Fitness Distilled

Does Your Workout Suck?

I write a page for Muscle&Fitness every month called “Rate My Workout.” People submit their workouts to the magazine for review and I tell them what I think, or at least as much as I can in a short space.


Inspired by that page, a gentleman recently reached out to me by email and asked for my thoughts on his routine. I’ve pasted his email below.


Loading the shoulders heavy more than twice a week is a bad idea for anyone beyond the beginner stage

Hi Sean, thanks for your many articles and insights in M+F! I’m 51 but fit—about 225 pounds but looking to be in the 200 range. I love a full-body workout but it may be the thing that hurts me. Please give me your thoughts.

Monday through Saturday (Sundays off)

Incline bench press, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Dumbbell Rows, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Dumbbell Shoulder Clean to Press, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Dumbbell Curls, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Close Grip Bench Press, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Leg Extension, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Leg Curls, Reps: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

Abs, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1

– Dean


And this was my response…


When you say “Monday through Saturday”, I assume this means you’re lifting 6 days a week. Is that correct? I’d cut it back to no more than 4. Especially if you’re putting in this kind of volume with heavy weight on a regular basis. This routine is very tough to recover from.


Full-body training is great. But the main benefit of it is that it allows you to do less work for each muscle group in a session and train more frequently. Six sets, especially working your way up to a max single, is just too much. Try 3 sets of maybe 10, 8, and 6 reps. In another workout, choose different exercises or change the reps. Think in terms of what’s joint-friendly, especially for your shoulders. You don’t want to do heavy presses more than 2x per week, especially at age 51.


I’d also go with some tougher leg exercises. There’s nothing wrong with leg extensions and leg curls but if you don’t want to squat (or can’t), at least get some lunges in there. RDLs would be good too. Something that has you standing and stabilizing. That will build more muscle than the isolation lifts and contribute to overall gains. Do compound leg training at least one day a week.


Otherwise, you picked some good exercises and you clearly like to hit it hard. I’m impressed by your work capacity. And your resilience. That much heavy training would literally cripple me for life.

Heavy curls. Cool, but unnecessary.


Which leads me to another point—one I try to make for the greater good of all lifters. Just because you can get away with a super hardcore training regimen, or one worked for you in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to train. I really think the solution for you, whether you want to get stronger or leaner, is to cut it to 4 days. That’s all most powerlifters do.


You could do a little of everything in one workout or do 2 upper and 2 lower days. Then you could add more volume per body part if you wanted.


But you definitely have to lighten up those weights. Working up to sets of 1 or 2 on curls and leg extensions is totally unnecessary and is bound to cause an injury.


In another email, a guy asked me for a new recipe for chicken. Most of us have cooked chicken breasts every which way and there are no surprises left, so I opted to give him one that uses chicken thighs.


My friend Jeb Johnston, a competitive strongman and trainer in New York City, gave me this one a few years ago and it’s gradually become one of my all-time faves. Since it uses chicken thighs, the fat content is higher than chicken breast, but it’s not that much overall. Eight ounces delivers around 15 grams fat and 45 grams protein. It will give you a nice break from breasts (although I never get bored of them… and yes, that was a double entendre). Plus, the higher fat in the thighs can be great for dieters, as it keeps you full.


So here we go:


Fake Fried Chicken

Preheat the oven to 400F

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place some boneless, skinless chicken thighs on it

Season with garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and chili flakes (or red pepper flakes). I like to add a few splashes of Frank’s Red Hot to it as well for a little spice.

Bake for 20–30 minutes or until golden brown

Fake fried chicken


The chicken gets a crust similar to being fried, but the seasonings just add so much flavor it tastes like popcorn chicken from a fast food place.


I’ve experimented and found I get a similar effect with Mrs. Dash’s Onion and Herb Blend. Dredge a chicken breast in a little olive oil and then shake that seasoning on top and it will come out crunchy and juicy when baked.


Enjoy that protein. Till next time…

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