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20 Months to a Champion Physique – Month 6

During this month, which concludes the beginner phase of the program, you train the various parts of your body in the same order as you did last month, following the same set-and-rep schemes – three to five sets for most of the exercises and eight to ten reps.

You may have noticed that I always recommend higher reps on the calf exercises – because 20 and 25. Experience has shown me that it’s best to keep the repetitions high on calf work just as you have to do on forearm work – because the calf is a very dense muscle and seems to respond better to higher repetitions. Muscles like the biceps and triceps, on the other hand, are less dense, more coarse and respond better to lower reps. Consequently, my suggestion for calf exercises is to perform the same number of sets as you do for the other muscles but keep the reps much higher – doing 20 to 25 per set on all calf movements.

Note that the barbell front lunge, which is the second exercise in this program, calls for you to alternate legs, putting one foot forward, bringing it back, then putting the other foot forward and bringing it back. That’s one rep. As you perform the exercise, you count the reps, “One, one; two, two; three, three” and so on until you get to the required number.

As for the number of sets, you have undoubtedly noticed as you have followed this training program that you generally drop back on the number of sets per exercise at the beginning of the month compared to what you were doing at the end of the previous month. That’s the case again this time; at the end of last month you were doing five sets for most of the exercises, but at the beginning of this month I recommend that you go back to three sets per exercise and build back up.

Why? If you train with the proper intensity constantly increasing your poundages as you get stronger so that the last rep or two is always challenging but not an all-out, train-to-failure effort – you will find that at the end of the four weeks on any of these monthly routines you will have reached the maximum of your capability. you will be getting to the point where you are almost not going to be able to do the exercises properly – that is, in strict form – because the weight you are using is verging on the most that you can handle. That will mean you have reached a plateau in your strength progression for that exercise.

At that point of course, it becomes almost as difficult psychologically to do the workout as it is physiologically. Consequently, it only makes sense for you to back off psychologically at the beginning of the next month by decreasing the number of sets and then gradually build back up for another peak, as it were, in the last week or so of the cycle.

That’s why the program usually calls for you to cut back on the number of sets per exercise at the beginning of each month.

The Choice Is Yours

This month’s routine brings you to the end of the beginner phase of the program. Next month you move into the intermediate phase.

This seems like a good time to remind you that while this 20-month program gets progressively harder as we go from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels, the choice of how far you want to go or exactly what you want to do with these workouts is entirely up to you.

No doubt you have already noticed that you could become a very fit individual and look like a million bucks just by continuing to train at the present level – without ever going any further in terms of training workload or intensity. If you want to take your physique development above and beyond that – in other words, if you are truly dedicated to perfecting your physique and you have the time, energy and drive to do it – then the intermediate and advanced programs will help you get there.

If you do want to back off at some point and just carry on with the previous month’s training intensity, remember that you can maintain what you have built – and remain an extremely fit, muscle-toned individual – simply by changing the exercises each month and continuing with the same number of sets and reps you have been doing. You can also use the routines from the intermediate and advanced phases but keep the sets and reps at the beginner level; i.e., three to five sets, eight to 10 or 10 to 12 reps.

You can play all kinds of creative games with these monthly routines. In fact, that may be necessary because some people may need more time than others to work up to the more advanced levels of training.

So as we go on with this program, you have all kinds of options open to you – which is the whole idea because it’s your life and your body. Only you know how much time and energy you can devote to your training, how far you want to go with it and ultimately what you want to achieve, so it’s only right that you be the one to call the shots.

I am just here to give you the exercises and some guidance on how to accomplish what it is you want to accomplish. First and last, however, the choice of what you want to accomplish is yours, which is as it should be. To shine own self be true.

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. Barbell Good Morning 1 set of 25-30 reps
2. Barbell Front Lunge 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Standing Toe Raise on Power Rack 3-5 sets of 20-25 reps
4. Inner Pec Press on Inner Pec Machine 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
5. Medium Grip Barbell Upright Rowing 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
6. Wide Grip Rear Lat Pull-Down 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
7. Lying Supine Two Dumbbell Triceps Curl 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
8. Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps
9. Over a Bench Sit-Up 1 set of 25-50 reps
10. Dip Stand Alternated Leg Raise 1 set of 25-50 reps
1. Barbell Good Morning
Muscle Group: Lower back and abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Stand erect with your feet about sixteen inches apart. Place a light barbell on your shoulders. Grasp the bar with both hands in a comfortable position. Keep your back straight and your head up as you inhale and bend forward at the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Return to starting position and exhale. Be sure your knees are in a locked position during the entire exercise.

Barbell Good Morning
Barbell Good Morning
2. Barbell Front Lunge
Muscle Group: Thighs and thigh biceps
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Place a barbell on your rear shoulders as if you were to perform a barbell squat. Keep your head up, back straight and feet planted firmly on the floor about fourteen inches apart. Inhale and step forward as far as possible with your right leg until your upper right thigh is almost parallel with the floor. Your left leg should be held as straight as possible, not bending the knee any more than is necessary. From this position, step back to starting position and exhale. Do the prescribed number of repetitions with your right leg and then repeat the same number of repetitions with your left leg.

Barbell Front Lunge
Barbell Front Lunge
3. Standing Toe Raise on Power Rack
Muscle Group: Main calf muscles
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Place a barbell on the pegs of a power rack just below shoulder height. Position a thick board, or raised platform, directly under the barbell. Place the barbell on your upper back keeping the bar against the power rack throughout the exercise. Stand erect with your back straight, head up and legs straight with your knees locked as you stand with the balls of your feet on the board. Do not let your hips move backward or forward while performing the exercise. Inhale and raise up on your toes as high as possible. Hold this position a short period and return to starting position and exhale. Be sure to keep the bar against the rack. If you turn your toes out and heels in, it will affect your inner calf more. If you keep your feet straight, it will affect your main calf muscle more. If you turn your toes in and heels out, it will affect the outside of your calf more.

Standing Toe Raise on Power Rack
Standing Toe Raise on Power Rack
4. Inner Pec Press on Inner Pec Machine
Muscle Group: Upper and inner pectorals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

The way this exercise is performed will depend a great deal on how the inner pec machine you use is constructed. Some are more elaborate than others and have adjustable seats and arms. The main thing is to remember while performing this exercise is to keep the upper arms fairly high and about in line with your shoulders. You should keep the forearms in a vertical position so as not to bring any more of the triceps and deltoids into play than necessary. Concentrate on squeezing your forearms together by concentrating on the pectorals doing the work. Inhale as you are squeezing and exhale as you return your arms back to starting position.

Inner Pec Press on Inner Pec Machine
Inner Pec Press on Inner Pec Machine
5. Medium Grip Barbell Upright Rowing
Muscle Group: Front deltoids and trapezius
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Place your hands on a barbell with the palms facing down and use a hand grip about eighteen inches apart. With the barbell at arm’s length while you are standing erect and in a stationary position, pull the weight straight up until it is nearly under the chin. Keep the elbows out to the sides and in the top position the elbows are nearly as high as your ears. Keep the barbell in close to the body and pause momentarily at the top before letting the weight back to starting position. Inhale as you raise the bar and exhale as you lower the bar.

Medium Grip Barbell Upright Rowing
Medium Grip Barbell Upright Rowing
6. Wide Grip Rear Lat Pull-Down
Muscle Group: Upper Lats
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Place your hand on a lat machine bar about thirty-six inches apart. Kneel down on your knees until you are supporting the weight stack with your arms while they are extended overhead. Inhale and pull the bar down behind your head to the middle of your neck. Return to starting position ant exhale. Keep your back straight and do no bend forward.

Wide Grip Rear Lat Pull-Down
Wide Grip Rear Lat Pull-Down
7. Lying Supine Two Dumbbell Triceps Curl
Muscle Group: Triceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie on a flat bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and press them to arm’s length keeping them in line with your shoulders. Inhale and lower both dumbbells straight down in a semicircular motion by bending your arms at the elbows but keeping your upper arms vertical throughout the exercise. The dumbbells should be lowered until your forearms and biceps touch. Press the dumbbells back to starting position using the same path and exhale.

Lying Supine Two Dumbbell Triceps Curl
Lying Supine Two Dumbbell Triceps Curl
8. Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
Muscle Group: Biceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Hold a barbell with both hands using a palms-up grip about eighteen inches apart. Stand erect with your feet about sixteen inches apart. With the barbell at arm’s length against your upper thighs, inhale and curl the bar up to the height of your shoulders keeping your back straight, legs and hips locked out. As you are lowering the bar back to starting position, do so in a controlled manner causing the biceps to resist the weight as much as possible. Exhale as you return to starting position.

Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
9. Over a Bench Sit-Up
Muscle Group: Upper abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Position a bench so you are able to sit on it and have an object close by so you can put your feet under it to support your weight. Sit directly on the bench and your knees should have a slight bend to them. Starting at the upright position, inhale and lower your torso backwards and down until you are just below parallel with the floor. Return to starting position and exhale.

Over a Bench Sit-Up
Over a Bench Sit-Up
10. Dip Stand Alternated Leg Raise
Muscle Group: Lower abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Position yourself on a dip stand facing away from the machine with your body being supported by your arms, having your elbows locked out. Hanging in a vertical position, inhale and raise your right leg up until it is parallel to the floor. As you commence to lower your right leg, start raising your left leg to give you the same motion your legs move while swimming. Inhale as you raise your right leg and exhale as you raise your left leg.

Dip Stand Alternated Leg Raise
Dip Stand Alternated Leg Raise
Training Suggestions for Month 6
  • 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 worked up to five sets for most of the exercises. This month I suggest that on exercises 2 through 8 you drop back to three set initially and then follow this progression through the month:
    • Week1: Three sets and minimum reps.
    • Week2: Four sets and medium reps.
    • Weeks 3 and 4: Five sets and maximum reps.
  • For the three midsection exercises in this routine start with the minimum number of repetitions and gradually increase them so you do the maximum number at the end of the month.
  • 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 to use in order to make the last rep or two challenging but not impossible. Don’t hesitate to decrease your weight on the last set or two of an exercise in order to complete the necessary number of reps. Finish what you start – don’t train to failure.
  • From week to week as your body adapts and your strength improves, increase the weight on each exercise. Remember, you want to make the last rep of each set challenging. Keep accurate records of your poundages, sets and reps from workout to workout. This will enable you to easily keep track of your progress from one poundage to the next rather than forcing you to rely on memory.
  • Concentrate on correct form and mentally focus on the bodypart 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 (if one is available). 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!