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Structuring Workouts for Maximum Gains: Tips for Compound and Unilateral Exercises [2023]

Are you tired of feeling like you're going through the motions at the gym without seeing any real progress? We've all been there, but fear not! With a little bit of structure and strategy, you can take your workouts to the next level and see the results you've been working so hard for.


I will give a full upper body and lower body workout example at the end of this article!


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First things first, let's talk about compound exercises. These are the heavy hitters of the workout world, the exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once and give you the most bang for your buck.


Think squats, deadlifts, and bench press. These exercises not only work multiple muscle groups, but they also help to build a strong foundation for other exercises. So, start your workout with these exercises, when you're fresh and have the most energy.


After warming up, I typically start my workout with a compound exercise. On lower body days, I begin with back squats or front squats. On upper body days, bench press, shoulder press, or heavy rows.


Track your weights on your compound lifts and gradually increase over time. More on that below when we discuss progressive overload!


Next, let's talk about unilateral exercises. These are exercises that work one side of your body at a time. Examples include single-leg deadlifts, lunges, and single-arm rows. These exercises are great for preventing muscle imbalances and injury. Plus, it's a great way to feel like a superhero when you're doing them!


After completing my compound lifts (2-3 of them), I will move into some unilateral exercises. This is a simple way to make sure you are training both sides equally and build a balanced, healthy physique.


Progressive overload is key to continuing to challenge your muscles and promote growth. This means gradually increasing the weight and/or reps you're lifting. It's easy to get comfortable with the same weight and reps, but trust me, your muscles will thank you for pushing yourself.


Don't get stuck in the rut of doing the same weight and amount of reps on the same exercises for years. This is the benefit of following a program. In a 4-8 week cycle of resistance training, the workouts will look relatively the same.


But by slightly adjusting the number of reps and gradually increasing the weights, you are able to progressively increase strength. If nutrition and recovery are on point, you will be able to increase lean muscle mass and decrease unwanted body fat as well.

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Now, let's talk about assistance exercises. We all love a good bicep curl or tricep extension. But, saving these exercises for the end of your workout is important.


These exercises target specific muscle groups and it's important to do them after your compound exercises, when those muscle groups are not fatigued yet. By doing so, you'll be able to give your full attention to those smaller muscle groups and see the results you want.


Basically:


Compound exercises are difficult and require more energy, so do those first.


Assistance exercises like biceps curls, leg extensions, leg curls, and leg extensions are easier and fun, so save those for the end of your workout.



I typically will go a little higher rep on assistance exercises. Around 3 sets of 12-15 reps.


Incorporating these tips into your workout routine will help you to see progress and avoid plateaus. Remember, consistency is key, don't give up and keep pushing yourself. And don't forget to have fun and enjoy the journey!


Example workout below,


-Ben


Lower Body Workout


Lower Body Warm-Up (link)

*5-7 min lower body dynamic stretches


Warm-Up Tempo Pause Squats 2 sets of 5 (light)

*one set with the empty bar, 1 set light weight


Tempo Pause Squats 3x5

*3 second descent, then pause at the bottom

*add weight each set

*build to a challenging set of 5

*add 5-10 lbs to what you used last week


4 sets:

12 DB RDLs

15 Leg Press

*done as a superset

*add weight after each set


15 Minute AMRAP:

12 Alt Arm DB Snatch (from floor)

16 Reverse Deficit Lunges (weight in goblet position)

20 Alt V-Ups

*AMRAP = as many reps as possible

*so for 15 minutes, rotate through the 3 exercises as many times as you can with proper form

*on the DB snatch and lunges it is total reps per set listed, left = 1 rep, right = 2, etc

*on the DB snatch focus on using hips and legs to drive the weight up


Add Weight on each of the exercises below and focus on controlling the descent of each rep:


Single Leg Extensions 3x12 per leg

*alternate between legs until you've done 3 sets of 12 on each

*no rest between


Single Seated Leg Curls 3x12 per leg

*alternate between legs until you've done 3 sets of 12 on each

*no rest between


Seated Calf Raises 3x8-12

*pause at the top, down slow, pause at the bottom


Lower Body Cool-Down (link)

*5-7 min lower body stretches


Upper Body Workout


Upper Body Warm-Up (link)

*5-7 minutes of dynamic upper body stretches


2 set of 5 warm-up close grip bench press

*1st set empty bat, 2nd set light


Close Grip Bench Press 3x5

*do 3 sets of 5 reps.

*add weight each set

*increase weight from last week


Neutral Grip Lat Pull-Downs 4x10

*perform these as a pyramid set

*do 10 reps, add weight, immediately do 10 more reps, etc

*do all 4 sets with as little rest as possible

*if you can do more than 10 on the last set... do it!

*start heavier than last week


Machine Chest Flies 4x10

*perform these as a pyramid set

*do 10 reps, add weight, immediately do 10 more reps, etc

*do all 4 sets with as little rest as possible

*if you can do more than 10 on the last set... do it!

*start heavier than last week


12-minute EMOM:

1: Alt Arm DB Clean and Press

2: Alt Arm DB Row

3: Sit-Ups (weighted with 5-10 lbs)

*emom = every minute on the minute

*so for 12 minutes rotate through the 3 exercises

*do each exercise for 60 sec, immediately switching to the next

*4 rotations through the 3 exercises


3 Sets:

12 DB Spider Curls

12 DB Inline Skull Crushers

12 Bent Lateral Raises

*do this as a giant superset

*do 1 set of each exercise, 3 rotations


Upper Body Cool-Down (link)

*5-7 minutes of upper body stretches



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