The Upper Body Workout Template For Building Muscle

Alright, time to give away some muscle building SeCReTZ… for free.

I’ve previously covered the basics of putting together a generic upper body workout that can suit a variety of training goals. Today however I want to look at one specific goal and walk you through the template I personally like to use when designing a program for it.

What goal is that, you ask? Muscle hypertrophy… aka muscle growth.

How I Design Upper Body Workouts For Building Muscle

Please note that there are a hundred different ways this can be done effectively, so the following is certainly not the only way to do it. It is however the way I prefer to do it, and the way that I’ve found works best. It’s by far my favorite “upper body day” template.

Here we go…

Step 0: Individualization

Normally, the first step of ANY workout program design is individualization. This of course means taking the individual needs, goals, preferences, training/injury history, etc. of the specific person the routine is being designed for, and going forward with all of that in mind.

Since we don’t have a specific person in this case (it’s you, but um… I don’t actually know anything about you), we’re going to be skipping this step. Instead, we’ll just assume it’s some random generic person whose primary goal is to build muscle as quickly and effectively as possible.

With me so far? Awesome.

Step 1: Exercise Selection, Rep Ranges And Rest Periods

  • 2 chest exercises.
    One will typically be a flat or decline movement, and the other will typically be an incline movement (15-30 degree incline). The exercises themselves will either both be compound pressing exercises (like barbell bench press and incline dumbbell press), or one compound press (like any barbell, dumbbell or machine press) and one isolation type movement (like dumbbell or cable flyes, pec deck, etc.). Whatever they end up being, the first chest exercise in the workout will be done heavier and in a lower rep range (typically 5-8) with longer rest periods (2-4 minutes), and the other will be a little lighter and in a slightly higher rep range (typically 8-12, though sometimes as high as 15) with shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes). Why? Because the two primary training factors influencing muscle growth are tension and fatigue, and this gives us a nice combination of both.
  • 2 back exercises.
    One will be a horizontal pulling movement (like bent over rows, seated cable rows, chest supported rows, etc.), and the other will be a vertical pulling movement (like pull-ups, chin-ups or lat pull-downs). Just like before with chest, the first back exercise in this upper body workout will be done heavier, lower in reps, longer in rest periods… while the other will be a little lighter, higher in reps, shorter in rest periods.
  • 1 shoulder exercise.
    The shoulder exercise will almost ALWAYS be either an overhead press (like a seated or standing barbell or dumbbell shoulder press), or some type of lateral raise (dumbbell, cable, whatever). Why not front raises? Because it’s the most unnecessary exercise on the planet for most people. Now, whether I choose an overhead press or lateral raise is mostly dependent on what the chest exercise selection is. If both chest exercises are compound pressing movements (especially if one of them is an incline press), the shoulder exercise will typically be lateral raises. But if one of the two chest exercises was an isolation movement, the shoulder exercise usually becomes an overhead press. And if it’s an overhead press, I’ll usually go with a low-moderate rep range (5-10) and moderate-long rest (1:30-3 minutes). If it’s lateral raises, it will be a higher rep range (10-15) and shorter rest (1-2 minutes).
  • 1 biceps exercise.
    This will be some kind of isolation curling movement (dumbbell curls, etc.) done in a higher rep range (10-15) with shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes).
  • 1 triceps exercise.
    If there are already 2 (or more) compound pressing exercises in this workout (which is usually how it should be), the triceps exercise will be an isolation movement (like cable pushdowns, skull crushers, etc.) in a higher rep range/shorter rest periods (10-15, 1-2 minutes). If however there is only one pressing exercise in this workout and the rest of the chest/shoulder work is isolation stuff (e.g. incline barbell press, flat dumbbell flyes and lateral raises), then this triceps exercise can optionally become a compound movement (like dips or close grip bench press).
  • Other
    Sometimes stuff like shrugs or rear delt work can be included, too. But, that’s mostly just optional accessory stuff that is dependent on the individual needs/preferences of the person, so I tend to leave it off by default. The stuff above this is what matters most in an upper body workout designed for building muscle.

Step 2: Volume

From there it’s time to prescribe how many sets and reps will be done for each exercise. I like to start by first figuring out what the total volume for each muscle group should be in the workout, and then divide that volume up over whatever number of exercises each muscle group will have.

This is one of those areas that is highly dependent on the individualization stuff we skipped over before, because volume tolerance can vary greatly from person to person. But, assuming once again that we’re talking about some average generic person, here’s what I’ve found to be optimal for most people.

  • Chest volume: Between 30-60 total reps in this workout. Since there are 2 chest exercises, this amount will be divided up among those two exercises.
  • Back volume: Between 30-60 total reps in this workout. Since there are 2 back exercises, this amount will be divided up among those two exercises.
  • Shoulder volume: Between 20-40* total reps in this workout. Since there is 1 shoulder exercise, it will all come from this one exercise. (*Note: I actually find shoulder volume to be the trickiest to give generic recommendations for, because it has a lot to do with what was done for chest. For example, if you’ve already done flat and incline pressing, the anterior deltoid doesn’t need much more volume (if any), but the lateral deltoid does. But, 20-40 reps is usually about where it should be.)
  • Biceps volume: Between 20-30 total reps in this workout. Since there is 1 biceps exercise, it will all come from this one exercise.
  • Triceps volume: Between 20-30 total reps in this workout. Since there is 1 triceps exercise, it will all come from this one exercise.

Yes, I’ve sometimes exceeded some of these volume ranges. Yes, I’ve sometimes gone below some of these volume ranges. Again, it depends.

BUT, for most of the people, most of the time… these ranges are going to be the absolute sweet spot of effectiveness. More or less volume will increase the possibility of impeding progress.

Now as for exactly how this total volume gets divided up when the muscle group has 2 exercises, see the details from step 1.

Step 3: Exercise Order

There’s actually a few different options I like and use in terms of what order these exercise will be in. For example:

  1. Chest, back, chest, back, shoulders, arms.
  2. Back, chest, back, chest, shoulders, arms.
  3. Back, shoulders, back, chest, chest, arms.
  4. Back, chest, back, shoulders, chest, arms.
  5. Chest, chest, back, back, shoulders, arms.
  6. Back, Back, chest, chest, shoulders, arms.
  7. Chest, shoulders, back, chest, back, arms.
  8. Chest, back, shoulders, back, chest, arms.
  9. Shoulders, back, chest, back, chest, arms.
  10. etc.

More often than not though, I tend to go with one of the first 4 arrangements on this list. Why? Because by default, I tend to alternate pushing and pulling exercises throughout most (if not all) of the workout so everything gets a bit more of an equal training focus as opposed to doing everything for muscle group A first then everything for muscle group B after.

Although again, I do like doing it other ways too. In fact, if you have The Best Workout Routines, then you’ve seen this in action in the form of a new version of The Muscle Building Workout Routine where other options on this list come into play.

Regarding the arm exercises, they’ll almost always be thrown on at the end of the workout after all of the chest, back and shoulder training. There are occasions where this will change, but it’s pretty rare.

As for the order of these arm exercises (biceps then triceps, or triceps then biceps?), that will depend on what exercise came before them. Again, I usually like to maintain the alternating push/pull (or pull/push) structure.

So if the last exercise before arms was a back movement, it will probably be triceps then biceps. If it was a chest or shoulder pressing exercise, it will be biceps then triceps. However, if it was a chest or shoulder isolation exercise (like lateral raises or flyes), then it really doesn’t matter which goes first.

Step 4: Interaction With The Other Upper Body Workout

Since this upper body workout will be part of an overall program that’s using an upper/lower split, there will usually be two upper body workouts per week.

And while you CAN just repeat the same workout both times, I find most people will do better (not to mention… be much less bored by) having two different upper body workouts instead. Different in what way exactly? Anything from rep ranges and rest times to exercise selection and order.

In that regard, I like to design that other workout using the exact same template we just went through… only with a lot of things flipped around.

What I mean is, if pushing exercises came before pulling exercises, or triceps came before biceps, or movement pattern A came before movement pattern B, I like to reverse it in the other workout.

I’ll often “flip” a lot of other things, too. For example, if the biceps exercise in one workout was a bilateral movement (like barbell curls), I’ll usually make the other a unilateral movement (like dumbbell curls). Same thing for triceps, and sometimes other muscle groups too.

Another similar example would be that if the horizontal pulling exercise for back was done a little lighter, with higher reps and less rest than the vertical pulling exercise was in one workout, I’ll reverse that in the other workout.

This is partly just a balance thing to ensure that everything gets an equal amount of training focus and attention. But it’s also because it allows different exercises and movement patterns to provide a different training stimulus for muscle growth than it did in the other workout.

Not quite muscle confusion… just a slightly different version of the same template.

Step 5: Design The Lower Body Workouts

Step 6: Integrate All Workouts Into Overall Upper/Lower Muscle Building Program

Step 7: Implement Progression Scheme

Step 8: Combine Training With A Diet Designed To Support It

What, you were expecting all of the SeCReTz in a single article? HA!

Although, The Muscle Building Workout Routine (and/or The Best Workout Routines) + The Best Diet Plan pretty much has you covered. And Superior Muscle Growth, of course, REALLY has you covered.

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.

87 thoughts on “The Upper Body Workout Template For Building Muscle”


  1. Will u do articles on the rest of the steps? If so, when can we expect them?

    Thanks for the helpful info!

    Ps, what is ur opinion on hiit? A lot of people claim to build a lot of muscle and burn fat with these intense short duration bodyweight workouts

    • Probably, but no idea when.

      As for HIIT, it’s a useful fat loss tool with its own pros and cons like any other form of training (and is another topic that needs a full article of its own to properly cover).

  2. Hello,

    Pushing yourself to almost failures (or even failures) after a 2 week OFF is no good, yes? (Lowered weights accordingly because of rest)

    Btw, great article.

    • After 2 weeks off, you should be coming back easier with weights that are a good bit lighter than you last left off lifting, and then gradually building back up. So maybe 75% of where you were previously at before the break, then 85% the next week, then 95%, etc.

  3. OK… I love this site and appreciate your time, effort and general ‘no nonsense’ approach (funny sometimes too). Since I found this website about two months ago, I’ve been doing the upper/lower split with most exercises in the 6-8 range and practicing progressive overload. I used to do a typical old school ‘bodybuilder’ workout. I like that the split hits everything twice in a week (and forces me to get up on Monday morning or it offsets my whole week). I understand push/pull balance, proper form, mind-muscle connection, etc. I varied the routine slightly from what you have in this article to alternate push/pull (1 set push, one set pull, one set push, etc.) creating a mini-circut. I THINK it produces the same results, just with less time resting (my ‘rest’ for bench presses is a set of pullups… then maybe one minute rest before the bench again).

    Anyway, I have a few questions that I can never seem to get a clear answer for and am hoping you can help:

    1. Deadlifts – are these a push… a pull… or both? I THINK they are primarily a pull (hams, glutes), so in the program, I do front squats (push) and deadlifts (pull). Is this correct?

    2. Abs – I work them on ‘Lower’ days (to fill the rest periods again creating a mini-circut). I do a bunch of different things (decl sit-ups, v-ups, wood chops, russian twists, renegade rows, etc…. throughout the two lower workouts, that is). My problem is unless I flex my abs, you can only see mild definition. My buddy at the gym blasts his abs daily, and his abs stand out significantly more (individual muscles are round, mine are flat-topped even when flexed)… and his body fat % is higher. Am I not working my abs hard enough (7 – 8 sets of 10 – 15 reps on each ‘lower’ day)? Am I doing the wrong exercises? Or am I just likely stuck with poor genetics… and keep doing what I am doing?

    • 1. Deadlifts are definitely a “pull.”

      2. Like 99.9% of the questions that have ever been asked about abs in the history of mankind, the answer simply lose more body fat.

    • I am not expert but I had a similar problem with my abs, I work them every 4th day on a schedule and do 10 minutes of various random abs exercises generated by an app I bought. It works great and my abs are rock hard, but were hard to see.

      It came down to losing fat but this is often confused with losing weight!!!! So I started shedding weight, but all that did was make me weaker in the gym and smaller on top, there was still flab on my abs.

      My “secret” trick…changed my diet. I track every single food I eat, I have a target intake of calories, protein and carbs. I eat clean, plain greek non fat yogurt, non fat milk with my protein shakes, no fried foods, no bread, rice, veggies, lots of fruits. I do not drink soda, I do not take any sugar like in my coffee and I avoid as much as I can any food that has sugar or fructose added…which is why I now eat plain greek yogurt and add my own fruit. The fruit kind had tons of sugar and fructose needlessly added.

      In short I made every calorie I ate as quality as I could. No empty cals, protein with every food and snack if possible.

      The result, my abs are popping, my waiste dropped another 2 inches from a 37 down to a 30 in under a year and my upper body is getting bigger and I am getting stronger.

      Just one mans approach…not sure it is right, but seems to be working for me.

        • Ben,

          I do not go to that level to be very honest. I just make smart food choices and track them using My Fitness Pal app. I was using the Daily Burn app, it had a great food database but was buggy as all hell.

          But a sample of what I normally eat, let’s use today for an example:

          Breakfast as soon as I wake up:

          No fat greek yogurt
          1/4 cup organic granola with almonds
          Low carb Isopure protein mix (one scoop 25g protein)
          6 ounces of skim milk

          Morning snack:

          Packet of plain Quaker instant oatmeal
          About 30 grams of raisins

          Salad with one tomato, cucumber, carrots and 4 to 6 ounces of chicken breast.

          Afternoon snack:
          Usually I will have an apple, strawberries and or a protein shake with water depending on where I am calorie and protein wise and whats coming up for dinner.

          Usually, 4 to 8 ounces of chicken breast with mixed veggies. Chicken and veggies are cooked with a little olive oil, maybe a teaspoon. I will add some brown rice, about two fist sizes, so about a cup cooked rice too.

          Evening snack:
          Greek yogurt
          I will have a protein shake with or without milk depending on my total carb/protein and calorie needs for the day. I shoot for about 225 grams of protein and 2200 to 2500 calories per day.

          On work out days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) I also have a post workout protein shake that contains 40g of carbs and 40g of protein, mixed with water. I enter this at the start of the day before I eat anything so I know it is included in my total intake for the day as I am eating, so that when I drink the shake it doesn’t push me way over the top based on the days food intake.

          That is about it. Nothing fancy. I will mix in pasta and steak or hamburger from time to time. Eggs are also eaten a lot, not just for breakfast, but I may have two eggs with a big salad for dinner too.

          I think I could do even better to be honest, but it is working for me so far. I focus on three areas, the main one being calories, then protein and then others like carbs, fat, salt, etc. If it looks like I am going over my targets in these areas, I adjust the rest of my eating for the day to eat foods low in those items, if I am short, then I adjust my foods to eat items that are high in those areas to keep it balanced.

          • Marc,

            I too eat clean… and I track every calorie ( I shoot for 40%/25%/35% (Protein/Fat/Carbs). Staples of my diet are chicken, salmon, turkey, eggs, beans, almonds, whey and casein proteins, dextrose (post workout), apples, salad (mixed greens with red wine vinegar as the dressing). Aside from the proteins, I supplement Omega-3, Vitamin D, Glucosamine, and a good multi-vitamin. I track every rep in a notebook and I’m achieving mildly positive progressive overload, even though I am in my ‘cutting’ phase now and my goal has only been to maintain strength.

            Ab exercises, volume, frequency, etc. are something I have always struggled with. There’s too much information out there, with much of it contradicting (planks are #1 // planks are only good for beginners…. crunches are king // crunches do little for you… abs are ‘special’ muscles and can be worked daily // abs are no different than any other muscle and need a minimum 48 hour recovery… you must do 1000 reps per day // 100 reps per week is good… you get my point). I have read hundreds (if not thousands) of articles, blurbs, etc. and they all say something different. USUALLY, after that much research, you will gain some sort of consensus on SOME PARTS of it. Not so with abs… at least not in my experience. I’m not looking for some ‘perfect ab workout’… that’s silly. But I am looking for some answers.

            The author of this site has done an absolutely outstanding job at cutting through the fat and providing information that is clear, concise and effective for both diet and workout. I don’t think everybody fully understands how much time/effort he has given to this (my hat’s off to him with a big thank you). I get that abs are made in the kitchen, lose more body fat, etc. BUT when I do get to my summer ‘fighting weight’ every year, what if I haven’t worked those muscles properly?

            I would like to find a more detailed abdominal article. It would answer questions such as:

            Are there staple exercises (for upper, lower, obliques)… or does one need to experiment to find the exercises where he/she will consistently experience ‘the burn’… or something else?
            Rep Range?
            Are upper and lower abs similar to upper and lower chest in that do you need to work them individually, or does the typical exercise work both with maybe a little emphasis on upper or lower?

            Stuff like that.

          • Thanks for the compliments dude. Yeah, one day I’ll get around to doing an ab training article that will cover all of this stuff.

            But, until then, it’s mostly a matter of just having a low enough body fat percentage. As long as you have that, you can train your abs twice a week doing whatever the hell you want for 10-15 minutes (which by the way is my default ab training recommendation) and it won’t really make any visual difference if you’re doing exercises A B and C or exercises X Y and Z. It’s the least important part.

          • Hey Mark,

            Your diet sounds close to mine actually. Of course I deviate from time to time and will supplement short falls in meals with QUALITY protein bars. I say quality because there are some real crap ones, like 500 calories for 5 grams of protein…the rest being sugar.

            I’m a big snacker of fruits and nuts as well. I was doing the balsamic vinegar for dressing too, but then I just skipped it and go naked on my salad. Sometimes lemon juice is nice.

            I do a multivitamin everyday along with 5mg of creatine which is misxed with my post workout drink, it is great with 40g of carbs, 40g of protein and 5mg of creatine all in one shake.

            As for abs, I stopped reading. Like I said, I have this app on my tablet, it has about 20 or 30 different ab exercises in it, and it randomly picks ten each time for one minute each. So I do ten minutes of abs every 4 days which is about twice a week.

            For me…and I do not know if this is right or not, but I find I get more from variety than doing the same thing all the time. So for abs, I like the fact that each time the exercises are different, it lets you hit the muscles differently. Same with the gym, I may do flat bar bench presses for a few weeks to a few months, then change it up and do barbells for a while, then jump on a machine for a while. I do not care about the “weight” so to speak. Meaning, I max out and try to improve weight/reps each time, but I think changing the motions up, using different equipment from time to time offers me a better workout.

            Wonder if there is any science to this or it is all in my head.

  4. I should add portion control plays a huge part in this. It is not enough to eat smart, but eating the right sized portions of any food is important IMHO.

  5. Fantastic, Jay! I barely have a clue and just joined a gym three weeks ago, starting with personal trainer next week. I enjoy what/how you write; it’s very straight forward, understandable for someone like me whose just learning.

    Way to go, Marc!

  6. Thank you! This is very helpful for me right now. I was thinking on training chest twice per week (Yeah I know, shame on me!) but after reading more in your site I decided to change my workout to an upper/lower split. I was thinking in focusing in my upper body doing UPPER (Monday)/LOWER (Tuesday)/UPPER(Thursday) for all weeks. Would be it a good approach considering that my legs usually take more to recover?

  7. Great article, helped me a lot. Keep up the good work Jay.

    One question though. I’m not actually doing upper/lower split but push/pull so it has similar volume. Anyway, do you think that combination of dumbbell bench, close grip bench and laterals could work? I wouldn’t use extremely close grip on the bench but just enough to put more emphasiz on triceps. So I would have one shoulder exercise, one chest exercise and one exercise for triceps that also hits a bit shoulder and chest. CG bench would be done heavy. And no, I’m not conserned about upper pec development cause I’m tiny overall 😀


    • Sure, it could work assuming everything else is done right and the volume for those exercises falls within a sane range.

      Having said that, it wouldn’t really be my first choice for pull day exercise selection.

  8. Hello Jay, I would love to hear your opinion on the so called ”5×5 workout routine”! Cheers, keep up the great work!

    • Depends what you mean… there’s a ton of different programs that use 5×5 in them. Some are better than others.

      Unless you just mean the set/rep scheme of 5×5 in general, in which case I’d say it’s as good as any other similar set/rep scheme in a similar rep range with a similar amount of volume. Nothing especially magical about it. Just a useful training tool like any other, especially if you’re a bit more interested in strength than growth.

      • Thanks for your answer buddy, I’m more interested in growth atm so I will skip the 5×5 for now. Your site is great,keep up the great work!

  9. Hi! As you mentioned before, benching pressing with the elbows flared out “bodybuilder style is potentially problematic for the shoulder, but what about the opposite? The rear dealt row as a horizontal pulling choice with the elbows flared out…is this unwise? Even though it may be an effective way to target the rotator cuffs? If so I may replace them with traditional underhand rows or keep everything at a neutral grip to be extra safe.

    • Flaring out the elbows for rear delt training is fine assuming it feels alright for you. I’d make sure form is kept strict and wouldn’t recommending going super heavy/low reps, though.

      • Thanks! In that case, the rear delt row should be treated like an isolation exercise (even though its a compound one), meaning keeping it in the 10 to 15 rep range, slow and controlled, never explosively, right?

  10. It seems as though I feel safer only using explosive/faster tempo on compound exercises that are “closed chained movements” (having my hands or feet in a fixed position. such as pull ups, pushups, squats, etc…). Am I right in thinking close chain movements are better for progression as oppose to open chain movements?

    • I wouldn’t say it has much to do with closed/open chain… but really just compound exercises vs isolation exercises in general. The more muscle groups involved (and the bigger those muscle groups are), the better and more consistent progression will usually go.

      So squats, deadlifts, various chest and shoulder presses, rows, pull-ups/pull-downs vs exercises like curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions, chest flyes.

  11. Instead of adding rear delt flys after my 2 compound back exercises, can I do the rear delt rows instead? That would created 3 compound pulling exercises (2 for back and one for shoulder on a Push/Legs/Pull Spilt (Option A). The only fkys I like are Lateral Raises on a PUSH day. I hate reverse flys and chest flys.

  12. Never mind. I forgot the rear delts get enough indirect volume from 2 compound pulling exercises, which means a direct rear delt exercise after a verticall pull and a horizontal pull is over kill.

    • The rear delts do get a good bit of indirect volume during most back exercises, but a small amount of some direct work like rear delt flyes, face pulls, band pull-aparts and that sort of thing can be included as well.

    • Nope. The anterior delts already get too much volume in most people’s routines that adding MORE anterior delt work in the form of front raises will likely just increase the risk of shoulder problems.

  13. Hi Jay!

    I want to give it a try to the building muscle routine which sounds awesome.
    I was wondering if it is ok to replace RDL with conventional deadlift as i am more comfortable with that way of deadlifting since I’ve been doing it for years.


  14. At the top in step 1 you say low reps like 5 through 8 or 10. And then in volume you get 30 through 60, what do you mean by that?

  15. Any word on the lower body template?

    Been using this upper one and its been working great, so thanks! 🙂

    The lower days i have basically done back squats on one day with leg curls and leg extensions and deadlift with leg curls and leg extensions on the other lower day (some abs and calf as well)

  16. Sir, yours is (for the newbie) THE SINGLE MOST COMPELLING MUSCLE-BUILDING WEB SITE RESOURCE, EVER!!. Sorry for the caps locks, but I have been awe-inspired by such compelling and nuanced advice, predicated on logic of physiology. Your approach has given me confidence and motivation to finally kick-start my foray in to muscle-building. I thrive on research and analysis and thus being able to make an informed decision; hence, your information certainly allows for this.
    I have been “mesmerized” by your analysis. Thank you.

  17. Hi Jay!

    I am about to begin the muscle building routine (been training for 5 months religiously).
    What is your opinion about performing the sumo deadlift instead of the RDL?

    The deadlift is my favorite lift (and strongest) so i dont want to let it go…

    Thanks and regards!

  18. Hey! What are your opinions on bodyweight exercises? I find them really functional, so what is your opinion in putting them in your muscle building routine? but on off days?

    I mostly looking to do pushups/chin-ups on days I do not work my upper body, none of them will be done to failure, would that interfere with your program/recovery? I’m 18 years old, and my nutrition is in check.


    • Making a chest exercise in the program push-ups and a vertical pulling movement in the program pull-ups is perfectly fine if you happen to like those exercises.

      But adding them in addition to the program on off days? Definitely not something I’d recommend. Not only for recovery, but for joint and tendon health. Your body needs rest to grow, progress and stay healthy. Every stuff like this would only cut into that.

  19. Hey man! Love your articles & appreciate the good info you give. According to your article, I’m still a Beginner. Will this routine produce decent results for me? I don’t like full body routine & personally prefer this type of training. Would doing this routine with a solid diet consisting of a caloric surplus? Thanks

  20. Hey man love the site. I’ve been making good strength gains for the first time in years on the upper/lower split. What are your thoughts on

    1) Incorporating the rings into my workout to develop serious core strengh. Muscle ups, l sit, skin the cat…

    2) Occasionally training very heavy such as 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1

    3) During the bench press should the bar always touch the chest? I’m long limbed and I stop about an inch before my chest otherwise if I go heavy it places strain on my shoulders. Should I incorporate more flyes in my workout so I can work that deep range of motion. (I like cable flyes on a bench)

    • 1. I’m a big fan of rings for stuff like pull-ups, but more gymnastic type training isn’t something I have a ton of experience with.

      2. Depends on goals. For strength is can be awesome. Check out Wendler’s 5-3-1 program.

      3. Already got you covered. Read this one.

  21. Hello there,

    I just started going to gym. I have an average body built at 72.8kg. NOt thin, Not fat. The fitness gym gave me a program and I hope you can share me your opinion if my workout program is atleast affective. My goal is to build muscle.(but not that body builder looks.) I am doing the following mostly machine exercises in order: treadmill 5 minutes, Assisted Pull-ups 3×12, leg press 3×12, 2 types of machine chest press each at 3×12, lat pull down machine 3×12, shoulder press machine 3×12, alternate dumbell curl 3×20 and bench dips 3×12 and treadmill 10minutes.

    ARe machine exercises effective or should i start picking up the bar bell and do free weights?im about one month now doing these exercises.

  22. Hi Jay, I have a question, if u were to make a lower body workout without thinking too much about it (don’t wanna waste your time), what would it be?

    Btw this upper workout is awesome

  23. Hi Jay!
    First of all congrats for the amazing website (best I ever read and I keep coming back) and thanks for the generosity sharing your knowledge!
    My question is about getting bigger arms (but not the same question you must get every day). I totally understand that training the larger groups, such as chest and back, via compound exercises is the most important thing in reaching that goal, and isolation exercises are a nice plus.
    The thing is I have a body type with a very large back, very broad shoulders and large chest as well. On the other hand, I have very long and not so strong arms. So I was wondering if it is possible to get bigger arms without adding too much size to my already large back and chest. I’ve been training for a while and back and chest tend to grow more easily than arms, so I don’t feel I’m reducing that gap.
    Do you think I should have a different approach to reaching a more balanced body?
    I understand it is quite a specific question (and I don’t imagine there is any definitive answer for it), so any thoughts or insights would be truly appreciated.
    Best regards and thanks in advance

    • If you’re happy with the rest of your body and don’t really want to improve it any further, and your arms are the main/only body part you want to focus on… some kind of arm specialization program would be ideal.

  24. Hey there. Haven’t found a “The LOWER Body Workout Template For Building Muscle”. Do you have one. The thing is that every body talks about upper body. I want something to build big legs. Any recommendation?

  25. I plan on following this template for my workout routine to build muscle, although on days I do not lift, and even some days I do lift I like to play tennis or soccer and that gives a good cardio workout. I want to gain muscle but I like to play sports too, and I do not know how these cardio workouts will affect my results. My question is will this affect my muscle gain if I do that while following this template? Any advice on what I should do?

  26. Hey, I am currently doing the upper lower body split. Monday Tuesday, rest, Thursday Friday, rest. This week I’m not going to have a gym available to me for upper body workout B. Should I substitute with a workout at home and continue with lower body B on Friday or skip the workout and do a full body on Friday? (Can’t workout on Saturday either) thx!

  27. Hey man, you have a great thing going on with this blog of yours, keep up the great work. I just wish i had found it earlier. Anyway my question is bout my workout. Ok so i started working out about 10 months ago, the first two months i gained about 25 pounds along with all the fat and the other bad stuff but never mind, that was a huge success for me cuz i was really skinny. I was working out two times a week. An injury followed and i had to rest for 2 months. But now i’ve started again and i want to make it properly, not rushing things, i want to progress from a certain workout as much as i can. I’m on a full body split 3 times a week except its looking something like this upper body workout plus 3 sets of 20 squats. My question is this correct or should i go back to your type of beginner workouts of type ABA with fewer exercises. Thank you for your asnwer

    • I’d recommend some type of basic beginner routine. If the workouts are starting to look like what’s described in this article, then it certainly isn’t something that would fit that “basic beginner routine” description.

  28. Jay,we both understand that the books you are selling are just extra stuff for LAZY guys, who don’t do search on your site cause they are lazy, you have covered everything here, in these articles and you know what – it was done on purpose , in order to help guys ,who were not having results for months , years and decades(you don’t want anybody to get stuck, it is one of your primary aimes ) , to spread a light and logisticks on BB , to stop people from being constantly ripped off ….and all this you did ,cause you realized how good it would be to have your own aworkoutroutine. com back then when you were in need for tips and advice …
    I admire you, BRAH!!!

  29. Could you briefly expand a little on the way you set up lower body days? I’ve noticed that you prescribe the same volume for quads and hamstrings despite the fact that quads are a bigger muscle group+ hamstrings get some indirect volume from compound work.

    I know you have injury reasons in mind but would you consider replacing one of the leg curls with leg extensions on one lower body day?

  30. Hi, congrats on a very informative and straight forward training guide for weight training. My question is how do I determine how much weight to use for these exercises? Thanks

  31. What about a template for “lower body routine”?
    I couldn’t find anything on the site about it but it’s actually the harder, for me, to figure out as it’s seem the eercise selection is very small (expecially on spartan gyms like mine with lot of weight and not even one leg press machine)

    So while the upper body routine has many different exercises for different movement patterns, the lower body one ends up being just: squat, deadlifts, lunges, leg curls

    Any thought?

  32. No questions – just want to say: great site!
    Never really being far away from gym (not a bodybuilder – more an athlete) and being in my own opinion pretty well informed and aware what i was doing now I’m coming back soon to gym after few years off (surgery, etc) – but doing way more research involved in it this time – with experience and passing years i see it has to be done properly instead of just briefly – saves time and effort. I used to like whole body routines – gave me ok results before.. i guess i will start with something similar this time as well but later progress to upper/lower split having limited time to workout during a week.
    Again – great site. Thanks a lot for an effort and good luck with book – sure it’s worth any money to anyone looking for a serious guide!

  33. sir i am following the upper lower split recommended by you for a couple of months now and thanks to you i have gained good mass but my shoulders are not improving.What do you suggest?

  34. A lot of really helpful information on your site, been getting me to change up some of my ideas. I had been doing a very high volume push pull legs workout (each once a week) plus an upper body body weight exercises day. However, i found that I plateaued and couldn’t move from it. My main goal is to get stronger, I’d love to build some muscles/put on some weight too if possible- and I’m keeping sleep and diet in check to do so, therefore my question would just be whether you would advise I used fewer types of exercise on each training day? Or less sets/reps maybe? Otherwise, based on what I’ve read and my preferences I was looking at something along the lines of: Bench press 5 sets x 5 reps, Incline press 3-4 x 6-8, Barbell rows 4-5 x 5-6, Lat pull downs 3-4 x 6-8, Barbell shoulder press 4-5 x 5, tricep rope 3-4 x 6-10 and hammer curls 3-4 x 6-10. (I have not decided on this order by the way.) My only concern is that this seems like quite a lot of repetitions for improving strength mainly. Should I cut some of the isolation exercises out all together maybe? Or decrease sets/repetitions? Would really love your opinion.

  35. Hi,

    I am a female and want to start your 3 day split version but with a modification. Can I do one Upper body and 2 Lower body in a week and repeat that every week?


    • If you want to focus primarily on lower body and don’t mind less/slower upper body progress, then yes. My book actually has a program in it called Lower Body Focused Training which is designed for this purpose.

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