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A sample of how I train and eat off-season

 

I have been weight training for over 16 years and over that period of time have tried many training styles and methods. I have found that my body responds best to a certain way of training. What I am outlining below is a brief overview of how I train, some of the reasons behind it, some sample off-season workouts, and a sample meal plan for my off-season. I have found that for me training most muscle group one to two times per week is best. The areas on which I have focused on the most are quads, hamstrings, and back. I have been training quads, hamstrings, and calves twice per week for a while now with good success. For back, I train it once a week most of the off-season, but sometimes increase the frequency to twice per week for a period of time, and decrease it once I feel that I am no longer recovering properly from two sessions. I train chest, shoulders and arms one time per week. Abs is mostly an afterthought during the off-season but, I try to at least train them twice per week.  I start most of my workouts with a heavy compound movement and really focus on getting stronger in that lift much, like a power lifter. This exercise is always performed explosively, as I believe this recruits fast twitch muscle fibers best, which have the greatest potential for hypertrophy. The main difference is I keep my rep range anywhere from 3-8 (rarely below 5) on that first exercise and normally pyramid up for somewhere between 3-6 sets.  I do not time my rest periods but take longer rest periods for heavy sets and normally increase the speed towards the end of the workout. I normally follow my first compound lift with another compound movement and still focus on going moderately heavy for 6-12 reps but try to focus more on how my muscles feel and getting a good contraction. From there, for most body parts I do one to two more exercises but may do more if I feel great, although go more for the pump (metabolic stress) and may use some intensity methods to really finish a workout.

 

I always know exactly what I am going to do for the first two exercises and have a rough outline of what the whole workout will look like, but may change things up instinctively based on feel for my final exercises. For the muscle groups I hit twice, the first workout is heavy/explosive and the second is more of a pump workout. For compound lifts I only go to failure on the last set of an exercise and pyramid up in weight most of the time. For isolation exercises, and finishing exercises I may pyramid up or may do straight sets.  None of this is absolutely set in stone and is more of an outline of my overall approach. I change my routine fairly often.

 

Example Routine

 

Monday - Chest/Biceps

 

Barbell Bench Press 4x6 pyramid up (exp. 135x6,225x6,315x6,405x failure last set should be within a rep or two of target

Barbell Incline Bench 3x10 pyramid up (last set to failure)

Hammer Strength Press 3x10 with last set doing a drop set or rest pause (pump)

Machine Fly 3x15 (focus on contraction and stretch)

Dumbbell Curls 3x8 pyramid up

Hammer Strength Preacher Curls 8,8,8,20

Rope Cable Curls 3x12

 

Tuesday - Legs (Heavy quads/ hamstring pump)

 

Box Jumps 3-4 x3 (I have found this really warms me up, and my squats feel much better after doing these. I step down carefully and fully reset between reps)

Squats 4-5 sets of 6 pyramid up only going to failure on last set

Leg Press 4x10 pyramid up

Hack Squats 3x12 (feet close) pyramid up

Laying Hamstring Curls 3x15-20 (pump)

Standing Hamstring Curls 3x15 (pump)

Calf Raises 3x10

Seated Calf Raises 3x20 (pump)

 

Wednesday - Back

 

Pull-ups 3x failure

T-Bar Rows 4x6 pyramid up

1 Arm Hammer Strength Row 3x8 pyramid up

High Hammer Strength Rows 3x10

Cable Rows 3x10 (focus on stretch and contraction)

Shrugs 3x12

 

Thursday - Shoulders and Triceps

 

Dumbbell Press 3x8 pyramid up

Upright Row 3x10 (use a fairly wide grip and don’t go up high to avoid impingement)

Dumbbell Lateral Raises 3x10

Reverse Fly 3x12

Close Grip Bench 3x8 pyramid up

Weighted Dips 3x8 pyramid up (stay upright and elbows in to focus on triceps)

Incline Bench Skull crushers 3x12 (incline doesn’t bother my elbows as much as flat)

Cable triceps press down 3x20 (pump)

 

Friday - Legs (heavy hamstrings/quad pump)

 

Sumo Dead-lift 4x5 pyramid up

Weighted Bridges 3x8 (I need more glute development and this has really helped)

Glute Ham raises 3xfailure

Laying Hamstring curls 3x8

Dumbbell Semi Stiff Legged Dead-lifts 3x10

Leg Press 3x10-20 (feet placed toward the bottom of the sled) (pump)

1 Legged Leg Press Machine 2x15 (pump)

Leg Extension 3x15 (pump)

Calf Presses 3x10

Seated Calf Raise 3x20 (pump)

 

Saturday - OFF or Back (If I do back I normally cut back on volume in my first workout and focus on the pump during this workout)

 

Sunday - OFF

 

Off-season Meal Plan Example

 

Meal 1

1 cup liquid egg weights

1 scoop whey protein

1 cup oatmeal (dry measure)

2 tbsps Natural peanut butter

 

Meal 2

6oz (cooked weight) chicken breast

6oz potato

1 apple

1 cup non-starchy green vegetables

 

Meal 3 (1-2 hrs before working out)

6oz (cooked weight) chicken breast

2 cups weight rice

 Intra-workout (I start sipping on this before and finish during)

4 scoops glycofuse (100grams carbs)

 

Meal 4 (post workout)

2 scoops whey protein

2 scoops vitargo (70 grams carbs)

Meal 5 (about an hour after post workout)

6oz (cooked weight) chicken breast

2 cups white rice

 

Meal 6

6oz ground beef (90/10)

10oz potato

1 cup non-starchy vegetables

 

Notes:

 

During the off-season I do a more flexible approach but make sure I hit my daily calorie and macro goal. I also shoot for mostly “clean foods” but do enjoy some low-fat muffins, pancakes, waffles etc. and make sure I time my carbohydrates around my pre-, intra-, and post- workout for optimal performance and recovery. I do eat a fair amount of carbs at each meal during the offseason as I need them in order to reach my daily goal. I usually have one or two cheat meals per week during the off-season as long as I am staying lean.

Weight loss - where do I start?

 

Weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. However, as many people can attest losing weight is not always easy and with all the fad diets and misinformation out there, it can be confusing. When trying to lose weight the first thing to remember is what you really should be trying to do is lose body fat while maintaining your lean muscle. This is imperative for long-term results and to keep your metabolism high. The best approach is combining weight training, proper nutrition, and some cardio or conditioning work. If you’re not working out at all and a true beginner, I suggest starting with 3-4 days of weight training focused on using mostly compound exercises that you can perform safely. You may also want to start with 2-3 days of low intensity cardio. If you're already working out on a regular basis, that’s great and depending on your overall goals, you may want to continue with your current regimen or take it to the next level. We will cover how to progress your workouts at a later date in a separate article. Once you have started exercising it's time to focus on your nutrition. The best way to start is by estimating your daily caloric needs. We can do this by first using the following Harris Benedict Equation to find your basil metabolic rate. This is the amount of calories your body would burn at rest with no activity. If math wasn’t your favorite subject, we can use a quick estimate of 11x your body weight in lbs.

 

Harris Benedict Equation

Calculation for men

BMR = 66.47 + ( 13.75 x weight in kg ) + ( 5.003 x height in cm ) - (6.755 x age in years )

Calculation for women

BMR = 655.1 + ( 9.563 x weight in kg ) + ( 1.850 x height in cm ) - ( 4.676 x age in years )

 

Once we have this we need to multiply it by your activity level.


Sedentary 1.2
Mild activity 1.3
Moderate activity 1.5
Heavy activity 1.7
Extreme activity 1.9

 

We can also add about 6-10% to cover the thermic effect of food. This final number should give you a estimate of how many calories you need daily to maintain your current weight. We now need to create a deficit by taking in fewer calories. One lb is 3500 calories. A healthy weight loss goal is 1-2 lbs a week. So I recommend cutting 500 calories to start or 15%-20% of your maintenance level. Here are a few things to keep in mind. First, women seldom should go below 1200 calories per day and men shouldn’t go below 1800 calories per day according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Secondly, weight loss isn’t linear, and calories burned from activity are hard to measure.  Hormones can also affect how many calories our body is burning versus storing. If you reduce calories too quickly you, run the risk of breaking down muscle for energy and thus lowering your metabolism. The best approach is to slowly lower your caloric intake below maintenance levels a the beginning as this will also give us room to make adjustments as weight loss slows. This is also a topic we will cover in another article.

 

The next step is to decide where you are getting your calories are coming from.  I recommend taking care of protein first, as this will help protect against muscle loss. I recommend taking in somewhere between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per lb bodyweight.  I tend to prefer a lower fat approach and generally consume fat intake between 15-25% of my total calories. I fill in the rest with carbs making sure to focus the majority of them around my workout to provide energy and help with recovery especially when they get low.  To properly figure out your starting macros, remember that 1g protein is 4 calories, 1 gram carbohydrate is 4 calories, and 1 gram fat is 9 calories.

 

Finally, make sure to mostly choose minimally processed whole foods. I recommend getting the majority of your protein from lean meats, eggs, dairy, and whey or casein protein supplements. For carbohydrates make sure to choose plenty of vegetables to help with fiber and micros, some fruit, and starchy carbs such as oatmeal, potatoes, and rice. Fats should come from your protein sources that you’re eating and things like coconut oil, nuts, seeds, fish oil, and avocados. This is in no way a complete list; this is just a few of many examples. Using a variety of foods is best, as it helps protect against nutritional deficiencies.  It also doesn’t hurt to allow for some flexibility in your diet. No food should be completely off limits, if you know how to proper track your macros and if 90% of your diet is coming from nutrient-dense foods.