Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout: Week 8

Welcome to Week 8 of the Strength Foundation 12-Week workout program from UC Berkeley fitness operations director and premier strength coach Devin Wicks. This is the final week of Month 2, the goals of which are listed below. Next month we add sets and weight, and bring down the reps again. Month 3 starts to go for some bulk, and you'll start lifting every day. So this is your last chance to solidify your gains so far. Really make sure to push hard through each set. For some familiar exercises, you may be able to add weight over your previous levels. If so, go for it! For cardio, you’ll do the same as last week, hopefully with less of a struggle, and greater success maintaining your threshold. (See the FAQs for an overview of threshold cardio and sprints.) If you can, try to get back to 40 minutes on the treadmill. Let’s wrap up Month 2 in style.
The Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout program is broken into three months, each with distinct goals. You are now in Month 2: Skill

Month 2 (Skill): Primary Goals
  1. Build on the foundation laid in Month 1 using greater intensity and heavier weights.
  2. Improve stability by training smaller, stabilizing muscles in addition to large muscle groups targeted in Month 1. This is key to moving on to heavier lifting in Month 3.
  3. Create a platform for greater strength development through functional training—teaching the body to function as a unit rather than a series of individual muscle groups. This involves closed kinetic chain and balance exercises, which make lifting, holding, and stabilizing your own weight a significant part of your workout. For example, lunges replace the leg machine exercises.
  4. Develop understanding of correct form—keep all movements slow, controlled, and stable.
  5. Train nervous system to fire more efficiently by using exercises that target muscles in new ways.
  6. Improve cardiac efficiency by developing threshold and sprint training, and integrating more challenging cardio equipment (i.e. the treadmill).


Exercise Muscles Weight (Goal) Set 1 Reps (Goal) Set 1 Reps (Actual) Set 2 Reps (Goal) Set 2 Reps (Actual) Set 3 Reps (Goal) Set 3 Reps (Actual)
Barbell Squats Legs Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10 - 12
Flat Bench Barbell Press Chest Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10 - 12
Seated Cable Rows Back Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10 - 12
Dumbbell Military Presses Shoulders Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10-12
Seated Reverse Flys Shoulders Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10-12
Concentration Curls Biceps Rep Max 10 - 12 10 – 12 10 - 12
Cable Rope Power Overhead Skull Crushers Triceps Rep Max 10 - 12 10 - 12 10 - 12
Medicine Ball Russian Twists Abdominals (Obliques) Rep Max 20 20 N/A
Roman Chair Abdominals (Center and Lower) N/A 20 20 N/A
Exercise Time Overview
Treadmill 30 Minutes Do 30 - 40 minutes of running on the treadmill. At each 5 minute interval, include 1 minute at your threshold, for a total of 3 intervals.
  1. For the first 10 minutes, achieve and maintain an RPE of 6 - 7.
  2. At minute 10, spend one minute at threshold—an RPE of 8 - 9. Don't just go faster—use a balance of incline and speed to achieve greater intensity.
  3. At minute 11, return to your RPE of 6 - 7.
  4. Repeat the preceding interval twice more, at minutes 15 and 20, each time achieving and maintaining threshold for a full minute, and returning to an RPE of 6 - 7 until the next interval.
  5. Cool down at an RPE of 5 - 6 for your last five minutes.
See How to Calculate Your RPE for an overview of this heart-rate tracking methodology.
Note: We have shortened your cardio time for this week to allow for the increased intensity of thresholds on the treadmill, especially now that the treadmill is on your lifting days. But if you want to push harder, feel free to run for longer!
Exercise Overview
Barbell Squats Rack an Olympic bar at shoulder level. Stand upright in front of the barbell so that it is resting across your shoulders and behind your neck. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward at a natural angle. Hold the barbell on either side of your neck about one foot more than shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing forward. Lift the barbell off the rack and step back to give you room to squat. You may want to practice with a dowel or weightless bar if you haven't done this exercise before. Slowly lower down toward a fully squatted position, pulling your weight down through your leg muscles as you descend, and thinking about sitting down rather than back. Push your chest out very slightly in front of you to counterbalance the heavy load on your heels. Your back should maintain a natural arch; do not over-arch. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, you will have reached the depth of the squat. Reverse motion and drive up through your feet to return to the starting position.
Flat Bench Barbell Press Lie on your back on a flat bench with a barbell on the rack over your upper body. The barbell should be at a level corresponding to the distance from your elbow to your hand when your elbows are bent at right angles at your sides. Take the barbell in your hands with your hands wider than shoulder-distance apart and your palms facing toward your feet. With the barbell still on the rack, contract your shoulder blades together and downward to raise your chest toward the bar. Engage your abdominals by pulling them in toward your spine to create a muscular "weight belt". You will use this technique to keep your back flat throughout the exercise—do not, at any time, permit your back to arch. Lift the bar off the rack and, keeping it steady, bend and lower your elbows to the side until they are at the level of your back. The bar should not touch or bounce off of your chest at any point. Keeping your head and neck in line with your spine and your back flat on the bench by engaging your abs, slowly press the bar directly toward the ceiling. Controlling the motion, return the bar to the position just above your chest, with your elbows at the level of your back.
Seated Cable Rows Sit on the floor or on a flat bench at a cable row station holding a double-handle attachment with your elbows tucked in and your arms extended with palms facing. Your hands should be slightly less than shoulder distance apart. Your back should be flat, your chest out, your abs engaged into your spine, your posture tall, and your legs slightly bent. Pull the handles in toward your stomach, leading with your pinkies and squeezing the shoulder blades together as you pull. Imagine you are trying to wrap your elbows around behind your back. Keep your back flat, your abs engaged strong into your spine, and a tall posture as you pull. When you have pulled the handles all the way in to your abdomen, reverse direction and return to the starting position, resisting the pull of the cable through your lats as you extend your arms. Do not let your elbows come wide as your arms extend.
Dumbbell Military Presses Holding dumbbells in both hands, stand with feet hip width apart. Bring the dumbbells to just above your shoulders, with your palms facing forward and your elbows bent down and to the side. Press both weights straight up from the shoulder toward the ceiling until your arms are extended and your elbows straight. Try to keep your shoulders down as you do this: no shrugging. Do not bring the weights around in an arc — they should not touch at the top of your lift; rather, push straight upward. From the top of your lift, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells, again in a straight vertical line, to just above your shoulders.
Seated Reverse Flys Holding dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing in toward you, sit on a flat bench your feet together on the floor in front of you. Lean your upper body over your thighs, allowing the dumbbells to hang down on either side of your legs. Tilt the dumbbells at a slight angle so that your pinky will lead the hand in the outward movement. Your elbows should stay soft (slightly bent) throughout the exercise. From the starting position, simultaneously extend both arms up and out to the sides using the back of your shoulders to do work. Maintain the position of your arms as you lift and keep your traps relaxed throughout movement (do not shrug). Extend out until your arms are level with your back, and then reverse direction and slowly return to your starting position, maintaining flexion in your rear deltoids as you lower the dumbbells back down.
Concentration Curls Sit on the end of a flat bench, with your thighs spread into a V-formation. Lean your upper body forward. Grasp a dumbbell in one arm, with the palm facing forward. Bring that elbow to rest against your inner thigh, and let the weight hang down. From the starting position, keep your elbow pressed against your thigh as you slowly curl the weight up. Keep your torso, upper arm, elbow and leg all still. At the top of the lift, twist your wrist so that the pinkie turns toward your body. Squeeze your bicep briefly at the end of the motion, and then slowly lower the weight. Complete an entire set on one side, then switch the weight to the other hand for the next set.
Cable Rope Power Overhead Skull Crushers Attach a double-handled rope attachment to the high setting on a cable machine. Take the handles in each hand and take them overhead as you turn around, so that you end up with your back to the machine and the rope handles in each hand behind your neck. Stand tall with your elbows bent but held high, and your hands together. Straighten your elbows to bring your hands straight up into the air, ending with your arms fully extended above you and slightly in front of vertical. Your motion should be controlled but swift and powerful, as though you were throwing the handles toward the ceiling; focus on engaging your triceps. Bend your elbows to return your hands to the starting position, letting your triceps stretch at the bottom of your movement.
Medicine Ball Russian Twists Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball in both hands at chest level. Engage your transverse abdominals (the horizontal band of muscle below your belly button) and keep your back flat as you lean your upper body behind vertical, no more than 30 degrees. Keep your chest lifted so that you don't slump, and rotate sideways to bring the ball around to the side as you extend your arms. Touch the ball lightly to the floor beside your hip, and then bend your elbows and bring the ball back to your chest as you straighten your body. Immediately repeat on the other side, rotating your upper body as you extend your arms and tap the ball to the floor beside your other hip. You have now completed one repetition.
Roman Chair Place your forearms on the armpads of the Roman Chair and lightly grip the upright handles. Lift yourself into the chair, allowing your back to press lightly against the back pads, making sure that your shoulders are level. It is very important that you not hyperextend, or pop upwards, through your shoulders. Bring both knees simultaneously upward toward your chest in a smooth and controlled motion. Try not to shove your back and hips against the pads of the chair. From the top of your lift, pause momentarily, then slowly lower your legs back to straight. Go slow and stay controlled: this whole exercise depends on your not swinging through your legs.


Photo Credit: Nicolas Smith and Andrew Giammarco