We Completely Fixed These 2 Regular Guys’ Workouts

There are thousands of exercises on today’s fitness landscape, and a plethora of different training disciplines these days, and all of that can make it incredibly challenging to build yourself the perfect workout. Sure, you may know all the moves, but how do you make it all fit together? Where does the cardio go? Which exercises are best for lifting heavy? It’s a lot of guesswork.

Until now. Here, Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., reworks two workouts for MH followers, fine-tuning both sessions to set both guys on the path towards the gains they want most. Along the way, he has some lessons for anyone and everyone who wants to design their own workouts.

How to Hone Technique: Cut Out Excess Volume!

Gustavo Merino does a full-body workout four days a week. His goal is to “gain muscle over the next 2 to 5 years,” he says, “whilst also maintaining low body fat.” But he struggles with his form. “Some reps and sets use muscles I don’t intend to use,” he says.

The Workout

Eb’s Take

You’re definitely putting in work, Gustavo, but you may almost be doing too much work. You’re piling up a ton of reps in your training, and this has two shortcomings. First off, all the volume you have in here prevents you from exposing your muscles to the heavy loads that can build strength (and in turn, spur you to greater muscle gains). And you’re noticing the other problem: These marathon sets require a ton of mental focus. Lose that and, yes, other muscles do take over.

Just as importantly, the sheer volume in your workout is going to wear you out. By the time you get to your accessory work on biceps and triceps, your central nervous system is very likely shot.

Add in that some of your exercise choices invite a lot of full-body movement (the Pendlay row, for example, has you moving explosively instead of ever earning a sustained back squeeze), and there’s plenty of room to feel other muscles taking over. Barbell curls, meanwhile, are a great lead curl, but as the last move in a lengthy workout, when you’re fatigued, they’re inviting hip-rocking to cheat.

Eb’s Fixes

The Revision

Exercise 1: Single-arm dumbbell row. 8-10 reps. 4 sets per side.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell bench press. 8-10 reps. 4 sets

Exercise 3: Goblet paused squat: 6-8 reps, superset with dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, 8-10 reps. 3 sets

Exercise 4: Halfway pause alternating dumbbell curl, 10-12 reps, superset with two-step close-grip pushup, 8-10 reps. 3 sets

Revamping for Fat Loss: Don’t Overdo the Cardio!

Mikel works through a grueling six-day split, aiming to keep his muscles “fit” while shedding belly fat, but he’s had limited luck. “I take care of my diet, so I believe it is either that or maybe that I should do less cardio?” He says. Whatever he’s doing, he says, isn’t working.

The Workout

Mondays and Thursdays: 10-kilometer run

Tuesdays and Fridays: One-hour high-intensity interval training session

Wednesdays and Saturdays: Full-body strength bodyweight workout

Eb’s Take

You’re definitely training hard and frequently, which is good. But you’re right that you’re over-focusing on cardio and “sweat sessions.” You’re not giving your body enough opportunity to build muscle, and if you add some muscle, you’ll actually be able to burn more fat.

There’s an old saying that cardio in a workout is really the “side dish”; strength training should be the “entree.” Let’s refocus your workouts that way, so you can build muscle, while still burning fat.

Eb’s Fixes

The Revision

Mondays and Thursdays: 10-kilometer run

Tuesday/Friday Workout

Warmup, then work through the following exercises.

Exercise 1: Single-arm dumbbell row, 8-10 reps. 4 sets per side

Exercise 2: Incline paused pushup, 10-12 reps, 3 sets

Exercise 3: Half-iso incline row, 6-8 pairs of reps, 3 sets

Exercise 4: Dumbbell alternating curl 8-10 reps, superset with close-grip pushups, 8-10 reps. 2 sets.

Wednesday/Saturday Workout

Warmup, then work through the following exercises.

Exercise 1: Paused Kettlebell Front Squat, 8-10 reps. 4 sets

Exercise 2: Romanian deadlift with four-second eccentric, 8-10 reps, 4 sets

Exercise 3: Knee drive Reverse Lunge, 8-10 reps per leg. 3 sets.

Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday 12-Minute Interval Training (do this at the end of every resistance workout)

EMOM (Set a timer. Complete the assigned work as quickly as possible, with good form, during each minute,then rest until the start of the next minute. Do 3 rounds).

Minute 1: 20 Jump Lunges

Minute 2: 20 Hollow Rocks

Minute 3: 20 Mountain Climbers

Minute 4: 16 Alternating Bench Step-ups

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