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muscled guy doing military press
25 Days to Vertical Plane Dominance
by: Marc McDougal

Although moments ago you may not have had even a low-grade suspicion that you would not only like to understand, but to dominate the vertical plane…you will soon make it your pilgrimage. You won’t rest until you own the vertical plane. Yesterday’s meaningless banter about politics and financial independence will tomorrow turn into passionate dialogs with unsuspecting friends about Reverse Grip Arc Pull Ups and Bent Presses. Ian King popularized movement plane training organization many years ago. In practice, it is a more precise and advanced way to group workouts as opposed to the traditional body part divisions.

While body part organization is certainly effective, it has the major downfall that it becomes very easy to develop an imbalanced program. Joint integrity depends largely on the balanced development of antagonistic muscles. Many chronic injuries can be prevented and/or treated by finding and fixing imbalances around (or often times one joint proximal to*) the affected joint.

Definitions

Vertical Pushing includes movements that abduct the humerus and/or elevate the scapulae. Compound vertical pushing movements will involve overhead pressing and variations thereof (this also includes less obvious single-joint movements like shrugs, etc). Typically these movements are considered shoulder work by the average gym-goer, but many muscles will come into play with vertical pressing, so you’re not just training shoulders. Vertical Pulling includes movements that depress the scapulae. Things like pull up and pullover variations fall into this category. This is typically referred to as lat work, but vertical pulling encompasses much more than just the lats.

Why Do I Want to Dominate the Vertical Plane?

Neglect, that’s why. The vertical plane is like the last picked kid to play kickball, or the last fat girl to walk the gauntlet at a Navy party. It needs attention. It needs your attention, and it needs your friends’ attention, so get after it. Plus, a program like this will pack some serious attention-grabbing size and strength onto your shoulders, lats, traps, triceps, biceps and corpora cavernosa. The latter will of course be an inevitable result of the previous muscles as you become irresistible to the opposite sex. As with any specialization program, you will be cutting down the volume on your other body parts/movement planes. But don’t worry: they will still get enough work to maintain. And for any program to be effective, make sure your nutrition matches your goals, and you’re *What I mean by this is that often times knee injuries/pains will stem from an imbalance at the hip, just as elbow dysfunction can be the manifested result of an untreated shoulder problem, etc.

The Program:

  • Exercises will be performed in antagonist movement pairs noted by letters/numbers.
  • You will be adding sets and dropping reps with subsequent workouts (with regard to the ‘A’ exercises, i.e. the big moves). Look to increase load by as much as possible without breaking perfect form, typically about 4% per workout. For example if you’re performing an exercise for 4 sets of 6 reps at 225lbs, the next workout you would be performing 5 sets of 5 reps, with an increase of about 4% (which would be 234, so round up to 235). Once you repeat the initial workout, make sure you’re using about 4% more than you used for that rep/set bracket the first time around. Many trainees will find they can even increase load above and beyond that level, just make sure you’re doing so with impeccable form.
  • The last workout of the 25 days adds a high volume twist to complete your irrefutable vertical plane dominance.
  • The exercises are selected and ordered for very specific reasons, so don’t deviate.

Day 1: Vert Push/Vertical Pull 4×6

A1: BB Push Press (4×6)
A2: Weighted Pull Up (4×6)
B1: DB Bent Press (2x10each)
B2: Reverse Grip Arc Pull-Up (2xAMRP) C1: DB Lateral Raise 1+1/3* (2×10)
C2: Decline 2 DB Pullover 1+1/3** (2×10)
*(Raise DB’s slightly above horiz, then down 1/3, back up, then all the way down for 1 rep.) **Hold both DB’s in a neutral grip, lower them to the bottom, back up 1/3, back down, then all the way up until only the leading head of the DB hits the vertical plane for 1 rep.

Day 2: Legs/Abs

A1: BB Full Squat 3×8 A2: Hanging Leg Raise 3xAMRP
B1: Hyperextension 2×10 B2: Cable Crunch 2×12
C1: Knee Extension 1×15 C2: Lying Hamstring Curl 1×12

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Vert Push/Pull 5×5

A1: BB Push Press (5×5)
A2: Weighted Pull Up (5×5)
B1: Vertical Push Up* (2xAMRP)
B2: Slide Pull Up** (2×10) C1: Incline DB Lateral Raise (2×15)
C2: Kneeling Straight Arm Pulldown (2×15)
*Lean against a wall or have a partner hold your feet. Wear underwear, or at the very least, shave your battlefield. *Pronated, Medium Grip. Pull your chin over the bar, slide your chin/body all the way over to your right hand, then all the way over to your left, then back to the middle, then down. This is 1 rep.

Day 5: Horizontal Push/Pull/Arms

A1: Flat Bench Press 3×8 A2: Seated Cable Row 3×8 B1: Low Incline Fly 2×12 B2: Cable Rear Delt Fly 2×12 C1: Incline Curl 2×8 C2: Cable Tricep Pressdown 2×8

Day 6: Off

Day 7: Vert Push/Pull 6×4

A1: BB Push Press (6×4) A2: Weighted Pull Up (6×4) B1: See Saw Press (2×12)
B2: Jump Chins* (2xAMRP) C1: Lean Away Lateral Raise (2×12) C2: Kneeling Cable Scarecrow (2×12
*Close grip chin up, performed explosively enough to throw yourself above the bar at the top, catch, and lower under control.

Day 8: Legs/Abs

A1: BB Full Squat 3×8 A2: Hanging Leg Raise 3xAMRP B1: Hyperextension 2×10 B2: Cable Crunch 2×12 C1: Knee Extension 1×15 C2: Lying Hamstring Curl 1×12

Day 9: Off

Day 10: Vertical Push/Pull 7×3

A1: BB Push Press (7×3) A2: Weighted Pull Up (7×3) B1: DB Lateral Raise 2×15 B2: Decline Cable/Rope Pullover 2×15

Day 11: Horizontal Push/Pull/Arms

A1: Flat Bench Press 3×8 A2: Seated Cable Row 3×8 B1: Low Incline Fly 2×12 B2: Cable Rear Delt Fly 2×12 C1: Incline Curl 2×8 C2: Cable Tricep Pressdown 2×8

Day 12: Off

Day 13: Vertical Push/Pull 4×6 (with original 5×5 load)

A1: BB Push Press (4×6) A2: Weighted Pull Up (4×6) B1: DB Bent Press (2x10each) B2: Reverse Grip Arc Pull-Up (2xAMRP) C1: DB Lateral Raise 1+1/3* (2×10) C2: Decline 2 DB Pullover 1+1/3** (2×10)

Day 14: Legs/Abs

A1: BB Full Squat 3×8 A2: Hanging Leg Raise 3xAMRP B1: Hyperextension 2×10 B2: Cable Crunch 2×12 C1: Knee Extension 1×15 C2: Lying Hamstring Curl 1×12

Day 15: Off

Day 16: Vertical Push/Pull 5×5 (with original 6×4 load)

A1: BB Push Press (5×5) A2: Weighted Pull Up (5×5) B1: Vertical Push Up* (2xAMRP) B2: Slide Pull Up** (2×10) C1: Incline DB Lateral Raise (2×15) C2: Kneeling Straight Arm Pulldown (2×15)

Day 17: Horizontal PushPull/Arms

A1: Flat Bench Press 3×8 A2: Seated Cable Row 3×8 B1: Low Incline Fly 2×12 B2: Cable Rear Delt Fly 2×12 C1: Incline Curl 2×8 C2: Cable Tricep Pressdown 2×8

Day 18: Off

Day 19: Vert Push/Pull 6×4 (with original 7×3 load)

A1: BB Push Press (6×4) A2: Weighted Pull Up (6×4) B1: See Saw Press (2×12) B2: Jump Chins* (2xAMRP) C1: Lean Away Lateral Raise (2×12) C2: Kneeling Cable Scarecrow (2×12

Day 20: Legs/Abs

A1: BB Full Squat 3×8 A2: Hanging Leg Raise 3xAMRP B1: Hyperextension 2×10 B2: Cable Crunch 2×12 C1: Knee Extension 1×15 C2: Lying Hamstring Curl 1×12

Day 21: Off

Day 22: Vert Push/Pull 7×3 (4% heaver than previous workout)

A1: BB Push Press (7×3) A2: Weighted Pull Up (7×3) B1: DB Lateral Raise 2×15 B2: Decline Cable/Rope Pullover 2×15

Day 23: Horizontal Push/Pull/Arms

A1: Flat Bench Press 3×8 A2: Seated Cable Row 3×8 B1: Low Incline Fly 2×12 B2: Cable Rear Delt Fly 2×12 C1: Incline Curl 2×8 C2: Cable Tricep Pressdown 2×8

Day 24: Off

Day 25: Vertical Push/Pull 10×10

A1: Seated DB Overhead Press A2: Pull Up* B1: BB Shrugs 2×12 B2: Kneeling Straight Arm Pulldown 2×12 *When/if you can achieve 8 reps or less in good form, switch to lat pulldown for the duration of the sets. After completion of this program, re-organize workouts into a more balanced fashion. Only perform this specialization workout once every 3-4 months.

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