Beginners’ split training routine for men

Beginners’ split training routine for men

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This kind of split training is the first step towards high intensity workouts. Intensity is not that high, but it is significantly higher than a basic full-body workout.

This program can build a modest physique – not the body builder type, but a sporty looking one. Do not expect massive muscles from this, and the muscle regeneration periods are relatively short too, so this program is not applicable for intense and heavy weight workouts. The goal is to learn a lot of things: how to pump your muscles, how to focus on them, and to tire them in 10 reps, how to choose the appropriate weights, and to master right the exercises.

Day 1

  1. Bench presses
  2. Flyes/Pull-overs
  3. Pull-downs to chest
  4. Cable rows
  5. Hyperextensions
  6. Lateral raises (standing)
  7. Dumbbell shoulder presses
  8. Crunches 3 × 20–50
  9. Leg raises 3 × 10–30

Day 2

  1. Squats
  2. Leg extensions
  3. Leg curls
  4. Standing calf raises 3 × 25–50
  5. Calf raises (sitting) 3 × 20
  6. Biceps curls (standing)
  7. Hammer curls
  8. Triceps extensions on cable
  9. Overhead triceps extensions with dumbbell

3 workouts a week with the workout days alternating. Use such weights that feel pretty heavy at the 10th rep. 3 sets of 10–12 reps

Day 1

1. Bench presses

This is a basic strength training exercise. It is one of the exercises for which heavy weights are used. It targets the pectorals mainly, but since other large muscle groups cannot be excluded from the movement, therefore relatively heavy weights can be lifted. To start a bench press you should lie down to a bench in a stable position so that your soles are on the floor, and your waist is flat against the bench (don’t bend your back). Grab the bar so wide that when you lower it to your chest, your forearms get vertical. This width can be related to the marks on the bar, so the you can memorize the right hand positions. Lift the bar from the holder to such a position in which your arms are vertical and extended. From this position lower the bar to your chest slowly, in a controlled way, feeling your pectorals stretching. Stop the bar at the lowest position (touching your chest!), do not bounce it back, then push it vertically using your pecs. For warm-up do 20–30 reps with an unloaded bar, then do another warm-up set, after which you can choose a weight that limits your rep count to 8–10. Do the second warm-up set with some weight on the bar, but it should be significantly lighter than the workout weight.

2. Flyes

Take two dumbbells. Lie down on a bench in a stable position, and hold the dumbbells up with your arms vertical, slightly bent (almost extended) arm. The dumbbells are not required to touch each other. In this position you should feel your pectorals working, just like when doing bench presses. Lower the dumbbells slowly and carefully to the sides in an arc so that your pectorals get well stretched. Do not use heavy weights. Hold the dumbbells motionless for a second or so, then lift them back up to the starting position: pull your arms together from the sides using your pecs, and do not include any pushing motions. The exercise resembles to hugging a tree trunk. Do not let your waist, head or legs move. Inhale while lowering, and exhale while lifting the dumbbells.

Pull-overs: Pull-over is a very awkward and difficult exercise that can open up your chest (rib-cage), and elongates the pectorals upwards. Lie down on a bench from the side, and hold a dumbbell with both hands so that the dumbbell is in a vertical position, and your palms support the lower surface of the upper plate. Keep your arms a bit bent backwards. Lower the dumbbell past your head below the level of the bench, and feel your chest open up with the pecs stretching. Do not let your waist come up, keep it as low as you can. Stop the motion at the lowest position with the pecs stretched out, and then pull the dumbbell back up again – using the arms as little as possible. Feel the pecs working at the highest position too, and do not move the weight too forward.

3. Pull-downs to chest

Sit in the machine and grab the bar with a wide grip. You should arch your back all along. Never bend your back or neck! Pull the bar to your chest (it can even make a contact), and keep your forearms as close to vertical as possible. The key of this exercise is that you should exclude the work of your arms from the move completely. They should only function as “hooks”. Don’t hold the bar with your thumbs around it, and then it will be easier to do this move without using your arms. Focus on the movement of your scapulae: use your back muscles to move them. You should exhale while pulling the bar down, and feel your back muscles flexing in the middle. Hold your pull for a second, then extend your hold slowly, inhale and feel your back muscles stretching on both sides. Never yank the weight or use momentum for the move, and do not let the weight plates fall down.

4. Cable rows

Sit down on a bench with your legs slightly bent. Your upper body should be as far from the foot holder as not to have the weight plates make contact in the lowest position (when you are bent over to stretch your back muscles without bending your waist). Pull in the weights focusing on the movement of the back muscles and the scapulae, and not using the arms. Your arms are just hooks here! Feel that your back muscles flex together, keep the position for a moment, then let the weights lower slowly to a fully stretched back. The main thing is to have your back stretched, and not your arms or waist!

5. Hyperextensions

Hyperextension works the lower back muscles and the spinal erectors, and you would need a hyperextension frame. Hook your feet and lower your upper body slowly, while inhaling. When your lower back muscles are already stretching, start the upward move while exhaling. Make sure you are not using any momentum, and arch your back as far as you can. Hold it for a second in this position, then lower again slowly.

6. Lateral raises

One of the hardest exercises to do. Keep in mind that instead of flailing your arms up and down, you should focus on using your deltoids (the muscles right above the centre of motion in the shoulder) to raise those arms. This is a kind of load for the shoulders as if you lifted a stick gripping it at one end, while having some weight fixed to it at the other end. You can execute this task through several different techniques, but the main point is not to let your body swing back and forth. You can start from the sides, but it is even better to start from a forward position with your palms facing your thighs. Inhale while lifting the weight. Your arms should be slightly bent (like “a bird wing a broken wing”), and hold the dumbbells with your thumbs pointing downwards. This is the famous “pouring water” wrist position. In case you lift the weights above horizontal (and you should), then your cowl muscles get involved too, but do not lift them too high! Always focus on the feeling in your deltoids! Deltoids get tired fast as they are pretty small muscles, and they send a burning signal about that. Lower the dumbbells slowly, avoid jerking!

7. Shoulder presses

For shoulder presses you need a bench with a back support that should be adjusted to vertical (or to the position closest to it). If there is no such bench available, just sit on any bench, and focus on the right posture: your middle should be introflexed. Pick up the dumbbells so that they are at shoulder height, your forearms should be vertical, and as low as your shoulders allow. Starting from this position push the dumbbells upwards and slightly inwards in a straight line while exhaling, and do this to a height at which you feel your deltoids flexed. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position, and feel your shoulders stretching. Take a deep breath while lowering the weights. Hold on for a second in the lowest position, let the muscles get stretched, and then go for the next rep. What you need to focus on is the coordination of your movement as in the beginning the two dumbbells tend to go this way and that. It is recommended to hold the dumbbells a bit tilted inwards to assist the slightly inward motion. Take care not to make the move in a curved path, and do not let the dumbbells go apart.

8. Crunches

Crunches: hop on a Roman chair, a crunches bench or just lie back on the floor, and put your feet on a bench. Always keep your waist flat and down, and squeeze your abs. Do not sit up, just flex your abdominals while bending your back! Do so until maximum tension in your abs. Exhale dynamically when crunching. Keep this position for a moment, then lower yourself slowly, and let your back straighten to have your abs stretched. You should feel a burning sensation in your abdominals. Pain is okay, do go on!

9. Leg raises

You need a frame – usually it’s a dip and leg raise machine – or wall bars, or anything you can hang on. You’ll have to lean on your elbows on a dip machine, or hang from the wall bars or pull-up bar. Lower your legs. Raise them upwards so that your knees face each other somewhat. The difficulty is that you should not fire your thigh muscles, work your abs only. Your goal is to work your abdominals, and not to move the legs – it should be a crunching move starting from the bottom up! You crunch your abs when your legs move upwards, so that’s when you should exhale.

Day 2

1. Squats

This is the basic exercise to develop your lower body. There is no way to do this in an isolated way as your hamstrings, quads and glutes will always work. Squats are very difficult and dangerous, so you must keep yourself to some basic rules to avoid injuries – it is needless to say that you are more likely to injure yourself squatting than doing let’s say biceps curls. Stand in a narrow stance, with your toes pointing outwards. Everyone should find the right width. You should not even try this with your legs in parallel (having your thighs and shins in line). It would be a brutal shearing stress for the knees, plus it would not allow for a squat deep enough: most people are too inflexible, so trying such a squat would tilt the waist forward. This motion is not simply forbidden, it is dangerous too! (Imagine what it can do to your spine with some weight at your neck.) The goal is to squat with an extended waist, and a back as close to vertical as possible. That’s why you need to squat “in between your legs”. There is one more difficulty: most people cannot squat with their soles kept on the floor as their waists tilt. So you should squat letting your heels come up or use heel-raising support. There is one more thing to eliminate: do not look down while squatting as it makes you lean forward too. Choose a high spot (above head level), and keep your eyes on it all the time to have your spine vertical throughout the entire motion. It is crucial to go down slowly, inhale deep, lower yourself as much as you can, and start to move upwards slowly. Do not bounce at the lowest position! Watch for your knees move outwards when going down, and move inwards when going up, but never let the knees move inwards so much that they pass the parallel! (X-legs!) It is a very common mistake. Do not lock your knees at the highest position, keep them bent a bit with your quads flexed! It is the forced exhaling that gives you the power to come up.

2. Leg extensions or quads machine

Position yourself in the machine so that your back is extended – do not bend over – and your knees should be exactly at the centre of motion. Raise the weight from the low endpoint so that your shins are horizontal and your thighs are flexed to the maximum. Hold this position for a second. It should be painful! Lower the weight slowly. Breathing is self-evident: exhale while lifting the weight.

3. Leg curls

It is about the working of the leg’s biceps, the back part of the thigh. Many people tend to forget about it even though they should not. Lie onto the leg curl machine so that your knees should be at the centre of motion. Use light weights! Pull your feet up using your legs’ biceps, and do not let your glutes work, and you should not feel your waist fired. Use your legs’ biceps only! Flex them at the highest position, and then let your feet lower to stretch. Exhale when lifting the weights.

4. Calf raise machine

Stand on the standing calf raise machine. Lower yourself to a position in which your calves are slightly stretched. Be careful not to stretch your Achilles tendon! Raise yourself to a toe stand, but do not use your thighs, focus on your calves. Do at least 20 reps, but you can even do 50!

5. Calf raise bench

The goal is the same: muscle tension at the end position. Position the front part of your feet to the appropriate spot in the machine. Lower your heels slowly, and then raise them to full contraction of your calves. Hold this position for a while, then lower your heels as much as you can. Do at least 15 reps.

6. Biceps curls (standing)

Grab the bar with shoulder-wide grip, with your arms stretched only as far as your biceps allow it: no need to expand your elbows in a straight angle. Keep your lower back straight and avoid swinging. Pull the bar upwards by flexing your biceps completely. Moreover you need to increase your muscle tension even more! Your upper arms should not move from the vertical position more than 2 cm slightly forward. You shouldn’t lift your upper arms any further. Doing so, the bar will “fall in” your biceps (with zero load on your biceps). Hold it for a second in the top position, then lower the barbell in a slow and controlled manner while inhaling. After returning to the starting position, repeat without swinging.

7. Hammer curls

Hammer curls require you to take one dumbbell in each hand, and hold them like hammers – the handle should be to the side of your thighs, and parallel to your nose. From this starting position you should lift the dumbbell with the same movement as doing biceps curls, but you should not rotate the dumbbell, so your palms do not face your biceps. Flex your biceps at the top position, then lower your forearms slowly. You can do this exercise with your arms in sync or alternating, but focus on not involving your shoulders in the work, and always keep your elbows fixed tight to your body. When doing the exercise alternating then the rep count is meant for one arm, and always complete the entire move before initiating the other arm.

8. Triceps extensions on cable

Triceps extensions on cable: use a straight bar for pull-down. Grab the bar in a shoulder-wide grip. Keep your elbows attached to your side, and do the exercise with parallel upper arms. Pull the bar down to the starting position – that means that the upper arms are vertical at the sides. From here you should push the bar downwards to straighten your elbows. Don’t hold the bar with your thumbs around it. Push it downwards, increase tension, then let it return slowly to the starting (top) position, but never let your upper arms move. Be sure not to let your elbows wander! Exhale when pushing down.

9. Standing dumbbell triceps extensions

This exercise can be done in a sitting position too. What really matters is that your arms and your torso should be vertical. Stretch one arm upwards, keeping the upper arm completely vertical, holding a dumbbell. From this position, lower the dumbbell while inhaling, so that it ends up behind the back of your neck. Get it as low as possible without compromising the vertical position of your upper arm, then push the weight upwards using your triceps, while exhaling. Stretch out your arm in the top position as much as you can. This will ensure your triceps are flexing. Repeat.

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