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Variety is the spice of every routine's life in the weight room

With the exception of a few vacation breaks and short off-season lulls, strength training has become a year-round endeavor. With all the hours spent on

the field and in the weight room, strength coaches have to exercise all their ingenuity to keep the workouts fresh and challenging.

The most critical mistake that must be avoided is a glaring lack of variety. The problem stems from the notion that certain modalities are superior to others, and that everything must adhere to a basic set of standards and equipment.

Result: Coaches handcuff themselves to a short list of exercises and equipment. That is one problem we do not have at Michigan State. We work our athletes hard, but keep them engrossed with a full store of equipment that includes barbells, dumbbells, machines, sandbags, PVC pipes, tires, seat-belt straps, and a host of other knick-knacks.

If a piece of equipment has something to offer us and adheres to our standards of safety and progressive overload, we'll find a way to incorporate it into our program.

Note: All of our workouts start with exercises for the neck and trapezius, using a four-way neck machine or manual resistance and shrugs.

For an idea of how we construct our routines, we would like to present the series of exercises we use for the upper body (UB).

UB Routine #1

This comprehensive UB routine involves the alternation of pressing and pulling movements--a one-for-one routine for both the anterior and posterior muscles. Performed at least once a week, it helps avert the problem of muscle imbalances.

Most of the exercises are multi-joint affairs that stimulate a great deal of muscle tissue. Several of the "press" exercises target the chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps areas, while the other exercises place more emphasis on the medial deltoids.

All of the "pull" movements will stimulate the upper posterior torso areas; that is, the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius, and lats, along with the biceps.

Sample UB press/pull routine:

* Barbell bench press, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Underhand lat pulldown, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Seated barbell military press, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Overhand lat pulldown, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Barbell incline press, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Seated horizontal row, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Seated dumbbell military press, 6-10 reps; rest 60-90 sec.

* Seated low-pulley rows, 6-10 reps, 60-90 sec.

* Rest 60-90 seconds

* Weighted parallel dips to fatigue, rest 60-90 sec.

* Weighted chin-ups to fatigue.

Note: We use weighted vests (up to 60 lbs.) for dips and chins.

Coaching points: The rep range indicated for each exercise adheres to the "double progression" method of overload. The athlete will initially find a weight with which he can perform at least 6 intense reps. Once he can achieve 10 reps, he will raise the weight 2.5 to 5 lbs.

UB Routine #2: Pre-Exhaust

Pre-exhaust routines provide some of the most intense work imaginable in strength training. They embody the back-to-back performance of single-joint and multi-joint exercises for specific target areas.

By performing the single-joint movement first, the athlete will isolate the target area and stimulate it to the highest possible degree. He will then take only as much rest as is required to move to the next exercise--a multi-joint movement that targets the same area with the use of assisting musculature.

This technique will force the already spent target area to work harder (with aid from the fresher muscle tissue).

Sample UB pre-exhaust routine:

* Lat pulldown, 8-12 reps, followed immediately by:

* Dumbbell row, 6-10 reps (rest for 60-90 seconds).

* Lateral raise, 8-12 reps, followed immediately by:

* Seated barbell military press, 6-10 reps (rest for 60-90 seconds).

* Dumbbell chest fly, 8-12 reps, followed immediately by:

* Barbell bench press, 6-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Posterior deltoid row, 8-12 reps, followed immediately by:

* Seated horizontal row, 6-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Frontal raise, 8-12 reps, followed immediately by:

* Barbell incline press, 6-10 reps.

Coaching points: You will notice that the single-joint exercises entail more reps than the succeeding multi-joint movements in each sequence. This is due to the emphasis we are placing on the single-joint phase, along with our philosophy of incorporating higher reps on isolation exercises when performing this type of routine. This approach helps the athlete maintain strict form.

To reduce the time taken between the pre-exhaust sets, we pre-set the weights on the bars (or machines).

Be forewarned: When performed with the required aggressive mindset and intensity, this routine is brutally difficult to execute.

The previously mentioned rep range concept is in effect here. A slight modification is evident with the single-joint exercise: The starting weight should allow a minimum of 8 reps. An increment will be required for the next workout when 12 perfect reps can be achieved.

Also, due to the smaller musculature involved with single-joint exercises, the increments will be minimal (2.5 lbs. when possible).

Note: The rep range/overload progression plan remains constant for the remainder of the routines. While there will be varying ranges (e.g., 6-10, 8-12, 6-8, etc.), there will always be a starting point (low end of range) and an increment point (high end of range).

UB Routine #3: Post-Exhaust

As implied, this routine is performed in the reverse order of a pre-exhaust routine. The emphasis is now placed on the multi-joint movement, while the single-joint exercise is used as more of a "finisher" for the target area. The premise of performing two exercises consecutively with minimal rest remains constant.

Sample UB post-exhaust routine:

* Overhand lat pulldown, 6-10 reps, followed immediately by:

* Lat pullover, 8-12 reps (rest 6090 sec.).

* Barbell bench press, 6-10 reps, followed immediately by:

* Dumbbell chest fly, 8-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Seated dumbbell military press, 610 reps, followed immediately by:

* Lateral raise, 8-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Seated horizontal row, 6-10 reps, followed immediately by:

* Posterior deltoid row, 8-12 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Dumbbell incline press, 6-10 reps, followed immediately by:

* Frontal raise, 8-12 reps.

Coaching points: It must be noted that the trainee will be able to handle considerable more weight on the multi-joint exercises in this routine when compared to the pre-exhaust routine, due to the fact that the target musculature was not pre-fatigued with a single-joint movement.

Conversely, the single-joint exercise may need a slight decrement in weight when compared to the pre-exhaust routine, as the preceding multi-joint movement will induce a degree of pre-fatigue.

UB Routine #4: High-Tension Super-Sets

This routine encompasses a variety of both multi-joint and single-joint exercises that are conjoined by target areas and performed in a 3 set succession.

For example, if the chest is the target area, we might perform a set of barbell bench press, followed by a set of barbell incline press, and finished with a set of weighted parallel dips. The rest between sets in this triad is 60 seconds.

The trainee will then be afforded a 2-minute rest before beginning the next triad for a different target area.

Sample UB high-tension super-sets:

* Dumbbell seated military press, 6-10 reps (rest 60-90 sec.).

* Upright row, 6-10 reps (rest 60 sec.).

* Lateral raise, 8-12 reps.

* Rest 2 minutes.

* Seated high row, 6-10 reps (rest 60 sec.).

* Seated horizontal row, 6-10 reps (rest 60 sec.).

* Seated low row, 6-10 reps.

* Rest 2 minutes.

* Dumbbell chest fly, 8-12 reps (rest 60 sec.).

* Barbell bench press, 6-10 reps (rest 60 sec.).

* Weighted parallel dips to fatigue (with weight vest).

Coaching points: Since each triad is focusing on a specific segment of musculature (e.g., shoulders, upper back, and chest in this particular sample sequence), you can expect a gradual decrease in weight for each succeeding set over what is normally used in other routines.

Again, this is due to cumulative fatigue as the routine progresses.

It is still important, however, to track rep increases and add weight when the high end of the range is achieved.

UB Routine #5:

High-Tension Pyramids

This routine calls for multiple-sets of multi-joint exercises. If you or your athletes have a preference for multiple-sets and/or a roster of favored movements, this routine will fit the bill. It encompasses 3 sets of each selected exercise and is performed in a pyramid fashion--while still integrating the high-tension format.

Sample UB high-tension pyramid routine:

* Overhand lat pulldow (3 sets): 10-12 reps, 8-10 reps, 6-8 reps (90 sec. rest between sets).

* Rest 2- minutes.

* Seated barbell military press (3 sets): 10-12 reps, 8-10 reps, 6-8 reps (90 sec. rest between sets).

* Rest 2-minutes.

* Horizontal seated row (3 sets): 10-12 reps, 8-10 reps, 6-8 reps (90 sec. rest between sets).

* Rest 2-minutes.

* Barbell incline press (3 sets): 10-12 reps, 8-10 reps, 6-8 reps (90 sec. rest between sets).

Coaching points: Keep in mind that the rep range rule for increments is still in effect on each set of every exercise.

Also, due to the required intensity of each set, the weights for each succeeding set within a pyramid may decrease. Usually, at best, the weights remain the same for all three sets. However, we still chart each set independently for progressive overload purposes.

Closing Thoughts

The exercises listed for these routines are very basic and primarily "free weight" in nature (i.e., barbells and dumbbells), as this is usually the most readily available equipment, especially in high school weight rooms.

However, we suggest that you mix and match your equipment choices (e.g., machine and free weight) as often as possible, depending on the modalities available in your program.

You will note that all of these routines provide either direct or indirect stimulation to the major extrinsic and intrinsic musculature of the upper body (i.e., chest, upper back, shoulders, neck region, and arms) in a full-range, comprehensive fashion.

These routines can be rotated and/or incorporated with your current modus operandi in a multitude of ways and in a manner that best suits your philosophy.

If nothing else, our hope is that we have at least provided you with a template from which you can coordinate a well-rounded program.

In Part II, we will offer routines for the lower body.
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Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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