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. rusty i might write a book according infos from your blog which include training guidelines, exercises, diet plan and more!!! but gonna wait for my exam over

  2. Hassan,

    Losing the weight will be more about diet adjustment than working out. So diet like you weren’t going to workout at all…but then workout. Does that make sense. You could be a bit more focused on HIIT and circuits, but still lift occasionally. You will improve over time, you are just at a plateau right now. It happens to everyone.


    You can learn the basics from a personal trainer and then continue to exercise. There isn’t anything magic about a personal trainer. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone use one permanently. They can be great for learning, but after 10-15 sessions, you will probably know what to do.


    I think you may be training too much. It is okay to temporarily work out hard 5-6 days per week, but really 4-5 will do the trick. You can actually maintain off of 3, once you get your desired physique. The key behind your results will be your diet. You are already doing plenty of exercise, you just got to dial in your diet and it won’t be a problem at all to hit 10% body fat.


    You are correct. The compressed time periods are just an effective way to fatigue the muscle. Rest up and then do it all over again.


    If muscle mass is you goal (which is not my goal by the way), then it isn’t how often you train…it is how much rest the muscle group gets. You can divide the workout into a 3 or 4 day split and workout 5 times per week and still put on mass.


    I haven’t tried holding my legs at 90 degrees. I’ll give it a shot. I’m starting to get quite good at pull ups these days (although it isn’t a naturally strong exercise for me at all). Planks will give you the abs you desire and will help you maintain great posture. Crunches are brutal on the posture.


    I like to separate lifting from my HGH releasing exercises. I lift for strength and low reps to build density and then do HIIT or bodyweight circuits to release growth hormone. The problem with high reps is it builds pumped up soft looking muscles.


    The key in your quest to getting lean will be your diet. Your workout sounds solid. Hard to say how long it will take. I’ve seen people go from 12% to 6-8% in 6 weeks. Once you get to that level, it will take another month or so for you to look especially lean (your skin has to catch up a bit to fit tightly around your smaller body size).


    You will probably never go back to high reps. I haven’t gone above 5 reps on a regular basis for over 6 years. Not only will you get stronger, you will rarely ever get sore and you will look more defined than ever. Thanks for the compliments on the pictures. I do my best to find good ones. To me the ideal situation is to work day one and day two back-to-back, followed by a day of “active” rest.


    In your special case, you may want to try “marathon cardio” to lose a bit of muscle on purpose while dropping body fat. I don’t recommend marathon cardio to many people because it does break down muscle, but in your case you sound like it wouldn’t hurt to lighten up a bit. The other approach is to diet even a bit harder than you are dieting right now. Both of these approaches could help you get closer to your goal. Once you lighten up, then go back to lifting and HIIT, etc.


    Your workout and diet plan looks awesome and you will get great results. I wouldn’t change a thing. Well done. You are just 5 pounds out from being razor sharp, so that is just in time for summer. I dig Mark Sisson’s site and Craig Ballantyne’s site as well. Great job on making such solid progress.


    Shoulder presses of any sort work your entire deltoid region. The fitness magazines vastly exaggerate the need to isolate the side delts and rear delts. The rear delts get worked well in back exercises as well. I used to do lateral raises and bent over laterals, but more than anything they just irritated the shoulders. As far as posture goes. The reason I work back on the same day as chest is to isure good muscle balance in the deltoid region. The rowing exercise works the rear delts, the bench pressing works the front delts…so this evens out. Good question…you just gave me an idea for a post!


    Some women do have the tendency to put on more muscle than they desire…and these women don’t need to lift (or just maybe lift for part of the year). My girlfriend doesn’t lift and looks outstanding. You could do bodyweight circuits, HIIT, etc. and look great. I have no problem talking about losing muscle mass. In fact…I wrote a post called “How to Lose Muscle Mass on Purpose”. Some people have more muscle than they desire and it is something that nobody was addressing. Type in “lose muscle” into the search bar at the top of my site and you will find that post.

    Great comments!


  3. Hi Rusty, i have a question for you. Do i have to lift weights at all to be lean and toned? Throughout the years i have trained like a guy and done typical bodybuilding splits b/c thats what i thought i was supposed to do. Well the result is i have more muscle than what i would like. My goal is to have a body like Megan Fox or Halle Barry; very streamlined and lean but yet a bit softer than like how i am now. Anyway, would it be good just to not lift for a while and focus on cardio only? The thought is if i do HITT workouts 3 times per week that would work my legs good and if i do 2-3 kickboxing classes that would tone my arms, waist, and again streamline my legs. What do you think? My upper body builds easy and i’m very unhappy right now with the broadness of my shoulders and at the same time, my legs look thick due to the muscle i have. Some of my jeans are tight in the thigh area which i hate. I’m by all means not overweight but i want to lose some muscle (most posters on other fitness websites would kill me for saying that). I look forward to your response.

  4. Hey Rusty. I like the principles behind your routine, but have some questions about the shoulders.

    Your shoulder exercises seem to work mainly the front deltoid, the lateral deltoid to an extent and the rear deltoid not at all.

    Since this is (I think ) the only workout your lateral deltoids get, do you find that you get sufficient lateral deltoid development?

    Also, your front deltoids seem to get worked twice a week (with chest and shoulders) while your rear deltoids seem to get woked only once (with back). Is this deliberate? Do you find that it causes any muscle imbalance (I’ve heard that imbalance between front and rear deltoid can cause postural problems)?



  5. Rusty,

    Wondering if you could give a quick comment on the routine I’m going to follow to lean out the next couple of months, it’s very similiar to yours. I’ve noticed that my body does not respond well to training more that 3x per week. I’ve come up with a more compressed routine cut from the same mold as yours, same rep. range, performed 2-3x per week.

    The routine:

    Cable row warm up

    Standing barbell press – 3 working sets of 3 reps (this exercise will be the one I push myself hardest to progress on)
    Incline dumbell press – 3 working sets of 3 reps
    Chin-up – 3 working sets of 5 reps, no added weight yet
    Cable row or DB row – 3 working sets of 3 reps
    Abs – either planks or leg raises
    I agree with you 100% on no leg training

    Finish with HIIT or steady state cardio, depending on “feel” – I’ve noticed a tendency to overtrain with too much HIIT as well – I’m a big beleiver in listening to your body on this one.

    At least one BW circuit per week, and unlimited walking and fun non gym exercise.

    Eat stop eat 2x per week – Paleo/Primal low carb diet the rest of the time, occasional (1-2x week) night out drinking beer and eating pizza, nachos, etc. but watching portions.

    Currently I’m 6’3″ 190 lbs. approx. 9-10% bf and looking to chisel out the physique just a bit more.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been a reader of your site for over a year now, since first finding it while searching for the “David Beckham Workout”. When first discovering the site I was approx. 210 lbs. approx. 12-14% bf and have made the majority of my progress following the advice found here as well as advice from Craig Ballantyne and Mark Sisson.


  6. Wolverine, you need more protein in your diet. You won’t build any muscle mass or strength if you don’t consume enough quality protein.

  7. Rusty, i fogot to mention, i have tried the 5*5 weight range, and also reduced to 3*5, but still look like a not too cut version of wolverine, thanks

  8. Rusty, cant thank you enough for all your help, i have tried almost every diet and exercise routine out there, and only now am i seeing results. I am naturally big and i seem to get bulky easily even when i do bodyweight circuits, was wondering if you think i should opt for Hiit and slow cardio and drop strenght and bodyweight training, i hate the bulk. Thanks a lot

  9. Rusty,
    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, man tried the 3 reps 5 sets yesterday–man it was so different than any other workout, I’ve ever done. I didn’t get the pump or burn like in previous workouts, but a felt a certain hardness in muscles throughout the day, unlike getting a pump from 10-15 reps, then losing it a hour later. One thing, how do you throw in your wt routine in during the week?( Mon. Chest/back, Tue. cardio, Wed. delts/arms, or do you do wts 2 days in a row then take a break?) I am trying to fit in one BW circut in during the week as well, I wanted to know how to incorperate in. Thanks again, and your website is incredible, I love the pics you choose. I just came back from mt biking in Moab Ut, and the desert scenery down there awesome–check out some pics of there.

  10. hi, i have played soccer for many years so i am really good conditioned, but i was wondering, if i eat 4 low cal meals per day, go to the gym 3 times per week( strength training) and do hiit 4 times a week, is this a good enough plan to look like brad Pitt in fight club or cam, in never back down,
    and how long would it take? ( im around 12% body fat right now

  11. Hey Rusty,

    Great Blog…I have a question though about reps. I’ve always read that higher reps+volume increased growth hormone output. So if you’re looking for fat loss, wouldn’t higher reps be the way to go.

  12. Rusty,

    Your workout makes me nostalgic for my gym membership! How could I have missed that plank routine before? Love it–thanks for including it. I was doing 1/2 crunches 1/2 planks during my ab routine, but I think I’ll just drop the crunches entirely. BTW, I am making good progress thanks to the advice from your blog!

    I may have some advice for you: Have you ever tried doing pull ups/chin ups/dips with your legs parallel to the floor? It makes the exercise much harder and you may be able to skip the weight strap. (Dangling a plate between the legs is not a good look, in my opinion. When I see a guy doing chin ups with his legs in front of him at 90 degrees, I know he really knows what he’s doing.)

  13. i got told something saying that you should allow time for your muscles to heal and grow, 5 times a week seems too much for this?
    source: professional footballer(friend)

  14. do more work and volume in a compressed period of time to build mass – is that quote from edt training. i think what you mean is i should aim for fatigue then rest for 2 -3 days before my next workout thx rusty!

  15. The workout that I am doing currently includes: Stubborn Fat Protocol and Bodyweight circuit training, 4 days out of the week (Mon, Wed, Fri,Sun). HIIT 3 days out of the week (Tuesday, Thursday, Sat.). Weight training 2 days out of the week (Tuesday, Thursday-doing the same muscle groups you are doing). I wanted to ask you if you feel that combining this Stubborn Fat Protocol, HIIT alone on some days, and Weight training workout throughout the week will help lose body fat to about 10 % and give an amazing physique? Is there anything I should change or is what I am doing currently a good plan? Thanks!

  16. I am new to this website, I know you guys are pretty good in diet and training, I just would like to ask if I hire a personal trainer, do I have to continue to use a personal trainer in the rest of my life? 🙂 I have heard that once I have start training my body, if I stop, I will become fat again, is it true?

  17. thing with me is…i have a big build but im really short, i use to work out, and all the muscles are still there, and make me look a bit bulkt, so all i wana do is just tone up and be a bit slimmer, so i dont really know if i should work out in the gym or just do bodyweight circuits, and im also one of them people that cant lose weight easily which really annoys me sometimes, so i dont know what to do really.

  18. Laura,

    For just a little muscle definition, go lower reps but for just a few sets. Get stronger in lifts while staying the same weight and you will see more definition.


    You are making me feel bad. We may be on different Stepmill models. I’m pretty good at pushing myself on this stuff.

    Scott N,

    Just be careful with this stuff.

    Fit Jerk,

    Yeah…the split is just a means to get in more high tension sets without spending too much time in the gym on any one day. Good points.


    I train for strength and don’t rest more than a minute in between sets until I get to the final 2 sets of a heavy list. If you are going for mass, you actually want less rest than this in between sets not more. You want to do more work and volume in a compressed period of time to build mass. To break down the muscle and build mass, you want each set to build upon the previous set…you are after muscle fatigue, so you need less rest in between sets.


    Thanks buddy…I made the correction! I didn’t proofread this one as much as I should have.


    That sounds like a good one to me. I’ll put it on my list of topics to cover.


    I think the best thing to do now would be to go through my site and doing a bit of research. Also, read the comment section. Many of the commenters have their own sites and give great advice as well. Grab a cup of water or coffee and commit yourself to about 2-3 hours of reading. I promise you will have a great idea of what to do by the end of those two hours.


    I rarely see chicken legs on people who sprint on a regular basis. Typically the only people I see with chicken legs are people who do loads of marathon cardio or really young guys who haven’t done a lot of athletics.


    Thanks a bunch. I like your most recent “running stairs” post. Great article!


    3 reps is going to work wonders for you. It works especially well on people who have done years of 10-15 reps. You will love the density and definition it creates in your muscles…plus it is a fun way to work out. So what I do is grab a weight that I could easily do 10 reps with for set #1. I pretend the weight is heavy and move it at the same pace as my heaviest set (I also contract my muscles just like the weight was super-heavy)…and stop at 3 reps. This preps your nervous system for when the weight gets heavy. On set #2, I grab a weight that I could do for 8 reps (a rough estimate)…slow and stop at 3 reps. Set #3 will be a weight I could do for 5 reps. I use the same weight for set #4. For set #5, I either stick with the same weight, or if I’m feeling especially strong, I may add a tiny bit of weight. Hope that makes sense. As far as aerobic activities go…you should continue to bike and run a couple of times a week…especially if you enjoy it. Getting outside and doing physical activities you enjoy is great. You aren’t doing anything excessive, so if anything it will help you.


    I am glad that I could help you out. You will make great progress by following this routine.


    I’m going to spend summer doing more body weight circuit and sporting activities…mainly just because it leaves more time open to have fun! What I would recommend is to get in the gym now to build up the muscle density a bit and then maintain during the summer. So yeah, do this routine for the next 4-6 weeks and then enjoy summer with time-efficient body weight circuits.

    Good stuff!


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