A no-nonsense guide to design your workouts, Part III
Designing Your Workouts

Furci Home / Fitness Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Don't miss Part I and Part II of "A No-Nonsense Guide to Design Your Workouts."

In Part I, we discussed training frequency and its importance in helping you recover from workout to workout. In Part II we discussed sets, reps and tempo. We also discussed some of the factors involved in choosing how many sets or reps, and what tempo to use. I hope that many of you have started implementing some of these training principles. However, there still are some loose ends that need to be tied. And in this, the last in the series of three, we will do just that.

In this last part, we're going to delve into the importance of rest intervals. Rest intervals are simply the amount of time you take between sets. How much rest do you need in between sets? I know -- this is another one of those subjects that isn't given much attention.

Designing Your WorkoutWhen rest intervals are discussed, It's usually very brief and vague. Most of the time the discussion is in an article about a top ranking bodybuilder's workout, based more on ego than science. Well, have I got news for you! Know-nothing editors write many of the workout articles in most of the rag mags out there. And here's something that will really piss you off. The articles you read that are touted as being a top ranking bodybuilder's workout routine, are usually written with absolutely no input from the bodybuilders themselves. The pros or top amateurs get paid a small fee for the use of their name. Doesn't that make you feel secure? You could be training thinking you're following a top-level bodybuilders routine, when in fact it's fabricated. What else are they fabricating just to sell magazines? All anyone wants is good, sound advice. Well, I could go on and on. That's enough ranting for one article. Deception really ticks me off! Now back to the business at hand.

So how much rest do you need between sets? To understand how much, let's first talk about why. Your body has different energy systems that it uses for different tasks. The energy system we're concerned with is the phosphagen system. This system provides ATP for a source of energy. ATP is primarily for short term, explosive activities (e.g., weight training, sprinting, throwing, etc.). Now some of you can understand why creatine monohydrate works so well. Creatine facilitates the storage of ATP in the muscle cells. The higher your levels of ATP the stronger you are.

Repletion of phosphagens like ATP is why rest intervals are so important. Without adequate rest, you will deplete the muscle cells of these important substrates and hinder your training performance. Rest intervals, like other facets of training, have to be individualized. However, there are a few basic principles that can point you in the right direction.

Size does matter

There is a definite correlation between the size of a person and the amount of rest they need between sets. The bigger and stronger you are, the longer your rest intervals need to be. This is due to the fact that the stronger a person is, the greater the amount of tension they can exert on their muscles.

Muscle size matters

There is a linear relationship between the size of the muscle group you're training, and the amount of rest you'll need between your sets. For instance, you'll need more time between sets training your quads than if you're training your biceps.


Training with high levels of intensity is learned through years of experience and adaptation. Beginners do not have the ability to put as much tension on their muscles as advanced athletes. So, rest intervals for a beginner should be shorter than somebody who's been training for a long time.

Putting it together

Designing Your WorkoutI bet you're saying to yourself, "where the hell do I start?" Below are a few programs that I'm sure will help you to get started on your road to progress. But, before you dive into the deep end, remember, manipulate your training in a systematic fashion and record every workout. Do not just record sets, reps, tempo and rest intervals, but also how the workouts went. For example, record how you felt during the workout, after the workout, and whether or not you progressed. Keeping a detailed record will help you figure out what type of training is best for you. If you don't keep a record, I can guarantee your workouts will be much less effective.


This is a three-week program, which should be performed three days a week. Allow one day off in between training sessions. Each set should be performed to positive failure. The following workouts do not include warm-up sets.

Leg Press 1 2 10-12 3020 2
  2 2 8-10 3020 2
  3 2 6-8 3020 2
Step-ups 1 2 12-15 2010 2
  2 2 10-12 2010 2
  3 2 8-10 2010 2
Flat Dumbbell Presses 1 2 2 8-10 3020 1.5
  2 2 6-8 3020 1.5
  3 2 5-6 3020 1.5
Seated Cable Low Row 1 2 8-10 3020 1.5
  2 2 6-8 3020 1.5
  3 2 5-6 3020 1.5
Standing Dmbl Raises 1 2 2 10-12 3030 1.5
  2 2 8-10 3030 1.5
  3 2 6-8 3030 1.5
Kneeling Cable Crunches 1 2 12-15 2010 1
  2 2 10-12 2010 1
  3 2 8-10 2010 1


This is a three-week program. This four-day split allows you to hit each body part once every 6 days. You can make it a once-every-7-day by adding another day off.

DAY 1: Chest and Biceps

Flat Dumbbell Press 1 8-10 4020 3
Incline Hammer Press 1 8-10 4020 3
Flat Dumbbell Fly 1 8-10 4020 2.5
Incline Cable X-over 1 8-10 4020 2.5
Standing Dumbbell Curl 1 8-10 5010 2.5
Standing Cable E-Z Curl 1 8-10 5010 2.5
Inc. Dumbbell Curls 1 8-10 5010 2.5

DAY 2: Quads and Calves

Leg Press 1 8-10 5020 3.5
Step-ups (with dumbbells) 1 12-15 2010 2.5
Leg Extension 1 8-10 5020 3
Standing Calf Raise 1 8-10 5020 2.5
Toe Press on Leg Press Mach. 1 6-8 5020 2.5
Standing Calf Raise (unilateral) 1 8-10 5020 2.5

DAY 3: Off

Designing Your Workouts

DAY 4: Back and Triceps

Close Grip Pull Down w/ V-bar 1 10-12 4020 3
Seated Cable Low Row 1 8-10 5020 3
1 Arm Cable Pull Down 1 10-12 4020 2
Hammer D.Y. Row 1 8-10 5020 3
Tricep Pushdowns w/ straight bar 1 10-12 4020 2.5
Hammer Dip Mach. 1 10-12 4020 2.5
Lying Dumbbell Extensions 1 10-12 4020 2.5

DAY 5: Hamstrings, Traps
and Shoulders

Lying Leg Curls 1 8-10 4020 3
Stiff Leg Deadlift 1 8-10 4020 3
Single leg, leg Curl 1 8-10 4020 2
Barbell Shrugs 1 12-15 2020 2.5
Dumbbell Shrugs 1 12-15 2020 2.5
Dumbbell Lateral Raises 2 10-12 4020 2.5

DAY 6: Off

DAY 7: Start over or, if needed, take it off.

As stated in Part II, it is not necessary to count each rep in order to build strength and muscle. However, it is necessary to lift under control and to vary your speeds to get the best most rapid gains per your genetics. When you perform an exercise under control, the muscles are truly doing the work. "Slower," not "slow" speeds make the muscles work harder by eliminating momentum and bouncing. There's nothing impressive about performing a bench press by allowing the weight to drop, bounce off your chest and then barely being able to complete the lift.

So why did I include the tempo of each exercise? To illustrate what a workout using tempo would look like. Now you have another weapon in your arsenal.

The advanced program above, which is one of many combinations you can use, uses higher rep ranges and fairly high tempos. The average time under tension is 50 to 60 seconds. The second three-week program in your cycle, if you're utilizing tempo, should use rep ranges and tempos that yield a lower time under tension. For instance, instead of performing 8 to10 reps with a 4020 tempo, try 6 to 8 reps with a 3020 tempo. Variety in training stimuli in a systematic fashion is crucial to your success.

And remember always train to get strong. The stronger you are, the more tension you put on your muscles. The more tension one the muscle, the greater the growth response.

Any questions? Let me know. And don't miss Part I and Part II of "A No-Nonsense Guide to Design Your Workouts."

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Around the Web