Get in Shape for Summer – My Detailed Spring Workout Routine

I typically recommend that people stay in shape year round, so they don’t ever have to worry about getting in shape for summer.

That being said, the reality is that it is easy to slide when you are bundled up for part of the year. This blog has been around for 2 years and I don’t think I’ve ever done a detailed post on any of my workouts. For those who are interested, here is the exact routine I’m doing this spring.

Hopefully it will you guys a few ideas.

spring workout

[Almost time to wear sandals for those of us who are going into summer. I love the smell of summer just as much as the weather: BBQ’s, freshly cut grass, sun block, the ocean, etc. Bring it on!]

My Workout Will Not Be Ideal for Everyone

We all are at different fitness levels and have slightly different goals. I didn’t want to do this post so people would copy my exact routine. I wanted to outline my routine and the thinking behind it, to give people ideas on things they could do to tweak their routines to hit their goals.

This will also show you how I implement a lot of the strategies talked about on this site and how it all “fits together”.

So How Many Times Per Week Do I Hit the Gym?

I’m going to the gym 4 times per week this spring. In the past I used to go 5 times, but that is before I implemented body weight circuits into my routine. Here is the post that describes one of the circuits: Body Weight Circuits Are Kickin’ My Butt!.

I do this once per week in the morning instead of going to the gym. Occasionally I will do these twice per week and just go to the gym 3 times per week.

Bottom line…I try my best to get 5 workouts in per week, but this is more than normal. During summer I’m lucky to get in 3 “official” workouts per week.

What Type of Body Part Split Do I Do?

I like to do Chest, Back and Abs on one day…Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps on another day. I like this method for a few reasons. Working opposing muscle groups on the same day, help maintain good posture and muscle balance. A common problem with people who work chest a lot is that it can pull the shoulders forward.

I like to follow with back to insure that this doesn’t happen. Even if I do most of my back exercises first, I always end with seated cable rows to insure that my shoulders don’t get pulled forward.

The same concept applies when doing biceps and triceps together.

Why I Don’t Do Direct Resistance Training For Legs

Many people disagree with me on this one stating that squats and deadlifts are great ways to increase HGH, boost the metabolism, etc. The problem is that they are TOO effective in some ways. These exercises will put a lot of mass on your legs, hips, and butt.

It is weird, because it kind of creeps up on you. Regular pants won’t fit as well, you will be slower at some activities, etc. I believe that tough intervals and HIIT work is all you need to have amazing leg definition (without all the excess size).

If I could go back in time, I would have skipped all that time spent squatting and deadlifting. It took years for my legs and butt to look normal and fit into regular pants again.

How Many Reps and Sets Do I Do Per Muscle Group?

Right now I am doing 10-12 total sets of 3 reps per muscle group. I am just focusing on two lifts per muscle group. My reasoning for this is that I’m focusing hard on specializing on less lifts to really master these lifts and gain strength.

I was doing 3 lifts per muscle group and have decided to drop one of these exercises to keep the strength gains coming along. Many of you have read my post on this principle: Drop Isolation Exercises to Get Through Sticking Points. So for each lift, I’m doing 5-6 sets.

The first 2 sets are lighter and the last 3 are heavier…so these 2 warm up sets are counted as part of the 5-6 sets (hope that makes sense).

I Do Some Form of HIIT Right After Lifting

Some people think that HIIT 3-4 times per week is excessive, but remember…I don’t do any leg lifts and the lifting that I do is a brief strength training routine (not a high volume bodybuilder workout).

I primarily do HIIT right now on the Stepmill machine. I set it on the interval setting for 15 minutes on level 15. About half of the time, I will jump on a treadmill for 15-20 minutes on a low level right after this HIIT workout. Here is more on this strategic form of cardio: Stubborn Body Fat Cardio Combo Routine.

********Day One: Chest, Back, and Abs********

Warm up: Light seated cable rows for 3 sets. I’ve been doing this lately because it warms up my shoulder joints well. It also preps the arms and gets the shoulders in the best position for strong and effective bench pressing and incline pressing.

These 3 sets are done back to back and this takes about 3-4 minutes max.

Chest Exercise #1: Bench Press
This is probably my weakest lift so I like to hit it when I’m fresh. I take a narrower grip than most people, because I feel it is safer on the shoulder joints than grabbing with a wide grip…plus it gives better development to the triceps when the grip is narrower.

I basically take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. I do a total of 6 sets of 3 reps on this lift. Each rep is slow and controlled…even the lighter warm up sets.

Chest Exercise #2: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
I like to set the bench just slightly lower than 45 degrees. I grab the dumbbells, rest them on my knees and then lift my knees up as I rock back into place.

This gets my body and the dumbbells into position at the same time. When I do these reps, I only lower the dumbbells until my upper arms are just slightly below parallel with the floor. I don’t lower the dumbbells until they touch the shoulder like a lot of people.

I find that this places unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and wrists. I also don’t worry too much about touching the dumbbells at the top of the lift. I find that touching the dumbbells at the top transfers tension to the front delts which makes them fatigue and fail before your upper chest gets a good workout.

Back Exercise #1: Chinups
I’m currently doing 5 reps with chinups. This is the only lift I’m doing 5 reps with right now. Really the only reason is that 3 reps are way too easy. With 5 reps I can get a good workout in 6 sets. I know I could add resistance and do 3 reps, but this just feels better to me.

For some reason I don’t like going really low in reps in chinups. People who are really great at chinups, will either have to slow down the pace a bit or add resistance.

Back Exercise #2: One Arm Dumbbell Rows or Cable Rows
So I like to alternate these two exercises every other back workout. With one arm dumbbell rows I can really generate some crazy tension in the lats and lift heavy weight. I put my left knee on a flat bench, while I’m bent over to where my upper body is parallel to the floor…my right foot is resting on the ground and my knee on my right leg is slightly bent.

With my right hand I pick up a heavy dumbbell that is resting on the ground and pull it into my lower ribcage abdominal area. I lower the weight slowly and then repeat. I do the same lift on my left side. Cable rows are done slowly with the narrow parallel grip handle and pull to my lower ribcage ab area.

Abs: Planks
I don’t have a super strict plank routine here, other than that I do different variations of planks. I only spend 5-7 minutes on abs doing a quick plank workout. Bottom line is that planks create density over the entire ab region without adding mass. My abs look and feel better than ever and I haven’t done any type of crunching movement for over 8 years.

There are other approaches to getting sharp abs, but this one works wonders without having to put much time into it. I will randomly hit the floor at home for 2 minutes and do a plank a few times per week in addition to this. Here is a good basic plank routine.

spring workout

[Here is a photo intermission for you. Yes…it is a very bizarre, yet interesting photo. I’m not even sure what is happening. I just had to put a break in this large amount of text. I typically avoid doing really long posts like these.]

********Day Two: Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps********

Warm up: Light seated cable rows for 3 sets. Same warm up exercise as day one. For some reason this one works well for me.

Shoulder Exercise #1: Standing Barbell Military Press
I like to clean the bar to my shoulders and then press for 3 reps and then put the bar back down. I see some people who put the bar at shoulder height in the squat rack and then walk under the bar and press, but I don’t think this is the best way to go.

I think you should be able to clean any weight that you are able to press. In fact you should easily be able to clean much more weight than you can press. I have found that this lift has really added definition to my entire upper body and arms, not just delts. It is a great lift!

Shoulder Exercise #2: Hammer Strength Shoulder Press
I like this lift because I can really load up the weight and add tension to my shoulders and triceps. It is a great finishing exercise for shoulders, because it doesn’t take as much concentration as the military press.

Bicep Exercise #1: Seated Alternate Dumbbell Curls
I like to get a seat on a bench with back support. If that isn’t available I’ll sit on the end of a flat bench. I do these alternating because I can really generate some tension with heavy dumbbells if I’m alternating…this is great for definition.

I lift slowly and lower slowly since the weights I’m using can get heavy. No need to injure or irritate the elbow joints. Also…if someone wants size in their biceps, they should lift the dumbbells at the same time (with higher reps).

You will have to use lighter weights, but it will pump up the muscle better than alternating the dumbbells.

Bicep Exercise #2: Hammer Strength Preacher Curls
One for the reasons I prefer hammer strength preacher curls over regular preachers is the tension at the top and bottom of the lift on the hammer machine.

With regular preacher curls you don’t get any tension at all at the top of the movement, so it isn’t great for getting a hard contraction at the end of the lift. Machine preacher curls simply feel more effective and safer than regular preacher curls.

Tricep Exercise #1: Weighted Dips
This is one of the best upper body lifts. I have a friend name Tom with the best triceps that I’ve ever seen. He is a mad man when it comes to dips.

Anyway…this is a great exercise. I do these about 2/3 of the time and 1/3 of the time I’ll do Hammer Strength Dip machine to test how much strength I’ve gained.

Tricep Exercise #2: Close Grip Bench Presses
I’m currently trying to increase my regular bench press a bit, so this just further trains my nervous system in a similar movement.

I go a bit narrower than regular bench presses. Whenever my pressing strength goes up, my triceps just get sharper and sharper. This lift has really helped define my front delts as well.

Some Important Points About Getting In Shape for Summer

Again…there isn’t anything magical about this particular workout routine. It is pretty basic. Diet is a huge when it comes to getting in shape for summer. I follow the realistic eating plan put together by Brad Pilon, Eat Stop Eat. I also go into all my workouts in a fasted state.

I allow myself to get hungry from time to time, while also allowing myself to eat high calorie foods from time to time.

73 thoughts on “Get in Shape for Summer – My Detailed Spring Workout Routine”

  1. You talked about doing a machine shoulder lift to kill your shoulders. Have you tried implementing the “Turkish Get Up” to do that job? It’s a perfect exercise to showcase overall strength balance and endurance in one lift. I like to do a single rep per arm and call it a set. I’m around your height i assume. but weigh 20 pounds less than you my max is anything between 75-80 pounds so for you you’d probably be able to complete a set with above a 100 pounds after a set not only are my shoulders and triceps exhuasted but i’ll be sweating and breathing heavy for sure

  2. Thanks for the heads up on your workout Rusty. Sometimes it’s useful for people to see a fitness professional’s design if only to make sure you’re on the right track.

    On a side note, I’ve been more focused on bodyweight exercises and sprints lately, and I’ve gotta say, the results are actually impressive. I think a lot of people underplay the value of their own body in fitness, so it’s cool to see you recommending it.

  3. Great exercise tips, probably the most important statement is that not all the information is suitable for everyone, not all the exercises will be suitable but it never hurts to get information. Weight loss is a difficult concept for many and this kind of information on what has worked for someone else always gives a little lift.

  4. i’m 140lbs and would like to be 120. is that realistic? i’m am mostly muscle. what’s your advice

  5. Greg:
    try escalating density training or the russian bear workout(both can be found on this site) or russian volume training(10 sets on low rep)

  6. Rusty,

    I am currently weeks within my goal of 4-5% bfp + clearly defined abs. The body fat calipers pin me at 6-7%, and I have a 4 pack. The fat just below and around the belly button is being a real pain in the ass. Its been 5 months following your routine and 37 pounds lost with substantial strength gains. I am honestly surprised that I was able to get so much stronger by doing heavy weights at 4-5 reps, even as a seasoned weightlifter prior to dieting. This was probably the best advice that I ever took and I don’t plan on changing this.

    My question is, as I am looking forward to soon balancing out my upper body proportions (I have genetically really big legs), can I stay in the 3-5 rep range and still gain dense mass? or can a combination of high rep sets with low rep sets get a best of both world kind of results (mass + density)?

    Happy up and coming 2 year site anniversary!

  7. Hey Rusty,
    I started to use the program that you posted in this article above and i love the way these workouts make me feel as it is a pretty unique approach to strength training. However, I’ve lost some weight as I only weigh about 175 lbs and i would like to get back to my ideal weight of around 185lbs (6 foot 2 inches by the way). Would this be an effective muscle building workout as long as I am consuming enough calories?

  8. To target 3 or 4 groups in 1 session will be a nice challenge! I have used the workouts where you target only say shoulders on 1 day, then biceps, triceps and abds the next, and they are good. But when you change workout, the change and increased challenge itself will be good for breaking through a plateux. If you’re an ectomorph, then the lower leg exercises will he helpful, though you have to be careful to not strain your back during squats and deadlifts, as you have less muscle bulk naturally to begin with anyway.

  9. Hey Rusty,

    I wanted to ask you, what do you think of doing a strength program like Texas Method, Sheiko, or Smolov jr. to increase my bench/press. Obviously, I wouldn’t do the squats and deads, but I’ve heard good things about these programs.

  10. By the way Cam Gigandet’s doing compound movements, like clean and jerk and he’s using kettlebells.

  11. After you smashed the typical body building routine what do I see here? A semi-typical body building routine. I see that you changed the reps and sets, but it’s still look very familiar to the body builders’ training. I love the functional training philosophy. The aim shouldn’t be to train your body to look god. I train to get better or “more functional” and through this training and philosophy my body gets better looking. Body builders and many other gym goers reversed this philosophy. They want to look good to look stronger and fit, instead of be fit thus good looking.

  12. Thanks Rusty, we need to start paying you for your sound advise!!!!. i will also look into Nick Nilsson’s methods for mass reduction. thanks

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