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20 Months to a Champion Physique – Month 4

One of the keys to success in bodybuilding — and in life itself, for that matter — is to have clear and definite goals. The trick is to set a series of short-term goals that lead to a long-term goal. If you haven’t already done so, start setting some short-term bodybuilding goals that you know you can achieve, and once you have reached them, set new goals that will be slightly more challenging and will bring you that much closer to your long-term target.

And what is your long-term goal? Get clear on that point, and use your long-term goal as both an orienting vision and an aspiration in your day-to-day training. Progress is made through goal setting. If you don’t have goals, your training lacks purpose and meaning. To put it another way, how can you expect to get to your destination if you don’t know where you are going?

There are literally hundreds of training goals that you can set. As you continue with this program, one of your goals might simply be to conscientiously perform each month’s routine, constantly striving to do a little better at each workout, pushing yourself a little more each time yet being careful not to overdo it. Body weight could be a goal – you may want to set goals pertaining to how much muscle mass you want to gain or body fat you want to lose. You could target the arm, waist, thigh and/or calf measurements you hope to achieve in a certain period of time or the overall appearance you want to project. At the end of six months, for instance, you may want to have a trim, well-defined waistline.

Other possible achievements to aim for include how many pants sizes — or dress sizes — you want to drop, how much stronger and more energetic you want to become, how much you want to tighten up your diet as you tone and tighten your body and how much aerobic exercise you want to do as you continue your weight-training program and the tone and shape of your body improve. There are also any number of health goals you can target; for example, to stop smoking, avoid excessive drinking or decrease your cholesterol count.

It’s up to you to decide what you want to achieve. The important thing is to set goals you can reach and put time limits on them. Then promise yourself that you will reach those goals — and keep your commitment. Every time you reach a goal, you chalk up another success experience and put yourself in a position, physically and psychologically, to strive for something even more challenging. With one success building on another, pretty soon you will surprise even yourself by how far you have progressed and what you have achieved.

Remember that the key is to set short — term goals that are reasonable and attainable. There’s nothing wrong with having a big dream in life and having challenging goals to take you there, but the key to success in anything is to rehearse success rather than rehearse failure. So make your goals difficult but achievable, and your training will be a series of positive experiences leading to more positive experiences, which ultimately translates to success in anybody’s book.

Basic vs. Refinement Exercises

Generally speaking, when you are a beginning bodybuilder, you are trying to lay a foundation for what will become an outstanding physique, and when you are an advanced bodybuilder, you are trying to refine and polish that physique.

I am sometimes asked, “Are there certain exercises that only advanced bodybuilders should do?”.

My answer is no. I think that anytime you are working a muscle through a complete contraction to extension from all possible angles and the exercise does not cause unnatural pain, it is beneficial for the body – whatever your training experience or stature as a bodybuilder. There is no such thing as an exercise that is for advanced bodybuilders only or, conversely, for beginning bodybuilders only. That is silly. As long as you can do it through a full range of motion and it does not cause unnatural pain, it is beneficial.

Which brings me to a second question I am sometimes asked – “Shouldn’t beginning bodybuilders focus on certain basic exercises and then wait until they reach an advanced level to incorporate a greater selection of exercises to refine the physique?”.

This is probably quite true, but let’s not forget that it is the basics that have gotten advanced bodybuilders to where they are today. When we talk about basic exercises, we are talking about exercises that bring the most muscle and mass into play; for example, squats. This is an excellent exercise because it brings more muscle fibers into play than almost any other exercise you can do. There are other basic movements, such as military presses, bench presses and barbell curls, that are good foundation exercises to build on because they bring a lot of muscle fibers into play.

Yes, as you become a more advanced bodybuilder, you can and should do a greater range of exercises to refine you physique, but this does not mean that you should not do the basic movements as well. It is interesting to note that I included the medium-grip bench press in the first month of the beginner phase, and you will be doing this very same exercise again in the next to the last month during the advanced phase. Now you know why.

Medical Warning and Disclaimer

Please get a physical before starting any of the programs at, especially if you are overweight, have not exercised for a while, have had any health problems or if there is any history of health problems. We also recommend that you then visit your doctor on a regular basis while training and report any problems to your doctor.

Should any exercises in these routines be uncomfortable or dangerous to do because of some sort of physical impairment you have, please substitute another exercise for the same body part which will not aggravate the condition. There is a tremendous variety of exercises available for any body part, as you know if you have seen or read my book, Keys to the Inner Universe, so there’s absolutely no reason to be doing some particular exercise that aggravates a back problem, a weak knee or whatever condition you may have simply because you see it in a workout routine somebody put together. and/or any associates are not prescribing any kind of treatments with these programs.

Exercise Sets/Reps
1. Decline Dumbbell Fly 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
2. Seated Two Arm Low Lat Pull-In 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
3. Bent Over Low Pulley Rear Deltoid Raise 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
4. Standing Bent Over One Dumbbell Triceps Extension 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
5. Incline Dumbbell Curl 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
6. Flat Footed Close Stance Barbell Hack Squat 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
7. Thigh Biceps Curl on Leg Extension Machine 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
8. Seated Lower Pad Toe Raise on Universal Type Leg Press Machine 3-4 sets of 20-25 reps
9. Bent Knee Sit-Up 1 set of 15-30 reps
10. Incline Leg Pull-In 1 set of 15-30 reps
1. Decline Dumbbell Fly
Muscle Group: Lower pectorals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie on a decline bench with two light dumbbells at arm’s length above the shoulders with the palms of the hands facing each other. Keeping the arms as straight as possible, lower the dumbbells out to each side of the chest but slightly back so they are nearly in line with your ears. From this position return the weights back above the chest using the same path in which you used originally. Exhale as you reach the top position. You must breathe deeply, hold your chest high, keep your head on the bench and concentrate on the pectorals.

Decline Dumbbell Fly
Decline Dumbbell Fly
2. Seated Two Arm Low Lat Pull-In
Muscle Group: Lower lats
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Sit on the floor in front of a low pulley and place your feet against an object that will enable you to support the weight stacks with both arms as you grasp the pulley handles while seated in a bent-forward position. You must maintain this bent-forward position throughout the entire exercise. Do not bend backwards and forwards at the waist. Inhale and pull the cables directly to the sides of your chest just below the pectorals. Let the weight stacks back to starting position and exhale.

Seated Two Arm Low Lat Pull-In
Seated Two Arm Low Lat Pull-In
3. Bent Over Low Pulley Rear Deltoid Raise
Muscle Group: Rear deltoids
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Face a wall pulley with the left side of your body and grasp the low handle of the wall pulley with your right hand. Step out away from the pulley so that you are supporting the weight stack with your right arm. Bend at the waist until your upper body is nearly parallel to the floor. Use your left arm to help support your upper body by placing it on your left thigh just above the knee. Keep your right elbow locked and your arm as straight as possible as you pull the weight up and out in a semicircular motion until your right arm is even in height to the right shoulder. Concentrate on having your right hand in line with your right ear at the top of the exercise. Inhale as you raise the weight and exhale as you lower the weight. You must do both the right side and the left side to constitute a set.

Bent Over Low Pulley Rear Deltoid Raise
Bent Over Low Pulley Rear Deltoid Raise
4. Standing Bent Over One Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Muscle Group: Triceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palms facing in. Bend at the waist until your upper body is parallel with the floor. Draw your right upper arm to your side and keep your lower arm vertical. Inhale and press the dumbbell back in a semicircular motion until your entire arm is parallel with the floor. Hold the dumbbell at the top position for a short period to contract the triceps muscle and then slowly lower the weight back to starting position and exhale. Do the prescribed number of repetitions on the right side and then change positions doing the same number of repetitions on the left side.

Standing Bent Over One Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Standing Bent Over One Dumbbell Triceps Extension
5. Incline Dumbbell Curl
Muscle Group: Biceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie back on an incline bench with your head up and feet on the footpads. With the dumbbells hanging at arm’s length at your sides, with your palms in, inhale and curl the dumbbells up to the height of your shoulders. As you commence the curl and the dumbbells are past your thighs, then turn your palms-up and keep them in this position throughout the exercise until you are lowering the weights and again near your upper thighs before turning your palms in again and exhaling. Keep your upper arms in close to your sides and concentrate or your biceps raising and lowering the weights.

Incline Dumbbell Curl
Incline Dumbbell Curl
6. Flat Footed Close Stance Barbell Hack Squat
Muscle Group: Outer thighs
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Place a barbell at arm’s length behind you keeping the bar tucked in solidly against your body where your buttocks and upper thighs meet. Use a palms facing to the rear grip with your hand spacing about the width of your hips. Now, turn your wrist up to lock the bar into an even more solid position. The bar is to remain solidly against your upper thighs and lower buttocks during the entire exercise. It is not to slide up and down on your leg biceps. Keep your head up and your eyes staring upward at about a 45° angle. Keep your back straight and feet planted firmly on the floor about eight inches apart. Inhale and squat down until your upper thighs are parallel with the floor. Your head should remain up, eyes looking upward, back straight and knees close together. Return to starting position and exhale.

Flat Footed Close Stance Barbell Hack Squat
Flat Footed Close Stance Barbell Hack Squat
7. Thigh Biceps Curl on Leg Extension Machine
Muscle Group: Thigh biceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie face down on a leg extension machine with your feet to the front. Straighten your legs and place your heels under the top foot pads. Hold on to the front of the machine for support. Inhale and curl your legs up until your lower and upper legs come together. Return to starting position and exhale.

Thigh Biceps Curl on Leg Extension Machine
Thigh Biceps Curl on Leg Extension Machine
8. Seated Lower Pad Toe Raise on Universal Type Leg Press Machine
Muscle Group: Main calf muscles
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Sit on the back supported chair of a Universal type leg press machine. Hold on to the sides of the seat under your buttocks. Place the balls of your feet on the two lower pads provided and press the weight stack out until your legs are straight and your knees lock. Keep your legs in this position throughout the exercise. Inhale and press your feet forward as far as you comfortably can. Hold this position for a short period and then return your feet to the furthest back position you comfortably can and exhale. If you turn your toes out and heels in, it will affect the inner calf more. If you turn your feet straight, it will affect the main calf muscle more. If you turn your toes in and heels out, it will affect the outside of the calf more.

Seated Lower Pad Toe Raise on Universal Type Leg Press Machine
Seated Lower Pad Toe Raise on Universal Type Leg Press Machine
9. Bent Knee Sit-Up
Muscle Group: Upper abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Sit down on a sit-up board and hook your feet under the strap. With your knees bent to about a 45° angle, put your hands behind your head and place your chin on your chest. This will keep a slight bow to your back. From this position, inhale and lie back until your lower back touches the board. Exhale as you return to starting position.

Bent Knee Sit-Up
Bent Knee Sit-Up
10. Incline Leg Pull-In
Muscle Group: Lower abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Position a sit-up board on a 25-30° angle. Lie on the board with your head at the top Use your hands to hold yourself in a stationary position. Inhale and bend your knees while pulling your upper thighs into your midsection. Return to starting position and exhale. Concentrate on your lower abdominals during the exercise. Do not let your feet touch the board once you have started the exercise.

Incline Leg Pull-In
Incline Leg Pull-In
Training Suggestions for Month 4
  • For best results do this routine three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Use the off days for rest and recuperation.
  • Last month you progressed to four sets per exercise for most of the movements. This month I suggest that you go back to three sets for the first week, then do four sets per exercise during the last three weeks.
  • On the two midsection exercises that conclude this routine, do only one set per workout, gradually increasing the reps so you reach the upper end of the range by month’s end.
  • Do not train to failure! The last rep should feel difficult but should not be an all-out effort. At the beginning of this routine you’ll have to experiment to determine the poundages that will fit the bill.
  • Increase the poundages as you get stronger. Remember, you want to make the last rap of each set challenging. Keep accurate records of your sets and reps from workout to workout so you can easily keep track of your progress from one poundage to the next rather than relying on memory.
  • Concentrate on correct form when doing each exercise, and mentally focus on the body part you’re working.
  • Rest for 30 seconds to two minutes between sets. If you feel any kind of unusual pain during your workout, consult with a trainer. Of course, if you’re just starting a training program, you should always check with a physician to ensure that you have no health problems that could make training dangerous.
Do Not Train to Failure

People ask me why I don’t believe in training to failure at a time when the popular notion in bodybuilding is that the only way to make maximum progress is to always go for that last impossible rep (in other words, train to failure). I tell them the answer is quite simple: If you do a workout of, say, nine exercises, three sets per exercise, and in each set you go to failure, which means you couldn’t complete the last rep, what you have done in these 27 sets is trained yourself to fail 27 times! That doesn’t sound like success in my book.
My approach to training has always been to push yourself in your workouts, but do not train to failure! The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible or unachievable. And I’ve always been a great believer that you should leave the gym each day feeling like you had a great workout but you’ve still got a little bit left in the gas tank, so to speak. Because if you don’t leave the gym with the feeling of having something in reserve, you will sooner or later reach a point where your training begins to seem so hellish and burdensome, you will either start missing workouts or stop training altogether. And then where is your progress?
So speaking from experience, I urge you: Train hard, yes, but not to failure. Complete what you start — and that means every rep. I believe that this approach will not only ensure that you’ll stay with your training program year after year (obviously training longevity is a very important aspect of all of this) but you’ll also make the greatest progress. Why? Because you’ll be training yourself for success in each and every rep, set and workout. Your training will be a positive rather than negative experience. And you’ll be much more likely to keep your enthusiasm high and to avoid injury, overtraining and mental burnout.

Terms of Usage

Bill Pearl grants individuals the right to print and use this program for their own personal use. All content and graphics are copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form other then outlined in the previous sentence.

Editor’s Note

Bill Pearl, 84, is a four-time Mr. Universe and author of the best-selling bodybuilding books, Legends of The Iron Game, Keys to the Inner Universe, Getting Stronger, and Getting in Shape. He has personally coached more major contest winners than anyone else in history. At his own peak as a bodybuilder when he last won the Universe in 1971 at age 41, he weighed 242 pounds at a height of 5’10” and his arms measured 21 inches!