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For the seasoned and consistent lifter or fitness enthusiast, 4-to-6 day per week training programs are commonplace. However, for those who haven't picked up a barbell much in the last year (or years), or have fallen off the wagon in the months of November and December due to too much holiday indulgence and too many social commitments, jumping back into a 4-to-6 day per week plan can be overwhelming and, quite simply, "too much too soon."

For those who are making their New Year's resolutions, and are bound and determined to get back in the gym consistently, a 3-day per week program is just right: not too much to be unmanageable and just enough to stimulate some great gains. Over the years, I've always been fond of a 3-day per week lower/upper/total body split, with one day of rest between each workout. People, particularly those who are just getting back into the mix, typically respond very, very well to it.

The following is a plug-and-play template which can be used to jumpstart or re-establish your fitness in 2014. It should be done on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday format, allowing a full day of rest between workouts. Follow this routine for 4 weeks, and then switch out the assistance exercises (the A & B exercises) to present a new stimulus to the muscles.

For assistance work, follow a simple rep progression and keep the weight constant (unless you started woefully light). The main exercise, in my opinion, should be kept the same into the next training cycle (or cycles), although this will vary depending on your prior training experience and how long your layoff has been. On the main exercise, all percentages are based off of a one-repetition training max: a number you feel confident you could get right NOW (not your all-time best). After week 5, adjust your max up 5 lbs. and recalculate the percentages.

Day 1: Lower Body
1. Main Exercise: A Squat Variation (rest 2-3 minutes between sets)
  • Barbell Squat
  • Barbell Front Squat
  • Safety Bar Squat
  • Box Squat

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

65/70/75/80%x5 67.5/72.5/77.5/82.5%x4 70/75/80/85%x3 72.5/77.5/82.5/87.5x2 90% 5x1


2A. Hip Dominant

  • DB Romanian Deadlift
  • Barbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Barbell Glute Bridge
  • Barbell Hip Thruster
  • Weighted Back Extension

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 4 5 sets of 5 5 sets of 6 5 sets of 7 5 sets of 8

2B. Single Leg Movement
  • DB Reverse Lunge
  • DB Walking Lunge
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
  • Skater Squats
  • DB Step-ups

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 4 5 sets of 5 5 sets of 6 5 sets of 7 5 sets of 8

4. Main Exercise Repeat (use 50% of your estimated training used in exercise 1)

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 8 5 sets of 9 5 sets of 10 5 sets of 11 5 sets of 12


Day 2: Upper Body
1. Main Exercise: a bench press variation
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Barbell Partial Bench Press (mid-point to top)
  • Barbell Floor Press
  • Barbell Incline Press
  • Barbell Close Grip Bench Press

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

65/70/75/80%x5 67.5/72.5/77.5/82.5%x4 70/75/80/85%x3 72.5/77.5/82.5/87.5x2 90% 5x1

2A. Horizontal Pulling (upper back)
  • Meadow's Landmine Rows (or place bar in a corner)
  • Single Arm Landmine Row (or place bar in a corner)
  • 3 Point DB Rows
  • Kroc Rows
  • Barbell Bent Over Row

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 4 5 sets of 5 5 sets of 6 5 sets of 7 5 sets of 8

2B. Shoulder Press Variation
  • Seated Partial Rack Barbell Press
  • Standing Single Arm DB Press
  • Seated DB Press
  • Landmine Press (or place bar in a corner)
  • Barbell Push Press

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 4 5 sets of 5 5 sets of 6 5 sets of 7 5 sets of 8

5. *Main Exercise Repeat Supersetted with Chin-ups/Pull-ups (use 50% of the training max you used in exercise 1)

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 8 5 sets of 9 5 sets of 10 5 sets of 11 5 sets of 12

*super set each set with as many chin-ups or pull-ups as possible

Day 3: Total Body
1. Main Exercise: Deadlift Variation
  • Conventional deadlift from floor
  • Conventional deadlift from blocks/risers (partial deadlift)
  • Rack Pulls (mid shin)
  • Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift from floor or blocks/risers

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

65/70/75/80%x5 67.5/72.5/77.5/82.5%x4 70/75/80/85%x3 72.5/77.5/82.5/87.5x2 90% 5x1

2A. Push-Up Variation

  • Push-ups
  • Feet elevated push-ups
  • Ring/TRX push-ups
  • Feet elevated rack push-up off a barbell
  • Valislide Reaching Push-up

5 sets of ½ your repetition maximum for the variation chosen and try to add 1 rep to each set each week over 5 weeks


2B. Single Leg Movement (pick a different variation from day 1)

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

5 sets of 4 5 sets of 5 5 sets of 6 5 sets of 7 5 sets of 8

3A. Inverted Row Variation

  • Bent knee barbell inverted row (palms up)
  • Bent knee barbell inverted row (palms down)
  • Bent knee inverted neutral grip row (palms facing using rings/TRX)
  • Any 3 of the above with straight legs and feet elevated on a bench

5 sets of 1/2 your repetition maximum for the variation chosen and try to add 1 rep to each set each week over 5 weeks


3B. Stability Ball Leg Curls

5 sets of 1/2 your repetition maximum for the variation chosen and try to add 1 rep to each set each week over 5 weeks



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Core work should be included at each workout, although the specifics of that is up to the individual. Direct arm work can also be included on days 1 and 3, again, the specifics being left up to the individual. The same can be said for cardio/conditioning, although, keeping with the theme of the program, the idea is to keep the overall frequency on a manageable scale if coming off a layoff. If anything, I'd recommend hitting 10 minutes of intervals-15 seconds on and 45 seconds recovery-at the end of the workouts. This will allow 4 full off days per week.

If getting back into the swing of things and rediscovering your fitness in 2014 is your goal, give this simply laid out -- yet highly effective -- template a shot. Happy New Year!

Do you typically shake up your workout and try something new at the beginning of the year? If so, let us know what your strategy is for 2014 in the comments field below!

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