Total Body Hammer

In Coaching, Fitness Programs, Reviews by Dale HillLeave a Comment

A hypertrophy workout focused on pyramid-style sets to maximize strength and muscle growth 

Building a strong, sculpted body doesn’t require hours spent working out—just an expert approach. And with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, seasoned trainers Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese have compiled their best, most efficient techniques into 30- to 40-minute resistance-training workouts to help you craft a powerful, perfectly defined physique in just 60 days.

Throughout the entire 60 days, you’ll focus on Stabilization, Strength, and Power to rapidly build, sculpt, and refine your physique. Combine this training with proven portion-control nutrition-the way Sagi and Autumn do in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel-and you’ll build a body that’s strong, chiseled, and defined.

As I  embark on my own 60-Day Journey with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, I will be reviewing each workout as they present themselves in the program calendar. I will add my own insights and observations about the workouts; the comments I make are my own as an Independent Certified Personal Trainer and do not necessarily represent the Celebrity Trainers or Beachbody. Full disclosure, I am also an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and a distributor of this program and all other Beachbody products. I hope the information I provide is beneficial in your personal fitness journey.

Total Body Hammer735x1102One of the best things about The Master’s Hammer and Chisel program is the variety it offers, both at the macro level by mixing up the order of individual workouts to avoid hitting plateaus, and within each workout by using a variety of protocols that build strength, muscular endurance, power, speed, balance and agility.

Total Body Hammer is all about muscle Hypertrophy (phonetically: Hi-per-tro-fee) or muscle growth. Folks graduating up from the Body Beast program will be eager to get into this workout as it’s the first that really resembles some ‘Old School’ lifting. Not that the workouts that you’ve completed so far haven’t been challenging – they’ve been tough, they’ve made you sweat and they’ve pushed your muscle endurance to the limits with isometric and plyometric drills; but this one promises to be different.

Hypertrophy is the process of enlarging skeletal muscle fibers by applying increased levels of tension through resistance training. Depending on your current level of training, it may take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks for obvious signs to present, so be patient. If you’re new to this style of program, you may notice results much faster, that’s a common phenomenon for previously untrained folks.

Hypertrophy goals are best achieved using low to medium repetition ranges while progressively overloading the the weight. To achieve the same outcome, Total Body Hammer uses a modified reverse pyramid protocol. The workout consists of three Rounds, each Round has two parts made up of three exercises each. The exercises are grouped to target three major muscle groups in each round.

As they say the “Devil is in the Details” and the key to this workout is the scheduling of sets and rest periods within each round. As mentioned, the round is broken down into two parts, each part will consist of three exercises, each exercise is performed for three sets.

Use the same weight, but decrease the reps each set: 1st set 10-reps, 2nd set 8-reps, 3rd set 6-reps. Select a weight heavy enough to challenge you through all 3 sets. The concept behind the reverse pyramid is that you’re able to provide greater force production on the first set – as you progress, your ability to generate the same level of force diminishes – so fewer reps.

Key to this protocol is minimal rests between sets and minimal rest between exercises, the idea is to keep the muscles under tension throughout the entire round.

Write it down

Tracking your progress is very important, knowing what you’ve lifted and the reps you’ve completed will help you move forward and challenge yourself with this program. Team Beachbody offers printable workout sheets, they make following the program sequence and recording your progress a piece of cake. You can find them at Team Beachbody under the “Get Fit” menu, item: Workout Sheets.

Round 1 
The great thing about this workout is that it’s old school. Nothing fancy, just “Reps and Sets”. Round 1 starts off with the dumbbell Bench Press, the protocol as described above is 3 sets – same weight, minimal rest between and decreasing reps on each set and of all the exercises in this workout this one is my favorite (brings back memories of the Body Beast BULK: Chest workout, one of my all-time ‘go-to’ workouts)

The execution is straightforward, put your bench in the flat position, select your weights, lay back and position the weights on either side of your chest. You’re going to press straight up keeping the weights level and the relative distance between them the same, focus on squeezing your chest as you push the weights up and exhale on the exertion. The emphasis of this workout is hypertrophy (muscle growth) so heavier weights and low reps are the key. To maximize the benefit of the press, don’t set the weights down between sets – hold in the starting position for the brief pause between sets. This brief hold will keep your muscles under tension and will make the successive sets a more challenging, however safety should always be your primary consideration, if you feel unstable or cannot control the weights, set them down in between sets. You’ll know if you’ve selected the correct weight if the last 3 reps of the last set are difficult to perform.

Move the bench out of the way and progress right to the Squat, following the same declining rep pyramid format. To get in position for the squat  begin by standing  upright with your feet hip-width apart holding the dumbbells loosely at your sides. Hinge at your knees and hips as if you were sitting back into a chair, allow your arms to hang normally and the weights to drop along the outside of your legs. At the bottom of the squat, your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your knees should be over your toes. Avoid turning your knees in or allowing them to flare out to the sides. Maintaining a straight back and pushing up through your heels will generate the most power while protecting your low back from undue strain.

As you press up from the bottom of the squat, focus on the larger muscle in the butt, the Gluteus Maximus (or ‘glutes’), at the top of the squat pull your hips forward, draw your shoulders back, keep your abs drawn in and squeeze your glutes. It sounds like a a lot to remember, but it will actually come as second nature. This is a total body workout and bringing stabilizer muscles into play throughout the full range of motion will give you more bang for your buck. As with the bench press, hold the weights between sets to maximize the time under tension, finish the pyramid as prescribed.

The final exercise in Round 1 is the Reverse Grip Row and while I prefer to perform this move with an E-Z Bar and free weights, the dumbbell version really makes you focus on both sides of your Lats and there’s no ‘cheating’ your weak side. Take your position with feet hip width apart, bend your knees slightly. With your back flat, bend over and grasp the dumbbells with an underhand grip, pull your chest up so your back is at about a 45 degree angle – the weights will likely be just in front of your knees. Pull the weights up to your waist, to target the activation of the Latissimus Dorsi, extend your arms straight down keep your elbows in tight to your body as you lift.

Congratulations! You have just completed the first half of Round 1, before moving on to Round 2, you will complete another full set of these three exercises. I personally find this is a good opportunity to increase your weights and push yourself a little harder.

Round 2 
The Incline Dumbbell Fly is really going to focus hitting your upper pecs (or the Clavicular Head of the Pectoralis Major muscle). To begin, set your bench at the appropriate angle, grab your dumbbells and lay back on the bench. Setting your feet wider than shoulder width apart and planting them flat on the floor will give you more stability. Raise the weights over your chest and hold them palms facing inward.

Execute the move by lowering your arms out, slightly bending your elbows as you open your arms. When you feel the stretch across your chest, return to the starting position keeping the slight bend in your elbows as you come back up. Your Anterior Deltoids (front shoulder muscle) are a primary helper in this move, if you go too heavy you may feel it first in the shoulders, remember the target muscle in the incline fly is your upper pecs, be mindful of this and choose your weights accordingly.

The Reverse Lunge is really going to isolate your Quadriceps or ‘Quads’. Most people just call these your thigh, but there are actually four main muscles that make your quads and the reverse lunge is going to activate all of them. Start in a standing position with the dumbbells at your sides – the weights are going to amp up the intensity but you just want them to hang normally at your sides throughout the full range of motion. Choosing a wider stance, particularly as you step back into the lunge, will improve stability.

MHCReverseLungeStep back with one leg while bending the forward or supporting leg. As you step back, focus on maintaining a 90 degree angle in the supporting leg as well as creating a 90 degree angle in the lowered leg. Stop when your rear knee about an inch off the floor, at this point you should have three 90 degree angles; the two formed by each leg and one formed from your torso and thigh. Return to the standing position by extending your hip, pushing up through the heel of your supporting leg and bringing your rear leg back to the starting position.

The Wide Grip Pull-Up is really going to target the Latissimus Dorsi, but it will engage ALL the muscles of the back as well as the biceps and triceps. Step up to the pull-up bar and take a wide, overhand grip. Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar, then lower back down until your arms are fully extended. Keeping your feet spread wide (an ‘X Pull-up’ for P90X fans!) will help minimize “kipping” or swinging your feet to gain momentum. Since the focus of this workout is hypertrophy, you’ll want to stick to strict pull-ups.

Of course there are alternatives to a strict pull-up without assistance as shown below. If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar or are unable to perform a full repetition of an unassisted pull-up you can use a properly secured resistance band or a pull-up assist device – check out the discussion of these alternatives in the Iso Strength Chisel workout.

Round 3 
The Military Press is often done with a barbell, but can be performed with dumbbells just as effectively. Set your bench to a full upright position, grab your weights, sit down and rest the dumbbells on the tops of your thighs. Depending on how much weight you’re using, you can ‘kick up’ the weight by kicking your knee up. Position dumbbells to each side of shoulders with elbows below wrists, to execute the move press dumbbells upward until arms are extended overhead. Lower to sides of shoulders and repeat. The primary target for this exercise is the Anterior Deltoid (front shoulder).

The Bulgarian Split Squat gets a lot of play in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel; you’ll experience different variations and protocols in Chisel Balance (split squat jump), Iso Strength Chisel (focused isometric holds) and Max Hammer Strength (as a prelude to weighted step-ups).  Today you’ll be picking one weight and doing three sets in a declining pyramid of 10-8-6 reps, the format should be familiar and rests between individual sets is kept to a minimum. The first half of the round you’ll target the left leg, on the second half you’ll hit the right.

Position your forward leg so as you drop down into the squat you’re achieving a 90 degree angle in the forward knee, the ball of your back foot should be on the bench, this will force you to focus more on balance (as opposed to laying the top of your foot flat on the bench). The further your front leg is from the bench the more this move will target the glutes; maintaining the 90 degree angle in the bent knee will emphasize the quadriceps.

The Posterior Delt Fly is probably one of my favorite movements in this workout and it’s a killer because it’s cued up last. Use your bench as shown for stability, the primary movement is transverse abduction, that means you’re moving the weight and your arm away from the center line of your body, in a horizontal plane. You will be able to feel your shoulder blade squeezing at the top of this move, that is scapula retraction and the target muscle is the posterior (rear) deltoid, the small muscle in the back of the shoulder. Keep your arm straight as you lift up and away from your body, keep your back flat and your chin down to concentrate the effort on the rear delt.

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