can gain ?

    A lot of questions i now ! Really appreciate all your advice and tips thanks !!

    Best Regards

    Dan

    • Greg

      High rep bodyweight movements will provide little benefit from a performance and physique stand point. I train for strength and I can pump out 100 push ups, 20+ pull ups, 40+ dips…. If you stay/get lean and get strong as hell you will be a machine.

      High rep training after heavy lifting will slow down progress. I wouldn’t include it. If you want to get better with your body then consider practicing bodyweight movements like muscle ups and over movements. Stay away from failure. Do this no more then once or twice per week.

      • http://kinobody.com dan

        Ok thanks greg, ok ill cut out the high rep bodyweight training… if i add weighted movements 4 sets 6-8 reps at the end of the strength workouts would that be better for strength gains ?

        Dan

        • Greg

          Yes. Adding 1 or 2 movements for 4 sets of 6-8 reps would be fine.

          I love bodyweight movements but I understand to benefit from them you need to make them more challenging. Adding a weighted vest or a dip belt is a fantastic way to make bodyweight exercises more challenging and beneficial.

  • Steven

    Hey,

    I was wondering what kind of lifting tempo you use when you workout. When I try to workout with more weight, I can do it, but i don’t feel it nearly as much in my muscles as when I workout lighter and slower. Any recommendations?

    • Greg

      Once you learn the proper technique I recommend exploding on the concentric and controlling on the eccentric.

  • anssi

    so do I do every week workout a, workout b, workout a? Or first week wokout a, workout b, workout a and then second week workout b, workout a, workout b etc…?

    • Greg

      Exactly!

  • Robert Birdsong

    Would I do 2 warm up sets for every one? Also how long to rest for the warm up sets. Thanks man

    • Greg

      You can rest 1-2 minutes between warm up sets. Gauge by how you feel. Only perform warm up sets for your first 1-2 exercises of the workout. After that you can just go right into your work set.

  • Robert birdsong

    So if I am understanding it correctly I do ABA the first week then on the second week I do BAB correct.? Thanks

    • Greg

      YES!

  • Bud

    I understand that close grip bench is great for triceps and a good compound workout however I was wondering what would be a good alternative to replace that excersise?

    • Greg

      You could do one arm push ups, weighted close grip push ups or skull crushers.

  • Robert

    I plan on doing this routine however I would like to add some muscle/size to my arms. What would you recommend for doing so. Just stick to the workout guidelines you have on this one or do add/drop some thing. Thank you.

    • Greg

      For adding size to the arms I like close grip chins, weighted dips, incline dumbbell curls and rope extensions / skull crushers.

  • Ryan

    Greg.. Do you agree with phase 1 of visual? I’ve been working out a while now but not full force. So I found that workout but I’m not sure if I need to do phase 1 or not based off what I’ve read from you. In 71 inches tall with 31 waste. About 170lbs.. But I feel like I still need to add a lot of size. My thing is I’ve Been doing sets around 10 reps for a while and I’ve felt like I haven’t gotten much stronger lately. So even though my muscles aren’t huge, should I do strength training and then jump to phase 1?

    Yesterday.. First day of phase 1.. I did the pyramid on bench.. 135×12, 145×10, 155×8, 165×6, then 125×12 to finish. Then onto the rest.. Should I focus more on the low reps for now?

    • Greg

      You’re already very lean which is awesome. I’d do phase two and focus on strength building. After 3 months of building up your strength you can do 6 weeks of phase one.

  • Michael

    Hey Greg,
    thanks for all the great tips and help- I just finished a couple weeks of starting strength for initial gain (6’2″ 145 lbs- yeesh!) but now I’m ready to just “selectively build” 3 questions
    -Can I add deadlifts just one set one day a week (they make me happy!)
    -How do you feel about swimming affecting strength gains
    -why only three days a week vs your look like an action star workout which is 5?
    -Sorry one more: when I don’t eat every 3-4 hours or skip breakfast, I start to feel like craaaapppp- it seriously effects my perfomance in classes and at school- recommendations?
    THANKS ALOT AND YOUR THE BEST!!!( got my pt license cus of folks like you!)
    -Michael
    p.s- if you need a laugh (and some tips for where to build my physique up :) check out my response to that new song What does the fox say?. Just look up “WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY” Michael Stancliff.

    • Greg

      1. Yes, you can definitely incorporate deads.
      2. Swimming is fine. Just don’t overdo it.
      3. Three days per week, for natural lifters is way better! You’ll make way better strength gains with more rest days. This has been the case for me and all the people I have worked with.
      4. Probably because you’re used to running on carbs for energy. It might take up to two weeks to adapt then you should feel clarity and focus. If you prefer to eat frequently, then hit your protein and calorie numbers and you’ll be set.

  • bud

    Could I use this workout with the diet out lined in the Christian Bale article?

    • Greg

      Yep!

  • Andreas

    What exercise could i substitute Weighted Bar Dips with?

    • Greg

      Close grip bench

  • Andreas

    Would you recommend this routine on a bulk?

    • Greg

      Better for cutting or maintenance. Try the Henry Cavill workout or dual pyramid training workout.

  • Daniel

    Hey Greg, why do you train weighted chinups at every workout with different reps? Is there even enough rest for the back?

    • Greg

      This is an old workout. It worked well for a while but then I needed to give myself more rest. I’d recommend stopping a couple reps shy of failure and you’ll be fine.

  • Gabe

    Hey Greg, so would this be useful than the warrior shredding workout? Also, whats the difference between your workouts and Rusty Moore’s six day frequency training workout? Which do you think is better? Im deployed right now and just want to get the best results possible. Great stuff, keep it up.

  • Austin

    Hey Greg sorry for asking this again but I forgot where I typed it, but I cannot progress on flat bench to save my life and it is pretty damn low, 160 pounds and I weigh just over 150 (and it has been there since like July) can I just replace flat bench with weighted dips and get the same benefits?

    Thanks

    • http://kinobody.com/ Greg

      Yeah you can replace those!