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12 Week Workout Program

By Lee Hayward


Lee Hayward

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I get a lot of e-mail from people asking me all sorts of exercise related questions such as:

- How many days per week should I workout?
- How many exercises should I do for each body part?
- How many sets and reps should I do?
- Should I lift heavy weights / low reps or light weights / high reps?
- How often should I train each body part?
- Etc. Etc. Etc...

In this article I will cover these questions and lay out a 12 week workout program that you can follow to make some good progress. And hopefully I will clear up some of the confusion about working out.

There is really no right or wrong way to workout. You could ask 10 different bodybuilders to explain their workout routine and most likely you would get 10 different answers.

"Everything works, but nothing works forever." That is probably the most important thing to remember for making consistent progress with your workouts. You can follow most any type of workout routine and you will make good progress for the first few weeks (provided that you are getting adequate nutrition, rest, etc.). But generally after a few weeks of following a set workout program your progress will slow down and eventually you will no longer make progress with that routine.

Our bodies are very smart and naturally accommodate to stress. Your body will add as little muscle as necessary to get the job done. This is why construction workers get only big enough to handle the exact amount of work they do during a days work and no bigger, even though they are doing physical work all day long.

Adding muscle is a very unnatural thing to your body. You must constantly throw "curve balls" at your muscles to get them to grow. Generally, you will make the best progress for the first 3 weeks of starting a new workout routine. After 3 weeks your body starts to adapt and your progress will slow down.

In the following workout routine I have placed 4 different, 3-week workout cycles back to back in order to make a 12 week workout program.

This program requires you to workout 4 days per week. Ideally you would workout on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. And rest on Wednesday's and weekends. But if this doesn't fit your schedule you can workout on other days of the week. Just make sure that you do not workout for more then 2 days in a row before taking a day off.

By doing this you will give your body plenty of time for recuperation and muscle growth. Muscles do not grow while you are working out; they grow while you are resting. Working out will stress and damage the muscles slightly. Then your body reacts by building up the muscles in order to handle the extra work and stress.

Note:
With each of the exercises do as many warm up sets as you need to get to your top working weight. Then perform the required sets and reps with the same weight.

For example:
So letís just say your top weight for 5 sets of 5 reps is 100 lbs.

- Do one warm up set with 50 lbs.
- Do another warm up with 75 lbs.
- Then go to your top weight of 100 lbs. and perform 5 x 5 with 100 lbs.

If you get all 5 x 5 with good form, then up the weight to 105 lbs. for your next workout and repeat the process.

If you can't get all 5 x 5 or you found them extremely difficult, keep the same weight for your next workout.





The Workout Routine



Click on the exercise name for a picture of the exercise (all pictures open in a new window).

Weeks 1, 2, and 3 do the following workout routine.

Monday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Squats:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Dead lifts:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Standing calf raise:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Leg raises:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Incline sit ups:
- 3 sets of 10-20 reps



Tuesday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Incline barbell bench press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Seated dumbbell shoulder press:
- 5 sets of 8 reps

Bicep cable curls: (from low pulley)
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Tricep push downs: (using straight bar attachment)
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Bent over dumbbell lateral raises:
- 3 sets of 10-15 reps



Thursday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Leg press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Leg curls:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Wide grip pull downs:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Hyper extensions:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Pull down ab crunches:
- 4 sets of 15 reps



Friday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Incline dumbbell bench press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell side lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Bicep dumbbell curls:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Tricep push downs: (with rope attachment)
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Barbell upright rows:
- 3 sets of 15 reps

Keep records of the exercises, weights, sets, and reps that you do. Each workout try to beat what you did for your previous workout. With the squat, dead lift, and incline barbell bench press try to add 5 lbs. to the bar each week and do the same number of sets and reps.



Weeks 4, 5, and 6 do the following workout routine.

Monday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Bent over barbell rows:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 8 reps

Barbell shoulder shrugs:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Leg extensions:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Leg curls:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Seated calf raise:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Incline sit ups:
- 3 sets of 10-20 reps



Tuesday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Decline barbell bench press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Seated barbell shoulder press: (i.e. military press)
- 5 sets of 8 reps

Preacher barbell curls:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Lying tricep extensions: (with the EZ bar)
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Cable upright rows: (from the low pulley)
- 3 sets of 15 reps



Thursday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Hack Squat::
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Stiff leg dead lifts::
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Seated cable rows:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Leg raises:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Crunches::
- 4 sets of 25+ reps



Friday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Flat dumbbell bench press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell front lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Bicep barbell curls:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Tricep push downs: (with V bar attachment)
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Close grip pull downs:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Keep records of the exercises, weights, sets, and reps that you do. Each workout try to beat what you did for your previous workout. With the decline bench press and the bent barbell row try to add 5 lbs. to the bar each week and do the same number of sets and reps.



Weeks 7, 8, and 9 do the following workout routine.

Monday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Squats:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Partial Dead lifts: (use a power rack and set the bar just below your knees)
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Chin ups:
- 4 sets of as many reps as you can do

Pull down ab crunches:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Leg raises:
- 5 sets of 10 reps



Tuesday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Flat barbell bench press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Bent over dumbbell lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell side lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell front lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Bicep cable curls: (from low pulley)
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Tricep push downs: (using straight bar attachment)
- 5 sets of 10 reps



Thursday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Hack Squat::
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Leg press:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Chest supported row: (i.e. T-bar row, hammer strength seated row, etc.)
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Hyper extensions:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Pull down ab crunches:
- 4 sets of 15 reps



Friday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Dumbbell bench press on the stability ball:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell shoulder press sitting on the stability ball:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

EZ bar bicep curls:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

One arm over head dumbbell extensions:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

One arm dumbbell rows:
- 3 sets of 15 reps

Keep records of the exercises, weights, sets, and reps that you do. Each workout try to beat what you did for your previous workout. With the squat, partial dead lift, and flat barbell bench press try to add 5 lbs. to the bar each week and do the same number of sets and reps.



Weeks 10, 11, and 12 do the following workout routine.

Monday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Leg press:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Stiff leg dead lifts:
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Wide grip pull downs:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Incline sit ups:
- 5 sets of 15 reps

Leg raises:
- 5 sets of 15 reps



Tuesday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Dips: (add extra weight if needed)
- do a couple warm up sets first
- 5 sets of 5 reps (train heavy, but don't train to failure)

Chin ups:
- 4 sets of as many reps as you can do

Side lateral raises:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Seated barbell shoulder press: (i.e. military press)
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Bicep dumbbell preacher curls:
- 5 sets of 10 reps

Tricep push downs: (using rope attachment)
- 5 sets of 10 reps



Thursday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Squats:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Leg curls:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Leg extensions:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Seated cable rows:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Standing calf raise:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Pull down ab crunches:
- 4 sets of 15 reps



Friday: (five minutes of light cardio to warm up)

Push ups with feet elevated on the stability ball:
- 4 sets of as many reps as you can do

Seated dumbbell shoulder press:
- 4 sets of 10 reps

Standing one arm dumbbell curls:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

(Super set the curls with the over head tricep extensions, you can use the same dumbbell for both exercises. For example, set of curls with one arm, set of curls with the other arm, set of extensions with one arm, set of extensions with the other arm, with no rest in between.)

One arm over head dumbbell extensions:
- 4 sets of 12 reps

Close grip pull downs:
- 4 sets of 15 reps

Keep records of the exercises, weights, sets, and reps that you do. Each workout try to beat what you did for your previous workout. With the weighted dips and leg press try to add 5 lbs. to the bar each week and do the same number of sets and reps.



Each 3 week cycle is different. You will focus on different exercises during each cycle. This will allow you to make consistent progress over the long term.

After you complete this 12 week workout program you can go through the program again and strive to beat your personal best lifts from the first time through. Or you can move on to something totally different.

Some other great workout programs that should check out are:
The Blast Your Bench Program
and The Bio-Genetic Program.

Download the 12 week workout in Excel spread sheet format.




Hey Lee,

Thanks for the valuable information about training after the 12 week program. You wanted some feedback about the 12 week program and I attest it is one of the best programs I have done. I have been lifting for almost 2 years now. This program gave me good results with an increase of my bench by 20 lbs. squat 35 lbs dead lift 35 1bs. These gains were seen over the 12 week program. the only problem I had was I hurt my shoulder but this has been a problem before I started your program. I didnt measure my % body fat but I feel it has decreased. I know this is subjective but I believe with all the abdominal work in the 12 week program this really helped my core. I thank you Lee for your time and dedication. I train at the University of Virginia so if your ever in Charlotesville,Va. and want to work out let me know.

Take Care Kent





Question

I was just reading trough your 12 week work out program. You have said to train heavy but not to failure. I have only been doing weights for a year but have always gone to failure. Please can you explain why not to go to failure, is this to reduce the recovery time?

Answer

What I mean by train heavy, but not to failure is that you stop a rep or two short of failure. You should be able to complete all the reps on your own with no help from a spotter. This doesn't break you down as much as repping out to failure so it is easier to train more frequently, and thus make more consistent strength gains over the long term.





Question

In the 12 week workout program it seems that you change exercises every three weeks and my question is in regards the larger muscle groups. For example, in the chest section for the first three weeks you train the upper chest, and then the next 3 weeks the lower and the 3 weeks after that the whole. I was wondering if after you gain strength on, lets say incline bench press, you only train it for those three weeks and then you don't train it for 6 weeks. Once you train the upper chest won't you be lifting considerably less weight because of the 6 week break? and the same for flat bench press, won't your 1 rep max go down by a considerable amount?

Answer

You will not lose strength by changing exercises every few weeks. In fact this will help you to make consistent strength gains. Even though you may be doing different exercises and working the muscles from different angles and you will still build up strength in these muscle groups.

If you stick with a particular exercise or workout routine for more then 6 weeks your strength gains will stop and in many cases you will actually lose strength. You may have experienced this personally, I know I have.

For example, you may start a great workout routine and for the first few weeks you make good progress and you are able to increase the weights that you are lifting and you feel really good about the routine. But then after several weeks you find that you are no longer making progress and eventually you are struggling to lift the weights that you previously lifted with no problems.

The key to avoiding this pitfall is to change your major muscle group exercises every few weeks. This way you can still work the muscles hard and make consistent progress. And because you are working the muscles and joints at different angles you can avoid injuries that are caused by doing repetitive movements.

As for your question about the bench press. Let's say for example that someone can incline bench 150 lbs., flat bench 200 lbs., and decline bench 250 lbs. If this person worked hard on the incline bench for a while and increased their incline bench to 165 lbs. Because of the strength gain in their chest, shoulders, and triceps they will also be stronger in the flat bench and decline bench.

To give a real life example of this, I have a friend who is a powerlifter. This guy has benched 440 lbs. in competition at a bodyweight of 165 lbs. He hardly ever does any over head presses (i.e. shoulder press). But one day at the gym for variety he did 5 sets of 8 reps with 250 lbs. in the shoulder press with no problem. The reason that he is so strong in this exercise even though he doesn't do it regularly is because his muscles are strong from the other exercises that he does. When you get strong in a certain exercise that strength carries over into other exercises.





Question

I really like your write-up on the 12-week workout, however you don't include any information on recommended time between sets. Also, Besides the execises with 5 reps and 5 sets where you state to train heavy, but not to failure, you don't list whether the other excercises should go to failure or not. Most of those at 4 x 10 or 5 x 10, you would NEED to go to failure or else start with rather light weight in order to reach the rep goals. Can you shed light on these for me??

Thanks,

Todd

Answer

Rest about 2-3 minutes between sets for big exercises such as squats, dead lifts, bench press, leg press, etc. 1-2 minutes between sets for the other exercises. I suggest that you use weights that make you work hard to achieve the desired number of sets and reps. But not so heavy that you have to use sloppy form or get assistance from a spotter. You should be able to do all of the sets and reps by yourself with good form.

When it says 4 sets of 10 reps, the first set can be a lighter warm up set. Then use a heavier weight for the other 3 sets.





Question

I have a question for you in regards to your "12 Week Workout Program," I have been under the impression that in order to gain mass in a particular area of the body, say chest, you must do at least three different lifts that target that area with multiple sets per lift. Example... if I was to work on my chest I would do 3 sets of 10 for each of the following... bench, incline dumbbell, and decline bench. Is that over training and would I likely see more results by doing fewer exercises with more sets?

Answer

Like I mentioned in the article, "there is no right or wrong way to workout". You can do multiple exercises and sets for each muscle group and make progress. But in the routine you focus hard on certain exercises for 3 weeks. Then for the next 3 weeks you focus hard on some different exercises, etc.

Everyone I know of who has used this type of routine has made good consistent gains in strength. With this routine you have to keep good records of the weights that you lift, sets, reps, etc. and you simply try to beat your previous best each workout. For example, lets say that your main chest exercise for the next 3 weeks is incline barbell bench. Then for the 3 weeks you focus on decline barbell bench. Then for the next 3 weeks you focus on flat dumbbell bench. Now if you were to go through this cycle again and go back to using incline barbell bench for your main chest exercise most likely you will be noticeably stronger in this exercise then you were before. You will find this with practically all of the main exercises that you do.

The nice thing about this type of workout is that there is always a good chance that you will break a personal record of some sort. For example, if in the decline bench press you worked up to doing 5 reps with 200 lbs. in the first cycle. In the next cycle you may work up to doing 5 reps with 210-215 lbs. and this will help to keep your motivation and energy levels high. Plus it keeps the workouts interesting by not having to do the same exercises every time you work that bodypart.



Doug Croft

I recently competed in my first bodybuilding competition. I started my contest diet at 242 lbs. and with the help of Lee's program I lost 64 lbs. and got into the best shape of my life. I didn't make the middleweight class like I had hoped, but even as the lightest competitor (178 lbs.) in the light-heavyweight class I still managed to place 3rd.

I would like to thank Lee for all the help that he gave me during my contest prep. His knowledge and experience really helped ease off the pressure of being a first time competitor. I feel really proud of what I've accomplished and it is amazing how far I have come from where I started.

Again, thanks Lee for your help with everything, it was greatly appreciated and you helped make the whole experience a great one.

Cheers
Doug Croft
Canada


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