Do you remember the first time you stepped foot in a gym and picked up your first weight? It was a mix of a good yet strange feeling. But after a few workouts, you fell in love with it.
Let’s take a step back; do you remember why you started working out? The vast majority of us simply wanted to look good. We wanted that physique of power and confidence. And of course, attracting the opposite sex seemed like a nice perk. 🙂
For the reasons above, many of us start out doing bodybuilding style workouts. These types of workouts are designed to pump more blood into the muscle, making your muscles bigger. Throw in some cardio a few times a week, a decent meal plan, and a dose of patience, and there you have it; a pretty awesome and jacked physique (I make it sound so simple, don’t I?).
Bodybuilding vs Strength Training
Bodybuilding workouts are awesome and serve a great purpose among the masses (no pun intended…well, ok, the pun was indeed intended). I’ve personally done bodybuilding workouts throughout most of my years of training. But I want to take us down another road and share why I recently changed my entire workout program.
Although bodybuilding workouts have helped me build a solid foundation, I felt that I was missing out on the benefits of strength training. Sure, bodybuilders are typically strong in their own right. But bodybuilding is focused on building bigger muscles and defining your physique. Strength is simply a secondary effect.
I wanted to get stronger but I didn’t necessarily want to get into powerlifting. I had always thought of powerlifting and strength training as equating to strong and fat. Call me a wuss, but I didn’t want to banish the body composition that I had worked so hard for over my many years in the gym. This is a flawed concept, by the way. Stay with me; we’re almost there!
Now, it may be possible to combine bodybuilding workouts with strength-focused workouts, but who has three hours a day to spend in the gym? The good news is you don’t have to. There’s a better way to focus on strength while maintaining a good-looking physique.
Strength and Conditioning
I recently stumbled on the concept of strength and conditioning. These workouts are catered to helping you get stronger on core, compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, bench press, and barbell rows. The kicker is the conditioning part, and we’ll get to that.
My main source for this program is from a video I saw posted by Brian Alsruhe, a strongman competitor with plenty of muscle definition. You tend to listen to people that are better than you and willing to share their experience. Perhaps there’s a hint of a man-crush here. In all seriousness, it’s extremely obvious this dude knows what he’s talking about.
The unique part of this style of training is you’re doing supersets, or better known as giant sets. I know, I know…you’re thinking that sounds more like a lean muscle building type program. Besides, how can you possibly get stronger by going from one exercise to another? That first exercise is going to zap your strength and energy for the next one, right?
Those were exactly my thoughts before I started this program. But sometimes you have to think outside your own box. I had my doubts, but I jumped right in and I’m currently finishing my fourth week of the program. I’m extremely glad I started this because I’m going to be on this program for months to come.
Let’s further define the superset philosophy here. The secret behind the supersets isn’t merely going from one exercise to another. It’s doing the agonist and antagonist exercises together. It took some time for me to wrap my head around this, but it works. A perfect example is working chest and back. See below.
Agonist/Antagonist Chest and Back Workout:
Barbell Rows: 4 sets x 8 reps
Bench Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets x 8 reps
Incline Bench Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell Pullovers: 4 sets x 10 reps
Dumbbell Flyes: 4 sets x 10 reps
Cardio – 12 minute high intensity interval training (recumbent bike or elliptical)
*For my full workout, check out this post:
You’re doing some heavy duty lifting here in the beginning with two major compound exercises. And there’s nothing that builds both mass and strength like barbell rows and bench press. My first time doing this was very tough but it started feeling more natural thereafter. And I’m still shocked to see how much my bench press has gone up, as well as my barbell rows. I don’t like throwing numbers out there because strength is relative. But I’m pumping out reps of 315 lbs. on my last set of rows and bench press.
That’s just one workout day but my other days are very similar. I basically have two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts each week (and i throw in an extra day for arms).
My schedule is something like this:
Monday: Deadlifts (and all things that are deadlifts!!!)
Tuesday: Back and Chest
Wednesday: technically ‘off’ but I hit a little arms on this day
Thursday: Squat day (and all things that are squats!)
Friday: Back and Shoulders
Again, I have my entire program with all the juicy details here:
Metal Workout Motivation
Now let’s talk about another important aspect of the gym. Motivation and extreme focus.
We all know you can’t just show up at the gym and get the best workout of your life. You need some assistance. Sure, you may slam down a pre-workout drink (I double-dose those things). But there’s a secret pathway to honing in on that extreme focus to attack the weights during these grueling close-to-making-you-puke workouts. It’s called metal.
Listening to heavy metal music does the trick for me. I throw on my headphones and turn on one of my stations based on an artist in iTunes (I know that Spotify and Amazon, and pretty sure most other digital music platforms offer this; it’s an extremely cool feature). Or sometimes I may just listen to an entire album.
Heavy Metal Workout
Why heavy metal? I guess that’s easy for me because it’s my preferred genre of music that I listen to (and that I write and produce). But listening to metal while working out goes much deeper than that.
Heavy metal does something to you internally that triggers particular responses. In the gym, it opens up that realm of aggression, pushing you to conquer everything. Seriously, it’s like taking a triple dose of the strongest pre-workout supplement with a continuing effect. And this is a must for the strength and conditioning workout program I’m on.
Lift Heavy, Listen Heavy
I want to point out some of the bands that I listen to in the gym. In fact, I’ll granulate this by listing my favorite metal workout songs. There’s a variety of metal sub-genres here but you’ll notice one thing; they’re all heavy and keep moving.
Here’s a few of my favorite tracks off the top of my head (they’re not literally on the top of my head, but you get it…yes, bad pun):
- ‘First Kill’ – Amon Amarth
- ‘Deceiver of the Gods’ – Amon Amarth
- ‘Avalanche’ – Arch Enemy
- ‘The World is Yours’ Arch Enemy
- ‘I Could Care Less’ – Devil Driver
- ‘For the Horde’ – Exmortus
- ‘Raining Blood’ – Slayer
- ‘Take this Life’ – In Flames
- ‘No Bullets Fly’ – Sabaton
- ‘Weak Fantasy’ – Nightwish
- ‘Planet Hell’ – Nightwish
- ‘Painkiller’ – Judas Priest
- ‘Final Call’ – Primal Fear
- ‘The Vengeance in Me’ – Serpentine Dominion
- ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ – Metallica (and Vader’s cover of this is pretty awesome)
- ‘End of Disclosure’ – Hypocrisy
- ‘Death Lift’ – Jason Stallworth
Again, that’s just a few. I could fill several pages with my favorite metal songs to workout to.
Oh, and I snuck that last track in there from my latest album, Heavy Metal Workout II. One of the things lacking in the more intense, heavier genres of metal music is instrumental metal. And there’s never been an original album created specifically for ‘metal workout music.’ So I decided to fill that void with a series of instrumental metal workout music albums: Heavy Metal Workout (2016) and Heavy Metal Workout II (2017).
Final Thoughts on Strength and Conditioning Workouts
Back to my strength and conditioning workouts, I want to again encourage you to apply this concept, especially if you’re looking for a new workout program, or if you’ve hit a wall and have plateaued. It will take a week or so to get used to this style of training, but stick with it. And of course, listen to metal during your workouts for the ultimate gym experience!
Keep it Metal,
*You can find links to iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify for my latest album here: