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Workout Regime
Mar 1, 2011

I want to build some serious mass and have been training since i was 17 and i'm now 33. I'm getting nowhere. Can you please tell me exactly what your regime is, including number of sets, number of reps, exercises and bodyparts? My body isn't developing and I am eating well and work out 3-5 times a week. Please can you show me exactly what you do as I can see that you have been extremely succesfull in achieving your goals!!

Response from Mr. Vergel

This is the work out program we included in "Built to Survive" (available on There are many types of programs, so this is just one of them that ensure that all your muscle groups are exercised without causing overtraining that may lead to muscle catabolism or loss.

Starters: Once-A-Week Training

This section is for those who have only recently recovered from illness, or are just getting into weight-lifting for the first time. For the first few weeks, until your stamina is up, do only one workout per week. The workout described below is a whole-body workout program. For more descriptions of various exercises get a book like Ironman's Ultimate Bodybuilding Encyclopedia that details proper form for the full spectrum of resistance exercises, by calling 1-800-447-0008.

Warm-up set (w) weight refers to a set where you use a weight that is about 50 to 60 percent of the heavy weight set that you use. Heavy (h) indicates a weight that you are only capable of lifting 6 to 12 times before you experience momentary muscular failure.

1. Barbell flat bench press 2 w and 1 h set 2. Curl-grip pulldowns 2 w and 1 h set 3. Squat or seated leg press 2 w and 1 h set Squats are a best exercise, but some people have to substitute the leg press because their back or knees will not tolerate squats.

Warm-up sets: employ a poundage that you know you can easily handle for 12 repetitions (reps). Rest for about one minute between sets or longer until you feel like you have enough energy to go again. Two warm-up sets should be enough to warm all the joints involved without tiring you too much. Then do the heavy se, lifting the weight until you cannot lift it one more time. This is called momentary muscular failure.

Your Personal Best

After you get used to training, it is important to challenge yourself to the best of your own ability and do enough repetitions to get to momentary muscular failure so that you trigger your muscles to grow. Your level of intensity in the beginning will not be as great as it can be later, after you have been lifting for a while. Give yourself time, and allow yourself to grow slowly, but do work to the best of your own ability. You do not have to go to the point of total failure, where you can not even hold the weight in place to gain muscle. In fact, this is a form of overtraining, and is a technique to be used only on very rare occasions.

Do this workout on a day when you feel relatively good. After doing the exercises, you may feel tired and depleted. You should consume a low-fat carbohydrate/protein drink after the workout to replenish glycogen (muscle sugar) and amino acid stores you will grow much better if you do. A good drink mix is OSMO Regeneration (contains no aspartame), which is sold at health food stores and buyers' clubs like the Houston Buyers Club, 1-800-350-2392.

If you find that you feel exhausted during your beginning efforts, pace yourself more carefully and make sure your nutrition and rest are good. You should be getting balanced nutrition (like food!) three to six times a day and be sure to get plenty of rest and recovery. Protein drinks can fill in between meals. (e.g. three meals with two or three drinks per day.) Continue with once-a-week workouts until you find that you feel good enough to workout on a second, non- consecutive day of the week. Then do this same workout twice a week. When you feel good enough to workout three days a week, it is time to start splitting the exercise routine up to work on one group of body parts per day. You will also be starting to train your heavy sets with more intensity, and you will see an acceleration of the muscular gains. After you have been training for a while, say three to six months, begin to experiment with different training programs, combinations of exercises, and techniques. There are many different valid ways to train, and each has something to offer. A interesting book on sophisticated training approaches is The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin. To order it call 1-707-257-2348 or go to: Another book with an entirely different, more fundamental approach to training is Beyond Brawn by Stuart McRobert, ordered by credit card at, or by calling 1-509-234-0362, or by mailing to CS Publishing, P.O. Box 1002, Connell, WA 99326.


On several of these exercises I give you an alternate exercise to use for variety. In the beginning, you should probably stick with one specific exercise for a given body part for a period of four to eight weeks, then use an alternate. Once you become familiar with weight-lifting and correct technique, you will want to try some of the other many different variations and perhaps begin to periodize your training and use more advanced techniques.

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps Barbell flat bench press 2 w and 1 h set (Alternate: incline bench press) Cable side deltoid raise (laterals) 2 w and 1 h set Cable rear deltoid raises 2 w and 1 h set Triceps pushdowns 2 w and 1 h set (Alternate: Close-grip bench press) Note: Rest one or more days.

Day 2: Back, Biceps, Abdominals Seated close-grip pulldowns to the stomach 2 w and 1 h set Barbell biceps curl 2 w and 1 h set (Alternate: preacher bench barbell curls) Crunches 3 sets of 10-20 reps Note: Rest one or more days.

Day 3: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Calves (Legs) Squat 2 w and 1 h set (Alternate: Seated leg press) Again, the squat is the better overall exercise, but some people cannot do it because of back or knee problems. Lying leg curls 2 w and 1 h set Standing calf raises 2 w and 1 h set Note: Legs are the most demanding body part, so rest two or more days.

Control The Weight

Studies show that the negative, or return part of the movement is critical to optimal muscle growth, so do not let the weight fall quickly after lifting it. Exert deliberate control over the negative part of the movement, keeping tension on your muscles through the full range of the movement, and do not rush it.

Making Progress

When you can lift a weight for twelve reps, raise the weight 5 to 10 pounds so that you can only lift about six reps. Then try to increase the number of reps you can lift each time you work out to arrive at twelve reps again, and repeat the progression so that you keep increasing the weight you lift. As you grow stronger, you will grow bigger muscles. You will probably be pretty sore during your early recovery days. For best recovery and growth let yourself heal so that the soreness goes away, even if this means you leave several days between workouts.

During one high-intensity training period several years ago I learned by studying my workout records that if I wanted to put on weight most quickly, I needed a minimum of eight-days of rest before I worked the same body part. This meant that for the type of training I was doing I worked a body part every nine days. If you do not allow enough recovery days between workouts, your progress will be slower. When you log your workouts you can see if you are progressing. If you are not making progress pretty much every workout, try giving yourself another day to recover and see if you do not get stronger at each workout. A very thin, ectomorphic guy I once counseled needed 14 days between workouts to grow optimally!

Keep in mind that the goal is to gain strength and lean body mass. Usually strength appears to precede size, so you get stronger and then notice that you are getting bigger. Weight-Lifting Exercises

Flat Bench Barbell Press

This exercise primarily works the pectorals or chest. The anterior deltoids and triceps are also involved. Grip should be a little wider than shoulder width.

Steps: 1. Lie down on your back on a flat bench, with your feet flat on floor. 2. Put your hands on bar slightly wider than your shoulders. 3. Pick up the bar by extending your arms. Lift the weight straight up over your chest for a count of one. 4. Squeeze your chest at the top, hold 1-2 seconds. 5. Slowly lower the bar (over 2 seconds), by allowing your elbows to flare out away from your body until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Keep your elbows up toward your shoulders rather than letting them flex down towards your stomach. 6. Repeat.

Alternate: Incline Bench Press

This exercise is basically the same as the flat bench press, but tends to work the upper chest and front of the shoulders a little more.

Cable Side Deltoid Raises (Laterals)

This exercise builds the side deltoid cap, the muscle that gives the wide look think of cannonball delts. This is not an easy exercise to get at first, but once you learn it you will find it to be a best exercise for shoulders, and it is better than lateral raises with dumbbells.


1. With a single handle that is attached to a low cable pulley, and leaning slightly forward (with your left side nearest the cable frame), raise the cable from a position to the side of your stomach up and to the outside of your right shoulder. Do this as if you were swinging a back fist so that you would hit someone behind you with the back of your hand. Be sure to swing the cable in an arc out in front of your body with your arm almost straight, with a slight flex in the elbow rather than letting it stay low as it comes around. Feel yourself resisting the pull of gravity as you move through this arc. 2. The position you end at should be about shoulder height out to your right. Hold 1-2 seconds. 3. Control the negative movement as you let the cable pull your arm in an arc back down to the left side of your stomach to the starting position (over 2 seconds). 4. Repeat. 5. Repeat the entire sequence for the other side, but reverse your position.

Cable Rear Deltoid Raises

This exercise builds your rear deltoid so that you have a deep and wide look. You may see people who seem to have big shoulder caps, but when they turn sideways they disappear. The rear delt completes the shoulders and makes them look much more powerful. Many people miss this.

Steps: 1. With a single handle that is attached to a low cable pulley, and bent over at the waist so that your torso is horizontal, with your left side nearest the cable frame, pull the cable from a position under your body to the left of your left shoulder in an arc up to the outside of your right shoulder. Keep your arm straight or only slightly bent throughout the movement. Avoid flexing your tricep during the movement. 2. Your hand should end at a high position on the same plane as your head, not down by your stomach. Hold 1-2 seconds. 3. Control the negative movement as you let the cable pull your arm in an arc back down to the side of your left shoulder at the starting position (over 2 seconds). 4. Repeat. Repeat the entire sequence for the other side, but reverse your position.

Triceps Cable Pushdown

This exercise effectively works the triceps as long as you keep the elbows close to the body during the movement. Do this exercise with a bent bar that has a bend in the middle so that it is shaped like a slight V.

Steps: 1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, bend knees slightly, and put your back to the pad at the overhead pulley machine. 2. Grasp the V-handle bar with overhand grip, palms facing downward. 3. Pull your shoulder blades back, lift chest, and tighten abdominals. 4. By contracting your triceps, straighten your arms, aggressively pushing bar down toward floor. 5. Stop when your arms are fully extended. 6. Squeeze your triceps, hold 1-2 seconds. 7. Without moving upper arms, return to starting position (over 2 seconds). 8. Repeat.

Close-grip Bench Press

This exercise works the triceps with some involvement of the shoulders and chest. Performed somewhat like the standard bench press, only with a closer grip.

Steps: 1. With a grip approximately 14 inches apart, no closer, lower the barbell from over your chest keeping your arms close to your body. The bar should end at a spot just below your pecs, before driving it back up to a lockout position; this keeps the tension on the inner chest and triceps, which is right where you want it. 2. Squeeze your triceps. Hold 1-2 seconds. 3. Return to the starting position (over 2 seconds). 4. Repeat.

Seated Close-grip Overhead Cable Pulldowns

If done properly, this exercise works the entire back (lats).

Steps: 1. Sit on bench with feet flat on floor, abdominals tight. 2. Grasp overhead pulley bar with hands about eight inches apart with palms facing you. 3. From the fully stretched overhead position, pull the bar down to your stomach by bringing your elbows to your sides as you lean back slightly. Be sure to keep your back arched and firm with your shoulders back. 4. Squeeze your lats in the bottom position. Hold 1-2 seconds. 5. Keeping your back firm, slowly (over 2 seconds) let the bar go up until you are in the fully stretched overhead starting position. 6. Repeat.

Standing Barbell Curls

This exercise works the biceps. The EZ curl bar is best for this but a straight bar can be used.

Steps: 1. Grasp barbell slightly wider than shoulder width, palms facing forward. Pull shoulders back, lift chest. Arms should be fully straightened down at your sides. 2. Stand with feet hip width apart, bend knees slightly, tighten abdominals. 3. By contracting biceps, slowly move barbell in an arc out from the front of the body until the barbell is up to your chest. The hard part is to keep elbows at your sides (stationary) throughout the movement. That is why it is easier to do curls using a bench. 4. Squeeze your biceps at the top, hold 1-2 seconds, keeping your elbows stationary. 5. Slowly return to starting position (over 2 seconds). 6. Repeat.

Preacher Curl

This exercise works the biceps. Assisting muscles are removed from involvement in this lift, so this isolates the biceps very well. The EZ curl bar is best for this, but a straight bar can be used. Bring the weight all the way to the bottom fully stretched position for full development of the biceps. For any exercise to fully develop a given muscle, it must to through the full range of motion. If you do not go all the way to the bottom, the lower part of the biceps will not grow as well. Control the weight and do not jerk on the way to the bottom as this can cause injury.

Steps: 1. From the seated position of the preacher bench, grasp the EZ curl barbell at the outside grip position, palms facing forward. 2. By contracting biceps, lift the barbell up to the topmost position. 3. Squeeze your biceps at top and hold 1-2 seconds. 4. Slowly return to the bottom at the starting position (over 2 seconds). Be sure to go all the way down smoothly. 5. Repeat.

Abdominal Crunches on Mat

Primarily works the abdominals.

Steps: 1. Lie flat on your back. 2. Bend knees 90 degrees. 3. Press lower back into floor. 4. Tighten abdominals. 5. Slowly curl your upper body towards your pelvis, leaving lower your back on the mat. 6. When your head is highest off the mat, squeeze your abdominals. Hold 1-2 seconds. 7. Slowly curl your upper body back to the starting position. 8. Repeat. Note: concentrate on squeezing your abdominals throughout the movement.

Barbell Squats

This most taxing of all exercises primarily works the quadriceps (thigh), but it also involves the gluteals (buttocks), hamstrings and your lower back. This is the exercise that can best re-build a flattened "AZT butt!" It is a difficult exercise that not everyone can perform. Tall lanky people often have trouble doing squats. I recommend the assistance of a competent spotter. Alternative: Smith machine squats

Steps: 1. Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart. Face straight bar on squat rack. 2. Place the midpoint of the bar across your trapezius muscle (back of neck/shoulder). 3. Place your hands wider than shoulder width to balance the bar, your palms facing forward to grasp the bar. 4. Place your feet hip width apart, facing forward with your knees lined up over your toes. 5. Pull your shoulder blades back, arch your back, chest up, and tighten your abdominals. 6. By bending your knees, smoothly descend to a position where your upper legs are parallel to the floor (about 2 seconds). Be sure to look straight ahead, not down, keep your chest lifted, and maintain a slight arch in your lower back. 7. Contract your quadriceps, and straighten your legs to lift you up to the starting position, as though you are trying to push your feet through the floor (over 1 second). 8. Repeat.

Squats are a difficult exercise to learn to do properly and a short description does not really do it justice. One good book to read to learn to squat properly is "The Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight-Training Technique," by Stuart McRobert. You can get it by credit card at or by calling 1-509-234-0362 or by mailing to CS Publishing, P.O. Box 1002, Connell, WA 99326. Another one is "Super Squats," by Randall Strossen, Ph.D., ordered by calling 1-800-447-0008, ext. 1.

Seated Leg Press

This exercise primarily works the quadriceps (or thigh), but it also involves the hamstrings and gluteals. This puts less strain on the back than squats.

Steps: 1. Sit on the machine with your lower back and shoulders against the pad. 2. Place your feet hip width apart on the platform. Contract your quadriceps and straighten your knees to lift the weight to starting position. 3. Pull your shoulders back, tighten your abdominals. Lower the weight by smoothly bending your knees as your legs come down toward your chest (2 seconds). 4. Stop just before your knees touch your chest. 5. Contract your quadriceps and straighten your knees to lift the weight. 6. For maximal effect do not straighten your legs fully, but shop just short of locking the knees and hold for 1-2 seconds. This stresses the quads more. 7. Repeat.

Lying Leg Curl Machine

This exercise works the hamstrings (leg biceps). Steps: 1. Lie on the leg curl machine, placing the back of your ankles under the pad. 2. Press your abdominals tightly down onto the machine. 3. By contracting hamstrings, slowly bring heels toward buttocks. Stop when you are unable to bring your heels any closer without moving your abdominals. Keep your hips in contact with the machine at all times. 4. Squeeze hamstrings. Hold 1-2 seconds. 5. Slowly return to the starting position (2 seconds). 6. Repeat.

Standing Calf Machine

This exercise works both heads of the calf.

Steps: 1. Stand with your toes on the platform, your heels off the platform, and your knees slightly bent, with the pad on your shoulders. 2. Pull your shoulders back, tighten your abdominals. 3. By contracting your calves, rise up on your toes (1 second). 4. Stop when you are as high as you can get on your tiptoes. Squeeze your calves and hold 1-2 seconds 5. Slowly return to the starting position (2 seconds). 6. Repeat.

I hope this helps!


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