If you’re reading this, it’s pretty safe to assume that you want to build muscle. Awesome.
When we’re trying to reach this goal, there are 2 very important areas we need to focus on and get right. One of them is our diet. The other is our workout routine.
Now there are PLENTY of ways people screw up their muscle building diet, but we’re not talking about that here. We’ll save that for another day. What we’re talking about here is the second part of that equation… the workouts.
And more often than not, that focus begins with bodybuilding. It makes perfect sense. After all, bodybuilding is literally ALL about building muscle and achieving a body that looks as amazing as possible. It’s what we’re all trying to do.
Therefore, if we want to build muscle as effectively as possible, bodybuilding workouts are clearly the way to do it. Right?
Well, not exactly. That’s because typical bodybuilding workouts absolutely SUCK for building muscle!
I know, I know. That sounds completely incorrect. It sounds backwards and wrong and is the total opposite of what most of us think or would ever believe. But, it’s 100% true.
Brace yourself… I’m about to show you exactly why.
What Is The “Typical” Bodybuilding Routine?
Let’s begin with a definition of what we’re talking about here.
The typical bodybuilding routine may very well be THE most popular type of weight training program among those training for muscle growth. It’s what most of the people in your gym are probably using. It’s what’s been found for decades inside of every single bodybuilding magazine ever made. It’s seen all the time on thousands (possibly millions) of different websites, forums and blogs.
Even if you don’t know it… you probably still know it. It’s the type of workout most of us either start out using or eventually find and switch to. I know I did.
So, what the hell is it?
Well, it’s not one single workout routine. It’s more of a template of common characteristics that, when combined together, form what I (and most people) would consider to be a typical bodybuilding routine. Specifically, it includes some or all of the following…
The “typical” bodybuilding routine is…
- A workout program that uses a low training frequency. One that trains each muscle group just once per week.
- And to do this, it uses a body part split… a schedule that breaks the body up into one or two different muscle groups and trains them throughout the week so that there’s a “chest day” and a “back day” and maybe an “arm day” too.
- And in each of these workouts, there is a very high amount of volume. A lot of sets of a lot of exercises so you can blast the crap out of your muscles and hit them from every angle using a variety of exercises.
- And most of these sets will be done in higher rep ranges… often between 8-15 reps per set (3×10 being most typical). Lower reps are rarely used.
- Many (if not all) sets will be done with shorter rest periods in between them. Longer rest periods are rarely used.
- Many (if not all) sets will be taken to failure. Sometimes beyond failure.
- A pyramid set structure is often employed.
- There’s a large focus on trying to fatigue and isolate the muscles as much as possible via the use of many isolation exercises, advanced methods (e.g. dropsets, forced reps, partial reps, etc.) and exercise technique adjustments.
- There is a significant amount of attention given to “feel,” as in feeling the “pump” and “burn” during the workouts, and causing/experiencing soreness in the day(s) after.
- Changes are usually made frequently. Sometimes to “shock the body and keep the muscles guessing,” sometimes to include more exercises and more methods, and sometimes to generate even more pump and soreness.
- Progressive overload is often an afterthought (if it’s even a thought at all) compared to everything else on this list. This is the stuff that gets the primary focus of the program.
To get a little more specific, here’s a common example of what a typical “chest day” might look like in this type of routine…
A typical example of “chest day” (every Monday, of course)…
- Flat bench press.
- Incline bench press.
- Decline bench press.
- Machine and/or dumbbell version(s) of those same pressing exercises.
- Dumbbell flyes, pec deck or cable crossovers… or maybe all of them.
All of which will often be done for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Now, does all of the above describe what EVERY SINGLE “bodybuilding routine” is? Nope. But, it DOES describe what the largest majority of them are, and that’s the specific type of workout program this article is all about.
I’ve personally spent a lot of time using routines exactly like this, as have most people at some point. And like I said earlier, this is the most common way you’ll see people training in most gyms. I see it daily.
So… What’s Wrong With It?
Are we all clear now on the sort of training approach I’m referring to when I say “typical” bodybuilding workouts and routines? Good.
Now allow me to show you why it’s all horseshit for building muscle.
1. The Low Frequency Body Part Splits SUCK!
I actually have nothing against the concept of “body part splits” if your goal is to build muscle and you’re past the beginner’s stage. In fact, I like them… as long they are executed intelligently.
What I don’t like are the typical body part splits that 99% of bodybuilding workouts are designed around. The execution there is FAR from “intelligent.”
Here are some common examples…
They all look pretty familiar, don’t they? Maybe even “standard.” So then why is it that these types of splits tend to suck?
Well, it’s not just because they often involve an “arm day” or 5-6 workouts per week or other things most people won’t need or benefit from… but mainly because they all involve using a low frequency where each muscle group is only trained once per week (every 7th day).
For that reason alone, bodybuilding routines suck.
Why? Because all research and real world experience shows that it’s the least effective training frequency for strength or muscle gains among natural trainees.
If you’re the “science” type, you’ll be interested to know that there’s not a single study I’ve ever seen that found training each muscle group once per week to be more effective than other higher frequencies.
More importantly, not a single study has even shown it to be equally effective… even when total training volume is the same. Instead, it’s consistently found to be the LEAST effective frequency, with 2 or 3 times per week ALWAYS proving to be the superior choice.
If you’re the “real world” type, you’ll be interested to know that all real world experience confirms it. Not just my own firsthand experience of switching from this low frequency to a higher frequency and instantly improving my results. Not just the similar experience of countless others either.
If I think of every single one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and highly respected trainers and coaches on the planet — the ones that I personally find the most credible (as opposed to the steroid using genetic freaks whose opinions are virtually meaningless to the rest of us) — literally 100% of them feel the exact same way.
The same goes for the small handful of well respected natural competitive bodybuilders I know of. Not a single one of them uses or recommends this training frequency either.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I’m NOT saying it doesn’t work or it can’t work. Training each muscle group once per week CAN and DOES work as long as everything else is done right.
It’s just that it’s the least effective way for the majority of the population to train to build muscle. For some, it actually won’t even be least effective… it will be completely ineffective.
You know who it tends to work best for though? Steroid/drug users and the genetic elite. These are the people who are MUCH more likely to be capable of maintaining the new training adaptations made during that previous workout over this upcoming 7 day period where they’re waiting to train that body part again.
But for us natural, genetically average men and women… not so much.
We’re a lot more likely to de-train during this stretch of time, which means by the time we’re back in the gym to train that muscle group again, we’ll have lost some or even all of the new progress we made, thus putting us in a wheel-spinning cycle where we progress and then regress from one workout to the next and end up getting nowhere.
There are always going to be exceptions of course, but the crucial thing to remember is that these are the exceptions… not the rule. In this case, “the rule” is that this frequency is widely considered (and proven) to be the least effective for the majority of the population.
For these reasons, every single one of the the most popular and highly proven beginner routines out there use a 3 day full body split. For a beginner, this is widely regarded as the most effective way to train for ANY goal, including muscle growth.
And once you pass the beginner’s stage, a twice per week frequency (or something close to it… every 3rd to 5th day) becomes optimal. The 3 or 4 day upper/lower split is one of the most proven and popular workout splits for that frequency.
However, it’s not the only workable option for it. Believe it or not, there actually are some intelligent body part splits that are designed with a more optimal frequency in mind. One such example is the rotating 5 day push/pull/legs split.
Additional details about choosing your ideal training split can be found here: The Best Workout Schedules and Full Body vs Upper/Lower vs Body Part Splits
But regardless of the specific split you use, one thing is certain: if your goal is building muscle as quickly as possible, and you’re using a typical “once-per-week” bodybuilding split… your results will not be as good as they could be.
2. The Silly, Pointless And/Or Dangerous Body Part Splits SUCK!
In addition to the low frequency problems mentioned above and the fact that VERY few people in the world will actually need or ever benefit from having a “chest day” or “arm day” or other entire days dedicated to training a single small muscle group (e.g. shoulders), typical bodybuilding splits have other problems too.
And these problems are a little more serious than just being ineffective, unnecessary or flat out dumb. These problems are injury-causing.
For example, let’s say your silly once-per-week body part split is something like this:
Now some people might look at this and see a basic 5 day body part split. I look at it and see guaranteed shoulder problems… maybe elbow problems too.
Why? Because even though individual muscles appear to be getting trained just once per week (which in itself is incorrect when you take overlap into account), the joints are getting trained every damn day. Specifically, the shoulder girdle is involved heavily in every chest, shoulder and back exercise, not to mention many arm exercises too (especially heavy bicep curls and compound triceps exercises like dips and close grip bench presses).
Hell, even holding the bar on your back during squats involves your shoulders. Plus, various forearm flexor and extensor tendons connecting at the medial/lateral epicondyle of the elbow are getting a significant amount of stress placed on them during damn near everything.
As someone who has had both shoulder and elbow issues at times over the years… trust me… I know this all too well. And if you’ve been training this way long enough, something tells me you know it too.
So do most of the people in your gym. Just try to find someone whose shoulders (or elbows) don’t currently bother them or haven’t previously bothered them in the past. You might not find a single person fitting that description unless they’ve just started training.
That’s why, with all of this in mind…
- I’d be a little worried about someone weight training 5 (or more) days per week.
- I’d be more worried if 3-4 (or more) of those workouts are upper body specific.
- I’d be even more worried if it all takes place on consecutive days.
- And you know what instantly makes it all 1000 times more worrisome? The fact that it all goes along with everything else typically seen in bodybuilding routines. Meaning, a metric shitload of sets, reps and exercises. (More on that in a second.)
Not only is this a recipe for terrible muscle building results, it’s a sure-fire recipe for injuries. More about that here: 8 Ways To Avoid Common Shoulder Injuries Caused By Weight Lifting
3. The Insanely High Volume SUCKS!
When I say volume, I’m talking about the amount of work being done. How many total sets, reps and exercises per muscle group, per workout and per week.
The amount of volume that is both beneficial and tolerable is a highly individual thing that varies based on factors like age, experience level, genetics, drug use and more.
That’s why someone who’s 18 can do fine with more volume than someone who’s 48, and why someone with great genetics and/or plenty of drugs can handle WAY more volume than someone with average (or worse) genetics and no drugs at all.
Even still, the way I see it, there’s really just 5 categories of volume when it comes to building muscle:
- Too Little: This of course would mean not doing enough volume to actually stimulate muscle growth. I’ll be honest though, this is a pretty rare category to fall into.
- Enough To Work, But Not Well: Then there’s the next level up, which is doing enough volume to create the necessary training stimulus, but not enough for that stimulus to be optimal. Many “low volume” type routines fall into this category.
- Just Right: The “Goldielocks” category. Not too little, not too much… just right. This is the amount of volume that is optimal for muscle growth. The best results happen here.
- More Than Enough: This is when you’re doing more than the optimal amount of volume we just talked about. However, this extra volume neither improves your results nor does it negatively affect your results. It’s essentially just a waste of time that isn’t doing anything for you… good or bad.
- Too Much: And finally, this is when you’re doing more volume than is needed, more volume than is optimal and just more volume to the point where it’s going to become detrimental to the results you want. How so? Everything from recovery issues to overuse injuries. This is the amount of volume that negatively affects your results in some way.
Do you know what category typical bodybuilding routines fall into? Yup, #5… the “too much” category. And honestly, just calling it “too much” might be an understatement based on the workouts I see and the pure insanity taking place in gyms around the world.
And for that reason, typical high volume bodybuilding routines suck for building muscle.
You see, your goal in terms of training volume is to do exactly enough to provide the optimal training stimulus, but not so much that it crosses that line and exceeds your capacity to recover in an ideal period of time. Basically, you want to signal muscle growth and then get back in the gym as soon as possible to signal it again. The more often you can do that, the better/faster your progress is going to be.
However, the more unnecessary volume you do (and bodybuilding routines are filled with TONS of unnecessary volume), the longer it’s going to require you to wait before you can go back into the gym to send that signal again (which brings us back to the low frequency mentioned before).
And, if that extra volume isn’t providing any additional benefits beyond what that “just right” amount will provide (it’s not), and it’s not providing a greater “signal” than the “just right” amount provides (it isn’t), then all it’s truly doing is forcing you to waste time and make less/slower progress.
So instead of doing 12-16 sets (a very conservative example) for some muscle group and than sitting around for a week waiting to do it again, you’ll grow better doing half that amount of volume… but twice as often.
Now I know what you’re thinking… what exactly is this “just right” amount of volume and what is it based on? Is it just something I’m pulling out of my ass?
Not quite. It’s based on the following:
- 12 years of real world experience and observation… just looking at what seems to produce the best results in terms of volume for natural trainees (without cutting into recovery).
- Comparing the most effective workout routines in existence and noticing that they have something in common… they all tend to prescribe a similar amount of volume. No, it’s not 100% exact. However, it does tend to always fall within a similar “range” of volume.
- What I’ve personally found to be optimal after years of experimenting with every amount of volume you can think of. Low volume, high volume, you name it and I’ve probably wasted some amount of time trying it.
- Scientific research. There are a handful of studies that look at training volume and its effects on strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, and they tend to confirm this same “just right” range of volume that the other items on this list fall in line with. This is one of the best studies of them all.
Based on all of the above, this “optimal volume range” tends to be about 30-60 reps per muscle group per workout, with the optimal frequency being about two workouts per week. Although, when you take into account exercise overlap (e.g. triceps get plenty of volume during pressing exercises), those smaller muscle groups tend to only need about half that amount.
More about this here: The Optimal Volume Range
4. The Large Focus On Isolation Exercises SUCKS!
You ready for this? I like isolation exercises. Yes, seriously.
Various biceps curls, triceps extensions, lateral raises, dumbbell flyes, leg curls, shrugs. I like them all if you’re training to build muscle fast and you’re past the beginner’s stage.
BUT, I only like them as a secondary focus of your overall routine. I like when they are accessory exercises to the much-more-important big compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, pull-ups, etc.) that SHOULD be getting the majority of your attention because they’re going to be responsible for the majority of the results you get (or fail to get).
What I don’t like is when it’s the other way around… something often seen in typical bodybuilding routines.
I’m talking about when your workouts are filled with more isolation movements than compound movements (or even an equal amount of each). You know… when a person is doing 5 chest exercises AND 5 triceps exercises. Or 1-2 back exercises, and 4 kinds of bicep curls.
Or, even worse, when isolation movements REPLACE compound movements. You know… when a person is doing dumbbell flyes, leg extensions and leg curls INSTEAD of bench presses, squats and deadlifts.
In these scenarios, your results are going to suck.
So while isolation exercises are definitely beneficial for muscle growth, their role should always be a secondary one with compound exercises taking the primary role. The second those roles start to reverse or even become equal, that’s the second isolation exercises become less beneficial and more detrimental.
More about that here: Compound Exercises vs Isolation Exercises
5. The Silly, Pointless And/Or Dangerous Exercise Myths SUCK!
Since bodybuilding workouts are supposedly all about building and training muscles, you’ll often see plenty of silly crap included in an attempt to better train, fatigue or isolate those muscles.
I’ll admit, the following examples are in no way exclusive to these kinds of routines. They are however where you’ll commonly find them.
- Wide grip pull-ups and wide grip lat pull-downs for better lats. As the theory/myth goes, the wider your grip on these exercises, the wider your lats will become. In reality, the wider the grip, the less range of motion and the more likely you’ll be to screw up your shoulders.
- Bodybuilder style bench press for better chest isolation. This involves flaring your elbows out to the sides and lowering the bar to your upper chest. Does this just slightly put a tiny bit more emphasis on the pecs and a tiny bit less on your triceps? Uh, maybe. Enough to actually matter? Doubtful. But you know what it will do for sure? It will absolutely destroy your shoulders. And guess what? You’ll have a mighty tough time isolating those pecs when you’re unable to actually bench press anymore.
- Higher reps and lighter weights for tone/definition/getting cut and ripped. The myth-based thinking here is that lower reps and heavier weight build muscle mass, but higher reps and lighter weight are for increasing the definition of those muscles. You know, burning fat and cutting those muscles up and getting ripped. Or whatever. It sounds nice, but it’s pure bullshit. Spot reduction is not possible, and getting more defined is strictly a matter of lowering your body fat percentage (something that’s primarily a function of your diet, not weight training).
- Isolation exercises for tone/definition/getting cut and ripped. Exactly the same thing as above, only now the myth-based thinking is that compound exercises build muscle, and isolation exercises burn fat/add definition. Still pure bullshit. Details here: The 10 Best Toning Exercises For Women
- Machines for tone/definition/getting cut and ripped. See above.
- Constant changes to shock your muscles. Bullshit yet again. More on this later.
- Lower reps for strength only, not muscle. This one explains why most typical bodybuilding routines involve a million sets of 8-12, with 10 reps usually being the most common. Apparently, doing sets of 5-8 reps will only increase strength and not build muscle. Bullshit. More on this later.
That’s just the first bunch that come to mind. There are plenty more. And they often get dumber and more insignificant/pointless as you go.
Case in point, you’ll sometimes hear crazy shit like how straight bar triceps press downs are for building muscle mass on your triceps, but press downs with a rope are somehow magically for “cutting and toning your triceps.” Funny.
6. The Always High Reps SUCK!
Here’s another one of those common bodybuilding characteristics that is mostly based on a silly myth. And that is the belief that only higher reps can build muscle. Meaning, 10 reps per set is ideal, 12 reps are great too, and maybe sometimes going down as low as 8 reps is acceptable as well.
But less than 8 reps per set? That’s something you will rarely see in typical bodybuilding workouts. Why? Because, according the logic/myth, anything less than 8 reps is great for gaining strength but sucks for building muscle.
Sounds good to me, if not for the fact that it’s total bullshit.
The reality of muscle hypertrophy is that literally EVERY rep range is capable of stimulating growth. Be it sets of 3, sets of 4, sets of 5, sets of 6, sets of 7, sets of 8, sets of 10, sets of 12, sets of 15, sets of 20.
The key requirement is progressive tension overload. As long as you’re gradually getting stronger over time, you will build muscle regardless of what rep range you’re getting stronger in.
Sure, some rep ranges are more or less ideal for certain goals (e.g. the 1-6 rep range is more ideal for strength, the 5-12 rep range is more ideal for size), and some rep ranges are more ideal for certain exercises (e.g. 5-8 for more demanding compound exercises, 8-12 for less demanding accessory exercises).
However, there is so much overlap between them that EVERY rep range can still serve a beneficial purpose for your goal… especially when it’s a goal like muscle growth that just so happens to be heavily built around getting stronger.
For these reasons, always staying in the higher rep ranges prevents you from getting the significant benefits that come from training in the lower rep ranges.
Now I’m definitely not saying you should avoid those higher rep ranges and use lower reps exclusively. That’s equally as dumb, and the types of people who recommend this are idiots. (More on them later.)
What I am saying is that for the best possible results, a combination of lower and higher reps is what’s going to be optimal for building muscle.
7. The Always Short Rest Periods SUCK!
Just like higher reps, one thing you’re sure to see in typical bodybuilding routines is shorter rest periods between sets. Not just for some exercises, but for most if not ALL of them.
Why is this? Well, I think it partially has to do with what you’re seeing and feeling at the time. The shorter your rest periods are, the better “pump” you’re gonna get. This of course makes your muscles temporarily look/feel bigger, which many clueless people take as a sign of their workouts already working. How cute.
But it’s also because there is a belief that shorter rest periods are better for building muscle, while longer rest periods are better for increasing strength. While this isn’t entirely wrong, it’s not entirely right either.
Yes, shorter rest periods between sets (e.g. 30-120 seconds) play a positive role in generating metabolic fatigue, and this is something that DOES matter for muscle growth. Thus, shorter rest periods are indeed beneficial for building muscle.
However, shorter rest periods suck balls for making strength gains. That’s why people training solely for strength use longer rest periods (e.g. 3-5 minutes) between sets. It’s what’s ideal.
Now here’s the thing. While metabolic fatigue is a legit factor here, progressive overload is always legit factor #1. Which means, you shouldn’t exclusively use shorter rest periods. Nor should you exclusively use longer rest periods.
For the best possible results, you should use a combination of both and get the different benefits each one provides.
The best way to do that in my opinion is to do your big primary compound lifts — the ones you’re doing for lower reps — with longer rest periods (2-3 minutes). And do your secondary accessory lifts — the ones you’re doing for higher reps — with shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes).
Now you’ll be doing a nice combination of what’s optimal for generating metabolic fatigue, and what’s optimal for creating progressive overload. Your results will show it.
8. The Pyramid Sets SUCK!
In many typical bodybuilding routines, each exercise is usually done for somewhere between 3-5 sets of usually 8-12 reps (sometimes 6-15 reps). In many of those cases, it’s just straight sets. Meaning, 4 sets of 10 or 3 sets of 8 or something like that.
In the cases when it’s not structured that way, a traditional pyramid is what’s most often used.
This set/rep approach calls for starting with your lightest weight first and lifting it for the highest amount of reps. Then, in each subsequent set, you increase the weight and decrease the reps. Here’s an example…
- 100lbs x 12
- 105lbs x 10
- 110lbs x 8
- 115lbs x 6
That’s a traditional pyramid setup. And like a lot of the stuff being mentioned in this article, it looks like one of those “standard” aspects of weight training that we’ve all seen before and most likely used at some point ourselves.
It’s also another one of those common bodybuilding characteristics that just so happens to suck for building muscle. Here’s why…
As I’ve said a bunch of times already, the primary stimulus of muscle growth is progressive overload, which in this context basically means getting stronger over time.
And the thing about the traditional pyramid is that it’s designed ass-backwards from what basic common sense would tell you is optimal for getting stronger.
Think about it. When you’re at your freshest and strongest, you’re lifting the lightest weights. Then, as you become more and more fatigued (muscular fatigue, cardiovascular fatigue, etc.), that’s when you start lifting the heaviest weights.
So, when you’re at your weakest, the weights are at their heaviest. Genius!
What you should be doing instead is warming up to your heaviest weight and STARTING with it. From there, you should either keep using that same amount of weight and try to maintain a certain amount of reps with it in the next sets, or you should reduce the weight from set to set and either try to maintain a certain amount of reps or possibly go for additional reps as part of a reverse pyramid.
More about all of this here: Pyramid Sets vs Reverse Pyramid vs Straight Sets
So… can pyramid sets work for building muscle? Of course it can if everything else is being done correctly. Is it what’s going to be optimal for building muscle? Rarely, if ever.
This seems to be a bit of trend in this article.
9. The Huge & Redundant Exercise Selection SUCKS!
This clearly goes hand-in-hand with the insanely high volume issue mentioned before, as well as the large focus on isolation exercises (and pump/soreness… more on that later). Still, it deserves its own individual mention.
I have some questions…
- Do you really think your biceps need 5 different types of curling exercises to grow?
- Do you really think your chest must be hit at every possible angle? Do you really think it needs a flat barbell, dumbbell and/or machine version of the same pressing exercise? And then flat dumbbell flyes too? (See: The Best Chest Workout Routine For Men)
- And after all of that pressing, do you really think your triceps still need 3 or 4 or 5 (or more) exercises?
- Do you really think you need to do wide grip lat pull-downs, then narrow grip lat pull-downs, then repeat those same lat pull-downs but now using an underhand grip instead of overhand? And then maybe repeat it with pull-ups?
- Do you really think your shoulders need a seated dumbbell press and a seated barbell press? And then maybe a machine press?
- And after the shitload of volume the anterior deltoids got from both shoulder and chest training, do you really think you still need front raises?
The answer to all of these questions and the dozens of others just like them is NO.
It’s going to be unnecessary at best, and counterproductive to your goal of building muscle at worst. More often than not, it’s going to be the latter.
These are all perfect examples of not only doing WAY more exercises than we actually need to build muscle optimally, but just doing a ton of identical, redundant and overlapping exercises that serve no real purpose other than to generate more pump and soreness, destroy your joints, cut into recovery and prevent your progress.
What’s that you say? This isn’t always the case? There are times when a lot of exercises are needed?
Let me guess… you’re referring to the idea that you need a bunch of different exercises to target each individual head of the biceps and triceps. Right?
I’ll admit, when you are a competitive bodybuilder stepping on a stage to be judged, one who has already built more muscle than 99% of the population will ever come close to building and you’re nearing your natural (or even non-natural) genetic potential… this kind of thing can matter.
But for the rest of us? Just normal people trying to build muscle and look great naked? It’s unlikely to ever matter much at all.
In fact, all practical experience shows us that this sort of thing is significantly more likely to interfere with us getting the results we want than it is to actually help us with getting those results.
10. The Frequent Changes SUCK!
Something you’ll often see in typical bodybuilding routines is stuff constantly changing. I’m not talking about some intelligent form of periodization. I’m talking about changing various aspects of your workouts (exercise selection, exercise order, rep ranges, methods, etc.) with little rhyme, reason or logical purpose.
Unless of course you consider unnecessary nonsense and bullshit myths to be logical purposes.
These changes are seemingly made at random, and the frequency of them can vary. Sometimes it’s every month, sometimes every few weeks, or sometimes — my personal favorite of all — something is changed significantly from one workout to the next.
Why? Good question. The answers you’ll most often hear include:
- Gotta shock my body bro!
- Gotta keep my muscles guessing bro!
- Gotta make sure my body doesn’t get used to what I’m doing bro!
- Muscle confusion bro!
- I was barely getting sore anymore bro!
- I saw something new I wanted to try bro!
- I just felt like it bro!
- [insert fitness guru, website or magazine here] just came out with an awesome new workout bro!
Hmmm, let’s see. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, meaningless, stupid, stupid and stupid.
Above all else, the key to muscle growth is progressive overload. That means putting your muscles under a certain amount of tension, and then increasing that tension over time. The most basic example of this is doing some exercise with some amount of weight for some amount of reps, and then gradually increasing that amount of reps and/or weight as often as you can.
Basically, do something and then improve at it.
This isn’t easy, but do you know a sure-fire way to make it extra hard? By constantly making changes to what it is you’re trying to improve at.
Muscle growth requires strength gains, and strength gains require consistency. So by constantly changing your workouts around, you’re doing the complete opposite of what you need to be doing to build muscle optimally.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever change things. You should. But, it shouldn’t be that often, and it certainly shouldn’t be for bullshit reasons like these. More about that here: When And How Often To Change Your Routine
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again. Your muscles don’t need to be shocked or confused. They just need to be consistently challenged. The only change that is required for building muscle is progression.
More about that here: The Ultimate Muscle Confusion Workout
11. The “Advanced” Methods SUCK!
Ah yes, advanced training methods. We all want to use them, and most typical bodybuilding routines are filled with them. For example…
- Drop sets.
- Super sets (not to be confused with alternating sets).
- Forced reps.
- Partial reps.
- Negative reps.
- Various time under tension/rep tempo protocols.
- and on and on…
Wanna hear something funny though? While a few of the many “advanced” methods out there can be worth using, most won’t actually do anything all that useful in any way whatsoever besides making you feel more “hardcore” because you’re using those methods.
And the few advanced methods that may actually serve some beneficial purpose in your program? Most are only likely to serve that purpose for people who ACTUALLY ARE ADVANCED and in need of such training methods.
But for beginners and intermediates, which describes the majority of the population? That shit is much less likely to improve your results, and much more likely to hinder them and distract you from the basic fundamentals.
Just like how an advanced trainee won’t do very well training like a beginner, the opposite is true too. The only difference is, you’ll never see anyone truly advanced seeking out beginner methods.
What you will see are people who are no where near advanced assuming that either A) they are advanced, or B) advanced stuff always works better than non-advanced stuff. They’d be wrong in both cases.
12. The Primary Focus On Pump, Fatigue & Soreness SUCKS!
Like I briefly mentioned earlier, typical bodybuilding routines seem to be based a lot on “feel.”
Feeling the pump, feeling the burn, feeling the fatigue, feeling the soreness the next day. It’s these feelings that many people using these types of routines go by as THE indicator of whether or not what they’re doing is right, or working, or effective, or in need of some kind of unnecessary and often counterproductive change or addition.
Crazy pump in the gym? Awesome! A ton of soreness the next day? Success!
Not enough pump? You must need to do more sets and exercises. Not enough soreness the next day? Things must not be working… better change something.
This is the common mindset people training this way have, and it’s pure bullshit.
Sure, pump and soreness are useful for letting us know that the target muscle was indeed activated (for example, if you do a back exercise and feel nothing in your back but a ton in your biceps, that’s a good sign you’re using too much biceps and little to no back).
However, they tell us virtually nothing about the effectiveness of our workouts. You know what does though? Do you know what is a great indicator of progress? Actual progress! Improvements in strength, improvements to body composition (more muscle, less fat), etc..
More about all of that here: How Important Are Pump And Soreness?
But most people don’t realize this. So instead of training in the way that actually produces the most progress, they’re busy training in the way that creates the most pump so they can leave the gym feeling the most fatigued and like they sufficiently destroyed their muscles so they can feel nice and sore the next day.
Fits pretty well with most of the crap commonly found in typical bodybuilding routines, doesn’t it? That’s not a coincidence.
13. The Lack Of Focus On Progressive Overload SUCKS!
At this point I think I’ve mentioned progressive overload enough times that I can keep this part (somewhat) short and sweet.
In this context, progressive overload basically means increasing the demands being placed on your body by getting stronger and stronger over time. Doing this creates an environment which forces your body to become capable of meeting these ever-increasing demands being placed upon it.
How does it become capable? How does it meet those demands? By building more muscle.
Progressive overload is, above all else, what signals the human body to build muscle. Volume, intensity, frequency, splits, rep ranges, rest periods, exercise selection, pump, fatigue and on and on and on… it’s all important too. However, in the absence of progressive overload, it’s all meaningless if you’re trying to build muscle.
More about that here: Progressive Overload: The Key Requirement
And the fact of the matter is that in typical bodybuilding routines, it’s this other stuff that gets the majority of the attention and focus, with the idea of progression being, at best, an afterthought.
I know this from experience. When I first started training, these were the types of routines I used. I remember being super concerned that I wasn’t doing enough sets, or that I wasn’t doing the best exercises, or that I wasn’t sore enough the next day, or that I didn’t work my muscles hard enough.
Progression came after that. I knew getting stronger was a good idea, and I tried to. But, the actual concept of progression (or training FOR progression) wasn’t ever something I saw much about in the places I was getting these bodybuilding workouts from (shitty magazines, shitty websites, etc.).
It was more just something I viewed as “something I should probably try to do in addition to everything else” rather than “the primary requirement for getting the results I want.”
And in my experience, this is a mindset that consistently comes with using typical bodybuilding routines.
So This NEVER Works… EVER… Under ANY Circumstance?
Nope, that’s NOT what I’m saying.
The truth is, if you do most of this stuff but maybe keep it to at least somewhat sane levels (e.g. 3 chest exercises instead of 6+)… AND you focus on progressive overload AND you eat correctly to support it… this type of training can work. It CAN build muscle.
The same could honestly be said for damn near EVERY method of training, which is why so many types of programs appear to work.
However, what I’m saying is that for a natural drug-free person interested in building muscle, it’s usually the worst possible way to train.
Tons of real world experience shows this. Every bit of research supports this. Every single trainer, coach or legit expert in this field with even half a brain fully agrees with this.
Basically, there’s A) what doesn’t work, B) what does work, and C) what works best. For most of the people, most of the time, these types of routines will be A or B.
But I Swear I’ve Seen People Making These Routines Work!
Yup, you certainly have. I have too. Like I said, this typical form of bodybuilding training CAN definitely work. And yes… it DOES appear to work well for some people.
However… and this is a very big HOWEVER… the main points I’m getting at here are that…
- It tends to work best for steroid users, people with amazing genetics, or both.
- It may work for other people… just not very well or at least not optimally.
- For many people, it’s barely going to work at all and in certain cases, just not work period.
- For the natural, genetically average trainee… it’s an inferior way to train for building muscle.
Steroids & Drugs
So sure, if you want to focus on the tons of people using every drug and steroid known to man (many of which deny it) that happen to be training this way and are successfully building plenty of muscle… go for it.
Just keep in mind that you’re ignoring the fact that steroids can make up for training like a moron. These people aren’t building muscle because of the typical bodybuilding routine they’re using… they’re building muscle because steroids work amazingly well regardless of the type of training being done.
In fact, steroids work well even when NO training is being done whatsoever. More about that here: Steroids vs Natural
Keep that in mind the next time you see some huge guy training this way and doing extremely well. Unless you’re using the same amount of drugs they are (and/or have their same great genetics), they might not be the best person for you to try to emulate.
And if you want to focus on the people with amazing genetics who are training with these types of workout routines and also appear to have built plenty of muscle this way, feel free to do that too.
But again keep in mind that many of these kinds of genetically elite people were probably more muscular before they even started training than the average person will be after years of training (yup, above-average genetics are sometimes that awesome).
These are people who are going to build muscle just fine no matter how they train. It’s not quite the same as comparing steroids vs natural, but above average genetics vs average genetics or great genetics vs horrible genetics isn’t that much different.
In either case, comparing what works for them with what will work for you just isn’t going to be a very smart idea.
And if you want to focus on the people who appear to truly be natural AND genetically average yet seem to be training this way AND look pretty good, you’re welcome to do so.
But you should keep in mind that there’s a really good chance these people didn’t build the majority of their muscle training this way (the same goes for many non-natural bodybuilders). They just happen to be training this way now that they’re super advanced and so close to their genetic limits that they need (or at least think they need) to train this way to make that last drop of progress.
Majority vs Minority
But instead of all of these examples… do you know who you should really be focusing on? Not the small minority of people using this form of bodybuilding routine and getting good results, but rather the majority of them who train this way and look like shit.
Or better yet, if you happen to be training this way, the best person of all to look at is yourself. I’ve been in that position before. It’s not fun to admit to yourself that you’ve been wasting a lot of time doing things wrong or at least sub-optimally.
But, if you don’t, you’ll never be able to break out of that rut and fix it.
Does That Mean We Shouldn’t Train For Muscle Growth?
Nope, I’m definitely not saying that.
This isn’t one of those articles where the author (in this case, me) tries to tell you that when your goal is building muscle, you shouldn’t actually train for it. Instead, they claim, you should supposedly use a routine aimed specifically at strength or “functional” athletic training or something similar.
Why? According to them, it’s because these routines will allow you to build muscle better than typical bodybuilding routines (which is probably right). They’ll say “look at powerlifters… they have plenty of muscle.” Or “look at athletes… they have plenty of muscle.”
While this is technically all true, it’s still completely wrong and I don’t agree with it at all.
If your goal is to build muscle, you should train using a program that is 100% designed for and aimed at doing everything that is optimal for muscle growth.
In fact, this is what you should be doing for whatever your specific goal is. If you want goal A, don’t train for goal B. That’s stupid. Even if training for goal B is still capable of producing goal A, it’s just not going to be optimal.
The results you want should not be a side effect of your training, they should be the sole purpose of it. More about this here: Strength vs Size
The problem of course is that the majority of the population with the goal of building muscle thinks typical bodybuilding routines ARE the best way to make it happen. They’re obviously not.
So the solution isn’t that you need to train for some other related goal. The solution is that you need to reevaluate your perception of what’s truly best for the results you want. Speaking of which…
So What DOESN’T Suck For Building Muscle?
If you’re a beginner, a basic 3 day full body routine built around getting stronger at a handful of big compound exercises is almost always the best way to train. Something like Starting Strength or my own similar Beginner Routine. Simple as that.
If you’re past the beginner’s stage (meaning you’re an intermediate or advanced trainee), then you should:
- Train each body part with a moderate frequency, somewhere between once every 3rd-5th day.
- Use a workout split that allows for this frequency in a balanced and intelligent way.
- Use a moderate volume, somewhere between 30-60 reps per big muscle group per workout, less for smaller muscle groups.
- Use a moderate exercise selection. In most cases, 1-2 exercises per muscle group per workout (bigger muscle groups usually get 2, smaller muscle groups usually get 1).
- Fill the majority of your routine with big compound exercises like presses, rows, pull-ups/pull-downs, squats and deadlifts. Fill in the rest as needed with isolation exercises.
- Avoid redundant exercise selection (e.g. no need to do flat barbell press, then flat dumbbell press, then flat machine press).
- Keep your reps per set in the 5-15 rep range. It’s all beneficial in some way for building muscle, and you’ll often get your best results by using a combination of low and high reps. Specifically, the 5-8 rep range is ideal for your primary compound exercises, and the 8-15 rep range is great for your secondary accessory exercises.
- Give your primary lower rep exercises more rest between sets (2-3 minutes). Give your secondary accessory exercises less rest between sets (1-2 minutes).
- Use straight sets, reverse pyramid or something similar. The traditional pyramid should rarely be used.
- Avoid training to failure… at least not very often.
- Focus less on advanced methods, and more on the basic fundamentals.
- Avoid changing things too frequently. The only thing that needs to be “shocked” is your brain for believing in dumb shit training myths.
- Don’t obsess over pump and soreness. It’s useful for letting you know that you successfully recruited the target muscle group, but completely useless for letting you know if your workouts are effective.
- Put your primary focus, above all else, on creating progressive overload.
If you like upper/lower, the 3 or 4 day version of The Muscle Building Workout Routine is the program I highly recommend. It already gets all of this just right.
If you prefer a more traditional looking “bodybuilding” style routine, but one that removes all of the bullshit mentioned in this article and adjusts everything in a way that is actually effective and ideal, then my Bodybuilding 2.0 program included in Superior Muscle Growth is one I highly recommend.
In fact, if you want every single aspect of your diet and training to be designed to produce the best muscle building results your body is realistically capable of getting, my entire Superior Muscle Growth program is something I HIGHLY recommend.
The Big Point
So what’s the big take home message of this never-ending article? It’s pretty simple.
If your primary goal is building muscle, you should most definitely train for it directly rather than train for some other goal that just happens to be capable of producing muscle growth.
However, the typical way most people train for this goal is by using the kinds of typical bodybuilding routines I just spent 8000 words shitting on. And deservedly so.
Yes, these kinds of workouts can and do work. However, all evidence and real world experience shows us that the people who tend to do best with this form of training are steroid users, people with above-average genetics, super advanced people who are nearing their genetic limits, and people who are some combination of all of the above (which coincidentally describes most bodybuilders).
And even in those cases, it’s debatable whether this form of training is optimal.
But for the rest of us? The natural, genetically average (or below average) majority of the population trying to build muscle? There’s no debate whatsoever. Typical bodybuilding routines are one of the least effective ways of training for this goal.
ALL research confirms it. My own firsthand experience training this way confirms it (as does the experience of just about everyone who trained this way and eventually “saw the light”). My own 12 years of real world observation confirms it. Literally every truly knowledgeable and credible (in my personal opinion) trainer/coach/expert/natural bodybuilder agrees.
Typical bodybuilding routines just suck for building muscle.
159 thoughts on “Bodybuilding Workouts SUCK For Building Muscle!”
I assume today is not an upper day … I believe it’s nearly impossible for your forearms to grab a dumbell after writing so much for this article (so many isolation movement :-D). Anyway … as always, a fantastic article. This summary is the first thing everyone should read (even before reading the workout some gym guru coach made for him)
Ha… at around 4000 words into it I was thinking of using straps for the mouse. 😉
Glad you liked it.
This should be put in the FAQ of every bodybuilding forum. One of your best posts yet!
What if your goal is to keep working out, in a calorie deficit, to lose weight but maintain muscle?
Already got you covered: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/how-to-lose-fat-without-losing-muscle/
Ahhh… it’s times like these when you read articles like this one after having spent last week trawling through Martin Berkhan’s ‘Leangains’ site (and a few articles by Alan Aragon referenced here and there to boot) and it all ties in together – you realise that after two years of trying to really get my head around what actually WORKS, you’re finally starting to get it once and for all.
Now that’s EXACTLY what I like to hear.
I have made every single one of these mistakes, and in retrospect, I cannot remember ONE bodybuilding magazine article that recommended keeping a workout journal – which is THE single greatest thing I’ve done for my training. Beyond that, I switched to upper/lower splits (4-day), moved the “big” lifts to the front of the day, ramping up to low rep maxes (5, 3, 1) and then doing accessory work afterward in the mostly 8-12 rep range, to get the best of both worlds. And isolation work? At the very end and only a couple of sets. And then throwing in a deload week every few weeks to recoup. And of course, the journal is kept to track progressive overload. If only I had a time machine so I could go back and start this earlier.
I hear ya. If you ever get that time machine, let me know. I’d go back for the exact same reason.
And I fully agree… if you’re not tracking your workouts, you’re wasting your time.
Progressive overload = the key to getting results.
Keeping a training log = the key to progressive overload.
Good article. Good website. Good book. Priceless information. 🙂
i had a double hip replacement and can’t do dead lifts or squats ….any suggested replacements
Tons. But it depends on exactly what you are and aren’t capable of doing.
Can you do leg presses? Split squats or lunges? Hyperextensions? Hip thrusts? Cable pull-thrus? Leg curls and leg extensions?
Hey Jay, this is just great and you know why? Because you’re the most non-fanatic, objective and impartial fitness guy in the whole web. This kind of approach if rarely hard to find. I follow some fitness/strength coaches/bodybuilders guys on Youtube and/or their blogs and some of them gives really good advice, but most of them are just too fanatic with their thing.
People saying that no matter what is your goal you should be training for strength, other idiots saying no matter what you do just train to failure and several other fanatic ideas.
You just can’t hear people talking objectively, unbiasedly… they are just completely blind and close-minded that will only suggest doing what they think it works and nothing else.
So I want to thank you, one more time, for being a neutral guy, leaving fanatism and subjectiveness behind and simply sharing what is most ideal and efficient for the average population.
Keep the good work man and thank you for the tons of emails you’ve answer me. You’re my primary source of motivation and information =)
You’re welcome man… thanks for all the compliments. Definitely appreciated.
I’m VERY familiar with everything you’re describing, and I really do everything I can to be the total opposite of that.
Good to know it shows. 🙂
AWorkoutRoutine, this is the BEST article I’ve ever read about what works when it comes to being muscle. You’ve got a real talent! I’ve been doing the “typical chest routine” for many years with good results, but I keep getting setbacks that have kept me from going to the gym on a regular basis. Mostly physical injuries outside the gym!
Not one solitary injury ever inside the gym always either at work or while I’m out playing and bullshit’n around. I have to go to the gym with at least 3 vicodin in me to get through the workout at this point in my life. I need so many replacement parts, I’d end up becoming a “Bionic Man”. This is a keeper! Thank you.
Thanks for the feedback man, glad you liked it!
Wow. Great Article!
WWE Wreslter John cena did this to gain mass:
Day 1 – Legs and Calves
Day 2 – Chest
Day 3 – Arms
Day 4 – Shoulders
Day 5 – Back
Day 1 – Legs and Calves
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Calf Raise 10 10-20
Standing Bodyweight Calf Raise 4 25
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Standing Single Leg Curl 4 20-25
Leg Press 5 20
Leg Extension 4 15
Squat 4 10
Hack Squat (Super set with next exercise) 3 15
Single Leg Extension 3 10
Day 2 – Chest
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Machine Press 3-4 20
Incline Bench Press 3-4 20
Pec Dec 3-4 15
Cable Crossovers 3-4 15
Bench Press 3 10
Day 3 – Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Preacher Curl 5 12
Standing Barbell Curl 3 10-12
Seated Dumbbell Curl 3 10-12
Standing Cable Curl 3 12
Exercise Sets Rep Goal
Rope Pressdown (Superset with next exercise) 3 20
Single Arm Cable Pressdown 3 10
Lying Tricep Extension 6 Failure
Overhead EZ Bar Extension 3 20
Seated Barbell Tricep Extension 3 20
Tricep Dip 4 Failure
Day 4 – Shoulders
Exercise Sets Reps
Rear Delt Machine Flyes 5 20
Machine Overhead Press 5 20
Machine Lateral Raise 5 20
Seated Overhead Press 3 10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12
Military Press 3 10
Day 5 – Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down 5 20
Barbell Row 5 12-20
One Arm Dumbbell Row 5 12-20
Deadlift 4 8-15
High Pulls 4 20
Pull Up 4 Failure
Good example of someone with great genetics and a shitload of drugs.
oh, for Barbell Shrug Cena did 5 sets and 20 reps
and 1 set of 60 crunches on training days.
hey man that was a really good article..more like a guide i’d say..however I have a question..since I’m kind of a science type as you say I like looking at research about many topics regarding training and nutrition. I’ve found out that while for some topics, like meal frequency, research is pretty clear, for some other topics, like training frequency, it is not.
i’ve checked wernbom study you’ve mentioned and I think the bottomline was that they found insufficient evidence for the superiority of any mode and/or type of muscle action over other modes and types of training.also regarding credible people’s I’ve seen people who are considered pretty credible like thibaudeau, fagerli, venuto and schoenfeld claiming that for muscle growth 2xweek is not necessarily better than 1xweek.
so my point is: could you please point me to some of the studies you mention proving that 1xweek is the least optimal way and also could you please recommend some trainers/coaches that you consider credible? there are other things I’d like to ask you about but let’s stick to this for now..I really appreciate your answers..thanks a lot..greetings from greece..
Thibaudeau recommended higher frequency (2-3 times per week) damn near exclusively for years. If I remember correctly, it’s what he recommended most in his book. It was only after he lost his fucking mind and started recommending all kinds of garbage that this may have changed (can’t say for sure, stopped paying attention at that point). He is someone I used to think very highly of and learned lots from. These days? Not so much.
Venuto’s most recent book (The Holy Grail Body Transformation) included a workout program he called The New Bodybuilding. It was an upper/lower routine that trained everything twice per week.
As for Fagerli, I just so happened to have a few quotes from him saved in Evernote…
“And I’m not saying split routines don’t work, I’m just saying that reducing volume while increasing frequency works BETTER. And yes, even in advanced bodybuilders.”
“So I believe in an optimal instead of an excessive “just-in-case” volume. An 80% growth response from work you can recover from and then improve on 2-3 days later will be vastly superior to a 100% growth response from work it takes a whole week or more to recover from.”
and here’s one where he even references the Wernbom study…
“Finding that balance which allows you to train the muscle with a sufficient progression in work/volume, load and frequency is about once every 5 days to twice a week for most people. Smaller muscle groups can be hit directly/indirectly 3x/week IMO and IME. Total rep count is about in the 20-30 area, up to 40-50 for larger or priority muscle groups. That huge-ass review by Wernbom supports this, as well as empirical results with e.g. DC training, seem to remember Kelly B saying the same thing, and obviously my own evil experiments over the years with hundreds of clients”
So, with these guys, I’m not sure where you’re getting that they don’t tend to put twice per week over once.
In addition to those guys (Borge, etc.), there’s guys like Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon, Christian Finn, Eric Cressey, Layne Norton, the guys from EliteFTS and Diesel Strength, Matt Perryman, Kelly Baggett. Joe Defranco, Bill Starr/MadCow, Mark Rippetoe, Charles Poliquin (who, like Thib, also lost his F-ing mind over the years), Jason Ferruggia, and on and on and on. I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen Martin Berkhan say he uses an EOD version of upper/lower with his clients when the goal is muscle growth.
And while I might not agree 100% with everything these people do or say, and I honestly might not even like some of these people, one thing we all agree on is training frequency.
well I admit I didn’t know some of these stuff so thanks for that. concerning studies could you possibly point me to some that clearly state that 2xweek is optimal for the average trainer?
The Wernbom study and this one are the first that come to mind: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16287373
Thanks for another dose of inspiration–excellent article!
Thanks, glad you liked it.
Great article. I’ve been using your muscle building workout 3 day split routine for about 2-3 months now, and I find im making small strength gains here and there, despite being on a calorie deficit, which is more than I could ask for, considering I’m trying to lose fat. I probably should add some cardio in there, but like many, cardio is something I just dont enjoy lol.
a bit of background, i graduated university in 2006 weighing 108 kilos. at 6 feet tall with a size 38 waistline, pretty big. over the years general healthier eating (and entering the workforce) i went to 97 kg, 36 inch waist. at 2010 i started gymming with a friend. cue to today im 84kg and a size 32 waist. Given my lifestyle I probably am not as lean as I should be, ive still got fat around the waist but up top i generally look like i work out but still a bit flabby.
ive recently gone on intermittent fasting with a bit of result, but nothing too drastic, been 2 months since ive started? during the week i eat fairly healthy, with calorie deficit, and im a bit more lax during the weekend (girlfriend duties, chicken breast and broccoli does not sit well with her). i seem to lose fat outside in, with my calves and upper body looking leaner first.
dont know if there’s a point to my comment, other than i enjoy your muscle building routine and its working for me so far. guess im lucky to be even gaining a bit of strength while doing IF and calorie deficit.
Awesome! Strength gains during a deficit is THE sign that everything is going as well as it can possibly go in terms of strength/muscle maintenance. Glad everything is working well.
And your pattern of fat loss sounds like the normal male fat loss pattern. It’s going to come off your stomach, especially lower abs, last. Also going to be stored there first when it’s gained.
My story is similar to Sean, except I’m 86kg losing 10kg or thereabouts and then start growing again. I too have started on IF and quite enjoy it, and already a couple people have commented that I’ve lost weight. In this time (two weeks) I’ve also gone up on my bench each time, today a PR with 8 clean reps at 65kg, followed by 10 at 60 and 55kgs (using reverse pyramid training). And that was after fasting all day, with the workout preceded by ingesting 10g of BCAA caps a few minutes prior. I then had breakfast at 7pm, lol 😛
You, Jay, are unreal. It’s a shame I didn’t find your blog 2 years ago, but better late than never 😀
Ha, glad to hear it man.
I read the diet link you showed. Thanks! I go to the gym 3-5 days a week. 3 weights and other run with sprints (HIIT) and Im in a calorie deficit. Can I use your 3 day non-beginner weight lifting program in a calorie deficit?
You mean The Muscle Building Workout Routine? Yes, that can be used in a deficit (and the 3 day version of it is my preferred way to do that).
Ok, so I was one of “those guys”. My routine, for years, was the chest/back, bi’s/tri’s, legs/shoulder split, 6 days a week. I did 3 sets of 8-12 reps per body part, usually 3-4 exercises per body part (bi’s was d-bell curls, e-z bar curls, concentration curls and maybe hammer curls thrown in for good measure. Chest was flat bench, flye’s, incline bench and maybe decine bench and so on). Feel the burn, the pump? Hell yeah, and the shoulder pain! Well, now I know why I was: 1)not seeing any gains 2)always having shoulder problems 3)taking time off from the gym to “heal”. Too bad it took me this long to realize my mistakes and take steps to correct them.
Currently, I am doing DieselCrews shoulder rehab protocol and will return to lifting when all is well with my shoulders. I have seen a doctor and he says no surgery is needed, just rest and rehab.
After reading and studying your website, I had settled on your push/pull/legs split, but am now considering your upper A/lower A, upper B/lower B split for the sake of my shoulders. At any rate, I am sure my shoulders will thank me, as well as my wife when all this time in the gym finally begins to pay off.
Dude, I totally enjoy your website and articles. They are written without the bullshit fluff and I like the way you don’t claim that “this is the ONLY way” or “you HAVE to do it this way”. There are too many folks our there that claim their ONE method is the ONLY way to train. You include logical reasons why this or that does or doesn’t work and you offer alternate methods.
I look forward to more articles. Thanks a million and keep up the great work!
Thanks for the compliments dude, definitely appreciated. You’d be surprised at how many people have gone through what you described at some point… training this way, having shoulder problems because of it, etc.. Been there, done that.
But most people never figure out what they’re doing wrong or even think they’re doing anything wrong in the first place. So, you’re technically well ahead of the game.
Good to hear it’s something that can be solved with rest and rehab alone. The stuff from DieselStrength is as good as it gets in that area.
And regarding a split, once you’re working your way back into training, I think upper/lower is probably the safest way to do it… at least at first.
At some point I would love it if you tackled the NASM-style “instability” training.
Consider it added to the to-do list.
when will you be uploading the article about cardio?
As soon as possible. 😉
Hello, good article. For months I have been looking all over the website looking for the perfect training programme. Yours seemed to make the most and as a BEGINNER I have a question.
When will I be able to include workouts that target muslces like forearms and Tris for example?
A beginner should typically just focus on a few basic compound movements, with very little (or possibly nothing) else added. Having said that, version 2 of my beginner routine adds a very tiny amount of extra stuff (like triceps, calves, etc.).
Your website pretty much changed my whole perspective on bodybuilding and after trying your 4 day split for about 3 months, I’ve made more progress in strength than I have before….ever and I’ve been bodybuilding for years. I’m 44 years old now. Back when I was 21, I did the exact workout that Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended in his book, Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I made great progress for the first year and people noticed. I looked ripped but I never got very strong. I went through a phase in my life when I used steroids as well. Testosterone, 750 mg a week and Winstrol. I am 5′ 7″ and got up to 200 pounds and was pretty huge but after quitting the roids, I slowly went down again to about 150 pounds and looked like an average looking guy. I got back into natural bodybuilding and got up to about 170 pounds but never got strong really. After doing your workout for 4 months, I am actually a bit shocked that so little volume from what I was used to yielded superior results. I am squatting and benching more than I did when I was on steroids and I’ve been able to increase with every workout. Great stuff!
That’s awesome Jon… glad to hear it!
I Found this article quite interesting. Do you have (or recommend) a nutritional guide to go along with the workout? I’ve starting working out 2 months ago and just now I decided to do your beginners workout (3x a week – Monday Workout A – Wednesday Workout B – Friday Workout A). I tried it and it took me 40 minutes. That’s what it’s supposed to be right? 40 minutes?
I kind of feel the need to hit the gym every week day. Should i really wait 4 extra months (more or less) until I can change my pace?
By the way: What’s your opinion on protein shakes?
Thanks for the article!
Yup, I’ve written an entire diet/nutrition guide right here: http://www.acaloriecounter.com/diet/
Yup, 40 minutes sound about normal. As for feeling like you should do more, read this one: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/am-i-doing-enough/
As for protein shakes, that diet guide will cover them too.
I love your site my friend. I have been training and lifting weights for about 10 years. I had my ups and downs but been natural this entire time and yes i tried all legal supplements almost 99% were waste of money. I kinda of worked out the typical way so today i didnt want to wait i started lower body a and it was not bad honestly i feel the same way doing it the typical way although my right knew started to hurt because i went up in weight on squats but did do 3 x 8 reps. So i am thinking now next week i will add 5-10 pounds more this will hurt my knee even more. In the past i did less weight and 12 reps and my knee did not hurt on the squat and now it does. Any way to prevent that? I don’t feel exhausting as i usually do doing it the typical way. I did rest 1 – 2 minutes and felt great honestly. Typical way i could not push my clutch in the car leaving leg day lol. Anyway i keep reading on your site and have shared it.
Honestly, whenever it comes to injury questions like this, I always avoid giving any advice because A) I’m not a doctor/injury expert, and B) it’s just impossible to know the potential cause or solution to your problem, because it could be a thousand different things.
My only real advice would be to have it checked out by someone qualified and/or have someone who knows what they’re doing look over your form in person.
Have you ever heard about HST? (hipertrophy specific training)
Do you know/recommend it?
It is a full body 3x week method, oriented to intermediates more interested in muscle growth than strength.
Wow, haven’t had anyone ask me about HST in years… but yeah, I know it. I think it’s decent and can/will work and is a lot better than a lot of the stuff people do to build muscle.
But no, I wouldn’t consider it optimal for muscle growth.
Any special reason for it?
So in your opinion & experience, upper/lower or push/pull/legs will work better?
For anyone past the beginner stage, I wouldn’t consider full body to be the ideal way to train for muscle growth.
I’m following the beginner workout and I’ve got one question. What about cardio?
Should I do it in the days in-between workouts? Should I? Could I? Must I? Or is it irrelevant?
And what’s your approach on the belly? I’m not fat. In fact I’m a little bit skinny. But I have a big belly for my weight. So I’m trying to gain muscle and lose my belly. What’s best for me right now?
Your cardio questions will need a full article to properly answer, but hang in there… it’s coming.
As for wanting to build muscle and lose fat, read this one.
I have to say i’m lovin this website. And I’m still scraping it’s surface. Congratulations and Thank you!
And I have a question I haven’t found answered (maybe it is but then again I’m still scraping the surface). Is there a time of day optimal for your workout? At first I was going after work but I felt it was stealing time from my social life. Now I’ve started going in the morning before work and I loved it. It felt great. Sometimes i went at lunch hour. It felt good as well but I heard it was the worst for your body.
So what’s best for your body? Morning, Lunch Hour or Evening?
Already got you covered: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/best-time-to-work-out-or-exercise/
Loved this article, a great read and very informative.
I am 17 and have been working out now for about 8-9 months, I have not made a lot of gains, I have gotten stronger but have not put on much muscle mass. I have been focusing mainly on my arms as the are fairly small and I would like them a lot bigger, I trained them 3 times a week. I would like to still keep a focus on them, but start working on the rest of my upper body.
Do the workouts like ‘the muscle building routine’ provide enough exercise for the arms to have significant growth.
Your advice would be appreciated and also any workout you would recommend.
Think of it this way, if I didn’t think that routine had enough for arms, I would have added more to it a long time ago. 😉
Nice article. been reading it and make sure i’m following what you advised. could you give us a good program for beginners. gettin’ mixed up with lots of exercises around. at 43, i’ve been on & off the gym due to work hitting the gym after work (3x a week). hope to hear from you. All the best.
The beginner routine: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-beginner-weight-training-workout-routine/
doing the workout the one you recommend have been on it 2 months have made some gains at 48 find the deadlifts give me pain even in strict form will I compromise back muscle by leaving out deadlifts thanks great routine milan
Which routine are you referring to? The beginner routine or the intermediate routine? Or something else?
I was referring to the muscle building workout routine of 3 days a week
If you’re doing everything correctly and an exercise still causes pain for you, then you should avoid it in favor of something similar that doesn’t cause any issues.
Would this strategy be good for a 2 day split?
M chest shoulder tricep
T back biceps legs
W chest shoulders tricep
Th back biceps legs
F chest shoulder tricep
S back bicep legs
I would be doing about 2 exercises per muscle group, and doing 1 warm up set, and then my max weight for 3 sets on each exercise making it about 4 sets to an exercise
what is your opinion on this?
That split looks pretty terrible.
Why does it look terrible? What would be a better idea?
Read the guide, it will tell you everything you need to know: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-ultimate-weight-training-workout-routine/
A great read, thanks for posting. I am a 25 year old professional water polo player, I’ve been on a set weights programme for the past 7 years at various professional teams, national institutes etc. I have been performing the Olympic lifts (snatch, clean etc) relatively consistently during that period, and pretty much hate them (I’m 6″4 and 210lb so find those big compound movements particularly tiring). Recently I was given a 2 month ‘free period’ to write my own programme, and i went down the bodybuilding route you have mentioned above, mostly due to curiosity. Let’s just say I wish I had read your article first. I performed ridiculous amounts of sets on isolated exercises and over the 8 weeks saw no increase in strength or size (as well as injuring my right shoulder) despite adhering to the strict plan given to me by my nutritionist. I couldn’t agree with you more..I will be encouraging my coach to give me as many compound exercises as possible from now on and I will probably never give one of those ‘bodybuilding’ routines a go again! I am consistently told by my coaches that the power clean, although not easy to perfect technique-wise, is the most effective full body movement. I’d be interested to know if you agree with that? Thanks again for a good read.
It’s depends on the persons needs and goals. For someone training for specific athletic/performance purposes, the power clean can be an awesome (sometime almost required) exercise.
For someone just trying to build muscle, it can still be beneficial to that goal… but no where near as important or necessary.
I am 42. I run om average 50 miles a week. I am 5′ 10′ and 170. I am not into the bodybuilding thing. My calves are like baseballs and legs are ripped due to the running so I don’t work them. Here’s my current weight schedule Chest on Mondays 4 x 10 reps incline dumbbells. 4 x 10 bench. then 3 x 10 flies. Weds I do 4 x 10 barbell curls. 4 x 10 sitting curls, then 4 x 10 preacher. Tri’s 4 x 10 rope pushdowns. 4 x 10 kickbacks then 4 x 10 behind the head dumbbell raises. Fridays I do 5 x 10 shoulder presses. 4 x 10 pullups and 5 x 10 lat pulldowns. Does this seem dumb? Is that good enough to keep my upperbody in line with my lower? Appreciate your response.
Read this from beginning to end. It will answer any questions you have: https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-best-workout-routines/
First of all I bought your online workout book and I must say that it contains better information than any fitness magazine I have read over the years. I have one question that I really hope you can take the time to respond to. I have been using the upper/lower body split muscle building program (3 day static version). It is just as beneficial to do this with a push/pull routine and just add in legs to each workout. For example:
Monday: push A
And so on….
Wouldn’t it be basically the same thing as the upper/lower body split in terms of frequency for each exercise?
Glad to hear it man!
If I’m understanding your question correctly, then yes… the frequency would be about the same with a 3 day push/pull split as it would be with a 3 day upper/lower split.
I think what I meant to ask was if it is okay to do an A-B workout for each pull\push just like in the upper/lower body.
So like this with only two different workouts rotating:
Friday: Push A
or like this with four different workouts rotating:
Friday: push B
Thanks man, Brooks
Yup, both of those options could work.
Hey. I’m just starting to get back into training after a long time out and have been searching around for the ideal routine and feel this routine is something that I could hugeley benefit from. Just a quick question. Does the principal/idea of progression still apply? In that each session you should aim to do one more rep/lift slightly heavier? I used it before when training and it worked pretty well. Just wondering if it applied with the 3 day beginner workout you’ve posted. Great site by the way.
Not only does it apply, but it’s the most important aspect of any training program.
monday – upper body strength
tuesday – lower body strength
wednesday – off
thursday – upper body pull (hypertrophy focus)
wednesday – upper body push (hypertrophy focus)
saturday – legs (hypertrophy focus)
sunday – off
What do you think to that
As long as the volume is kept sane (unlike PHAT which uses that split and a shitload more volume than most will be able to handle), it’s possible it can work.
For some though, it will be too much regardless of volume.
Friday* not wednesday again :/ sorry wasn’t concentrating
p.s. my nutrition (including correct and relevant supplementation), rest, stress levels and so on is ‘on point’
Great article as always Jay .
I am following your upper\lower now , I can say I trained seriously for about 7 months , my strength gains are awesome i am scaring everyone at the gym right now :]
My question is about protein synthesis , I heard Jason Blaha said and he insists on that a natural bodybuilder should stick to 3 days full body split in regardless of his training experience , to keep protein synthesis elevated through out all the week , because protein synthesis stays elevated about 28-48 hours after working out .
So what do you think about that ?
If you can increase the volume a bit in the 3 days full body split so that it supports hypertrophy well , do you think that it will lead to more gains ?
Given that in Upper\lower you only hit the same muscle group every 3 or 4 days .
Another question if you may :
I mentioned that my strength gains are awesome that everyone watch me while doing my rpes , the problem is I didn’t build that much mass .
I will admit that my diet is not that great , I fail to keep myself at caloric surplus always and my protein intake is roughly 110-130 grams .
Can I gain this much strength without putting on noticeable amount of mass ?
Thatn’s in advance Jay .:)
It can certainly work, but there’s a lot of reasons why I think a full body split is far from the ideal way to train for growth past the beginner stage. I’ll actually be writing a full article about this at some point.
Until then, think of it like this… how many natural bodybuilders/natural anyone who trains for muscle growth use a full body split? Virtually none. That’s not a coincidence.
As for your other question, if the problem is that you didn’t build much mass, the very obvious reason is your lack of surplus. You can’t build muscle out of thin air. A small surplus is a requirement.
And yes, it’s possible to gain plenty of strength with little to no mass gains.
Thank you very much Jay for the response 🙂
I was literally clapping and thumbing you up while reading this. Though there is one thing I’d like to differ: some people indeed had great success with typical bodybuilding routine not because they are genetically superior or they take drugs, but because they are genetically more suitable to this type of training, their muscles respond better to low intensity, high volume and low frequency. They are the minority but they do exist.
I hear ya, but what if the “genetically more suitable” thing you mentioned is due to the fact that they are genetically superior?
So what makes that type of training “suit” them is the fact that they have above average genetics that can make it work.
First off I would like to thank you for this informative and helpful article.
Second, I have a question for you; My name is Mendy I have been training for 3 months following the famous starting strength program and I have made decent gains (mostly in lifting stats) I am 100% devoted to training and diet I do not make any exceptions or excuses and have never broken my diet nor missed a workout.
I believe (like most people) that I have good genetics for Bodybuilding and I want to start a program more geared towards BodyBuilding, do you have any suggestions? Should I just continue with SS?
Thank you for all your help!!
If you’ve only been lifting for 3 months, some kind of basic 3 day full body program (such as Starting Strength) is what’s ideal for you at this point.
Oh, alright thanks.
After I am done with SS I will purchase your book and start the BB one.
Sounds good to me.
I am following your routine and I must say I have seen tremendous gains on it.
I am now thinking of replacing the lat pull down with chin ups and the leg presses with hack squats and adding incline bench press in upper workout b.
are these changes ok or am I going to over train.
also after being a complete ass and continuously nagging you about the cardio article I have started squash in the morning for an hour. Please guide me whether I should continue playing squash everyday or lower the intensity somewhat
Replacing pull downs with chins and leg presses with hack squats will be fine. Adding incline bench press in addition to everything else in Upper B? That I don’t recommend.
And your other question will still require a full article about cardio to properly answer.
Thanks for the feed back.
Looking forward to your cardio article.
should I be doing the same number of reps if I replace leg presses with hack squats?
Hey, I’m considering going on the 4 day upper/ lower body split and was wondering if I can replace Romanian Deadlifts with just normal Deadlifts?
See my comment here.
You’re doing a damn good job here for free. I discovered your site just in time when i was so confused by all the bullshit as there are lots of articles contradicting each other even in the same bodybuilding website.
I have some questions as i’m back to lifting after several years and i plan to follow your Muscle Building Workout Routine.
1) How should i deal with additional sports activities? I usually have a soccer match once a week. It’s sometimes on Tuesday, sometimes on Wednesday etc.. Is it better to have one day off before this activity or after that?
2) What should i do when i have a business trip, let’s say, for one week? Should i just have one week off or are there any body-weight exercises necessary to do in such cases?
3) Similarly, is there any special workout routine for longer holidays just to stay in shape? I mean, when we don’t have the chance to go to a gym but can buy some dumbbels to lift at home.
Thanks in advance if you can find the time to answer my questions. Keep up the good work being a rare trustable reference in this mess.
1. This is one of those things that will depend on the person and the specific situation. The only real advice here is to experiment and see what works/feel best.
2. If it’s something that only happens a couple of times per year, then you can just use those weeks as training breaks. But if it’s something that happens somewhat (or very) often, you should definitely try to do whatever training you are able to do.
3. Read this one.
Brilliant post. As I mentioned in a Facebook message I sent I keep finding gem after gem of posts on this site. I was stuck in this routine for about 5-6 months doing way too many sets, too many reps, ass-backwards pyramid and dying out. As an engineer I’m very science based and to me it didn’t make sense, but I did my research and believed what 95% of the people out there were telling me. Big mistake…I don’t do this in my work so I don’t know why I did it with my workouts.
You’re information is logical, well thought out and practical, but also defended with theory in lots of cases. Keep up the good work bud and I’ll keep throwing people to your program when I can. Love the over 200 page purchased download too 🙂
Thanks dude, glad to hear it!
And don’t feel too bad, most of us have been there before doing the exact same thing, and the majority never actually figures it out.
Hi there, I did comment already but it seems it disappeared… I did leave a large amount of backstory last time though so I’ll keep it short this time.
To cut a long story short, I’m 18 and 11 months old, when i was about 16.5 years old I started lifting in a school gym that was very underequipped (couple of machines, couple of dumbbells, that’s about it) and I also lacked knowledge and organisation – I would turn up if I felt like it and maybe do the odd bicep set, tricep set, chest press. I also wouldn’t work very hard so I made some beginner gains but not much. I took about 9 months out and started again just over a few months ago when I started university.
This time I had better knowledge and focus after some obsessive online researching, and I started on my goal to lose fat and gain muscle with a 3x per week full body workout. That worked out well but I wanted to do something different, so I started on one of the crappy 5 day bodypart splits you annihilated in this article, which I enjoyed reading and was surprised by how it contradicts 99% of people who think they know what they are doing, yet your article seems realistic and obvious once read. I stumbled across it whilst searching through numerous techniques to stimulate muscle growth without needing 10 hours a week weightlifting – ie one set to failure, bare minimum training…. now I have found and decided to follow your 4 day upper/lower split.
A few questions I have for your 4 day upper/lower split:
1) I loathe the time it takes to wait for the barbell bench press station, set it up, etc, plus I don’t have a spotter so don’t like pushing it too hard. On the Upper A flat bar press, can I substitute that for flat DB press like on upper B so I can get into it quicker and push myself? Or will that hinder my progress?
2) I’ve read your comments about how deadlifts are too hard to schedule in because they hit everything, but is there anywhere at all I could add/sub them in? I do enjoy deadlifts and I worry that I’ll suffer for not having the benefit of them in my workout.
3) I know you’ve said you would have added more in for arms if you didn’t think there was enough but is that really all it takes?? I’m not doubting what you’ve said here, I’m just incredulous that those two isolation sets would be enough to build the big biceps and triceps I want when everyone else is clearly overtraining by thrashing their arms with 5 different isolation exercises and 3 sets each??
4) For the principle of progression, I’m looking at reps here: do I not push to failure in a set, do I stop when I feel I’ve got a rep or two left? I’m trying to find that balance between pushing to failure in a set, and using a weight too light that I could push for a few reps more but am just stopping in my target rep range. Or, is this problem avoided by the aim of upping the weight to a weight I cannot fit into my rep range at all (say my aim is 3 sets of 8-10, if I can do a weight for 9, 8, 8 reps, I up it to a weight I can only do say 8, 7, 6 and stick with that until I can do it to my desired rep count?) If so that explains my lack of progress in the past where I would try a weight, not hit my desired rep count and move the weight down next time as I’m ‘not ready for it’… sounds like I shot myself in the foot back then!
Many thanks, hope you can find the time to reply, I’ve been enjoying your articles on exercise and nutrition 🙂
1. That’s fine.
2. I honestly don’t really have a preferred spot for conventional deadlifts in this routine.
3. After the various pressing and pulling exercises, your triceps and biceps have already gotten a ton of indirect volume. After that, a few sets is really all that most people need. As you get more advanced, more can be added.
4. Ideally try to end your sets the rep before failure. So the last rep you do will be hard as hell, but the next rep is the one you won’t actually be able to complete. As for progression, if the goal is 10, 9. 8 and you get that and then up the weight and get 8, 7, 6, that’s perfectly fine and your goal over the next couple of weeks is to work each of those sets up in reps until you get 10, 9, 8 again… then increase the weight and do it all over again.
Okay, thanks, that makes a lot of sense. 🙂
For the ab section, I know you don’t specify and say to keep it simple, but would you say this is good/too much to work the abs and obliques?: cable crunches (3 heavy sets), hanging leg raises (usually 12-18 reps), a twisting exercise, and side bends for obliques. This good/too much?
I also hear about beginners having some sort of superpower tendency to grow more muscle faster as they’re newbies. How long would you say this disposition lasts? I lack mass and hope this gives me a boost despite my experimentations with weights in the past, and the fact that I’m not maximising it for a few months as I’m also trying to cut bodyfat. There are many opinions on how much muscle can realistically be added per month/year (noobs or anyone) so I’m interested in hearing your verdict.
I also managed to convince a friend a few days ago to stop his silly 5 day a week online routine (he literally followed a routine that told him a shoulder, trap and calve day was a good idea, and even though it had a leg day with squats and deadlifts in it he ignored it and couldnt be bothered to start squatting… I talked some sense into him and redirected him to sources such as this site!
Thanks again 🙂
1. For abs, read this.
2. Beginner gains will typically last for a few months. As for the rate of muscle growth, read this.
Great! Learn a lot from reading this. Is it a good idea to do a upper/lower body split like this? upper body A on Monday, lower body A on Wednesday, upper body B on Friday, and then lower body B on Saturday. Is this good? Appreciate any help, thanks!
Yup, that’s fine.
I’m actually trying to convince some of my friends about the benefits of your routines. So, could you give scientific studies to support your commentaries? It would be very useful. Thanks a lot.
Which commentaries specifically? If it’s frequency, volume and intensity, this is a good place to start.
That’s excellente. Thank you!
This is the best site I have ever come across concerning bodybuilding!
Hi, great article.
The only thing I disagree with is your statement on progressive overload. The number one mistake I see at the gym is people focusing EXCLUSIVELY on doing more weight. They either a. Use terrible form, b. Do hardly any reps, or c. Both. Usually it’s C.
I want to clarify that progressive overload is dependent on consistently good form and proper tension being placed on the working muscle. It also isn’t exclusively related to weight. While, high volumes suck because they generally have shitty intensity, volume is an excellent way to induce muscle growth. If you do not feel like you are making gains, keeping the same weight but doing an extra set, either across or reverse pyramid, is a great way to induce progressive overload. 30-60 reps per group is just a general rule, if you can start with 60 reps, and progress to 80 reps total with the same weights, you’ve done progressively more work.
I’d imagine this is h
How truly advanced guys work up to where they are, but progressively getting to where they can handle higher volumes without sacrificing workload.
I’m in full agreement that progression should happen with good form always remaining intact.
And yes, increasing volume (reps, sets or both) is one method of progression, although it does have its limits. Which is why progressing in reps to a goal amount, upping the weight, increasing in reps again to the same goal amount, etc. tends to be the ideal way to do it.
I recently discovered your page and I want to thank you for the amount and the quality of your work here.
In the past, I too had tried to progress using the ‘1 muscle group training per week’ approach and although the results were good, I think they were far from great!
Recently, I have been training using the following 3-day routine using reverse pyramid:
– Push day (BB chest press, Incline DB chest press, DB shoulder press and close grip DB press).
– Pull/Leg day (Squat, Deadlift, Seated row, Lat pull-down and Hammer curls).
So, during a period of two weeks, I can have 3 Push days and 3 Pull/Leg days. Could you please provide me with your feedback regarding the aforementioned routine?
You mean Push and Pull/Legs alternated ABA BAB each week? That’s a split I like and actually use for a program in The Best Workout Routines.
Exactly, it’s a ABA BAB routine. Would you make any adjustments to the exercises I mentioned?
Please note that each exercise will be performed as a 4-set reverse pyramid style.
Once again, thanks for your time!
hey mate.. how ya doing.. well i really liked your website and your post.. i am 5 ft 7 and 132 lbs.. started gym 4 months ago.. only used to do cardio before and lost around 10 kgs.. what i wanted to know was if i still do cardio and abs 6 days a week or 3 days a week on off days coz m scared to gain fat again.. thanks
Read this one and this one.
Probably a very noobish question, but since I have read a lot of information lately on different sites and am very confused, I feel I need to ask itanyway.
This week I hit the gym for the first time and still trying to figure out what is what. I have been using all the machines for every muscle group and doing some cardio. The plan is to do it for 4 consecutive days a week (only have access to gym mon. to thur.)
What I do looks something like this:
5 min cardio
3 sets of 10 for all muscle groups
10 min cardio
3 sets of 10 for all muscle groups
15-20 min cardio
For first 3 days I was pretty much trying to pin point sweetspot for weight I lift on each machine, to get to that – 1 or 2 reps to failure when I hit 10 reps and on last day I followed my “routine” trough. As for physical feedback, I’ve been feeling some slight soreness in my muscles the next day, but nothing major.
Is 4 day back to back full body workouts something completely stupid and I should just do some splits? Or maybe I should make some changes in sets, maybe reduce?
What do You reckon?
4 back to back full body workouts is definitely not something I’d recommend.
I ve been doing your 4 day body split for about 6 months and have seen tremendous gains in size and strength, however I have now started to feel strain on my joints and my muscular growth has mostly been on the lower body.
can you guide as to what should I do for my joints and insure a proportionate body growth?
Have you been deloading?
As for proportionate upper/lower growth… this will depend a lot on genetics. You may genetically have a better lower body, so it may just progress better/faster than your upper body.
Hi, I don’t get the number 9. You said a high range of selection on exercise is not needed but counter productive. I did not get the reason why? You mention personal experience, will you please tell us some research, fact, or reasoning behind that? I really think 2 or 3 types of exercises are 1 particular muscle group is beneficial, as I guess it develops our whole body evenly?
Yes, I think there is a benefit to something like hitting the chest with a flat press, an incline press and some kind of isolation movement (like flyes) over the course of the week. But do you need a flat barbell press, a flat dumbbell press and a flat machine press? No.
for a long time I’ve done more of the traditional bodybuilding splits. Ive recently made the switch towards a Layne nortons PHAT workout and seem to like it. Then afterwords followed this split for around 2 months. However, I just dont seem the need to hit leg 2x as they are probably my strongest point and actually prefer once a week for legs. What are your views on trying to set up a 2x a week lift for upper body lifts and once a week for lower body? Im having some difficulties creating the basic muscle split b.c I feel as its become redundant. Ive done a few powerlifting competitions and now will like to focus on bodybuilding. Those are my maxes from last meet.
20 year old male college student @ 165
My Upper Body Focused training program (it’s in The Best Workout Routines) is designed this way for this exact purpose.
So what do you feel is THE BEST WORKOUT ROUTINE? Upper/lower body, push/pull or push(upper) chest shoulders triceps, pull(lower) back/traps/rear delts and finish with legs which can be both push/pull with squatting/leg pressing push and pulling dead lifting!
There is no such thing as a single best workout. There are certain training guidelines that have proven to work best, but there are many different ways to turn those guidelines into an effective workout routine.
Why is full body just good for a beginners workout?
It is a more frequent way of training all muscle groups three times a week.
With an increased amount of excercises but at least three or more excercises
per muscle group a week. Also less chance of overtraining.
I’d highly recommend reading this one.
I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been waiting years to read an article like this. I got so sick of sifting through the hundreds of typical workouts on websites and in every single men’s magazine. Anyone ever notice how all those exercises/routines are basically the same and they advertise them on the cover as “new” and “best” and “ultimate”? They’re aaaaallllll the same. And they take hours to complete. Waiting for the soreness to go away sucks too, you made a good point there. I like your concept and I have been thinking there was a BEST way for a long time. This is it. Looking forward to starting again with the basics, and progressive overload. Thanks for your article.
Glad to hear it dude! I know exactly how you feel.
Be sure to update again and let me know how things are going.
I’m 53 yrs. old. You have nailed all of them to the wall. Your article has given me a better chance on getting to the body I’m striving for, for a long time. I was always told, I was a hard-gainer and I won’t be able to build good muscle and strength. So, don’t even to, you’ll fail. You have just helped me through to show them, they were totally wrong. Thanks again.
Glad to hear it!
if im doing the routine you suggested, would i be able to cardio or hiit on the rest days?
Rest day… cardio ok here?
rest day…. cardio ok here?
Read this one.
Your article rocks. The only thing i’m a little confused with is when it’s time to up the weight i’m using for particular exercise. For example, if i’m doing barbell bench press as 1 of my 2 primary chest exercises and i’m doing 1 warmup set, then 3 sets of 6-8 reps, then if I can do 8 reps in all 3 sets then is it time to move up in weight and try to hit 3 sets of 6 with the higher weight in the next workout and work my way up from there?
First of all, 1 warmup set is probably not a great idea. Read this one.
As for progression, go to this one and scroll down to “The Method Of Progression.”
Well i can easily relate many of those.I had been doing a Chest-Arm-Back-Shoulder/Legs routine. I trained all my body parts with a volume out of hell.Except legs and shoulders because it would be *too* exhausting.Well looking back my legs and shoulders improved most… Thanks for enlightenment Jay 🙂
Glad it helped!
Would you prefer or recommend using your M-W-F and 2 days weekend off Push-Pull split by tweaking into working out every other day like instead off taking 2 consecutive off days.I’m kind of a ectomorph but totally not a hardgainer i’m more of a okeygainer with an average recovery rate.(and full of energy lol)
Nope, I prefer keeping the 2 days off at the end. Most people will benefit from it.
So , if I’m a steroids user, the best workout for me is the bodybuilding common one?
From what I know about the training of steroid users, even in those cases there are better, more intelligent ways of training for growth.
I am currently doing a fullbody workout. I stopped doing overhead presses because it hurts my shoulder (minor pain). I believe this it’s due to a muscle imbalance, my chest being stronger than my back. I’m currently doing extra bent over rows trying to catch up in strength and hoping i will be able to overhead press again. I have been making improvements with my strength differential. I bench 225 for 8 reps and row 190 for 12 reps. I can still do lateral raises with no problems and i have full range of motion. When i do broom stick stretchs my shoulder pops without any pain. Do you have any advice for me?
I was hoping to switch to your simple routine. My current routine is as follows
Bench press 3 sets
Bent over rows 4 sets
Squat 3 sets
Curls 2 sets
Lateral raises 3 sets
Incline press 3 sets
Deadlift 2 sets
Squat 2 sets
Dips 2 sets
Pullups 3 sets
Lateral raises 3 sets
Calve raises 2 sets
There’s really no specific advice I can offer when it comes to injuries. It’s the kind of thing that will vary from person to person based on exactly what the injury is and what needs to be done to fix it and/or train around it.
I just wanna check these comments are not a advertising scam
I been on the gym life for 10 years and I been training with the classical routine (one muscle, once a week). It works but in the long way.
Today I was talking to a friend on the gym and he said many things you said on this article, for example: the over training, muscle confusion, the myth of you can’t train your muscles twice a week, super sets, etc. Actually he haven’t read this article.
I’m gonna start doing a push/pull day routine this month. Great article
Awesome! Be sure to update again in a few months and let me know how things are going.
Hey Jay, i read many of your articles and it seems logic to me, i decided to try your Upper/Lower Split: 4 Day Version rather than doing my low frequency muscle confusion fuckin’ workouts, but i wonder :
Are these workout sets enough ?!! i mean i used to do like 20-25 sets for every muscle group once per week,,, will it be enough to do like half of these sets ?? as you can see according to your routine i’ll be doing for example only 11 sets of chest workout a week..
i am 24 yrs
workin’ out for 1 year
freakin’ Fast Metabolism
Read this one.
I think you made a great post and made a lot of good points. A lot of these magazine routines and programs are absolute shit. I run a bodybuilding split and get each part in 2 times (With exception of Shoulders and Legs, Thats a personal choice I made because of how quickly my body reacts and grows those muscle groups) So there are ways to run traditional ‘Bodybuilding splits’ you just need to be intelligent about your managing and frequency. The only other thing I have to say about your post, is if you are going to make comments on studies, make it credible, citations and references, because I am personally interested in reading credited studies to expand my knowledge on the topic as I sure are many of the other readers of this article. None the less a good article raises a good point for a lot of armature lifters and expands the possibility of different training regimes.
Thanks dude, glad you liked it. And I agree.
And you’re right… the lack of references is just complete laziness on my part.
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