Designing a bodybuilding routine

Designing a Bodybuilding Routine

This article is targeted at novices. It details some of the thought process behind the design of a workout for bodybuilders. If you want a one size fits all workout with no thinking required, this isn’t for you. But if you want to take charge of your own exercises regimen, begin the learning process right here.

This article talks about working out in a certain way. I don’t work out this way. I got the ideas explained here by talking to several successful pro bodybuilders and pro wrestlers. They are all on anabolic drugs (under the supervision of physicians) and have been on their drug cycles for years. This is how real world pro bodybuilders train. This is not how I train, or what I recommend for novices. This article is merely intended to show the thought process behind exercise selection and program design for a very specialized sort of strength sport

How to train like a bodybuilder

Bodybuilding is different than strength training or weight lifting. An understanding of the fundamental differences between bodybuilding and these other strength activities is essential to anyone who wants to design a bodybuilding routine.

The stronger a muscle is, the larger it is

Arnold developed huge shoulders while maintaining a slender midsection

Arnold developed huge shoulders while maintaining a slender midsection

Beginning bodybuilders want maximum size as soon as possible. To bulk up a muscle to its maximum size, you must develop maximum strength in that muscle. To wit: if you can concentration curl 50 pounds, your bicep is bigger than it was when you could only curl 40 pounds.

However, as a bodybuilder, it’s not enough to get huge like a sumo wrestler. Instead, you want maximum size in all the right places. Bodybuilders want large arms and shoulders, a broad upper back, a narrow waist, and large quads and calves. Nobody wants an oversized rear end or midsection.

Consequently, bodybuilding routines contain exercises which allow you to move the maximum amount of weight possible without worrying about core strength or balance. You can train like a bodybuilder or you can train like an athlete, but unless you are very special, you can’t simultaneously succeed at both.

Exercise Selection for bodybuilding

Bodybuilders often favor exercises which are held in disdain by athletes or weight lifters. But they have very good reasons for choosing certain exercise variations.

Take a moment to picture the barbell squat. Obviously it’s an important exercise, and everyone should know how to squat safely. Combined with a few other compound movements, squats develop full-body strength. However, squats are less than ideal from the perspective of a bodybuilder who is doing a bulking routine. Squats not only work the quads and glutes, but the lower back and the “balance” muscles too. As far as bodybuilders are concerned, energy that could be used to build maximum strength in the quadriceps is squandered during the squat. Squats build the glutes and thicken the waist: just what bodybuilders don’t want.
Let’s continue with this line of reasoning. Barbell rows are a good power exercise, and everyone should know how to do them. But they are the wrong exercise for a bodybuilder, even though every bodybuilder must include a rowing movement in his routine. The reason is simple: barbell rows require your lower back to support not only the weight of the barbell, but also of your upper torso. You will never move as much weight with a barbell row as you can with either a one-handed dumbbell row (during which your torso is supported), or a seated cable row.

Likewise, overhead work for the shoulders is important for everyone: bodybuilders and others alike. However, the classic overhead dumbbell press that so many athletes use is wrong for bodybuilding. You will never move as much weight with dumbbells as you will with a barbell or a shoulder machine. Dumbbells place demands on your body; they require you to maintain your balance and develop strength in your core and lower-back. Shoulder press machines or the Smith machine will give you more shoulder strength in a shorter amount of time than you’d ever hope to achieve using dumbbells.

Exercise selection: Push, Pull, Squat

At its most basic, every bodybuilding routine consists of a pushing exercise, a pulling exercise, and a squatting exercise. These three movements are all that is required to bulk up your body.

Every bodybuilding routine consists of a squatting exercise, a pulling exercise, and a pushing exercise

Beginners should pick two exercises from each of these categories, for a total of six exercises. You can do this sort of full body workout two or three times a week during your beginner phase.

Eventually, you will develop a good base of muscle, but the weights you are lifting will be sufficiently heavy that you are no longer able to fully recover from three workouts per week. This usually occurs when you are shoulder-pressing more than 100 pounds for reps and squatting more than your body weight for reps.

At this point, you can move to an intermediate workout done twice weekly. The extra recovery time allows you to add some additional exercises for the calves and abdominals.

Reps and sets for bodybuilding exercises

It is a myth that bodybuilders must use high reps. The only time bodybuilders need high reps is during contest preparation when losing fat is more important than sparing muscle tissue. Instead, you should work out in the low rep ranges that develop maximum strength at the expense of strength endurance.

Everywhere you go on the web, you’ll find advice stating unequivocally that high reps develop maximum size and low reps develop max strength.  Reams of anectotal evidence supports the idea that high reps stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy — the holy grail of bodybuilding.  However, this idea comes from observation of world-class bodybuilders during their contest-prep phases, rather than the other 10 months of the year.  In fact, successful bodybuilders bulk up with low reps: just like everyone else.

Stick to low reps and use a full range of motion

It is also a myth that bodybuilders need to use supersets, partial range of motion, and related schemes. Most of the unusual rep/set schemes that bodybuilding magazines have hyped over the years – drop sets, strip sets, partials, pyramids, negatives, etc. – are only useful during contest prep when workouts serve as calorie-burning cardio as much as strength training (and even then, their usefulness is debatable). Stick to relatively low reps – six to eight – and use a full range of motion with good form. Some cheating is OK, but use it only to break through plateaus; don’t make a habit of it.

Although it is not necessary to go to failure, especially during early sets, you should approach failure while maintaining good form and a full range of motion. A good guideline is to go to one rep short of failure.

Proper amount of rest between sets and exercises

You are after maximum strength. Anything that tires you out unnecessarily is to be avoided.

  • Rest 2 to 3 minutes between work sets. If your breathing rate and/or heart rate is excessive, rest longer between sets.
  • Rest 3 to 5 minutes between exercises.

Remember: you can bulk up or you can burn fat, but unless you are super-human, you can’t do both at the same time. Sufficient rest between sets is crucial for maximum strength gains.

Training aids

Bodybuilders make liberal use of training aids like weight lifting belts and wrist straps. If maximum size is your goal, don’t be afraid to use items that increase your effective strength.

Beginner Bodybuilding Routine

Beginners will use a full-body routine three times per week. This routine should consist of two pressing movements, two pulling moves (always including rowing), and two squatting moves.

Here is a sample beginner’s bodybuilding routine:

  1. Leg press machine
  2. Overhead press (Shoulder machine or Smith machine)
  3. Pullups (weighted if necessary, assisted pullup machine if necessary)
  4. Hack squat sled
  5. Dips (weighted if necessary, or assisted if you are still weak)
  6. Rows on the seated cable machine

Reps should remain in the 4 to 8 range, with 6 being ideal. Work up to your heaviest weight with a few warm-up sets with lighter weight. Once you reach your working weight, you should do as many sets as possible until you are unable to maintain the rep range.

Rest between sets is crucial: keep your breathing and heart-rate down and concentrate on absolute strength, not cardiopulmonary fitness. The liberal use of machines forces you to concentrate on strength; there is no reason to worry about developing your athleticism, your balance, your “core” strength, or any sports-specific skills.

When you can do eight reps with good form, increase the weight

When you can do eight reps with good form, increase the weight.  If your bulking diet is adequate, you should be able to add five pounds to your squat every time you work out, or perhaps every other time if you are particularly unsuited for gaining muscle mass.  It is imperative to avoid adaptation to the exercise, you must challenge yourself and give maximum effort during each workout.

Keep accurate and detailed records of your diet, your weight lifted, sets performed, and reps completed with good form, and make note of anything else that comes to mind during your bulking phase.  Information is power.  Without good notes, you won’t realize when you are overreaching or overtraining, failing to meet your dietary requirements, or any of the other things that prevent you from gaining quality muscle mass.

When you no longer have the recovery capacity to perform this workout three times per week, you should move on to an intermediate routine.

Alternative beginner bodybuilding routine

If you do not have access to a fully-equipped bodybuilding gym, you can use barbells instead of bodybuilding machines, but your size will develop more slowly:

  1. Barbell front squats (or back squats)
  2. Barbell overhead presses
  3. Weighted pullups
  4. Dumbbell step-ups
  5. Dips or bench presses
  6. Dumbbell bench rows

Intermediate Bodybuilding Routine

As an intermediate bodybuilder, you should use a split routine. Work your lower body and upper body on separate days.

Here is a sample two-day intermediate bodybuilding routine:

  1. Lower Body
    1. Leg press machine
    2. Leg curl machine
    3. Hack squat sled
    4. Calf raise machine
    5. Leg extension machine
    6. Abdominal isolation exercise(s), concentrating on the rectus abdominus
  2. Upper Body
    1. Low incline bench press machine
    2. Weighted wide-grip pullups
    3. Triceps pushdowns on the cable machine
    4. Seated rows on the cable machine
    5. Overhead press machine or smith machine
    6. Curl machine

On this routine, you will work out two times per week. One day is devoted to the lower body, and the other is devoted to the upper body. You will have at least 2 days’ rest between workouts.

If you find that, despite giving your maximum effort, you are not challenged by this workout and your recovery is perfect, you can work out three times per week using an ABA-BAB pattern. That is, you work lower body twice during the first week, but upper body only once, then, during the second week, you work upper body twice and lower body once. Obviously, over time, this will increase the intensity of the workout(s).

As with the beginner’s routine, your focus is on absolute strength, not athleticism. Use the exercises that allow you to move the most weight possible while sticking to your preferred rep range. Stick to the 6 to 8 rep range; rest three minutes between sets. When you can no longer get an adequate number of reps, rest five minutes then move to the next exercise.

Advanced Bodybuilding Routine

When you no longer need to “bulk up” but want to perfect the shape of your physique, you are ready for this advanced bodybuilding routine.

  1. Perform the intermediate bodybuilding routine as detailed above, but keep the sets to a minimum. Three sets per exercise might suffice. Eat at a maintenance level, or eat below maintenance if you are trying to cut fat. You are trying to maintain your size and strength while leaving yourself enough energy to do some isolation work.
  2. Use isolation exercises to work on your weak parts. For instance, do forearm curls to work on your lower arms or front raises for your anterior deltoids. When your target muscle feels completely exhausted, do more sets.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

zack March 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Any recommendation for sets? I read this a couple of times and couldn’t find any. Maybe I need my eyes checked.

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Thomas March 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hi Zack:

I don’t believe there should be a hard-and-fast rule about how many sets to perform.

Maybe the article needs a bit of editing, but it should say to do as many sets as possible until you can no longer maintain the rep range that you are shooting for. That is, if you want to stay in the 8 to 10 rep range, keep doing sets until you can no longer get at least 8 reps. This assumes that you have adequate rest periods between sets. Obviously, if you only rest 45 seconds between sets you’ll be unable to do as many sets as you could if you had rested 3 minutes.

I don’t want to be in the business of prescribing a one size fits all workout for anyone who stumbles across this site.

I’m not willing to tell people to “just do 5 sets and then move on to the next exercise.” I believe a person should tweak his workout program so it complements his own abilities. Things like long- and short-term recovery ability, and desired rep range play a large part in how many sets are ideal. A guy who is new to working out won’t have anywhere near the recovery ability of an expert. His sets will, by necessity, be less. There’s no point in me telling this new guy that he has to use 5 work sets or he’s just shortchanging himself.

For bodybuilding — unlike other strength training sports — you want to exhaust the muscles so no muscle fiber is left untouched. This can only be done by performing as many sets as possible at a given rep range and weight. Some days, it might take 5 sets, other days only 3.

Note that “warm-up” sets are important, especially when the reps go below 8 or so. These aren’t counted as “real” sets because the weight is lighter than that used in the “work” sets. I may write an article about warm-up sets sometime, but there’s already a lot of good stuff about this subject on the ‘web (most of it cribbed from Mark Ripptoe’s book).

Hope that helps; thanx for the comments.

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zack March 5, 2010 at 1:44 am

Right. I see what you mean. In the past I have tried Chad Waterbury’s recommendation of aiming for total reps while using a specified rep range and weight level. For example, get 25 reps out of a 4-6 rep max weight level, with the number of sets undefined. Sometimes I ended up doing singles for the last 2 sets because that’s all the strength I have left. It might go like this 6-5-5-4-3-1-1. It’s unclear from what he writes if this is the way he thinks it should go or not, but I thought so. Results were OK, not spectacular, but not nothing. I definitely got stronger on that routine, for a while, a little bigger too.

By making the rep range wide at 4-8, though, I imagine that one would be trying to encourage more sets than, say, a 6-8 or 4-6 range would allow. Is that part of the point? Is it a quasi-volume approach?

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Rav March 8, 2010 at 11:15 am

Hi Thomas,
Firstly, great article! But I wondered if you might be able to help me with a problem I’m having. I’m 6’2 and about 180lbs. I have tried bulking up using a similar technique to what you describe in your beginners routine. The problem is, I find that I don’t have proper weight distribution for my body. Any weight I put on goes straight to my mid-section (chest and gut). I have now completely cut out any cardio exercises to avoid losing the weight, but still I find I’m unable to increase size and strength in my arms and legs. As a result, my body is so out of proportion, its frustrating!

My aim is to bulk up my legs and arms but tone down my gut and chest. I understand I can’t achieve both at once, but could you recommend any way in which I can get the results in the shortest time possible, and any changes I should try to make to enhance my results, both on the exercises and also on diet?

Thanks

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Adam April 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Rav,

It’s a pain in the A**, but here’s a possible solution.

Bodybuilders, lift in two stages. A bulking stage, and a cutting stage. The guys you see on the cover of muscle mags are in the cutting stage. Most pro body builders cant keep that physique year round. They face the same problem you do, but a little more extreme. This article points to a push pull program, which is phenomenal. most lifter will tell you it’s the best way to gain size. Especially upper body size. For your body now, stick with the push pull workout. In my opinion, it is easier to bulk up before cutting down. I would try bulking up your arms and legs before trying to slim down your chest and gut. It will be more weight gain in the begining, but the results of larger muscles will be more present. For the gaining of muscle, a different set up would be to use a 12-10-8-6-12-12 rep set. You also will want to be eating more, more often. Try eating 6 meals a day. Still do your breakfast lunch dinner, and throw in a few smaller meals as well. It’s good to take protein supplements .5 to 1 gram per pound of body weight. Magazine’s will tell you more, but anything your body cant use it wastes. After your size gains I would start to cut up. I believe the difference is if you cut first, then try to gain you’ll find yourself in the same boat as before. You’ll have the definition, but lack the mass. This is just a suggestion.

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Matt August 15, 2010 at 5:22 am

Why does using “barbells instead of bodybuilding machines” mean “your size will develop more slowly”?

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Thomas August 18, 2010 at 3:22 am

Perhaps I meant that the size of a particular muscle will develop more slowly.

The classic example of this phenomenon is the comparison between barbell rows and machine rows. With the machine, most of the stress of the movement is focused on the lats. With the barbell row, the lats don’t get fully worked until the lower back is strong enough to take the strain of supporting not only the fully-loaded barbell, but the weight of the upper torso.

Anything that reduces the need for core strength, supporting muscles, etc. helps you build size, especially when you’re doing isolation exercises. Of course, most sensible people don’t want to neglect their whole-body strength just to get a bit more size in a given muscle, but if you’re a pure bodybuilder you have to find ways to increase intensity.

Please understand that I’m not recommending this sort of workout program to anyone in particular. The article explains why certain bodybuilders do things the way they do. Their needs are not necessarily your needs.

I’ll never tell anyone to focus on the size of a muscle instead of the strength of a movement. But for bodybuilders who do focus almost exclusively on the size of an isolated muscle, a free-weight barbell is less useful than a well-designed isolation machine.

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Dilan August 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

Hello Thomas,
I have found your article extremely helpful and informative. I do, however, have one question. Should cardio – such as running or using an elliptical – be cut out completely? If not, how often should a cardiovascular workout be included?

Thank you,
-Dilan

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Thomas August 18, 2010 at 3:12 am

If you’re not gaining weight, cut out the cardio for a while. I don’t want to give recommendations because I think everyone needs to personalize their own workout programs. I certainly don’t intend this article to be a cookie-cutter routine that you should use without modification; it’s just an overview of the thought process behind size-oriented bodybuilding routines.

Health.gov says you need 30 minutes of moderately-intense cardio just about every day. But cutting out the cardio for a while isn’t the end of the world, if you do it to gain muscle mass. Some bodybuilders use weight lifting as a form of cardio. It’s why many bodybuilders recommend shorter rest periods between sets, at least when they’re cutting fat.

So, keep accurate records, make sure you’re getting the results you want, and remember that you should focus on one main goal at a time.

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George August 27, 2010 at 7:52 am

Hi Thomas,

This information is great, I’m going to try bulking up with these recommendations in mind. Quick question though: If you’re a bit injury prone, would you stick to a higher rep range – say 8-12, or is that just wasting your time?

Thanks!

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Thomas August 27, 2010 at 8:13 am

I don’t think you’ll be wasting your time. Injury prevention is very important; it’s the difference between guys who make progress and those who never seem to get anywhere. Lots of (young) guys do very well adding mass with a 5×5 program, but higher reps are great if you have flexibility issues.

There are many weight lifting programs on the ‘net, so research them all and come to your own conclusions. Good luck!

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Din October 11, 2010 at 12:08 am

You are my hero, I’ll start my bulking rutine this week!!

Thank you very much for all of your hard work!!

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Aaron March 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

right so we are saying that the best way to Bulk up is to do excersize with your hole body insted of one part at a time ( just working arms ) is no good. Actually i have herd that you do need to do legs to improve arms so yeah basically your hole body like rolling them massive tiers. e.t. i have been training for a good three years i i dont have much gains im 19 5ft8 and have around 12 percent body fat how can i be tottaly ripped and Bulk up ? dose any one no i have done as much reacerch and this site is the most diffrent to all the otheres that why im intrested ?

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ross May 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I am new to this site is it assumed readers a re taking drugs. If this is for natural hard gainers it seems wrong to reference famous body builders that juiced. can you be more specific as to why you don’t accept high rep high volume as a method for hypertrophy, if i understand you, people watch bodybuilders cutting routines and assume that’s how”bodybuilders” train to get big?? so do body builders hide when doing their lower reps sets or why don’t we know about those routines?( honest question) it seems skinny folks might benefit especially due to fiber type ratios it also seems to be gaining in popularity most likely because of Rippetoe & Kilgores practical programing. I agree with you heavy reps with a good time under tension seem to work better than high rep at least for me.
Also I disagree with the notion one has to gain fat “bulk up” to gain muscle. Most adults cannot gain more than 15 lbs of muscle in a year with out drugs, that is 1.25 lbs a month only requiring 100 calories over the total daily expenditure. While its far easier to just eat a ton of food and gain muscle, why not avoid the fat and take the time to eat properly. I guess my point is I find most bulk diets are excessive and people start see their weight increase but the reality is they are gaining fat real muscle gains take time, I have been able to gain muscle without getting fat and yes i was skinny it took me a while to figure it out, the problem is its a lot of work getting the calories just right. here is the tool i used to figure out my the calories i need to gain muscle and lose fat what are your thoughts on bukling

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ross May 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm
ross May 18, 2011 at 8:15 am

After reading other article on this site I realized use of the harris-benedict equation is already suggested, I apologize for my ignorance in the previous post in this section.
I have a question /comment about the last section of this article “advanced bodybuilding routine”. Thomas mentions the use of isolation exercises to shape the muscle. Does anyone here think one can shape the muscle or is it possible using isolation exercises helps with full development of the muscle group being trained via different angles/movements etc. , meaning the muscle is being hit squarely on the mark insuring all fibers are worked.
for example, personally once I started really concentrating on side raises I notice improvement in my shoulders that just couldn’t be achieved with heavy pressing. I agree hard work on the compound lifts are the best way to get big and strong however I think its ok to include 1 or 2 isolation movements earlier in the process especially if you have identified a weak muscle group. My chest also gets chest much larger when i do flys and pressing together when compared to just pressing.
isolation exercises I think have place with intermediate trainees
flys- lay on floor use strict form go slow 6-12 reps 2 -3 sets
side raises
rear delt raises
I suggest picking 1 or 2 at most and sticking with the above programs outlined by Thomas. The routine he has outlined above is going to be hard to beat if you are looking for size gains. Stay on the beginner routine as long as you keep making strength gains

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Thomas March 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Yeah, you don’t “shape” a muscle with isolation exercises, but you can hit different parts of a multi-headed muscle (like the deltoid muscle that you use as an example).

Here’s an example: Arnold Schwartzenegger has a dumbbell exericise named after him — the Arnold Press. He didn’t use that exercise to get huge shoulders — he used barbell presses like everyone else. Instead, he used it when he was already huge, and he used it to make sure he exhausted every last bit of the front deltoids.

Isolation moves are for when a bodybuilder is already huge. They’re the icing on the cake.

The way bodybuilders work out when they’re already huge and world-class is different than the way they worked out for the decade of training that it took them to gain their size and shape. They bulked up just like everyone else when they were ‘nobodies’. Watching Ronnie Coleman work out on YouTube isn’t going to help any skinny kid get huge, all it’s going to do is confuse him unless he realizes that Coleman built his size just like everyone else.

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Joel October 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm

“Watching Ronnie Coleman work out on YouTube isn’t going to help any skinny kid get huge, all it’s going to do is confuse him unless he realizes that Coleman built his size just like everyone else.”

Genius.

Although I’m a fan of sites like bodybuilding.com to find information about specific exercises and occasional inspiration, your site is one of the best workout websites I’ve encountered in a long time. I spent my college years as the prototypical skinny-guy wishing he could bulk up, and wasting a lot of time throwing up the heavy weights on exercieses I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until I put in the research and the months and years in the gym doing things the right way that I started to see the physical changes I’d hoped to see.

Thomas has it right, people. The magic potion is hard work, week in and week out, and building a base of strength. It isn’t glamorous at first, but it’s absolutely necessary.

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Toby August 23, 2011 at 10:36 am

Just a quick question but if having maximal strength increases mass then why do you have people who weigh 56kg who can snatch 120kg ish and there will be bodybuilders who weigh twice that and would find it hard to snatch a similar weight

Thanks

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Thomas March 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Baseball players can throw a ball farther than bodybuilders. Are they stronger?

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Anonymous October 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

This is a response to Toby: “snatching” just like squats, shoulder presses, dead lifts and other compound movements requires total body strength. This means that the muscles must know how to work together with the nervous system and the joints must have adapted for such movements. this type of strength only occurs through sport specific training using compound movements, many body builders size is unbalanced with their total body strength (mostly due to a weak core, it looks good, but it is small and therefore weak) Maximal strength training of specific muscles will improve the strength of the specific muscle but will not help total body coordination.individual muscle strength is a factor of size, but total body strength is also dependent on neuro-muscular adaptations between muscle groups.

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Alexander October 29, 2011 at 3:15 am

I currently work out 5-6 times a week. 3 times arms/back and 3 times legs/abdominal.

Should I continue this way or is it better to do full body workouts like 3 times a week?

Thanks in advance.

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Rodney February 8, 2012 at 4:03 am

Hi Thomas,
I see in this page where your sayin work your upper boddy 2 or 3 times a week. I was wondering if ull get the same amount of mass gain and strength gain if you were to just focus on working out 5 days a week but focus on 2 muscle’s each day or however many it takes to get ur body fully worked out within those 5 days and use heavy weight and low reps

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Thomas March 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I dunno. In this article, I’m relaying info I got by taking notes after questioning a half-dozen professional muscle athletes. This is the sort of thing they did (and do) to get and maintain size that most of us consider freakishly large. If you have 18-inch+ arms, then you can start messing with the fundamentals of weight training. If not, just stick to what’s been proven to work.

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Kenneth February 21, 2012 at 3:16 am

Hey,

can you give me a example of a full year plan to follow?

my stats are
120 benck press
120 Squat
200 deadlift
90 overhead press

all clean lifts its mentioned in Kgs

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Alex February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi Thomas,

I’ve been on a full body workout routine for the past 3 months and have seen significant gains. The only concern I have is that my body weight has decreased by 2 pounds but overall I feel like I’m getting stronger and slightly bigger. Is it possible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time? I’ve heard that it’s almost impossible to do both. I’d appreciate your comment.

Thank you.

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Thomas March 1, 2012 at 5:21 am

It’s possible if you’re significantly overfat. The only way to know for sure is to have some accurate way of measuring your body fat levels (and your total body weight).

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Alex March 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Thanks for your reply.

I’m not overweight by any means. In fact, I think I’m underweight, hence the interest in this site. The good news is that since the time I wrote the original post, I’ve added an extra 3 pounds. I’ve been reading up everything on this site and have been doing full body 2 1/2 day workouts, using only compound exercises. I understand muscles are made in the kitchen and so I’ve increased my caloric intake, eating approximately 500 additional calories above my normal means.

I still have a lot to learn and look forward to reading your future posts.

Thanks Thomas!

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newbie March 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I have been doing a full body workout 3-4 times a week with a single 20kg dumbell for two months. I eat a 5 small meals a day.. typical example.. Breakfast: porridge, Mid morning: turkey sandwich on brown bread with olive spread, Lunch: another turkey sandwich on brown bread with olive spread and a banana, Afternoon: small bag of nuts (almonds, cashews), Dinner: chicken breast or fish fillet with plenty veg and few potatoes or rice. I have also just bought a tub of maximuscle cyclone and I have one shake immediately after working out and also have one on my days off. I am hoping to bulk up and then get toned… do not want to get a belly! Can anyone give me any advice.. workout suggestions?? and/or diet??

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Hamster August 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Not by far enough proteins in a protein free breakfast and turkey sandwich lunch. You need to add eggs, tuna and meats with every meal.

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Steve February 22, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I have always found that for a hard gainer like me, 3 to 5 sets of 6-8 reps on free weights @ 85% of max, then adding 5 lbs to 10 lbs as needed always gets me more mass. The only time I do not use free weights is when I do not have a spotter for certain lifts. After 16 weeks of this, I do 8 weeks of mixed compound and isolation and MMA training to get a good cut. For me, and maybe other hard gainers, I go from 5000 calories in bulking stage( 375 g protein a day, 495 g carbs a day, 168 g fat a day) to 3500 calories a day (300 g protein a day, 405 g of carbs a day, 135 g of fat a day).
I have found that this routine has helped me get up to 190 lbs with 6% body weight and stay around that area. I am an ameuture MMA fighter that wanted a lot more mass, but did not want to be too bulking where I could not move to fight.
This routine worked for me, but everybody is different. Depending on why you want to gain, what yur body type is, your diet and other specifics. If everything is not taken into analysis then your gains could be min. to none. Unless your one of the lucky guys who just have to look at a barbell and put on mass and strength. LOL

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alistair January 31, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I’m just going to bookmark this article, and when I start getting distracted by other routines I’m going to return here to re read it. Filled with common sense and clarity while cutting though all of the usual stuff that can distract you from the main goal of more muscle. Thanks.

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