Ineffective Workouts: 3 Workout Routines That Didn’t Work For Me

I’ve tried all kinds of different workouts and diets over the years and played around with a variety of methods and approaches to them.

Some were good, some were bad. Some were great, some absolutely sucked. I’m talking like laughably ineffective.

Fortunately, one of the few smart things I’ve done since day one is a keep a log of it all. This is good for many reasons, one of which is to allow me to look back at all of the mistakes I’ve made and learn from them. It’s also great for helping me help you avoid making those same mistakes.

I recently went back into some of these old logs and I ended up spending waaaay too much time skimming through my first 2 years of workouts.

The splits, the exercises, the weights I lifted, the sets, reps, rest periods, methods… all of it. And best of all, the progress I made (or more accurately, didn’t make) while using those workout routines.

And I gotta tell ya, it’s surprisingly entertaining. There is so much comedy gold in these logs (my notes that go along with them are just glorious), and I’d love to share some of it with you.

Specifically, I’d like to tell you about 3 types of workouts I used early on that got me absolutely nowhere. Here goes…

1. The “Whatever The Hell I Feel Like Doing Today” Routine

When I first joined a gym in 1999, I was about 16 years old, 5’11 and around 125lbs (with clothes/sneakers on). As you can imagine, I wanted to build muscle as fast as humanly possible.

So how did I go about accomplishing this, you ask? Well, according to my workout logs for those first couple of months, here’s exactly what I did.

There was no split. There was no routine. There was no plan or program of any kind.

Instead, I just trained biceps and chest around 3-4 times a week with some triceps and shoulders randomly thrown in here and there. And, if I happened to see some huge guy doing leg extensions or lat pull downs during my workout, I’d possibly throw in some of those too.

Basically, I just wandered the gym aimlessly stopping at whatever machines looked like a bicep curl or chest press/fly. Fun times! Also fun: the fact that I never even accidentally walked into the free weight room once during this time. I apparently didn’t have the balls for that just yet.

Now, I see clueless people in the gym all the time who have no F-ing idea what they’re doing. Yet, looking back at these logs, I will gladly admit to being 10 times more clueless than every single one of them.

As you can probably guess, my results during this time were nonexistent. And when you take into account the rapid progress beginners (especially teenagers) are capable of making at this stage when using an intelligently designed beginner routine, it’s pretty clear that my first few months were an epic failure.

Oh, and according to my notes, most of these workouts ended with me and the friend I joined with walking down the street from the gym and getting a few slices of pizza while waiting for our parents to pick us up.

My notes literally say: “ate pizza for 20 mins until Danny’s mom picked us up.” Hardcore!!!

2. The “High Volume, Low Frequency, Blast The Crap Out Of My Muscles” Routine

After realizing that I had no idea what I was doing and that just showing up at the gym and using whatever machines looked the shiniest that day wasn’t getting the job done, I decided I needed to do some learning.

I needed to find the highest quality source of weight training and muscle building information out there and put together a proper workout routine based on its recommendations.

So, I got myself a crap load of bodybuilding and fitness magazines! 

The covers featured pro bodybuilders who were 10 times bigger than I even imagined being (and all natural too, right?!), and headlines like “Build massive guns in just 7 days!” or “The secrets to gaining 50lbs of rock hard muscle in just 3 weeks!” Hell yeah bro, sign me up!

After skimming hundreds and hundreds of pages of supplement ads for every 2 pages of articles, I finally understood what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do to fix it. So, I put together a plan:

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Shoulders
Thursday: Legs
Friday: Arms
Saturday: off
Sunday:  off

That’s right, baby! A 5 day body part split that trained each muscle group once per week. Chest day and shoulder day and arm day… it was a thing of beauty!

As for the workouts themselves, they were exactly what you’d imagine. For example, my chest workout was flat bench, incline bench, decline bench, at least one fly or pec deck (or both) and sometimes more depending on how I felt that day (e.g. not enough chest pump yet? 10 more dropsets!!!). The other workouts were designed the same way.

It looks like I did 4 sets of every single exercise, all of which were done pyramid style… 12, 10, 8, 6.

It was the stereotypical dumb-shit bodybuilder routine. The focus was to blast the crap out of my muscles from every angle with a ton of exercises for a ton of sets with a low once-per-week frequency.

Hey man, don’t blame me. That’s what ALL of the routines in those magazines looked like.

  • So what if it was the least effective workout frequency?
  • So what if I did a million times the amount of exercises and volume I actually needed?
  • So what if I was training my shoulders on 3 consecutive days each week?
  • So what if the last thing a beginner needs is a “chest day?” So what if the last thing pretty much anyone needs is an “arm day?”
  • So what if I did a ton of machine and isolation exercises instead of compound free weight exercises?
  • So what if I was training mostly for pump and soreness? None of these magazines even mentioned the word progression.
  • So what if I used the dumbest set/rep structure of them all… the traditional pyramid.

This is what ALL of the huge guys in ALL of the magazines were doing and recommending, so it would clearly work just as well for me too, right?


Well, apparently not.

It turns out this type of workout routine only works well for genetic freaks and people using every steroid and drug known to man. Or, in the case of every single “natural” bodybuilder in those magazines… both.

But for a natural, genetically average (or in my case, genetically below-average) person like you and me? HA! This shit doesn’t work at all.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just take a look around your gym. This remains the most common way the average person trains. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the average person gets nowhere? Granted, there are MANY things the average person does wrong. This type of training is just one of them.

More about all of that here: Bodybuilding Workouts SUCK For Building Muscle

I will admit though, training like this is super fun. It didn’t actually work (and that certainly wasn’t fun), but I didn’t realize that yet. Instead, I was totally ignorant to how ineffective this type of workout was for me (and the majority of the population), and let me tell ya… ignorance was bliss!

I’m reminded of this on a regular basis when I see people in the gym training this way. I can see they’re having just as much fun as I did. Talking with their training partner about what they’re going to do today…

“Let’s start with flat bench, then some inclines, declines, flyes, dumbbell presses.”
“Sounds good bro, and there’s a great chest machine on the other side of the gym, let’s hit that too!”
“Hell yeah bro! Then let’s hit them triceps… cable press downs, rope press downs, underhand press downs, skull crushers…”
“You know it bro! And then maybe some dips as a finisher!”

Fun? Very. Effective? Not at all. Ah, the memories.

3. The “Low Volume, Low Frequency, Afraid Of Overtraining” Routine

At some point after getting nowhere blasting the crap out of my muscles as described above, I started to wonder if bodybuilding magazines were truly the best source of info. I was leaning towards maybe not.

So, I started reading around online. At this point it was 2000, so the internet wasn’t quite as populated with high quality diet and fitness information. Hell, it’s 2013 when I’m writing this, and the internet is still mostly filled with horseshit advice. The main difference was that in 2000, there was just less of it.

I ended up joining a couple of forums/messages boards. I have no idea what they were called, but I don’t think any still exist. I became pretty active on one in particular that seemed to have the largest collection of knowledgeable guys.

But not just knowledgeable guys… NATURAL guys! This was one of those “aha” moments for me where I finally realized that all of the advice I was getting up to this point was coming from drug users and likely wouldn’t work for anyone not using those same tons of drugs.

These guys were the total opposite of that. They were super pro-natural, and super anti-steroids and all of the crappy advice that typically came with it.

These guys were all about big compound exercises, lifting heavy, avoiding isolation exercises and machines… that sort of minimalist “hardcore” thing. And, above all else, these guys were all about avoiding overtraining.

Holy crap did these people put the fear of God into me with their discussions about overtraining and how if you did too many exercises, too many sets, too many reps, too much frequency or too much anything… it will cause you to instantly overtrain and your muscles will fall off and your results will suck and your life will be ruined.

I basically went from one extreme to the other. From drug users doing a million sets of a million exercises with a “more is better” attitude, to natural guys who hated drug users and were all about super low volume and a “less is more” attitude to prevent overtraining.

My split now changed to:

Monday: Chest/Triceps
Tuesday: Back/Biceps
Wednesday: off
Thursday: Shoulders
Friday: Legs
Saturday: off
Sunday:  off

Yup, still a low frequency once-per-week body part split. Training each muscle group more often than that would have apparently been overtraining. Hell, that’s why triceps and biceps were now trained with chest and back respectively. Can’t let those muscles get even close to being trained a second time during the week!

And my volume per workout went pretty damn low. Not quite full blown HIT (which can be as dumb as 1 set to failure per week), but I did go pretty low compared to what I was previously doing and what everyone around me was doing.

I had to avoid overtraining at all costs!!!

So whereas I was doing nearly 20 sets on “chest day” before, I was doing maybe 4 or 5 sets now. Something like 2-3 sets of flat barbell presses and maybe 2 sets of incline dumbbell presses. Then 2 sets of triceps.

That was it… just once per week. The other workouts were the same way. I remember my shoulder workout took like 20 minutes. 3 sets of overhead presses, 2 sets of lateral raises and 2-3 sets of shrugs.

Now, if high volume was the most fun, low volume was definitely the least fun. It was boring as hell. But, the waaaay exaggerated (and unwarranted) fear of overtraining I had made it seem like this was the only way for a natural guy to train.

Not to mention, a natural hardgainer such as myself.

Yup, that’s right, it was around my “low volume/low frequency” phase that I somehow came to the conclusion that my shitty ectomorph genetics made me a textbook hardgainer… aka a naturally skinny (or “skinny fat”) person who has an extra hard time building muscle.

It turns out that most workout routines aimed at hardgainers also tend to be this same kind of low volume/low frequency nonsense, so it’s hard to tell exactly where one approach to training ended and the other started.

But, it doesn’t really matter in this case. My results were equally horrible the entire time.

So What Finally Did Work?

I didn’t get far enough in my logs to find the point where I actually started getting positive results from my training. It was a good few years of mostly just wasting my time and making little to no progress before that finally happened.

However, I definitely remember the gist of what this first game changing routine was for me.

It was the routine that helped me finally get away from all of the silly crap I was doing and all of the horrible advice I was listening to. It was the routine that allowed me to finally understand what I was doing wrong and what needed to change for it to become “right.”

Or, to put it another way, it was the routine I was using the first time I looked in the mirror and it actually started to look like I worked out.

So what was this routine, you ask?

Just a basic upper/lower program that had me training each muscle group twice per week (not too frequent, not too infrequent) with a moderate amount of volume (not insanely high, not insanely low), a primary focus on getting stronger at the big free weight/body weight compound exercises, and a smaller secondary focus on machines/isolation exercises.

I didn’t fear overtraining, and I didn’t blast the crap out of my muscles. There was nothing all that fancy. No advanced methods. Nothing I didn’t truly need. It was just what works, period. And of course, it went along with a diet designed to support it.

After years of tweaking and improving it to make it even better than it originally was for me, it’s the routine that eventually became The Muscle Building Workout Routine.

Want Some Advice?

Do any of the 3 types of ineffective workouts described above sound like your current approach to training?

Are you maybe training in some other way altogether that just happens to be producing the same type of lackluster results that these types of routines produced for me?

If so, you have 3 very realistic options…

  1. You can continue failing a little longer until you finally get tired of it and just give up.
  2. You can continue failing and let that become your permanent routine. Gyms are filled with men and women who have been getting the same horrible results year after year, often decade after decade. There’s always room for more.
  3. You can stop, take an objective look at your training (and diet) and the results you’re getting from it… and you can change it.

I personally went with #3. It gets my full recommendation.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

72 thoughts on “Ineffective Workouts: 3 Workout Routines That Didn’t Work For Me”


      • Some of my past routines…

        Machines + Curls “Newbie” Routine = ROFL

        Arnold Routine without the Arnold Diet = Epic fail

        Arnold Routine with GOMAD = Lots of fat, very little muscle

        Hardgainer upper body only = Some verrrrrrry modest strength gains

        Hardgainer with some legs and GOMAD = Decent strength gains, decent mix of fat/muscle gains, plateau

        P90X = Went from skinny/fat to skinny/ripped, basically impossible to gain real strength

        NASM = Fun as hell, but literally strength de-training

        • Been there and done that with #1, #2 and #4. Fun times!

          Fortunately GOMAD wasn’t AS popular until I was already smart enough to realize how dumb it was, so I was able to avoid that. Although, I still got pretty fat plenty of times bulking like a dumbass without GOMAD. One time, I’d even categorize is as having gotten fat as hell.

  1. So ive been doing the full body workout mondays wednesday and friday (1 hour weights and half hour cardio each day for 5 months and was thinking of changing to the upper/lower split but not sure if i should yet ? Could you give some advice?

  2. Oh yeah, that was me – spinning my wheels. After a serious knee injury, I “developed” a circuit routine; bi’s/tri’s and chest/back/shoulders (no legs because of the knee injury – not even when it was back to 100%). The workouts were something like: bi’s, tri’s, bi’s, abs, tri’s bi’s, tri’s, in a non-stop circuit. Rest for 2 minutes and do it again, for a total of 3 sets, 10-15 reps per set. So, 90-135 reps per body part. The “magic” of this (or so I thought) is it only took 30-40 minutes. I was in and out and got a massive “pump”. It took me 3 years of that to figure out it wasn’t working and would never work. Then I stumbled across your site and discovered your upper a/lower a, upper b/lower b routine. It is working great! Thanks for the solid, no bullshit advice. I look forward to more articles.

    • Hell yeah, arm circuits!! Great pump, short workouts, what more could you ask for? Oh right… results.

      Glad to hear the site helped snap you out of it and everything has been working well since.

  3. It’s interesting how many areas of expertise involve experts who began by being more ignorant than nearly everyone and made a point to change it.

    • Great point. Like I mention on my “about” page, I rank my years of doing everything wrong as my primary qualification. Nothing helps you better understand what works than significant time spent doing what doesn’t.

  4. Yeah I think this is all pretty common, when I started as a 16/17 year old in about 1999 also, I done some silly routines. My friend and I would finish the gym go to the shop downstairs and walk home with a Mars bar, really clever! Coming back to weight training now aged 29 to start (30 now) I started exactly the same doing the same split I did back in my teens, got nowhere. Then I ran past this site, 3 day upper/lower split on the beginner routine and I couldn’t ask for better results.

    Jay, I keep meaning to email you back regarding those pictures I sent. I have managed to find some from the summer holidays in 2012 which will show the change to the ones I sent you last week, maybe I’ll get around to that tonight!

    Also, Mike mentioned P90X above, what are your thoughts on that. Not that I’m interested in doing it, just wanted an opinion.

    • No problem man, looking forward to seeing them. And again, glad to hear everything is working well!

      Regarding P90x, I tend to see it as a good “better than nothing” workout. If your only choices are not working out at all or doing P90x in your living room, then P90x is fantastic!

      It also depends on goals. If all you care about is fat loss and you’re looking for a workout that will allow you to burn some calories and improve your overall fitness level a bit, then P90x is totally acceptable. But if your primary goal is to build muscle, I think it’s mostly crap.

      • P90X is really meant for the “average overweight American couch potato”.

        If a person wants to get into extremely good shape, improve all of their health metrics, get to 10% body fat, look ripped, and do it all without going to a gym – then P90X is really ideal. It’s ridiculously hard but also a lot of fun if you’re into pushing yourself physically.

        Having said that…

        It’s a cross training program and the weight lifting component is really all about muscular endurance (with the unstated goal of being to regularly bang-out super-sets of 30 push-ups and 15 pull-ups). Despite the marketing hype, the only thing that “muscle confusion” does is to keep a person interested by giving them different things to do each week. For an untrained person – strength gains will pretty much plateau within 30-60 days. An experienced trainee doing a program like Jay’s would probably plateau in 2 weeks doing P90X.

        So, in summary, if you are an average American couch potato (let’s say 6′ and 190lbs) – without ever having set foot in a gym you could do P90X and end up ripped at 175lbs in the best overall shape of your life.

        But, for a trainee looking to add size and strength, nothing beats a program like Jay’s.

  5. Very amusing article to read!

    I “only” really made mistake #2, but oh man it took me 2 whole years to realize that that just didn’t work for a beginner. Gotta say that the real turning point was when I found this site. 🙂

  6. Jay,

    Could be the single handedly best website I’ve ever stumbled accross, Dead set loving your stuff mate!!! Once again another straight up no crap post with so much common sense and effective solutions to everyones problems, whether they want to admit it or not.

    This could not relate any more to the last 2 years of my training and like everyone above me have said, just can not get the right answers or advice from “mates”, magazines and crap all over the internet. I was training for about 6 months with 3 guys all openly on the juice and trying to train at their pace and on their routines and while it’s also embarrasing to train with them, just watching them grow and leave me behind. Have read your stuff top to bottom for the last week and it’s refreshing to finally see the right steps to improvements from a guy that knows his stuff and doesn’t sugar coat it. I have trained for 2+ years but definately still see my self as a “beginner”

    Keep it up mate!!! Your a legend!

  7. Great post. I went through exactly the same thing. Started working out with weights properly at around 17 and was doing the standard dumb bodybuilder blast the muscles split (which is what the majority of the guys at my gym still do) them moved onto the scared of overtraining approach for a few years. That didn’t work to well either. Was doing strength training for a while which worked for a bit then it dried up. Now switched to your recommended routine and it works a treat. Putting on mass at an astounding rate.

    Glad I found this site.

    • Crazy seeing how many people went through their first few years EXACTLY like I did.

      Glad to hear my program is working well for you now, though. “Putting on mass at an astounding rate” is music to my ears. 😉

  8. Pretty much sums up my experience. Although, I was overtraining. I would do 3 heavy sets for every exercise to a complete muscular failure. Doing deep squats and deadlifts like this in the same week burnt me out in a hurry. Add reduced calories to the mix and it was a wheel spinning galore. God, was I fucking retarded…

    Your website turned everything around for me. Don’t go to failure, hit the muscle groups 2x/week, eat a small surplus. Problem fixed. Now I am making small bust steady gains every week. I can’t thank you enough.

    • Ha, don’t feel too bad dude. As you can see, you’re not alone in how retarded you trained early on.

      You’re quite welcome though, happy to hear the site has made a difference for you.

  9. I love this post. I am one of those who spent a day once in a while laughing seeing my old logs and then usually turn those laughs into admiration to myself for the spirit I had to do more sets on chest day than I do nowadays for my whole upper body.

    Also remember the first time I experimented with the idea of upper/lower (7+ years of nosense training) Wow!!! It works, it was fine … but I guess my mind was not prepared and thought if upper/lower 4 days a week was giving excellent results, upper/lower 6 days a week will be awesome. And then X+ years of nosense training (the shame doesn’t allow to type another number) I discovered this great site and start TRAINING (yeah, uppercase).

    So, anytime I post a question or a comment I would repeat and repeat and repeat my big thanks for all of the information you provide us with.

  10. I am just starting on my fitness journey and would like to try your full body routine, but I can’t find it anywhere, only a full body split. I have 3 to 4 days to work out as I have a part time job with 3 young children and a husband that works away. Also what cardio do you recommend. I am 162cm tall and 65kg with a medium build 40 year old female, thanks in advance.

  11. Why in the muscle building workout routine the arms are trained in the 12-10 reps range and not on the 6-8 reps?

    • A bunch of reasons.

      1. Arms already get plenty of work in those lower rep ranges during compound pushing/pulling exercises in the 6-8 and 8-10 rep range.

      2. Isolation exercises are better suited for higher rep ranges for many reasons (joint health, ensuring proper form stays intact, etc.).

      3. Isolation exercises are also better suited as higher rep fatigue exercises than lower rep progressive tension exercises. Meaning, use the heavy compounds to get strong as hell. Use the lighter arm isolation stuff for “pump work” and generating muscular fatigue.

  12. Great post; however I am often confused between the upper/lower every other day routine you publish the the 2.0 Workout Routine. 2.0 reads to me as a superior workout, but is it really any better than the every other day upper/lower split?

  13. hi, i am a Hardgainer, have been trying to put on some muscles for soo long but nothing workd much, currently i have been doing #3 but high intensity. seem to gain a bit but still not too happy and i feel i have gained more fats than muscles. But glad i came across this website lots of informative stuff… going to start with the upper/lower split i hope to see it work for me just they way it did for others above 🙂

    Thanks for sharing soo much with the world. 🙂

  14. Same here. I went out and bought a “Muscle, Fitness and Power”
    mag. Culled what I could from the mag I bought. I set up a program and bought supps and protein. Bought a lifetime membership at the Powerhouse Gym in the neighborhood and I damn near lived in that gym for two years! lol I started at 6’0″, 155lb. and two years later 215lb. still six feet. Not bad. Now it’s once or twice a week.

  15. What is in your opinion better for size: 5 reps our 8 reps?
    I am asking it because I see around the web a lot of 5×5 routines but the people that do it dont look like they lift! I feel that the strengh that you gain on 5 reps dont translate to size than the same strengh gained on 8 reps. Of course, you gain strengh more fast whit 5 reps than 8.
    Also, 8 reps is still a heavy weigth, not a light like you use to do 10 reps.

    • As long as your diet is designed for muscle growth and your overall routine is set up correctly (and progression is the main focus), 5×5 can build muscle just fine. So can sets of 8, or sets of 7, or sets of 6, or sets of 10, or sets of 12.

      Really, I consider the 5-15 rep range to be effective/beneficial for muscle growth. If you like 5×5 and do well with it, go for it. If you like the 6-8 rep range and do well with it, go for it.

      For the big primary compound lifts, I find the 5-8 rep range to be equally ideal.

  16. I’m just about to start weight training seriously for the first time. I’m glad I found this site before I fell into all the BS traps of the traditional bodybuilding approach.

  17. Hi. I favor the push/legs/pull split. Is it a mistake to do weighted hypertensions (full range of motion) instead of romanian dead lifts (or any other deadlift variation)? This is my Leg Workout:
    Leg Press
    Weighted Hyperextension
    Leg Extension
    Leg Curl
    Machine Calf Raise
    Weighted Reverse Crunch (full range of motion – knees touching chin)
    Based on this set up and no history of any injuries, is it smarter to replace hyperextensions for Romanian Deadlifts? Note my feet tend to always point outward as I raise my torso on the hyperextension bench. Is this a mistake? Should I keep my toes pointed forward just like ALL my other leg exercises even if it prevents using a full range a motion? Thank you.

  18. I.have been thinking about choosing stiff legged dead lifts as a suitable replacement for hyperextension.

  19. Been training for twenty years, and have done all the same old bullshit high-volume, HIIT, Low-volume High rep, etc., routines. To anyone reading this, this guy has it dead one. Sometimes less is better, meaning four or five sets twice a week is just plenty. The rep-range advice is quite unique and helpful: just do whatever you like until you hit 60 reps…..excellent advice. Like the guy says, if you ain’t on steroids, don’t overtrain. I am gonna spread the word on this excellent site. Nice job, “Bro.”

  20. This website is awesome, it goes against everything i have read on magazines haha. i am the typical guy desperately trying to put size and look jacked and failing every-time, my routine has always been the typical bodybuilding split and it just gets me nowhere, definitely will try the upper/lower or the push/pull/legs. Great site bro, just great!

  21. Hey, wonderful article and I checked out the muscle building workout routine in the conclusion with the upper/lower body split workout, and I was wondering if the set and rep range you posted up for those workouts, are they the ideal reps/sets to do while on a cutting phase? Or should I be doing the same workouts but lowering the reps and doing heavier weight, like instead of 3 sets of 6-8 I’d do 3 sets of 4-5. Because I am afraid to lose muscle while cutting. Thank you 😀

  22. This was my workout routine when I first started strength training:

    Bench Press
    Bicep Curls
    Triceps Extensions

    Smith Machine Squat

    Sometimes I would only do upper body

    That was until I found aworkoutroutine Full Body
    Jay, you really set me straight as a noob. Thanks a lot

  23. Haha … exactly my story. My guess is that this is sort of a “natural” progression:
    – You start out completely clueless but make some beginner gains during the first months.
    – Soon after, you will reach a plateau and think “I probably wasn’t doing enough of what I did” … leading to a completely overblown program.
    – After a long time, you will finally admit to yourself that this isn’t working at all. Turning to advice, you will come across all the hardgainer theory which seems to make a lot of sense in your situation: “Of course, I was doing way too much and I was OVERTRAINING the whole time” … leading to a timid hardgainer routine and no progress either.

    Sadly, my own story continues with about 5 more routines that didn’t work either 😉

  24. Hey man, another great post. Keep it up. I’m not sure that heres the place to ask you this and excuse me if it’s not. But there’s one workout that Arnie recommends in one of his books for beginner or intermediate athletes, i have seen it at random places. So i was wondering is it a good BEGINNER workout for a meso-ectomorphic body type. Much obliged. Here’s the workout:

    Squats 3 x 8
    Bench Presses 3 x 8
    Incline Presses 3 x 8
    Wide-Grip Chins 3 x 8
    Bent-Over Rows 3 x 8
    Behind-the-Neck-Presses 3 x 8
    Barbell Curls 3 x 8
    Lying Triceps Extensions 3 x 8

  25. Hey, im 16 years old and i have made no gains in the last year. At 6 foot and 150-155 i am very skinny. I’m literally depressed that i have made no gains for so long. Every thing i try doesn’t work and i have this mindset that nothing will ever work. I do muay thai and jiu jitsu 5-6 days a week so i burn more cals than usual, thankfully i think i have finally tweeked my diet enough for sufficient calories. You seem pretty sure of your program, can you guarantee me at least 10-15 pounds if i follow this plan correctly? Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the help!

    • I’d guarantee that this program when combined with a diet designed to support growth and the time/effort/consistency needed for things to work… WILL in fact work extremely well for building muscle.

  26. Hi. I was curious, why do you prefer upper/lower split instead of push/pull split? Your site is full of truly awesome info and I respect your opinion. Thank you.

  27. Being an ectomorph myself , have been working out rather seriously for 2-3 years..tried out alot different routines like you used to , with some amount of gain but not a lot , from previously 58kg to around 62kg now (5 feet 9 inches)..can I start your Muscle Building Workout Routine directly , skipping those beginner routines ? another question , is it fine to just stick with the same routine for years as long as following the progressive overload principle ? Thanks in advance !

    • If you’ve been training consistently for 2-3 years and have made at least a decent base level amount of progress, then yes, you can start with The Muscle Building Workout Routine.

      As for when to change things, you can stick with the same overall program for years as long as it’s working and just tweak small things within that program. There’s a chapter in the book that covers this in detail.

  28. Started training when I was 18 years old with my mates (now 21). And just like you did everything that sounded or looked like fun. I was 68kg at the time and with a height of 6 feet 3 that was too light. I needed a good routine and I luckily found it with the men’s health abs diet. I went from 68kg to 78kg (in two years) thanks to creatine and whey shakes, but the results where stagnating in the last few months. The routine was 3x workouts that pretty much were total body. The duration of each workout was always around 1.5 – 2 hours. I now think I did too much and also did the same excercises over and over (for instance 3 times a week bench presses, and incline dumbbell curls etc). It’s the first time I’ll be using a split routine and I hope this workout routine will be my new favorite as well!

  29. Skinny girl in the process of becoming strong. You’re the best! I’ve been using your muscle building 4 day routine for a few months and I love it. Lots of people comment on how “ripped” I’m getting…which is them exaggerating a bit, but my body is definitely changing in a great way! Big hug and X to the O for all you do!

  30. Awesome article !!!!!!!! And so DAMN true… when I was 16 – 25 yr old I followed everything from Arnolds routine, Mike Mentzers routine, Sly, Van Damme, Reg Park, The Rock….. and all produced a tiny bit of muscles….. I wish I read this article 10 years ago or so… These guys never mention diet, or anything of any importance in their routines… I have been following your muscle builiding routine, and set up ‘MY OWN DIET” not anyone elses….. and BOOM awesome results….. thanks Jay , your the best man!!

  31. Hello, Jay.

    I started the following routine a very short while ago. If you have a moment to comment on it, I would really appreciate it. And I apologize in advance for the length of the post.

    Upper (Mon & Thu)
    Trap bar deadlift 5×4
    Pendlay row 4×6
    Weighted pullup 4×6
    Barbell press 4×6
    Incline dumbbell press 3×8
    Weighted dip 3×8
    Arms 3-4×10-12

    Lower (Tue & Fri)
    Front squat 4×6
    Goblet squat 3×8-12
    RDL 4×6
    Calf raise 3×12-15

    I am closer to a beginner than an intermediate, though I have lifted weights for several years. I progressed to a 350lb conventional deadlift before stalling two years ago. I currently max out at around 300lb on the conventional and around 325lb on the trap bar. My squat, press and bench are abysmal, to put it charitably. As for the exercise choices: front squat instead of back squat because I don’t have a rack in my apartment, and because my back squat is almost a good morning, anyway; trap bar instead of straight because it is easier to lower the trap bar quietly in my 3rd floor apartment; and dumbbell bench press instead of barbell because the barbell bench destroys my shoulders. Thanks for your time, and for all that you have done to put out quality information.

  32. Hi man,

    Great website, awesome tips! Thank you so much.
    I have a question. I had been following your intermediate routine for two months when somehow I injured my hip at the gym and had to stop doing all lower body exercises. One month later I’ve almost fully recovered, but I still would like to wait a couple more weeks. In the meantime, I’ve just been doing the upper body workouts, twice a week. Can I increase the frequency to three times a week while I do no legs? Would it be too much?

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