My doctor has instructed me to stop doing all leg exercises, and as such I know have to revise my workout routine. I am considering building a custom A/B split upper-body routine and doing my rehabilitation + abs on the rest days. Here is what I came up with off the top of my head:

A/B Split Routine:

_____________ A ____________|____________ B ______________
| Overhead Press 5x5        |   Overhead Press 5x5       |
| Bench Press 5x5           |   Bench Press 5x5          |
| Bentover Barbell Row 5x5  |   Bentover Barbell Row 5x5 |
| Pull Ups 3x15             |   Chin Ups 3x15            |
| Wide Push Ups 3x30        |   Inverted Row 3x8         |


  • Gastroc - 5 minutes
  • Piriformis - 5 minutes
  • Hip abductor - 5 minutes
  • Glutes - 10 minutes
  • Planks - 5 minutes
  • Side Planks - 5 minutes
  • Cable Crunch - 3x20 (200lb)

A one week sample would be: A / Rehab / B / Rehab / A / Rehab / rest

I have two concerns with this program:

  1. There is not enough rest. Even though the rehab portion is just stretching and can be done anytime, the abs portion has me slightly worried I might over-stress my body when it should be resting. Is this a valid concern?
  2. Not enough exercise diversity. I am concerned that my exercises might not be as balanced as they could be. What upper-body exercises should I add or take away from the program to make it more balanced? (leg exercises are off the table)
  • Why not put abs on your work days so that your rehab days are real rest days?
    – user4644
    Feb 13, 2013 at 19:23
  • About #2, in what way do you believe this to be unbalanced? The only thing I see is that it leaves out your spinal erectors. Maybe add back extensions? But they use hamstrings, so perhaps you've ruled them out.
    – user4644
    Feb 13, 2013 at 19:29
  • Sorry about all the questions! I don't have a real answer for you, but just have some things I think you should think about or clarify for us... What is the purpose of the push-ups when you're already doing bench? What is the purpose of the inverted rows, when you're already doing bent over rows and pull-ups/chin-ups?
    – user4644
    Feb 13, 2013 at 19:36
  • @Kate I put abs on the rest days because I imagine I will be too exhausted at the end of the A/B workouts to do the planks/crunches. As far as why I'm doing pushups/inverted rows, it was mostly just supplemental exercises for building bulk.
    – Moses
    Feb 13, 2013 at 21:32
  • @DaveLiepmann Health is my primary goal, but only with regard to the rehab days. size and strength would be my primary goals.
    – Moses
    Feb 13, 2013 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


Wow, that's a lot of volume

Doing 5x5 overhead press and 5x5 bench press is a lot for one day. Doing that, and 5x5 rows, AND three sets of 15 pull-ups is doggone impressive. Even if your pressing weights are puny, that's quite a lot of work. If you can do it, awesome.

My inclination is to lower the volume and make your A and B days more distinct. I'd use a primary movement in each, an assistance movement for the non-primary movement, and a handful of prehab exercises to keep the shoulders happy. Perhaps something like this:

_____________ A ____________|____________ B ______________
| Overhead Press 3x5        |   Bench Press 3x5          |
| Pull Ups/Chin-Ups: 3 sets |   Bentover barbell row 3x5 |
| Push-ups: 3 sets          |   Handstand work           |
| Dips: 3 sets              |   Inverted Row: 3 sets     |
| Prehab Grab Bag: Cuban presses, band pull-aparts       |

Another way to write this would be:

_____________ A _____________|____________ B _______________
| Barbell overhead push      | Barbell horizontal push     |
| Bodyweight vertical pull   | Barbell horizontal pull     |
| Bodyweight horizontal push | Bodyweight overhead push    |
| Bodyweight downward push   | Bodyweight horizontal pull  |
| Light multi-directional work                             |

Handstand work depends on your shoulder mobility and strength. It could range from inclined (pike) push-ups to handstand holds to full handstand push-ups.

I altered the order of the workout because I like alternating between movements. Doing overhead press then push-ups burns me out, but overhead press then chin-ups then push-ups is much easier.

If it isn't contraindicated by your leg issues, you might do three sets of strict presses, then two sets of push presses for explosive power work that overloads your press. If the push-ups don't challenge you, do clapping or wide or one-handed variations.

I wouldn't be worried about rest days being messed up by a stretching session. I find that my recovery is aided, not hampered, by a ten-minute warm-up and stretching routine in the morning or on rest days. Going for walks helps too. If you are concerned about ab work interfering with recovery during rest days, then reducing the volume as I've outlined should make it possible to put ab work on workout days.

My similar routine

I'm in a similar situation, being barred from squats and deadlifts for a time. But I'm also barred from barbell pressing as well. Here's what I'm doing:

_____________ A _____________
| Pull-ups: 3 sets
| Dips: 3 sets 
| Band pull-aparts: 1 set of 10 for each kind
| Inverted rows: 3 sets 

I progress by doing three sets of a number of reps that is moderately challenging. Once it becomes easy, I add one. I do not go to failure.

In the beginning I did five sets because my dips and pull-ups were too weak to get enough volume into each set. Now I find it counterproductive to do a ton of upper-body volume all on one day.

  • Perhaps I should have worded the question better; I was worried the abs/core work would interfere with the rest, not the stretching. Specifically, I know that I will be using the core stabilizer muscles during some of my primary lifts, and that combined with the ab workout on rest days has me worried there will be a negative impact. Also, as far as handstand work, are you referring to handstand push ups, or just free-form balancing handstands?
    – Moses
    Feb 15, 2013 at 18:06
  • @Moses Edited to answer. Feb 19, 2013 at 15:29

That is very similar to the program that I have for upper body strength. My core work is done every training day though. It's usually shorter and varies depending on our trainer. So I did not devise my program. I attend a quite relaxed CrossFit gym that allows for a lot of different work to suit other goals.

So abs might be 3 rds or 30 each of side plank, side plank, hollow position. Only 4.30min.

Or 3 rds 10 slow GHD situps, 15 back extensions, 15 reverse hypers not for time. Probably less an 10 min total.

So I would do, starting on a Monday

A + core | rest day | B + core | rest day | A + core | rest day | rest day

Rest days usually means mobility, foam rolling and stretching. Total workload is a little less than yours. So I think your work load is OK. But I prefer having clear rest days. I definitely benefit.

The workout never really changes. Fundamental upper body strength is probably very similar to fundamental leg strength (squat, squat some more). I do enjoy some of the more gymnastic work, so I sometimes throw in some handstand drills, back levers, front levers, muscle ups etc just for fun.

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