Lifting weights 101 – Retard’s Guide To The Gym

Summary: the only weight lifting schedule you need; the simplest and most straight forward workout routine you’ll ever come across

Length: 1 200 words

  • Day 1: Deadlift 5×5, Bench press 5×5, Pull-up 5 sets
  • rest
  • Day 2: Bench press 5×5, Squat 5×5, Pendlay row 5×5
  • rest
  • Day 3: Squat 5×5, Deadlift 5×5, Press 5×5

And remember to mobilize your hips, back and shoulders every now and then to stay healthy and young.

-That’s it. Move on. But first share this article with a friend who can’t bench press, squat or deadlift his own bodyweight.

What about nutrition?

Food? My advice is to eat food, real food. Eat a lot but not too much. If you focus on fish, beans, eggs, leafy greens, whole fruits and stuff like broccoli and cabbage first you can probably eat just as much as you like. And after that you’ll be too full to eat too much french fries, bread, cereals and pasta.

Working out 101

It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be easy. If it’s complicated, you’re doing it wrong. If you absolutely crave complexity, you can add that after mastering the basics (and performing them consistently).

Make no mistake, sometimes you won’t feel like going to the gym, but the choice of exercises should still be simple. The simpler and fewer they are, the less daunting it will feel actually getting to the gym.

Level 1 – Go to the gym

If it’s gym day, just go. Go even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t procrastinate and hope for some motivation, just make sure you get there. Convince yourself you’ll only change and walk slowly on the treadmill for a few minutes. If you’re lucky, walking slowly soon turns into a faster pace, then a light jog, and so on…

Level 2 – Lift weight bars until you feel tired

Lift reasonably heavy weights a few times (that’s a “set”). Do a few sets in one exercise then change to another exercise. Do a few exercises until you feel tired. Do it again a few times a week.

It actually is that simple: a few reps, a few sets, a few exercises, a few times a week until you feel tired. Keep doing that week after week and you’ll become reasonably fit. There’s no need for esoteric exercises or any other equipment than a standard bar and some weights.

Level 3 – 5x5x5; Focus on these five-ish exercises, doing five sets of five reps each at least once every week

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Pull-up/Chin-up
  • Pendlay row
  • Press/Bench press

Simply make sure you do them all at least once a week, using weights you can manage with good and safe form for about 5 reps per set, 5 sets per exercise. “5×5” refers to your work sets, i.e., the day’s heaviest weight (warm-up sets don’t count).

NO, you don’t need to train your forearms, wrists, abs, shoulders, pecs, calves, ass, triceps, biceps etc. with specific exercises; especially not any involving machines. You can, of course, if you’ve got the time and energy after focusing on the real lifts.

Level 4 – an actual weekly workout schedule

  • Day 1: Deadlift 5×5, Bench press 5×5, Pull-up 5sets
  • rest
  • Day 2: Bench press 5×5, Squat 5×5, Pendlay row 5×5
  • rest
  • Day 3: Squat 5×5, Deadlift 5×5, Press 5×5

Add in some aerobic warm-up, biceps curls, prone bridges and crunches (abs) as you see fit. Quite naturally, you’ll be able to focus more and lift heavier weights on the day’s first exercise than the second and third. Plan for that, since that’s the reality anyway.

Level 5 – getting jiggy with it

There is nothing magical about 5x5x5, or working out 3 times a week. I don’t use the 5×5 principle, at least not all the time. This summer, e.g., I’m getting a little crazy, doing 4×4 in most heavy exercises. And I’m working out every second day, meaning I go to the gym 7 times in two weeks, instead of 3 times a week.

I think 3-4 times a week is optimal, for anybody just looking to get reasonably strong and fit, but 2 could probably do the trick as well, and 5 wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

In addition to lifting weights, I’m doing HIIT (intervals) or fast running on a treadmill for 12 minutes right before every workout, thus accumulating at least 10-12 km of quick running every week. I also add some kind of specific biceps work (seated or standing biceps curls on 2/3 of my sessions, in sets of 5-10 reps each), as well as 25-50 crunches of some kind after every session.

Every now and then I do a heavy pyramid in the bench press or deadlift, instead of a lighter 4×4. And sometimes I do a high rep set, like this 110kg x11 bench press (243 lbs incl. safety springs) or this 140kg x20 deadlift (touch and go).

Most of my work, however, is done in the 4×4 or 5×5, sets x reps, range. That’s where I seem to gain strength most effectively. The variation is mostly for fun and motivation, but I also think it stimulates the muscles in a way that might help build volume or strength long term. No, I’m not going to refer a ton of research on the matter. Google it!

Level 6 – mobility (for health, not Van Damme style showing off; though I’m looking forward to “Kickboxer 2016“)

Don’t overdo it. Don’t waste time on doing the splits (unless your sport or profession calls for it). Make sure you actually do the ones you’re supposed to do instead.

Focus on a few exercises for improved posture and long term health. I’ve written about mobility here before, but as a quick recap:

  • Hips – squat, couch, pigeon
  • Upper back – cobras (seals), tube roller
  • Shoulders – morpheus
  • Lower back – hernia prevention 3D jiggling

Novice level: Spend a few minutes a week on each, e.g., in the TV couch, bundled with your favorite show

Pro level: Spend a few minutes at every weight lifting session

Food? My advice is to eat food, real food. Eat a lot but not too much.


If you focus on fish, beans, eggs, leafy greens, whole fruits, and stuff like broccoli and cabbage first, you can probably eat just as much as you like. And after that you’ll be too full to eat too much french fries, bread, cereals and pasta. Avoid all heavily processed food and food rich in sugar, like ketchup, mustard, candy, cereals, juice, soda etc.

Summary – KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid

Just make sure you get to the gym at all.

Once there, forget about fancy equipment, esoteric exercises and so on. If you just manage to consistently do some squatting, deadlifting, pressing and pulling for a few hours each week, you’ll soon be fitter than most.

Add in some limited high speed running, mobility exercises, biceps curls and ab crunches, and you’ll be a picture of health and fitness.

Eat real food, not processed garbage or fast food. Fast food burgers aren’t really burgers. Make your own instead.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my free and spam free newsletter, read my e-book and share this article with a friend who needs to shape up.

Om du kan svenska kan du kolla in avsnitt 37 och 38 av “25 minuter” som handlar om träning och rörlighet

11 Replies to “Lifting weights 101 – Retard’s Guide To The Gym”

  1. Good shit Mike!
    Will recommend this article to some friends as they have hard time getting up and hitting the gym because they’re bombarded by info(from bb articles probably) depicting complex lifting routines.

    1. Thanks. Usually you simply have to start and work yourself tired. Then do a little more the next time. The body is smart that way.

  2. Hey Mikael,

    Good stuff in this post. Thanks to you I’ve stopped focusing on everything you’re “supposed” to be doing. KISS is truly a wonderful philosophy.

    The problem stems from companies that are making their money from training programs. You can’t sell a handful of excercises for $100 and call it a product, consultation or service, which forces them into creating overly complicated shit.

    I’m naturally lazy so something simple is a must have for me, or there is little chance that I will do it. But of course there is no spoon these days, piece by piece, day by day crack the whip against your goal.

    1. Thanks. Obviously there are things to add to the program. In particular for more experienced lifters.

      On the other hand, I think the simplicity underpinning the 5x5x5 approach and Just Go make up for what’s lost in detail.

    1. Vitamin-D: 4000 units per day during winter
      Protectis Probiotics, lactobacillus reuteri from BioGaia, 1 per day

  3. Great artikel! I also started a similar workout routine (4×4…) recently and it feels great!
    A question though, when you say “Press”, do you mean like military press or are you referring to another exercise?

    Your blog is great!

  4. Thanks for the simple workout advice and program.

    Off topic from this post, I also have shorted the market indexes, Russell 2000 the heaviest and have been suffering losses for several months. I thought I was smarter than you since I didn’t begin shorting until higher prices a few months after you! lol Then you had the good sense to cover some into the Brexit selloff, which I did not.

    What are your thoughts and has anything changed in your decision to stay short the general stock market, while also staying long gold which has worked out very well? Might we want to add to metals holdings into a dip, while trim some of our not so hot short trades?

    Thanks again and good luck, interesting blog and I’m just finishing up your book on your time at Futuris.

    1. Hi Paul and thanks for commenting.

      I’m sticking to my strategy. It’s been in place more or less since 2012 and I plan to keep it this way for a couple of more years.

      I see no use in commenting on short term “trimming” decisions :D

      Take care


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