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Upper/Lower Barbell/Dumbbell Only Program
Upper/Lower Program For Those With Home Gyms or Limited Equipment
As requested, I am going to give you all a Barbell and Dumbbell only Upper/Lower Training Program. This is perfect for someone with a home gym, travels a lot and uses hotel gyms, or simply just prefers to train this way.
This workout program will follow all of the general principles of every program I’ve ever put out:
Flexible Exercise Selection
For those that haven’t seen one of my training programs, this could be new information in terms of program set-up. I highly urge you to deductively breakdown how I make these programs and the philosophy behind them. I don’t want to just give you a program—I want provide you with the framework so you can become efficient at developing your own individualized training plans.
Think of this less as a structured, must-follow to the detail program, and more of a guideline of how you should set up your training for optimal results. Following someone else’s plan will only take you so far—you need to learn how to do it yourself to continue to grow and succeed.
If you’ve followed any of my other plans, skip this, or reread to remind yourself of why and how this works so well.
This program follows a high-intensity, low-volume approach. You will be doing hard workouts, not long workouts.
This is because intensity is a better driver of growth when volume is equated. Meaning if we can push fewer heavy sets for more weight, this is more effective than pushing moderate weight for more sets.
All of your workouts will involve using the heaviest weight you can for the rep ranges I give you. Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, happens most optimally in the 6-20 rep range. Our goal is to become as strong as possible across this rep range.
You will need to track your lifts and constantly strive to add more weight over time. This isn’t really up for argument with my programs—if you’re not doing this, you’re leaving a ton of gains on the table and will end up like 90% of people in the gym, spinning your wheels, making little progress.
All sets will be taken to or near mechanical failure depending on the movement—squat and deadlift variations will not be taken to mechanical failure for safety reasons, we will stop when form begins to breakdown.
I suggest having a spotter or safety catches to prevent injury when taking movements to failure, if not, stop just shy of failure on movements that could be dangerous.
We will be pushing hard to the point of muscle stimulation—enough novel stimulus that you trigger a growth response, but not to annihilation beyond the point you can’t properly recover—stimulate, not annihilate.
For this to work well, you’re at least going to need to have enough weight to make your workouts worthwhile—50lb dumbbells are probably not going to do it if that is all you have.
Ideally you have access to weights that will allow you to challenge yourself and give you room for improvement. If not you either need to upgrade your gym or get a gym membership.
However, work with what you have—if you have to do sets of 15-20 and 20-30, then so be it, you’ll still make muscle gains.
Now that we have that out of the way, we are going to break up the workouts into 2 workouts: Upper and Lower Body. You will go on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you can handle the recovery, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
You will have 2 Rotations of Each Workout: Upper 1, Upper 2, and Legs 1 and Legs 2.
Please don’t fuck this up, you will do: Upper 1, Lower 1, Upper 2. Following week: Lower 2, Upper 1, Lower 1. Repeat ad infinitum.
If you’re going to go 4 days, even easier: Upper 1, Lower 1, Upper 2, Lower 2, repeat.
I will not tell you if you should go 3 or 4 days—this is a completely individual decision and will depend on your time commitments and recovery abilities.
Form should always stay perfect. If you have to sacrifice form to complete the set, you were doing too much weight. This not only increases the risk for injury, but you are also taking the tension off the targeted muscle by recruiting other muscles to complete the lift. You can see how this is not optimal.
Tempo should be kept at a steady rate—I like a 3121 tempo meaning 3 seconds on the eccentric, 1 second at the bottom of the movements, 2 seconds on the concentric, and 1 second at the top. This takes momentum out of the equations and adds time under tension. Time under tension is what will cause the mechanical tension for muscle growth. Tempo should be kept constant to ensure you are progressing with the same time under tension always, otherwise you are making it easier on the muscle and not giving it the equal stimulus it needs to start the adaptive response.
These are simply recommendations, not the rule—feel free to swap any movement as long as it follows the same general movement pattern. Only rule here is if you’re replacing a compound movement, replace it with a compound movement—if replacing an accessory, replace it when an accessory.
If you are unfamiliar with an exercise or do not have a piece of equipment, feel free to swap it out with a similar movement you have access to. All barbell movements can be done with dumbbells or machine. If a movement causes you discomfort and pain, swap it for something that targets the specific movement that doesn’t cause that pain or discomfort.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 Sets 6-9, 12-15
Bent Over Rows: 2 Sets 6-9, 10-12
Barbell Shoulder Press: 2 Sets 6-9, 12-15
Rack Chin-Ups: 2 Sets 10-12
Close Grip Bench Press: 2 Sets 8-12, 15-20
Chest Fly: 2 Sets 12-15
Single Arm Dumbbell Curls: 2 Sets 8-12, 12-15
Back Squat: 2 Sets 6-10, 15-20
Dumbbell Straight Leg Deadlift: 2 Sets 8-12, 15-20
Barbell Bulgarian Split Squats: 2 sets 8-10, 10-12
Barbell Good Mornings: 2 sets 10-12, 12-15
Calf Raises: 2 sets 12-15
Abs Any Exercise: 3 Sets To Failure 15-30 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press: 2 sets 6-9, 12-15
Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows: 2 sets 6-9, 10-12
Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 2 sets 6-9, 12-15
Pull-Ups: 2 Sets: 10-12, 12-15
Barbell Shrugs: 1 set 6-9
Lateral Raises: 2 sets 12-15
Dumbbell Overhead Extension: 2 sets 8-10, 12-15
Preacher Curls: 2 sets 10-12, 15-20
Barbell RDL: 2 sets 8-12, 15-20
Front Squats: 2 sets 6-10, 15-20
Barbell Hip Thrusts: 2 sets 10-12, 12-15
Dumbbell Walking Lunges: 2 sets 12-15
Calf Raises: 2 sets 12-15
Abs Any Exercise: 3 Sets to Failure 15-30 Reps
Putting It All Together
This plan will be great for anyone looking for a minimalist program or only has access to barbells and/or dumbbells.
This is great for home gyms and hotel gyms if you can find enough weight. This plan can be highly manipulated depending on your goals, as long as we stick to the general principles.
Feel free to comment below any questions so we can get everything answered and this can be a comprehensive program for anyone to follow.
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.