ABC Training Made REAL Simple! Part II: Movements

by Frederick C. Hatfield II, MS, MFS, CSCS

In Part I of ABC Training Made REAL Simple, I gave a 28-day program, which focused on body part training. This time I’d like to focus on incorporating ABC training on “movements”. One of the problems with the ABC program when you focus on body parts is that so many exercises work more than one muscle. For example, the bench press works the shoulders, the triceps and the chest. Another example is of course, the squat; quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and lower back are all involved.

It is possible to divide your training into body parts, but sometimes it is easier to arrange your training into multi-joint movements. There are shortcomings to this, especially if you are a bodybuilder. A movement like the overhead press involves the shoulders and the triceps, but not equally throughout the movement. However, if you want to become stronger in a particular movement, focusing those movements is the best plan.

In my educated opinion, there are 4 movements, which serve as a great starting point for training: the squat, the bent row, the bench press and the pull up. This is not to throw off on other movements that are very good like dips and overhead presses as well as the snatch, clean and jerk. Furthermore, I understand that there are variations of each of these lifts (deadlifts, dumbbell bent row, incline bench, etc.). Those are good as well. For simplicity, I will stick with these 4 movements.

You will find the structure of this program to be the same. Again, nothing is set in stone in terms of what lifts, reps, sets, etc you use. It is the seven principles of training, which are important. Here are the training tables:

Table 1

Exercise Day
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Squat A B C B A
Bent Row C B A B C
Bench Press B A B C B
Pull Ups

Crunches A A A A A A A
Obliques A A A A A A A

Table 2

Exercise Day
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Squat B C B A B
Bent Row B A B C
Bench Press A B C B
Pull Ups B C B A B
Crunches A A A A A A A
Obliques A A A A A A A


Any type of squat or combination of squats can be used in this workout. For this article, I will refer to back squats, front squats and bodyweight squats. The bodyweight squats are simply done without weight or a lightweight vest.It may be a good idea to do them where you can hold onto something for balance (inside your power rack, for example).

Exercise A Workout B Workout C Workout*
Back Squat 65%/6 x 3 80%/5 x 3 80%/5 x 2
Front Squat 65%/12 x 2 65%/12 x 2
BW Squat 40 reps x 2

* “C” workouts
should be done in Giant Set fashion

Bent Rows

The single best method of doing rows is done standing. Your body must hold that position while you complete the movement.The lower back, the glutes and hamstrings get the benefit as well as the upper back. However, there are times when you must let those muscles rest. This is where I don’t mind doing cable rows or single arm dumbbell rows while using a utility bench for support.

I have included Cable Back Shrugs (as well as Cable Lat Shrugs, in the Pull Up section).These are exercises done along the same line as trapezius shrugs.Keep your arms straight, allow the weight to fully extend your shoulders, and simply shrug it down or back.You will see the weight is listed at 100%.This is 100% of your maximum bent row or lat pulldown/weighted pull up.

Whenever you can, opt for standing bent rows.Chances are you will review your squat workouts to decide if you should go with the cable rows instead.Furthermore, I suggest you use cable rows for “C” workouts.

Exercise A Workout B Workout C Workout*
Standing Bent Row 65%/6 x 3 80%/5 x 3
Single Arm DB Bent Row 65%/12 x 2
Cable Back Shrugs 100%/5 x 2
Cable Rows 65%/12 x 2
Cable Rows 40 reps x 2

* “C” workouts
should be done in Giant Set fashion

Bench Press

There are several versions of the bench press: flat bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press, dumbbell bench press, etc…I will stick with the basic flat bench barbell and dumbbell bench press.

Exercise A Workout B Workout C Workout*
Bench Press 65%/6 x 3 80%/5 x 3 80%/5 x 2
Dumbbell Bench Press 65%/12 x 2 65%/12 x 2
Dumbbell Bench Press 35%/40 x 2

* “C” workouts
should be done in Giant Set fashion

Pull Ups

Included in “pull ups” are the variations of the lat pull down.Your bent row workouts may or may not have an effect on your pull up workouts, so you may have to adjust accordingly.Keep in mind that regular pull-ups can be assisted with a weight vest or chained belt.

Exercise A Workout B Workout C Workout*
Pull Up 65%/6 x 3 80%/5 x 3
Pull Up 65%/12 x 2
Cable Lat Shrugs 100%/5 x 2
Pull Down 65%/12 x 2
Pull Down 40 reps x 2

* “C” workouts
should be done in Giant Set fashion


I have picked four movements, which do a very good job in covering most of the bodies’ muscle mass.I’ve added oblique work and crunches, but you may also want to include calf and forearm work as well.The purpose of this routine is to focus on multiple joint movements, not individual body parts.It has its shortcoming only in the fact that the smaller muscles (biceps, triceps, for example) recover quicker than larger muscles.

I would like to stress that these exercises, poundage, reps and sets are not set in stone.If you enjoy overhead presses or dips, you can certainly work them in. Furthermore, you can stick with one exercise instead of using the variations given.If you aren’t a fan of giant sets, other workouts can be substituted.A “C” workout is simply meant to be the toughest workout in the routine!The only thing that should be constant in ALL training are the Seven Principles of Training. This routine only serves as a template to show you how it can be done.

In Part III I will discuss a three day per week routine, using the ABC method.

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