12 - 10 - 8 - 6 - 12 - 12

The following is a challenging bodybuilding workout appropriate for young seniors and some older trainees who have progressed beyond beginner stage. This workout, along with a proper diet, will build muscle and will get you in top shape! However, older out-of-shape beginners should first start with the beginners' program.

It's not a puzzle or math problem. The numbers 12, 10, 8, 6, 12, 12 represent exercise repetitions in consecutive sets. Bill Phillips gets credit for popularizing the sequence in his best selling book, Body-for-Life.

  • In the Body-for-Life version, the first set of 12 reps is a warm-up, an effort of 5 (nice and easy) on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • After a 1-minute rest (you rest 1 minute between sets except the last 2), the next set (10 reps) gets a little tougher than the first set of 12.
  • The set of 8 gets tougher yet.
  • By the time you reach the set of 6, you should be using pretty heavy weights.
  • Then you drop back to the weight you used for 8 reps, and squeeze out 12 reps. It should be an effort of about a 9.
  • Without rest, immediately go to the last set (of 12)--doing a different exercise, but one emphasizing the same muscle group, and make an all-out effort to get 12 reps. In other words, on your last set of 12, you go to technical failure. On the difficulty scale of 1 to 10, this last set is your 10. If you think you could have gotten one more rep, make a note to increase the poundage for that last set of 12 at your next workout. On the other hand, if you could not get 12 reps, make a note to reduce the weight next time.
  • Now you rest for 2-minutes, and then, using the same formula, move on to the next muscle group.

I like the sequence and have used it many times. When my wife, Patty, entered the Body-for-Life Transformation Challenge (she was one of the top finishers in 2000, incidentally), she followed it to the letter, and I trained along with her. The only part I don't care for is training to failure. Although we both trained to failure when she was taking the Challenge, I find that kind of intensity over an extended period leads to exercise burnout.

Later, when I did 12, 10, 8, 6, 12, 12, the last two sets were were tough reps, but I'd nearly always stop short of going to failure. In other words, if I had to I could get at least one and maybe even two more reps on my last set.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with people who are in good shape testing their absolute limits. But I don't think it's a good idea to go all-out at every workout, long term, even if you do it for only one set for each body part. I believe by stopping short of failure you are more likely to stick to an exercise program.

Do the weight training 3 days per week, with at least one day of rest between workouts. Alternate between upper- and lower-body days. On your weight training days off, do 20 minutes of intense cardio, such as sprint intervals. Take one rest day each week.

Here is one version of 12, 10, 8, 6, 12, 12. I've selected some exercises I like for each body part. Use either mine or put in your own favorites.

Upper Body Day


  • Dumbbell Bench Press                  12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Dumbbell Flyes                            12


  • Dumbbell Overhead Press             12, 10, 8, 6. 12 Dumbbell Side Raise                     12


  • 1-Arm Dumbbell Rowing               12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Dumbbell Pullovers                       12


  • Dumbbell French Press                 12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Lying Triceps Extensions               12


  • Dumbbell Curls                            12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Hammer Curls                             12

Lower Body Day


  • Leg Press                                     12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Leg Extensions                              12


  • Lunges (Dumbbells)                      12, 10, 8, 6, 12 Leg Curls                                      12


  • Donkey Calf Raise                        12, 10, 8, 6, 12 One-Leg Calf Raise                       12


  • Hanging Leg Raise                        12, 10, 8, 2, 12 Decline Sit-Ups                             12

Relax and softly stretch for a few minutes after completing your workouts.

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