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    How To Read Workout Programs

    For this discussion on how to read workout programs, please refer to the above ‘Example workout’ diagram.

    The first column indicates the order and whether the exercise is stand-alone or grouped into a superset. Exercises are grouped into a superset if they share the same letter (A1 and A2). The number following the letter (A2) represents the order within that group.

    The second column specifies the exercise to be performed. For exercises that are linked, you can click on these for a quick demonstration of that exercise.

    The third column is the target number of sets and reps.

    The fourth column is the tempo of the exercise.

    The fifth column is the rest period after each exercise.


    Supersetting is where you perform sets of a few different exercises in succession with minimal rest between each set.


    A rep (repetition) is the single performance of an exercise or a lift.


    A set is a group of repetitions performed consecutively without rest.


    The rep tempo of an exercise is expressed in workout programs using a 4 number code e.g.

    • 3:2:X:1, 
    • 3-2-X-1, or 
    • 32X1.

    Each number represents the number of seconds taken for each of the four parts of a lift:

    The first number (32X1) is the time for the eccentric (downward) action of the lift.

    The second number (32X1) is the pause at the bottom (stretch) of the lift.

    The third number (32X1) is the concentric (upward) action of the lift.

    The fourth number (32X1) is the pause at the top of the lift.

    This system makes sense for lifts that start with the eccentric action such as the squat and bench press. But it can be a bit confusing when the lift begins with the concentric action such as the deadlift, row, overhead press, and pull-up. However, the order doesn’t change in regards to the fact that the first number is always the eccentric (downward) portion of the exercise.

    The third number for the concentric action may have an X. An X means do the lift as fast as possible, which in reality won’t be that quick if you are lifting a challenging load.


    An example of doing the first workout above is the following. After warming up, grab the heaviest dumbbell you can safely manage for 15 reps of the box squat and get into position.

    Do the dumbbell box squat at 21X1 tempo. 2 seconds to go down, hold the bottom of the squat for 1 second, go up fast, stay at the top for 1 second, and repeat until you complete 15 reps.

    Go straight into doing the single arm row, at the same tempo until you complete 15 reps of each arm.

    Rest for 1-2 minutes, then repeat until you complete 4 sets of each exercise.

    After the final set of single arm rows, rest for 1-2 minutes and then start the next group of exercises.

    For an explanation on how to do workout programs, refer here.

    For an introductory strength training program, refer to introductory strength.

    For more on tempo training, refer to time under tension.

    Monday, February 11, 2019


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