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The optimum training programme

The training programme to accompany the diet advice

By LA Muscle on 18.01.2009 11:23 am



by Simon Howard

What we already know...

We all know diet alone will not get us in shape. We’ve all seen those people who go to diet clubs, starting as an overweight pear shape (carry most of their weight on hips and legs) and spend months counting points etc, being weighed and being given pep talks, only to emerge months later after losing weight to be only slightly smaller Simon Howardpear shape (still holding all their body fat on hips and legs). Notice, we have called it weight loss, and not fat loss. Weight is muscle, water, bone, glycogen (stored energy), fat etc. So out of all those things what do we really want to lose to re-shape our bodies? We all know it is not muscle, water etc- it is Body fat!
That is why we covered diet first. We need to supply our body with the raw materials, the building blocks for our bodies. Our bodies do not want to change; they are efficient machines and will try to maintain equilibrium as much as possible. In addition, from your body’s point of view, body fat is good; body fat is stored energy so it allows your body a reserve source of energy. Our problem is that not only is body fat ugly, it is also detrimental to our health. Now to muscle. Your body does not want more muscle than it needs, why would it, muscle requires more calories and makes your bodywork harder to maintain it.
Your body needs a reason to lose body fat and build or maintain muscle. Training creates this stimulus, more specifically resistance (weight) training. A combination of Cardio and weight training is the best approach.

"To change your body shape you must use resistance training”

My approach:

Once again, almost like a disclaimer, this is just the approach I used this year; there are no set rules and no one way to train. I like to break it down into phases or steps to make it as easy as possible, and once you’ve stagnated on one phase it’s time to move on to the next. This approach assumes a basic knowledge of exercises and exercise form. If you are new to exercise I would suggest you book a professional (either a personal trainer or staff at your gym) to show you how to exercise correctly and safely. What will follow is a holistic approach and not a list of exercises and sets, reps etc. We all have different needs and you should tailor your exercise choice, training volume and rep range to suit you.
Simon Howard

Phase 1

Once again, like the diet we want minimum effort for maximum results. This is not laziness, if we start off by doing everything we can to lose weight we have nowhere to go when progress slows. Again, the amount you do will depend if you are new to training or an experienced lifter. I like to train each body part once a week allowing plenty of time to recover between workouts. I tend to do a bit more volume work as it allows me to use slightly lighter weights and avoid potential injuries. The most important thing about this all the stages is you should always be trying to gain muscle; your body needs this stimulus to keep existing or gain new muscle. Yes, your body will not be as cell-growth-ready (building new tissue) in a diet phase as it would be in weight gain phase, but we must constantly be trying to push it to gain muscle. Below follows the bullet points for this phase, sample body part splits and sample workouts. Again, these are just samples based on my needs; you can tailor them to suit your needs.

“In sport there is no standing still if you’re not going forward you’re going backward”

  • Train each body part once a week
  • Allow plenty of rest to avoid the body becoming catabolic (breaking down muscle tissue)
  • Train hard to gain new muscle
  • Base exercise choices on your weak points (see sample workout below)
  • Train at a comfortable pace and rest as long as needed between sets
  • No cardio at this stage
  • No missed workouts, choose a workout split that you can stick to, you won’t progress if you are constantly missing workouts
  • Training partners- It is great if you can train with someone, it provides extra motivation and you can support each other, however you can still get great results training on your own.

Sample split:

Monday – Back & Rear Delts (back is a weak point for me so I do it first in the week when I am freshest)
Tuesday – Chest, Front and Side Delts
Wednesday – Rest (recovery is so important!)
Thursday – Legs (legs are done later in the week so my back can recover from my back workout on Monday)
Friday - Biceps & Triceps (arms are given their own day as they are a weak point for me I have allowed two days for them to recover from chest and back workouts, as the arms are secondary muscles in these workouts)
Saturday & Sunday – Rest

You can see form the above split it is based around my body and prioritising my weak points. You have to step back and look at your body and develop a strategy to correct any weak points / imbalances. Simon Howard

Sample Back workout :

My back is the main body part I have been working hard to improve this year. The method I tend to employ when choosing exercises is to always pick the harder exercise, for instance:

  • Medium Grip Chins – vs. - Medium Grip
  • Pull downs = Medium Grip Chins

We all know which exercise we should choose- it is the one, we do not want to. So based on that my back workout looked like this:

  • Medium Grip Chins 3-4 sets, 8- 12 reps adding resistance (I choose a medium grip because it allows a longer range of motion and allows you to stimulate the muscle more)
  • Barbell Rows 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps (adding weight in a pyramid style as the sets progress)
  • Dead lifts 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps (I tend to do partial dead lifts in a power rack focussing on the top range of motion, focusing more on my back and taking my legs and glutes out of the movement)
  • Dumbbell Pullover, 3-4 sets, 8 -12 reps (done lying across a bench, focussing on a full stretch through the lats)
  • Finisher:
    I like to pick an exercise to finish off, a few light sets, to flush the muscle through. Normally I pick something like, pull downs to the front and back or rope pullovers.
    That would be back finished we would then move on to rear delts and traps, as I feel all these muscles work well together. Also, remember to try to keep your workouts to an hour (ideally 45mins) and under so you do not over tax your body’s recovery ability.

Phase 2

Cardio, I know we all hate it... Well we can always avoid calling it cardio, because as much as it can be done for cardiovascular health and that is very important, that is not our main reason for doing it on this programme. We are using it to aid the loss of body fat and it does this in two ways. One way is by calories burned, obviously, the more calories you burn whether they come from your diet or stored fat the less your body has to store / keep. And the other way is like your weight workouts it stimulates your metabolism to burn more calories in the hours following exercise. So rather than cardio let’s call it calorie disposal exercise or metabolism stimulation exercise, just to be different if you wanted to be normal you’d be sat on the sofa watching Eastenders not reading this.

My view on calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise (cardio) is what I call the lazy man’s approach. It is the same approach we applied to diet in the Simon Howardlast article; we want to do as little as possible for maximum results, now that is just common sense. You should be able to start losing fat (remember its fat not weight we are trying to lose) with the phase one of the diet and weight training. Calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise should only be added when your progress slows. For instance the same as diet if you jump in at the deep and do 45 minutes twice a day from the start, yes you will make quick progress but you have no way to increase it when your progress slows. I prefer to build mine up gradually, doing as little as possible for maximum results. Below is my calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise plan. You may also have noted I use phases / steps not weeks etc. This is because everyone is different and if I give you a 12-week programme, you will follow it blindly; phases force you to plan for your own goals. You know it is going to take you longer to lose 20lbs than 10lbs so plan accordingly)
Calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise plan:

Phase 1 - none, weight training & diet should be enough to stimulate initial fat loss
Phase 2 – when progress from phase one has slowed (only add phase 2 when progress from phase 1 has slowed, why do more than you have to. The same applies to the steps only progress with steps when progress has slowed)
Step 1 - Start with 3 x 20-30minute session a week (we will cover types of exercise / intensity later)
Step 2 – increase sessions to 5 x 30minutes session
Step 3 -increase sessions by 5 -10minutes a session each week building up to 45 minutes, up to an hour ( I prefer to keep my sessions to 45 minutes to ensure I recover well)
Step 4 – put sessions up to 7 sessions a week
Step 5 – if you still require more fat loss you can increase sessions to twice a day on non-weight training days (be very careful with this as it can become quite catabolic and should be used sparingly).

Five steps, so you see how we can drag out calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise to get maximum results with minimum effort. The steps above can last anywhere from 7-8 weeks to however long it takes. It terms of choice of exercise and intensity it is entirely up to you. Make sure you pick forms of calorie disposal exercise / metabolism stimulation exercise you will do. I prefer either brisk walking or the exercise bike, just because they suit my lifestyle and mean I do not have to go back to the gym. I also like low intensity, a moderate pace. You might like high intensity interval training, and if you enjoy it, you are more likely to do it. However, remember with high intensity you will probably need less duration.

Phase 3

Back to weights. Again this phase is completely personal I like to ramp up my training intensity / volume as I progress with my plan. This bit is very hard to get right, as you do not want to tax your body beyond its recovery ability especially when you are using your nutrition plan to lose fat. We will cover some of the ways to increase your workouts, employ these as you feel necessary but be careful not to over train.

  • Volume – simply increase the amount of work your doing, again doing this too dramatically can cause overtraining. I like to add an extra exercise for a few sets, to avoid boredom.
  • Increase weight - it is very difficult to gain strength while losing fat, but it is often worth striving to keep weights the same or push them up. I like to try and go heavy on the first one or two exercise when I’m strongest (remember strength is relative, always train safely to avoid injury)
  • Increase reps – another way to increase intensity is to keep the weight the same and push for the same or more reps each week.
  • Decrease Rest Periods – obviously decreasing your rest period between sets will increase the intensity of your workouts.
  • Shake it up, occasionally completely change your workouts, change your body part split, Exercise choices, rep ranges, it can be any changes even training at a different gym or with different people can be a refreshing change and result in a great workout.

Above are just a few of 100s of options to keep your training interesting. There is no Simon Howardone method to train. Experiment with different techniques and methods. Forced Reps, Negatives, Supersets, Drop Sets, Pre Exhaust, the list is endless. I tend to keep my training basic when trying to lose fat, as it is easy to tax your body beyond its recovery ability. But the main thing is that training should be fun.


The real secret is… there is no secret. Gradual changes over the course of time, if you imagine a fat loss of 1-2lb a week on the above plan (when combined with diet) could result in a loss of 8-16lbs in 8 weeks now that’s going to make you look a lot different. I just like to have an arsenal of options to keep my plan moving forward. I like to think you build momentum towards your goal, and by having constant options and tools, achieving it becomes a definite outcome. In addition, I like to remember the “KISS” - keep it simple stupid, the simpler and easier you can make your training, the more likely you will be to stick with it.

“Remember make your training fit your life, not your life fit your training”

We all have work and family commitments that are important, build your eating and training round these and not the other way around. If it does not fit your lifestyle, you will not be able to stick to it very long. It might mean getting up early to hit the gym, or going to gym on your lunchtime so you can spend time with your family in evening. Be flexible, make it work for you. The other important thing is to be like a sponge, always be open to new ideas. I will be writing an article in the near future about a different style of training that I used between the BNBF Central 2008 and the UKBFF Gravesend Classic, which was only a month, but I got in the best shape of my life.



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