Body

The Vector Workout – Scott Shattuck

Your body is only as strong as its weakest link; that weak hip flexor, that muscle in your low back your shovel knows exactly how to trigger, that weak ankle you turn on your hike.

Unfortunately many workout plans get you strong at the big lifts but ultimately leave you imbalanced and vulnerable to injury. You’re strong but not in balance, one slight hop, step, or twist away from injury.

In the past, even when I was working out heavily, I’d still end up sustaining small nagging injuries during a weekend hike or a weekend in the yard.

This workout plan is part of my response to those injuries; a program designed to address imbalance and prevent injury while staying strong.

The Vector Workout moves each of your body’s major joints and muscles through their primary directions and operations, helping ensure balance.

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The intent is to make your body strong in every direction, ready for whatever physical activities you enjoy and engage in.

There are three main directions for upper-body lifts: up, down, and horizontal. Unfortunately, most upper-body splits focus on rows and chins but leave out an upward pull (e.g. a shrug or heavy carry).

Without an upward pull in your routines your traps and scalenes are often left behind. As a result, you spend a weekend wheelbarrowing mulch and find yourself spending the next week or two fighting twinges in your neck.

Similar gaps are found in many lower-body routines where hip extension is emphasized but hip flexion is often non-existent. These gaps invite imbalance and injury. Your hip flexors are key to walking, running, hiking, swimming. They need focused attention if you’re going to keep moving smoothly.

While the Vector Workout does include some of the big lifts (or variations of those lifts) it does not assume those lifts are sufficient to get you a true “full-body” workout. In fact, my assessment is those lifts are not sufficient.

The Vector Workout’s base modules and exercises are summarized below:

Each module above starts with a compound lift followed by exercises which isolate flexion or extension for the major joints and muscles in that module. These baseline lifts are the foundation of the workout plan since they ensure primary joint and muscle coverage across the entire body.

A set of (+ assistance) exercises are used to fine tune each module. The assistance exercises are key to ensuring you hit gaps the main lifts overlook. You can change them, but be sure to hit the same targets in terms of muscles, movements, and directions if you decide to make alterations.

The workout modules are organized to support split routines but you can combine the modules any way you like. Do a module a day. Do a push/pull pair 4x a week. Do all 4 modules 3x a week. Training volume, frequency, and set/rep schemes depend on your specific goals. The end of this article offers some suggestions on how to get started.

I’ve been working out on and off all my life but when I decided to compete in Ironman triathlon back in 2013 it was clear I needed to work out smarter, much, much smarter.

With all the other training I couldn’t lift much so I started exploring programs people felt provided results with less time.

The top options included 5×5, 5/3/1, and push/pull splits. Each required no more than 3-4 days and 30–45 minutes of work per day.

Each recommended plan focused on squat, deadlift, bench, and press.

Those are great lifts obviously, but my ISSA certification studies and other research meant I couldn’t help wondering what muscles might be missed by focusing on just those lifts. As always, I ended up digging pretty deeply into the subject, ultimately creating an exercise reference chart to track things.

I learned a lot from my research and tried to capture as much of that new-found knowledge as possible in what I called the “Big 7” chart.

The Big 7 chart includes descriptions of muscle action, joint involvement, a map of muscle involvement in the big lifts, and recommended exercises for each muscle. The latter are based primarily on EMG activation data but also pull from exercise anatomy texts and online anatomy and exercise sites:

The interesting thing is, as I reviewed the chart I came to realize almost all of the weak points in my own physique were explained by that chart. It turns out the big lifts leave gaps like hip flexion, oblique work, etc., the same areas I was finding were more prone to injury.

Realizing the chart could be used to help guide program design I shared it with a couple of personal trainer friends who still use it to help guide their program design efforts today. I also began to work on designing my own program, one that would meet my goals.

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There are a lot of different ways to measure success in the gym. Some people focus on raw strength, some on mobility/flexibility, some on symmetry, some on size. A flexible plan should support each of these goals to some degree.

I also believe trying to reach our full potential should always be on the table. It’s always out there in front of us, regardless of age or fitness level, waiting. I wanted to really reach for mine. I wanted a program that would get me as close to mine as possible while keeping me injury-free.

Of course, our potential is always constrained by this thing called reality…

Most of us aren’t powerlifters, I’m certainly not, so using a pure 5×5 or 5/3/1 plan didn’t seem like the right fit. Those plans focus on raw strength and while my ego would love to see a 500 pound deadlift, if I had to pick one thing I’d go with maximizing power — output over time — strength plus stamina.

I’d rather be able to squat my bodyweight 100 times than squat 1000 pounds. That’s me. You might have different goals. Mine is to be “bodyweight strong” and able to sustain that effort over time. (As an aside, you’d be a monster if you could squat your bodyweight 100 times…I’m nowhere close to that).

To ensure the overlapping goals of strength and size were addressed, I decided it was important to stick with a foundation built around the big lifts and augment from there. The remaining lifts would be focused on ensuring muscular balance, preventing injury, and enhancing symmetry in that order.

With those priorities in mind I set about designing the program outlined here.

Attention to joint and muscle orientation, joint mobility, and whether a particular muscle head crosses one or more joints (is monoarticular vs polyarticular), is all part of good program design.

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For the upper body you can think of pushing via shoulder press, bench press, and dip (upward, horizontal, and downward pushing).

You can likewise pull via the chin, the row, and a high-pull, shrug, or carry (downward, horizontal, and upward pulling).

Three main directions each.

For the lower body the classic push and pull are the squat and the deadlift. The thing is, the squat and deadlift emphasize hip and knee extension. There’s very little direct hip or knee flexion work. In addition, the rectus femoris is often underworked since it’s loose at the hip in both exercises. A balanced routine needs hip and knee flexion exercises to help address these gaps.

The core also benefits from directional awareness. The rectus abdominis works “vertically” to support flexion and anti-extension; the obliques work “rotationally” and coordinate for lateral stability; the erector spinae work vertically, laterally, and rotationally. The big lifts don’t involve direct rotational or lateral stability work so aspects of each can be left behind.

In the hip/pelvis region the rectus femoris works more with bent knees, the iliacus works up thru ~90 degrees, the psoas more after 90 degrees. The deep hip rotators/adductors get more emphasis below typical squat depths. The adductors and abductors work more in unilateral exercises. For balance and injury prevention, deep as well as lateral work is essential.

In short, the major joints (hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, wrist) should be worked through extension and flexion. The spine should be stabilized against over-extension or lateral flexion. Rotation is as critical to muscle balance and power transmission as the up, down, and horizontal directions.

By focusing on movement (flexion, extension) and direction (up, down, horizontal, rotational) I was able to identify various gaps and address them in the design of the Vector Workout modules.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

For maximum flexibility I decided to organize the program around a push/pull module format. This approach doesn’t mean you have to do a push/pull split but it does make it easy if that’s how you want to work out.

A classic push/pull routine divides exercises into “push” (squat, bench, shoulder press, leg extension, etc) and “pull” (deadlift, row, chin, leg curl, etc) modules. Modern versions go further and create upper-body and lower-body variants of these splits resulting in 4 basic modules.

Like modern push/pull routines, the Vector Workout is organized around the concept of 4 basic workout modules, each one focusing on the upper or lower body and push (extension) vs. pull (flexion). Again, this is an organizational choice, not a requirement you do push/pull.

The basic movement and focus of each module is summarized below:

With this target in mind for each module let’s dig in to the actual program.

Low Pull

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The Low Pull module focuses on ensuring your hips, knees, and ankles get focused flexion work. Maintaining a straight, stable trunk in this module is essential. Keep some of your mind in the muscle that stabilizes your spine.

As the classic low pull compound lift, the deadlift is the core of this module. The deadlift is essentially a hip and knee extension lift; however, since several hamstrings do double duty as both hip extensors and knee flexors there is a lot of overlap with doing focused knee flexion work for the hamstrings.

As I just mentioned, the deadlift is our low pull compound lift, hitting hip and knee extension (and spine and shoulder stabilization). For balance we need to directly target hip and knee flexion. Hanging leg raises/V-Ups/Pike-Ups target the hip area. Leg curls (sliding, nordic, etc) target the flexors of the knee.

Note that you don’t have to do heavy deadlifts; in fact most people probably shouldn’t. A great alternative is the single-leg Romanian deadlift. This unilateral deadlift variation is a great exercise that hits the key muscles of the standard deadlift while engaging more stabilizers.

If you’re not ready for hanging leg raises, V-ups, etc. try starting out with knee-ups or lying leg lifts. The focus is on hip flexion and giving your hip flexors some work. These muscles aren’t worked in deadlifting or squatting to a balanced degree, so give them a little quality time.

Leg curls don’t have to be on a machine. You can do Nordic-style leg curls on a slick floor with a towel. Or use a Swiss Ball. Lie on your back, place your feet on the ball, bridge up onto your shoulder blades and roll the ball in and out. Just writing about it makes my hamstrings light up.

If you are going to use the leg curl machine try pointing your toes. Most diagrams and videos show the feet flexed. The thing is, flexing the foot shifts some of the work to the gastrocnemius. Loosening the gastrocnemius by pointing your toes will move the emphasis to your hamstrings. We target the gastrocnemius in Low Push so for the Low Pull focus on your hamstrings.

Low Push

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The Low Push module centers on hip, knee, and ankle extension. As with the low pull module, trunk stabilization is key here so stay focused on a strong, straight, stable spine.

For low push the front squat is the compound lift. Because of its positioning of the weight, the front squat emphasizes quads a bit more than the back squat making it a slightly better complement to the deadlift.

In the squat and deadlift the rectus femoris is loose at the hip. We can isolate it via power leg extensions or lean-backs. Ankle extension via the gastrocnemius focuses on donkey calf raises.

Note that as with deadlifts, you don’t have to do heavy barbell squats just because they’re listed here.

You can use the hack squat machine, the leg press machine, lunges, or single-leg split squats. The latter exercise is a great unilateral alternative to normal squats and I highly recommend them. Done properly they’re a great option.

If you’re not familiar with it, a power leg extension is a leg extension where you lean back enough to straighten out your hip. This will cause your rectus femoris to stretch out so it’s not slack, allowing it to engage more fully. “Lean backs” are based on the same idea, focusing work on the rectus femoris.

Donkey calf raises (or any standing calf raises) put the emphasis on the gastrocnemius. When your knee is bent the soleus does more of the work of ankle flexion. Both deadlifts and squats work the soleus to a degree. We want to hit the gastrocnemius directly so keep your knee straight for calf raises.

High Pull

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The High Pull module focuses on shoulder, elbow, and wrist flexion work. The shoulder has so much mobility we let elbow flexion help drive exercise choice. As always, maintain focus on a strong, stable core, particularly for rows and carries.

For high pull the chin is our best compound movement. The chin provides downward pull work for the lats, teres, biceps, etc. Chins also hit the abs heavily. Heavy rows target the mid-back and horizontal vector. Adding a high pull, shrug, or heavy carry works the upward pull.

If you aren’t able to do a full chin that’s fine. Some gyms have an assisted chin machine you can use. You can also use pull-up bands to provide an assist on any normal pull-up bar or use a step to let you start at the top and lower yourself, resisting eccentrically on the way down.

There are a lot of options for rows: barbell rows, dumbbell rows, inverted rows, TRX rows. Try mixing them up to ensure you’re using different grips. The position of your grip (pronated, supinated, hammer) will shift muscle emphasis and the load you can manage.

The key to effective rows is to focus on pulling from your back, not your arms. Think of your arms as cables. Start the pull in your back. Put your mind in your lats, traps, rhomboids. Move from there. Let the movement flow to your rear delts, then to the biceps, brachialis, etc. Let the force flow through you ;).

For the upward pull I prefer the heavy carry. The heavy carry is a truly real-world activity. Carrying the groceries; taking the garbage out to the curb; you’ll find yourself benefitting from a stronger heavy carry every day. Single-arm (“suitcase”) carries will hit your lateral stabilizers, the obliques, spinals, TFL, etc. hard so I suggest doing them on a regular basis.

High Push

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The High Push module emphasizes shoulder, elbow, and wrist extension. As before, since the shoulder has so much rotational mobility, we let elbow movement, in this case extension, help determine the lifts. As always, maintaining a strong, stable core is critical to proper power transmission.

For high push the dumbbell clean & press is the compound lift. Using dumbbells frees up your shoulder position compared to the straight barbell. (Note the photo above shows the single-arm version. Work these with both arms most of the time). The press portion should be strict. Don’t do that little dip/bounce to get the weight moving off your shoulder, press it up cleanly.

The standing barbell press is the classic upward push lift and you’re obviously free to substitute that lift here if you like. I prefer the dumbbell clean & press because I think it gives you a lot of valuable feedback on your overall fitness.

Try this…grab a couple light dumbbells and knock out 108 burpee-style. Think of them as Sun Salutations with a kick. You’ll know where you stand.

Dips provide the downward push work. Bench press is our horizontal push.

Dips can be a challenge for a lot of us, particularly those of us with shoulder issues. Still, I recommend finding a workable variation if at all possible. Alternatively, use descending cable crossovers and cable pushdowns to target the downward push vectors for the chest and triceps.

Bench press. You don’t have to do it heavy…or at all. Sure, you won’t be able to answer the one question every bro seems compelled to ask you. That’s ok. You can barbell bench. Or dumbbell bench. Or do pushups. Or use the cables. Work the pecs and anterior delts “horizontally” and you’re good.

Baseline Summary

Summarizing each module’s lifts we end up with the following:

The exercises that make up each module were chosen because they fulfill the requirement of targeting the various movement vectors. You can substitute any another exercise that meets that requirement if you like. I recommend you stick to a compound movement to kick things off in each module.

For alternative baseline exercise ideas refer to the Big 7 reference chart which lists suggested exercises for each muscle based on EMG activation and other reference data.

The 12 exercises we’ve got create a solid foundation but there are still some gaps. With our current plan there’s no rotational work and, if you stuck with barbell deadlift and squat, there’s very little abductor or hip rotator work.

Adding exercises that specifically target the obliques, the abductors, the hip and knee stabilizers, the rotator cuff, ankle, and wrist gives us a balanced, full-body program.

Low Pull

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For Low Pull we can add high step-ups to polish off the glutes while activating the hip, knee, and ankle stabilizers. Banded ankle flexion exercises help further strengthen the ankle. Ab rolls are a great hip/trunk flexion integrator.

What’s a high step-up? Any step-up that brings your knee up to roughly hip level. Going up two or three stairs at a time is a perfect option for these but any box or stable platform you can step up onto will do the job. Note these aren’t knee raises, you are stepping up and standing up all the way with each repetition. These hit the glutes as well as the hip, knee, and ankle stabilizers.

For ankle flexion (flexing your foot upward against resistance) you can use cables, bands, plates, pretty much anything that works your tibialis anterior, that muscle on your shin that us aspiring drummers know all too well.

I like ab rolls (particularly if you have equipment like an “ab dolly” that lets you roll from the hands or the feet) because they’re an integration exercise that forces your body to stabilize through a range of motion and coordinate muscles across your entire anterior plane (aka the front of your body).

Low Push

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For Low Push we can use deep goblet (or frog) squats to hit the deep hip rotators and adductors. Alternating side planks let us hit the hip abductors and obliques for lateral stabilization.

Since low push includes squats you’ve already worked from standing down to a 90-degree bend in the knee. Focus your goblet work on the “bottom half”, coming up to 90-degrees from the bottom. This low work will hit the oblique head of the adductor magnus and your deep hip muscles really effectively.

The leg can also push laterally via the abductors, the gluteus minimus, medius, and TFL.

Alternating single-leg side-planks do a great job hitting the abductors and glutes. You’ll also work the ankle stabilizers, rectus abdominis, and obliques as you switch side to side.

High Pull

For the High Pull module we want to add exercises which target the obliques, the rotator cuff, and the various muscles of the bicep/brachialis complex.

Injuries from a weekend spent shoveling, chopping, sledgehammering, etc. are all too common and usually point to insufficient rotational work.

Photo by Tibout Maes on Unsplash

A few minutes on the cable machine can target these movements via chops and low reverse rotations (think pulling the start cord on a chainsaw…but slower…and with focus).

A lot of weight isn’t necessary. Try to slightly exceed the acceleration and weight loads your weekend warrior efforts demand of your body.

You don’t want to build mass here, you want to maintain a trim waist and yet be able to move with power in a rotational way forward and backward.

The ability to generate power rotationally is perhaps the biggest factor driving success in real-world sports and recreation. Power should flow from your trunk and be applied by your limbs. Real power starts in your trunk and almost always involves rotation. Make building rotational strength a priority.

As it turns out, cables are also a great piece of equipment for doing internal and external shoulder rotations, exercises that help strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff. Face pulls are a good option for the shoulders as well.

Another area your weekend shoveling can aggravate is the biceps/brachialis complex. The brachialis is worked heavily due to the “hammer curl” nature of a lot of shoveling movements. We can address that with cables as well.

Since they’re handy, throw in overhead, drag, and hammer curls with the cables to strengthen the arms…and get bigger “guns” while you’re at it.

With your arm lifted the long (outer) head of the biceps is loose so the overhead curls emphasize the short (inner) head. Conversely, drag curls tighten the long head so it gets more focus. Hammer curls target your brachialis. I use rope handles for the hammer curls and supinate at the top. One of the core functions of the biceps is supination. Try it. You’ll feel it :).

High Push

For High Push we want to ensure we fully activate all three heads of the deltoids and triceps. We also want to work the serratus anterior and strengthen the wrists and grip.

The anterior deltoid is worked well by the baseline lifts. Lateral cable flyes target the medial head while keeping workload consistent across the full range of motion. For the rear delts I like barbell or cable “push backs”, as exercise I remember from my days as a swimmer.

The lats don’t work effectively once your arm moves behind your hip, all motion pressing further back (away from your booty) comes from your rear delts almost exclusively. You can use a barbell behind your back or cables to really target the rear delts in this fashion.

If you’re looking to build bigger arms the triceps is where you want to focus most of your effort. The triceps are responsible for 2/3 to 3/4 of the size of your upper arm. They’re also more visible in most daily activities.

The dip and bench press build the lateral (outer) and medial (middle/low-inner) heads of the triceps but the long (high inner) head is often left behind since it, unlike the other heads, runs across the shoulder joint. That’s a shame since the long head is the one most responsible for upper arm size.

The PJR pullover, a variation on the classic pullover, targets the long head of the triceps while also working the lats and serratus anterior. Like ab rolls, pullovers are a great integration exercise, forcing you to work your shoulders, arms, chest, and back through a range of motion in a coordinated fashion.

To strengthen the wrists try sledgehammer raises and rotations. Yes, a real sledgehammer ;). The closer you grip the handle to the head the lighter the workload. Start close and work out over time. Start by lifting the head to the front, then switch grips and pivot the head behind you. Hold the handle side-to-side and rotate your wrists to work rotationally. With a little imagination you can work your wrists in every conceivable direction with plenty of load.

While it’s really more of a “pull” (aka flexion) movement I like working the grip on high push day since it’s the one day you’re not relying on your grip for deadlifting, chinning, etc.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

For the forearm flexors try bar hangs, plate pinches, or, if you’re really serious about building a hard-core grip, try Captains of Crush (CoC) grippers. The CoC grippers come in calibrated levels from ultra-light trainers to levels only a few people have ever closed fully. There’s a set of rules for certification and lists of men and women who have closed these. They’re short lists.

For forearm extensors, elastic finger extension bands provide real benefits. At first I thought “yeah, right…” but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the clear increase in my finger strength and dexterity after using the bands consistently.

Extra Credit 😉

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One final thing to consider mixing in to your routine is hill or stair sprints.

Take your time if you integrate sprints; they put a unique load on your body, but for the lower body and cardiovascular system there’s nothing like them. HIIT at its best…no equipment necessary.

Combining the base modules with our recommended assistance exercises results in this final arrangement of modules and exercises:

Four core modules with roughly 5 exercises per module. Something you should be able to get through in 45 minutes if you’re focused.

Photo by Luis Reyes on Unsplash

Kick Start

If you’re just getting back in the gym I recommend starting with a single module per day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Do this format until you get familiar with each module and find your groove:

Remember…your rest days are at least as important as your work days.

You tear things down and ask your body for more on work days, your body responds by rebuilding on rest days. Without the rest you don’t rebuild. Take your rests seriously and give your body a chance to answer your call.

Upper/Lower Splits

Once you’re comfortable with the routines and level of effort in the kick start phase you can up-shift to an upper/lower split to add load to your week:

With this format you’ll be hitting each major muscle and movement at least twice per week. This is, according to most research, the minimum amount of work you need per week to maintain a muscularly fit body.

Note that in this doubled-up format I like reversing the order in the second half of the week. That helps avoid always doing the same routines rested.

Full-Body

The final alternative I’ll offer is to do 3 full-body workouts a week (although for the hard-core and seriously fit you could try 4x per week on M/Tu/Th/F).

Recent research indicates a 3x full-body plan is the best one if you’re trying to add mass and strength. There appears to be a curve that tapers off after 48–72 hours of rest so don’t wait longer than that to get each muscle moving again if your goal is to build more muscle mass:

In the sample above I show the order of the modules rotating each workout to demonstrate some options. In real-world use I would keep things the same for a week, then rotate in a new “first module” the following week.

A 4-week “who’s on first” rotation means each module will go first at least once a month or three times per 12-week cycle. With that model it’s hard to imagine getting imbalanced because you “always squat first”. You won’t be.

If you have a specific weak point you want to work you can obviously choose to make that module first every time until you feel it’s balanced out with the rest of your physique, then start cycling modules again to stay balanced.

Depending on what you’re trying to improve, be it raw power, hypertrophy (size), muscular endurance, etc. you can use different set/rep schemes.

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There’s plenty written on how you might focus on anything from 2–5 reps per set up to 25 reps or more. Low reps for mass, high reps for muscle endurance.

I don’t know that our bodies respond all that differently to 5 vs. 8 vs. 10 reps, at least mine doesn’t seem to. I do know mine responds differently to 5 reps vs. 50 reps. It also responds to working to failure rather than to letting my mind shut things down early when I really have 3 more reps in me.

My goals mean I tend to choose weights I think I can get 5 reps with and then I try to get 7 or 8 reps anyway. If I can get 8 clean reps I can add more weight. I try to do 5 sets of everything. It’s not quite 5×5, but it’s in the neighborhood.

Some ideas for mixing things up with a much higher volume of work include:

  • A non-stop set of at least 25 reps, maybe 50. I used to do these with leg press. By rep 35 I was ready to quit…but tried to get to 50 anyway.
  • Rest-Pause sets of 25 with your 10 rep max. Similar to above, but with a heavier weight. Keep rests short. Get 10 reps, then 3 more, 2 more, etc.
  • 21s — 7 reps from top to middle, 7 from bottom to middle, 7 full range. Use a weight that has your mind wanting to stop somewhere in that last 7 reps.
  • 1.5s — Lower each rep, come back up half-way, lower, come back up full. For me an 8 rep target with a medium-heavy weight seems to work best.
  • Pyramids — 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, … 10 reps, 9 reps, 8 reps, … 1 rep. Choose weight wisely. You should be cooked on the way down from 5.

NOTE: the above set/rep schemes will push you hard. I don’t recommend doing them with things like deadlifts or barbells squats which are already extremely taxing. Be sensible. This is about improving your health after all. Passing out or puking is not a badge of honor. Neither is rhabdo. Just sayin’.

As to periodization I plan around a 12-week cycle. Week 13 is a full rest week. That model creates four working cycles with four rest weeks during the year. Each working cycle you could choose a different primary rep scheme, or stick to one scheme if you have very specific goals in mind, like pure mass building.

As mentioned earlier, I think it helps to rotate module order to adjust the focus to any weak point I might be sensing, but more often just to avoid always doing things in the same order and finding out that I’m underworking things in later modules as a result. Variety helps with workout boredom as well.

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I recommend you start each workout by warming up with just enough light full-body cardio (light rowing, inclined walking, etc.) to feel that first bead of sweat. Take a short (5 minute) break and start lifting.

Once you start lifting focus on working full-out during each set and then taking a proper rest break between each set.

Research shows that resting 1–3 minutes between sets is best for optimizing muscle growth. If you can do the same amount of work with less rest that’s fine, but for most of us it seems longer rests allows us to do a few more reps each set. Since more work correlates strongly with more growth use the rest period that lets you do the most overall volume in your workout.

To really see results you need to combine your workouts with a solid diet.

I’m not going to get into what eating plan you should choose, there are plenty of great articles about Keto, Whole30, Paleo, and other plans people have seen a lot of success with. I think most any plan works if you truly follow it.

When I’m “on plan” I focus on getting ~0.8 grams of protein per pound of my target weight, an equal number of calories from fat sources, and filling in the remainder with carbs. For me that works out to roughly 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein, aka a “zone diet” balance for my macros.

I practice intermittent fasting when I’m on plan, trying not to eat until 11 and trying to get my last meal in by 7pm. I’m considering adding a full fast day each week to see what effect it has but that’s something I haven’t done yet.

I believe it’s critical to never eat below my BMR except as an occasional fast day. I try to feed my muscle and other systems what they need every day.

My sense is that going below BMR regularly is a signal our bodies will interpret as a need to lower our metabolism. That’s the last thing I want. Of course, I have absolutely no science whatsoever to back that theory up :).

My “protein-first” plan allowed me to improve my body composition last year, losing roughly 10% of my body weight in fat and a total of 40 pounds overall. My plan is to continue until I reach 10% body fat. That’s a hard target to hit.

Whatever plan you choose I definitely suggest you not waste your precious and hard-fought effort in the gym by out-lifting your weights with your fork.

They say you can’t outrun your fork…you also can’t out-lift it.

Measure and log your food until you have habits in place that let you fuel your body on autopilot.

If you drop off plan go back to measuring and logging until you’re back on plan. Be patient. Changes in body composition take time.

I hope this article has given you some things to think about with respect to how you might design a workout plan to meet your needs. I hope it inspires you to set some realistic goals and chip away at them by combining a good workout plan with a good meal plan.

If you decide to give the Vector Workout as described here a try I’d love to know how it works for you.

Thanks for reading!

— ss


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