Everything save the calf exercises were done in a 5 x 3-5 rep format with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. I always use strict form and don’t throw the weight around, but I don’t pay terribly close attention to a particular rep cadence.
Rack Pulls – These partial-ROM deadlifts slightly de-emphasize the hamstrings and allow you to really pile on the weight and hit your lower and upper back. I do these in a squat rack with the pins set to just below my knees. You should be able to pull more here than you do with your full deadlift.
Weighted Wide-Grip Pullup – I love pullups and I hate to have a program where I don’t do them. Pulldowns are not a substitute for a pullup even though they appear to be essentially the same motion. I always come down to a completely dead hang at the bottom and come up to where my chin is completely above my hands on every rep. I used a wide grip because I wanted to work on the overall width of my frame versus back thickness.
T-Bar Rows – When I workout my back I always make sure to include a vertical pulling motion and a horizontal pulling motion. These are easy to load up with a ton of weight and feel great. Once again I concentrated on getting a great non-cheating rep each time and going to a complete stretch at the bottom of the range of motion.
Wide Grip Pulldowns – This is an easy exercise to cheat on by throwing your weight backwards as you jerk the bar down to your chest. I arch my back and push my chest forward and try to bring the bar to my chest using solely my back and to minimize any momentum. The tendency on all of these exercises is to obsess over the weight you’re using and end up using bad form or a lessened range of motion. Resist the urge!
Standing Calf Raises and Seated Calf Raises – I do these for three sets for very high reps. The calves carry you around all day and are going to be resistant to training, so I try to make sure I’m showing them something they aren’t used to. The gastrocnemius muscle in the calf is the main one people think of when they think of calves, and is activated by standing calf raises or donkey calf raises. The soleus is also an important calf muscle, however, and is often overlooked. Anytime your knee is bent while doing calf raises you’re using the soleus, so I always make sure to include a seated calf raise.
Anytime you’re engaging in any kind of workout, be it a bodybuilding workout, metabolic conditioning, Crossfit, kettlebells, etc., keep in mind that no matter how good you think you are, someone is stronger, bigger, faster, etc. Competition is fantastic, but your main competition will always be yourself. For competitive folks, what your neighbor is doing is important, but less important than what you are doing. Are you better than you were? Are you giving your best effort?
Any fitness endeavor is about little incremental improvements. Shaving 10 seconds off your “Fran” time or gaining 1 lbs of lean mass might not sound very exciting, but the point is to string a bunch of those tiny improvements together. Before long people will be wondering what kind of magic or trick you used to get to where you are. The reason they say that is because they weren’t there to see all the million tiny improvements that make up your current level of accomplishment. There is no magic.