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Exercise Selection for Muscle Building

Programming Your Movements for Muscle Gains

In Part I of this Build Muscle The Right Way Article Series, I spoke about the three most important keys I use for building muscle and gaining strength at the same time: Multi-joint Movements, Training for Power and Speed, and Working for Muscular Balance. You can read Part I here: Keys to Muscle Building.

Sample Upper Body Training Split

In Part I, I put a lot of emphasis on maintaining antagonistic balance so that you do not develop muscular imbalances that will cause you trouble later on down the road. Also as I stated Part I, if you perform your complementary Push and Pull movements on the same day, it can be easier to keep everything balanced. However, because I spend so much time training for Grip Strength, I run out of time in order to accomplish everything I like to do, so I split the two days up. Lately, my split has looked like this:

  • Week 1 – Day 1: Push, Week 1 – Day 2: Pull, Week 1 – Day 3: Lower, Week 1 – Day 4: Grip Specific
  • Week 2 – Day 1: Pull, Week 2 – Day 2: Push, Week 2 – Day 3: Lower, Week 2 – Day 4: Grip Specific

In other words, I go Push, Pull, Lower, Grip for the first week and then flip flop the Push and Pull so it goes Pull, Push, Lower, Grip the second week.

Sample Upper Body Push Workout

Here is a recent workout I did for Upper Body Push. This workout took place on a Monday. It was followed by an Upper Body Pull Day on Tuesday and then a Lower Body Day on Thursday. One week later, I followed the schedule and did my Upper Body Pull Day first and the Upper Body push day second, etc.

Optimally, the order of this day would go like this:

1. Overhead Power Movement: Requires the most skill and energy, so it should take place first

2. Bench / Incline Bench: Because the body is supported on the bench, even after doing a big movement like the Overhead Variations, I still feel strong on the bench going second.

3. Auxiliary Bench Movement: Examples could be Speed Bench Against Bands, Incline Bench, Dips – All these are awesome, especially if your shoulders are feeling good.

4. Isolation Movement: If isolation movements are your thing, you can include them here or you can do another auxiliary movement, work on the rotator cuffs, or bring up a weakness in your upper body (triceps, etc)

Bench Press

On this day, I started off with Bench Press, although often I will actually start off with Overhead Press, especially if I am using the Log. I was able to work up to an unassisted single of 365 on the Bench Press, for the first time in about a year. My all time best is 405 with a spotter.

Speed Bench Against Bands

In order to perform this one correctly and get the most out of it, you should be moving the bar much quicker than this. I should have either used lighter bands or lightened the bar weight, but I did not.

Military Press

My back was feeling a bit seized up after the heavy benching, because I was actually arching pretty hard for me. That is about all the angle I get. If I worked on my thoracic mobility more, I think I could get a better arch. Anyway, because my back was tight, I stuck with Military Press instead of a more powerful movement. Like I said, I like to do a Push Jerk, Push Press or a straight out Jerk movement first, but it didn’t work out that way this week.

Gironda Lateral Raise Complex

This is a combination I never even knew about until I reviewed the book, Vince Gironda, Legend and Myth. In that book he has what he calls the 8 Sets of 8 Keep-You-Honest Workout and the finisher for Upper Body Day is Side Laterals followed immediately by what he calls the Dumbbell Swing, but I have affectionately called it the Pirate Ship. Regardless of what you call it, it mimics the movement of the Pirate Ship ride at the amusement park in the way the arms swing rhythmically back and forth.

I don’t want to say that this movement pairing or even that just doing the Pirate Ship movement “fixed” whatever was aching in my shoulder the last few weeks, but after doing it every week for roughly 6 weeks straight as my finisher for my Upper Body push day, my shoulders have felt outstanding! I was able to perform dips pain free, getting my rib cage to touch the cross-bar on my dip station for the first time I can remember in years, and I was able to Bench 365 touch-and-go style for the first time in ages. I encourage you to try this out. At the very least the combination pumps your shoulders with a very nice burn.

This is how I set up the strength training muscle building workouts
. Because I work a variety of percentages of 1RM, a variety of speeds, and train volume as well, I have been fairly successful at building muscle and strength at the same time as long as I am eating enough calories, staying injury free, and getting enough sleep.

I have had several months in a row now where I have been free of lower back injuries so I have not missed many workouts and recently my strength levels and size have increased.

Now that the latest Grip Contest, Gripmas Carol 2011, is out of the way, I plan on adding conditioning work back into my weekly routine separate of my workouts and cleaning up my diet as well in an effort to trim down a bit and get just plain ripped to shreds in 2012.

If you want to watch some of the stuff that I do for conditioning and fat loss, I can certainly film it, but only if you are interested. I don’t know if this is something you want to see or not on my site, so please leave me a comment an let me know.

Thanks and all the best in your training.


For further information on building muscle, check out Smitty’s AMD Program by clicking the image below. This is one of the best Muscle Building Programs on the market, shares many of the same principles I am sharing here, and includes many other ways to keep you healthy and balanced in order to build muscle the right eway.

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