The New Year’s Day Workout…


Sunday, January 1st, 2006. Happy New Year! Yes, I was in the gym today… New Year’s Day… What better way to start the year???

Upper Back, Lower Back & Traps

A1 Icarian vertical rowing machine (strict, 4022 tempo)
2 light warm up sets
Set 1: 130 lbs X 12 reps, wide pronated grip (palms down)
Set 2: 130 lbs X 12 reps, reverse grip (supinated)
Set 3: 130 lbs X 12 reps, close parallel grip (palms face each other)
Set 4: 130 lbs X 12 reps, narrow pronated grip (palms down)
B1 Wide Grip pullups
Set 1: bodyweight X 12 reps
Set 2: body weight X 10 reps + 2 forced reps with slow negatives (5 seconds)
Set 3: body weight X 9 reps + 3 forced reps with slow negatives (5 seconds)
C1 Leverage Row Machine
3 sets X 70 lbs (45 + 25 lb plate) X 12 reps X 3012 tempo
D1 One arm Dumbbell shrugs
3 sets X 60 lbs X 12 reps per side
E1 Low back extension
3 sets X bodyweight X 20 reps


A1 Seated Calf Machine
4 sets X 115 lbs (2 plates + quarter) X 20 reps
B1 Standing one legged calf raise with dumbbell
3 sets X 45 lbs X 20 reps

Workout commentary

I’d like to wish you a very happy New Year. In case you’re new to this blog, let me backtrack just a bit before commenting on today’s workout, which kicks off the new year and an all new training cycle for me.

Between 1989 and 1998, I competed every year (ten years in a row without a miss), in a total of 26 bodybuilding competitions (usually 2 or 3 shows a year). Most of them were drug tested (polygraph and or urine), but there were also a few open contests where I competed (as a lifetime natural bodybuilder) right alongside drug users… successfully, I might add.

In 1999 and 2000 I did not compete, as I was working full time in the health club business. We had just opened a new club (the 5th location in our chain), and I was also just starting a new business on the Internet. During those two years, I continued to train diligently. Bodybuilding is my chosen lifestyle, not just a sport I participate in, not just a hobby, and not just something I do some of the time. Stopping my training is not even a possibility. I only stopped competing those two years in order to focus more attention on business projects and other priorities.

In 2001, I returned to the bodybuilding stage at the National Physique Committee (NPC) Natural Eastern Classic contest held in Hackensack, New Jersey. I took first place in the middleweight division. It felt GREAT to be back onstage (and EVEN BETTER to win!)

In 2002, 2003 and 2004, once again I did not compete. This time, I’m not exactly sure why. I suppose I convinced myself that I needed to continue focusing my time and energy on other projects, endeavors and relationships, and that there was “more to life than just bodybuilding competition,” which requires enormous time, effort, discipline and sacrifice. I now realize that I allowed this decision to be influenced very much by other people, rather than following my own path.

After competing once again in 2005, I’ve come to realize just how important it is for me to stay in the game… and stay on top of my game (the longer you sit on the sidelines, the harder it is when you get back into play). Bodybuilding is not the only thing in my life, but it is a very big part of my life and without it, it leaves a very conspicuous hole. I don’t have many regrets in life because I can see everything that happens to me as a learning experience. However, I do have to admit feeling regret about not competing those years.

As much as bodybuilding is gut-wrenching hard work at times, I don’t think I am ever as happy as I am when I am totally immersed in training, dieting and competing… exhausted! There’s a part of me that even misses the hunger, the pain, the discipline, the sacrifice, the “grind”…

The great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi put it this way:

“Truly, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something good in men that really yearns for discipline.”

Although I competed twice in 2005 and took second place on both occasions, for me it was as good as a winning, just to be back. I yearned for it.

That brings us to today… New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2006. There’s such a sense of renewal and a fresh start on New Years Day. You can’t help but stop to think, reflect on past years and plan for the year ahead. I don’t know what you have planned for 2006. I hope you have many ambitious goals (not mere “resolutions”), which you intend to achieve, and I hope my writings in this blog help to inspire you to go after them. For me, I am determined to make this the best year ever in every area of my life, including, and especially in bodybuilding.

In one sense, I do regret having stayed off the bodybuilding stage for all but two of the last seven years, but in another sense, I’m happy that I did, because my absence made me realize how much I missed it and that I MUST compete for my own personal fulfillment and happiness. Maybe there will be a day that I hang up the posing trunks… or not… but either way, I will never stop training. Ever.

For now, there are still goals I must achieve in the competitive bodybuilding arena, and I will not be skipping any years of competition until I have reached them. The idea of looking back on my life with unmet goals and unfulfilled potential is too painful to bear. Life is too short.

I’ve had some well-intentioned friends try to tell me that life is too short to spend so much time in the gym and to make all the sacrifices that are necessary to compete every single year at a high level. That’s one perspective. For me, life is too short not to.

It’s a new year and today starts a new training cycle to prepare for a new competition. I plan to spend at least the next four months training for muscle mass, followed by another pre-contest diet and training season to dial it in for the stage later in the year.

A new “training cycle” simply means that I have changed my workout routine completely from the one I was using previously. I change something in every workout, so every session introduces some type of new stimulus, but when a new cycle starts, it’s often a complete overhaul. This type of “muscle confusion” is extremely important. Most people stay on the same old stale workout routine far too long, even after the body has adapted to it.

When I start a new training cycle, as I did today, the first workout for each body part is not very heavy or very high in intensity. I usually do not push to failure on most sets nor do I begin with heavy loads. The idea is to cycle my intensity and loads slowly building up to a peak and new personal records rather than pushing all out, all the time, which quickly leads to overtraining.

As the cycle continues, I increase the poundage progressively while also increasing the intensity of effort in order to reach a peak on each exercise by the end of the cycle and even reach a new personal record (PR) on at least one of the exercises. My goal is to milk every training cycle for all its worth before changing the exercises or other training variables.

Although I often have a tentative time frame for each training cycle, I usually do not limit the cycle to a fixed length. If I did, then I might be ending the cycle prematurely, or I may max out the usefulness of each program sooner than I anticipated and just be banging my head against a wall.

When choosing the exercises for the current cycle, I had to keep in mind a few challenges that I am now facing. For example, my low back has been a little problematic lately, so I intentionally chose exercises which kept excessive stress of the lumbar area.

This is why I chose two machines with a chest pad support (Icarian row machine and the lever row machine). Normally I would prefer heavy free weight rowing exercises over machines, but I want to keep the stress off my low back for a little while. I also chose pull ups because this is a superb back exercise, but it does not put compression or shearing forces on my spine.

I also did one arm dumbbell shrugs today. This is a shrug variation that few people have ever tried, but when you are stale and adapted to conventional shrugs, this is a great exercise for variety. This shrug variation can also have great functional and therapeutic value.

I finished with low back extensions, although I chose to use only bodyweight today for higher reps. I will build back up to heavier poundage’s over the next few weeks as well as working on reverse hyperextensions as my back gets back up to par.

For calves, I did the same by choosing the seated calf machine and the standing one legged calf raise holding a dumbbell. Neither of these puts heavy compression on the spine as a standing calf machine does with the weight on your shoulders.

With the exception of a few forced reps and slow negatives on the pull ups, none of the exercises in this first workout of the new cycle (and the new year), were performed to failure or using any high intensity techniques. The weights were relatively light. As you follow along in the blog in the weeks that come, you’ll see a very deliberate and systematic progression in weight and intensity.

After training, I spent a full 20 minutes on stretching with emphasis on my spine, low back, glutes, hamstrings, quads and hip flexors. If and when I ever experience any back pain, I always increase my flexibility work. Daily stretching seems to do more to help than anything else, although I also do some specific low back, abdominal and core strength work, along with changing my exercise selection in general.

I gotta get the low back strong and healthy for the training that’s to come. Without squatting movements, stiff legged dead lifts, and various types of bent over rows, it is much, much more difficult to put on muscular bodyweight…. And muscular bodyweight (MASS) is the goal for the months ahead!

Keep reading the blogs in the days ahead for more info on my mass building workouts as well as my mass building diet secrets. I may not be blogging every single one of my workouts this year, but you can expect about two or three blog entries each week. Stay tuned!

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Comments on The New Year’s Day Workout… Leave a Comment

January 2, 2006

Tiago @ 2:07 pm #

Hey Tom, I can’t wait for you to blog in more of your training routines and diet secrets for building muscle. I was wondering though, did you ever consider going to a chiropractor for your lower back? I also had lower back problems, but ever since I went to a chiropractor, the pain went away.

Diablo @ 3:16 pm #

Happy new year Tom!
I wish you all the best!

Steven Wilkins @ 3:35 pm #

Hi Tom,
Well said and great blog. I too am changing things up this year as I amstarting with a mass building phase. This is the first time I have ever done this after BFFM but I have studied a few methods (yours/Anthony Ellis’/Chris Aceto’s) and I think I have a program I can tailor for myself. Good luck on your journey to reach your goals and I especially like your attitude of learning from the past but not dwelling on regrets but moving foward. Thats the only way we can get all this important stuff done in our short time consumed lives. Train and diet hard.
Steven Wilkins

Mariela @ 10:09 pm #

Vince Lombardi forgot to include women in that comment.

Tom Venuto @ 10:18 pm #

Yes, you’re right, and funny you mentioned that because I was thinking of changing “man” to “person”, but I didn’t want to alter his exact quotation.. and besides, there were no women playing for the Green Bay Packers either, so I think we can let Vince slide on this one, eh? 🙂

January 3, 2006

Phil @ 12:29 am #

Tom: Is the bodybuilding lifestyle one that requires repeated cycles of “bulking” followed by “cutting”. At 46 years old I have reached a bodyfat level of around 7% and am happy with how I look. My goal is to maintain this level from now on. What type of diet do I need to follow and what type of goals do I need to set for myself to keep me motivated to simply maintain where I am currently? Thank you for your insight.

January 4, 2006

JT @ 5:57 pm #

Thanks for everything you do Tom.
I had a quick question, you mentioned that you will be training the next four months muscle mass. Will you be posting a diet meal plan along with your (mass, not precontest) training regimen?

January 7, 2006

vishwanthar @ 10:37 pm #

hi tom,you have been a tremendous positive influence.reading your blog makes to go to the gym and train harder like never before.please do blog your workouts and thus keep inspiring all of us.iam priviliged to communicate with you,atleast for allowing to comment .

January 9, 2006

Doris Williams @ 4:56 am #

This blog entry really touched me, especially the part where you say the idea of looking back with unmet goals and unfulfilled potential is too much to bear. Life is too short. I agree with you completely.
I just wanted to share a little bit with you how you’ve helped me change my life. I know you don’t know me, but you have written me back when you weren’t quite as busy as now.
The articles you published on, the resources, your positive mindset have done so much for me. I’m on my 8th year of going for my physical goals. Along the way, I learned about health and it has not been an easy journey.
There is such great insight and deepness to your words. You are so eloquent, and I am very grateful for that. You touch my heart, which moves me to action. You have unknowingly encouraged me. You sharing about your life has also been an encouragement.
You’ve taught me that I can, despite my circumstances and the obstacles that stand in my path — they only help make me better, even if it is hard. I can do hard things.
As for my fitness, I’ve learned and been humbled in this area. I now have better information and have made some big changes over the past month, and having top notch people help me here in all the areas that are specific to me.
I look forward one day to being able to write you and show you where I’ve come from and reaching my physical goals. I will get there. Whatever that needs to be overcome, I will overcome them. I’ve already achieved victory in my mind — not succeeding is not an option.
You have not only motivated me, but you have inspired me to excellence. You’ve confirmed that the vision I had for my life as a 10-yr old is very real, and that anything can be achieved. I have a great respect for you.
All, BFFM, when I read it after the birth of Baby #2, has been very helpful to me. I often refer others to it. I was just rereading it the other day, and found there were many things I missed the first few times reading it. It’s a process. Thank you for taking such a well-rounded, healthy approach to fitness & health.
Thank you for being inspirational, all your hard work, and sharing it with us.
God bless your 2006. May He pour down His abundant blessings on you.
Be Blessed,

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