Anatomy of a Kick Ass Training Session

A lot of people ask how I plan and organize my training sessions.

There are a million different ways to train out there; some good, some bad.  I don’t train the same way every day.  The key to breaking up the monotony and daily grind (as well as making permanent progress in general) is having a dynamic training schedule.  But there are rubrics you can use as the foundation for building your training program.

Let me break down one of my all-time favorite sessions for ya real quick.  I’ve found it is one of the best ways to get in the gym, move some serious weight, build some muscle and work capacity, and get the hell out, all in less than an hour and a half.  Anytime I need a “go-to” workout, this is it…

Phase 1:  The Warm Up (15 minutes)

The warm up should be fairly high paced and take about 15 minutes or so, depending on how strenuous you want to make it.

My warm ups usually only entail bodyweight, like several rounds of band stretches, bodyweight squats, walking lunges, high jumps, pushups, jogs and sprints, and lateral movements like shuffling.  Mix in some foam rolling to get everything loosened up and you should be good to go.

Have a plan, and execute it.  You should be concentrating during the warm up just as much as you would be if you were about to set a personal squat record.

This is also a great time to work on your weaknesses when you are fresh; and since you are warming up before every workout, you are attacking those weaknesses with much more frequency.  Weak on pushups?  Add an ample dose to your warm up.  If you want to be good at something, you should be doing it every day! 

big lift training session

Phase 2:  The Big Lift (30-45 minutes)

A lot of my workouts are focused on going heavy on one of the big lifts (squat, bench, overhead press, deadlift).  I’ll pick one big lift to do per training session and perform it immediately after the warm up.

Four to five warm up sets usually work for me, then I’ll perform 3 working sets according to whatever my training goal and program is at the time.  If I feel I didn’t get enough, I’ll throw in some drop sets to finish the lift off.

Phase 3:  Assistance Work (20-30 minutes)

After the big lift, I’ll focus on assistance work that is meant to add size and help me to pull more weight in one of the big lifts.  Three or four exercises here will do the trick, working sub-maximally (70-85% of 1 rep max) for 6-20 reps per set, depending on the exercise.  I’ll usually do 4-6 sets per exercise.

Pushups, pull-ups, dumbbell push and pull variations, rows, good mornings, and dips are all examples of exercises to do here.  Pick exercises that will help build some muscle and will increase your ability to perform one of your big 4 lifts.

women's training session

Phase 4:  The Finisher (5 minutes)

This phase is built around conditioning and increasing your work capacity.  Heavy farmers walks, battle rope circuits, sled pulling, prowler pushing, and sprints all work well here.

Pick an exercise that isn’t necessarily strength focused, but will take some mental toughness and heart pumping effort to complete.  This phase is meant to be short and sweet, and help finish your workout with a bang.  Do not overdo this since it’s not meant to make you puke and keel over, but you should feel good and crushed when it’s over.

Wrap Up

There ya have it, a bad ass rubric for planning a complete muscle building training session! 

Sticking to this kind of template has never done me wrong, and if you are unsure of what you should be doing in the gym, this is a damn good place to start.  Now go out and crush it!


— Tank

2 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Kick Ass Training Session”

  1. I love your training methods. I got stuck in the idea of being a mass building, curl hungry bodybuilder type.. I’m a family man. I’ll never compete. I was finding my lifts going up but I couldn’t even run up my stairs without being winded. I started training a kid and thru the process, found your website on Facebook. Incorporated a lot of your ideas and work… And we’ve fallen in love! Thanks for the ideas and kick ass rubric. What’re your thoughts on German Volume Training?

    1. Awesome to hear Derek! Keep kicking ass and spreading the movement my friend.

      As far as GVT, it’s a good program as long as you keep it to the 6 weeks. The other thing is that your diet needs to be in check before you even attempt it. I tried it once, my diet was whack, and I lost 5 pounds…

      It’s a body-part split, which makes me cringe…but most everything works in moderation, so I can’t slam it. It’s delivered great results for people and there is a reason it’s popular. Just make sure after those 6 weeks, you don’t stray to far from the Primal way 😉

      Keep on keepin’ on.

      — Tank

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