Let’s face facts. While it’s nice to have chiselled abs and sculpted biceps, it’s even better to have a body that can perform as well as it looks. CrossFit workouts and the one designed for the actors in Spartan war movie 300 emphasise being ready for anything. They give you both the strength to lift a fridge and the lung capacity to sprint away from trouble.
These “Beast workouts” offer just such a combination. The series is designed by Zach Even-Esh, who trains CrossFit athletes and high-school wrestlers in his Underground Strength Coach programme. Make no mistake, the foundation of the workout is that you’re going to get strong – but it will make you ripped as well.
How It Works
Each session focuses on one big lift, a compound move that works a lot of muscles (bench press, squat, pull-ups and deadlift to be precise). That’s followed by a metabolic conditioning or metcon routine – a combination of intensive muscular and aerobic training. In simple terms, that means doing several sets of full-body, multi-joint exercises of moderate weight to near or total failure with minimal rest between exercises. It’s like a sprint with weights.
Why It Works
Lifting heavy weights is great for two reasons. First, it develops the sort of tension in your muscles that leads to increased strength. Second, it prompts the growth hormone response that’ll grow beast-like muscles. Starting your workouts with max-effort lifts stimulates your nervous system, which will enable you to handle heavier weights for more reps later in the workout.
Metcon exercises burn more fat in less time than doing long-distance, steady-state cardio exercise would. These moves kick your metabolism into high gear so that you’re burning fat throughout the day, not just while you’re in the gym.
How To Do These Workouts
“This workout has two upper-body and two lower-body days,” says Even-Esh. “If you’re already fairly decent at the three big lifts (bench press, squat and deadlift), aim to do between three and five warm-up sets, and then do three serious sets (or ‘work sets’) with a weight that’ll challenge you even for a low number of reps.
“Lifters with less experience should do a lot more volume to put muscle on, so I’d aim for lighter weights and higher reps. It’s like a car engine – you need to make the engine bigger before you can soup it up, because if the engine’s small you can’t really do anything.
After your main lift, finish with relevant complex or intervals and go as hard as you can. “You want to raise the intensity on the supplemental stuff,” says Even-Esh. “Because that’s not going to smash your nervous system like the big lifts.”
Day 1 Upper Body Workout
This workout centres around a barbell complex. Before you do the complex, however, you need to bench press as if your life depended on it.
The reason? The bench press is a classic muscle builder that works much more than just your chest. If it’s done properly, you’ll work everything from your legs (which provide a stable base) to your neck (which you’ll use as you press your head back into the bench).
Even-Esh offers these tips for safe bench pressing: “If you’re not in control of the weight or you’re bouncing it off your chest, it’s too heavy. Another common mistake is that a lot of people tend to lower the bar too high up their body, towards their collarbone. That’ll lead to shoulder injuries later on, because it flares your elbows out and strains the rotator cuff.” If you want more pointers on how to bench press properly, have a look at our guide to bench press form.
How To Do The Workout
If you’re already fairly decent at bench presses, aim to do between three and five warm-up sets, and then do three serious sets (or ‘work sets’) with a weight that’ll challenge you even for a low number of reps.
“Lifters with less experience should do a lot more volume to put muscle on, so I’d aim for lighter weights and higher reps. It’s like a car engine – you need to make the engine bigger before you can soup it up, because if the engine’s small you can’t really do anything,” says Even-Esh.
Once you've done the bench it's time to move onto the barbell complex. “This is one I use a lot,” says Even-Esh. “It’ll kill your forearms and get you breathing hard. Start light – this is designed to test your cardio, and even doing it with an empty bar might be tough. Do three sets of six reps of each move. Rest for 60 seconds between rounds.”
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