Your first goal on this program will be to find the most difficult exercise that you can accomplish within each Movement Category for 12 reps. This is your initial evaluation. Once you know where to start, you can begin your first 4-week cycle.
For each Movement Category listed on the schedule in this article, attempt to perform 12 repetitions of the first exercise, with good form.
If you are successful, jump to exercise #3 and attempt another 12 reps. Continue to attempt 12 reps with the odd-numbered exercises until you cannot complete all 12 reps with good form.
The exercise that you will begin Cycle 1 with, for each Movement Category, is the one that you last completed successfully for 12 reps.
For Pulling, if you successfully did 12 reps of exercise #1 but then failed to complete all 12 reps of exercise #3, you would use exercise #1 on your first day of training.
For Squatting, if you successfully did 12 reps of exercises #1, 3, and 5 but your form got sloppy on exercise #7, then you would use exercise #5.
The evaluation for a particular Movement Category is over when your form begins to break down or you hit muscle failure. It’s most likely that, as a beginner, your form will deteriorate before you reach muscle failure. This could be due to a lack of balance, flexibility, strength, or generally being a little clumsy, like I am sometimes.
Rest at least a minute between exercises. There is no time limit. Don’t feel rushed if you need to stop to look at exercise descriptions. And don’t forget to warm up first.
The Proper Warm-up
Conventional “static” stretching is insufficient and ill-suited for a real warm-up. Instead, here’s how I would like you to ease into even the toughest workouts without wasted time or effort.
If you are using exercises #1 through 5 in any of the Movement Categories during your workout, you’ll simply march in place for 1½ minutes, rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat before beginning the workout.
Everyone will use this warm-up for the initial evaluations.
Once you are using the sixth exercise or higher in each Movement Category, perform 6 reps of the first exercise in each of the following Movement Categories back-to-back:
- Pulling (The first exercise being Let Me Ins with legs slightly bent)
- Squatting (Therapy Sumo Squats)
- Perpendicular Pushing (Push-ups with hands elevated sternum heigh)
- Bending (Good Mornings)
Take a short breather and do 2 more rotations. After 3 rotations, you’re ready to begin the main body of the workout. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. As you advance, or if you’re already advanced, you can pick harder exercises for your warm-ups.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Okay. As we say in the military, you’re “cleared hot” for the “destroy mission.” Your targets? Pudgy and Feeble. It’s time to do some work! Use the following schedule for your initial evaluations.
Now you know with which exercises you should start your initial cycle. Use the following schedule to keep track of your first four weeks of effort.
Same instructions as for Cycle 1, except we’re adding “Dynamic Efforts.”
The emphasis for these workouts is perfect technique and fast, powerful contractions, executing the concentric (upward) movements as fast as humanly possible. That’s the positive portion of the movement, the part where you’re doing either the pushing or pulling. You’re always moving upward during this part. For example, with a Push-up, it’s when you are pushing your body up. With a Pull-up, it’s when you’re pulling your body up. With a warrior, it’s when you’re moving your upper body upward.
Execute these concentric movements as fast as you can, not as fast as you can’t! Maximum concentric speed, with perfect form, is what makes these workouts effective.
KEEPING YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
For each Movement Category, write down how many reps you did of the exercise that you were unable to complete for 12 reps during the initial evaluation. Then post those exercises—the ones that were a bit too tough—and how many reps you managed on the “Goals and Progress” forum at YouAreYourOwnGym.com.
This is also the place to post your goals if you want to keep yourself accountable. After 2 months, I want you to revisit those exercises—the ones you initially couldn’t do for 12 reps—doing as many reps as you can with each. Then add those numbers to your original post. You’ll be amazed!
The negative portions of the exercises remain the same, and you’ll exclude all pauses.
Your ability to engage motor neurons and in turn recruit more muscle fibers will develop with practice. As this ability evolves, dynamic efforts will require more recovery and make the relatively easy second training day of the week more necessary.
Perform each dynamic-effort set on a 1-minute interval. You’ll do 10 sets of only 3 repetitions with each exercise. That’s 10 minutes for each exercise.
For Cycle 2, you will upgrade when you can do 3 sets of 9 reps with an exercise, which is measured only on Day 3 of each week. This cycle measures progress on a weekly basis rather than workout-to-workout. You should only have up arrows on Day 3 of each week!
In addition to the workouts from your first two cycles, you’re now going to add one new workout called a “3-rep pyramid,” a fantastic confidence builder that lets you sample upcoming exercises in a lower-rep range.
You will perform 3 sets of 3 repetitions per Movement Category, at the intervals specified on the schedule.
For this workout, you will not use the same exercise for each set of a Movement Category. The first set will be with your current exercise—the one that you could do for 3 sets of 9 reps during Cycle 2. The second set will be the exercise that is one step harder than your current exercise. The third set will be with the exercise that is two steps higher than your current exercise.
Example: If your current movement for Pulling is exercise #12, you will use exercise #12 for set 1, exercise #13 for set 2, and exercise #14 for set 3.
In Cycle 3, you will upgrade when you can do 3 × 8 with an exercise, which is only measured every other week on Day 3. You should only have up arrows on Day 3 of weeks 2 and 4!
Finding the right time to shift from one cycle to another ensures that the important principles of overload and recovery are applied properly. Use the following guidelines to help you find the right time to switch cycles:
Repeat the last two weeks of this cycle until progress is halted for 3 consecutive workouts and you fail to upgrade in any Movement Category.
Repeat this cycle until you fail to upgrade in any of the Movement Categories 2 weeks in a row.
Repeat this cycle until you fail to make progress for an entire month. Thereafter, I recommend switching to the program in You Are Your Own Gym or adjusting the intensity and volume of Cycle 3 to suit your specific needs.