The Muscle Building Workout Routine

Are you an intermediate or advanced trainee looking to build muscle mass fast? If so, welcome to the program I simply call The Muscle Building Workout Routine.

The Muscle Building Workout Routine is the completely FREE weight training program that I recommend most often to people looking to build any amount of muscle mass as fast as possible.

This workout routine is designed to work for both men and women, young and old, people looking to build a significant amount of muscle and get “big” or build a small amount of muscle and just get “toned.”

Basically, if you’re past the beginner’s stage and your primary goal is building muscle or improving the way your body looks in virtually any capacity, this program is for you.

Now let’s get down to the details…

The Schedule

The Muscle Building Workout Routine uses an upper/lower split, which is the split most often used and recommended by literally every single expert whose opinions I value (as opposed to the drugged up genetic freaks whose opinions are meaningless).

The big reason the upper/lower split gets so much love is because it allows for each muscle group/body part to be trained to some degree between once every 3rd and 5th day depending on the specific split variation you choose (more on those in a second).

And, as I’ve previously explained, this workout frequency of about-twice-per-week is what is scientifically proven to work best for building muscle for anyone past the beginner’s stage.

So, let’s take a look at the 2 most common versions of the upper/lower split…

Upper/Lower Split: 4 Day Version

  1. Monday: Upper Body A Workout
  2. Tuesday: Lower Body A Workout
  3. Wednesday: off
  4. Thursday: Upper Body B Workout
  5. Friday: Lower Body B Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

In this 4 day version, each muscle group gets trained once every 3rd or 4th day, which is right within the ideal frequency range for building muscle mass at the optimal rate.

While this specific template is probably the most common (people like having weekends off), the exact days you choose really doesn’t matter as long as the same 2 on/1 off/2 on/2 off format is kept intact.

Upper/Lower Split: 3 Day Version

Week 1

  1. Monday: Upper Body A Workout
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body A Workout
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Upper Body B Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Lower Body B Workout
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Upper Body A Workout
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Lower Body A Workout
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

In this 3 day version, each muscle group gets trained once every 4th or 5th day. While it is just slightly less frequent than the 4 day version, it’s still perfectly within the ideal frequency range for building muscle mass at the optimal rate.

And once again, while this template is usually the most common, the exact days you choose doesn’t matter at all as long as the same 1 on/1 off/1 on/1 off/1 on/2 off format is kept in tact.

Now Select Your Version Of The Upper/Lower Split

So, those are the two scheduling options for The Muscle Building Workout Routine. All you need to do is pick one.

They will both work perfectly, so you honestly can’t go wrong with either version. Just pick the one the seems best for you, your preferences and your schedule.

If you need help deciding, check out my more detailed breakdown of both versions here: upper/lower split.

(NEW: Two additional versions of the upper/lower split are now included in the expanded version of this routine, which is only available in The Best Workout Routines. One of those new splits is my favorite of all.)

The Workouts

Just like most weight training programs built around the upper/lower split, The Muscle Building Workout Routine divides everything up into 2 different types of workouts.

One will train your entire upper body to some degree (chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps), and one will train your entire lower body to some degree (quads, hamstrings, calves, and abs as well).

You will then do 2 (or about 2) of each workout per week depending on exactly which variation of the split you decide to use (again, either will be perfect).

So, let’s take a look at the workouts…

The Muscle Building Workout Routine: Upper Body A

  1. Bench Press
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Rows
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Lat Pull-Downs
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  5. Lateral Raises
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
  6. Triceps Press-Downs
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
  7. Dumbbell Curls
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

The Muscle Building Workout Routine: Lower Body A

  1. Romanian Deadlifts
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Leg Press
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Seated Leg Curls
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Standing Calf Raises
    4 sets of 6-8 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  5. Abs
    x sets of 8-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

The Muscle Building Workout Routine: Upper Body B

  1. Pull-Ups
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Barbell Shoulder Press
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Seated Cable Row
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Dumbbell Bench Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  5. Dumbbell Flyes
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
  6. Barbell Curls
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.
  7. Skull Crushers
    2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

The Muscle Building Workout Routine: Lower Body B

  1. Squats
    3 sets of 6-8 reps.
    2-3 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Split Squats
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Laying Leg Curls
    3 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Seated Calf Raises
    4 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1-2 minutes rest between sets.
  5. Abs
    x sets of 8-15 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

As you can see from the workouts, each one is focused primarily on the most effective compound exercises with just the right amount of secondary focus on isolation exercises as well.

There is also damn near perfect balance among the opposing movement patterns, and the exercises in each workout are ordered in terms of most demanding to least demanding (the exact way it should be).

As you can also see, the intensity/rep ranges and rest intervals between sets for each exercise is exactly what it should be for building muscle, and the volume for each muscle group both per workout and per week total is all perfectly within the optimal volume range for intermediate/advanced trainees looking to build muscle mass.

So, what I’m trying to say is, all of the factors and components that work best for building muscle have been brought together perfectly in one ideal workout routine.

Workout Order & Scheduling

As shown, The Muscle Building Workout Routine contains 4 different workouts. There’s 2 upper body workouts (A and B) and 2 lower body workouts (A and B).

In case it isn’t obvious enough, they are meant to be done in this order whether you use the 3 or 4 day upper/lower split:

  1. Upper Body A
  2. Lower Body A
  3. Upper Body B
  4. Lower Body B

(If this is still confusing, just go back to the upper/lower split options I showed you earlier. I’ve laid out how you’d schedule the 4 workouts over the course of the week using either version of the split.)

Details, Guidelines and Clarifications

Now to answer any questions you may have, clear up any confusion that may be present, and explain how to make it all work as effectively as possible.

General guidelines of The Muscle Building Workout Routine:

  • For each exercise, you should use the same weight each set. Meaning, if it says to do 3 sets of an exercise, you’d use the same weight on all 3 sets. For example…
    Right Way: 100lbs, 100lbs, 100lbs.
    Wrong Way: 95lbs, 100lbs, 105lbs.
    When you are able to lift a given weight for the amount of sets and reps that are prescribed for that exercise, you’d then increase the weight by the smallest possible increment the next time you do that exercise. You’d then repeat this process of progression as often as you can. (I’ll explain this in much more detail in a minute.)
  • The number of sets listed does NOT include warm up sets. Those are the actual work sets only. Warm up as needed.
  • The order the exercises are listed in is the order they are supposed to be done in. Don’t change it.
  • You are meant to be doing all of the exercises listed for each workout. However, if you come across something your gym doesn’t have or something you honestly cannot do due to some preexisting injury (or some other REALLY good reason), do the next closest match instead. (I’ll give some suggestions below.)
  • The split, frequency, exercise selection, prescribed amount of sets, reps and rest intervals for each exercise, the total amount of volume… it’s all for a reason and it is all meant to remain and be done EXACTLY as I have written it. DO NOT SCREW WITH IT LIKE AN IDIOT.

Details and clarifications for Upper Body A:

  • The Upper Body A workout starts with the bench press. This is meant be a flat barbell bench press. I recommend having a spotter if possible. Besides being important for obvious safety reasons, not having one may make you afraid of trying for an additional rep, and this could hinder your progress.
  • Up next is a row, which basically means some type of horizontal pull (meaning back row exercise). Pretty much any type of back row would be fine here, so pick your favorite. If I had to make a suggestion, I might go with a chest supported row of some sort because chest supported rowing doesn’t require any real lower back stabilization like a bent over barbell row would. And, since you will be deadlifting the next day, this may be a beneficial choice for some people. Otherwise, feel free pick any type of horizontal back row you want (chest supported row, any Hammer Strength machine row if your gym has them, a bent over barbell or dumbbell row, t-bar rows, whatever). As long as it’s a back row of some sort, it’s fine. If you think you’d benefit from not using any lower back the day before doing deadlifts, then stick with something chest supported to give your lower back a break. If not, pick anything.
  • For incline pressing, I recommend incline dumbbell presses. Technically any type of incline press will do here. Barbell, dumbbell, machine (Hammer Strength makes an incline chest press that I love). But, my first choice recommendation would definitely be for the incline dumbbell press (in which case be sure to set the bench to a 30 degree incline or slightly less, not more).
  • For lat pull downs, I recommend using an underhand grip (meaning your palms will face you) or a neutral grip (palms face each other… this grip is much less stressful on your elbows/wrists). This is because I’m going to recommend an overhand grip (palms face away from you) during the Upper Body B workout. You’ll see. Also, these are to be done in front of your head… never behind the neck.
  • For laterals raises, you can really do whatever lateral raise you want. With dumbbells (seated or standing, one arm at a time or both together), with cables, with a lateral raise machine if your gym has a decent one. Just pick your favorite.
  • For the triceps exercise, I recommend cable press downs using pretty much whatever type of handle you like best. I personally prefer the v-bar or rope.
  • For the biceps exercise on this day, I recommend any type of dumbbell curl (standing, seated, on a preacher bench, whatever). Pick your favorite.

Details and clarifications for Lower Body A:

  • The Lower Body A workout begins with the Romanian deadlift. I recommend using a double overhand grip as opposed to a mixed grip (which would be one hand over, one hand under).
  • For the leg presses, you can do these the traditional way (both legs at the same time) or single leg if possible. Also, this is meant to be done in a 45 degree leg press. If your gym doesn’t have one, then use whatever leg press they do have.
  • For the leg curls, some gyms have a few different types of leg curl machines… seated, standing, and laying. You can really pick any one you want.
  • Next up is standing calf raises. If your gym doesn’t have a standing calf raise machine, feel free to do calf presses in the 45 degree leg press.
  • For abs, do a few sets of whatever you want. Just don’t go too crazy… no more than 10 minutes or so. I’m a fan of basic stuff like weighted crunches, hanging leg raises, planks, etc.. Keep it simple.

Details and clarifications for Upper Body B:

  • The Upper Body B workout starts with pull-ups. Use an overhand grip. If you are unable to do pull-ups, you can do lat pull-downs or some form of assisted pull-up in its place (still using an overhand grip). It’s fine. However, you should make it your eventual goal to be able to do pull-ups and actually work towards eventually doing them here. These are still to be done in front of your head… never behind the neck. Also, if you are someone who can already do 3 sets of 6-8 pull ups, then you need to add weight. Search around online for what’s called a “pull-up belt” (also called a “dip belt”) and buy one. It will allow you to add additional weight to body weight exercises like pull-ups and dips. It’s one of the only training products I fully recommend, and when your own body weight becomes too easy for you, it’s a requirement for progressive overload to take place.
  • For the shoulder press, I recommended doing either seated barbell presses (in front of you, not behind the neck) or seated dumbbell presses, although any sort of overhead press will probably be fine.
  • Up next are seated cable rows, which would ideally be done with a parallel/neutral grip (palms facing each other). If your gym doesn’t have a handle like that, any other grip is fine. If your gym doesn’t have a seated cable row altogether for some reason, feel free to do any other similar horizontal back row in its place.
  • Up next is the flat dumbbell bench press. Nothing more to add here really.
  • After that we have dumbbell flyes. These are meant to be done on a flat or low incline bench, but if you’d rather do some type of cable fly or use a pec deck machine instead, that’s perfectly fine too.
  • For the biceps exercise, I recommend standing barbell curls with an EZ curl bar (it’s much less stressful on your wrists/elbows). You could technically do any other type of curl instead if wanted to, though.
  • For the triceps exercise, I recommend skull crushers. I recommend doing these with an EZ curl bar (same reason, it’s much more comfortable on the wrists/elbows than a straight bar) or with dumbbells (palms facing each other). These can be done on a flat or decline bench. Either is just fine. And again, if preferred, any similar triceps isolation exercise would be perfectly suitable in its place.

Details and clarifications for Lower Body B:

  • The Lower Body B workout starts with squats. That means barbell back squats, by the way.
  • For the split squats, feel free to use a barbell or dumbbells. If you’ve never done any kind of split squat or lunge variation before, I’d recommend starting with dumbbells instead of a barbell. It will be easier (and safer) to learn how to balance yourself properly.
  • For the leg curls, I’d recommend using a different type of leg curl machine than you used in the Lower Body A workout, assuming your gym actually has more than 1 type of leg curl machine. If your gym only has one kind, do it one leg at a time in the A workout, and both legs together in this workout. Or, if preferred, hyperextensions would be fine here as well.
  • Up next is seated calf raises. Not much more to add here.
  • For abs, do a few sets of whatever you want. Just don’t go too crazy… no more than 10 minutes or so. I’m a fan of basic stuff like weighted crunches, hanging leg raises, planks, etc.. Keep it simple.

The Method of Progression

As with any intelligent weight training program, the most important aspect of all is progression. The Muscle Building Workout Routine is no different.

So, here’s how I recommend you progress.

For each exercise, I have prescribed a number of sets to do. You may have noticed that I also prescribed a range of reps for each exercise (6-8, 8-10 or 10-12) rather than one exact number.

What this means is, when you are capable of doing all of your prescribed sets for somewhere within that prescribed rep range, that’s when you increase the weight by the smallest possible increment the next time you do that exercise.

If you are unable to reach the set and rep range with a given weight, then your goal is to simply get additional reps in each of your sets until you reach that prescribed set and rep goal.

Still confused? Here’s a full example of exactly what I mean…

An Example Of How To Progress

For the bench press in the Upper Body A workout, I prescribed 3 sets of 6-8 reps. Now, let’s pretend you currently bench press 100lbs. Your workout may look like this:

  • Set #1: 100lbs – 8 reps
  • Set #2: 100lbs – 7 reps
  • Set #3: 100lbs – 6 reps

In this example, you have successfully reached the prescribed 3 sets of 6-8 reps with whatever weight you were using (100lbs in this example). Congrats. You were able to do between 6 and 8 reps in all of the 3 sets.

This means that the next time you do this Upper Body A workout, you should increase the weight you lift on the bench press by the smallest increment possible (usually 5lbs). This means next time your workout may look like this:

  • Set #1: 105lbs – 7 reps
  • Set #2: 105lbs – 6 reps
  • Set #3: 105lbs – 5 reps

In this example, you increased your bench press by 5lbs. This is good and means progressive overload has occurred. However, in this example you failed to get all 3 sets in the 6-8 rep range.

Don’t feel bad, it’s perfectly normal and expected to happen. It just means that during your next Upper Body A workout, your goal is to increase in reps instead of weight. So, the next time you bench press it may go like this:

  • Set #1: 105lbs – 8 reps
  • Set #2: 105lbs – 7 reps
  • Set #3: 105lbs – 6 reps

In this example, you were able to successfully add an additional rep to all of your sets. Congrats, progressive overload has occurred once again.

This also means that all of your sets are now in the 6-8 rep range, and this means you can go up to 110lbs the next Upper Body A workout. It may go something like this:

  • Set #1: 110lbs – 7 reps
  • Set #2: 110lbs – 5 reps
  • Set #3: 110lbs – 4 reps

In this example, more progressive overload has occurred as you have gone up 5lbs on your bench press. However, you’ll notice that the second and third sets are below your prescribed 6-8 rep range. As you just learned, this is perfectly normal. It just means your goal next time is to try to get additional reps.

So, let’s say next time comes around and you get reps of 7, 6, 5. Good job, more progressive overload has been made.

Then, the next workout comes along and you get 8, 6, 5. Congrats again.

And then the next workout comes along and you get 8, 7, 6 or 8, 7, 7 or 8, 6, 6, or 8, 8, 7 or 8, 8, 8 or anything similar.

Perfect… all 3 sets are now within the prescribed 6-8 rep range. You’d then go to 115lbs the next time and repeat this whole process all over again.

Basically, as long as your first set reaches the top end of the prescribed rep range (8 in this example) and the other sets are anywhere within the range, you should increase the weight being lifted by the smallest possible increment the next time you do that exercise.

And, just in case it needs to be said, this is EXACTLY how you should progress with every exercise and every prescribed set and rep goal. Whether it’s 3 sets of 6-8, 3 sets of 8-10, 2 sets of 10-12 or whatever else.

The process of progression should happen just like the above example, with the only difference being that you’d be going for a different set and rep range goal for different exercises.

I will also mention that you will have workouts where you are unable to progress on certain exercises, but are able to progress on others. You’ll also have workouts where you may not be able to progress on anything in any way. In some cases this may go on for a while with certain exercises (especially isolation).

Don’t worry about it. Don’t get pissed off. Don’t feel bad. Don’t think you had a useless workout. Don’t think you need to change anything. You don’t. This is normal.

While The Muscle Building Workout Routine is designed to build muscle mass as fast as possible, it’s still a slow, gradual process. If we could all add 10lbs to every exercise every workout, we’d all be lifting thousands of pounds by now. It just doesn’t work like that.

All you need to do is make it your goal to make some form of progression take place on every exercise as often as you can (while still using perfect form, of course). Whether it’s as little as 1 extra rep in 1 set or as much as 5 more pounds on every set, it’s all progression just the same.

As long as you are doing this and are gradually progressing in some way over time, the progressive overload principle will be in effect and the results you want will follow.

A Muscle Building Diet Plan Is REQUIRED

No matter how perfectly designed your weight training workout routine is (and The Muscle Building Workout Routine is pretty damn perfectly designed), and no matter how perfectly you execute it, this still only accounts for just half of the muscle building equation.

The other half is your diet.

You MUST eat right to support your goal of building muscle. If you don’t, this program (and every other program) will fail to work every single time.

The full details of how to properly set up your diet are here: How To Create The Perfect Diet Plan

The NEW Expanded Version Is Here!

You asked, I answered. The ALL NEW expanded edition of this routine is now available! It contains 2 NEW versions of the upper/lower split (one of which is my favorite of them all) and 5 NEW versions of the workouts that incorporate new set and rep ranges, new methods, new adjustments and more.

You can now get it all as part of my brand new guide to The Best Workout Routines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Just in case you still have any additional questions about The Muscle Building Workout Routine, here are some additional answers.

What if it all just seems like it’s too much for me? Like I need to do a little less or something? What’s the best way to do that?

You have 3 choices here.

  1. You can reduce frequency. This would definitely be my first choice. If you’re using the 4 day upper/lower split, just switch to the 3 day version. The slightly lowered frequency/extra day of rest between each workout should GREATLY improve any recovery related issues you may have. If you’re already using the 3 day version and it still seems like it’s too much for you, see below.
  2. You can reduce volume. Change all of the exercises that call for 3 sets of 8-10 to 2 sets of 10 instead. If it STILL feels like it’s too much for you, see below.
  3. You can remove accessory isolation exercises. For example, remove lateral raises and dumbbell flyes from the upper body workouts.
  4. You can do a combination of the 3 choices above.

How should I warm up?

Everything you need to know about warm up sets (including specific examples using this exact workout routine) can be found here: Warming Up For Weight Training Exercises

What’s Next?

Well, if you’ve ended up here as a result of following my guide to creating The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine, then the only remaining step is to bring this guide to its conclusion and pass along some final important information. Let’s do that…

The End Of The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine

(This article is part of a completely free and awesome guide to creating the absolute best workout routine possible for your exact goal. Check it out: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)

Need a workout routine that's already proven to work? Get one: The Best Workout Routines

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