My Secret Workout Formula: Part 3 Finding Your Own Secret Workout Formula

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we talked about the “what” and the “why” of my “Big 4” workouts. Today I want to finish up by giving you the “how” in the form of the final tools you need to create your own “Big 4” workout. I’ll highlight the main strategies behind a “Big 4” workout design, provide a menu of exercises to use, and even throw in sample workouts of my own and give you my thoughts on why I put them together that way. Before we start, it would be a great idea to review my last two blog entries, so you are armed with everything you need to know. Ready? Ok, strap in and let’s go!

Putting It Together

The “Big 4” system is simple and effective if done correctly. That being said, you will want to make sure to follow these points:

  • Always start with a warmup. At the Bodysmith, we integrate customized warmups into our routines to increase mobility and reduce injuries. But if you aren’t a Bodysmith member, you can still take a page from old school lifting and perform 1-2 circuits of your workout with light weight. I recommend two sets, increasing the load on each to approach what I call my working weight, which is the weight I will be using for the majority of my sets. This warmup prepares the muscles and joints that you will be working and is a tried and true warmup strategy.
  • Choose your exercises. Remember that brilliantly designed diagram of the human body I gave you in week 1? Choose one exercise from each quadrant. You get bonus points if you arrange your exercises according to the most considerable distance between quadrants you can think of. I’ve included a handy menu below to help.
  • Pick your sets and reps. I recommend you design a workout with 3-6 sets (not including warmup sets) of 5-12 repetitions each set. You can get more complicated and design phases that fluctuate for specific periods (periodization), but part of the fun of the “Big 4” is that you can just drop it into your fitness routine when you need variety or time is short. I even like to ask Siri for a number between 3 and 6 to pick my sets and then do the same for the number of reps.
  • Keep your wits about you. Be sure to be very familiar with proper technique on each exercise you choose. The last thing you need is an injury derailing you from your workouts!
  • Keep the intensity high. We want this to be a worthwhile, albeit short workout. You need to be working hard to reap the benefits of the “Big 4.” After your warmups sets, you should be moving some serious weight!
  • Rest, but make it short. You will be doing all four exercises in a circuit before taking a rest. A one to two-minute break between circuits is all you should need. Stay focused and get it done.

Your Exercise Menu

This is a short list of exercise options. There are many more possibilities, but the beauty of the “Big 4” is that you can keep it simple. Choose one exercise from each quadrant to construct your workout.

  • Quadrant 1 Exercises
    • Horizontal Pulling. Typically, this is the most shoulder-friendly way to perform rowing exercises. If you’ve got a lousy wing stick with these variations.
      • Bent-over rows
      • TRX rows
      • Single-arm cable rows
    • Vertical Rowing
      • Pullups or chin-ups
      • Vertical cable rows
      • Lat pulldowns
  • Quadrant 2 Exercises
    • Horizontal Pushing
      • Pushups
      • Bench press or chest press variations
    • Vertical pushing. (If you have bad shoulders, stick with horizontal pushing.)
      • Barbell/dumbbell overhead press
      • Push press
      • Handstand pushups
      • Arnold press
  • Quadrant 3 exercise
    • Barbell back squat
    • Front squat
    • Goblet squat
    • Step-ups
    • Lunge variations
  • Quadrant 4 exercises
    • Deadlifts
    • Hip bridging
    • Hip thrusts
    • Romanian deadlifts

Some of My Sample Workouts
Here are a few examples of the workouts you can construct using my Big 4 strategy.

  1. The “Classic Big 4.” This represents the essence of what I am talking about. Big lifts involving all major muscle groups. This is the workout that started it all and is the one for my coaches when time is short.
    1. Deadlift (barbell or hex bar)
    2. Bench Press
    3. Goblet Squat
    4. Seated Cable Rows
  2. Body Weight Blaster. Because sometimes you don’t have any equipment.
    1. Pushups
    2. Single-leg shoulder elevated hip bridge
    3. Pullups (use assistance if needed)
    4. Swing lunges
  3. Unilateral Core Crusher. Doing all of your exercises with either one arm or one leg is a great changeup and will train your core to fight rotational forces and protect your spine.
    1. Single-arm chest press on a stability ball
    2. Single-leg Romanian deadlift
    3. Single-arm TRX rows
    4. Single-leg squat from a box
  4. Power for the People. Who doesn’t like throwing some stuff? Power exercises should be done with explosiveness and extra caution. Seek professional coaching for some of these if you have never done them.
    1. Medicine ball chest throws
    2. Kettlebell swings
    3. Medicine ball slams
    4. Jump squats

Well, there you have it: my complete system for creating your own time-saving workouts without compromising results. I would love to hear any workouts you came up with or answer any questions you may have. Reply or comment back, and I’ll see if I can help.

–Coach Brad

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