The End Of The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine

If you’re reading this, then it appears that you’ve made it all the way to the end of my free (and awesome) guide to creating The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine. Sweet!

At this point, I have just 5 things left to say.

1. Congrats!

First of all… congratulations are in order.

You’ve now learned more about weight training, program design, and how to get the results you want than the majority of the population will ever learn in their lifetime. Congrats!

2. Put It To Use!

I hope you liked the guide and actually use what you’ve learned to create the workout routine that will work best for you and your specific goal (or use one of my recommended sample routines).

Because honestly, reading and learning and understanding are great and all, but the only way it’s truly going to work is if you actually put it into action. So… do that.

3. But Wait, There’s MORE Awesome Free Stuff!

Believe it or not, I still have a TON of information to share with you here at A Workout Routine.

While The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine was pretty damn comprehensive, there actually is a whole lot of stuff that I purposely left out, skipped over or just felt didn’t fit right as a part of this guide.

And the more I think about, the more I realize just how much additional important and useful stuff there is to say about weight training, cardio, diet and nutrition, supplements, building muscle, losing fat, increasing strength and performance, improving health, and much more.

Luckily, I fully plan on sharing all of it right here on a regular basis. To make sure you never miss any of it, be sure to subscribe via email using the form at the end of this article, and also feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

4. Become A Member Of The Results Crew

Even though I just covered everything you need to know about designing your own workout routine (and provided a few sample routines of my own), I’ve realized that many people want or need something more.

What exactly?

  • More workout routines that are already fully designed for you and proven to be as effective as possible.
  • Workouts with different schedules, different splits (2, 3, 4 and even 5 day splits), different training methods, for different goals.
  • Workout routine evaluations… where you can show me your workout (and your diet) and get thorough feedback on what’s good, what’s bad, and what adjustments you can make to improve it for your specific goals.
  • An exercise video database demonstrating how to properly perform each weight training exercise for every muscle group.
  • Personalized help with losing fat and/or building muscle.

Well, after years of people asking for all of this, I’ve finally built a solution.

Allow me to introduce: The Results Crew

The Results Crew is all of the workouts, diet guidelines and exercise videos you’ve been looking for, along with the personalized answers, support, accountability and community you need to get the results you want.

Trust me, it’s awesome.

You can learn all about it right here: The Results Crew

5. Give Me Your Feedback!

And last but not least, I want to hear your feedback. In fact, I want 3 different kinds of feedback.

  1. First, I want to know what you thought of the guide.
    I want to know what you liked best, what section was most useful, what you wish I covered in more detail or explained better, what you felt was missing (if anything), and basically your thoughts and opinions on the guide itself.
  2. Second, I want to answer your questions.
    If you had any questions about any aspect of weight training, creating your routine, reaching your specific goal (building muscle, increasing strength, losing fat, etc.), the sample workouts or anything else while reading any part of this guide, email me here and ask. I will answer. Also be sure to check out the nearly 3000 comments below this post. Most questions have already been asked/answered at this point.
  3. Third, I want to hear how well it’s working for you.
    Once you start using the information contained in this guide, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to start getting the results you want. Sounds good, huh? Trust me… it is. And when that starts happening for you, I want to hear all about it. So, email me and let me know.

The End

Well, that’s about it.

Once again I hope you liked the guide (and if you did, be sure to tell your friends about it) and I hope you actually use what you’ve learned from it.

I also hope you subscribe using the subscription box below, because I plan on writing similarly awesome and useful guides in the future.

And again, if you have any questions, comments, feedback or just want to tell me how well it’s working for you, email me here.

Enjoy your results.

(This article is part of a completely free guide to creating the best workout routine possible for your exact goal. It starts here: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)

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Check it out: The Home Workout Guide

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.

2,735 thoughts on “The End Of The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine”


  1. For your upper/lower split i want to do that but should i go to failure every set or so i stay a couple away for all three sets or fail on the last set?

  2. Hey,

    I’ve been following the 4-day upper/lower body split you outline on this site. However, I have a question about the Upper Body B workout. I find that, after performing the Barbell Shoulder Press, my front delts are often fatigued and give out earlier in the Dumbbell Bench Press.

    Is this normal? Should I focus on using lower weight on the Dumbbell Bench, instead of the weight I would typically use? This seems like the most logical option but I wanted to check before altering how I follow your routine.


    • If you’re going to do 2 pressing exercises of any kind in one workout (a chest press and shoulder press, 2 chest presses, 2 shoulder presses, whatever), the exercise that is done second will always suffer to some extent no matter what. The first press used as least some of the same muscles, which means those muscles will be somewhat fatigued for the second movement. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

      So if you normally dumbbell bench presses first in a workout, and now switch to shoulder pressing first, your dumbbell press will be some degree weaker for sure.

      This isn’t a bad thing of course, as it just means that you need to find a weight you can lift at this point in the workout for the prescribed amount of sets/reps. Whatever that amount ends up being, your goal is to then gradually work on increasing it from that point on.

  3. First off, thanks for this website. The Muscle Building Routine really hit the nail on the head for me as a routine that: 1) keeps me interested, 2) gets good results, and 3) fits within the timeframe that I have to spend at the gym.

    The only problem that I seem to have is on Lower Body B day, specifically trying to do split squats right after doing barbell squats. I’ve tried a couple of variations (regular split squats, bulgarian, lunges), but after the barbell squats my legs seem like they’re so completely -wrecked- that, best case, my form is horrendous and worst case, I pull something in a hip muscle trying to compensate for the fatigue in the quads. Moving the exercise around until after the leg curls or calves helps a little, but it’s still not great.

    Is there any advice, or possibly an alternate exercise you could recommend for this? I’ve been contemplating possibly doing weighted step-ups instead, or maybe breaking it up into a couple of quad and glute isolation exercises, or it’s entirely possible that I just need a healthy dose of “man-the-hell-up”.

    Thanks again for everything!

    • Glad to hear it man.

      As for split squats (by the way, they are meant to be plain old split squats, not Bulgarian), if your body/mind just doesn’t feel up to an exercise like that after squats to the point where form may go to crap, feel free to replace them. Step ups could work in their place if you prefer, although for me personally my first choice might be single-leg leg presses.

      Either would work just fine though, so pick your favorite.

  4. Everything about this guide has been amazing! I have always wondered about conflicting information from all these online workout routines, about number of sets, reps, exercises, workout routines, but this guide made everything so easy to understand, and more importantly, easier to understand why certain exercises are in your example workouts and the math behind them. Great stuff! I’m planning on starting on the beginner workout right away.

    I have one question about end goals. A lot of people say that you have to focus on either losing weight or gaining muscle – just one of them. I think you talked about this a bit in your diet section about focusing caloric intake based on what that goal is. I am a bare-bones beginner, 6’0″ weighing in at 175lbs, so I’m not technically overweight but also not fit. Is it possible that under a beginner routine, I will simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle? I have been doing basic cardio like running for the past 6 months or so, if I keep this up when I go on the beginner workout then will I see results in both categories?

    Also, I’d love to read about more of what you’ve written for the other sites you mention in the About page, do you have any way I can find those? Thanks again for everything, I’m super pumped to get into the gym now! And also, thanks for being so involved with your commenters, it really sets the site apart from other sites.

    • Awesome to hear it Kyle!

      Most people trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time will get nowhere with either goal. The main exceptions to this tend to be steroid users, people regaining lost muscle and fat beginners. So, if you fit that “fat beginner” description, then you may be able to (temporarily) make both happen to some extent at the same time by weight training intelligently/progressively and eating at maintenance or a small deficit.

      And regarding the sites mentioned on the ‘about’ page, I haven’t actually written for them. Rather, I’ve written/created stuff, and they’ve featured it, referenced it or mentioned it.

      • Thanks for your quick response! So in other words, no matter what my goal is I should stick with a beginner workout, but caloric intake alone will determine whether I’m losing weight or gaining muscle?

        Also, when you list your workout routines, you list some exercises where any type of that exercise is fine (like with rows, you mention quite a few different ones). I did some research on them, and I keep reading things about why one is better than the other (some said that upright rows were unnatural for the shoulders, etc.) Are these rumors true, or do they simple work different parts of your body?

        • Yes to the first question.

          As for the other question, your example isn’t a good one in this case. While upright rows definitely has the word “rows” in its name, it’s actually not one of the types of rows we’re looking for here. That’s a shoulder exercise (and yes, it does happen to bother a lot of people’s shoulders).

          The “rows” we’re looking for are horizontal pulling movements for the back (where a weight is being pulled towards your torso horizontally from out in front of you… like the reverse motion of a bench press) like the bent over dumbbell or barbell row, t-bar rows, seated cable rows, various chest supported machine rows, etc., and various different grips that can be used for each exercise (overhand, underhand, neutral).

          But let’s ignore that for a second and answer your question anyway. The reason I don’t always recommend a specific exercise and instead just recommend a type of exercise (like row) and then let the person choose between the handful of acceptable options is because A) they all mostly train the same muscle groups… some slighty differences maybe, but they are all training the mid/upper back and lats along with the biceps secondarily, B) some exercises are better or worse for certain people based on their body, injury history, etc. and C), plain old personal preference.

      • Oh I also forgot to ask, which is the best for a 6’0″ 175lb male to start with, the weight-loss part or the muscle-building? I’m in the “good looks” category for your goal assessment.

    • If it’s needed or preferred for your goal, sure.

      How it interacts with everything else and exactly how much you can/should do, how often, what kind, etc. and what adjustments (if any) need to be made to your diet and weight training program is a bit more complicated, though.

      I’ll eventually cover it all in future articles. Stay tuned.

      • well the main reason is because i need to lose some weight and it’s hard to do a good amount of cardio on lifting days. just wanted to check with you. I’m doing the beginner mon, wed, fri and was thinking to do cardio in between.possibly hiking. but make sure i have at least one day completely off.

        let me know what you think. thank you man!

          • Oh trust me, i’m working on my diet. i was just wondering if i walked or jogged a couple miles would it inter fear with my weightlifting plan?

  5. Hi.. I have started beginner workout routine today. So, when I tried to do Pull-Up, I could not able to complete single rep. Other exercises can perform with no trouble though. So what should I do ? any advice ? Please..

  6. Would I be able to change the routine so that it follows:

    Lower body A
    Upper body A
    Lower body B
    Upper body B


  7. is there any exercises that i could use to my muscle building lower/upper body workout that could increase my vertical jump and where do they fit in?thanks in advance.

    • For growth, pretty much every rep range between 1 and 20 can serve a beneficial purpose. My preference for most big muscle groups though is typically to have a heavier lower rep exercise where the focus is on progressive overload and getting as strong as possible, and then a second exercise for that muscle group that’s a little lighter and higher in reps and more fatigue oriented.

      For example with quads, maybe squats for sets of 5-8, then leg press, or split squats or even leg extensions for sets of 8-15.

  8. Been reading like a maniac the past two days and tried to work my way through the great wealth of information provided on your website. Thanks for the immensely clear and concise breakdown of what something that’s often made to seem very complicated – Love your site (and your common sense approach and tone of writing)!

    One question though. Although you mention when following any of the routines, good form/technique is more important than shifting heavy loads, I couldn’t find anything about core building exercises, which I though would have been vital in being able to perform any movement with correct technique/posture. Are you able to provide some guidance on good core building exercises and how to perform these, or have I not looked close enough and missed that section?

    • Thanks for the feedback Astrid, glad you liked it!

      Regarding “core training,” that’s a subject that really needs a full article to properly cover. It’s on my to-do list, though.

      Also keep in mind that there’s more to posture than the just core. The shoulders/upper back play a big role there as well.

  9. in the muscle building workout routine you hit chest(bench press),back(rows),then chest then back.shouldn’t you hit the same muscle twice and then go to the other?i guess both will be allright but why you prefer the 1st one?

  10. I was just wondering what you think of Tom’s e-book, “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”?
    Is his plan similar to yours? Thanks for your input on this.

    • I read BFFM years ago, and remember it being the best weight loss ebook there was at the time by far. Based on proven science, well written, etc. I’m not sure if he’s updated it over the years (he probably has), otherwise a few things might be a bit outdated (e.g. you must eat 6 meals a day to speed up your metabolism).

      But overall, it’s a damn good book about losing weight. Tom’s one of the good guys in this industry.

  11. Thanks for the info, you explain it in common sense terms pulled from scientific research, good stuff. Couple questions.
    How can I work in Cardio, shrugs, and what exercises can I do to get rid of belly fat?
    Just kidding! Read through the comments and thought I’d throw that in there.

    Last week I started the upper/lower 4 day split. I’ve been at it steady for 4 years now and have used alot of Steve Shaw’s workouts, 3 day full body, and 3day or 5 day body split, once a week muscle lifts. Anyways, Gotta thank you for the split squat, never done it before and after squats it’s pretty intese. Thanks for the rep definition, I’ve always done 3×8, 8, 8, and 9, before I moved up. It’s more aggresive for overload with the 8,7,6, and then increase, hoping it helps pack on some more muscle. And thanks for the cutting tips, keeping the weights up and protien intake especially. I’m gonna stick with this split for a while and then get some other routines from you. One question, what routine/exercises are you doing right now, if you don’t mind sharing? Thanks!

    • Ha, thanks dude… glad to hear you liked it. And thanks for the comment torture fake-out. 😉

      As for what I’m doing right now, it’s something kinda close to The Muscle Building Workout Routine, but with a few modifications (most of which are minor, but a couple are less minor). I may do a post about it at some point in the future or include it in an update on The Best Workout Routines. Stay tuned.

  12. Hi. Would I be considered a begginner if i worked out intelligently and consistently for 6 months before but stopped, then continued working out again? Thanks.

      • 8 months. Another question. I’m playing in a basketball league once or twice a week. Sometimes, my workout schedule coincides with a game so I won’t work out. Sometimes, the workout day comes before a game, sometimes after. Would you recommend working out a day before or after a game? Thanks.

        • Yes, come back with the beginner routine. And as for scheduling that routine (which is 3 day full body) around basketball, do whatever is needed keep 1-2 days between workouts.

  13. As everyone else, iI have been loving all this information from all your articles. they’re all so relatable! I used to be a track athlete,(was a preferred walk on when I started college last semester but turned it down due to me needing to work) well now iI haven’t been working out at all and the flab has been building up. iI was a sprinter and am still 18 right now just to give some back ground. I would like to be able to lift 2 days a week and just jog on the other 3 days, (not heavy, less than 30 minutes like you said) just because iI do love to run. I’m just super busy so my schedule is so limited. iI work full time and go to school full time. But, this iI can lift on Tuesday Thursday and run Monday, Wednesday and Friday. First of all, do you think this will be beneficial? I’m going with the beginners training because quite frankly iI have been without physical activity for about half a year now and have gained 20 pounds. (165 to 185 and iI am 6’0.) any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again for all your articles, and if you’re to busy to reply in sure if I’ll figure something out it would just be nice to have some input from you!

    • If you’re only capable of weight training 2 days per week, then, while it’s not exactly what I’d consider optimal for strength/muscle gains, it’s still definitely capable of working well.

  14. Hi Jay, I have gone through the guide and the book and can’t answer this, sorry if you covered it already! On a calorie deficit, if I am not trying to add anymore muscle size, if I did a low rep intense workout like 5*5 using the heaviest weight I can manage, will I retain muscle! I know there’s always an overlap between strength reps and muscle building reps, thanks so much

    • Any intelligent routine that is capable of increasing muscle/strength in a surplus will usually be just fine for maintaining muscle/strength in a deficit, with one possible change being a reduction in volume and/or frequency to compensate for the drop in recovery that comes with being in a deficit.

      In the book, check out The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance Solution. It covers all of this in more detail.

  15. Hi there… in need of much help, i’ve trained over the past 3 years, but stopped last year, but when i was training i knew nothing or followed no program a got bigger and bigger doing full body workouts 3 days per week! because ive lost all that muscle and wanting to go back i’ve no confidence because this time i thought i would study before i went and looked into different routines on the internet (bad mistake) there was that many i am now confused in what i should be doing, no one has ever gave me a personal routine that i should go by and their is that much crap on the net… could you give me 1 to follow? I’m 25… 9st 8 and 5ft 9, my goal is to get bigger, gain weight and muscle, thanks in advance

  16. I do have question’s. However, for now I just wanted to say THANK U, for the all this information that you shared with us.

    I’m FINALLY starting to understand muscle building, diet & LOOKING GOOD….. better than I ever did !

  17. Thanks again for the info, awesome stuff.
    I tweaked your upper/lower 4 day split a little bit, thought I’d bounce it off you and see if you see any problems with it.

    For the isolation exerecises I do 3 sets of everything instead of 2. My reasoning, I’ve been lifting hard for several years and still complete the workout in about 50 minutes. I added heavy side bends on the end of upper body A, and dumbell shrugs on the end of upper B.
    The only other thing I think I’m going to change is insted of doing 3 sets of 6-8 for pullups on upper b, and 8-10 for seated rowing, I’m going to switch those rep schemes around for those two exercies. It feels like I get a better burn on pullups if I do 8-10 with weight compared to 6-8 with heavier weight, and it seems like my back handles the heavy weight pullups fine, but it’s too much for my arms and elbows. I do the seated rowing on the lat pull down machine, our seated rowing machine can’t get heavy enough, but change my position to almost parallel with the floor, and stay that way during the reps.
    Do you see any problems with these changes? Thanks!!!
    By the way, I thought I had read everything, but found your article on increasing weight for isolation exercises, about not doing it but increasing reps instead, made awesome sense, it’s amazing a guy doesn’t discover some of these things on his own…thanks.

    • Nope, none of that looks too bad to me. If however you begin to notice any problems/stalled progress, dropping the arm exercises back two 2 sets would be a good first adjustment to try.

  18. Doing the extra sets could stall progress?! I’m going to quit doing them. I just figured that doing the extra set could only help smaller muscles grow, who doesn’t want big pipes right.

    • There is a certain amount of volume that is beneficial. Once you exceed that amount, you begin to cross the line from beneficial to detrimental, as it starts to cut into recovery.

      Whether or not an additional couple of sets of arm stuff will put you over the line (or close enough to it) is impossible to say, though.

  19. This is my 5th week of the upper/lower split and my weights have gone up a little bit but I attribute that to getting used to the new program, the compound lifts haven’t gone up at all, but I’ve been stalled on bench/military and pullups/rows for quite a while, legs I stick to the same and make sure and do deep squats for example because my legs are where I want them to be.
    I didn’t do the extra sets on upper A today, I workout at noon, and I am surprised at how different i felt after the workout, the extra sets were adding more volume than I thought, much less “spent” after the workout. Time will tell if the weights go up. Can’t thank you enough for the insight! I was trying to decide on which workout to download, low and behold you get them all for the $27!, awesome, thanks!

  20. I just found this site and all this info sounds great, but I do have a few questions. First off, after I read the workout guide I went over to “A Calorie Counter” and found “The Best Diet Plan” guide. I read the one for weight loss (since that’s my primary goal, but I also want to gain some strength and endurance) just to see if there was anything that could add to what I learned here. The problem is when I recalculated my deficit and the nutrient intakes I should take (just to be sure) I came out with something totally different than the calculations I got in this guide. Is that because this guide takes my workout routine into account and adjusted it for me, or did I just screw something up? My other question is, if I decide to get used to my diet plan first, say dieting without exercise for 3 weeks and then start working on my workout routine would that be fine, or would I need to do any kind of adjustment during those three weeks of no exercise?

    • Nope, things should be just about even in both guides. Set a deficit of around 20% below maintenance, get around 1g of protein per pound of current body weight (target body weight if you are obese), around 25% of total calories from fat, and the rest from carbs.

      As for your other question, if you want to do it like that for whatever reason, that’s fine.

  21. Hi Jay,

    First of all, thanks for the beginner program. It’s very hard to find something that’s suitable for true beginners that doesn’t assume you’re into powerlifting or bodybuilding. I’ve attempted Stronglifts 5×5 a while ago but after about 3 weeks I found it hard to keep up with so I’m looking to commit to a program for at least 6 months to build some base fitness, this program looks like a great way to start.

    What’s your thoughts on standing lifts (OH press/bent over rows) vs seated? Most programs seem to say “standing or GTFO” but I worry about form, especially lower back. Would you recommend persisting with the standing lifts and build up slower or just focus on the seated ones?

    • Standing lifts are fine… assuming you like them or specifically need them for your goal. But if not, there’s absolutely no reason to do them that way. They aren’t magical or anything. They won’t build muscle or strength any better or faster.

      They are just useful exercises like any other with their own set of pros and cons.

  22. Thanks for this great article/book. I am a beginner and i got a question.

    I was following the Beginners routine, 3 days per week full-body in the ABA BAB mode.
    Workout A
    Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    Bench Press : 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    Workout B
    Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    Pull-Ups (or Lat Pull-Downs): 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    Overhead Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

    and You have recommended in the volume section like this
    In more specific terms, this breaks down like this: [for beginners stick close to 60]
    Chest: 60-120 reps per week.
    Back: 60-120 reps per week.
    Quadriceps: 60-120 reps per week.
    Shoulders: 30-60 reps per week…and so on

    So the question is: if i follow the ABA BAB approach :
    so on the BAB week only 27-30 reps of bench press for the week(chest work)?
    and in ABA only 30 reps of back..and 55 to 60 chest press for the week.
    Where as recommended for chest or bigger muscle is minimum 60 per week?

    so how does this work?

    Hari R

    • First, don’t worry about. The optimal volume ranges were mainly aimed at intermediate/advanced trainees.

      Second, don’t worry about it. It’s a proven beginner routine that works as written. I already did the worrying for you. 😉

      Third, pull-ups and rows are both back exercises.

      Fourth, you’re thinking of the concept of a week as being what happens between Monday and Sunday. Forget that and instead think in terms of how often each workout gets done. It’s not twice one week, then once the next. That would mean that on the second week that workout only got done once in 7 days. That’s not what actually happens. Instead, EVERY workout gets done EVERY 4th or 5th day 100% of the time whether it’s an ABA or BAB week. And when you look at it like that, the volume ends up being pretty close to the ranges outlined.

      Fifth, don’t worry about it.

  23. Hey there,
    I have a question about forms, and if I did miss it when I was reading the article, I’m sorry.
    Here’s the question, I’ve tried squatting back then (and I was under a trainer supervision) and every time I do it, there always seem to be some sort of back problem (such as sore back muscle). I know I’m doing it wrong, but is there any recommendation as to what I should do?
    The problem is that, my posture isn’t the best one around, do you think that I need to improve some aspect of my body first before jumping to exercises like squats?
    Thanks in advance!

    And awesome article you’ve got here, kudos!

    • Search around for a series of videos called “Squat RX.” It will answer every question you’ve ever had about squatting correctly and fixing any issues you currently have that are preventing proper form.

  24. Hey Jay,

    Do you have an opinion on/any resources for the saturated fat controversy? For some reason a quick search on the “saturated fat is not bad” camp brings up a lot of known quacks (on other topics) and going through PubMed has articles both ways. For some reason it just sounds like wishful thinking…but then again, I’m having a bit of a hard time discrediting a couple of the studies. Thanks!

    • For the average healthy and active adult, getting some of your daily total fat intake from saturated fat is likely fine and beneficial for keeping testosterone levels where you want them too be. You probably don’t want too much of it on a daily basis, but you also probably don’t want/need to avoid it.

      As for a full article about it… off the top of I’m pretty sure Alan Aragon covered it pretty well in his research review a year or two ago (you need to be a subscriber though). I think Lyle McDonald may have written something about it at some point over the last couple of years. Search around his site a bit, you’ll probably find something.

  25. Hi Jay,

    I’ve greatly enjoyed the guide. I’m a cellular biologist by trade. While I can’t swear to your guide’s accuracy, I can recognize a thoughtful well-reasoned argument when I see one: as opposed to the fluffy emotive Hollywood bullshit you find on most sites. Keep it up!

    As a beginner reading your guide for the first time, a few questions remain unanswered for me:

    1.) Strength vs Looks camp. You cover what to do for each very clearly. Could you, however, also tackle what the different effects on your muscles actually are. How is it possible to lift more weight without putting on significantly more muscle mass? Poking around the internet turns up a debate on hypertrophy highlighting increased sarcoplasm (looks, muscle mass) vs increased myofibrils (strength). I’d love to see your guide weigh in on this (if only a little).

    2.) Diet: What if I keep my reasonably well balanced diet right where it is. Are you suggesting that I won’t be able to increase muscle mass OR will I be able to swap fat for muscle (possibly with an overall loss of weight)?

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Frank, glad to hear it!

      1. This should cover most of what you’re looking for:

      2. That depends on exactly where your diet is being kept at (surplus, deficit, maintenance?). But basically, most people will not be able to build muscle in a deficit, lose fat in a surplus, or build muscle and lose fat simultaneously. The main exceptions here are steroids users/genetic freaks, fat beginners and people regaining lost muscle. In those latter 2 cases, there is this short term magical period where the body becomes capable of doing things it typically won’t be able to.

      • Hi Jay,

        1. Thanks for the link. It answers a lot of questions. You have a lot of separate posts that deal with questions right at the front of a beginner’s mind. May I suggest you work condensed versions directly into your guide (e.g. strength vs mass, pump and soreness etc..)?

        2. I’m still struggling to understand your theory on diet. Please allow me to list my assumptions and you can tell me where I may be going wrong:

        a. I’m 165lb and have been so without training for years. My assumption is that I’m on a maintenance diet (my diet is reasonably well balanced) since my weight is stable.

        b. I start a beginners split as you suggest and work on progressive overload. The weight has been steadily increasing as expected.

        c. My assumption is that muscle mass must be increasing for this to occur. Surely, that can only be happening at the expense of fat mass as my calorie intake and overall weight have remain unchanged.

        d. My overall assumption based on this is that if I continue to eat a maintenance diet while focusing on progressive overload, the most logical outcome is a moderate increase in muscle mass, a decrease in fat, and that this will occur until I achieve that “toned” look (yes, I’ve read the post and I agree with it entirely!).

        Am I WAY off somewhere?


        • 1. I mostly want to keep it as a step-by-step guide to putting a weight training routine together without going off too far off into other semi-related topics. That’s what the rest of the site is for. 😉

          2. As an untrained complete beginner to weight training, especially if you have a decent amount of fat to lose… you’ll be able to make really good strength gains regardless of where your calorie intake is at (behold the magic of being a beginner), and most likely build some muscle and/or lose some fat as well (although neither will happen as optimally as they would with a surplus or deficit respectively).

          But even if this is happening, you need to keep in mind that it’s not going to happen forever. Within a few months (when noob gains subside), maintenance calories aren’t going to be all that effective for anything. At that point you will require a surplus or a deficit to make anything meaningful happen.

  26. HI Jay,

    Great site.

    I have been doing a program of strength training of jungle gym trx stuff.

    Is any of the best workout routines applicable to that and also kettlebells. I am hoping to lose some fat 30 pounds.

    I also have done a fair amount of high intensity interval training 3 x’s per week for 20 minutes .

    I bought the book and looked through it looks great so far. I am sure diet is my biggest opprtunity.

    • None of the routines in the book include any specific TRX or kettlebell stuff… it’s more traditional free weight and body weight exercises (although TRX exercises can certainly be incorporated… for example replace an exercise like seated cable rows with some form of TRX row).

  27. Hi Jay,

    So, progressive overload.

    I’ve digested your site to the point that the term is burned into my frontal lobe! And, it makes sense.

    I’ve noted that you aren’t a fan of working to failure. In fact, you seem to discourage working to fatigue as well?

    I’m finding it difficult to separate the ideas of: progressive overload, muscle fatigue, and muscle failure.

    For example, I know that I am not ready to progress to the next weight if I don’t achieve three sets in my rep range (beginner workout). But I’m unsure how I can fail to achieve the reps unless I “fail”. After all, I only get 6 reps in the last set because my muscles fail to allow me to do more.

    Any help on differentiating these ideas would be a great help!

    • It’s mostly just a matter of knowing what it feels like to have done your last rep… aka the rep before failure. So, you’ll know that you would have failed without actually going through with the rep and failing on it. This is something that you’ll get better at knowing the more experienced you get (so you don’t end up accidentally failing all the time and you also don’t end up stopping 3 reps too early).

      So the same way you’re using failure now to know that you couldn’t do any more reps, you’ll use the feeling of knowing that you just did the last rep were going to be able to do before failing. It’s the same concept, just without actually having to constantly go to failure.

      And going to failure every so often when you think you had the next rep but didn’t isn’t a bad thing. Purposely aiming to reach failure on most/all sets of most/all exercises is.

  28. Hey. You write some great articles, and I really appreciate that you’ve done your journal research in developing this information. Could you please provide me some journal articles on the efficacy of workout programs? If possible, specifically regarding the amount of exercises, reps, and sets per muscle group within one gym visit? I can find plenty of information regarding macronutrients, but I guess I don’t know where to start looking regarding exercises. Thank you!

  29. Hi Jay,

    I have just started your beginner workout routine version 1.
    For rows , I picked Bent over barbell row and when I do it, I feel it is not much strong with thighs, they are about to tremble. I feel this more to happen after doing squats, so can I swap row of workout A with Overhead Shoulder Press of workout B or is there something else I want to do ?

    I feel it is because of lack of strength in thighs. So will this go away in future ?
    Thank you.

    • If your lower body is preventing you from doing bent over rows, pick a different type of row. For example, some type of seated cable row, chest supported row, dumbbell row, etc.

      And yes, as your overall body gets stronger, this will become less of an issue.

      • Hi jay, where I can find correct, proper techniques of these exercises ? Tried with googeling and youtube, have to say there are lot of resources but most of them are slightly different in terms of explanations, so can you show me where I can learn proper form of these exercise.
        (Wanna ask you.. don’t you have any idea to write about them too.. ?, if so, with your amazing explanations, it will be helpful for lot of guys like me in big time.)

        • Yup, writing exercise descriptions (and better yet, getting into a gym with a camera and shooting some video) is one of those big projects that have been on my to-do list forever. I’ll get around to it one day.

          Until then, there’s really no resource I know of that gets EVERYTHING right. is a decent place to start to get an idea of what each exercise is, but again… it’s not 100% perfect.

      • Looking forward for that day and thank you very much. By the way I need another advice one more time..
        for rowing, If I picked dumbbell row, how should I want to go about progressive overload ?

          • When I am able to do prescribed set and rep goal for the dumbbell row, Is it possible to increase weight every time? Because I feel it is rather bit harder with dumbbell than barbell. That is what I tried to suggest.

          • Ah, I see what you mean now. Yes, one of the downsides of using dumbbells is that you can typically only progress in 10lb increments (5lbs per dumbbell) while with a barbell you can put 2.5lbs on each side and progress in 5lb increments.

            To progress better with dumbbells though, you can either get yourself some small weights to attach to your dumbbells (like PlateMates: or push for slightly more reps before increasing the weight. For example, if the goal is to get 8 reps and then increase, maybe wait until you can get 10 reps before increasing.

            If you don’t like either option, you can always switch some other non-dumbbell exercise.

  30. What is your input on combining cardio with weight lifting? I have heard by some to do it before weightlifting, some say to do it after, some say NEVER to do it on the same day as weight lifting and others say alternate cardio days with weightlifting days?

    Thanks and great articles!

    • Generally speaking my preference for when to do cardio (if there is a good reason to be doing it) is either on days you don’t do any weight training (my favorite) or some time after weight training if you’re doing them on the same day… not before it.

      As for whether or not you should actually be doing any in the first place (or what kind/how much/how often), that really needs a full article to properly explain. I’ll get around to it eventually.

  31. Hi jay! I like to start off by saying your book is awesome. I’ve been training on and off for about 3 yrs now. I wanna say this last year I really lost alot of motivation for working out cuz I wasn’t seeing anymore results. I came across your book and it is really informative and I feel like I have new hope.! LI haven’t been on any workout routine in over a year. So after reading I guess I can say im a begginer again. I’ve been trying p90x for the last 3 weeks and I regret not starting your begginer program. I feel that p90 is to extreme for me right now. And I wanna go back and do your beginner program with the 3 day full body split. My question is since I started with p90x , will the begginer programming still be effective for me or should I jump into another one of your routines? And second questions is I wanted to know your thoughts on doing cardio on non li fting day. I weigh 195 with about 25-26% bodyfat and I would like to be able to lose about 10 pounds and shed some fat. I have a clean diet and my protein intake is about a gram per body weight. Will adding cardio on non lifting days hurt my muscle gains? I was just thinking of adding cardio like swimming or jogging just to help burn fat. Thanks your advice would be appreciated. Hope to hear from you soon

    • Nope, you’re definitely still a beginner. P90x isn’t really much of a weight training program in the first place, and 3 weeks is nothing. Stick with the beginner routine.

      If you want to lose fat, some cardio is fine if needed or preferred for helping you get into the caloric deficit you need for fat loss to occur. Excessive amounts of cardio (too much, too often, too long, too hard) can certainly cut into recovery and hinder muscle growth/weight training progress, but as long as you don’t go too overboard with it you should be ok.

      My personal preference is to keep cardio to a minimum (or just do none) and set the deficit through diet alone. But, that’s just me.

  32. hi

    Awsome guide, THE most thorough, that’s what I loved about it. I have read every word. I loved the beginning section actually where you differentiate between beginners, intermediate and advanced. I am a beginner and since I began was looking for the ultimate guide, Now I found it! Could you add in with your list of best exercises some ab exercises? that will be great. other than that you covered pretty much everything and it’s free!
    Thank you for the ultimate guide

  33. Jay,

    A couple questions, sorry if you’ve covered them already but I couldn’t find them in the comments. I’m following the beginners routine you suggested but aiming for 8-6 reps, goals are to get stronger, trim down and get an athletic physique.

    1. For the pull ups, I’ve been doing the assisted machine and decreasing the assistance when I can complete the set. I’ve been doing hammer grip but wondering if I should switch to a wide grip pull up since I’m working my way up anyway. Does the grip matter too much at this stage of the game or should I worry about it later once I’ve been lifting for a while?

    2. I’ve been recommended to add in seated cable rows for upper back, but I’m not sure if it’s overkill or how to fit them in (i.e. should I do them every workout). Thoughts? I’m ok with bent over rows for now but the seated rows do feel safer.


    • 1. Unlikely to matter much, as least not as much as just using the grip that feels most “right” for you (in wrist/shoulder/elbow comfort as well as back usage and overall strength).

      2. Simple… just make seated cable rows your rowing exercise in the routine. So if you’re doing bent over barbell rows now, replace them with cable rows.

  34. Hi Jay, I am struggling with pull ups.. I can hardly do 1-2 pull ups, is there any replacement for this exercise or should I want to keep doing this until I can do it someday.. Advice ?

    • Lat pull-downs are perfectly fine as a replacement. If your goal is to be able to do pull-ups though, assisted pull-ups are probably the better choice.

      But if you just want to train those muscles and make progress, they’re both just fine.

      • Hi jay, I workout at home jay. I have no machine to do Lat pull-downs, so I think I should want to get on with pull-ups. Some sites refers something about negative pull-ups. Is that something I want to consider ?

  35. Hi,

    Just wanted to say thank-you so much for the information on these pages. Concise, well-written and easy to understand without any jargon thrown it. Love it. I also like the fact that the majority of exercises you recommend can be done with minimal equipment (ie free weights etc.)

    I’m 29, 5’11 and 74kg. My goal is to build some muscle but more importantly just lead a healthier lifestyle and look after my body a bit more. I’ve adopted your Upper/Lower 3-day split routine and I’m only a week in. It’s early days but I just know it’s going to work!

    Thanks again for all this.


  36. hi,nice i need to do warm up sets for every excercise at the beginner routine?
    can i have an answer please?

  37. Hi jay, How important it is breathing during the weight lifting.. ? Is there any patten for it ?
    I found something like this..
    “you do inhale when lowering the weights, and exhale when lifting”
    Is it correct ?
    What is the proper way of doing this..?
    Thank you..

  38. Hey,
    I’ve seen your guide and it helped me realise why I’ve reached a plateau.
    Now I fully understand what needs to be done.
    A question though;
    How long do you estimate an Upper/Lower body workout is?
    Also, if I’ll do it like that,
    let’s say when I’m doing upper body day.
    After doing bench presses, won’t I be really exhausted before doing Skull Crushers?
    After all, my triceps will have been worked on while I was doing the bench press, and I won’t be able to lift so heavy when doing the skull crushers.

    • Do you mean how long will a typical upper or lower body workout last? Probably somewhere between 45-90 minutes depending on the specifics.

      And yes, if you’re going to be doing chest and triceps exercises within the same workout, your triceps will be slightly fatigued from chest work by the time you get to triceps work. This is perfectly fine, as the opposite (triceps before chest) would be a real problem.

  39. In your article you take about the rep ranges for all of the muscle groups, however i did not see forearms lats and traps. Do they also get their own 30 – 60 reps per week as they are smaller groups of muscle? Or is lats included in back reps,lats in shoulder reps? and so fourth..

  40. Hello there. 🙂

    I was just wondering, you see I’m a male who’s pretty slim everywhere except my face and it’s a little embarrasing. Thing is, I can’t tell if it’s fat or water that’s making my face look poofy. I think it might be water weight though because although I’m VERY sure my sodium intake level doesn’t go over the daily limit, I noticed I don’t pee as much as the way I used to 2 years ago when I was in LOVE with water. I also sleep with my head NOT elevated and so I wake up with puffy eyes. I also don’t sweat much at all so I’m assuming that the small amount of sodium I DO take in just kind of stays in me and adds up and binds with the water in my body causing my face bloating. Course I’m not an expert or anything. 🙂

    So I was just wondering, before I start trying to lose weight by creating a caloric deficit, because I already am slim as it is, should I first try to just MAINTAIN my weight and attempt to drink more water, sleep with my head elevated, and sweat more to see if my problem really IS water weight?

    I’d really appreciate it if you would respond. Thank you. 🙂

  41. Hi jay, is it really important warm down after weight lifting ? If so, what is the proper way of doing it ?
    Thank you.

  42. Hello,
    first I would like to thank you very much for all of the amazing information on this website! It’s great!
    But I do have a question:
    You wrote that the ideal amount of weight to use is such, that you couldn’t do more than 1 or 2 reps even if you wanted to.
    Do you mean that for every single set? And does that mean, that on my first set I should use more weight than on the last set?

    Thank you!

    • It basically just means don’t use a weight that is too light or too heavy. It should be challenging to the point where you couldn’t keep doing many more reps beyond the rep goal you’re shooting for, but not so heavy that you fall way short of that goal amount or can’t use proper form.

  43. Hi Jay. Great website, I’m finding it really useful.

    I’ve just started on your upper/lower split sample workout as my full body routine tended to neglect the upper body most days.

    Can you please tell me why you include more upper body exercises than lower body ones? Is it just due to the lower number (albeit larger) muscles on the lower body, or would you day this plan is more geared towards males who are maybe looking to bulk-up their upper bodies?

    My main problem areas are thighs and abs, with an overall goal to look ‘toned’, so need to make suret hat these muscles are getting enough work.

    I also add in 2 interval runs after the upper body workout (only for 15 mins or so), as I enjoy cardio.


    • Your first guess is correct. The lower body is mainly just quads, hamstrings and calves (glutes and lower back too, but they tend to get plenty of volume during most quad/hamstring exercises). The upper body is chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps (and the back is really a complicated body part comprising many different muscle groups).

      And in terms of movement patterns, the lower body really just has 2, while the upper body has 4 (or 6 if you want to include elbow extension and flexion). So basically, there’s just a lot more upper body stuff to do than lower body.

      Also keep in mind that the true key to “toning” those problem areas you mentioned is mostly a matter of fat loss. More here: How To Get Toned

      • Great, thanks for the quick response. Got my first lower body split tonight, so looking forward to the burn tomorrow! 🙂

        • Hi again Jay. I wanted to ask about diet if I could please. Based on your other website and a few others, I’ve calculated my daily calorie intake at around 1400 for weight loss (20% deficit).

          I stay strict to this and workout 4 times a week, however I am not losing weight on the scales, and haven’t done for around 3 weeks now.

          I am not eating my workout calories back as I am simply not hungry. I also eat 1g protein per lb of weight and fill the rest with healthy fats and carbs.

          Do you think I should be eating back my exercise calories, is my body in ‘starvation’ mode?’ or is this a load of crap?

          Your other website suggests to reduce calorie intake by 250 if this happens, but this would place me under the minimum calorie intake for women.

          Hmmm any suggestions?

          Thanks. Loving the workout by the way!

          • Height:160cm/ 5ft 3
            Weight: 126lbs
            Bf: 25% according to my scales

            Not looking to lose a lot, just the visible fat on lower abs and thighs

          • If you’re legitimately eating the amount of calories you say you are (and I don’t say that to sound like a douchebag… many of the people who claim to be eating enough to lose fat but aren’t are actually just miscalculating or underestimating how much they’re actually eating/burning) and you’re not losing fat, then there’s simply no deficit present and either more calories need to be burned, less calories need to be consumed, or a little of both.

            As for starvation mode, that will really need a full article to properly explain. I do briefly mention it here though:

          • Thanks that’s useful! I actually weighed yesterday and lost a pound, finally! Must be the workout 🙂 hopefully the results will continue, definitely feeling the burn today :))))

  44. Hello,
    How do I add resistance when training the lower abs abs the upper abs? Is resistance even needed?

    • Ab training should have some degree of resistance involved… yes. Exactly how it’s added depends on the specific exercise being done. Some exercises can be progressed with reps (hanging leg raises), others with weight (various crunches), others with time and harder variations (planks) and some with all of the above.

      • Thanks,
        I’m asking because I’ve been doing bodyweight exercises for a long time and haven’t seen much of a progress.
        Guess it’s time to add some weight to my crunches and leg raises.
        You’re awesome!

  45. Hey good guide first off! Ive never been showed the proper way to workout/diet/rest/plan and its been a mystery that i thought you could just say fuck it and do it. But come to find out of 3 years of not really knowing the basics ive decided to start over with your beginners workout and stick to it striclty for a while and move up along with the right diet and all the other factors. Anway ill be checking in with you on here and letting you know how it goes. Thanks again!

  46. So I’ve been doing your 4Day Upper\Lower body split.
    Seeing as there are some exercises I have some trouble with, I’ve been trying to replace them. Could you tell me if the changes I’ve made are good?
    For Upper Body A I did exactly as you wrote, also doing T-Bar rows in the “Rows” exercise.
    For Lower Body A, again I did what you wrote.
    For Upper Body B, I switched the Pull-Ups with Lat Pulldowns (I find it more comfortable to do with the warm up sets). However, the rep range is 6-8, unlike in Upper Body A where the rep range is 8-10.
    The rest I’m doing exactly as you wrote.
    For Lower Body B I replaced the squats with Leg Press (I feel my back too much doing the squats).
    Secondly, I switched the laying leg curls with seated. The rep range here is 10-12, but in Lower Body A it’s 8-10.
    Lastly, having no seated calf raises machine I’m doing standing calf raises. However the rep range here is 10-12 reps.

    My question is; since the rep ranges on the exercises I switched are lower than the rep ranges on the first days (Upper/Lower Body A), should I lower the weight on these exercises, keep the weight the same or increase the rep range to what it is on the Upper/Lower Body A days?

    • Those replacements are all fine.

      And yes, you will end up lifting a little lighter when doing an exercise in a higher rep range than you would when doing it in a lower rep range.

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