Muscle for life

The Definitive Guide to Full-Body Workouts

The Definitive Guide to Full-Body Workouts

If you want to know the pros and cons of full-body workouts and how to get the most out of them, then you want to read this article.

Key Takeaways

  1. Full-body workouts train every major muscle group in your body.
  2. They work best for beginners and people who have minimal time for working out.
  3. Most intermediate and advanced lifters do better with different types of workout routines.

Choosing a workout routine can be a daunting task.

You have to decide how many days to train, which muscle groups to work on which days, which exercises to do, how many sets and reps to perform, how to program in progressive overload, and on and on.

It’s no wonder that so many people find weightlifting overwhelming and confusing, and why they often choose the simplest option: full-body workouts.

Most entail just a handful of exercises, don’t take too much time, and hit every major muscle group in the body, and popular strength training programs like Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5×5, and The Texas Method have conclusively proven that they produce results.

Seems like a 360-degree win, right?

Not necessarily.

The long story short is you can build a great physique using full-body workouts, but you’re probably going to get faster and better results with a different approach.

This is especially true if you’ve already been lifting weights for a bit, and in this article, you’re going to learn why.

By the end, you’re going to know what full-body workouts are, who they do and don’t work well for, and how to get the most out a full-body workout routine if you choose to follow one.

Let’s start at the top.

What Is a Full-Body Workout?

A full-body workout is one that trains all the major muscle groups in your body in one workout.

Instead of organizing workouts by major muscle group, e.g. “upper body,” “push,” or “chest and triceps,” you train everything in every workout.

To accomplish this, most full-body workouts are built around a handful of compound exercises, like the squat, bench press, deadlift, and military press, and that’s part of why they’re so popular–they “Keep it Simple, Stupid.”

Two other reasons is they don’t place great demands on your time and are dead simple to program and follow. Most entail just three 60ish-minute workouts per week on a Mon-Weds-Fri schedule, and some repeat the same workout every session while others have you alternate between two or three different workouts.

The Problem With Full-Body Workouts

So far, full-body workouts are looking pretty appealing, and rightfully so. They’re simple to understand and do, and they work.

They’re not the end-all for everyone, though, for two reasons:

  1. They don’t lend themselves well to heavy compound weightlifting.
  2. They don’t allow for much flexibility in volume and frequency by muscle group.

If you’re familiar with my work, you know where I stand on exercise choice and rep ranges.

Specifically, I believe that natural weightlifters looking to gain muscle and strength as quickly as possible should focus on heavy (80%+ of 1RM) compound weightlifting in their training.

I spun my wheels for years before learning this lesson and haven’t looked back since discovering its importance, and it’s one of the key principles I come back to again and again in my writings.

If we’re to apply this philosophy to full-body workouts, then we’ll have to perform heavy squats, deadlifts, and presses back-to-back in each workout. And while that may sound reasonable on paper, give it a try and you’ll quickly realize that you’ve created the hardest workouts imaginable, and not in the good way but in a “this shit is seriously going to kill me” kind of way.

The bottom line is when you try to string together a lot of heavy compound weightlifting in one workout, you lose steam quickly and the quality of your workout gets worse and worse with every set.

For example, if you started your full-body workout with heavy deadlifts and then moved on to heavy bench pressing, you’d likely find that you can’t press as much weight as you could if you started the workout on the bench. If you did that the next workout, however, you’d likely find that you couldn’t pull as much on the deadlift in the #2 slot than in the first workout.

Those are just the first two exercises of your workouts, too. The performance drop-off becomes more and more pronounced as you move on to subsequent lifts, with each suffering more than the last.

The same is true of any workout, of course, but the later stuff in other workout splits is usually less-taxing isolation exercises (“assistance work”), not major compound movements for other primary muscle groups.

This progressive fatigue caused by full-body workouts is problematic because it hinders your ability to maximally overload your major muscle groups (which blunts muscle growth potential), and makes for grueling workouts that you dread–workouts that you’re likely to give less than 100% to, look for reasons to skip, or abandon altogether.

Now, you might be thinking that you could get around this limitation by reducing the amount of heavy compound reps that you do in each workout and using lighter loads for the rest.

This works to a point (and, quite frankly, is necessary if you’re going to do full-body workouts), but in the end produces inferior results to other workout splits that allow for more flexibility and specificity in terms of frequency (how often you train a given muscle group), intensity (how heavy the weights are), and volume (how many reps you do).

And that brings me to point number two from above.

The only way you can push, pull, and squat heavy weights several times per week is by keeping volume relatively low, which isn’t isn’t optimal for maximizing muscle growth.

Unfortunately, us natural weightlifters can’t have the best of everything–we can’t program for high intensity, volume, and frequency without eventually overtraining or getting hurt.

A well-designed workout program not only emphasizes heavy, compound weightlifting for each major muscle group; it puts you in a “sweet spot” in terms of total weekly volume as well.

How you reach that volume in terms of number of workouts–one, two, three, etc.–is of secondary importance.

What is that sweet spot, though?

Well, there aren’t any studies that give a definitive, one-size-fits-all answer as to how hard and how much you can train to maximize your results, and there many never be.

Optimal volume is modified by intensity, as you know, but there are many other factors that come into play as well including diet, training experience, sleep hygiene, genetics, and more.

That said, there is enough clinical and anecdotal evidence available to derive some sensible guidelines.

Let’s first look at a large and extensive review of weightlifting studies conducted by scientists at Goteborg University.

Their research found that, when using weights in the 60 to 85% of 1RM range, optimal volume appears to be in the range of 30 to 60 reps per major muscle group per workout when 2 to 3 workouts were performed each week.

Thus, a total weekly volume of somewhere between 60 and 180 reps per major muscle group.

As you can guess, the heavier the training, the fewer reps you can and should do every week.

If you were training exclusively in the 80 to 85% of 1RM range, like you do on my Bigger Leaner Stronger program for men, you’d want to be around 60 to 80 total reps per major muscle group per week.

If you were doing a low-weight, high-volume type of program, however, you’d want your weekly volume for each major muscle group to be closer to 180 reps.

And if you were doing something in between, like with my Thinner Leaner Stronger program for women, your total weekly reps would be somewhere in between as well.

These findings also agree with another large review conducted by researchers at Arizona State University.

When lighter weights are used, more sets per week is optimal. As the weights get heavier, however, total sets must come down.

Now, if we try to apply those guidelines to full-body workouts, the problem becomes clear: achieving an optimal workout volume for each major muscle group would mean 3+ hour workouts, and achieving optimal frequency would mean working out just once or twice per week.

All this is why full-body workouts just aren’t for everyone, and work best for people new to weightlifting whose bodies are hyper-responsive to training, and intermediate or advanced weightlifters who have very limited time for training and want to at least maintain their muscle and strength.

If you’re not one of those people–if your newbie gains are long gone and you have at least a few hours to spend in the gym every week–then you’ll do much better with a different workout split.

If you are, though, then keep reading, because you’re about to learn how to get the most out of your full-body workouts.

The Best Exercises for Full-Body Workouts

As you know, one of the advantages of full-body workouts is they revolve around a handful of exercises, which not only makes them simple to understand and do, but allows you to quickly improve your ability to perform each (which aids in progression).

Specifically, here are the primary exercises that I recommend you focus on in your full-body workouts:

  1. Barbell Back Squat
  2. Barbell Deadlift
  3. Flat Barbell Bench Press
  4. Military Press
  5. Barbell Lunge
  6. Barbell Row
  7. Chin-Up
  8. Lat Pulldown

If you just work at getting as strong as possible in those exercises, you’ll be very happy with the results.

Let’s take a look at each.

1. Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is the single most effective leg exercise you can do for gaining size and strength.

Its benefits extend beyond that, too, because it’s really a whole-body exercise that engages every major muscle group but your chest.

You want to make sure you do it correctly, though. Bad form not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise, it also increases the risk of injury.

2. Barbell Deadlift

The deadlift is at the core of any great weightlifting program. My back sucked in both strength and size until I started really working on my deadlift and I’ve never looked back.

Many people are afraid of it, though, because they think it’s inherently bad for your lower back or dangerous.

At first glance, this fear would seem to make sense: putting all that pressure on your back, and particularly your low-back and erector spinae muscles, has to be a recipe for thoracic and lumbar disaster, right?

Well, research shows otherwise.

In fact, when performed with good form, the deadlift is actually a fantastic way to build lower back strength and prevent injury.

That said, if you have sustained a lower back injury in the past or have a disease or dysfunction affecting the area, you may not want to deadlift. Unfortunately, I have to recommend that you consult with a sports doctor to see if it will or won’t work for you.

3. Flat Barbell Bench Press

There’s a reason why every well-designed weightlifting program focuses on the bench press for upper body development:

It’s one of the best all-around upper body exercises you can do, training the pecs, lats, shoulders, triceps, and even the legs to a slight degree.

That said, although it looks simple enough, the bench press is a fairly technical movement, which is why learning proper form is crucial.

4. Standing or Seated Military Press

The military press is one of the most effective exercises for building your shoulders and increasing overall upper body strength.

Like the bench press, it’s also tricky to master. Start with a weight that’s lighter than you think you should, and gradually adding weight as your form improves.

Now, there are two variations of the military press–standing and seated.

Here’s what the standing version looks like:

And here’s the seated version:

Give them a try and you’ll quickly learn that the standing military press (also known as the overhead press) is significantly harder than the seated. And harder usually means better.

The standing military press also causes slightly more shoulder muscle activation than the seated military press.

That said, there are two significant drawbacks to the standing military press:

  1. You have to use lighter weights.
  2. You have to be more careful when you’re trying to move more heavy weights.

You see, the standing press places a lot more stress on the lower back and core than the seated press, which means you won’t be able to lift as much weight and and you’ll be at a higher risk of injury if your form is sloppy.

This makes the standing military press a better whole-body exercise but if you’re trying to maximally overload your shoulders, the seated military press allows you to “target” your shoulders with heavier weights.

My personal preference is the seated military press (barbell and dumbbell) because I feel that my heavy deadlifting and squatting is more than enough for my core and back. Every few months, though, I like to alternate between standing (barbell) and seated (dumbbell and barbell) military pressing.

5. Barbell Lunge

Although the lunge is generally thought of as a quadriceps exercise, research shows it relies more on the hamstring and glutes.

Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile inclusion in your leg workouts. I like to include at least some single-leg work in my routine to avoid muscle imbalances.

6. Barbell Row

Like the deadlift, the barbell row is a staple in many weightlifting programs because it works everything in the back from top to bottom.

Now, my favorite style of barbell row is known as a Pendlay row, which is named after the strength coach Glenn Pendlay.

It increases the range of motion, which means your back has to work harder. And, generally speaking, the harder you make your muscles work, the better progress you make.

Here’s how to do it:

Oh and in case you’re worried that this type of row is going to strain your lower back, if you maintain proper form and do other exercises to strengthen your lumbar spine (like the deadlift), you have nothing to worry about.

7. Chin-Up

The chinup engages every major muscle in your back and involves the biceps to a significant degree as well.

8. Lat Pulldown

If you aren’t quite strong enough to do a chin-up, you can do lat pulldowns instead.

The Best Full-Body Workout Routines

Now that you know all about the exercises that make for the best full-body workouts, let’s turn them into workouts!

The 1-Day Per Week Full-Body Workout Routine

If you can only train once per week, don’t despair–you can at least maintain your muscle and strength, and possibly even make gains.

Here’s the workout:

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 3 sets 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Flat Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Deadlift

Warm up and 3 sets 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Row

3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Military Press

3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

The 2-Day Per Week Full-Body Workout Routine

When you can only train twice per week, I recommend you use one day to train your upper body and the other for training your legs.

Day 1

Upper Body

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Flat Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Military Press

3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Row

3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Day 2

Lower Body

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 3 sets 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Deadlift

Warm up and 3 sets 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Dumbbell Lunge

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

The 3-Day Per Week Full-Body Workout Routine

If you can lift weights three days per week, I’d recommend that you use a Push Pull Legs (PPL) or Push Legs Pull (PLP) or upper/lower setup, but if you’re determined to go with full-body, here’s how I would program it:

Day 1

Bench First

Flat Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Row

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Day 2

Squat First

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Military Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Barbell Lunges

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Day 3

Pull First

Barbell Deadlift

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Chin Up or Lat Pulldown

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

Flat Barbell Bench Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1RM)

A few points to keep in mind when doing these workout:

  • Rest 3 minutes in between each set.

This will give your muscles enough time to fully recoup their strength so you can push yourself to your limit on each set.

The subject of whether to train to failure (the point at which you can no longer keep the weight moving and have to end the set) or not is controversial.

Experts disagree left and right, and there are good arguments both for and against training to failure. Many people find success with different approaches.

I break the topic down in this article, but here’s the gist:

We should be training close to failure, but not so much that we risk injury or overtrain.

Personally, I never train to failure for more than 2 to 3 sets per workout, and never on the squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press, as it can be dangerous.

I save it for my accessory (isolation) exercises, and it’s usually just a natural consequence of pushing to add reps and weight to the exercises.

Instead, the majority of your sets should be taken to the rep preceding failure (the last rep you can perform without help).

If you’re new to weightlifting it can be hard to find this point, but you’ll get a better feel for it as you gain experience on different exercises.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

This is the easiest way to ensure you’re progressively overloading your muscles.

For instance, if you get 6 reps on your first set of your close-grip bench press, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

What About Supplements?

I saved this for last because it’s the least important.

The truth is most supplements for building muscle and losing fat are worthless.

Unfortunately, no amount of pills and powders are going to make you muscular and lean.

That said, if you know how to drive muscle growth with proper dieting and exercise, certain supplements can accelerate the process.

Here are the ones I use and recommend:

ATLAS Mass Gainer

atlas mass gainer supplement

In an ideal world, we’d get all of our daily calories from carefully prepared, nutritionally balanced meals, and we’d have the time to sit down, slow down, and savor each and every bite.

In the real world, though, we’re usually rushing from one obligation to another and often forget to eat anything, let alone the optimal foods for building muscle, losing fat, and staying healthy.

That’s why meal replacement and “weight gainer” supplements and protein bars and snacks are more popular than ever.

Unfortunately, most contain low-quality protein powders and large amounts of simple sugars and unnecessary junk.

That’s why I created ATLAS.

It’s a delicious “weight gainer” (meal replacement) supplement that provides you with 38 grams of high-quality protein per serving, along with 51 grams of nutritious, food-based carbohydrates, and just 6 grams of natural fats, as well as 26 micronutrients, enzymes, and probiotics that help you feel and perform your best.

ATLAS is also 100% naturally sweetened and flavored as well, and contains no chemical dyes, cheap fillers, or other unnecessary junk.

So, if you want to build muscle and lose fat as quickly as possible and improve the nutritional quality of your diet, then you want to try ATLAS today.

RECHARGE Post-Workout Supplement

recharge creatine supplement

RECHARGE is a 100% natural post-workout supplement that helps you gain muscle and strength faster, and recover better from your workouts.

Once it’s had time to accumulate in your muscles (about a week of use), the first thing you’re going to notice is increased strength and anaerobic endurance, less muscle soreness, and faster post workout muscle recovery.

And the harder you can train in your workouts and the faster you can recover from them, the more muscle and strength you’re going to build over time.

Furthermore, RECHARGE doesn’t need to be cycled, which means it’s safe for long-term use, and its effects don’t diminish over time.

It’s also naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk.

So, if you want to be able to push harder in the gym, train more frequently, and get more out of your workouts, then you want to try RECHARGE today.

WHEY+ Protein Powder

whey protein supplement

Whey protein powder is a staple in most athletes’ diets for good reason.

It’s digested quickly, it’s absorbed well, it has a fantastic amino acid profile, and it’s easy on the taste buds.

Not all whey proteins are created equal, though.

Whey concentrate protein powder, for example, can be as low as 30% protein by weight, and can also contain a considerable amount of fat and carbs.

And the more fat and carbs you’re drinking, the less you can actually enjoy in your food.

Whey isolate protein powder, on the other hand, is the purest whey protein you can buy. It’s 90%+ protein by weight and has almost no fat or carbs.

Another benefit of whey isolate is it contains no lactose, which means better digestibility and fewer upset stomachs.

Well, WHEY+ is a 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate protein powder made from exceptionally high-quality milk from small dairy farms in Ireland.

It contains no GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk, and it tastes delicious and mixes great.

So, if you want a clean, all-natural, and great tasting whey protein supplement that’s low in calories, carbs, and fat, then you want to try WHEY+ today.

PULSE Pre-Workout

pulse pre-workout

Is your pre-workout simply not working anymore?

Are you sick and tired of pre-workout drinks that make you sick and tired?

Have you had enough of upset stomachs, jitters, nausea, and the dreaded post-workout crash?

Do you wish your pre-workout supplement gave you sustained energy and more focus and motivation to train? Do you wish it gave you noticeably better workouts and helped you hit PRs?

If you’re nodding your head, then you’re going to love PULSE.

It increases energy, improves mood, sharpens mental focus, increases strength and endurance, and reduces fatigue…without unwanted side effects or the dreaded post-workout crash.

It’s also naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk.

Lastly, it contains no proprietary blends and each serving delivers nearly 20 grams of active ingredients scientifically proven to improve performance.

So, if you want to feel focused, tireless, and powerful in your workouts…and if you want to say goodbye to the pre-workout jitters, upset stomachs, and crashes for good…then you want to try PULSE today.

The Bottom Line on Full-Body Workouts

Full-body workouts, “bro splits,” upper/lower routines, and push/pull/legs can all work for building muscle and strength.

If you’re a beginner, full-body workouts can work particularly well because they’re easy to understand, don’t require too much time, and quickly bring you up to speed on the key barbell movements.

Once you’ve put in 6 to 12 months of high-quality training, though, it’s hard to continue progressing in strength and size with full-body workouts. In this case, you’ll do better with more compartmentalized workouts that allow you to optimize volume and frequency for each major muscle group.

Want More Workouts?

Chest Workouts

How to Get a Bigger and Stronger Chest in Just 30 Days

The Ultimate Chest Workout

This Is The Last Upper Body Workout You’ll Ever Need

Shoulder Workouts

How to Get Bigger and Stronger Shoulders in Just 30 Days

how to get bigger stronger shoulders

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

best shoulder workout

4 Rotator Cuff Exercises That You Should Be Doing (and Why)

rotator cuff exercises

Arm Workouts

How to Get Bigger and Stronger Biceps in Just 30 Days

how to get bigger stronger biceps

How to Get Bigger and Stronger Triceps in Just 30 Days

big triceps

The Ultimate Arms Workout

best arm exercises

Back Workouts

How to Get a Bigger and Stronger Back in Just 30 Days

bigger stronger back workout

The Ultimate Back Workout

best back exercises

Leg Workouts

How to Get Bigger and Stronger Legs in Just 30 Days

how to get bigger legs

This Is The Last Lower Body Workout You’ll Ever Need

The Ultimate Legs Workout

best leg exercises

Butt Workouts

How to Get a Bigger and Rounder Butt in Just 30 Days

how to get a bigger and rounder butt

The Best Butt Exercises for Building Head-Turning Glutes

best butt exercises

What’s your take on full-body workouts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Jeremy Hellman

    I’ve been doing full body workouts on days where I know extra food and specifically carbs will be a thing. Life happens. For example, a Thanksgiving dinner, or a date night out at a restaurant. Fully depleting your bodies glycogen stores should make room for the carbs to be absorbed instead of turning into body fat.

    Is there any validity to this Mike? Or is doing a normal heavy lifts (as per BLS) just fine for depleting glycogen before a large meal?

    • Anthony Thompson

      I just wrapped up a summer cutting routine that involved full body workouts 4 days a week to deplete glycogen stores. Although strength didn’t progress as much as usual I had awesome success with losing huge amount of body fat. http://imgur.com/8GVCloA

      • Michael Matthews

        Great job!!

    • Michael Matthews

      This is good specifically for the purpose of depleting glycogen stores but I wouldn’t skip a BLS-style workout to do a full-body just for that reason.

      While depleting glycogen stores before feeding does create a bit of a “carb sink,” in the end energy balance is what really matters. You can’t “hack” your metabolism.

  • Theo

    No ‘Training thrice per week’ workout? just one or two week… :-/
    Anyway, I do full body and I like it. I don’t go some place to place.
    I walk in and hit the squat rack and stay there for most of my workout out.
    On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I’ll do my FBWs

    Which is just:

    Squats 5×5
    Bench Press 5×5
    Barbell Rows 5×5
    Deadlifts 2×5, or 3 sets when I feel like it.

    Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays I do my arm workouts as I really want to grow my twigs.

    Military press 5×5
    Lat raises 2 sets with a rep range of 4-7
    Rear delt fly 2 sets with a rep range of 4-7

    Neutral grip chin-ups 3 sets to failure which always seems to go like this 8, 6, 4/3
    Dumbbell Hammer Curl 3 sets usually around 6 reps.
    Barbel curl 3 sets 5-6 reps

    Skull crushers 4 sets usually in the 4-6 rep range
    Dumbell tricep extensions 2sets below 8 reps
    Cable tricep extensions 3sets and usually around 6 reps.

    I know some of the reps are little higher than what you recommend, Mike but i’m moving up weight each work out till I reach my 80-85% of my 1RM

    I don’t want to jump straight into 80%

    Any thoughts?

    • Michael Matthews

      This is a good setup. How has your body been responding?

  • Stuart Cullinan

    I’ve had really good gains with fullbody workouts…including 5×5 and HST. I have an opinion on this and it seems everyone does…probably because different things work differently for different people. Take this article on bb.com for instance http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-muscle-prof-how-can-i-build-muscle-like-a-beginner.html?mcid=SM_googleplus
    It is almost always possible to find both scientific and anecdotal evidence to back up different ways of working out, you have to try different things to find out how your own body responds. This is a constant process, but part of the enjoyment I think.

    • Michael Matthews

      I totally agree. There are non-negotiables like progressive overload, emphasizing heavy lifting, and making sure your weekly volume isn’t way more or less than it should be, but frequency and split preferences can be accommodated.

  • Dave

    Hey Mike your articles are great but I really want you to do a article on calisthenics because so many people are now movin from weights to calisthenics and I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube phenomenon that’s occurring were you see guys doin crazy stunts are these a good alternative to weights it would be great if you could post a article about it because it’s one you haven’t done thanks man

  • Makoto Tomizawa

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article. I’m lifting 4 days a week, where I hit the major muscle groups with compound movements (switching between squat/hack squat, flat/incline bench, deadlift/bent over BB row, military press) followed by either arms&calves or shoulder&calves supplementary workouts. For the first 5 weeks, my routine was 3 days/week (squat, bench, dead, military, row) and now I’m doing what I mentioned previously. Could this still lead to over-training? I’m just trying to hit 9-12 sets for each muscle group throughout the week like you suggest in BLS. As you recommended in your previous email, after my 8 weeks of full-body routines, I’m going to switch over to your BLS program. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

    • Michael Matthews

      So long as you don’t do too many heavy reps each week, you can definitely train each part more frequently. Check this out:


      • Makoto Tomizawa

        Mike, I re-read through the article you suggested more carefully, and I decided to make a few minor adjustments since the total reps&volume that I was doing was actually way more than the optimal. Thank you again for your help!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! LMK how it goes!

  • Ben

    That one day workout you’ve suggested looks horrific! haha. I’m glad I can train 5x a week.

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol yeah it’s rough. But workable if you can only lift 1 x per week.

  • Scott K

    I have done a few full body workouts in the past. I started as a newbie doing a long full body workout twice a week a couple years ago. It was good at the time. What I liked about the full body workouts is that you worked your entire body, then rested the entire body. In split routines, you may be hitting some muscles twice, although not dominantly. However, only lifting heavy weights has produced desired results for me, and in order to do that I need to split my days up so I have enough energy each workout. It also makes workouts more enjoyable, rather than dreading having to do squats after benching and dead lifting. I have also experimented with doing a HIT strength training routine once every 5 days (slow cadence and 1 set to negative failure). But, I wasn’t getting the results like when I just lifted heavy in the lower rep range like you teach.

    I am currently using all 5 of your “Ultimate Workout” articles to create my workout. However, I am doing it in 3 days, instead of 5, by grouping Chest, Shoulders and triceps and also Back and biceps. I like to be able to have more recovery days, especially being more of the ectomorph type.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing Scott! I like that you’ve tried various things and found what works best for you. Keep up the good work!

  • Allen

    Who are these people who can only train once per week? Is their life really that crowded? I’m a relatively busy dude and I find time for a 1-hour workout every weekday. I have this theory that you make time for the things that really matter to you, and If you’re only working out once a week, then it doesn’t really matter to you.

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree Allen. 🙂

    • Steven M

      I’m one of those people Allen. I’m the CEO of an international biotech, constantly traveling to Australia and Europe, and short hops from LA to NY mixed in. Impossible to find a stretch of days where I’m not away from a real gym that has iron. I also try to have days where I can do cardio, hiking, flexibility and mobility work as I’m nearing 50. The one day per week works perfectly for my schedule and I have seen good gains. My program is very similar to the one that Michael lists in the article. Squats, Bench, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, Chins, Dips. 3 working sets 4-6 reps. About 1:20 in the gym, long, grueling but worth it.

  • Matt

    If full-body plans are great for beginners, and BB splits are great for advanced trainees, wouldn’t the logical progression be to move to something in between after the beginner phase, like an upper/lower split that begins each day with a core lift, rather than jump straight to a 5-day split like in your plan?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question.

      Newbies can actually do very well on a more traditional type of split so IF it’s programmed well.

      The bottom line is you can only build so much muscle each year and that’s the only way to objectively measure the effectiveness of a program. If newbies can gain 20-25 pounds of muscle in their first year of BLS, which many do, you’re not going to beat that with any other program.

      You can read more about this here:


  • Meg

    I started this quick i guess HIIT style workout a few months ago… I got bored of long distance cardio training after spending the previous 6months triathlon training, but still wanted to incorporate cardio with weightlifting. My schedule is CRAZY busy working with a college football team, so not much time for solid workouts (about 45min 4-5 days a week). So I started this little plan of sprinting a quarter mile then supersetting 2 lifts and repeating until i reach mile (with a new muscle target area after each sprint). I loved it at first! I only do it 2x per week and run on the other days. But now, 2 months later, I feel weaker and after every workout I get sore in the same spots, even when I mix up the lifts. I know nutrition is playing a critical role. But still it’s been frustrating because squatting 2x20reps of the bar with no added weight has not gotten much easier!
    However, it has been a good fat burning workout as I’ve noticed changes in definition.
    My goals right now are just to get a workout in for my own mental sanity and so it has worked and it’s been a fun routine! But I’m now concerned when I go in to the off season with strengthening as my focus that I’ll be starting from square 1 with strength…and DOMS 🙁
    This article was a good read and thank you! I know I’m definitely going to have to switch things up quite a bit when I transition to a strength routine.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like HIIT a lot as well. I do sprints on the recumbent bike.

      I stopped doing running sprints because it messed with my leg training too much. I wouldn’t superset sprints with lifting.

      Let’s check out your diet:


  • António

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve just bulked to 72.2kg /159lbs and according to the accu-measure caliper I have 16 % body fat. Do you think I should cut down to 10% and then bulk again? I am tempted to keep bulking because many people online say that because I am in the young side of the 17-25 range I can make great gains and won’t store as much body fat.

    Also, what is the best caloric deficit to preserve lean muscle mass? Should I do the standard 500 caloric deficit?

    Finally, do you think it is worth it changing from a 3-day split to a 5-day split?

  • Sandy_S

    I’ve done the push/pull/legs style of working out for a while, and that’s great if it’s your primary exercise for the week. When I’m in a training cycle and running 30, 40, 50 + miles per week, it’s not feasible. I like two or three full-body workouts (lighter weights and increased reps) to complement and enhance my running performance.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great input Sandy. Thanks for sharing.

  • saveourskills

    At what point are you considered not a beginner? I am doing StrongLifts 3×5 right now.. I might be up for switching it up and giving BLS a shot… but I hate to stop this program since the gains keep coming… hmmm

    • Michael Matthews

      Newbie gains usually last 4-6 months. Then the “hard work” begins. 😉

  • I think I’ll stick with one day a week for now. I’m still a newbie at 53.

    I’m doing Squats, Deadlift and Bench press on a Tuesday, and swimming 1km on Thursday and/or Saturday. That’s about as much as I can handle as a newbie. In the last 13 months I have got to 60kg on Bench press and Deadlift (only a few reps) but my Squat technique still sucks.

    Since I started from absolute rock bottom (I could barely manage 20kg Bench press) I am happy with my progress so far. Once my squats come right your 2-day workout plan may become an option, but not yet.

    Your BLS book had provided me with a lot of motivation, and I think my personal trainer has been doing most of what you advise anyway. Keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing. You can make gains on 1 x per week. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Average Vanilla IWC Midget

    I like Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs/Rest

    • Michael Matthews

      That can work well if you have your weekly volume managed properly.

      • Average Vanilla IWC Midget

        Yeah, I’ve definitely overtrained easily with that split. Thanks for the response! Been silent, but been reading your articles for a couple months. They’re good! Thanks for the info. 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man, I appreciate it. And yeah I’ve made the same mistakes on a 2 x per week and even tried a 3 x per week. Was hell.

  • ahmed

    ohh man, i have allot of questions. sorry 🙂 .

    plz answer the question in form of numbers. thanks!!

    1. you may have seen me active in this site I’m 16 years old trying to build muscle and get stronger. i have been lifting for exactly 3 months now doing a full body workout 3 day a week. do you think i should stop doing full body workout. if you do what type of split do you recommend me to do.

    2. you said that the optimum rep range is 6-7 reps. which will help me get good amount of gains. however, here is the thing. lets say i bench press 7 reps 85% my 1 RM first set i accomplish it. my second set it gets harder, during my third set i cant even do 6 REPS. what do i do? decrease the weights? increase my resting periods (i rest for 60 – 90 seconds)? please help.

    3. Ok please bare with me in this question. its quite complicated and i don’t know how to ask it but i will give it a try. you said that at beginner stage your gains will be shooting through the stars. now when does the beginner stage end? after a certain time frame or when you gained a certain muscle mass? because i’m planning to cut and i’m afraid that if i go cutting for 2 months i will miss out on my amazing beginner gains. what do you think should i begin cutting? im not that fat but i have some fat on my stomach (i cant see my six pack) .

    wow. that took me a long time to write, i hope you answer it 😀 i would be really thankful. as always your biggest fan keep it up you are a life changer!

    one day my transformation pics will be in your website… one day.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      1. Great on what you’re doing. You can keep up the full body if you’re making gains.

      2. I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc. If, however, you only get 2 to 3 reps after increasing, drop back and work with that lower weight until you can do TWO sets of 6, and then try to move up again. If that still fails, then work up to 3 sets of 6 and you’ll be fine.

      3. Newbie gains seem to last about 6 months.

      I wouldn’t cut at your age. Let’s focus on eating around TDEE and pushing hard in your training and seeing how your body develops.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Bill

    What are your thoughts on daily undulating periodization. I have both your books and don’t remember anything about it being mentioned. Thanks

  • Angela

    Hi Mike,

    Great article as usual. I’ve been on 5×5 for abut 8 months now and have seen good progress but, due my job, making it to the gym 3/4 times a week (which is seen as optimal for 5×5) is quite difficult. Your 2 workouts a week option seems like a good alternative. I also still have quite a bit of fat still to lose (started out at 330 lbs and am now at 201 with a GW of around 150). Would this two week workout still be optimal for the considerable amount of fat I still have left to lose? Note that I also so 20-30 mins of HIIT after each lifting session.

    Looking forward to your answer. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Angela! Great on your progress so far! Yeah you can do well with 2 x lifting and HIIT per week.

      You’ll want to make sure your diet is right though:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Angela

        Thanks Mike. Much appreciated and will let you know how it progresses.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW and sounds good.

  • Doug

    I’d just like to share my experience with a 2-4 times a week full body, self regulated routine I do, that I make steady progress with at a lifting level a bit past intermediate. I’m sure you are familiar with 5/3/1 and Beyonnd 5/3/1. Well I made a routine that would allow me to make gains while having some weeks where I can only lift twice a week, while taking advantage of the weeks that I can lift more. I split the days between a Press/Deadlift and Squat/Bench, each having accessory workouts afterwords that hit the rest of my muscle groups in full.

    The beauty of a routine like this is that while one week I may only lift on Monday and Friday, the next week I make be able to bust out a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Any extra fatigue I accumulate over the 4 day weeks gets rested out on the two day weeks (occasionally I’m doomed to have a week where I can’t make it to the gym at all) . Not to mention 5/3/1 is known not being overly intense unless you want it to be.

    The main things that make a routine like this work are no slack in calories or sleep, as well as plenty of rest between sets. It may be tough, but if you have the right mindset and listen to your body, I don’t see why it couldn’t work for others.

  • Kevin Rexil Almira

    hi sir.i have a girl best friend who goes with me to the gym, and she is doing a full body work out (a program given by the instructor of the gym), and i bought TLS for her, and suggest to follow the program of the TLS, and when she did it in the gym, one of the instructor is telling us that it is so advance for advance bodybuilders only. that she have to build her strength first for how many months. But i know how the TLS program work. what should she do? she workout for a month

    • Michael Matthews

      If she’s doing well with the full-body routine she can keep it up, but she can also do well with TLS. The bottom line is you can only build so much muscle and lose so much fat each year, and TLS delivers the upper limits, so what more can you want, you know?

  • bflatt72

    Hey Mike, I love your book and website and your no BS approach to things. Here’s the thing. I’m 42 and have been doing an A/B split full body workout for the past 4 1/2 months and have been making great gains. Down from 226 to 202 at 5’8 so far. My split looks like this:
    A) Bench, Standing Overhead Press, Deadlift, Dips, Triceps Pushdown
    B)Squat, Bent over rows, Lat pulldowns, DB curls, EZ bar curls.
    Everything has been doing great but the past couple of weeks, as the weights are getting heavier and heavier, I’ve been noticing that I’m toast by the end of the workout. From reading your book and this article, maybe this is due to doing multiple compound exercises on the same day? I’d like to switch to a 3 day a week a routine using your routine and exercises, but I’m wondering, is working out each body part once a week, or every 7 days really ideal? I’m currently working out each lift once every 4 or 5 days.

  • Dakota Yo

    You and Jason Blaha from Juggernaut Fitness (formerly ice cream fitness) are my go to sources for unbiased purely scientific nutrition and fitness advice. Most things you guys agree and give nearly identical or at least similar advice but this is one of the few exceptions and the one that confuses me. You claim 3 full-body workouts aren’t optimal for maximum hypertrophy and 4-5 day body splits are better but he argues the opposite. Why is that . Both of your arguments are based on science so its doesn’t make sense that you guys have different advice because you don’t really give opinionated advice but purely scientific and factual ? I guess if one of you had to be right i think it would be you because Jason has been wrong before and has show to sometime be overly pompous and let his personal preference,arrogance, and unreliable anecdotal experience cloud his judgement as is the case with him not recommending creatine even though its clinically proven to work . But still .

    • Thanks Dakota! I’m not too familiar with Blaha’s work but what I have seen I liked.

      Honestly there are a lot of conflicting opinions on the “best” way to train and many positions can be supported by science. IMO there are certain things you just have to try for yourself and see how you do with it.

      Full-body training isn’t BAD but I think you’ll see that as the weights start getting heavy, the workouts get REALLY hard. So much so that it prevents you from being able to lift as much weight as you could if you simply followed a different split…

  • Daniel García

    Aren’t Full body workout effective to loose weight? (burning fat?). I’m over 200lbs start to excersie I did a full body workout for a couple of weeks and the results were amazing. Taking into account that I have no intentions of getting muscle mass until loosing maybe 20-30lbs. If Michael or anyone with knowledge could give me an answer I’ll really appreciate it.

    • Sure they burn energy and train the muscles like any type of training but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly good for losing fat, you know?

      Check this out:


      • Daniel García

        You have no idea how much I appreciate your answer!! There doesn’t seem to be a “valid enough” reason to change the isolated training for a full body training.

        Thanks again for taking the time. I just finished reading your calorie deficit tips. As I’m starting all this information is quite useful.

        • My pleasure! Yeah that’s how I feel about it too. Glad to hear it!

          • D M

            Hi Michael, I was trying to PM you because my questions drew from about 10 different articles you have. They are great but I needed some extra advice. I am 24/F with a TDEE of 2062 (32% body fat) I have lost lots of weight in the past so I have an idea of what I am doing. Unfortunately need to start from square one. Would you please let me know if my plan sounds OK? 1600 calories, after calorie deficit, 40% carb, 40% protein, 20% fat as you recommend. I would like to lift weights to speed up the process of aggressive weight loss. Should I do heavy full body workouts 3x week and HIIT 5x week? And would you still recommend cycling over treadmill for someone like me? Thanks so much for your time. I want to gain lots of muscle in time but I would say my priority is losing about 70lbs of fat.

          • Yeah this all sounds good. I prefer cycling for reasons given here:


            Let me know how it goes….

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Rod

    Hi Mike. Can you please clarify the 30-60 reps per body part when trained once per week? Is this the same as saying 30-60 reps total per week per major muscle group? I currently train full body 3 times per week, and am checking the math to make sure I’m not under or over training.

    Based on my understanding above, [ and assume 60 reps per major group and 30 reps per minor group ], does the following not fulfill the requirements in general terms?

    chest…20 reps x 3 workouts = 60 total reps per week
    back…20 reps x 3 workouts = 60 total reps per week
    legs…20 reps x 3 workouts = 60 total reps per week
    shoulders…10 reps x 3 workouts = 30 total reps per week
    biceps…10 reps x 3 workouts = 30 total reps per week
    triceps…10 reps x 3 workouts = 30 total reps per week
    This would result in 3 workouts, each totaling 90 reps
    Many thanks. Very much enjoying your podcasts and articles

    • 30 to 50 heavy reps per 5 to 7 days on the minor groups and 60 to 80 per week on the majors is a good rule of thumb. You’ll have to see how your body responds in the end of course.

      This will help you too:


      • Rod

        Thanks Mike.
        One of the reasons I have been following a 3 days per week full body routine is that at 49, and not having touched a weight since I was about 25, I have had a few joint issues…knees, lef shoulder, right elbow…and I seem to be more comfortable with a few basic movements instead of exercising each muscle group from different angles. I also workout from home so equipment is limited. So using one basic movement per body part does fit my needs quite well.

        I was reading up on Stronglifts yesterday, and that seems to be approaching more of a split routine, while still utilizing basic movements so I guess that is an option to decrease frequency.

        BTW, thanks for providing such a great resource here. I will be buying your book to help my 15 year old son who recently started to lift, which is why I am now lifting again. I dragged out my old copies of Muscle & Fitness and Flex from the ’80’s but I see now, most of it is more of a “what not to do” guide LOL.

        many thanks

  • Jon

    All of the training templates in the book “Practical Programming” by Mark Rippetoe are full body workouts. It includes intermediate and advanced templates. A lot of strength programs are actually set up as full body workouts. Are you saying for body building only? Or are you saying in general, full body isnt as efficient?

    • I’m a big fan of Rip’s work but am NOT a fan of whole body workouts for experienced weightlifters for the reasons given in the article.

    • Full body is fine but they have drawbacks, and especially for advanced weightlifters wanting to build the best possible physique.

  • inferno0666

    #1 You CAN emphasize heavy, compound lifting without dying.

    Experience programmers do not cram heavy lifting on every single day. There are heavy days, moderate days, and lighter days. And it varies per exercise.

    For examplek, deadlifts are typically done 1x per week, not 3x per week like squats. And not every day is a heavy squat day. So deadlifts can be done on a light squat day (fewer sets and ligher weightse compared to the other days). As a bonus, those squats are a nice warmup for the deadlifts.

    Heavy squats before bench presses takes getting used to, but after a while you get into the groove. It will be hard in the beginning and you will feel beat up, but that is because you are UNDERtrained.

    #2 You CAN Program Workout Volume and Frequency Optimally.

    When the frequency goes up, you have to adjust the volume accordingly. That is common sense. Training muscles is about Jason Blaha explains it nicely in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6LsA5V4hus

    Whoever advocates high frequency AND high volume is an idiot who does not have a clue.

    “Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.”
    — Lee Haney, 8 times Mr Olympia

    When the volume is adjusted accordingly within a higher frequency program, the same muscle group can be trained within 48 hours. And this is exactly how more advanced full body programs like Texas Method and MadCow are set up. And these programs have a proven track record.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I agree actually that it CAN be done…it’s just tricky and many people still find that programs like TM and MC beat the utter shit out of them.

      I’m going to edit the subheads to more reflect this.

      • inferno0666

        Well, it depends on various factors. MC and TM are intended for more experienced lifters, intermediates to be more specific. And indeed those programs are not everybody’s cup of tea.

        One other thing that is sometimes overlooked is that many find those full body programs boring, because the focus is on the big compound lifts. So after trying full body for a while, they do not stick to it and switch to something else.

        This is one of the reasons why split programs are so popular; the variety and the fact that they get to use machines. Ultimately most people train to have fun and if you take the fun factor out of it, there is not much left.

    • I agree that FB programs work great for strength training but they have serious drawbracks for experienced weightlifters wanting to build a great physique.

      I talk about this here:


  • Fanatoli Guyoff

    I like full body workouts. I have to add in an extra rest day once in a while though. Only thing that suffers is squats from time to time, they can get really tiring when you’re working everything. I’ve gotten buffer than I’d ever imagined I would be, I say do whatever motivates you! Of course I am not competitively buff but that was never a goal for me anyway.

    • Cool on the extra rest day. It’s important to listen to your body.

      If what you’re doing is working, that’s great! Keep it up.

  • James Gabb

    I’ve been travelling for 6 months and have just started lifting again. Previously, I was shifting heavy weights with some serious conditioning and fitness; combining F45 with heavy compound lifting sessions and almost daily surfing thrown in. However, after 6 months off, I’ve found myself back to almost starting strength. I’m looking to get back on form and I’m currently doing 3 x 10 @ 50-60% 1RM for all the major compound lifts. Today, for example, was squats, deadlifts, bench, seated rows, pulldowns (because my pullups have got that bad), shoulder press, curls, dips and a core circuit. Would you advise staying on full body to regain neurological and tendon strength or shifting back to a bodybuilding style split routine?

    • Honestly I’d go with whatever you enjoy most. A well-programmed split routine can work great for bringing back both size and strength and so can a full-body program.

  • Serendipity

    I do the once per week program described above, but with 5 sets, and adding chin-ups and incline bench press (because I feel these are lacking in the stronglifts program), and also just doing light squats as a warm up before doing heavy deadlifts (because I don’t have a training rack, it’s unsafe to do heavy squats). I also do it every 5-6 days on average – as soon as I feel recovered enough. The workout is brutal, and I feel a wreck for the next two days, but I seem to be making gains.

    The one thing I worry about though is that I’m on a 300 calorie deficit at the moment (trying to get down from 20% bf) compromising my immune system and catching colds. Perhaps I should just to two sets of each instead of five, and go back to 5 sets when I’m bulking?

  • José Ricardo

    Hey Mike, I’m heavy trouble to train more than 2 days per week as I also train Capoeira 2-3 times per week and it makes me quite tired. Do you think this kind of training would be an effective complement? I’m more focused on strength and injury prevention, although gaining some size would be awesome. Am I trying to do too much?

  • CW

    Mike, really liked the article, it spoke to a challenge I have been having lately. Doing the major compound exercises every day (Bench, Dead and Squats at undulating set/rep ranges), 3x a week is beating my a**. When I was younger this split worked great for adding strength but as I get older I find myself needing to skip workouts, add rest days, etc.. Now days, I’m more concerned about the long run. The challenge is I’m busy and can usually only devote 3 days to muscle/strength work.. What would you recommend in a 3 day split? My goals are pretty simple, to gain muscle and strength and improve body composition over time without hurting my ability to perform in my duties as an active dad, etc.. Appreciate any help you can offer.

  • I feel like going to a 3x’s a week full body workout with some cardio and yoga is a solid plan for a female who lifts heavy and is, or is planning to become pregnant. There is so little info out there on what is safe, but I know sitting on your ass is not the answer. Also hard to think you should still be trying to get PR’s while growing a human. I think it will be a fun switch from the super hard and heavy work I’ve been doing. It will be fun working on my conditioning too which often there’s not enough gas in the tank. we shall see, always exciting to shake up training!

    • Yeah that’s a simple, effective way to go about it.

      There’s no question that exercising keeps momma and baby healthy.

  • Ryan Rohr

    I’m kind of at a crossroads. Over the past few years I’ve started taking fitness seriously. I’ve lost about 120 lbs. I’m at a comfortable body fat percentage now, (14.5) and looking to gain muscle. I’ve been doing medium rep/low rest workouts. I’m looking to build muscle, but worry about making changes to my diet in fear of gaining more fat. I currently work out 4-5 days a week. Would you recommend a 3 day split routine? If not, what direction should I take?

  • Trevon Albertson

    Great article. For lifting once a week, do you include power cleans or snatches or do those at all? Back or Front squat? Can leg press be a substitute?

    • Thanks!

      Power cleans and snatches are great exercises, but if you can only lift once a week, I wouldn’t include them.

      For the routine I recommend for lifting once a week, check this out:


      If you aren’t able to squat, leg press or hack squats are good alternatives.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

    • Thanks!

      No I don’t do Oly lifts because I don’t see a reason to and yes a back or front squat would be a good inclusion.

  • razorbackwriter

    Great stuff! Have you ever looked at HST Mike? I.e. Full body workouts but only 1-2 work sets? Supposedly the idea is that higher frequency is more optimal but you ensure that overall weekly volume is the same. I think I heard you mention total weekly volume on one of your podcasts, so I was interested on your thoughts?

    • Yeah GVT-style training just isn’t viable long-term for natties. I guess it’s something you could every now and then “for fun” but I wouldn’t recommend it as a staple.

  • Alex

    “As I mentioned earlier in this article, full-body workouts aren’t all bad–they’re just not optimal for intermediate-to-advanced weightlifters looking to continue building muscle and strength.

    If you’re new to weightlifting, however, and want to get a feel for
    the big, important lifts, you can do very well on something like Starting Strength.”

    Would it still be optimal for someone new to weightlifting to do a 5-day split program like BLS, or would you recommend doing something like Starting Strength for a while first, before moving onto BLS?

    • Nah, you’re still totally fine to start out with BLS. You can make great gains on it.

  • Stefan

    I built a much more superior physique with full body workouts 3 times a week . I lost more fat, build more muscle , and came in much better shape . cut 34 kg fat. While I was building muscle . 4-5 months .

    • You’re saying you lost 75 pounds of fat and built muscle in 4 to 5 months?

      Lol k.

      • Matt Zastrow

        Sounds like beginners fat loss/ muscle gainz

  • balint nagy

    What do you think about this article, it makes the conclusion that frequency is key and beacuse muscles regenerate within 24-48 hours, there is no point of keeping 5-7 day rest between bodyparts.

    • I’ve written about this quite a bit and it really depends on the intensity and volume of your individual workouts.

      For example, if you did 9 sets of 4 to 6 rep leg work in a workout, I can guarantee you’ll need more than 24 to 48 hours to recover before you can squat again.

      • Dante Devine

        Michael, can you point to an article where you have written about this, particularly where it pertains to DUP programs? I just want to get a little insight into that world from a trusted source.

      • Eric

        Actually your answer’s premise, devalues the whole article, and it should. It is true in your reply, frequency, Intensity and volume are all intertwined, and as such can be manipulated in different ways, to make different combinations work. 9 sets of 4-6 can work in 48hrs if you didn’t grind em. Heck even Reg Park proved full body every other day can work, even into advanced stage So..optimal?….optimal is variable… depending on the individual, and the application of the big three mentioned above, at least as far as history has proven.

        • When I tell people to work in a given rep range, I’m assuming it’s near-max training (in the case of 4 to 6 reps, 85% of 1RM).

          Submaximal training is very different, of course.

  • Andrew

    Hi Michael. I have a question. I’m not sure why so many people assume that you have to lift every compound lift in a full body routine with heavy weight back to back. For instance, instead of training heavy throughout the entire workout, why not lift heavy for one of the lifts like bench, and then lift 4×6-10 reps for back, legs, and shoulders (and then switch off to heavy for one of the other compounds for the next day)? Wouldn’t this be more optimal as each day alone would not be as taxing, all the while being able to squeak out a higher frequency of rest days and stimulation of each muscle group per week? Thanks.

    • Ironically 8 to 10 rep deadlifting is more exhausting than 3 to 5 rep, haha…

  • David Riebesehl

    Hey Michael, I train MMA about 3-4 times a week, usually between 2 and 3 hours each session. what weightlifting program would you recommend for a person like me? Thanks for the article!!

  • Vladimir Milojevic

    Hey Michel, I am just staring out with skinny-fat phisique. I read a couple of your articles and did my homework about nutrition, meal planns, workout routines you recommend. I am delightfull with content you provide. Keep it on.

    I have a desire to train more than 2 times a week, maybe go 5 times(BLS) as you recommend all over the place. But You mentioned in skinny-fat article that I should go with full-body(compound) exercices first? So I am a liitle confused. What is my best bet.

  • George Corfield

    Hi Michael,

    Good post, interesting stuff. What would you recommend for somebody who is getting back into lifting weights properly (I’ve done it on and off for around 4 years but used to lift 4/5x a week as well as play team sports 3x a week so have a good knowledge of how to lift weights and eat well etc. but struggles to put on mass (high metabolism and just not naturally big) without serious work in the gym and kitchen.

    FBW the way forward for increased testosterone and to keep the body in an anabolic state as often as possible or still split? Done FWB before and didn’t suffer ill effects of ‘overtraining’ with proper post workout recovery and nutrition but just wasn’t sure if I was getting enough stimulus so to speak to produce growth?

    Opinion? Thanks (Y)

    • Thanks, George!

      To help with putting on mass, take a look at these:



      I’d recommend a proper split like I lay out here:


      If you’d like to do a full-body split though, that’s totally fine.

      Welcome! LMK what you think.

      • George Corfield

        Hi Michael,

        Thanks for the links, plenty of things I’ve seen before but nice to see somebody talking about bulking in a more sensible way. 5-10% over TDEE is much more manageable, I was doing anything inbetween 15-20% which can be mentally exhausting.

        I’ve done one week of split Monday: Legs, Wednesday: Chest and Biceps, Friday: Triceps and Back. I throw in shoulders one day every 2 weeks or so as they’re a strong area for me anyway.

        Did a FBW last night and suitably DOMSd up today haha, think I’ll try your splits and every 3 weeks or so through in a couple of heavy FBW days to keep it fresh!

        Love the site and thank you!

        • YW! Yep, exactly. It also allows you to bulk for a longer period of time (hence make more gains) without getting fat. 🙂

          Cool on your plan to go with the split with some FBW every few weeks. If soreness is an issue for you, check this out:


          Happy to hear it! My pleasure!

  • Hi Michel,

    I would like to make some points here:

    it seems like your key points are based on this statement you’ve made
    “The optimal workout volume for a major muscle group is somewhere between 30 and 60 reps per workout, and optimal frequency for training a major muscle group is one workout every 5 to 7 days.”

    This statement has no scientific, nor practical support: weightlifters do not train like this, power lifters do not train like this, athletes in general do not train like this.

    What is optimal is that the intensity and volume of the individual training sessions are correlated with the sessions’ frequency in order to maximise the overcompensation (progress) and minimise the detraining effect (regress).

    The main reason why in most gyms around the world, most members never achieve significant results is because most trainees get the wrong advice to follow a super split program (Chest on Monday, Legs on Tuesday, and Supraspinatus on Saturday , etc), from Personal Trainers that lack a basic understanding of the physiological principles of athletic training.

    Waiting 5-7 days between training sessions that stimulate the same muscle group, will lead to detraining for most trainees in the gyms.

    Full body training minimises the detraining possibility.
    Of course, the program needs proper structure, with the right volume, sets, reps and loads.

    Alex Moisescu (author of Varied Full-boy High-frequency Training)


  • Workout or exercise is always beneficial for us. Because it makes your body fit and active.

  • amos

    Hey Mike, sorry for the long post. I’m considering doing stronglifts 5×5 because I like doing total body workouts and due to my hectic college schedule. I consider myself rather fit and have great cardiovascular stamina and now I want to gain some mass and strength with total body workout for a start. I was wondering if can I add some accessory exercise to the 5×5 routine? I like doing calisthenics so I will be adding weighted chin ups, pull ups and dips in the routine which will give a bit more volume for the bicep and tricep. For the shoulders, I thought of incorporating the side lateral raise and rear delt raise to work the side and back of the shoulders. I’ll be doing 20 minutes of HIIT on the exercise bike in between workout days.

    Workout A:
    Squat: 5X5
    Incline Barbell Bench Press: 5X5
    Barbell Row: 5X5
    Dips: 6-10X3
    Chinups: 6-10X3

    Workout B
    Squat: 5X5
    Standing Overhead Press: 5X5
    Deadlift: 1X5
    Pull Up: 6-10X5
    Side Lateral Raise: 6X5
    Bent-over Rear Delt Raise: 6X5

    What are your opinion about this routine?

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, I started lifting three years ago which would make me a intermediate/experienced lifter, I just saw your push/pull/leg exercices and I was wondering if doing 4-6 reps per set on every exercise any good considering your body will eventually adapt to it and is that program you put out good for someone like me or is it more for the first year lifters? Do you recommend changing the number of reps after a certain time (Like 2 months) or something so that each muscle fibers are used?

  • Tomino

    Thanks for this. It’s amazing what you’ve done with this blog. I’m kind-of small and my weight is around 110 lbs. I can’t do heavy diets or anything crazy or expensive like chugging a gallon of milk a day (seriously, do you know how expensive that is?). Can you recommend me a relatively simple/easier diet that will help me gain weight? Which everyday foods are good for gaining weight?

    • Tomino,
      Glad you like the blog! Check this out:

      Your options are endless, really. But some good ones for protein and carbs:
      * Lean meat (chicken, lean beef, fish, and so forth)
      * Dairy
      * Eggs
      * Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, oats, and barley
      * Vegetables like green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
      * Legumes like green peas and beans
      * Tubers like white potato, which is incredibly satiating, and sweet potato
      * Pasta

  • Michael Cervantez

    I actually really like full body workouts which I do Mon, Wed, Fri. Which usually last about an hour. And on Tues, Thrurs, and Sat I focus on HIIT, such as sprints or circuit training which usually last about 25 min. I do compound lifts but don’t do the same lifts on each workout. On Wednesday I do more bodyweight Exercises. I rest on Sunday’s. In your opinion is this too much? I am seeing good results but find that I am always sore.

  • kiran shrestha

    What is your reason behind additional push (Bench Press) on Leg day on full body workout Day2?

  • Alex

    I’m glad I’m stumbled upon this. For the past year, I’ve been struggling to adapt to my new job and being unable to have the freedom I once did to go to the gym whenever I pleased, and even then I was mostly a cardio-bunny because I was too intimidated by all of the beef cakes in the weights section. With 12 hour shifts, 5 and a half to 6 hours of sleep in between shifts and the rest of that time commuting, I can only really go about 3 days a week, and my 52 hour week, I spend that one day off as a ‘me’ day since it falls during an overnight shift week. I’m a security guard, so I try to make sure I’m active while on the job: taking the stairs as much as I can, patrolling often, trying not to sit down while I’m stuck in the office, and of course, packing healthy food so I don’t cave to ordering out. I’d like to concentrate more on lifting and carving my physique now, but I’m having a rough time figuring out which weight is best for me. How would you recommend I go about figuring this out for myself? (I’m 4’11” and about 105lbs, I think) I’m going to spend the rest of my shift going through the rest of your articles, I’m intrigued.

    • Welcome, Alex! I hope you enjoyed the content.

      Finding your weights can be a bit of a process, but takes no more than 2 weeks usually. The process will really go by feel, and I recommend that you be conservative and start with lighter weights while emphasizing proper form. If a weight is too easy, add more weight. If it’s too heavy, remove weight. Typically, adding or removing 10lbs will drop or increase your reps by 2.

      Hope that helps!

  • addled

    There’s a reason the arsehole character in the Sausage Party film is the “Douche”. He’s the archetypal gym rat, bro-science “Come at me Bro!” dickhead that is represented in most blogs. Thankfully this isn’t too bad, I like the advice and it’s critical without being too dismissive, but I don’t agree with the blanket criticism of programs like Stronglifts etc. Focusing on SL, it is clearly a strength program for beginners or low intermediaries and it serves its purpose very well in that it takes newbies and ramps them up to lifting decent weights, whilst also focusing very strictly on good form.
    Ive been doing it for 2 months and now squat 130kgs/285lbs and deadlift 140kgs/310lbs with good form. Ive varied the routine, but only so far as frequency – I found it really easy at the start so was doing 5times/week, and now often go 4 times/week and I think my gains have been really good. Yet I STILL get comments from the idiots I see doing the same workout, never varying, always isolating the ‘glamour’ muscles like pecs and biceps and trying to attain that ever-elusive six pack.
    Gym Rat : “Hey Bruh, how much you bench?”
    Me : Fuck you, how much can you squat, you chicken legged, zit infested juice monkey. And DONT call me Bruh.

  • Bruce Wayne

    I thought that the Overhead Press does not work the chest muscles, so how can Workout B of Stronglifts and Starting Strength be considered “full body workout”?

    • It doesn’t. It’s a full body workout because it’s working multiple muscle groups (upper and lower) in the same workout.

      • Bruce Wayne

        Oh, I see. I thought that full body meant every single muscle group. But as long as you are doing one lower lift, one upper body push and one upper body pull, it is considered full body.

  • AmyL

    Hi! I recently listened to the podcast interview you did with Sohee Lee-great stuff! Thanks to both of you! I went on her website and noticed that she does a full body workout 40s a week and competed in bikini competitions. Obviously that works for her! However your explanation for why total body workouts are not necessarily optimal makes a lot of sense. What are your thoughts on why/when it would be beneficial to an experienced lifter to do full body workouts if at all?

    • Thanks!

      Honestly some people just like them more, and that’s a perfectly valid reason to do it that way.

  • JJ Iqbal

    Heavy Full Body Workouts, we’re talking 9-10 exercises three times a week per sesssion, has left me with multiple tendonosis issues in my distal tendon, patella and planter faciatis from my cardio routines. I worked through this problems like a fool and it only got worse.

    N.B. I have only been doing this routine for about 6 months or so but having been lifting split for years

    If you are a seasoned heavy lifter and over 30 I would personally recommend doing split routines and warming up the areas you are targeting. I unfortunately have to now do self admin physio in the gym for, probably, 3-6 months while I suffer through watching people grinding and enjoying the high from pumping iron!

    oh well…. live and learn.

  • ArchDoc

    There are many studies out there that has consistently shown that higher frequency independent of volume showing superior strength and muscle hypertrophic gains. There was a meta analysis done that pretty much confirm hitting a muscle group 2 times a week is superior to 1 but unsure if it is to 3. In fact there was a study called the Norwegian Project where subjects were split among 3 or 9 training session a week. Volume is EXACTLY the same and 9 training session had more gains than 3. When we think about it makes sense. Studies have shown protein synthesis is elevated after workout from anywhere from 24-72 hours depending on your status. Beginning’s adaptation process(elevation of protein synthesis) is significantly longer than advance lifters. Beginners may get away with “bro splits” because of this but advance lifter doing bro splits is leaving alot on the table. As long as a training stimulus is provided there will be elevation of protein synthesis. It doesnt matter if you do like 67 sets to annihilate the muscle its going to be the same. There is another downside of bro splits and its that it also limits progressive overload. Think about if you do 2 sets of a muscle group for x amount of time a week. Every workout of that muscle group will be better because it will be almost fully recovered. If your doing bro splits, after the 1st sets performance will decline with every subsequent set and your doing like 12-15 sets with it. Every set after the 1st one is pretty much diminishing return. Anyways thats my take on it. These info were mostly pulled from Menno Henslemen and he has alot of research on his back but if your interested i can cite the studies.

    • I’m familiar with the research you’re talking about, and higher frequency isn’t universally better for gains. It’s more of a tool for reaching optimal weekly volume than an end in itself.

      I’ve written about this in various places, for example:


      • Hey Mike, do you happen to have research to support your claim that higher frequency isn’t better? ArchDoc brought up some good points and references, and the results from that meta analysis seem pretty straightforward in favor of at least twice a week per muscle group, no?

  • Sebastian

    Hi Michael, congrats for the great job you´re doing, i wished i knew about this site years ago!
    I stumbled upon it looking for an alternative to Stronglifts 5×5 because doing squats every single day and adding 2.5kg per session was killing me, it really started to become unsustanaible, i´m the typical skinny “hardgainer” that always struggles to get in the proper daily calories and macros, only 68kg, and literally collapsed when i reached to the point of having to lift about my same weight on that exercise so i decided to look for something realistic to do in the years to come and not get an injury in the process, and glad i did because it seems that your BLS program just fits the bill, i just did my 1st session with it today, what a relieve to see there´s only one barbell squat session per week, best regards!

    • Welcome, Sebastian! That’s great you started with SL 5×5 and are familiar with counting your cals and macros. Glad to see you on BLS!

  • mjpkop

    What a fucking tool. Bunch of bs article like this website. Fuck off you stupid sellout.

  • Sonny

    Hi Mike!

    I find a simpler, compound focussed, one or two day approach very appealing. I’ve weight trained in the past but am currently doing two full body calisthenic workouts a week. I love the idea of the one day a week workout, but could that be done twice a week or would you not recommend it? Failing that, I suppose the 2 day routine you suggested instead? As long as gains are assured. If not, would you truly recommend a split instead?

    All the best,


  • Steffan13

    I’ve been lifting in splits for some time. Tried a strongman approach, but it made me overtrain. I still consider myself as a beginner/intermediate, because even though my body has gotten more muscular, I haven’t been able to increase the weights more than maybe 10-20% depending on the exercise. I might preemptively have a gain killing attitude (how much weight should I take to be able to hit 8-12 reps on the last set?), that I’ve become more aware of by watching vids on youtube. I recently entered an obstacle race for this September, and I’m thinking about how I should train towards it.

    I was wondering, is it possible to combine the strongman routine and splits in such a way, that you can engage all the support muscles while also isolating?

    Like supersetting a compound exercise with isolation exercises, or drastically changing weight and rep range on compound exercises (from 5 heavy reps to 8-12 medium reps w/4s ecc)?

    Thanks for reading,


    • Hey Steffan,

      You can definitely combine strongman training with bodybuilding work, but you have to get granular with managing volume and intensity for each major muscle group and work in plenty of deloads/tapers and then adjust things based on how your body actually responds.

      It’s not simple, basically.

  • Jack Cincotta

    I have to disagree on this one. If you only train each muscle group once every 5-7 days then it will give that muscle group more than enough time to recover, which will actually result in a decrease in strength/mass. Typically, a muscle group can recover 48-72 hours after a workout, and with muscle groups such as biceps and triceps, 36 to 48 hours is enough recovery time. And you definitely can implement full-body workouts using heavy weights, who cares if its brutal. That is the whole point, and you get at least one day off in between exercises. In addition, in a smartly designed full body program, you wouldn’t train the same 5 or so exercises like you listed. You have a different set of exercises each day. For example on Monday it could be Bench Press, Barbell Row, Squat, Stiff-leg deadlift. On Wednesday it could be shoulder press, pull-up, reverse lunge, glute raise. Then on Friday it could be incline db bench press, chin-up, deadlift, and goblet squat. You are varying exercise selection here, and by doing this you will not fatigue as much as you stated.

    • Thanks for the comment Jack, but programming isn’t that simple. Depending on what you’ve done in a workout, your muscles won’t necessarily be fully recovered in 48 to 72 hours, and especially if you’re 30+ years old.

      I talk more about this here in case you’re interested:


  • Will ES

    I know that you might not like full body routine, but I really believe that upper/lower or push/pull 4 days a week, training a muscle 2x is better than a split doing it 1x per week. I think the optimal frequency is hitting a musclee between 3 to 5 days.
    I know you can make gains training a muscle 1x per week, but what research supports that it is better than training 2-3 times. All the research I’ve seen has shown that 2-3 times beats 1x a week.
    While the research is clear that 2x is better than 1x it isnt clear if 3x is better than 2x.

    • Hey Will, I think 2x per week can be an extremely helpful tool for building muscle, especially for beginners, it’s often a bit more than they need. I actually recommend something more in line with what you’re talking about to bring up lagging body parts. But, when someone’s just starting out, I wanted to take a “less is more” approach, as that tends to be what people have the easiest time sticking to.

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  • Jeff

    Been doing full body. My last year in the Navy I was 236 pounds I am 5 ft 8 in. After retirement I did a landscaping job, a strict diet and cycling, dropped down to 180 pounds. Moved to Manila Phillipinnes from the states, now I can afford to focus on weight training. For me I do three different types of full body lifting, combined with jump rope, burpees, various circuit training. I rest typically two days between some times three it depends on how my body feels. I have gone from 180 to 196 in 4 months, and believe me its not fat. The routines are similiar to your article but I have had two back surgeries so I have to be careful and watch my form. I have nearly doubled my weight since I started and its confusing here some of the plates are old and marked in kilo, not pounds, some of the local filipinos chuckle when they watch what I do, but the owner of the gym, challenges them to do one of my routines, its hot here and its fricken brutal. For me with the full body combined with circuit its going well. I am not into body building or spending a long time in a hot ass gym with no AC. But the two days rest is key and being retired and being able to eat and rest without the interference of a stressfull job is key. I liked the article, been reading a ton on this.

    • Excellent work, Jeff. Glad to hear you liked the article too.

  • Deep

    Don’t know what to think. Felt like we do “bro” splits because the great forefathers of bodybuilding did them. For them, they could afford to take the 5-7 day rest for their chest because they were all steroid juice heads who were always anabolic. For non roid monkeys, it might be effective to hit the body part 3 times a week and increase stimulation. Thoughts?

  • Rohan

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry for the long question. I swear this is the shortest version of it.

    I briefly learned some Muay Thai about four months ago. Then I moved to a different city. Here, there isn’t a decent teacher of Muay Thai near me. But I will move back to my previous city in about one year, and will restart Muay Thai. But I must improve my strength, power and stamina before that. So, I want to utilize this time to do that. I am beginning my journey with Bigger Leaner Stronger, and everything in the book just makes sense. However, I have one issue with the workout routine (which I have with most other routines) – I want to focus on strength-stamina rather than strength only. Being super-strong for a few minutes and then being worn out isn’t going to work for me. Moreover, I think working on 1-2 muscle groups per day will only make me capable of that – exerting 1-2 muscle groups per day. I’d probably suck when I need to utilize my entire body (because SAID). This article: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wiggy1.htm perfectly explains my point. However I don’t think the workout mentioned in that article is anywhere near as well-rounded as BLS. So, the next thing I considered was adapting a decent full-body routine such as StrongLifts 5×5 by increasing the sets, decreasing the reps, and shortening the rest periods between the sets. But that’s something you regarded as suboptimal in your book. So, do you suggest me to proceed with my adapted StrongLifts? Also, in this article you explained why a full-body workout is not very suitable for most people. Especially the point about harder gains after the initial “newbie-gains” phase makes perfect sense. However, I believe, my case is slightly different. I am not trying to be able to lift heavy-ass weights that people don’t usually need to deal with in real life. Instead I care about being strong and powerful for a really long time, while utilizing all major muscle groups. I want to be capable of kicking ass in real life more than in the gym. How should I design my routine?

    • Hey Rohan,

      As you said, it largely comes down to specificity. If you want to train to get better at Muy Thai, then you’ll need to focus more time on Muy Thai. Any kind of lifting is going to make you more prepared for life, and probably better at Muy Thai, so then it’s a matter of doing the most effective strength training plan you can.

      If your goal is improve your strength, then something like StrongLifts or a powerlifting specific program like this would be your best bet: https://www.muscleforlife.com/get-strong-strength-training/

      • Rohan

        Thanks Mike! For now I’ll stick to a simple routine and see how my body responds.

  • ateeq

    Hi mike
    I am from India and a follower of your principles
    I only train 3 times per week upper , lower and finally on Saturday full body
    and train mma on alternate days as I am on fat loss diet I am afraid that I will lose my muscle mass if I train mma Because its interval training For long time about an hour and tips please
    waiting for your reply thanks

    • Hey there, you don’t need to worry about losing your muscle from the interval training. Just keep your calorie deficit reasonable, your protein intake high, and keep on lifting 🙂

  • Antwan

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve halfassedly tried BLS a couple of times and always wind up jumping to to another program because without a spotter I don’t feel I can go heavy enough to get the most out of it. What do you think about a program like Allpro’s Beginner Routine where you are doing full body 3x per week with a heavy, moderate and light day? I’d prefer to do BLS, but do you think that I can do it effectively without having a spotter?

    • Hey Antwan! I’d definitely recommend dong BLS. What you want to do is end your bench, squat, and military press sets (the only exercises where you need a spot) with one rep still in the tank. Basically, end your sets when you struggle for a rep and aren’t sure you can get another. You shouldn’t need a spot for any other exercises.

  • Vinny Findley

    I just started weight training again after about a 20 year layoff. I’m 56 and mostly concerned with loosening my knee and shoulder joints while building strength and a little muscle. I’m not concerned about plateauing at all. I concentrate 100% on form. I was using the split routine before. I always start with upper and work my way to lower. Chest/shoulders/lats/biceps/triceps then Quads/hamstrings/calves/abs. 3 sets moderate weight. I break it up with different exercises for each muscle group. Example ( for chest barbell bench press ( flat, incline, decline), cable crossovers, flies, dumbbell presses). Always changing the routine for each group. Never ceases to amaze me at the horrible form most people use weight training. Lifting to heavy of a weight while their whole body is in motion working a specific muscle group snapping locking arms on the bench press bouncing it off of their chest. It all boils down to what your specific goal is and how you use the routine. For me this is ideal for what I’m trying to accomplish. 20 years ago the split routine was ideal for what I was trying to accomplish.


  • Daniel Cruz

    Hey Mike,

    Three quick questions:

    1.If I haven’t lifted weights for more than a year can I consider myself a newbie again?
    2.At what percentage of 1RM should I perform the warm up and how many sets & reps?
    3.Can I do the three day workout with just to consecutive days, I mean Mon-Thu-Fri?

    Thank you so much for putting a lot of effort and knowledge in your articles!

  • Kimmie

    Since it’s not an option for me to workout at the gym, are there any programs you could recommend for doing at home? I’ve been working out consistently for years, but feel like I’m not getting the results I want. I really like your approach. I have workout equipment at home, but I don’t think I could use a heavy barbell without being at the gym.

    • Hey Kimmie! My first recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates). Here are the products I like:


      You could also purchase some dumbbells and use those at home. If none of that is feasible, you could try a bodyweight routine, but they’re not as good for building strength. Check this out:


      I hope this helps!

      • kimmie

        Hey-Thanks for the suggestions, but do you know of any specific training programs that would be good to do at home? I seem to do better when I have specific workout plan which has a day-by-day plan so I know what to do each day.

        • If you check that second link I sent, I lay out a bodyweight routine you can follow 🙂

  • Max B

    Hi there,

    First off, thank you for the article – very well researched!

    Just wanted to let you know that you are inadvertently supporting a very negative person in Jason Blaha. Not only is he alleged to have stolen valor and be a disability fraudster he is extremely violent in his politics and a plagiarist of fitness information. Please remove his information otherwise you are guilty by association.


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