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The Definitive Guide on How to Build a Workout Routine

The Definitive Guide on How to Build a Workout Routine

If you’re looking to build the perfect workout routine for your goals, schedule, and training experience, you want to read this article.


Building a workout routine can be a daunting task. And for good reason.

Quite frankly…there are a lot of ways to mess it up.

  • There are a lot of variables to account for: your body, goals, schedule, lifestyle, preferences, training experience, and more.
  • There are a lot of moving parts in the way of exercises, rep schemes, intensity, volume, and frequency.
  • There are a lot of opinions as to what’s best for building muscle and strength, losing fat, and improving athletic performance. And many of those opinions are completely contradictory.

It’s really no surprise that gyms everywhere are full of people doing all kinds of strange, ineffective workout routines. I should know because I was once one of them.

Fortunately, however, you don’t need a degree in biomechanics and a couple thousand hours of experience to build an effective workout routine.

The truth is you only need to know and apply a relatively small number of training principles to derive the majority of potential benefits from regular exercise.

Out of all the possible knowledge you could acquire about diet and exercise, 20% is going to deliver 80% of the results.

And that’s why, in this article, I’m not going to overwhelm you with every possible workout split and schedule. I want to prevent the dreaded “paralysis by analysis.”

Thus, I’m going to keep it relatively simple here and present you with the options that are best suited to the majority of goals and lifestyles. And by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to build an effective workout routine that suits your goals, fits your lifestyle, and

So, let’s start with how to build a weekly workout schedule.

How to Build Your Weekly Workout Schedule

build your own workout routine

While getting into great shape doesn’t require nearly as much time in the gym as many people believe, an effective workout routine generally meets the following criteria:

  1. It involves 3 to 6 workouts per week.
  2. Each workout is 25 to 75 minutes long.
  3. It includes both resistance and cardiovascular training.

Thus, if you can dedicate about 4 to 6 hours to exercise each week, and train 3 to 6 days per week, we’re in the business.

If you can’t, then I recommend you check out the 2- and 1-day routines I lay out in my article on how to maintain muscle with minimal exercise.

So, with that under our belts, let’s look at a handful of time-proven workout schedules and learn how to use them to build a workout routine that will enable you to reach your goals.

The 3-Day Workout Routines

I recommend you stick to one of two 3-day workout routines…

The Push Pull Legs Workout Routine

Push Pull Legs has been around forever, and for good reason: it’s simple, it makes good biomechanical sense, and it works.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Day 1


On this day you train your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Day 2


On this day you train your back and biceps.

Day 3


I think you know what this entails. 🙂

In terms of weekly scheduling, I recommend you put one day of rest in between each workout, like this:







Or two days of rest in between your pull and legs workouts, like this:







If you use this latter schedule, you’ll probably find your legs fresher come Friday because your pull day is going to involve heavy deadlifting, which really hits the hamstrings.

(It’s worth noting that this hamstring soreness issue is more relevant to newbies because they experience quite a bit more muscle soreness than intermediate or advanced weightlifters.)

The Chest & Tris, Back & Bis, Legs & Shoulders Workout Routine

This is an old-school bodybuilding routine that has stood the test of time.

Day 1

Chest & Triceps

The triceps are heavily involved in your chest training so it makes sense to train them directly as well.

Day 2

Back & Biceps

The back & biceps relationship mirrors the chest & triceps, which is why they are usually combined.

Day 3

Legs & Shoulders

These muscle groups are obviously completely unrelated, but they’re what’s left so they get combined. And they make for a tough workout.

Which 3-Day Workout Routine is Best?

I wouldn’t say one is objectively better than the other. It depends on your personal preferences and where you’re at in your development.

If you feel you still need a significant amount of development in your chest and shoulders, I recommend you go with the chest & triceps workout routine. Training your chest and shoulders separately allows you to train each more intensively, which helps maximize progressive overload.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

The 4-Day Workout Routine

Here’s the 4-day workout routine that I recommend you follow…

Day 1

Chest & Triceps

This is the same as in the 3-day workout routine.

Day 2

Back & Biceps

Day 3


In this routine, shoulders get their own day, which helps give them the extra work they need to grow in proportion to the rest of the upper body.

Day 4


Leg training is by far the hardest and most exhausting, so it helps to give it its own day.

Doesn’t Training Everything Once Per Week Not Work?

Training frequency is the controversy du jour these days and opinions are all over the place.










While the subject is incredibly complex and there are quite a few personal variables involved (some people’s bodies can just do things that others’s can’t), the simple truth is this:

Regardless of training frequency, you can only train a muscle so much every week before it becomes counter-productive.

That is, you can only push your muscles through so many reps of exercise each week before the body isn’t able to keep up with recovery. Whether you do one workout for a muscle group in a week or five, it can only take so much of a beating before becoming overtrained.

Nobody even half-informed on the subject of weightlifting will argue that. But there’s a lot of debate as to the best way to do those weekly reps: in one workout per week? Or split up into two or three workouts or more?

Training everything 2 or 3 times per week is currently more popular than once per week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

Let me explain.

The “once-per-week” or “body part” split has gotten a bad rap for a good reason: many body part split workout routines suck.

They get so much wrong:

  • They emphasize isolation exercises.
  • They emphasize high-rep, “pump” training that often includes stuff like supersets, drop sets, giant sets, etc.
  • They have you beat each muscle group to death with 100+ reps per workout.

Yes, that type of body part split workout routine is crap. I should know because I did those types of routines for years and years and didn’t have much to show for it.

properly designed body part split routine is a whole different story, though.

When you train each muscle group once per week, with the proper amount of reps in each workout, and with the emphasis on heavy, compound weightlifting, you can make extraordinary gains.

I’m not only speaking from personal experience here but from my experience working with thousands of people as well.

It jives with the current scientific understanding of the relationship between training intensity, volume, and frequency, as well, which is this:

Research indicates that total weekly training volume and intensity is more important than frequency.

That is, so long as you hit each muscle group with the right amount heavy reps each week, doing them in one workout or three isn’t going to significantly change your results.

And I would argue that a well-designed body part split is superior for intermediate and advanced weightlifters because it allows you to maximally overload each muscle group.

You see, training everything 2 or 3 times per week means that you’re going to be combining major muscle groups in your workouts. For instance, you might use the push, pull, legs template and run it twice every 7 days or group your exercises into upper- and lower-body workouts that you repeat throughout the week.

Once you build a reasonable amount of strength in your pressing, pulling, and squatting, those combined workouts get really hard. And you just can’t hit every major lift with the same intensity as you can when they are separated.

For example, if you’re squatting and deadlifting heavy weight in the same workout, whichever comes second is going to suffer. You’re just not going to be able to lift as much weight as you could if the exercises were performed on different days.

And that means less progressive overload over time (less weight added to the bar over time), which means less long-term gains.

Full-body workout routines are even harder. They are a viable option for newbies but are downright torturous once you’ve built up your strength.

Many people also run into workout schedule issues with programs that have them train everything 2 and 3 times per week. Most of the better designed programs require that you change workout days each week, and include the weekends in the mix.

This is fine if you’re 20-something years old and do whatever you want whenever you want, but it doesn’t work for the majority of people working out that have to fit exercise in between their work, family, and social obligations.

So, while I’m not against training muscle groups multiple times per week, I’m not going to recommend it here.

The 5-Day Workout Routine

Day 1


Day 2


Day 3


Day 4


Day 5


This is my favorite of all the workout schedules for maximizing muscle growth and strength.

Each workout takes about 45 minutes, each muscle group gets maximal stimulation, your muscles and central nervous system get enough time to recover, and it fits perfectly with most people’s schedules (Monday through Friday with the weekends off).

The 5-day routine also gives you room to add some extra sets for your weak points.

For instance, many guys complain about lack of chest development and thus can add 3 sets of incline pressing to day 4, which can be done before the shoulder training.







Many girls are focused on improving their butt and legs and thus can add 3 sets of squats to day 2, done after deadlifts, and 3 sets of hip thrusts to day 5, done after legs.

The Best Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength

create a workout plan

There are two primary types of weightlifting exercises: compound exercises and isolation exercises.

Compound exercises involve multiple major muscle groups and require the most whole-body strength and effort. Examples of compound exercises are the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.

Isolation exercises involve one muscle group and require significantly less whole-body strength and effort. Examples of isolation exercises are the biceps curl, cable flye, and side lateral raise.

The subject of compound exercises versus isolation deserves (and will get) its own article, but here’s the long story short:

If you want to build maximum muscle and strength, you want to focus on compound exercises in your workouts.

Isolation exercises can and should be used to develop smaller, stubborn muscles like the shoulders and arms and support the growth of larger muscle groups, but they should never be the focus of a workout routine for natural weightlifters.

Just knowing that isn’t enough to build an effective workout routine, though, because there are quite a few compound exercises you could do for each muscle group.

Which specific exercises are the best for building muscle and strength? Here’s a handy list taken from my books Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger

The Best Chest Exercises

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Flat Barbell Bench Press

Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

Dip (Chest Variation)

These are the exercises you must master if you want to build an impressive chest. Period.

Forget cable work, dumbbell flyes, push-up variations, machines, and every other type of chest exercise out there for now.

They just aren’t nearly as effective as the above core, foundation-building lifts and are only for advanced weightlifters who have already paid their dues with the heavy pressing to build big, strong pecs.

The Best Back Exercises

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Row

One-Arm Dumbbell Row


Lat Pulldown (Front and Close-Grip)

T-Bar Row

Seated Cable Row (Wide- and Close-Grip)


Barbell Shrug

The deadlift is, by far, the most effective back exercise you can do. You just can’t beat it for all-around development and strength, and that’s why I recommend you do it every week.

The Best Shoulder Exercises

Seated Barbell Military Press or Standing Barbell Military Press

Seated Dumbbell Press or Arnold Dumbbell Press

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise or One-Arm Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Rear Delt Raise (Bent-Over or Seated)

Face Pull

Barbell Rear Delt Row

Dumbbell Front Raise

As you can see, I’m a fan of pressing. As with the chest, you just can’t beat heavy pressing for developing your shoulders. And as a natural weightlifter, you’re going to need as much help as you can get in this department.

If all you do is press, however, you’ll find that your middle and rear heads of your deltoids fall behind in development. This is why a good shoulder workout trains all three heads of the muscle by having you press as well as do side raises and something for the rear delts.

Just like any other muscle group, the shoulders can benefit from higher-rep work, but you have to emphasize the heavy weightlifting if you want them to grow.

The Best Leg Exercises

Barbell Squat

Front Squat

Hack Squat (sled, not barbell)

Leg Press

Barbell Lunge (Walking or In Place)

Dumbbell Lunge

Romanian Deadlift

Leg Curl (Lying or Seated)

Working legs is very simple. Rule #1: Always do squats. Rule #2: Always do squats. Rule #3: You get the point.

The bottom line is that every leg workout should begin with either the back or front squat, with the former focusing on the hamstrings and the latter on the quadriceps.

The Best Biceps Exercises

Barbell Curl

E-Z Bar Curl

Dumbbell Curl

Hammer Curl


Short and sweet. This is all you need to build big biceps.

The Best Triceps Exercises

Close-Grip Bench Press

Seated Triceps Press

Dip (Triceps Variation)

Lying Triceps Extension (“Skullcrusher”)

Triceps Pushdown

Like with biceps, you just don’t need much variety in your choices of triceps exercises to get those “horseshoe” tris.

The Bottom Line on the Best Weightlifting Exercises

Simply put: these are the only exercises you’ll ever need for building a strong, incredible-looking physique.

Trust me. I used to think variety of exercises was the key to gains and that didn’t get me very far.

One of the biggest workout lessons I’ve learned is that progression on the right exercises, not exercise variety, is the key to building a strong, muscular body.

Ditch all the fancy, “functional” crap and get back to basic barbell and dumbbell training and you’re going to take a big step toward finally achieving the body you’ve always wanted.

What About Core and Calves?

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Many workout routines neglect core and calf training, claiming that you don’t have to train them directly if you’re doing everything else right.

I disagree.

If you already have a great core and great calves, this is true. You don’t have to train them directly to maintain what you have.

If you need more development in your core or calves, though, you’re going to have to include them in your workout routine.

So, if you’re still trying to get those elusive six-pack abs or get rid of those spindly dress legs, check these articles out:

How to Get Six-Pack Abs

The Ultimate Calves Workout

Which Rep Range is Best?

build workout program

The subject of ideal rep ranges is even more muddled than training frequency.

Most people subscribe to the hidebound bodybuilding prescription of 8 to 10 or 10 to 12 reps per set for building muscle and lower for building strength…and there’s a reason why most people fail to build impressive amounts of muscle and strength.

You see, rep ranges should be viewed as a “strength-endurance continuum,” as scientists call it. Heavier weights mean less reps and that’s ideal for building strength, and lighter weights means more reps and that’s ideal for building muscle endurance.

Or, in other words, if you want to be able to squat 500 pounds, you’d better train heavy. And if you want to be able to do 50 reps with 225, you’d better train with lighter weights.

How does muscle growth fit in there, you wonder?

The simple explanation is this:

  1. If you want to build larger muscles, you need to consistently add weight to the bar over time, resulting in progressive overload of those muscles.
  2. If you want to consistently add weight to the bar over time, you have to consistently get stronger.
  3. If you want to consistently get stronger, you have to consistently emphasize the lower-rep portion of the strength-endurance continuum in your training.

Sure, we could get more technical and talk about things like myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, but the three points above are the long story short.

There’s a reason why the biggest guys in your gym are almost always the strongest. And why most people stop gaining muscle when they stop gaining strength.

So, let’s lay out some numbers.

The Best Rep Ranges for Men

Men that are new to weightlifting should emphasize the 4 to 6 rep range in their training. This means lifting weights that are 80 to 85% of your 1RM.

Men that are experienced and advanced weightlifters can profitably include lower- and higher-rep training in their workouts (known as periodizing your workouts) as well.

Proper periodization will be an article unto itself, but if you’re ready to start periodizing, I recommend you read my book Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger. It was written specifically for intermediate and advanced weightlifters that want to achieve the upper limits of their genetic potential.

The Best Rep Ranges for Women

Women that are new to weightlifting should emphasize the 8 to 10 rep range in their training. This means lifting weights that are 70 to 75% of your 1RM.

I recommend this rep range and not 4 to 6 for women new to lifting because they need to build a basic foundation of strength before they can safely and effectively work with heavier weights.

What I’ve found works particularly well is for women to start in the 8 to 10 rep range and then, after about 6 to 8 months, incorporate heavier lifting into their routines in the form of 4-to-6-rep training.

Specifically, what I do is have them start their workouts with 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps of a compound exercise like the squat, deadlift, military or bench press, and then do the rest of their workouts in the 8 to 10 rep range.

How Many Sets and Reps Per Workout?

how to build a workout routine for beginners

We touched on the subject of the optimal number of reps per week per muscle group earlier but haven’t gotten into the specifics yet.

The main thing you need to know is that as intensity goes up, volume must go down.

Intensity refers to the amount of weight lifted and volume refers to the amount of reps done.

Thus, the heavier the weights you’re lifting, the less reps you should be doing each week.

And as I’m telling you to emphasize heavy weightlifting in your workouts, you’re going to be doing quite a few less sets per workout and per week than most other people in the gym.

Finding scientific help on the matter of optimal training volume is tough due to the number of variables involved, but something of an answer can be found in a large review conducted by researchers at Goteborg University.

I’ll get straight to the point and quote the research:

“Overall, moderate volumes (~30 to 60 repetitions per session for [Dynamic External Resistance] training) appear to yield the largest responses.”

While my experience working with a LOT of people has taught me this range can be stretched a bit, especially in experienced weightlifters, it has a lot of anecdotal support and is commonly recommended by educated, experienced weightlifters and bodybuilders.

If you look at many of the popular, tried-and-true routines out there, the weekly workout volume generally falls somewhere in the range of 30 to 60 reps per 5 to 7 days, and they rarely go beyond 100 reps per workout.

For example, my Bigger Leaner Stronger program for men has you do 9 to 12 sets of 4 to 6 reps per major muscle group. You move up in weight once you get 6 reps (which usually knocks your next set down to 4 reps), so the workouts range between 45 and 60 high-intensity reps. And people make fantastic strength and size gains on the program.

My program for women, Thinner Leaner Stronger, has you do 9 to 12 sets of 8 to 10 reps and uses the same progression model. Thus, most workouts around around 80 to 100 moderate-intensity reps.

My program for advanced weightlifters, Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger, entails doing about 60 to 75 reps per workout, with a combination of very high-intensity, high-intensity, and moderate-intensity work.

These approaches to both workout volume and intensity have both scientific and anecdotal evidence on their sides. They work, period.

How Long Should You Rest In Between Sets?

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Most people are in the gym to move and sweat, so sitting around in between sets seems counter-productive. Thus, they keep rest periods as short as possible or, in some cases, eliminate them altogether with super-sets, drop-sets, “metabolic conditioning” bouts, and other methods of staying in motion.

If their primary goal is to build muscle and strength, however, they’re looking at things incorrectly.

As you now know, building muscle and strength requires heavy lifting, and when you lift heavy weights, you push your muscles to their full contraction capacity. Sufficient recovery time in between sets is what allows you to repeat this process enough to achieve the optimum amount of muscle overload to stimulate and force new growth.

If you’re lifting weights to build muscle and strength, adequate rest in between sets is vital.

Basically, the whole point of resting between sets is to prepare your muscles to lift maximum weight in the next set. This isn’t just theory, either—clinical research has correlated intra-set rest times and gains in both strength and muscle size.

For instance, one study conducted by researchers at the Federal University of Parana (Brazil) found that when subjects performed the Bench Press and Squat with 2-minute rest intervals, they were able to perform significantly more repetitions per workout than when rest intervals were shortened in 15-second increments (1:45, 1:30, 1:15, and so forth).

This is significant because total workout volume (the total amount of reps performed each workout) is a major factor in achieving overload and stimulating muscle growth.

Thus, it’s not surprising that this study conducted by researchers at Kennesaw State University found that subjects gained more muscle when training to failure with 2.5-minute rest periods as opposed to 1-minute periods.

Furthermore, an extensive review of weightlifting studies conducted by researchers at State University of Rio de Janeiro found the following:

“In terms of acute responses, a key finding was that when training with loads between 50% and 90% of one repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes’ rest between sets allowed for greater repetitions over multiple sets.

“Furthermore, in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3-5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training. Similarly, higher levels of muscular power were demonstrated over multiple sets with 3 or 5 minutes versus 1 minute of rest between sets.”

These findings were echoed by another study conducted by scientists at Eastern Illinois University with resistance trained men:

“The findings of the present study indicate that large squat strength gains can be achieved with a minimum of 2 minutes’ rest between sets, and little additional gains are derived from resting 4 minutes between sets.”

In another paper, the same research team analyzed Bench Press performance with the same subjects and found the following:

“When the training goal is maximal strength development, 3 minutes of rest should be taken between sets to avoid significant declines in repetitions. The ability to sustain repetitions while keeping the intensity constant may result in a higher training volume and consequently greater gains in muscular strength.”

The evidence is clear: when you’re lifting heavy weights and building strength is the goal, 2.5 to 4 minutes of rest in between sets is the way to go.

It’s worth noting, however, that rest times can be shortened when loads are lightened without negatively impacting performance.

If you’re working in the 8 to 10 or 10 to 12 rep range for sets, you can cut your inter-set rest times down to 60 to 90 seconds.

How to Build the Perfect Workout Routine

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Alrighty, we’re now ready to actually build you a workout routine!

There are many ways I could have organized this section of the article, but I decided to align everything to your goals because they dictate the most in terms of workout schedule and overall programming.

Before we get into each goal, know that each of the workout routines given earlier will work for each of the goals.

If your goal is to gain muscle and strength but you can’t work out 5 days per week, don’t worry–you can still do well on a 3- or 4-day workout routine. You’ll just do best on the 5-day.

How you eat is also crucially important. I don’t care how great your workout routine is–if you don’t eat right, you’re not going to be happy with your progress.

So, after you’ve laid out your workout routine, make sure you then create a proper meal plan to go with it.

How to Build a Workout Routine for Gaining Muscle and Strength

If you’re relatively lean and are looking to put on size and weight, the 5-day workout routine is going to be your best choice.

You’re also going to want to limit your cardio to no more than an hour per week, and if you find gaining size particularly hard, reduce it to zero if possible.

How to Build a Workout Routine for Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat

Yes, building muscle and losing fat at the same time is possible.

There are conditions, though. Namely, you have to be new to weightlifting or have muscle memory on your side.

That said, the best workout routine for building muscle and losing fat simultaneously is also the 5-day routine. This allows you to maximize your “newbie gains” (or muscle memory gains) even while in a calorie deficit.

While cardio isn’t necessary for fat loss, it can help quite a bit. Especially when it’s high-intensity interval (HIIT) cardio.

Thus, when the goal is muscle growth with maximum fat loss, I recommend you do 3 25-minute sessions of high-intensity interval cardio per week in addition to your weightlifting.

You can do your cardio on your weightlifting days or on your off days, but I do recommend that you take one day of complete rest per week when in a calorie deficit (no strenuous physical activity on this day) to help with overall recovery.

How to Build a Workout Routine for Losing Fat and Preserving Muscle

If you’re happy with the amount of muscle that you have and just want to maintain it while losing fat, you can do well with a 3-day workout routine.

Add 3 25-minute HIIT sessions into the week, with one day of complete rest, and you’re good to go.

Examples of Effective Workout Routines

work out plans

Let’s put the rubber on the road and use everything we’ve learned to build some workout routines.

Here’s an example of a 5-day workout routine:

Day 1

Chest & Calves

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Optional: Dip (Chest Variation) – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Calf Workout A

Day 2

Back & Abs

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Optional: Close-Grip Lat Pulldown – 3 working sets

Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

3 to 6 ab circuits

Day 3

Arms & Calves

Barbell Curl – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets (no need to warm up after the chest pressing)

Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 3 working sets

Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout B

Day 4

Shoulders & Abs

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

3 to 6 ab circuits

Day 5


Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 4 working sets

Leg Press – 4 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 4 working sets

Calf Workout C

And here’s an example of a 4-day workout routine:

























Day 1

Chest & Triceps & Calves

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Dip (Chest Variation, weighted if possible) – 3 working sets

Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets

Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout A

Day 2

Back & Biceps & Abs

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

Barbell Curl – 3 working sets

Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 3 working sets

3 to 6 ab circuits

Day 3

Shoulders & Calves

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

Calf Workout B

Day 4

Legs & Abs

Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Leg Press – 3 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets

3 to 6 ab circuits

And here are examples of 3-day workout routines:

Day 1

Push & Calves

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets Dip (Chest Variation) – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout A

Day 2

Pull & Abs

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

Barbell Curl – 3 working sets 3 to 6 ab circuits

Day 3


Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 4 working sets

Leg Press – 4 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 4 working sets

Calf Workout B

Day 1

Chest & Triceps & Calves

Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

Dip (Chest Variation, weighted if possible) – 3 working sets

Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets

Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets

Calf Workout A

Day 2

Back & Biceps & Abs

Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Barbell Row – 3 working sets

Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (4 to 6 reps per set, weighted if possible)

Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 3 working sets

Barbell Curl – 3 working sets 3 to 6 ab circuits

Day 3

Legs & Shoulders

Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Leg Press – 3 working sets

Romanian Deadlift – 3 working sets

Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

Optional: Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

 The Bottom Line on Building a Workout Routine

building a workout

Building the perfect workout routine requires a bit of thought but the payoff is well worth it.

Once you really dial in what works best for your body, schedule, and goals, you save yourself untold amounts of time, energy, and frustration and can focus on just getting the work done and actually enjoying the process.

Don’t overlook the importance and power of overall program enjoyment and compliance.

The truth is if you stuck with even the worst of workout routines for long enough, you’d eventually reach a point where you’re at least decently satisfied with your results. The purpose of building a good workout routine is to get you there faster and ultimately get you to the point where you’re thrilled with what you’ve achieved.

So, you now know more about building effective workout routines than 95% of the people you see in the gym every day. Put the knowledge to good use and let me know how it goes!

Want More Workouts?

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Back Workout


The Ultimate Shoulder Workout


The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Arms Workout


The Ultimate Abs Workout


The Ultimate Calves Workout


The Ultimate Butt Workout


The Ultimate Forearm Workout


The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.


What’s your take on building a workout routine? 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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Leave a Comment!
  • melike

    Hey mike.

    I’ve just read your Thinner Leaner STronger book. But I am confused a bit about something.

    I want to add muscle and strength to my upper bosy, my chest, bis, tris, back, shoulders, abs.

    But I dont want to add any additional muscle to my lower body since I have already muscular legs and a big booty. I just want to preserve the muscles( may be just my hamstrings need to grow a bit more) at my lower body as I can and burn the fat around them.

    You suggest the 8-10 rep range but I think this triggers the muscle hypertrophy on my lower body( it is quite ok for my upper body).

    Which exercises should I do to isolate my hamstrings,and keep the quads and glutes as they are? And how many reps?

    Finally, I still have a little fat on my body, will caloric deficit affect my upper body gains if I even get enough protein.

    Sorry for so many questions, I am so sick of Broscience.

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Yeah if you get on the program as is you’ll likely build muscle in your lower body.

      I would recommend 3-4 sets of squats in the 8-10 rep range per week to maintain your lower body and otherwise work on your upper body.

      You may be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Aditya Manocha

    awesome 🙂

  • Darren

    I truly hope readers find the value in this article. You keep offering this fantastic information for free. I like your style, and hey its working for you. I have personally helped many people lose weight and gain muscle using the information gained from you.
    The ripple you started is turning into a wave.

  • Gary Kenny

    Great Article Mike!

    • Thanks!

      • Gary Kenny

        Mike, how do you feel about Finishers added to the end of a workout? For example a short circuit consisting of 2-3 of burpees, kettlebell swings, pushups, dips, chins etc for 4-5 mins. Just to break a heavy sweat…

  • D

    Excellent article, as usual, Mike. Regarding 5-day workout routines, I noticed in BLS you have Arms on Friday, but then in Maximum Muscle (and as you’ve stated in various podcasts) you swapped Legs and Arms, putting Arms on Thursday. Now in this article you’re putting Arms on Wednesday, swapping it with Shoulders. Just curious, why all the movement of the Arms day? I figured swapping Arms and Legs was to get more rest between deadlifts and squats, but maybe it was something else? And then why the move again to Wednesday?

    • Thanks!

      I’ve been playing around with the split and find the arms on Weds and legs on Fri approach work best for letting your shoulders and legs recover from the work earlier in the week.

      This is the layout from the second edition of BLS, which will be out soon!

  • Luke Randolph

    Thorough, great content as usual. keep it up man. Question:
    1) how much stretching/rolling/mobility work do you do a week?
    2) do you train your traps actively (shrugs, etc) or just through exercises like military press? Thanks!

    • Thanks!

      1. One session per week with a massage therapist. It’s an hour of massage and stretching. Helps a lot.

      2. Nope I don’t want bigger traps so I stopped doing shrugs a while ago.

  • David Auge

    six sets of incline bench (BB then DB)….going to try this – love your program mike!

  • Damien Smith

    Hey I’ve been making great progress on your program. Bench started 95 6 months ago now it’s 205. But that’s kind of why I’m hesitant to put such emphasis on incline benching at the expense of Flat bench, which has a greater ROM and activates more muscles…I think? Once I get bench to 1.5 bw I may try this though. I also like to throw some tricep pushdowns in after I hit my chest…and then do the close-grip bench on arms day with tricep press like you suggest here.

  • Sunny Dutt Sharma

    Very nice article…it’s really helpful..finally buying ur book.. 🙂

    • Thanks! Let me know what you think!

      • Sunny Dutt Sharma

        Sure..I have a query..mail has been sent to u..hope to see ur reply soon…

  • Ben Sargent

    Hey Mike,

    Would there be any draw backs to reversing the workout day order? For example, Day 1. Back Day 2. Shoulders Day 3. Legs Day 4. Chest. Day 5. Bis and Tris?

    Thanks! Bigger Leaner Stronger has been the best fitness book I have read. Its simple and it works.

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

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  • Rob

    Hey Mike, I am a little confused…I think I have read way too many of your articles and books LOL.

    I just bulked for a good 6 months straight and I went from 185 lbs and 11% body fat to 205 lbs and 15% bf (at 6’1″). I am now ready to cut down to around 9-10% and then want to rinse and repeat until I get to around your size (we have similar builds).

    My TDEE is around 2900 and I just reduced my calories from 3200-3300 (bulking) to around 2400 for my cut. Hoping to get down to 9-10% within 2 to 2.5 months so that I can start bulking again.

    My question is related to what workout split you think I should do– I was planning on lifting for 5 days a week (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Legs) and to do HIIT cardio for 2 days a week on top of that (separate times of the day), but am not sure if this is the ideal way after reading this article?

    Is this a good plan, or do you really recommend switching to 3 days a week of lifting and 3 days a week of HIIT, with one day of complete rest?

    Thanks, Mike!!! Keep inspiring.

    • Haha hey Rob,

      Great job on your bulk and that sounds about right on the cutting cals.

      When I cut I like to lift 4-5 x per week and do 3-4 HIIT cardio sessions per week. You don’t need more…

      • Rob Lopez

        I’ve been cutting on 2400 calories for 2 weeks now and have dropped 7 lbs. I know some of it could have been attributed to water weight, but 7 lbs in 2 weeks!? The math doesn’t add up if my TDEE is 2900. I would question my TDEE being higher, but I was easily gaining weight on 3200 calories per week. I’m worried I might be dropping muscle too? This should be science and 7 lbs doesn’t make any sense at all.

        • Yeah that’s normal. Water and glycogen come out fast at first. It will slow down…

  • humberto becerra

    hey i was looking for the printable sheets with the workouts that i can take to the gym but i cant seem to find them. btw maximum muscle is an awesome book.i learned a lot.

    • Thanks man! Did you download the bonus report? They’re in there.

  • Donald

    Hey Michael, I have a very important question to ask: is lifting heavy weights bad for teenagers?
    I spoken to my physiotherapist about lower back, and he mentioned that I shouldn’t use heavy weight. He said that it could damage my growth plates in my back and that I wouldn’t develop a lot of muscle size since I am only 16( I was 15 when I talked to him a month ago) because I lack physiologically what it takes to grow big muscles like a man.

    Just so you know my stats, I am 5’7″, 145lbs, and can squat and Deadlift 230lbs. I can bench 135 for 5. I am 16 years old. Fairly lean, 9% bf.

    I understand that you cannot give medical advice, but I would honestly like your opinion. I had been following your BLS plan, which would require very heavy lifting. I would appreciate any thought on my problem, since I am conflicted between building my body, and fear of my safety and future. Thank you Michael.

  • andrea

    As always, awesome article. I used to work out 5 days a week with your One year challenge book, but then couldn’t commit to so much time so I now train 3 days with 1 cardio session a week and I’m so happy of what I’ve accomplished

  • Andrew

    Hey Michael! Recently I have been cuting with the advice given on your book but I have a question. I would like to start implementing bodyweight exercises such as push ups or even handstands on my workouts. Should I simply replace an exercise such as bench or military press for it or should I add them?


  • V

    Is there any issue with doing the 5 day routine but inserting a day off? so 5 days a week, but not 5 days in a row, if no, where would you recommend? After arms perhaps?

  • Hernan

    What’s up Michael? I’m planning on changing to your 3 days a week BLS routine. I did stronglifts before and definitely got quite a bit of muscle but now I care about aesthetics more and sadly stronglifts hasn’t been good for that.

    I grew tree trunk legs and my upper body is just average which makes my body look disproportional. If I do your routine the way it’s written, will my upper body catch up? Or do you recommend me to do some tweaks for upper body emphasis?

  • Andre Silva

    Man,your articles are always very informative and really good. My training routine is based on BLS and give the best results i ever had after 4 years of training like most people does. in 5 months i could lose fat and put some muscle.Thanks. I use a Chest/ticeps – Back/biceps – Legs/Shoulders pretty munc like you suggest in your article. Let me ask you a question. How long should wait to give a try on your new Book BBLS ? Your articles are always strict to the point No BS.

  • RedCard

    As you suggest (along with others like Jim Wendler), when someone hits a plateau using a linear periodization program, it is a good idea to “reset” your lifts to a previous max and attempt to push through the plateau. For someone that has “reset” several times and continues to hit plateaus, do you recommend taking a month or two away from progressive overload training to do another form of training and then return and pick up from about 80%-90% of the previous 1RM? I’m not Cult–er, I mean Crossfit fan, but I do like the looks of the Crossfit Football program since it emphasizes the strength portion of training. Was thinking of hitting it for a month and then coming back to “ol’ faithful”. Any thoughts?

  • Pete K

    Mike, How do you modify for people in their Mid 40s to Mid 50s?

    • Pete K

      Specifically, is a 3 day better than 5 day, do you drop the number of work sets to foster better recovery?

      • RedCard

        I’ll let Mike comment on that question. But from my experience, perhaps starting with 3 is a good move to build foundational strength and adapt to the stress and soreness, especially if you are a new lifter. The push/pull/leg model is excellent to start with and I recommend it to most new lifters before having them jump into a 5-day split. If you’re wondering about my experience, 2 degrees in biology and physiology, over a decade of training experience and a certified trainer. I’ve always pretty much followed what Mike has suggested since I started lifting years ago. Just glad someone finally had the stones to publish a book putting to bed a lot of the broscience out there! Trust the plan, be consistent, don’t flip flop and the results will come.

    • RedCard

      Mike’s suggestions are founded in science and truly have been around since the early days of bodybuilding and strength training. The only modification would be to scale the loads to your capabilities and progressively get stronger. There are guys at my gyms that are on the plus side of 60 doing some impressive lifts.

  • Brent

    Hey Mike,

    Love your site, love your articles. Question for ya. I’m currently in a 25% calorie deficit trying to get under 10% bf – currently at 13%. I’ve been keeping my reps around 8-12 with minimal rest, 45 seconds or so. I’ve added some HIIT training in 4x week for 20 minutes. Should I lower my reps in a calorie deficit or keep them where they’re at? I also work out first thing in the morning and eat 20g pro and 20g carbs. Would I burn more fat doing a fasted workout? Appreciate your guidance Mike!

  • Henrique

    Very nice article Michael! It sums a lot of things of have been telling on your articles in a handy place to be confered. I started to try training one muscle everyday in your 5 day routine and i confess that this is helping me to not feel so tired and with my wrists so sore. Also, i didn’t notice any downs on the amount of weight i can handle on every routine.
    I have a question for you about the workout routine. I see that on your book you changes every 8 weeks the workouts, but a question that it’s not clear to me is what is the logic for picking what stay and what is changed. From the list of exercises you recommend as the best ones, when i want to change my workout how do i know how to pick the best one?

    • Thanks!

      Yeah that’s how it goes when a 1 x per week is programmed properly.

      Good question. I keep in the core lifts like squat, deadlift, and bench and military press, and then rotate through other “approved” exercises, and generally stick to the ones I find do best for my body. That’s part of the learning process.

  • Kevin

    Great article! I’m ordering your new book! Is it fairly easy to implement a home work out from this? I have dumbbells and an exercise ball. I’m not sure I need an intense leg workout as I have a football build. Also, I want to get cut and not add a lot of mass.

  • Richard

    Great article Mike! I got your book last month and I finally started the workouts this week. My main objective is to build a good strength foundation to help me accomplish some advanced bodyweigth skills. After starting with weigth lifting and then trying some calisthenics type of workouts, where I didn’t see much progress, I’m trying to follow your heavy lifting approach to get stronger.
    It’s good to be back with fun exercises like the military press, deadlift, squat and bench press. I also like that you include pull ups and dips in the mix as they are awesome exercises, which brings me to a question. I still have problems with pull ups. Today they were my 3rd back exercise and I only got 4/4/3 without weight, would you recommend I change the order so that pull ups come after deadlifts and before rows? What other assistance exercises would be good to get my numbers up? I’m following the 4 day split (in a different order than the Y1C) and probably could add some extra sets on the chest/triceps day.
    Another question, I saw that you are updating BLS soon and I was wondering if people who just recentyl got the 1st edition will get the update?

    Thanks! and keep those informative articles coming 🙂

    • Thanks! I appreciate the support and I’m glad to hear you’re rolling!

      I would save the pullups for last for the current phase and then, when you change things up, you could move them to the middle and put rows after. I like changing things like that every couple of months.

      You know I’m not sure on the update as that would be on the retailer. We’ll find out I guess, haha.

      • Richard

        Thanks for the reply Mike! I think everyone appreciates that you take the time to answer most, if not all, the comments 🙂

  • Daniel

    Hi Mike, Thank for your great content. Is in your opinion that 1x/week/body part is superior than 2x/body part for natural, beginner to intermediate athletes for general hypertrophy? I only ask because, i think this make you a bit of a stand out in comparison to your peers (not that this is bad!). I was under the impression that 2x/week was optimal for most naturals because Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) was complete in 48hrs and getting more stimulation (assuming recovery is in check) would mathematical mean quicker gains? Certainly I see some overlap in this articles recommended splits but the primary moverseem all limited to a 1x/week emphasis. I would appreciate your insight on this a

  • Pat

    Another great article Mike- I noticed in the workouts you would group all the exercises for each body part together (for example, legs then shoulders). For some reason I was under the impression it would be better to alternate. For example, I do squats, then shoulder press, then leg press, etc. I guess I figured that would give each muscle some additional recovery time. Do prefer one way over the other and why?

    • Thanks!

      Personal preference here, that’s all. If you like alternating that’s fine.

  • Matt

    Mike, I can do all the exercises in your 3-day routine with the equipment I have in my home basement gym EXCEPT the leg press. Is there something you recommend instead?

  • Cleiton

    hi Mike, I had problem with the squat, dislocated my shoulder while holding the barbell from behind the head, there is differences between Front squat and barbell squat, is the only exercise of its routine when I felt shoulder problems, tks

    • Doh! I’m sorry to hear that.

      Front and back squats are different but the front squat is a great alternative if you can’t back squat.

  • adam

    Hey Mike. I am quite overweight being 135kg. Ive read your book which explains to eat 1gram per pound.of bw that means I should be eating around 300 grams of protein. But that means my calories from just protein will be 1200kcal. Is that correct? as it seems very high and hard to achieve especially as im trying to intake from 1500-1800kcal a day. Hope to hear from you as I love your books

  • xanton

    If i do an upper/lower. Should i use 3compounds each session ex. Squat,SLDL,Front squat, maybe some leg curls and calves as one day? Or what is too much?

  • Philip La Mere

    Hi Mike,

    Is updated BLS still on schedule?

  • Bb0401

    Hi Mike!

    I’m a 24 year old female 5’2″ 120 lbs i dont know my body fat percentage. Just want to see which work out is best for a beginner who wants to lift weights/burn fat/get lean?


  • Terence

    Hi Mike! I recognize a lot of this info from “Bigger leaner stronger”, which is great, however I do have a question. I do believe it is quite relevant in regards to this article. A lot of “claimed” nattys and articles are saying that frequency is the second most important (after progression over time). Some even say it is the “only way to grow for naturals”. The philosophy is: Hit everything at least two times a week(f.eks. 3 day split two times a week), and that “Bro splits” are not as effective. I know Bigger leaner stronger advocates splits that train each major bodypart once a week. I also understand Volume of sets and exercises has to decrease if you are to train same muscle group at least two times a week. The research behind this is that the muscle fully restituted in 24-48 hours, and then needs to be overloaded again. Both this approach and BLS have progression over time as the main focus though. What are your thoughts on this matter.

    • Thanks Terence!

      Yeah I know. Check this out:


      I also talk about the need for recovery in BBLS. There’s more to consider than just protein synthesis rates.

      • Terence

        Whoa, I did not expect an article that answered 99% of the questions I raised. Thank you! I guess I have to give BBLS a read then. You Sir, are awesome! #MostGenuineGuyInTheFitnessGame

  • Alex

    Hey Mike, how come the example 5 day split you give is different from your new book where you have chest and shoulders being worked 2x per week?

    Also, wondering what is the best exercise to substitute if I can’t do pull-ups or chin-ups? Thanks.

    • Hey man!

      Just giving an example here. If you’re doing BLS, stick to the routine in the book.

      Hmm I would just sub for more pulling like one-arm DB rows.

  • Fynn

    Hi Mike,
    I have read a lot of the articles and all of them make sense and renew my sight on bodybuilding. Im in training now for 4 years and as you mentioned on yourself, I experience, although im still happy as how my body looks, a decrease in strength as I started to do more than 15 reps per set and 25+ sets per workout. Im pretty sure I simply overtrained my body. Now im trying to get strong and also bigger again by doing 9-12 sets with 4-6 reps. Although, in my opinion, Im a experience weightlifter, do you think that 9-12 sets and 4-6 reps are enough to stimulate my muscles and metabolism/fat loss to still lose fat and gain in strength? I read your articles about that but in this article you said you combine heavy weights and low volume with lower weights and more volume for experience weightlifters. What is right?

  • Ben

    Hey Mike,
    How do you build a routine when you’re wanting to do both your weights and cardio in a fasted state? I’ve been doing the BLS workout since last July but have pretty much stayed away from cardio until now. I recall you saying to take a minimum of a 4-ish hour break between weight lifting and cardio so I’m having trouble figuring out how to make it work.

    I currently lift on my lunch hour around 11am in a fasted state (I’m on about a 15 hour fast at that point). So if I lift then drink my post-workout I break the fast and don’t really have enough time left in the day to fast again and do cardio. Any tips?

    • Good question. Do one workout in the morning and one in the afternoon/around dinner.

      For instance, when I’m cutting I lift fasted @ 7 AM and do my cardio at 530ish PM (and my 3 PM snack is just a scoop of whey, which “clears” in about 2 hours).


      • Ben

        Thanks for the reply! That seems do-able but raises some food questions. What does your food intake look like between your morning lift and cardio in the evening? Is it just a post-workout shake and then a lite snack mid-afternoon followed by cramming the rest of your food post-cardio?

        • Yeah post-workout shake, morning shake, lunch, afternoon whey protein (1 scoop) 3ish hours before cardio, cardio, dinner, pre-sleep snack.

  • Nathan Hanak

    Jeez la wheez! This is your article to end all articles. It’s like… literally everything. Proud BLS owner and I still think that about this article. I really appreciate your dedication on content you continuously put out. Great work man!

  • Jeroen

    Hi Mike! First of all i’m a huge fan of your website! The article above is great. What im wondering about is the following. When im doing the leg workout in the 4-6 reps routine, it takes a couple of days to fully recover for my legs. But i’m also a soccer player (3-4 times a week). Im afraid that i wont recover fully because the training is also heavy for my legs. I train (socccer) on monday, tuesday, thursday and a game on saturday. But i would like to gain strength and power in my legs. What, in your opinion is the best way to combine legtraining and a explosive sport like soccer? Do i have to switch to lower reps? looking forward to your answer! Thanks!

    • Thanks man!

      Ah yeah that’s gonna be tough. We may want to split your weekly volume into 3 workouts of 3-4 sets each. Thoughts?

      • Jeroen

        That probably work. It’s just my legs wich im worried about. I can do legday on wednesday. Can soccertraining work bad on my supercompensation? Do you have any idea how this works with professional players? I still have to find the balance between an explosive sport and fitness training. Hope you can help me a little bit! Thanks!

        • Yeah I mean split your leg training into a few workouts that don’t leave you too sore for your playing…

  • James

    Hey Mike! If I’m doing 4 or 5 days a week, between which muscle groups should I take the 2 or 3 days off? Does it matter or should I simply take them after the most fatiguing workouts? Cheers.

  • Pingback: How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point | Muscle For Life()

  • Miguel Rodrigues

    Thanks mike great article.if I use your 3 day chest tris back his and finally legs shoulders in this manner workout1 workout2 offday workout 3 ofoff day with the same volume wouldn’t I overtrain the triceps or shoulder pressing isnisn’t as taxing for the tris and this routine tweak will keep me improving on triceps development.thanks in advance

    • Thanks! I haven’t run into this problem because the tris and shoulders are accessory to chest. They can take more of a beating. 🙂

  • Ellie

    Hi Mike, I’m a 16yo female been training for 1 year training 4 times a week:
    Monday: Upper Body
    Tuesday: Legs
    Wednesday: Off
    Thursday: Upper Body
    Friday: Legs
    Sat & Sun: Off
    So I train each body part 2 times per week doing around 3-4 sets 12 reps for each exercise, each for legs and upper body I will perform around 7 different exercises per workout.
    I don’t feel like I’m over training, but maybe I need to lift heavier, add more compound movements and work in the 8-10 rep range?
    I read that muscles need to be trained twice a week for muscle growth but there are so many different opinions! What are your thoughts?
    And do you think majority of my workout should be compound or isolated movements?
    I was hoping you could please suggest a training routine (including types of exercises with set and rep ranges, if you can) which will allow for maximum muscle growth?
    Also I have hypermobilty syndrome, I get a lot of joint pain in my neck, back and hips. My physiotherapist said I shouldn’t perform movements such as squats, deadlifts and a few others, but I feel like I will need to add these back into my routine if they will further help my progress. Any tips, like should I start off light to get comfortable with the movement and then as I get stronger start to add weight?
    Hopefully you can help, thanks!

    • Ellie

      I forgot to add:
      I do around 6 sets altogether of abs after training upper body 2 times per week.
      also I have a hard time growing my glutes! any tips?

      • That’s good.

        For your glutes, are you doing any hip thrusts or Bulgarian split squats?

        • Guest

          thanks for your reply!
          I am lifting heavy so that i can just do 12 reps (sometimes a couple more), but i would definitely be able to lift heavier if i did less reps.
          Yes i am doing both of those exercises.
          Given from the other article you suggested that there isn’t much reason to train muscles twice per week, do you think it would be a good idea to swap my routine and try out your 4 day workout routine given in this article and perform 6-8 reps so i can lift heavier to see if my body responds better? but still keep Bulgarian split squats and hip thrusts in leg day?
          I have made progress doing what i am now but i just want to get the best results possible out of my training.

          And after i finish these workouts should i feel very fatigued as though i cant do any more?

          • Guest

            one more question aswell, i am 169cm tall, 52kg and just started eating around 2000 calories on non-training days and 2100 on training days, macros are about:
            115-120 protein
            255-230 carbs
            45-50 fat
            does this sound right to you?

          • Check the above comment of mine. 🙂

          • Guest

            Thankyou so much for your help! 🙂

          • YW

          • YW.

            You’d get more out of your training if you included some heavier training.

            Cool on the exercises.

            Trying my routine can’t hurt. 🙂

            Diet is going to be important too:


    • Hey hey!

      Cool on what you’re doing. That weekly volume is pretty high. I assume you’re not lifting very heavy weights?

      Check this out:


      You’ll want to focus on compound movements for sure. Those give you the most bang for your buck.

      Sorry but I’m not familiar with the health issue but I would listen to your doc or get a second opinion if you’re not sure he/she is right…

  • sunny

    Hey mik. I am following bls program and suppose I do Dumbbells press #chest, with 25 kgs, one arm#back with 37kgs, leg press#legs with 100kgs after my compound lifts..so what weight should I lift on my second week..should I start with my last week heaviest weight or go with light to heavy..thnx

    • Great!

      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.

  • Nic

    Hey man I’m a 15 year old male strength training just wondering your opinions on efew things, Teens in a caloric deficit yes or no I dreamer bulked inproperly from 120lbs all the way to 180lbs now I’m cutting trying to achieve 10%bf I’m currently above 15%bf and 163.5 I believe if I slowly get down to 150 I’ll be ripped and primed for a PROPER lean mass phase, I’m doing Jason Blahas full body 3x/week trumendous volume just wondering what your opinions are on my physique and routine keep in mind I’m cutting so volume is about half that and I just added 2xhiit sessions/week just Sprints (40y give or take) than brisk walk than sprint.

  • Nic

    Hey Micheal!!Is the reason I can’t see my comment because you haven’t replied quite yet??

  • Nic

    I’ll post it again haha I’m a 15year old male but I’m cutting my goal is 150lbs at sub 10%bf thought on teens cutting yes or no??I basically wanna lean out so I can properly slowly gain lean mass, I’ve been lifting awile but not properly here’s my workout(I’m doing about half that volume cause I’m cutting)

    • Hey man!

      I don’t recommend that you try to get super lean at your age. Your body is developing and a prolonged calorie deficit just isn’t healthy.

      Instead I’d much rather see you around around TDEE and just focus on exercising regularly and being health. Save the “shredded” stuff for when you’re 18+.


      • Nic

        Hmm let me know if this is an arbitrary unjustified position to go from or not, Basically I’ve been cutting for about 2 mouths now and I want to get the most out of it aka come out pretty dammmn lean lol, And I want to start my lean mass phase really lean so I can really take full advantage of the surplus, Any input on the routine, Do you believe a beginner should really only hitting a muscle once a week?You say just try to slowly recomp my body overtime and focus on health?

        • You can do this I suppose but remember getting below 10% gets harder and harder. Many guys don’t like how small they look when they get really lean either.

          Yes this type of routine would work well for you.

  • Jonny Young

    Hi Mike, Awesome website! Ive been listening and reading a lot of your stuff, and obviously you mention heavy compound lifting such as deads and squats a lot. I have had a few back issues in my life which has also affected my hamstrings and was advised that heavy compound lifting may cause injuries for me. What would you recommend as an alternative plan if this was the case for you?
    Thanks, Jon.

    • Nic

      Just my 2cents but obviously learn good for on the exersises I’m about to mention full range of motion and control Is important but also explode on the positive, Focus on mobility, Start with stuff like DB goblin squats, DB presses(shoulder and cheat) DB rows also bodyweight really master those exersises with décent weight/form/reps than Start incorperating some compounds and see how your body reacts 🙂 my 2cents I know You didn’t ask me but Mike should respond shortly :).

      • Nic

        (shoulder and chest) pardon auto correct

    • Thanks Jon!

      Hmm it really depends on your circumstances. As Nic noted below, you may be able to start with mobility work and variants and do well but that may cause problems.

      If I were you I’d get with a good sports doc and work out a plan. Thoughts?

  • James

    Hey Mike great article i was wondering on a cut if a four day spilt of chest/tri,back/bicep, Legs, and shoulders would be effective? Ive always done two upper body and two lower body workouts a week but i wasnt sure which would be more efficient.

  • Nina

    Hey Mike! Something I wasn’t 100% clear on after reading this and the muscular hypertrophy article (both great, thank you so much). Why should women not start out in the 4-6 rep range? Or at what point would you consider “transitioning”? I’m lifting in the 8-10 rep range and I feel like I’m having the same issues you mentioned in the muscular hypertrophy article. I have a “pump” for several days, and my muscles seem to “deflate”. As a female, will lifting in the 4-6 rep range benefit me as far as muscle growth and size go?

    • Women CAN start out heavy but I’ve found that most find this VERY intimidating. 8-10 reps feels uncomfortably heavy at first for most women I’ve worked with so I “play it safe” in that regard.

      Most women are ready to include some 4-6 rep work after 6-8 months of 8-10 rep work

  • Wally

    Hey Mike! I have been working to even out my biceps for over a year now. I do your recommended back routine then do isolation exercises for biceps. My weaker arm cannot do nearly as much as my stronger arm so i stop when i notice poor form in the weaker arm. Do you any recommendations to help even out my biceps?

    • Hey! It sounds like your weaker arm needs some extra work? You could do 3 additional sets for the weaker arm…

  • William

    Hi mike in going to do the 4 day split when and what type of cardio would you do..? I’m 168 lbs and trying to put on muscle while losing fat you done me a cut meal plan 1831 cals but would of liked more muscle I’m going to do 2300 cals.. 275 carbs 190 protein 50 fat… what do you think..?

  • Onr

    Hi again Mike,

    I don’t do squat, deadlift and barbell row because of my waist
    problem. Despite lack of that, is it still ok to train one muscle group once a week, or do I need to increase the frequency?

    • What type of problem do you have exactly?

      • Onr

        I fell down on the floor from a high place a few years ago. I was really injured and the doctor told me not to pick heavy things that puts pressure no more as a precaution. In fact I feel good about the waist now but ı’m afraid to force it. When i try i feel so much pressure on my waist. May be psychological, i don’t know..

        • Oh okay. I would definitely get another opinion from a doc and ensure you’re not setting yourself up for injury…

  • Rafael

    Hey Mike,

    I read the previous edition of your book and just now skimmed through the new editions to get updated on the changes. I do the 4-day routine, and I noticed that the rest time between 2 muscle groups has changed. I used to do a set from one muscle group take a 1 minute break and then the set from the other muscle groups and so on through the entire exercise routine besides the warm-up part.

    Now I see that you recommend to rest 3 minutes regardless of the number of days or muscle groups in the routine. Can you explain the change?


    • Thanks man!

      If you’re switching between a major and minor group, you can continue with the 1-minute rest time.

      You want to rest 3 minutes in between major sets though.

      • Rafael

        Thanks for the quick replay Mike.
        Just to be sure I understand correctly:
        I can do one major group rest 1 minute do a minor group and then need to rest about 2 minutes for a total 3 minutes between major group sets ?

        • What I do is…

          Back set
          Immediately into calves set
          Rest another 1.5 min or so
          Back set


  • Adrian Pollard

    Hey Mike I’m on week 6. When am I supposed to add the extras for the workouts outside of what you have in the book for 4 day workout such as an example hack squats on leg day ect. Also do I have to quit cutting soon? I hope not as I have only lost 5 pounds due to a retarded amount of muscle growth and had 25% Bodyfat according to Dexascan.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike, I am currently reading your BLS book and I was wondering for your 4 day workout routine, if we still have more energy can we add another 3 sets for chest on chest and triceps day? that would make it four exercises instead of 3

    • Thanks! Yes you can do that. I would do high-rep though. 8-10 reps or even 10-12.

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  • Myles

    I don’t see how your five day split makes any sense. I love everything you preach and have read your books but your workout that you and your clients apparently follow seems hypocritical and counter productive.. For a natural weight lifter.. You have FOUR upper body days in a row. Correct me if I’m somehow am wrong because I’d love to know how, but aren’t you over training? For example, arms before shoulders.. Tris are heavily involved with a shoulder workout as our bis with the back day prior to it… Doesn’t make any sense.

    • There is no overlap between days 1 & 2.

      Your triceps will have recovered from your chest training and proper triceps training doesn’t involve the shoulders at all.

      Some rules of thumb when workout volume is high.

      1. Small muscles like bis and tris recover quickly. Big muscles like legs and back don’t.

      2. You want your chest and shoulder pressing to be several days apart.

      3. You want your deadlifting and squatting to be several days apart.

      • Myles

        If Close grip bench doesn’t involve front delts than I must be doing it wrong… And your telling me a proper shoulder workout doesn’t involve your tris heavily on military press..? Thanks for the reply.

        • It involves front delts but not nearly as much as direct anterior delt training like OHP.

          Same with tris. They’re involved but if your tris are getting sore from your shoulder training something is wrong.

  • koko

    My arms exploded after doing 4-6reps on CGBP, tricep dips, and barbell curls ! Still growing 😀

  • Adam

    Hi Mike,
    What do you think of doing an A/B split with a leg ex on the end of each push and pull day? e.g pull, deadlift?

    • If you go higher rep/lower weight it could work. Gonna have to see if it beats your lower body up too much…

      • Adam

        Thanks Mike,
        I would put Bulgarian squats/lunges on push day. My lower body is underdeveloped so I don’t think it would give me to much problems, maybe I’ll keep it to 2 sets? I’m coming from your 3 day BLS split. Another question what do you think of fat gripz for recruitment of upper arms (especially in pressing and curls)?
        Thanks again

        • YW. Yeah I could see that working well. Again will just have to see how your body responds.

          I’ve used them before and didn’t really like to be honest.

  • eric shaenboen

    Hey mike, I finished your book Bigger Leaner Stronger and found it to be a huge help! I made my 5 day workout plan and I’m trying to cut but keep my muscle. you said in the article you recommend a 3 day work week for cutting. I was just wondering why because i do enjoy lifting more days rather then less.

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Anything you could do to spread the word would rock too! 🙂

      You can lift 5 x per week when cutting but you’ll have to keep your cardio under control. Personally I lift 4 to 5 x per week and do 3 to 4 HIIT sessions (25 min each) when cutting and do well.

  • Onur

    Hi Michael,

    First of all thank you for answering each question past.
    I want to grow my neck muscles. What should the rep range and workout frequency be?

    • You know I’m not sure. I’ve never done anything for the neck.

  • Myles

    Mike, these are great, no B.S. articles full of factual information that works.
    Thank you from the UK for the generous content throughout your website.

  • Nick Raol

    Hey Mike,

    Thank you for replying back on the other article and providing link to this article. Also thank you for confirming my body fat% so i am at around 12% and started putting little muscles last week. I bumped up my calories as per your calculation. Good news i am not losing that much of muscle now and i reduce my cardio to limited. ( i was like gym monkey before twice a day lol)

    You briefly mentioned here about cardio but its not included in split routine when to do cardio. Anyways here my new routine that i i started last week.

    What you think about this?

    M: Chest/Tri/HIIT/Abs (I love doing abs when my stomach has less water)
    T: Leg/Calves
    W: Back/Bic/Sprinting/Abs
    T: Rest/Evening light Biking or Jumping ropes
    Friday: Shoulders/Calves/Spriting/Abs
    Saturday: Leg/Bicep (This leg day inlcudes different workout like Sled with Wieghts, Deadlifts. Also my biceps seems not growing faster as other body part so had to include twice a week)
    Sunday: Light Cardio/Rest

    Your feedback is thankful.

    • My pleasure! Greaet on your plan.

      Doing back right after legs is going to be tough because your hammies are going to be very sore for deadlifting. Thoughts?

      • Nick Raol

        Yes i agreed. Actually i tried for a week and i was very sore from Squats and lunges lol so i switched Wed and Thursday. I think Rest day is required after a leg day. BTW its back/bi today 🙂

  • Eric Whitesell

    as I shift worker I often have days when I’m already exhausted when I get to the gym and the lack of sleep takes a toll on the amount of weight I can lift on the big lifts (sometimes a drop of 10 or 20kg from normal) so I have been doubling up on arms and shoulder days sometimes and saving legs, chest, and back for days when I’ve had a better rest. What are your thoughts on this? Also what are your thoughts on grinding and when to end a set? FYI I follow BLS 5-day in a rotation

    • That makes sense to me. I wouldn’t want to go for big squats, deads, or presses if I’m drained.

      I end my sets one rep before failure and sometimes go to failure (I try not to do this more than a couple sets per workout).

  • Andy

    Hi Mike! Really enjoy reading your articles on here. I’ve read your book too and have learnt loads of interesting things. I’ve got a question though. I can’t seem to contract my muscles half as much as I can when I use lower weight. Your 4-6 rep high intensity formula makes sense in theory but I just can’t feel the muscle working out as much as if I went for a 8-10 rep with lower weight. What are your thoughts? It’s not that I’m more interested in a “pump” after a workout than I am about hypertrophy, it’s just that I’ve come to believe that maximum contraction at the peak of any exercise is an important part of ripping your muscles. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks! Andy

    • Thanks! I really appreciate it.

      That’s normal and especially if you’re coming from a high-rep routine and are used to big pumps.

      If you just focus on good form and using the primary muscles you will come along and feel it more and more as you develop. Trust me. 🙂

  • mfmaxpower

    I’m a little confused about chest day. What’s the rationale for doing incline BB followed by incline DB? Why not just do 6 sets of one of those? What’s the point in switching between two similar exercises?

    (Also, what degree incline are we talking about here?)

    • They train your pecs in different ways. They’re not identical exercises.

      I like 30 degrees.

  • Matt

    Hey Mike, I bought the 2nd edition of BLS (after also buying the first edition) and I’m excited to try the workouts on my current cut. Two questions though:

    1) Regards to the rep scheme: I understand that if I hit 6, I increase the weight for the next set, but what do you recommend doing if you don’t hit 4 on the last set of a workout? So say I hit 5,4,3 – what’s the weight for the next workout?

    2) Being on a cut, and being 35, I find my work capacity and ability to recover can diminished. If I’m struggling to recover from the workouts, what’s your preferred method of adjusting – fewer workout days? Fewer sets per workout? Same volume but maybe making some exercises higher reps (e.g. 8-12)?

  • matt

    Is squatting and deadlifting once a week enough to make decent strength gains and progressive overload?

  • matt

    Is squatting and deadlifting once a week enough to make decent strength gains and progressive overload?

  • Luke

    Hey Mike,

    Looking forward to starting the Year 1 challenge. I have never done any heavy weightlifting of any kind, and I’m not very muscular. I’m 22 years old and about 180lbs. Around what range of weights would you recommend starting with? Is there any educated guess as to what my 1RM would be? Obviously I will be able to sort this out with trial and error once I start, just wondering if there is some way to sort this out!

    Thanks for all the good information!

    I particularly like that you define all the basic fitness terms in your book! Keep up the good work!


    • Great! I’m excited for you. 🙂

      Honestly it’s just trial and error for your first week or two. As a general rule, for every 5 lbs you add to a dumbbell exercise, you’ll lose 2 reps. The same for every 10 lbs added to a barbell exercise. So if you put 100 lbs on the squat bar and do 10 reps, you should be able to get about 6 reps with 140 lbs.

      Just work with light weights at first and learn the form, and then increase. You’ll get your numbers within a week or two. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Luke

        Hey Mike Thanks, that makes a ton of sense. I will just dive in and see how I do, and keep those ratios in mind.

        I’ll be taking some before and after photos and I’ll keep you posted!

        Thanks again! – Luke

  • FleurDeLisa

    Hi Mike, I have been working out hard for a year and am still not quite seeing the results I want yet. I am not sure it it is due to overtraining or perhaps my body fat at 19.5 is too high? I am really small framed and I already look very thin at 19.5 and I am a bit afraid of how skinny I will look if I go much lower than that. I know the muscle is there because when I flex my biceps look awesome but when not flexing, I don’t really see a whole lot.

    I work out my biceps 3 times in my 9 day work out cycle..two times for an hour at about 100 reps, and one time for half an hour with approx 32 reps. Is that way too much? After reading your articles I am feeling the answer is pretty obvious that it is too much, but after investing so much time for the past year, I am really scared to drop it down to once a week and lose what muscle I do have.

    Also, I do not have access to a barbell so I am using dumbbells and I am currently curling 25 pounds at about 7 reps max. 30’s are way to heavy for me to even curl one so does that mean I am stuck at 25’s?

    I am a stay at home mom with 5 kids so definitely not able to go to the gym and ask a trainer so I appreciate any thoughts or encouragement you might have. I am getting so frustrated and I will not give up but sometimes it is so tempting because I am just not seeing the results I think I should have by now with as much as I am working out.

    Are your books available as e-books?

    • Sorry for weighing in on this. Ebay is your friend for getting weights, barbells are cheap & the best for compound movement’s. I dislike dumbells cause get delayed changing weights and you have to go up twice the weight than a barbell to progress. I like working out at home, over the long run it’s cheaper and I don’t have to look at roid showoffs like in the gym. But get yourself a barbell off ebay for $35 or less or there’s lots of 2nd hand stuff too. And like Michael suggests – I stick to compound exercises and do less and will see results quicker.

      Good luck with it.



      • Fleur de Lis

        Thanks so much for answering. I do appreciate it. I have cut back my workouts and actually lowered some of my weights. I was trying to lift 25# dumbbells but I think it was just way too much and I am sticking to twenties and staying in the 10-12 rep range and not doing so many sets and I think maybe I am starting to see some improvements in my overall appearance. I can tell you that I certainly am not dreading my workouts the way I was before so that is a great thing. I thought about ordering from ebay but I figured the shipping costs for sending that much weight would not make the price that much more affordable, but I will check it out and see what I can find. Thanks again for the advice.

        • Kool.

          Yeah I’m able to go and pick up the weights I purchased so can avoid the shipping fees.

          For me, reading Michael’s articles has really steered me in the right direction, the man knows his stuff.

  • Joel

    Hi Mike,
    I’m wondering if there are alternate exercises to the ones you list above that don’t require use of a bench or a barbell? I am limited to working out at home and I only have Dumbbells, a weight jacket, golds gym pull-up/push-up combo bar, and a kettle bell. Can I still get in high intensity excercises that you listed without the extra equipment? Thanks, btw I’m about halfway through BFS second edition, awesome awesome book.

  • Hi mike, in the workouts above you mention an “ab circuit”, whats that?
    From what I know, it’s usually a matter of ‘uncovering’ the abs and that doing specific ab exercises is usually not effective?

    • You’re definitely right that you have to be lean enough to see abs. However, for a nice. full set of abs, you need to develop them and be lean. 🙂

      Check this out:


      Hope that helps! LMK.

      • Yeah that’s pretty much what I thought, well I’m working to get overall size at the moment so maybe later on I can start cutting to get the abs out.
        I’m sure the wife would like it but she’ll have to go without for the time being lol.

        • Haha sounds like a plan!

          She’ll be happy when you’re lean with a lot more muscle. 🙂

  • Aisha

    Hi Mike, my husband is lean but a hard-gainer. I plan to buy your book for him to help with his diet. However, he had a bad fall once which resulted in his elbow tendon being cut and then sewn back a bit tighter, which means his elbow juts out at a different angle and he often gets uneven results with weights, plus bad tendonitis if he tries a heavy weight (which he can manage but it then wrecks his elbow). He has found that body weight exercises tend to help a bit more. Is there any advice within the book on adapting workouts to people with injuries like this, or is there anything else he could read?

    • Good questions! I’m sure we can figure out a way to work around this.

      Has he worked with a PT before to recover proper range of motion?

      • Aisha

        He has had the one off lesson from someone but they all just say isolate the muscles to not go uneven but even that doesn’t work. His surgeon at the time even said he should never have physio on the area because it is so delicate. He has responded slightly to bodyweight exercises but he obviously doesn’t make huge gains (though I think I eat more than him sometimes, hence going to buy the book!).

        I am going to buy the book for me anyway – is the dietary advice similar for men and women? Don’t want to buy two books when he probably can’t do half the exercises.

        Your site is amazing by the way and thanks for responding so quickly! In relatively good shape at the moment but have always struggled to make gains in the bum department so fingers crossed!

        • Okay well the key here is that he sticks with exercise that isn’t going to aggravate the problem. We don’t want an injury.

          Yup the dietary advice is more or less the same. Let me know how you like the book.

          Thanks for the kind words. Keep me posted on how everything goes!

      • Aisha

        Oh, and I should add – the arm doesn’t point out at an angle because it’s tight – the elbow literally is set at 45 degrees differently. At least they saved his arm though!

  • Cory

    Hey Mike,

    Is it ever OK to workout twice in one day? For example if I can’t do my normal arm workout on Friday due to some scheduling conflict. Would it be fine to do say Legs on Thursday morning and Arms Thursday afternoon/evening?

  • Marco

    Hi Michael.
    Here Marco from Italy….
    Just stumbled across your wonderful site.
    Thank you for it.
    I was wondering if one could structure the workouts this way:
    Day 1 – Push (Chest + Shoulders + Triceps)
    Day 2 – Rest
    Day 3 – Pull + Legs (Back + Biceps + Legs)
    Day 4 – Rest
    Day 5 – Push ….
    And so on….
    Chest, Shoulders, Back and Legs are 2 exercises, Biceps and Triceps are 1 exercise.
    Each workout is 5 exercises.
    Chest, Shoulders, Back, Biceps and Triceps are 3 sets (4-6 reps each).
    Legs are 3 sets (6-8 reps each).

    Thanks again.
    p.s. – what do you think about Doggcrapp Training and the rest/pause?

    • Hey hey.

      Honestly P + L is going to be VERY hard. Heavy deadlifting and squatting in the same workout is just plain exhausting and whichever comes second suffers.

      Otherwise yeah that would work.

    • Marco

      Thanks for reply Michael.

      Workouts are as follows:

      Day 1) Push (chest/shoulders/triceps)
      – Incline barbell bench press
      – Flat dumbbell press
      – Seated military press
      – One-arm dumbbell lateral raise
      – Lying triceps press

      Day 2) rest

      Day 3) Pull/Legs (back/legs/biceps)
      – Barbell squat
      – Dumbbell lunge
      – Close-grip lat pulldown
      – Seated cable row
      – Alternate hammer curl
      – Face pulls

      Day 4) rest

      Day 5) Push (chest/shoulders/triceps)
      – Flat barbell bench press
      – Incline dumbbell press
      – Arnold dumbbell press
      – Standing military press
      – One-arm triceps pushdown

      Day 6) rest

      Day 7) Pull/Legs (back/legs/biceps)
      – Trap bar deadlift
      – Leg press
      – Chin-ups
      – One-arm dumbbell row
      – Barbell curl
      Day 8) rest
      … and so on
      Could you tell me if this could work and if you see gross mistakes?
      Thank you….

      • Hey brother I replied to your previous comment on this did you not see?

  • Luis

    1.How do you feel about fitness guru Mark McManus?(From musclehack.com)
    2. Do you agree with his approaches about anyone can build muscle and burn fat at the same time even if you have been lifting for a while? (You saved me, I found this website before right before I was about to start his THT program!!)
    3. I have a custom meal plan from you and I am loving it! I will keep you posted with progress and send pictures!
    4. Do you think his workout routine is effective or just fake pictures, juiced up guys? Or are they legit results?

  • Brad Gibbs

    Hi Mike,

    I’m doing your 5-day split and I’d like to add in HIIT. Are there any special considerations w/r/t Daily Burn workouts? They have several 20-30 minute tabata and HIIT workouts, but, I’m wondering if the bodyweight exercises will hamper my recovery.



  • Thanks that helped me build a nice compound exercise routine which I’m enjoying.
    Was wandering if later I started training in a Fasted state, will having the morning cup of tea before my workout break the Fasted state?

    • Happy to hear it. 🙂

      No, the tea won’t break the fast unless you put a lot of sweetener that has calories or other stuff in it. Otherwise, you’re good though.

  • Gareth Manning

    Hi Michael,
    I have recently bought your book and have just started your 3 day workout plan (Chest & Triceps & Calves, Back & Biceps & Abs, Legs & Shoulders), I work shifts, so work two days on then two days off, is it ok to do these workouts on consecutive days or are they designed for a rest day inbetween?

    I have also found that i get insomnia when i take whey (i have no idea why but i have tried several brands), are there any foods that you recommend eating after a work out e.g. scrambled eggs?


    • That’s fine if you need to do 2 workouts consecutively because of your shifts.

      I hear you on the insomnia with whey. You don’t have to have a protein powder post-workout. A meal would be good with some source of protein (chicken, steak, eggs etc.) and carbs.

      Check this out:


      LMK what you think

      • Gareth Manning

        Thanks for your reply Michael that is a great help. Regarding post work out food, I wasn’t sure if there was any protein sources you would particularly recommend, I read that you say ‘whey rapidly spikes plasma amino acid levels, which is good for maximizing post-workout protein synthesis’, is there a next best thing?

        • YW!

          If you want a plant-based alternative then a pea and rice blend would be second best to whey.

          • Alon Rosner

            I just picked up Vega Protein & Greens in vanilla flavor from Costco. It has a couple servings of vegetables per serving. You can definitely taste the veggies but it’s great nonetheless.


          • Thanks for sharing Alon. I’ll check it out.

  • Dave A

    Learning new things…just found out why doing back the day after legs is a dumb idea….doh

    I was doing:
    Sunday Chest
    Monday Legs
    Teusday Shoulders
    Wednesday Rest
    Thursday Back
    Friday Chest/Leg weak points
    Saturday Rest

    Now I’ll do reschedule to your recommend 5 day schedule (with my rest days staying the way they are)…

    Question, is it bad to do chest before legs?

    • Yeah the deadlifts can effect your strength on squats the following day.

      Not a problem doing chest the day before legs!

      • Jason Blackwell

        Your info is great! I have been running a full body routine(reps 8-10 range) for almost a year now and can see what you mean when you refer to costly recovery times. I’m planning on going on the 5 day split you feature in your first book. My only concern that I would like you to address is: should I be concerned (recovery + performance) doing arms after back? slightly worried that my biceps will be a bit off after doing back the day before and only had a day to recover. Have you had any issues? Should I take a break on Wednesday and push everything forward day? My full body brain (thinking in 48 hour recovery times) is urging me to ask this.

        • Thanks!

          Good question and I’ve never had an issue because the bis are a small muscle group and thus recovery quickly.

          I MIGHT address this with someone if they have VERY stubborn biceps but I can’t remember having to do that more than a handful of times in the last couple of years, haha.

          • Jason Blackwell

            Ok sweet thanks for replying! My gainz paranoia has been subdued lol. Can’t wait to try the 4-6 Rep ranges, will be cool to see how my body responds! Take care Michael!

          • Good. 🙂

            I’m excited to see your results too!

          • Jason Blackwell

            Thanks, I’ll post some pictures (before + after) end of September. I’m currently at about 12% bf so I’m hoping to cut with 20% deficit for about 2 months (maybe gain some muscle too as I haven’t lifted that heavy before). Should be at about 9-10% by end of September.

          • YW.

            That’s a good plan. Let’s do it.

  • Meet Taneja

    Hello, I am a hard gainer, I am currently underweight, but I have moderate strength. I have always been into sports. Right now I am following Stronglifts 5*5 programme. What are your thoughts on this, should I continue or alter this workout regime?
    P.S I am a beginner.


    • Cool!

      It’s a good program for building strength. No doubt. It’s not the best for building an overall balanced, proportionate physique, however. It emphasizes lower body development.

  • Kevin Bejar

    What do you recommend for me, Im 5’10.5 and 155 pounds. I’ve been following your rep schemes, I want to build size though. Is that the way to go?

  • Talal

    Hi Michael, really love your articles! So informative!
    I just wanted to ask you what kind of workouts do you recommend for a newbie. I’ve just started training, so should I do my workouts based on muscle groups? Or just do full body workouts?
    I currently do 3 full body workouts per week. In each workout, I do 3 sets of 10 reps per muscle group of 1 exercise.

    Thank you so much! You have been an inspiration to us all!

    • I recommend you start rolling on a standard program! You can do a 3-day, 4-day or 5-day split.

      What do you think?

      YW for everything! Happy to do it.

      • Talal

        Really appreciate the prompt reply.
        The 4 day split sounds great! It’s just that I read somewhere that for beginners, full body workouts are the most optimal.
        Also, which of your books do you recommend for beginners? I’d love to buy them.

  • Franken Steine

    I’ve been reading your articles, and have a couple of questions. I’m pretty short on cash so my workouts are limited what I can do with dumbbells, at the moment I’m doing 3 sets per one exercise but I noticed that you suggested 9 or 12 sets per workout. should I make it 9 or 12 sets? Like 9 or 12 sets of bicep curls

    Also, I noticed that I have more strength in my right arm then my left arm. So should I add more weight to my right arm and use the same weight for my left arm, or just build up the strength in my left arm until I can add more weight to both arms?

    Lastly, I’m unable to get a weighted vest at moment and as strange as it sounds I was wondering if I could just do some crunches with a dumbbell on my chest or something

    • Thanks!

      DB only is tough to be honest. If I were you I would combine some DB work with bodyweight work.


      Imbalances tend to work themselves out in time if you just keep at it.

  • sawnyog

    hi michael , i hab been traning for 4 month now. i am 5 “6” 141lbs . i want to build bigger muscle .. which program should i follow 4 days or 5 days .

  • steve almquist

    Hey Mike, I am a 41 year old male and currently weigh 164 pounds with 15.9% body fat per Accu-measure caliper. I am 5′ 9″ tall. I have been following your meal plan advice for approximately 2-1/2 months. I have been doing the Body Beast workout consistently during this time.

    My starting weight was 168 pounds with 22.8% body fat. By body has changed pretty dramatically. I credit the meal planning to my success. The problem I am having is the workout. I hate it.

    I would like to incorporate your recommended 5 day workout routine, but I am limited as far as equipment is concerned. I have a adjustable bench, a nice assortment of dumbbells, Powerblocks, EZ curl bar, straight curl bar, pull up bar and a bar dip station with a belt for weighted dips. I am concerned that my workouts will suffer only using dumbbells versus barbells, especially when it comes to leg workouts.

    Your thoughts?

    Thank you Mike.

    • Good job on the results you’ve gotten so far!

      Glad to hear you plan on following the BLS 5-day split.

      Working out with only dumbbells is a bit tough because you can’t squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press (and these are the most important exercises in any program, really).

      My first standard recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates), or work out in a gym instead. Here are the products I like:


      That said, if neither are possible, you can focus on the dumbbell exercises given in the “approved exercises” section of the book. For instance, a chest day would look like this:

      Incline dumbbell press: warm up and 6 sets 4-6 reps

      Flat dumbbell press: 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps

      While that might seem redundant and inefficient, it’s actually a great chest workout. I did that for nearly 6 months a couple years ago and was amazed by the gains I was able to make.

      You can also add a couple exercises to make your legs day more challenging:

      Goblet squats are decent, albeit limited.

      One-legged squats are challenging even without weight.

      For your back, I recommend doing a lot of dumbbell rows and weighted wide-grip pull-ups.

      You also have the option of working in some modified body weight exercises, as discussed here:


      I hope this helps and let me know what you think!

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Hey Mike, I love the 5 day workout schedule but I do have a question for you. I am an active soccer player. I played 2 times (sometimes 3) per week and as you know it is about a 2 hour cardio workout. Would this affect my muscle growth progress? If so, any suggestions in order to keep the muscle I am gaining?

    • You just need to make sure you’re eating enough. If you’re bulking, you should be gaining .5-1 pound a week.

      Other than that, you’re good.

      • Jonathan Martinez

        But how do I know how much I should eat? I don’t know how many calories I am burning every time I play soccer. I am following your formula but that is based on a 5-day workout and I am basically doing 5 days (weights) + 2 (2 hour cardio)

  • Slick Back

    Hey Mike,
    I have a question about the 5- day workout plan.
    It says Calf workout A-C. What does that mean? I couldn’t find it.

  • Derrek

    For your 3 day split, how many sets do you do? Like for training chest, shoulders, and triceps. I’m trying to figure out what I should do.

    Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

    Power Chest bench press 2 sets with warmup
    incline bench press Myo 3 sets

    miltary overhead press warmup
    2 power sets
    4 myo sets
    dubmbell side lateral raises myo 2 sets ??

    lying tricps press warmup
    3 myo sets

    weighted dips 3 sets

    Does this seem too long or could I add a few more exercises in? Does it look ok?

  • Susan M

    Hey Mike!
    No reply needed, just wanted to say what a goldmine this article is!! I can’t wait to share it! Keep up the great work your articles and books, recipes ect. are changing lives(especially mine, ha)
    Best Wishes to You and your family,

    • Glad you liked it Susan! Thanks for the kind words and support. 🙂

      I’ll keep everything up. Take care!

  • James Burcio

    When you set up your weekly routine. Is it better to try and do each exercise in the same order every time? I.E on chest day I do incline bench, incline dumbbell press, chest dip, then flat bench.

    Or is it better to switch around the order of the exercises. Or does in not really matter?

    • It’s not a huge deal, but I recommend keeping them the same so you can track progress better.

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Hey Mike, once again, love your articles!
    Quick question, I am following the 5-day routine but I noticed you don’t have any forearm exercises there. Should I include those on my arms day? if so, how many sets and what exercises would you recommend?

    • With all the grip training from arms and back day, forearm workouts aren’t usually necessary.

      If you feel like your forearm is under developed or you need to improve your grip, check this out:


      Hope this helps!

      • Jonathan Martinez

        Great, I will start doing that because my forearms are kind of skinny.

        Two more questions if you don’t mind:
        1. I always ran 1 mile (9 – 9.5min/mile Pace) to warm up before I start with my weightlifting routine. Is that too much or you think it’s fine?.

        2. As you know, I am a beginner. The gym I workout is the one provided by the building where I live. They don’t have barbells to do deadlifts (They have a smith machine though). And the free weights go up to 55lb and jump all the way to 75lb and 80lb. Would you recommend joining a Gym? I can do incline Dumbbell with 55lb but cannot with 75lb. I think 20lb difference is a lot.

        • Sounds good!

          1. Eh. It’s not too big a deal, but it is probably making you weaker. I don’t recommend cardio of any kind before weight lifting besides maybe a mild warm up.

          2. I definitely recommend signing up at a gym with the proper equipment. I’m not a fan of the Smith machine and you need a proper set of dumbbells so you can progressively overload.

  • IB

    Great article! The issue is most people starting out need help with the exercise form. Check out Ollinfit. It detects your mistakes and corrects your exercise form

    • Thanks! Interesting. Sure!

      • IB

        Thanks! Check us out at ollinfit.com Your feedback is welcome as we are days away from launching a kickstarter campaign

  • Rafael Wanderbrock

    Hi Michael, I am following your 5 days workout plan for 08 weeks now, any suggestions to changes things around

  • Tadhg

    Hi Michael awesome article by the way I’m just wondering what rest times you would recommend for these workouts

  • Hi,
    just looking for some advice, I’ve read your bigger, leaner, stronger book and following it I do feel I have seen some gains both in strength and visibly in my arms and shoulders but want to make sure I am making the most of my limited gym time and not heading towards a plateau or failure through losing motivation should improvements slow down.
    I currently manage the gym 3 times a week due to work & family commitments for just over and hour/hour & half. I have tried to divide my days into distinct muscle workouts based on the information provided on the jefit app, currently they look like this:
    day 1:
    Barbell wide grip bench press
    Barbell bench press
    Barbell close grip bench press
    Barbell incline bench press
    day 2:
    Barbell 1/4 squat
    Barbell floor calf raise
    Barbell deadlift
    Weighted crunches
    day 3:
    Barbell incline bench row
    Barbell reverse grip bent over row
    Barbell upright row
    Barbell curls lying against an incline
    All exercises are performed as 9 sets of 4-6 reps (start with previous weeks highest weight, do 6, add 2.5kg do 6 etc until can only do 4 reps or hit 9 sets), unfortunately all exercises except crunches are done on smith machine as gym only has barbells up to 35kg and at present I’m lifting higher. This poses problems in itself as even going at 630am for gym opening can still find people using machine or have guys asking to use after which puts pressure on to get finished and not hog equipment.
    I have also modified my diet as per your recommendations for cutting as I am 104kg, so hoping I see a benefit from this also as had previously used atkins diet with success but found it restrictive and limited meals I could share with partner.
    Any advice you could offer would be very very gratefully received, and thank you for this great resource and taking the time to help out fellow people trying to live a healthier and stronger life.

    • Hey!

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it. Anything you could do to spread the word would rock too! 🙂

      Interesting setup. Why not just do a standard push, pull, legs layout? Or chest + tris, back + bis, legs + shoulders?

      • Thanks for feedback mate, really appreciated it. Will give the c&t, b&b & l&s setup doing 2 from each category so 4 exercises a workout. Hopefully see gains.
        All the best.

  • Justin Jones

    Hi Mike, thank you for the great article.. My desire has been to rebuild my body having become less active throughout college, and finding a workout plan for that works for me has been a priority because I’ve been one of those people kind of wandered from one exercise to the other without a sense of direction..

    Since starting to work out again, one challenge that I’ve had has been being able move past seeming plateaus in my exercises, mainly because I work out alone. I’ve found it difficult make it to that 6th rep and I think that not having a spotter makes me more likely to rack the weight at 5 since that rep is usually a struggle.

    I’m sure this won’t require a super deep response, but I could use some advice on maximizing my potential working out alone as opposed to having a partner/trainer or someone to help me push past certain limits.

    And thanks for taking the time to read my comment!

    • YW! I like the goal. Let’s do it.

      Regarding the spotting issue, that’s fine. On your bench, squat, and military press sets (the only exercises where you need a spot) you want to stop with one rep still in the tank–that is, 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.

      Or you can always ask for someone else in the gym to give you a spot. I do it all the time. The last resort is the Smith Machine. 🙂

      What do you think?

      • J. Jones

        Sounds good! I was just concerned that I wouldn’t see desired gains without pushing to get to that last rep. But I’ll ask for someone to spot me when available. I’m excited about starting your book as it seems to cut through all the fluff and misinformation of the fitness industry.. Thanks again for being a good source of information and I look forward to putting it to use!

        • Cool!

          LMK what you think of the book when you finish it.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Jamie

    Hi Michael,

    This article is EXACTLY what I was looking for – massive thanks for laying it all out so clearly.

    One question though – I am approaching muscle building with resistance bands as opposed to real weights/dumbbells due to cost and storage space. Would you be able to advise on the best way to covert the above ‘best’ exercises to resistance band form?

    If at all possible, would you be able to write an article/video specific to the above workout regimes but using resistance bands?


    • Thanks Jamie! Glad you liked it.

      Resistance bands are tricky because you’re limited in the movements you can replicate.

      I’ll make a note of this for a future article. Could be a good one.

  • Azouri

    Hey mike, I was wondering do you know what the numbers/ratio are in the four big lifts bench press, squat, deadlift, and overhead press to lift relative to your bodyweight to know if your at the strength standard? like what do i multiply my bodyweight by to know what i should be lifting in each one of those lifts.

    • I don’t have a ratio that all your lifts should be in, but I can tell you that I don’t recommend BBLS until you’ve hit certain numbers on your lifts. Check them out:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for 4 to 6 reps
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for 4 to 6 reps
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for 4 to 6 reps
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for 4 to 6 reps

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Lee

    Hi Mike. Just a question regarding the rep range? So if my target is to do like 3 sets of 6 reps on my flat bench press, do i really need to complete 6 reps for each set? Or is it fine if my other sets will fall below 6 reps (like 5 and 4) considering that I don’t have a spotter with me. So it would be like on my first set, i did 6, second set is 5 and third is only 4 (6,5,4). Does that mean that on my next session, my approach would be to beat (6,5,4) and to target on completing 6 reps on all sets?

    • The rep range is 4-6 reps so that’s totally fine. As you keep going, your muscle endurance will improve and you’ll be able to maintain strength better throughout the sets.

      Your goal is always going to be to lift more weight and/or get more reps. 🙂

  • glenna

    So if im a girl and Ive been working out for a few years is 4-6 reps of 9 sets what i should do? I workout with my husband and am just wondering if this is correct to finally see some gains 🙂

  • Piotr Tomaszewski

    Interesting article. What do you think about upper/lower type split when you are in your first year of lifting vs 3 day splits you suggest here (e.g. push-pull-legs). Shouldn’t splitting from whole body to 2 day to 3 etc splits be based on recovery capabilities (this is influenced also by age, experience, strength level)?

    • U/L is fine but not superior to anything else so long as your frequency, intensity, and volume are dialed in.

      PERSONALLY I don’t like U/L because the second major muscle group always suffers a bit from what you did first.

  • D6

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been lifting on and off for months. I have been needing to move slot recently and dealing with hypothyroidism, I can’t take meds for it so diet and exercise are my only help. Once I can lift a weight 6 reps or more, how much should I up it? 5lbs, 10? Say I dumbbell curl 45lbs, would I up it to 50lbs?
    Also, do you have any reccomendations for someone with hypothyroidism for dieting and exercise? Thank you!

    • Once you get 6, increase by 10 lbs total (5 lb per DB/side of barbell).

      I’ve worked with quite a few people with HT and it actually hasn’t made much of a difference. Sometimes they have to reduce their BMR by a bit but never more than 10%.

  • Michael Bower

    Hi Mike,

    I am considering doing the push pull legs using a similar template to the one provided in the 3 day example. Looking at the part with reps it suggests heavy sets using between 4 – 6 reps. Is this suggested for every exercise in the template ?

    Also, it suggests for getting bigger and stronger/getting bigger and losing fat that the 5 day workout is the most effective. Will the 3 day push pull legs still be an effective workout for building muscle ?


  • Sy Cassidy

    Hi Mike,

    I’m looking to focus on ‘real world’ strength as well as building a lean athletic physique. I’ve looked at the stronglifts programme with some interest, yet your training sessions , specifically BLS, seem to add more variation (such as limited isolation work) yet still mirroring the same principles of building combined strength & muscle.

    Do you subscribe to any part of the ‘no isolation’ argument? Nothing gives me more pleasure when training than doing heavy compound movements, but i cant help thinking I’m missing out on developing my arms & calves to their full potential.

    I’m at a crossroads as far as my training is concerned. I’ve flitted in and out of various routines with limited success. I’m not that interested in having muscles without the real world strength to back it up, and at 41 years of age, I now understand the need to get an effective plan that caters for both aspects.


    • Programs like Stronglifts and Starting Strength are good. Much better than a lot of the crap out there. They will get you bigger and stronger, no doubt about it.

      That said, they have one big drawback: certain parts of your physique lag in terms of development. The look you often see in guys that only do SL or SS is a really big lower body, and a disproportionately small upper body. This is often seen very clearly in the arms, shoulders, lats, and chest. Middle back development is usually decent due to all the deadlifting.

      I’ve had many guys come from SL/SS to BLS and really like how their upper body began to fill out and match their lower body development. This is because BLS is kind of a hybrid between the SL/SS approach, and the traditional bodybuilding approach. It includes the heavy compound lifts and isolation work.

      So in short, you can’t go wrong doing SL or SS, but there will be a point when you’ll want to focus more on lagging body parts to balance out your physique.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Rob


    Just finishing up your BLS book. I’ve decided to try the 5-day split to change up my normal routine. Unfortunately, I do not have the book with me at the moment and just wanted to see if you could remind me if day 4 is legs or upper body? I won’t have a chance to check the book before hitting up the gym. Thanks!!


    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Sorry if I didn’t get to this in time, but day 4 is upper body & abs!

      What did you think of the book?

  • Staci

    Would you suggest a three day program for a 16 year old boy with no prior training? He is super skinny and not able to do a pushup 🙂 I am working your 1YC for women mostly at home and he’d like to join me. Should I have him work up some strength with body weight exercises first or just dive right in to a weight lifting plan (modifying with dumbbells until he can manage weight of the 45lb barbell?)
    P.S. You responded to my FB message a month or so ago re: yoga. It is going very well and I am still able work out 4 days a week with at least two good yoga sessions! Thanks for your input!

    • Yeah sure! He could start with Starting Strength? A great beginner’s program.

      Awesome! That’s great!

  • Matt

    Hey Mike! Can you critique my P/P/L program I came up with using this article and the principles laid out in BLS?

    Incline Barbell Bench 3×4-6
    Incline Dumbbell Bench 3×4-6 (Alternate with OHP every 6 weeks or so)
    Dips 3×4-6
    Skullcrushers 3×4-6

    Deadlifts 3×4-6
    Weighted chins 3×4-6
    Barbell Row 3×4-6
    Barbell Curl 3×4-6
    Wide Grip Upright Rows 3×6-8

    Squats 3×4-6
    Romanian Deadlift 3×4-6
    Leg Press 3×4-6
    Calves- Rest Pause
    Hanging leg raises or Ab Wheel Rollouts 3×10

    • This looks great! I recommend just adding the OHP for 3 x 4-6 instead of alternating it with incline dumbbell bench every 6 weeks.

      What do you think?

      • Matt

        Just replace Incline DB with OHP? Probably a better idea, will do!

        • You can add OHP to your push day with out taking any of the current exercises out.

          If you prefer taking out an exercise, I recommend taking out dips.

  • Raul Marchis

    Hi Mike ! Please help me . I’m going to buy you’re book the next week, I already learnt a lot of things about building muscle, IIFYM and so on. I didn’t understand something. You recommand the 4-6 rep range, but how should I do with the weight ? For example, if I have to incline bench press, I have to choose a weight that allows me to do 3 sets of 6 reps ? And when I can do those sets (6,6,6 with the same weight), I add another 5-10 pounds on the bar, or how should I progress? Do I have to change the weight from set to set, like at Reverse Pyramid Training ?
    Thank you so much .

    • Glad to hear you’re going to be picking up the book!

      Yup, you want to work with a weight where you’re able to get at least 4 reps, but that also isn’t too light so that you can get more than 6 reps.

      You should be able to stick to the same weight for all 3 sets.

      On how to progress in weight, 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.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • samuel

    I have one thing to ask. Is it possible to change places of some workouts? I was just thinking if it was better to train shoulders before arms because arms get hit in chest and back training, so there would be like one day to recover for arms before their oen workout. What do you think? Thanks a lot Mike, awesome posts!

    • Yep, that’s fine.

      My pleasure brother. Thanks for the support!

  • Taher A

    Hi, I’m looking to start working out and really found this to be a helpful article. Is there any way I can contact you personally?

  • Raul Marchis

    MIKE , Thank you so, so much. Thanks a lot for making time to answer to my question below about working with the weight and how to progress. I bought your book two days ago, and just now I’ve finished it. It was the best book I’ve ever read,really good job for that . It was the first time I bought a book online, in ENGLISH, because I’m from Romania. You have my respect man, it’s extremly well-done, I won’t ever regret buying it ^^

    I would like to ask you another question : I’ve read what you wrote in the book about “too much cardio” and the problems that can happen, and now I’m a little bit confused.

    I’m a kickboxer, and I’ve practiced that sport for about 2 years now, and I wouldn’t like to give up, but if I have to .. I will, so that’s what I want to ask you. After 1 year of kickboxing, I decided to go to the gym on my “rest days”, because we have only 3 times/week kickboxing. So, for about a year now, my training routine was like that :
    Monday – Kickboxing
    Tuesday – Gym
    Wednesday – Kickboxing
    Thursday – Gym
    Friday – Kickboxing,
    and on Saturday – Gym. I’m happy with how I’m looking now, because five months ago I had read a lot of articles about IIFYM, compound movements and so forth so three weeks ago I finished my first cut(went from 76kg to 70kg), and now I would like to bulk for 6-7 months. I’m 17 years old, 174cm and 71kg(two years ago I had 107 kg..), so at 77-78kg I would like to stop my bulk and begin again a cut. My problem is that : At kickbox, as you know, we do a lot of endurance training, such as hitting the bag, and immediately push-ups, againg hitting the bag or the pads and so forth. Because I’ve practiced it for 2 years now,my body used to it so that I never feel exhausted after those hard trainings, but I’m afraid they’ll affect my strenght gains because of the rest time. I eat about 2440 kcals a day (160g proteins, 60g fats and 315g carbohydrates) , so my diet is on point. SO, I would like to do a 3-day split , as you recommended in the book. What do you think about training like that, I will be able to progress in strenght and build muscle with 6 workouts/week (from which 3 may be considered cardio) ? I really want to achive the body that I dream for, so if I really have to, I’ll quit kickboxing and go for the 5-day split …. but .. you know, after 2 years .. it’s weird to quit .. we’re like a family there(I also compete).

    Respect from Romania, and thank you again for all : the book and you’re free time to answer me. Please help me with that problem that I have, tell me you’re opinion and what would you do if you were me… (I’m [email protected], if you receive any email from me, I’m “the man with the kickboxing trainings :)) ) .

    • Hey man! My pleasure! I’m happy to help.

      This schedule seems reasonable actually so long as you’re eating enough. If you were in a deficit, I’d probably recommend a bit less.

      I’d say just keep up the good work man. Keep me posted!

      • Raul Marchis

        Thank you so much for your answer Mike. I’ll maybe increase a little bit my calories because my weight doesn’t go up 😀 I decided that I’ll train like that for about a month, and if I won’t be able to progress, I’ll just choose the gym ^^ but if all goes well, when I’ll have to cut, I’ll go only 2 days/week at kickboxin’ trainings. I will keep in touch with you about how it goes. Cheers !

  • Steph

    Do you have sample 30 day workout plans?

  • Jen G

    Hi Mike,
    I am starting the three day split program from your Thinner Leaner Stronger book this week (and am very excited about it!). I have been blessed (cursed ;)) with large calves. Would you recommend limiting my weights for this and do two days of abs instead of one? And drop down my calf workout to 1? I was also hoping on sneaking in another day of abs on one of my cardio/HIIT days. Thanks!


    Hey dude, and what happens if i´m doing twice a week leg workout ( separate hamstrings and quad) cause i want to develop my legs as big as possible to match my upper body, and I go to the gym three times a week, that means that I do a one day of upper body workout, but I dont feel it effective,I want to separate the upper body day in two days: what u recommend? one day : chest-shoulders-triceps and another of back traps and biceps and my 2 religious days of legs? or there’s another combination of uuper body??

    • daniel

      by the way, ur article is very useful; and I’m learning a lot from ur webpage

    • That’s totally fine. Many people enjoy it.

  • Taher A

    Hi again. I’m hoping to get started next week (i procrastinate too much), just wondering if the workout plans and exercises would be safe and affective for a 15 year old male.

    • Yeah that’s fine! Just make sure you get the form down on all the lifts and don’t work with weight that is too heavy for you.

      I recommend working in the 8-10 rep range instead of the 4-6 rep range for now.

      • Taher A

        Alright thanks Micheael! You’re webpage has been a real help to getting me started. Thanks again!

  • Vespin

    I’ve been meaning to ask you these:

    What’s your opinion on body fat percentage calculators? The ones that only require you to key in your age, weight and height. Are they reliable?

    What are any effective ways to count calories? I’ve been using the app Myfitnesspal, and the bar scanning option is good, but when it comes to keying in the calories of dishes I’m presented with many inconsistent calorie values for the meal I’m having, and I often don’t know which one to pick.

    And lastly, if being on a caloric deficit makes you lose weight, then theoretically speaking, I could lose weight even if I eat KFC everyday as long as I’m on a caloric deficit?

    Thanks a bunch man if you could answer these. They’ve been bugging me for a long time ^^”

  • Monique Dew

    Hi there Mike, I have read and read and read your books, articles for a few years now and every time I read more the more I love how straight forward and optional everything is based on peoples circumstances! However my quick question (first ever hehe) is for the workout routines I want to do the 5 day split (as I am assuming by reading this article is will be the most efficient way to get gains and lose fat) and also add in 2-3 HIIT sessions at different times to the strength sessions. With the routines you metion calf workout A & B. What are these exact exercises or are they just any like a calf raise? thanks

    • Glad you’re enjoying the books and articles. Thanks for the support!

      Cool on the 5-day split!

      For the calf workouts, you can see them here:


      LMK what you think.

      • Monique Dew

        Thanks you so much 🙂 I’m excited to get started!!! Spent all weekend making up my menu for each day of the week to ensure all my macros are right too 🙂 also the article on body composition was fantastic. I was looking into having DEXA done but after reading that I don’t think I’ll waste my money and just use my camera, my scales, my waist measurement and my fat calipars. Thanks again Mike, I could read your articles all day! I love how in depth they go 🙂 instead of just skimming the surface.

        • My pleasure. Glad you’re excited. 🙂

          Glad you’re planning everything out too.

          Yep, no need to DEXA. You can track progress just fine with weight, measurements, a camera and a caliper.

          Happy to do them, and it’s good to hear you’re enjoying them.

          Talk soon!

  • Deep Chand

    Hi Mike, great article. Everything is nicely explained and layed out. But I have a question regarding ab circuit, where are these exercises listed?

  • Aikas

    Hello brother,
    You”ve never mentioned anywhere how much is your rest between each different exercise? 🙂

  • Aleksandr Prilepa

    Hey Michael! I hope I’m not getting annoying with all these CNS related questions lol..

    Some of the heavy weights, lower reps programs (eg. upper/lower body) advocate against lifting on back to back days due to the cellular fatigue aspect. Instead they urge the trainee to take 48h off from each workout for greater strength gains.

    From your training experience, can you say that with a proper deload/rest week every 4-6 weeks the CNS is strong enough that with a 5 day bodypart split you can make equal/better strength gains then on a 3 day split with 48h off every workout. Thanks! 🙂

    • Haha it’s all good.

      Yeah some recommend that and some don’t. If you’re training 3 days per week, you might as well go train/rest/train/rest/train.

      Yeah the 5-day split given here works. At this point I’ve spoken/worked with multiple thousands of people that do great.

      • Mr. Anonymous

        I think the 3 day workout vs a split depends largely on what your trying to achieve.

        What if your not necessarily concerned with building muscle but only interested in leaning out/ lowering your bodyfat percentage?

  • Tyler

    Hi Mike,
    I used to do High volume full body workouts 3X per week and would feel very tired occasionally(CNS?).
    Your sample three day workouts seem a little”Tame”. Am I getting better results despite a lower volume? I really want to implement it as your sample workouts saves me loads of time.


    • Yeah that’s one of the downsides to full-body training.

      It’s hard to hit the volume we want for hypertrophy without beating the shit out of ourselves.

      Remember that the more heavy lifting you do the lower the volume has to be…

  • WWF1987

    How does this 5x per week workout routine look?

    S: Chest + Abs
    M: Back + Calves + HIIT
    T: Arms + Abs
    W: Shoulders + Calves + HIIT
    T: Legs + Abs
    F: HIIT
    S: Off

    “60 to 75 reps per workout, with a combination of very high-intensity, high-intensity, and moderate-intensity work.”

    3×4-6 for 1st exercise

    3×8-10 for exercises that follow

    Increase weight once top of rep range is met with each set.

    HIIT done 3x per week for 25 minutes (3 min. up, 30 seconds all out/60 seconds slowdown for 10 intervals, 3 min. cool down)


    Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3×4-6
    Flat DB Bench Press: 3×4-6
    Incline DB Bench Press: 2×8-10
    Weighted Dips: 2×8-10
    Superset: Cable Crunches/Plank: 2×6-8/1 minute.


    Rack Row: 3×4-6
    Weighted Pull-ups: 3×4-6
    Seated Cable Row: 2×8-10
    Lat Pulldown: 2×8-10
    Standing Calf Raise: 3×8-10


    Close-grip Bench Press: 3×4-6
    EZ Bar Curl: 3×4-6
    V-Bar Triceps Pushdown: 2×8-10
    DB Hammer Curl: 2×8-10
    Superset: Cable Crunches/Plank: 2×12-15/1 minute.


    Seated DB Shoulder Press: 3×4-6
    DB Side Lateral Raise: 3×8-10
    Face Pulls: 3×8-10
    Incline DB Press: 2×8-10
    Seated Calf Raise: 3×8-10


    Seated Leg Press: 3×4-6
    RDL: 3×4-6
    DB Lunges: 2×8-10
    Seated Leg Curl: 2×8-10
    Close-grip Lat Pulldown: 2×8-10
    Superset: Cable Crunches/Plank: 2×15-20/1 minute.

    • Looks reasonable but personally I would include deadlifting and squatting unless you can’t do them for physical reasons…

  • Vadim Barison

    Hi Mike,
    I am following your 3-day routine – Chest+Triceps/Back+Biceps/Legs+Shoulders, but my physician does not allow me to do deadlift, barbell row and squats. Could you suggest the best alternatives for these exercises and how the routine might look like?

    • Chase Lawson

      Why is your physician not allowing you to do these exercises? Lower back, knees?

      • Vadim Barison

        Lower back. I had a rehabilitation, but it is still not recomended to do these exercises.

        • That really depends on your situation. Can you do dumbbell rows? T-bar rows? Weighted pullups? And for legs, can you do split squats? Pistol squats? Hamstring curls? Leg press?

          • Vadim Barison

            I cannot do anything that involves weighted back bend. The back must be fixed, i.e. dumbbell row on the bench, leg press. Pullups, split squats, hamstring curls, hyperextension without weight all are allowed.

          • I see well then we need to just focus on what you CAN do and work on progressing on them…

  • Deep Chand

    Hi Michael

    On the Day 5 plan you have abs for day 2&3 and calf for day 4&5 without even a days rest. How is this possible.

    • They’re staggered, not back to back.

      • Deep Chand

        Sorry Michel I don’t quiet follow. Your 5 day plan has those
        exercises listed one after the other. Could you please explain more clearly what you mean by “staggered” here.


        • Can you show me what you’re looking at?

          • Deep Chand

            Yes Please, Thank you

            Day 1

            Chest & Calves

            Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

            Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

            Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets

            Optional: Dip (Chest Variation) – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

            Calf Workout A

            Day 2

            Back & Abs

            Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

            Barbell Row – 3 working sets

            Wide-Grip Pull-Up or Chin-Up – 3 working sets (weighted if possible)

            Optional: Close-Grip Lat Pulldown – 3 working sets

            Optional: Barbell Shrugs – 2 working sets

            3 to 6 ab circuits

            Day 3

            Arms & Abs

            Barbell Curl – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

            Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets (no need to warm up after the chest pressing)

            Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 3 working sets

            Seated Triceps Press – 3 working sets 3 to 6 ab circuits

            Day 4

            Shoulders & Calves

            Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

            Side Lateral Raise – 3 working sets

            Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 3 working sets

            Calf Workout B

            Day 5


            Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 4 working sets

            Leg Press – 4 working sets

            Romanian Deadlift – 4 working sets

            Calf Workout C

          • Ah okay I’m tweaking some things in a small update I’ll be releasing soon and this is going to to change to day 1 abs, 2 calves, 3 abs, 4 calves, 3 abs. 3 circuits only per ab workout.

          • Deep Chand

            Thanks for the help, ill look back later for the update.
            By the way as of right now i am following 5 day workout.
            In which i do my calf’s on the leg days and abs on the back day. And I do HIIT on the others of 6-7 sprints, as i am primarily trying to cut down right now.

            Is this fine??

          • NP. Yep, that all sounds good.

          • Deep Chand

            Thanks a ton. Really appreciate all your help.

          • My pleasure!

  • Saad

    Hey Michael! Currently following the five day split but i was wondering wouldnt i be overtaining my triceps by doing shoulders the very next day after arm day?

  • Eggnogmind

    I am really new to the whole gym experience and found that i dont yet have sufficent strength for bench pressing even without any added weight. So by your recommended exercises what should i do instead to build up to benching?

  • Loren Rout-Brown

    I’m looking at doing the 5 day routine starting with chest on sunday, however my two days rest will need to be on tues & wed due to work. Do you think two days rest between shoulders on friday and chest again on sunday will be enough? mostly because of military press on fri then incline bench on sun.

    I’m thinking about just starting it on thursday instead of sunday

    • Loren Rout-Brown

      Ended up just switching shoulders and arms around. Anyway cheers for articles man!

  • Mark Zwahl

    Michael – just starting in routines from book. Is there a disadvantage to doing one set of each exercise and rotating through exercises 3 times?

    • Great!

      Yeah because progressing on your first exercises–the big compounds–is one of the keys to the program. If you rotate like that you’ll make slower progress on the first.

      • Mark Zwahl

        Okay. So the order of the exercises – say 3 consecutive press exercises on Day 1 is just as important as the choice of exercises? I hadn’t put that together somehow. And in that case, for example, it’s okay that I’m tiring out the chest muscles and having to do lower weight for the flat press than I might have if I’d started with that exercise? Am I getting that right?

        • I wouldn’t say it’s JUST as important but it’s important nonetheless.

          Yup if you have to drop weight as you continue that’s fine. In time you won’t have to.

  • Dave Snow

    Hi Michael, I’ve enjoyed reading your material recently and have a question. I’m 56 y.o. male. Went to a local nutrition shop recently and was shocked to find out my B.F.% was 30% so started a workout program. I Googled “Best workout for old farts” and one of the top responses led me to Vince Gironda. I’ve been doing one of his 6×6 workouts, 4-5 days a week (back & bi’s, Chest & tri’s, shoulders, legs) for a couple of months along with some HIIT. Results; body fat down 6 lbs, muscle up almost the same. OK but not great to my mind. (also tracking diet on MFP) Two questions, what are your thoughts on Gironda in general and specifically about his belief in 15-30 seconds rest between sets? Thanks, Dave.

    • Thanks!

      First, check this out:


      Just good information that you should have.

      Great job on the results. That rocks.

      I’m not familiar with Gironda but that’s VERY little rest. Almost like a bunch of Rest-Pause sets, which is strange…

    • Dave Snow

      Hey Michael, thanks for the reply. Yeah Gironda along with Weider, are said to be the first of the “famous” trainers starting in the 50’s & 60’s but Gironda was not much for self promotion. Gironda is often called the first “Trainer of the Stars” as his gym was near Hollywood.Way ahead of his time on a lot of things and apparently kind of a crusty personality. (told Arnold he looked like a “fat f**k” when he came into his gym.) This gives a good overview of him:

  • GeniusUnleashed

    Hey Michael. Halfway through my second eight weeks of year one challenge. Getting a little too big, and as an actor that’s no bueno. I tend to get big when I lift heavy in general and putting on muscle is never an issue for me. I’ve gone from 25% BF to 16% in those 15 weeks and want to get it down to 10-12% to have options for roles.

    I was thinking of switching to 3 days a week, from 5, but nervous I’ll lose the great fat loss gains I’ve made, or that they won’t continue at the same clip. But I’m even more nervous that if I don’t stop doing 5 a week, I’ll get way too big. Suggestions?

    • Haha a problem many guys would like to have.

      Great job on the fat loss and keep in mind that as you approach 10% and get leaner, you lose quite a bit of visual size. You may find that your size is just right at 10% with your current routine.

      That said, 3 x per week is totally fine. Personally I would bump my cardio up to 4 x per week if I were only lifting 3 x per week. 20 to 25 minutes of HIIT per session and such.

      • GeniusUnleashed

        Thanks man!

        I sent an email through your site about a question I had about your multis but haven’t heard back, it’s been about three days. You have any idea the time frame I should expect till I hear back?

        • Welcome!

          I answer all emails, but I do run a few days out due to sheer volume. If I haven’t answered you yet, I will answer you soon!

  • Elham Hooshmand

    Hi Michael, I have started doing HIT 3 times a week for 20 minutes, 2:1 – I dont do much weights as I get really demotivated when nothing seems to be working on my legs, my body responds pretty well to weights training except my legs, do i concentrate more on my legs i.e. more days or carry on doing 1 day a week on legs but different things or more time? PLEASE HELP

  • Chrissie

    Hi – I have just read your book – Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women – its fantastic. I only want to build muscle on my upper body – particularly my arms and shoulders. All your weekly workout routines are for the whole body. How can I adapt them to just suit arms and shoulders?

    • Thanks Chrissie!

      Hmm I would probably change the routine quite a bit then. I would have you do 3 upper body workouts per week.

      Out of curiosity why do you want to do no lower body training?

  • samuel

    Hi, Mike so I been on BLS program about 3 months now. very happy with the results. I was wondering if I need to change the 5 days work out or should i joust keep doing it with the same exercises as the book, and if I need to change it how can a make my work out program to loose fat and get bigger. I am on a caloric deficit since i,m cutting.

    • If you download the bonus report, it has a year of workouts in it that you can follow.

      The key exercises will always be the same, but it switches up the routine a bit.

  • Mars

    Hi Mike, I just bought TLS and am super excited to get started. You are a wealth of knowledge! My question is this – two of my hobbies are gymnastics and dance. I currently do gymnastics on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings, and a dance class on Tuesday evenings. So I’m already doing a lot of “activity”, but while gym and dance obviously involve some strength elements and in class we do things like push ups, handstands, squat jumps, lunges etc, it’s all body weight stuff and there is no weightlifting.

    So, while I’m happy to add in some specific weightlifting sessions as you’ve outlined above, I was wondering if you had any advice on how many additinoal workout sessions I should do each week on top of my gym/dance? I’m just conscious of doing too much and getting burnt out? (not to mention if I considered also adding in some HIIT training too!) Any advice you have would be super appreciated.

    (and just fyi – I’m a 32y/o female, 25% bf, TDEE 1727).

    Thanks in advance. You rock.

    • Thanks for picking up my book!

      Hmm. That’s a lot of volume. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a 3-day TLS split. Check this out:


      I wouldn’t recommend adding HIIT in addition to that…

      What do you think?

      • Mars

        That sounds great, I’ll try a 3 day split and see how I go. And I will definitely give HIIT a miss! Thanks for responding, it is much appreciated!

  • Mike

    Hi Mike, I’ve been working up a routine based off of all the knowledge you’ve freely shared on your site, been reading and incorporating for two months now. Just bought BLS a couple days back and read it all in two sittings, I love how you wrote it and even more so how much I already knew because you’ve made so much available here on the site, mad props.

    My question is, can I make a twice a week workout routine work for me? I know from all I’ve read that you never endorse less than three times a week for frequency, but I have modest goals. I have worked out off and on for eleven years and yet I’ve already seen the most rapid and significant gains in the past couple of months applying what I’ve read, my bench is up 30lbs, my deadlift seems to be rocketing up and my leg strength has made steady gains as well. I’m 6 foot 2 inches, 185 lbs roughly 19% BF (not good, I know) I work full time and do volunteer work with the deaf as well, I love working out and I want to be healthy and feel good about my body, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m content if I can get below 15% for BF and just make small and steady gains with my strength.

    Currently I work out Mondays and Thursdays as follows:
    Legs (including calves)

    I have some protein powder right after the workout and I hit the recumbent bike for at least 15 minutes of HIIT. Again, not how you recommend doing it but I try to offset the muscle deterioration with the protein.

    I’m hoping that I’ve grasped the principles of what you’ve taught and come up with a routine that doesn’t make you cringe…the sessions aren’t short, 1.5+ hours, but I do enjoy them a lot and I am happy with the increase in my numbers….if I can switch to a three times a week schedule I will, but with my current life that just doesn’t seem possible. Do you have any suggestions or tweaks aside from the obvious? Thanks so much Mike, you’re a real inspiration and I love your no BS style of writing

  • Aikas

    Hi Mike! <3
    I've spend a couple of hours to make a new split as I've ordered a workout equipment for my home. I've taken my schedule into account and my preferences. Could you tell me If I've succeded to make it like really good?

    M – Rest day
    T – Upper Pecs (3 sets, 8-10 rep range) & Shoulders (11 sets – I like to add 2 extra sets for my military press as my shoulders are lagging behind :/)
    W – Biceps (6 sets) + Triceps (6 sets), every set should be alternated with 1 min rest between a set of the exercises; + Abs (9 sets, 3 circuits)
    T – Legs (9 sets) + Forearms (6 sets) (I have neglected training my legs :/.. And about the forearms – I really want more veins on them…)
    F – Rest day
    S – Chest (9 sets) + Abs (9 sets, 3 circuits)
    S – Back (9 sets) – after chest day, doing deadlifts really hits me hard so it's just back

    • Great! Cool on the routine you put together. Looks good.

      FYI, working your forearms won’t get you more veins. My best recommendation for veins is to get leaner.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Aikas

        And do you think I should do warm-up sets for my shoulders after doing 3 sets for the Upper Pecs ?

        • Yeah I’d do a few warm-up sets. Just to make sure they’re ready for the heavy lifting.

          • Aikas

            But that’d mean 8x Warm-up sets in a Workout.. Should I waste tien or would it be better to do the Incline Bench after the 9 sets of Shoulders work, when I’ve warmed-up or 2nd Option – move it as a 1st exercise in my Biceps & Triceps Workout and skip the Triceps warm-up sets in it?

          • No no just for your first exercise.

            For instance, few warm up sets, incline bench, incline DB, flat bench, for example.

  • David Dietsch

    So I’m curious to know which is better. 5 workouts per week or 3. Greg O’G recommends 3 times per week… Is there research that favors one more than the other? Btw I can’t do deadlifts or squats because of my back. I’ve had two surgeries and I’m 100%, but those are a no go.

    I follow your program but can you give me some pointers? Weak points are triceps and shoulders but I care more about tricep size in this moment of time. I’ve lifted for 2 years. Heavy for 6 months.

    M-bench, 6 heavy sets of incline is taxing… Maybe just do 3? or lower the last 3 sets with higher reps? I’ve lifted for 2 years. Heavy for 6 months. Tues- Pull ups, one arm dumbbell row, t-bar or seated row. Wed-Heavy barbell curl, hammer curl, close grip, scull crushers. Thur- Shoulder press, side and rear laterals

    Friday- boring high rep leg stuff because my legs are massive by genetics and sports growing up.

    • 5 x is better for progressing and 3 x is better for…not having to work out as much I guess, haha.

      3 x works fine for maintaining but you are going to gain more strength and size on a 5 x program.

      Yeah you can do 8 to 10 rep on 3 of those sets. You just want the majority of your work to be heavy…

      • David Dietsch

        4-6 reps every day on chest day. I go heavy everyday. I personally like to workout 5 days a week as well, 2 years straight. I just didn’t know if 3 days a week made a difference muscle wise. Greg can be misleading sometimes. Would do you think of reverse pyramid scheme? Heavy first(4,6,8) on arms? My triceps are stubborn. I’ve lifted heavy 6 months and my triceps have barely grown.

        • RPT is good for experienced lifters. I talk about it here:


          • Aleksandr Prilepa

            Greg’s logic is that increased training frequency will lead to quicker progression in strength even despite the fact that if you’re doing an A/B split you can’t give max effort on your 2nd or 3rd lift. In the grand matter of things it probably doesn’t matter as people will reach their genetic limits one way or another. But which approach yields quicker strength gains and progressive overload? A lot of debate on this matter..

          • Yeah I know and it’s a valid argument.

            IMO this is rarefied territory that just doesn’t apply to the vast majority of gymgoers that just want be muscular, strong, and healthy.

            This is more applicable to competitive weightlifters.

  • Yowza

    Hi Mike!
    Wondering about the Barbell Row you prescribe above. I’m assuming you mean a bent-over barbell row, and if so, do you recommend raising it toward your hips (for an emphasis on the lats) or toward the sternum, for more tri and post-delt focus?

    Or is it purely up to the user to decide what she wants to work on? 🙂


    • Yup, bent-over and you should pull it more towards your hip since it’s a back exercise. It doesn’t have to be all the way down to the hip, but below the chest for sure.

      • Steve D’Agostino

        Thanks! Been wondering this myself. I try to lift heavy for this, but pulling to the chest is really hard after the first set. Always wondered why I could do so much more on the cable row when the other machine-turned-free-weights translations weren’t so extreme. I guess I’m rowing too high. Good call!

  • Damion Saunders

    Hi Mike

    Just wanted to say I have been doing the 4 day routine for the last 8 weeks and I am definitely Bigger, Leaner and Stronger. So much so that a PT at my gym turned to another PT recently saying look how lean I am now and that is all on his own. I could not resist commenting that I had said PT’s were a waste of money, since I had recently paid the other PT £300 for private sessions that did not work.

    Thanks MIke. Love BLS, so glad I bought it and wish I had read it years ago. I am 45 and I have been through all the routines you care to mention with little or no benefit. I will definately be buying Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. Well after I have got myself back in shape after my 2 week holiday in Texas in 2 weeks that is.


    • Great to hear on the results!

      Lol. Way to be honest.

      My pleasure Damion. Glad you’re enjoying the BLS routine and plan on picking up BBLS. LMK what you think of it when you read it!

      Enjoy your time in Texas. 🙂

  • Matt G

    Hey Mike,
    I know you recommend bumping the weight up after you’ve reached 6-7 reps. Probably not a big deal but do you recommend bumping up when your first set reaches 6-7 reps or your last set. Or continue at that weight and increase weight in the next workout. I tend to see a significant drop in reps if I bump up after doing my first set of 7 but this is in exercises after my main lifts. Been using your advise for a while now and saw great gains. Unfortunately during my cut I had a bad back injury (not even while lifting, during running yuck) Lost a lot of strength but i finally got down to about 10% BF and now im looking to build that muscle back.

    • Yep, if you hit 6-7 reps on set 1 of a workout, go up in weight for set 2. I know it can be tough after several sets of heavy lifting, but that’s the key to progressive overload.

      Sorry to hear about the back. 🙁

      Good job on getting down to 10% BF. Cool on the plan to build muscle. Let’s do it.

  • Matt

    Hey Mike! Love your stuff was off-topic wondering if there was any chance you and Greg O’Gallagher over at Kinobody would be doing any podcasts together again soon, loved you on his show back when he first started, were AWESOME listens. I know you guys have slightly varying ideals on training, but most of it is the same; use fitness to supplement life and lift heavy for a better physique 😀

    That said, I created a routine and am looking for your input on it, it follows his beliefs of upper body emphasis but seeing as I have done RPT and don’t really think I’m strong enough to get the benefits of it I’m sticking with 4-6 reps until I can actually lift some heavy weight. Anyways here it is!

    Incline BB Bench: 3 sets of 4-6
    Barbell Row: 3 sets of 4-6
    Weighted Dips: 3 sets of 4-6
    BB Curl: 3 sets of 4-6
    Rope Extensions : Rest Pause 12-15 reps + 4 sets of 3-5
    Lateral Raises Rest Pause: 12-15 + 4 sets of 3-5

    Squat Variation: 3 sets of 4-6
    Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 4-6
    Leg Extensions: Rest Pause 12-15 + 4 sets of 3-5
    Leg Curl: Rest Pause 12-15 +4 sets of 3-5
    Calf Raises: Rest Pause 12-15 + 4 sets of 3-5
    Hanging Leg Raises: 3×10

    Overhead Press: 3 sets of 4-6
    Weighted Pullups: 3 sets of 4-6
    Incline DB Bench: 3 sets of 4-6
    Incline DB Curl: 3 sets of 4-6
    Skullcrushers: 3 sets of 4-6
    Face Pulls: Rest Pause 12-15 + 4 sets of 3-5

    • Hey man!

      Maybe! Greg’s a cool guy so I like chatting with him.

      Interesting layout. Why the chest back and arms on day 1? Why no deadlifting?

      • Matt

        Haha I’m interpreting “interesting” to mean…not good :P. As for the DL, I would have no issues doing it, but they get a bit salty at my gym if people are careless with the weight doing DLs. I know a seemingly simple solution is “find another gym” but a quality one in my area is so much damn farther from where I currently live.

        I guess chest-back-arms ended up being day one simply because, well, with two upper days a week stuff has to be squeezed in somewhere if you want to be able to do some bodyparts 2x a week. Perhaps I’d just be better off with one of your above listed routines then loo

        • Well…just not how I would do it. 🙂

          Lame on the deads but I understand.

          Why not go 4 to 5 days per week?

          • Matt

            Wife just had a kid and working full time it’s tough. Eventual goal is to have my own power rack but that won’t be for some months, but that makes 5x a week much easier, BLS routines are fairly short and to the point. I just can’t go as often currently.

          • Ah okay. I understand!

            In the meantime, for a 2-day split, check this out:


            If you do find yourself able to do even a 3-day split, that’d be a big improvement, and you’ll be able to make some good gains:


            Hope this helps! Talk soon!

          • Matt

            Awesome, thanks so much! Also, I have a question about Reverse Pyramid Training; as someone with low lifts (most of them around bodyweight (155 lbs) for 5-6 reps, give or take a few pounds depending on the lift whether squat or incline bench) do I have ANY business doing RPT, or is 3×4-6 the way to go until they are much much better?

          • Welcome!

            Nah, I don’t recommend RPT until you’ve hit the following benchmarks:

            Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
            Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
            Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
            Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

            For now, let’s stick to the heavy 4-6 rep range.

          • Matt

            Awesome! Thank you so much man!

          • My pleasure!

  • Centauris

    Hi Mike. Just wondering…is there a particular reason why legs are always the last workout of the week? I generally prefer doing it at the beginning of the week and want to know if it may be more beneficial to switch it up!

    • Just to give them some time to recover from the deadlifting. You can change that yes but I do recommend a couple of days in between deadlifting and squatting.

  • Meet Taneja

    Hi Mike. By the end of this week i will be completing the 1st phase of BLS program, this has worked for me pretty well! I am not able to find the link for the workout routine of phase 2, it would be really nice, if you could help.
    Waiting for your app ‘Stacked’ to roll out! I am on the beta testing list.

    Thanks and regards,

    • Nice! Glad it’s going well.

      Shoot me an email at mike @ muscleforlife, and I’ll help you out. 🙂

      STACKED is coming soon! I just sent out an email with an update!

  • Matt C Brown

    Hey Mike
    So I noticed in the article that you said you should only do cardio once a week and eliminate it if possible. I’m wanting to build a routine to gain size and strength but at the same time I love running. I usually run every morning and then work out with weights 5 days a week after work. Also, I’m in the Army and have to take a PT test 2x a year of push ups sit ups and a 2mi run. If I want to see significant muscle gains do I have to eliminate my running?

    • You are welcome to do more cardio than 1 hour a week, but it can effect your rate of progress.

      I understand enjoying the running and in your case having to be able to run certain distances. You can still make good gains doing more cardio.You’ll just have to adjust your intake accordingly.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • ‘You’re also going to want to limit your cardio to no more than an hour per week, and if you find gaining size particularly hard, reduce it to zero if possible.’

    Hey Mike, do you include walking under cardio? I just want to get this clear once and for all. Personally I don’t think of walking as cardio, but can it impair muscle growth?

    • Not really no. Not unless you’re “power walking” for like 1 hr+ at a time.

  • Steve D’Agostino

    Question about rest. Can I work another muscle group during that time? I’ve found that I can still recover enough to push out all 4 reps after 3 minutes whether I work another group in the meantime or not. In order to save time, I like to work in my ab or calf stuff between sets. Is that okay as long as I’m still able to recover enough to complete my next set? In other words, is that 3 minutes of complete rest or 3 minutes just to rest that muscle group?

    • Yeah that’s fine. I recommend complete rest for the main exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press and military press) but after that, you can squeeze in sets of abs or calves in between to save time.

      • Steve D’Agostino

        That’s the best answer you could have given. That’s exactly what I do. Barbell presses, squats, and deadlifts get full attention, but then I get a circuit (ab or calf depending on the day) in between each of the sets of the other exercises. That way I get more circuits in (5-6 instead of 3) without making myself late for work.

  • Hey Mike, I find it interesting that in the 5-day workout that you end with the most difficult workout(legs). I’m sure there is a good reason for it but I always prefer to begin the week with legs when I’m at the peak of my powers.

    I want to use your 5-day workout but is there any way that I can begin with legs so that I don’t have to do it on Friday when I’m at my weakest? Thanks.

    • You’re welcome to change the order to how you prefer! I just recommend putting at least a day between leg day and back day and at least a day between chest day and shoulder day.

      • Good to know thanks. I am trying it the way you set it up this week to see how it goes. Doing legs last would be a good exercise in willpower so I may just keep it that way.

        Also just wanted to tell you how good it’s been to be able to eat a lot more without gaining weight thanks to reverse dieting. I’m still far from the target but the more I eat the better. When I get to maintenance level I don’t plan on stopping to up my carb intake, like you suggested.

        This time I wanna try to do a proper bulk.

        • NP! True. LMK how it goes.

          Awesome to hear on the reverse diet going well!

          Sounds good on continuing up and bulking! I look forward to seeing your results. 🙂

  • Amanda Slominski

    Great articles! But I have a routine building question. I consider myself an advanced lifter, I work out five days a week and have done two fitness competitions this year. I always like to tweak my workouts around to better myself for my next competition. I really want to put mass on my glutes while still building everything else. I saw your recommendation for glute workouts 3 times a week and this is something that I would want to build in my routine. My questions is, what days do you recommend I do them? Should I do a glute workout after I have done an upper body workout? should I keep them on their own day? And if I have a focus on glutes, do I need a separate day for legs? I saw that a lot of the exercises are the same for glute day and leg day so I was just curious what you think would be best. Thanks!

    • Thanks!

      Good question and because the glutes are a smaller muscle group, you can kind of just work them in wherever (hip thrusts are great for this).

      Personally I would probably try to do them after my deadlifting and squatting.

      And glute-specific training 2 x per week plus deadlifts and squats is plenty.

  • Mahmut Ogrek

    Hey Mike,

    Loving your stuff and by following your advises, I managed to get down to %9 body fat with 187lbs . I am not new to weightlifting but the effects of your advices are dramatic when it comes to fat burning. Currently I am on a business trip for two weeks and staying at the hotel which has a very limited gym equipments like 50lbs dumbbells, no barbell, an adjustable bench and a cable machines. What would you recommend to me to maintaining the strength and making the most out of what I’ve got here?


  • Hi Mike, why is the 5-day workout routine different here than in BLS and which one should I use? Thanks.

    • It’s based on the BLS principles so you can’t go wrong either way.

  • Rob

    Hey Mike, picked up the BLS book a few months ago and I’ve been following it pretty religiously since then. Quick question. In regards to the rep scheme, are all reps in the 4-6 range unless noted differently in the book? I’m specifically referring to lateral raises and the bicep and tricep movements on day 5. I do understand that on day 6 (legs and shoulders) the lateral raises are of a slightly higher rep scheme. Just making sure that rep scheme on day 5 should be in the 4-6 range for those movements I mentioned above. Thanks for the help.

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Glad you’ve been rolling on it.

      Yep, 4-6 reps on everything unless otherwise stated. That’s correct on the lower rep range for the shoulders and arms and the higher rep range on the additional shoulder work on legs and shoulder day.

      Hope that clears it up for you! What did you think of the book?

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,

    When doing Dumbell Incline & Flat presses, should I maintain an arch in my lower back and chest raised just like when doing Presses with a Barbell? Also, is it best to use the form that you use here – https://instagram.com/p/gA754PRUbc/ – I find it harder to maintain balance with it but if it is more effective I’ll continue using it 🙂

    • Yep, you should.

      As to the form, I look doing it like that so I can get lower and get the full ROM. 🙂

      LMK how it goes!

  • Aleksandr Prilepa

    Hey Michael!

    I’m a natural lifter, got about 1.5 years of heavy compound lifting under my belt so an intermediate. I do realize the following question is a topic for endless debates but based on your personal experience with clients:

    Will intermediates make more strength gains (as in quicker progression) on a 5 day body part split VS say A/B or push-pull-legs? As there are plenty of sources out there claiming that intermediates make more strength gains when training a muscle group twice per week as opposed to once per week.

    I realize that in the grand matter of things and in the long-run splits don’t matter so much as after 4,5 years the guy who did bodypart splits will have the same progression as the guy who did A/B workouts due to people hitting their genetic limits.


    • Hey man!

      If your goal is STRENGTH, you’ll want to follow a strength program, which means performing major movements several times per week.

      This will help you:


      If your goal is building a physique, though, you’ll do a lot of strength-esque training but with a bodybuilding slant.

      In the case of my programs, that means a body part split with a little bit of additional upper body work (because the upper body develops MUCH slower than the lower).

      And yeah in the long run so long as the fundamentals are in place, a good body part split will produce more or less the same results as a good A/B split.

      What you PREFER doing matters because the more you like a program, the more likely you are to stick to it.

  • ‘Day 3

    Arms & Abs

    Barbell Curl – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

    Close-Grip Bench Press – 3 working sets (no need to warm up after the chest pressing)’

    What chest pressing?

    • It’s for tris.

      • No I meant you said no need to warm up after chest pressing, but there was no chest pressing. Barbell curl and chest pressing are two different things I would have thought.

        • Mikcle

          I thought exactly the same thing man. Strange how you got no answer…

          • He probably got sick of me asking questions all the time but yeah that does look like a mistake.

          • Haha I just run behind because of the sheer volume of questions I get.

        • Ohhh doh. A typo. Thanks for pointing it out. I will get fixed!

  • Another thing. The day 3 workout in your book has a second incline barbell bench press of the week but with 8-10 reps. I don’t remember you saying in the book that you should reduce the weight on the bar for day 3. If you did then I apologise. If not then how much should you reduce the weight for day 3 incline?

  • Nick

    Mike what is your opinion on the stronglifts routine? I have been looking into this to help me get stronger

  • Justin Parker

    Hi Mike, just came across your site and I’m going to revamp my workout routine starting today, jumping into the 5-day workout routine. The one question I have for now is what do you think about changing the order of days so that it goes Chest – Back – Shoulders – Legs – Arms? It seems to me that since most (or maybe all) of shoulder exercises also use either triceps or biceps, the shoulder day shouldn’t sit next to the arm day. Maybe it doesn’t make a big difference either way, just wondering what your thoughts are. Thanks!

    • Hey Justin! Sounds good!

      Totally fine on switching up the order if that’s what you prefer. 🙂

      Welcome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Sam K

    Hi Mike, I’m loving the 5 day split, focusing on each body part separately. Feels like I’m in and out without a fuss and less machines. I really want to shed some body fat and was thinking of doing two days hiit on the weekend, but that means no break. I do legs on Tuesday so I think the weekend fits in well, and going daily to the gym keeps its a habit. I could probably do with losing fat more so than gaining muscle but I don’t want to train more than one body part with each session.

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, I just bought BLS (which includes the bonus One Year Challenge book) and BBLS. I have been lifting for over 2 years and a half. Do you suggest I start with the one year challenge and afterwards towards the BBLS workout routines or should I start the BBLS workout routines starting now? My goal is to gain mass and strength.

    • Thanks for picking up my books!

      I recommend you follow the BLS workout from the 1YC until you hit these benchmarks:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

      Then you can move on to the BBLS routine.

      What do you think?

      • Filippo Bonadonna

        Sounds great, thanks for the reply 🙂

  • Alex M

    Hey Mike, I noticed that your 5-day workout routine here is 1. chest/calves, 2. back/abs, 3. arms/abs, 4. shoulders/calves, 5. legs which makes sense given that you said you don’t recommend working the same muscle group more than once per week.

    However, in BLS, your workout routine is set up as 1. chest/calves, 2. back/abs, 3. shoulder/calves, 4. upper body/abs, 5. legs and shoulders.

    In this case, the chest is hit twice (workouts 1 and 4) and the shoulders are hit twice (3 and 5). Which routine do you recommend that we use?

    • Good question Alex!

      Both routines work well but the routine in BLS 2.0 is the most up-to-date one.

      After working with hundreds of guys, I found that the majority had shoulders and upper chest as weak points. Because of that, I decided to include a few extra sets for them for an extra boost. The extra sets are in the higher rep range to prevent over-training.

      Hope that clears it up for you! LMK.

      • Alex M

        Gotcha, that does clear things up. I was using the routine from the book so I just wanted to make sure it was the best one to use. Thanks 🙂

  • Filippo Bonadonna

    Hi Mike, I have one last question. In your book BLS, it says that when doing 5 days a week by having the weekend off, if I change this to:
    Mondays: Chest and Calves
    Wedsnesdays: Back and Abs
    Thursdays: Shoulders and Calves
    Fridays: Upper Body and Abs
    Saturdays: Legs and Calves
    Sundays: Rest

    Does this change anything when it comes to overtaining a certain body part? Normally I would of done what you reccommend which is working out from monday to friday leaving the weekend off, but because it is impossible for me to work out on tuesdays (I work long hours on that day), I simply shift the other workouts by a day. I just hope it doesn’t cause for me to overtrain.

    • NP!

      Nope, that’s totally fine! As long as you get the two rest days, I don’t care where you put them in the week. 🙂

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Joe

    I’m worried that I’m gaining more fat than muscle because I’m at a point where I’m really not increasing weights on my major stuff like benching. im doing 6 reps for basically everything, making sure it’s difficult. For instance, I’m putting 35 on each side of the bar for presses and doing 6 reps, for a while now I haven’t been able to add weight to that and it hasn’t gotten very much easier. Should I stick to that weight until it becomes easier? What do you think about that picture?

  • aitor

    Thanks for the great work michael!

    what do you think of doing the 5 days routine and then swim at the weekends? 30 minutes swim, or kind of HIIT swimming training? too much maybe?


  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Hi, I’m curious why you suggest here to do two ab days in a row then three off, but in your abs article you recommend three abs a week with always at least a day of rest?

    Second if you can help solve a schedule dilemma it would be great! I rock climb, which is basically a ton of reps in all back and shoulders and arms, no chest. I want to climb at least two days a week, and I can’t do anything on Wednesdays. How should I schedule my climbing days so I don’t reduce my bulk muscle gains?

    • It can work either way, really. The abs recover very quickly.

      That really depends on your body. Are you sore the day after your climbing?

      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        Sometimes… That raises something else I don’t understand. If I’m not sore after lifting, food I do something wrong? If I’m sore bit feel like normal two days later, should I hit that group again instead of waiting a full week? I’ve followed your chest routine and advice for six months, but the work hardly shows : /

      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        But I can’t tell if it’s better to do my arms lifting on Thurs., or on Tues., if I climb on the weekends.

        • I’d probably go for Tues and save Thurs for a bigger workout.

  • Abdullah Saad

    Hey Michael! I’ve been following all your routines for a bit and I’m loving the results. In just three months my bench max went up from 110 to 145. Today i was training chest and a trainer in the gym interrupts my workout and introduces me to a new workout that involved a huge superset of four exercises-standing curl, preacher curl, flat bench press, and ab crunches in that order with the first 3 consisting of 10 reps and the abs crunches consisting of 25. I didn’t wanna seem rude so i agreed to it even thought it was chest day. I hated it because it was high rep training (you recommend low rep training) and he made me do it NONSTOP with no rest for a straight 25-30 minutes until I threw up. It was pretty embarassing and i dont know how to say no to him if he asks me to workout with him again. He told me that low reo training is bad because he once tore his rotator cuff doing it, but i love the results. How should i respond to him?

    • Thanks man! That’s great!

      Ignore all that nonsense. Just keep hitting the heavy weights and your results will speak for themselves.

      He doesn’t have the right to waste your time.

  • NoApoloG

    On the days where the chest and shoulders are hit twice in 1 week at a higher rep range. How much of my 1RM should I be lifting during these sets?

    • I would say 4 to 6 rep range day 1 and 8 to 10 day 2, so about 85% and 75% respectively.

      • NoApoloG

        Thanks so much today is upper body day so let’s see how it goes!

  • Ray

    Find your information interesting but at 72 somewhat limiting. Want to stay active and fit but some of the exercises are beyond my ability. Am reasonably healthy but also want to shred some unwanted pounds

  • Colin

    Hi, I’ve been following you now for a few months and learned a lot. But because I’m still 16 years old, I’m not sure if I can adapt everything you say. So I have a few questions:
    Is cutting dangerous for me?
    Is my TDEE higher than your calculator says?
    Is deadlifting dangerous?
    Is creatine dangerous?

    Thamk you

    • Thanks for all the support Colin!

      I wouldn’t recommend focusing on cutting for now. Instead, focus on eating lots of nutritious foods and getting several servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

      I wouldn’t even worry about your TDEE ATM.

      No need to take supps for now either.

      You can start hitting the compound lifts, but let’s work in the 8-10 rep range and make sure you get the form down first.

      What do you think? My pleasure!

  • Aikas

    Mike, Merry Christmas!
    Wish you all the best, you do deserve all the happiness in the world.

    I’m a little grumpy over the fact that every time I spend 30 minutes to adjust my Warm-up sets so that the Next time they’d be again exactly 50/50/70/90% of the Weight for my normal sets and I was wondering if you also adjust your numbers every time? Furthermore, do you always use the percentages above and if that’s not the case, then when do you cheat on this rule?

    • Thanks! 🙂

      You don’t have to be too anal about it. Adjust once per month IMO.

  • Kate

    Hey Mike. Poured over your women’s book and got my hub to purchase a great second hand rack, olympic bar, plates, clips, and bench for us for xmas…so I’m all set to go!
    My question is this…I’m thinking about doing the 4 day program. During the winter, my family skis all day Sat and Sunday. If I follow your recommended 4 day and my schedule-I end up doing legs on Friday…which may make my ski legs jello 🙂 Can I swap day 2 and 4? Can I do my legs on Tuesday and my back, bicep workout Friday? That gives me 1 day recovery from skiing before legs and several days after.
    Thanks! Love your book, emails, and website-lots of great info with a very personal touch! Well done!

    • Nice!

      The 4-day split will work great! Totally fine to switch up the order.

      Welcome! Glad you’re enjoying everything. Thanks for the kind words and support. 🙂

  • CMB

    Hey Mike!

    I’m devised this routine with the article as a guideline and a main focus on upper body because I’m quite happy with my legs.

    Could you offer any advice or improvements? I only have light-ish dumbbells, not heavy enough for any compounds.

    (Not Including Warmup Sets)

    Flat Barbell Bench Press 4×4-7
    Incline Barbell Bench Press 3×4-7
    Lying EZ Curl Bar Triceps Extension 3×6-9

    Standing Barbell Overhead Press 4×4-7
    Seated Barbell Overhead Press 2×6-9
    One-armed Dumbbell Lateral Raises 3×6-9
    EZ Curl Bar Bicep Curls 3×7-10

    Barbell Deadlift 2×6-8
    Barbell Rows 3×6-8
    Barbell Squats 3×6-8

    Rotating through them and working out 3 – 5 times a week

    What do you think? Any advice? Anything I should change? I have about 8 months experience heavy lifting and I’m beginning to plateau, so I hope to make more strength and aesthetic progress with my new routine

  • Ole

    Hello Mike, i recently started following you and your training methods (which i enjoy). im doing a 3-split (day 1: chest/back, 2: rest, 3: legs/abs, 4: shoulders/arms, 5: rest – repeat. I should mention that i have been training fairly consistent for a couple of years now, with maybe a few month-long breaks, also not tracking my “progress”. My question is: When do you change split? and is there a split that is more efficient regarding gains for “beginners” and more advanced lifters? And what about going up in volume, opposite from now, where i train very intense, 4-6 reps?

    Kind Regards

  • H

    I’m just starting getting started with the weights, my schedule only really allows me to train first thing in the morning, probably 30 minutes after getting up, what would a good pre workout diet be for such a short length of time between getting up and training? I’ve read that eating up to 1 1/2 to 2 hours before a work out is best so the body has time to absorb the carbs. Don’t want to end up burning up the muscle I already have. Any help is welcome.

    • Cool you’ve started weightlifting! I’m excited to see your results.

      For what to eat pre-workout, check this out:


      You don’t need that much time between eating and training. 30 minutes is fine.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • H

        Hi Mike
        Big Help 🙂 Very informative article, answered all my questions. Probably go with the whey protein shake and banana. There’s so much info on the net regarding diet and training, since coming across your site it’s help simplify a lot of things for me and enabled me to formulate an appropriate training and diet plan that hopefully provides me with the results I’m looking for.
        Great site, thanks

        • My pleasure! Happy to hear it. 🙂

          Sounds good.

          Happy to clear everything up for you.

          I’m excited to see your results!

          Welcome and thanks for the kind words and support.

          Talk soon.

  • Melissa

    I rest for about 3 minutes in between sets, what are good ideas/things to do in this time other than looking at your phone or standing around feeling like a dope lol

    • Haha you can do whatever you like! I just don’t recommend doing other exercises or static stretching during your rest periods.

      You can read, chat, etc.

      • Arafat Sultan

        Is walking in the gym fine for this 3 minutes?

    • Sandy

      three things i do on my phone –

      1. review a video on proper form for the exercise – i like scott herman’s – short and sweet with good advice.

      2. listen to an audio book from audible.com – that’s how i consumed bigger, leaner stronger.

      3. enter my results in an app.

  • Shawn Katz

    With all the info on the internet this site seems by far to be worth the time, and effort. Thank You for that. In short-2 months ago I found myself 75 pounds overweight and with no muscle, Im 46 and 5’9. Not the best look i’ve ever sported. I then joined a gym, did a full body workout, all machines 4 days a week, for 10 workouts, with 20 min on the treadmill before and after each workout. Then with the research on the internet I started a 3 day routine-upper body/lower body/(with 20 min on the treadmill before and after each workout.)1 hour on treadmil.Also for 10 workouts. I have completedly changed my food to the point of I dont know what to eat-so your site has become SUPER handy. Thanks again. Only on lift days do i drink muscle milk after workouts. All other meals are just food. Lost 20 Lbs. and strength wise I have been able to add 5Lbs to lifts on most excersizes each day. Monday I start my next routine, the issues is time-so from your site I have put this together. Also needs to shorten legs to 3 excersizes…Any thoughts? THANK YOU
    Day 1
    Incline Barbell Bench Press 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Flat Barbell Bench Press 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Close-Grip Bench Press (Tri) 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Dips (tri) 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Triceps Pushdown 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Day 2
    Pull Downs 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Seated Row 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Shrugs 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Barbell Curl 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Dumbbell Hammer Curl 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    EZ Bar Curl 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Day 3
    Military Press 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Side Lateral Raise 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Front Lateral Raise 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    Rear Delt Row or Face Pull 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps
    LEG PRESS 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps
    LEG EXTENSION 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps
    SEATED LEG CURL 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps
    STANDING CALF RAISE 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps
    LYING LEG CURL 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps

    • Thanks! My pleasure!

      Thanks for all the info. Cool on all the training you did and great job on the weight you lost and the strength you’ve been gaining.

      Yep, that’s a lot of volume on day 3. I’d also recommend changing some of the exercises. How about you try one of the examples of a 3-day split in this article?

      • Shawn Katz

        I ended up changing legs to the recommendations you made, It appears practice will eventually make perfect. Thanks for the thoughts,

  • Grace Dolwing

    Hey Mike! Love reading everything you say. I was just wondering about sets and reps. So, in the example it says 3 working sets, I’m guessing 8-10 reps. But in your book TLS, it says 9-12 sets? How many sets would be best? And still 8-10 reps? Thanks Mike!!!

    • Grace Dolwing

      Also do you recommend straight sets of circuit?

    • Happy to hear it Grace. 🙂

      It’s 3 working sets per exercise. I recommend 8-10 reps per set, 3 sets per exercise and 3-4 exercises per workout which comes out to 9-12 sets per workout.

      Hope that makes sense! My pleasure.

  • Rolo

    The one thing I don’t get about the 5-day plan is that you do abs on two consecutive days (Tuesday and Wednesday) rather than spreading the an days across the week (Tuesday and Friday seem more intuitive). I’ve also customised and did Monday, Wednesday and Friday but now I thought I better ask why you’re suggesting Tuesday and Wednesday?

    • Abs recover VERY quickly and this isn’t an issue for most people. That said, I do generally like to put one day in between. I’m going to update this.

  • Becky Ramsay

    Do you need to change your workout every 6 weeks or something? Or can you stick to the same one and achieve the same results?

    • I do like to change things every 8 weeks or so. I keep the heavy compounds in and change up the others.

  • Nick Michaels

    Hey Mike, great article! What do you think about Chest/back on Monday, HIIT on Tuesday, Arms on Wednesday, HIIT on Thursday, and Legs and abs on Friday as a split as opposed to the Splits you prescribed?

  • Kristin Rosinski

    I’m reading your book, thinner leaner stronger and I’m at a loss. I don’t know which food plan to follow. I’m 147 lbs, but 36.6% body fat according to my dexa scan. I lost 45 pounds last year, I lift heavy. I don’t do excess cardio, pretty much just weights, at least 45 mins 4 times a week, plus I walk at least 5 miles every single day. But I plans to follow your guidelines. Do I follow the cutting guidelines or the over 30% bf or the obese? Because I’m not obese at 5’6″ 147 lbs. but I want to do this right! The last two days I’ve struggled to get 175g of protein in but I’m doing it!

    • I hear you Kristin!

      First, let’s get an accurate measurement of your BF%:


      Great job on the weight you lost!

      Once you have an accurate number for your BF%, you can calculate your intake and macros here:


      LMK how it goes and keep up the good work!

      • Kristin Rosinski

        Thank you for the reply!! I literally just had the DEXA scan done this past weekend, and it said I’m 36.6% body fat. Since then, in the last 4 days I have dramatically upped my protein (175-180g) and calories in general (1700), and I’ve suddenly lost 1.5lbs. What I’m confused about is in your book it says if you’re over 35% body fat you should be in-taking way less calories. The math on the second link agrees, gives me a tdee of 1743, so cutting that by 20% puts me under 1400 calories a day. But with 5+ hours of exercise a week that seems really low. I’m afraid of losing more muscle!!

        • Welcome! Did you read the article on measuring BF%? The dexa can be inaccurate.

          For now, let’s stick to the cals and macros you calculated from the second link and see how it goes. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week so just adjust intake accordingly.

          To help make sure you’re not losing muscle during the cut, check this out:


          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Amit

    I always read about progressive overload, however how frequently can one add weights to the bar? I am unable to increase weights every week. For e.g. from last 2 weeks my bench press is stuck at 70 kgs.
    My shoulder press was 9 reps with 30 kgs but drastically went down to 6 reps when I increased to 35 kgs. Is this normal?
    I am bulking and am gaining about 0.25 kgs of weight per week.

    • You’re not expected to add weight each week, but you should be pushing to add weight and/or reps each week. Once you hit the top of the rep range, you’d add weight.

      Fluctuations in strength are normal, but the overall trend while bulking should definitely be going up.

      Cool on the rate you’re gaining at. Let’s make sure you’re doing everything else right:


      LMK what you think.

  • Johnny McCarron

    What should I be doing for cardio? Right now, I just bike every other day, but that doesn’t seem to be doing a lot.

  • Chad

    I just started last night with the recommended workout for a 3 day split. I did the Back/Bi/Abs routine, and it was BRUTAL. Deadlifs, Bent Over Row, and Chin-ups all in one night!

    I have been working out for a year doing 3 full body workouts a week. Generally something like: Split Squat, Bench, Chins, T-Bar Row, Military Press, Planks, Curls, Tri Press, Farmers Carry, and Calve Raises. So, I am used to heavy volume. Sometimes I substitute Rack Pulls for Farmers Carries, so I am even used to heavy back. But for some reason, deadlifts just killed me. After that, my chin-ups were noticeably weaker.

    I saved shrugs for the end of the workout, and put abs in before biceps, to give myself some respite.

    I did 185lbs on the deadlifts. Maybe that was too much weight? I have weak/wobbly knees, so I am weak on squatting movements. I can only do 135 for 8-10 reps on front squats. On rack pulls, I usually do over 10 reps 225-245lbs. Romanian deadlifts, I haven’t done in a while, but I think I did around 135 on those.

    I am worried that after deadlifs, I don’t have the juice to give the rest of my back exercises 100%. If deadlifts zap most of my energy, should I just hold off on the chins and rows until I build up more endurance?

    • I hear you Chad! The deadlift is one of the toughest if not the toughest single exercise you can do. It’s normal for the chin-ups to take a toll after heavy deadlifting.

      As long as you were able to do 185 LBS with proper form and for 4-6 reps, you’re good.

      I’d continue with the rows and chin-ups. Your endurance will improve.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Chad

        Thanks. Two more questions.

        Because my workout partner can only do Sun, Tue, Thru, I was thinking of a 5-day split like this:
        Sun: Legs
        Mon: Arms
        Tue: Chest
        Wed: Shoulders
        Thur: Back

        This way, we can spot each other on the heavy back, chest, and legs exercises. You see any problem with this order?

        Also, because Back day is so brutal, I was thinking of moving Shrugs to Shoulder day. Any problem with that? They are called “Shoulder” Shrugs 🙂


        • NP!

          That’s fine on the order. I’d recommend having a partner to spot you on shoulder day over having a partner for back day. Up to you though.

          Totally fine on the shrugs too. 🙂


  • Bryan

    I have been on the 5 day routine for about 5-6 months now and love it, but sometimes on the weekends I get cravings to do more. Is that bad? Should I just rest to allow recovery or could I do more lifts/maybe even just lighter bodyweight stuff like pushups/pullups unweighted? Thanks

    • If you’re bulking you might be able to “sneak” in a little more lifting on the weekend and be fine, but I’d recommend keeping it lighter and don’t go overboard.

  • Brian

    Mike, I love the workouts but I have a question for you. I’m finding myself continually protecting my back due to 2 herniated disks in my lower back. L5 and S1 to be exact. Any recommendations on adjustments or alterations as continual overload is putting a lot of stress on those disks and effecting my overall confidence with these lifts. Thanks brotha.

    • Glad you’re enjoying them Brian!

      I hear you on the attention you have on your lower back.

      There are some variations you can make to put less stress on your back. Instead of the traditional deadlift, I recommend sumo or hexbar deadlift. If those don’t work for you, I recommend hyperextensions.

      Instead of back squatting, I recommend front squatting. If that doesn’t do the trick, try sticking to the leg press and hack squat.

      My pleasure! Hope this helps. LMK.

  • Dan Taylor

    Hi Mike,

    I have a growing interest in calisthenics and want to combine BLS training with body weight training. How would you recommend structuring a four day a week training regime? Body weight training first then weights or mix it all in together?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Cool!

      Hmm I would probably do some bodyweight work after each heavy weightlifting workout? Or I would do a push, pull, legs split on the weights and then a bodyweight day…

  • orkerIkkeMer

    A very interesting read, thanks! What do you think about combining splits with full body workouts?

    For instance
    Mon: Legs, back, abs
    Tue: Off
    Wed: Chest, arms, shoulders (+ run)
    Thu: Off
    Fri: Full body
    Sat: (Run)
    Sun: Off

    I’m a beginner in strength training, and like to run as well so I just added that. I have an ectomorph-kind of body and I’m trying to gain weight, hopefully including some muscle. (Yes, I know that running is probably counter-productive to weight-gaining, but I enjoy it:) In any case, my main question was regarding a combination of a two-day split and a full body work out – do you think it could work as an alternative to full body only?

    • Thanks!

      I think this type of programming is totally fine so long as it’s laid out sensibly, which this is.

      You’re new to lifting so you’re going to do well regardless, but let’s see how your body responds.

  • Juan Gonzalo Buitrago

    Hi Mike! I’ve read lots of your articles and have already started both nutrition and exercising just like you explain.
    I have a doubt though, about this article. I’m doing my worktouts without including core and calves, since they would really increase my daily reps (no more than 60 as you mention, 4-6reps per set). Did you actually mean the total rep volume to be counted per muscle group, not by workout?
    If so I may add core and calves, but i was max work on the other groups! not sure about this.

    Thanks for the articles and the help, Regards!

    • Thanks Juan!

      If you’re around 60 heavy reps per major muscle group per week, you’ll be fine. You can go slightly over this as well if you feel up to it–it’s not an absolute ceiling.

  • Justin

    Hey Mike, i love reading your articles as they are quite thorough! I like how you write a 3x day plan and then explain why full body workouts are grueling.

    But guess reading that made me sad because Steeve Reeves, Reg Park, Johm Grimek all trained every body part 3x a week? As their theory was that 48 hours is all you need to recover?

    Have you ever trained that way and can i see results like yours if I chose that way to train because working nights and going to school full time make it really tough to get into the gym.

    Your input would help me plenty! P.s. BLS is totally worth the $$$

  • Clint Silveira

    hey mike, love your articles just wondering whether i can follow the 5 day workout split while carb backloading

  • Fernando

    Mike, you seem to emphasize “building muscle & strength”.. What about fat loss? Do supersets, giant sets, etc work here? What changes occur in training from bulking to cutting?

  • trevorsalienarms

    Hey Mike- I’ve yet to cross check this question in my hard copy of BLS, but in reviewing the shoulder exercise sets and reps above, for any of the potential schedules, are you getting to the 60 reps every 5-7 days by counting the side raises and optional bent over raises with the barbell and dumbell presses? Because the bb and db presses alone don’t get you to 60 reps volume…just wanted to clarify if that’s because of the additional raises or because the shoulders also get hit with the chest work.

    I’m laying out a three day per week routine and have it more or less plotted out but I’m coming up short on seeing at least 60 reps for shoulders unless I count the side and bent over raises. I suppose they are still shoulder exercises but for some reason I don’t think of them as a critical portion of the at least 60 reps of intense heavy reps per week.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Yeah I tone it down a bit because of the heavy chest pressing we’re also doing. You have to keep that in mind when programming.

  • Spoliator

    Hi Mike,

    Do you have some information on best practices for scheduling cardio and weight training on the same day? How much rest between sessions? I’m pretty sure I read an article you wrote on the subject, but I can’t find it.

    I lift four days per week (M,Tu,Th,F) and HIIT four days per week (M,W,Th,Sa), so I have overlap two days per week. Also I usually train fasted.


    • I like to separate my lifting and cardio by at least a few hours (these days I lift first thing in the morning and do cardio before dinner, but I would always try to keep 3 to 4 hours in between).

      Overlap is fine. If you have to, you can do your cardio after your lifting even.

      • Spoliator

        That fits with my current program. I thought you had cited empirical data on 6+ hours being ideal. I’ve tried that, but I’ve found that separating them so much can detract from my next lifting session.

        I don’t have the stamina (mental or physical) to perform a decent HIIT
        session immediately following my lifting. I need a minimum of 90 minutes to recuperate. I prefer to separate them by 4+ hours. If I try to cram them together it’s just a slog.

        Anecdotally I’ve found the 4-6 hours separation works best for me. So I guess I’ll stick with that.

        I really respect and appreciate both the knowledge you’ve accumulated and your willingness to share it. You’ve started to remind me a bit of another great resource, financial columnist Jason Zweig, who has said, “I write the exact same thing between 10 and 60 times a
        year, making sure none of my readers can tell that I’m repeating myself.”

        That’s a credit to your perseverance, patience, and perspicuity — Keep up the strong work!

        • I’ve never seen anything definitive on that, no. Just based on what I’ve read and working with others and such.

          Great. That is perfect then.

          Hah that’s a great quote. I’m going to check him out. Thanks for that. 🙂

  • Paulo Dias

    Hi Mike,

    I’m following the program “the year one challange” but 4 days a week, I’m taking a break in legs training and insert shoulder exercises(of leg day) on back day and changed the sequence shoulder day with the upper body. Stayed that way.

    2.back & shoulders (from leg day)

    What do you think?

  • Tom

    Hi Mike, Great website and info. I’ve been lifting off and on for 15 or 20 years now, and like you made a lot of mistakes and wasted time in the gym. I’m making good progress this time around but have some underdeveloped muscle groups that are pretty disproportionate due to over focussing on areas in the past like chest and triceps. What’s the best approach to catching up muscle groups? Do I lighten up or skip on chest and double up on the problem groups I neglected in the past by adding extra days to them?


    • Thanks, Tom! A lot of us have been there, unfortunately. 🙁

      Glad you’re doing well this time!

      Imbalances are common and they usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Hey Mike,

    Fantastic article. It really helped me shape my own workout routine and follow your methods (as many others have too).

    My only problem is that although I have made some strength and size gains, it quickly stalled. I was working on a 6×6 routine for each of the compound movements (I currently only work with compound exercises). So the most amount of reps I’d reach in a single workout is 36, until I increase the weight.

    Reading back through your articles for some further insight, I’ve noticed that you mention about working 9-12 sets per major muscle group… I don’t think I’m doing enough.
    Currently working on 6×6 for squat and deadlift as they seem to be going strong and that’s where most of my development and size has come from right now (24″ legs over a 28″ waist, at least I’m not neglecting them! #NeverSkipTorsoDay haha), and in experience they both work the same muscle group, so theoretically I’m doing enough for my lower body.

    So, what I’m asking is: would I start gaining size and strength again if I start working with the same rep range of 4-6 of 12-9 sets, making consecutive increases in weight?
    I know that’s a ridiculous question and the answer may be obvious, but you hadn’t mentioned anything about all those sets coming from one movement in a workout i.e. incline bench, over-head press or chin ups.

    Thank you 🙂

  • Ed

    Hey Mike, so I know in a lot of your articles you mention newbie gains, however, is it still possible to get newbie gains if I have been lifting heavy and following your program but have not been in a calorie surplus but in a deficeit as I am skinny fat and wanted to lean down before bulking. Now that I am trying to bulk, I am curious if I can make the same newbie gains as if I went straight into a bulk instead of a deficit. Thanks!

  • Kal-El

    Hey Mike,
    My chest and arms are my weak points. Is it okay to train them twice a week?
    Here’s the routine :

    Monday : Chest and abs
    Tuesday : Back and calves
    Wednesday : arms
    Thursday : chest and shoulders
    Friday : legs and abs
    Saturday : arms

  • Sean

    Hey mike I have just started my 5th week on the BLS program and I am loving it. I am currently lifting 3 days per week and HIIT/Kettlebell cardio two days out the week. I am thinking about upping my lifting to 4 days a week. Should I continue out the 3 days and then increase it too 4 days after the 12 weeks? I am 20 and have about 5 years of lifting under my belt, but this is my first time doing heavy compound training consistently at this intensity. I Also have TYOC that i plan on starting once I finish BLS. Should I start that from the beginning? or should I start from the weeks 12-23/25?

    • Hey Sean! Happy to hear it.

      Awesome on the routine. Feel free to increase to the 4-day split when you like. 🙂

      Cool you have the 1YC too. You can go ahead and start it from the beginning when you’re ready.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Hi Mike,

    I have a quick question for you. I recently got the flu so I could not workout for about 4 days. I was miserable. When I got better I did not know if I should have started where I left off or (It was my leg day when I got sick) or keep going with the schedule (I got better on my arms day). When I miss a day or two, should I do what i miss or keep working based on my schedule?

    Hope I made myself clear enough. Thanks in advance

    • Hey Jonathan! NP. Sorry to hear about the flu. 🙁

      If you can squeeze in the workouts you missed do that. Otherwise, you can go ahead and restart the weekly workout routine.

      Hope that helps! My pleasure.

  • Hopeful

    I’m interested in buying Thinner Leaner Stronger, cause I really like the idea of having a program that I can count on to make me stronger and healthier. But I’m 60, lack coordination, am 20 pounds overweight, and I only like the machines at the gym (i.e. pec fly, leg press, chest press, etc). I’m not really a fan of free weights, cause I am scared of incorrect form, and also of embarrassing myself. Is there something in TLS for me, or should I just forget it? Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    • Awesome! I totally get where you’re at, and I understand preferring to use the machines. However, you can learn the proper form with the free weights, and you’ll get much better results focusing on the heavy, compound lifts! Check these out:



      YW! LMK what you think.

      • Hopeful

        Ok, I’ve read the links and you’ve convinced me that machines are not the way to go. Thanks for that. I’d really like to try the program, but I need to be honest. I’m a 60 year old
        woman, have never trained, have bad knees (so I think that eliminates
        squats), am 20 pounds overweight (had about 39% body fat last time it
        was measured), am uncoordinated (like the nerds on Big Bang Theory), and
        cannot do even one push-up (so when I looked online to see what a Dip
        was, I figured it was “game over”). Let’s be real – am I one of the
        exceptions that might not be in good enough shape to try this program? At least I knew I could use the machines at the gym, but free weights intimidate me. And I’m terrified of incorrect form when using free weights. I’ve read through a bunch
        of pages here on your website, and it seems like you’ve got an amazing
        program that really works. But maybe it is only for people who are
        either younger or in much better shape than I am. I would REALLY like to give
        it a try, but I don’t want to end up frustrated and disappointed and in
        tears. Can someone as old and in as bad shape as me really do this? What would I do when I encountered an exercise I could not perform?

        • Caleb Jones

          Sounds like you need to build up your confidence. No one else can tell you what you can or can’t achieve but you – however, take a look around the web for pictures of older athletes and you’ll be amazed because often when the heads are removed (in the picture!) you can’t tell how old they are.
          I’m 52 – I started off at 216 lb last November following on from 6 months unable to move because of a really bad acl knee injury. First I worked on low impact barre workouts to strengthen the knee and they were revolutionary in that they took away pain and gave flexibility; then I moved to more demanding barre workouts. After that I went to piyo and bodyweight training. I am now 190 and aiming for 180. My wife has commented on the change in my body, the fact my tire has diminished dramatically(!), and that she can now see my oblique abs – and she did that all without being prompted!
          You could do low impact exercise like I do as it gets results without putting stress on the body. You could start with something as simple as walking every day, or swimming or pool aerobics or cycling or try a low impact barre plan. Confidence comes with habit building – over time, all you have to do is commit.
          Having a plan is always good because you know someone has travelled that route before – I wasted a lot of time trying to make my own plans up.
          Focus on shredding first (losing weight) then strength building. I’m still on the shredding phase but hope to be down to 15% body fat soon – then I’ll go to work on more body training (which is why I’m here – waiting to get fit enough to do the program).
          Also, see if you can find a training partner – someone who is willing to support you and not sabotage you – I haven’t been that lucky yet, so I hang around here reading the articles as my motivation!
          Anyway, hope that helps, and good luck.

          • Hopeful

            Caleb, thank you so much for sharing – you’ve done so amazingly well, and you’ve helped prove to me that it is possible. That is exactly what I needed to hear 🙂 Thanks for your words of encouragement (and wisdom). You’re right – starting gradually, building habit and strength as I go, will make all the difference in the world. I do believe that my knees can improve, if I don’t overdo, and strengthen them bit by bit. I’m going to order the books right now (I’m also going to get one to help with the nutrition/recipe prep), and take my “before” picture. And yes, thanks for the tips about reading more of the articles (and comments here) as well as keeping my eyes open for a partner. I want to keep my motivation as high as it is today. Much appreciation to you Caleb. And good luck reaching your goals!

        • Welcome!

          Hmm. Thanks for the additional info. It’d probably be a good idea to start with a bodyweight program then (instead of using machines) to start until you’re ready/able to do the compound lifts. Check this out:


          And for the future, there are plenty of alternatives for any exercises you can’t do. Don’t worry!

          LMK what you think!

  • Phil

    Hey Mike,
    First off, I want to tell you how much I appreciate your site. It is very informative, all the articles are supported by scientific data and are fun to read.
    I used to be skinny fat and I cut down to approx 15% body fat and packed on a few pounds of muscle doing high rep, low weight workout. Of course, I hit a plateau really soon and made some changes. I was wondering if you could give me your opinion on my current workout routine:
    I do strength training on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (and 3 “active rest” days which sometimes include light cardio like biking, soccer, badminton, basketball etc.). I do 4 sets which include 10 reps of every workout (in order: 10 curs, 10 push ups, 10 upright rows, 10 push ups, 10 hammer curls, 10 push ups 10 military press, 10 barbell squats, 10 skull crushers, 10 standing calf raises). Is this the type of low rep workout i should be doing, or should I further lower the number of reps and increase weight, for to gain more muscle?
    Also, I’m worried if I remove the push ups from my routine it would be to easy.
    (The only supplement I use is Whey, for protein and calories)

    • Thanks, Phil! Glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂

      Cool on the results you had! Understood on the plateau.

      Thanks for sharing your routine. I recommend going even lower and focusing on the 4-6 rep range and hitting the heavy compound lifts.

      How about following one of the 3-day split routines I lay out in this article?

      I’m fine with you including 2-3 sets of push-ups at the end of your routine. I wouldn’t recommend doing them between sets. You’re going to want to be resting when going heavy.

      Cool on the whey.

      Hope this all helps! Talk soon.

      • Phil

        Thanks, this helps a lot!
        I tried working out today with heavier weights in the 4-6 rep range and removed push ups from my routine. The new routine is a lot harder, but more fun and less time consuming. 🙂

        • YW! Great! Let’s stick to it and see how you do. 🙂

          • Phil

            Hi Mike, I have some follow-up questions.
            I’ve been training like you said (4-6 rep range, more weight), but I’m still doing full body workouts. I’m planning on switching to a 4-day split routine in July when my college classes and exams end. So:
            How many sets of each exercise should I do?
            In these split routines, should I do all the exercises of a given day in one set or should I divide the exercises (which would be more time consuming)?
            I’ll give you an example if my question is confusing:
            On one day I do exercises 1, 2, 3 and 4. Should I do all the sets of exercise 1, then all the sets of exercises 2 etc., or should I mix them up and split the entire workout into sets of each workout?
            I hope I’m being clear enough. Thanks!

          • NP. Cool on your plan on switching to a 4-day split. I recommend 3 sets per exercise.

            I see what you’re asking. You do all 3 sets of exercise 1, the move on to exercise 2, do all 3 sets, and continue like that.

            Hope that clears it up for you. Welcome!

  • Moneer

    This post is pure gold! Do you recommend the 5-day plan if I have about 30-40 minutes per session (my lunch break is the only time I can work out)? I can see results with that time constraint in mind? Thanks!

    • Thanks! Yep,that’s your best bet. It takes the least amount of time per workout since the volume is spread out over 5 days versus 3 or 4 days.

      And yeah, that’s plenty of time to get good results. 🙂


  • Antoine Leclercq

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve started to follow your program for burning fat and gaining muscle (the 5 day split one). I’ve been lifting weight occasionally but I was never serious about it so I guess I could say I’m beginner and I think it would work for me to gain muscle while losing fat.

    I’m starting my second week and the problem is that my gym doesn’t have any barbell, just dumbbells and they go up to 50 lbs only. Since the gym is inside my building and it’s cheap I’m gonna stick to it for the next 3 months (then I’m moving out). I wanted your advice on how I could make the most out of it though.
    For now, for example, on Mondays I’m starting with the chess press machine because I can actually increase the weight as much as I want, then I do incline bench press with the 50 lbs dumbbells (maximum weight available) and it is fine because I can only do 4-6 reps for now. But when I switch to flat bench press I can do 6 -8 reps already and I count on progressing during the next 3 months. Same for deadlifts and squats I do them with the dumbbells, for the squats I’m not using the 50 lbs yet but soon, and for deadlifts I already am, it’s even too light for just 4-6 reps.

    So what do you think I should do once I reach the weight limit available at my gym? Increase the rep range? The number of sets? Try to use some other machines? I don’t think there’s anything that can mimic the deadlift movement but there’s a leg press machine that I already use since it’s in your leg workout program.

    Thanks for your posts, really helpful and it’s finally a source of info that I trust so cheers to that!

    • Hey Antoine! Nice!

      I understand the issue. My first standard recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates), or work out in a gym instead. Here are the products I like:


      That said, if neither are possible, you can focus on the dumbbell exercises given in the “approved exercises” section of the book. For instance, a chest day would look like this:

      Incline dumbbell press: warm up and 6 sets 4-6 reps

      Flat dumbbell press: 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps

      While that might seem redundant and inefficient, it’s actually a great chest workout. I did that for nearly 6 months a couple years ago and was amazed by the gains I was able to make.

      You can also add a couple exercises to make your legs day more challenging:

      Goblet squats are decent, albeit limited.

      One-legged squats are challenging even without weight.

      For your back, I recommend doing a lot of dumbbell rows and weighted wide-grip pull-ups.

      You also have the option of working in some modified body weight exercises when you reach the weight limit of the dumbbells for different exercises, as discussed here:


      Or, you could pick up adjustable dumbbells. Check this out:


      I hope this helps and let me know what you think!

      • Antoine Leclercq

        Thanks for your answer!

        I’m considering buying some adjustable 2*100 Lbs dumbbells. I’ll be able to stick with 3 sets for each exercises, 6 sets would just take too long I think especially since I go to the gym 6 times a week already.

        My dilemma is whether it’s really worth it or not though, since I’m in a 25% calorie deficit I wonder if it is really gonna make a difference in terms of building muscle or if the results will be the same as if I stick with what I have now and switch to bodyweight workout as you said.
        Your advice would be greatly appreciated. In the case of burning fat and building muscle (for 3 months only) does it really make a difference to lift as heavy as possible with progressive overload (vs switching to bodyweight exercises when weight limit is reached in my case)?

        Thanks for taking the time to answer me! 🙂

  • Jake

    Hey Mike,
    First of all, I would like to say that this is by far the most helpful and knowledgable site I have been on while trying to find the best information on everything right that I have to do in order to gain weight effectively and in a healthy way. I am a very skinny guy (6 ft. 155 lbs) and I would really like to bulk up, I am quite tired of hearing comments about my skinniness and such. Would you recommend the 5 day workout to see the best results? Or would the 3 or 4 day work better? Also, when I calculated the calorie intake I should be getting each day, it was only about 2100, which seemed kind of low. Does this number seem right for someone my size and with my goals?

  • Azouri

    Hey mike great article, i was wondering though isnt 80-85 percent of 1RM 6-8 reps? Wouldnt 4-6 reps be 85-90 precent of 1RM?

    • Thanks! It depends on whose formula you use. It’s around 85% of 1RM, though.

  • Dan

    Hi Mike, new to your site, but loving the straight talk. Thanks! I’ve been working Dos Remedios’ Power Training with full body workout 3x and periodization. First time training without machines and doing compound lifts. Got some initial progress, then a running injury took me out (another reason not to do too much cardio;-). Put on some weight. Yada, yada. Anyway, Jan 1 started back up, but also dieting pretty strongly (~1300kcal/d), and lost 45 lbs, right now probably 15-16% BF, so still want to lose a bit more. Been able to gain some strength, but certainly not size. Looking a little ‘wiry’ in fact. So here’s the deal, still need to lose about 10 lbs, but want to start building for beach season. Oh, also, 6ft, 205, 54 years old but have done some kind of weight training most of my life, though free weights only the last few years. Do you recommend one of these plans (I have about 1 hour each morning so probably the 5 day) or say like the starter plans (e.g. 5-3-1) that you mention elsewhere? I’m adding more protein in, and your supplements (HMB etc) but still in deficit at this point, and would like to pull off that magic bulk while losing fat thing, think that can be done?

    • Hey Dan! Glad you’re enjoying it! Welcome. 🙂

      Cool on everything you’ve been doing. Sorry to hear about the injury.

      Awesome job on the weight you lost!

      If you have more fat you want lose, I recommend you continue cutting and focusing on fat loss. Once you’re at the 10-12% BF range, you can focus on building muscle.

      If your focus is to get your numbers up on the main lifts, sure! Otherwise, I recommend following one of my routines:


      Unless you’re new to this style of training, I don’t recommend trying to build muscle while losing fat. You should just focus on one at a time.

      No, there’s plenty of pulling and ab work in the routines.

      Nah. Even if you’re using a completely different muscle, it isn’t full rest, and it can affect your strength. I recommend sticking to the rest times.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Dan

        Thanks for the feedback! Sigh, just impatient, summer is coming (GOT ref)! 4-day seems to be best for me; looking at it. I have around an hour if I get up at 5:45…those should take an hour each? (last question was I was hoping to sleep in a bit more…;-)

        • Welcome!

          Sounds good. The workout on the 4-day split tend to take 60-75 minutes. So, it can work, but you may have to rush it a bit.

          Gotta make sure you’re getting enough sleep!

          • Dan

            Thanks! 5:45 it is… 😉 One more question, do you not recommend any of the ‘explosive’ movements? Snatch, cleans, and variations on them? Or are they more ‘advanced’ movements?

          • YW!

            They have their place in certain strength programs or training for various sports, but they aren’t necessary to effectively build muscle and lose fat.

  • Matthew

    Hey Mike, I really love and appreciate the comments you continue to make even after writing the article. It goes to show how passionate you are and how much you love helping people. I just have a quick question. I’m currently doing the 3-Day routine (with some running and HIIT to stay “cardiovascularly” healthy and maybe lose some fat). You say that the working sets should be 4-6 reps, does this include for exercises like the lat raises and BB or DB curls? Should we do 4-6 for these isolation exercises?

    • Happy to do it. 🙂

      Cool you’re rolling on the 3-day split and doing some cardio.

      Yep, it does! All sets should be done in the 4-6 rep range unless otherwise stated.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • Laura

    Hey Mike, quick question. I find that my motivation and stamina is best on Monday AM and sometimes if I miss a lift day it is later in the week, but never Monday. Does it matter if I move my leg day to Monday for a 4 to 5 week lift schedule and then just rotate through the day 1 – chest day 2 – etc. until the end of the week? I know you have rest calculated in, and I want to know if there is any harm or drawback in moving Leg day to Monday instead of Friday. Thanks!

    • Hey Laura! NP!

      Nah, that’s totally fine to rearrange the days to what works best for you. I just don’t recommend putting leg day and back day next to each other or chest day and shoulder day next to each other.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

      • Laura

        Thanks very much for the info and for answering! 🙂

  • Moneer

    Been following your 5-day routine and loving it! Are you concerned that doing back on day 2 (which heavily utilizes biceps) followed by arms on day 3 will cause your biceps to overtrain? Also, day 4 is shoulders (triceps are heavily used) will cause your triceps to overtrain?

    • Thanks!

      No, it’s not an issue. The weekly volume on the smaller muscle groups isn’t high enough to be a problem.

  • Gary

    Hey Mike,
    Dips just hurt my shoulders no matter how I do them. What can I do for 3rd chest exercise? I was thinking flat bp, 30 degree bp, 40-45 degree bp. Will that be ok. Great site by the way.

    • Thanks Gary. 🙂

      Sure, you could do more pressing or if you want to give your shoulders a break, you could do something like flyes.

      • Gary

        Mike a couple more things if you would. I’m 49 6’2″ about 270 been an off and on guy last ten years with working out and pretty much all off last 2 years. I had bacteial meningitis a year and a half ago and took almost a year to recover from. I’m a big guy with fat but also a lot of mucscle, 52″ chest 49″ waist, my big problem after doing some things in the yard today seems to be stamina and cardio winded moving some pieces of plywood today. Should I keep in same rep range you give or go a little higher 8-10 or 10-12 reps. Awesome that you still get back to all these comments.

  • Beverly Deepy

    I”m doing exactly like him lazar angelov WORkout do you think that this would be better for me?

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I’m a total Legionnaire who has been doing BLS for about 3 years now.
    As of recent I felt as though I hit a rut and wasn’t seeing the result that I have been working for. I took a rest, adjusted my cals and tried getting more rest but know real change. I then went to 8-10 reps for a change and I started to see improvement in my body shape.
    I plan on staying in this range for about four weeks then going back to 4-6 reps for another 4-weeks before deloading.
    Do you think this change in my body’s reaction is due to age? Just turned 44.
    What would you do in this situation?


  • Mark Shields

    I have started your program today; whilst trying to do 3 heavy sets, the first set i can just get 5 rep, but then the next two sets (with the same weight) i only reach 4 and 2 reps. Is this ok, or should i be trying to increase the weight with every set?

    • Hey Mark! Nope, no need to increase weight each set. You want to work with weight as heavy as possible where you can get at least 4 reps with good form every set. If you can get 6 or more reps one set, you should increase the weight for the next set.

      If you have a set where you get less than 4 reps, you should drop the weight.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Dan

    Hi Mike, reading some of your other posts, and this, I’m wondering if the isolation exersizes (e.g. side lat raises) should be done at 8-10 reps? Somewhere else you mention the danger of your shoulders exploding at 85% 1RMs…;-) Can I assume the same for curls, tris isolation, and forearms?

    • Hey hey! Nah, you still want to keep the focus on the 4-6 rep range if possible.

      If you aren’t able to stick to the 4-6 rep range with good form on those exercises, it’s fine to work in the 8-10 rep range, just make sure you continue to progressively overload.

      For the forearms specifically, check this out:


      Hope this helps! LMK how it goes.

  • Kris

    Hi Mike,
    on day 4 and 5 of BLS for men, the chest and shoulder sets that require 8-10 reps, can I cut the break down to 60-90sec.instead of normal 3mins then? Also would you use the 60-90sec.of resting time for women on their program since they always do the 8-10 rep range?

    • Hey hey! Cool you’re rolling on the BLS program.

      Yep, that’s totally fine to cut the rest time down on those sets.

      Nah, I’d still recommend women rest 2-3 minutes between sets. The 8-10 rep range is a decently low rep range for women, and they’ll just need the rest to maintain strength for 9-12 heavy sets.

      • Kris

        Hehe yep I’m rolling on the BLS program big time. Startet almost a year ago and gaind approx 12-13kg including fat. Made a few mistakes down the road and could have gained probably more but i’ve learned a few things too. Don’t we all do? 🙂 Thanks for the quick reply. That is exactly how I thought with the breaks. Keep it up bro. I love BLS. It’s great and it WORKS!! Thanks!

        • Happy to hear it! Awesome job on the weight you gained during your bulk.

          Yep, no worries. That’s still an impressive amount to gain in your fist year!

          My pleasure. Thanks for the love and support. Will do!

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Curtis Burnley

    Hey, I checked out some of your articles, and while I want to build muscle, it seems like I would need to cut before I do that since I seem to have a body fat percentage around 19-20%. I’ve been working out for more than 3 years (although I take occasional breaks due to my being a college student), and while I have made some muscle gains, I don’t think they are that much. Since I will probably have to cut before I bulk, could I still do the 5-day workout plan amd do low-rep, high-volume weightlifting?

    • Hey Curtis! Yep, you’d want to start with a cut to get to 10-12% BF before you bulk.

      And yeah, totally fine to do the 5-day split while cutting.

      LMK how it goes! I look forward to seeing your results. 🙂

  • Arafat Sultan

    On pull day, you have suggested chest, shoulder, triceps & calves. If I do 1st two items in the morning and next 2 items in the night, will that be ok?

    On your training routine in BLS book, you have suggested on average more or less 5 exercises on each day followed by calf or ab workout. 5 exercise means 15 sets but you have suggested in your book that we should do only 9-12 weight lifting sets! So which is right?

    And also, you have suggested in BLS book that, we should train for 45-60 minutes per workout. But 15 sets per workout requires 60 minutes or more, not calculating the time required for warm-up sets and abs or calf exercise at later. So your designed workout routines demand more time than your suggested 45-60 minutes length! Can you please clarify my confusion?

    Thanks a lot for your great insights and advice which are changing many lives all over the world.

    • Yep, that’d be totally fine!

      That’s what I recommend for the 5-day split. With the 3-day split, you’ll have to do more sets each workout because you’re only working out 3 days a week instead of 5.

      Same thing with the time. That’s for a 5-day split. With the 3-day split, the workouts will be longer to fit in all the sets.

      Hope that clears it up for you!

      My pleasure for everything. 🙂

      • Arafat Sultan

        Thanks for your nice reply. But on 5 day split too, you have suggested more or less 15 sets and that requires 60+ minute (taking 3-4 minutes rest between each set+warm up sets+abs/calves).

        I am trying to follow ur guidelines as Bible, but I m taking comparatively lighter weights during deadlift and romanian deadlift as caution as I have lower back issues (already improved with bls).

        What do u think vertical jump hiit (2 minutes slow jumping vertically and 1 minute fast jumping vertically)? Do u think it may be harmful for calves?

        Please take our millions of thanks for your great contribution in our life.

        • YW! On the 5-day split, there are still only 9-12 heavy sets per workout. For those sets I recommend more rest. I recommend 3-4 minutes of rest for the main compound lifts (squat, deadlift and bench press) and 2-3 minutes rest for the other 4-6 rep sets.

          For all 8-10 rep sets, I recommend 1-2 minutes rest and for the 10+ rep sets, I recommend 1 minute of rest.

          That should help keep the time down for your workouts.

          Understood on the lower back issues! Good call going light.

          Totally fine on the jumping HIIT.

          NP! Talk soon.

          • Arafat Sultan

            Thanks a lot man for your awesom reply. I am really stupid enough that can’t put the math in the right way. Really your contribution in the lives of people all over the world is really precious.

            Another suggestion plz, now I don’t have strength to perform chest dip, my gym doesn’t have assisted dip machine too. Does wide grip bench dip work as chest dip for lower chest muscles? And on your 5 day split, you have not emphasized on lower chest (only optional chest dip), may we know why? Do incline and flat bb cover lower chest too?

            Thanks a millions.May Allah bless u always

          • My pleasure! Nah man, don’t worry about it. 🙂

            Hmm. How about bench dips? If those are too easy, you can just do extra sets of flat or incline barbell or dumbbell bench.


            The flat bench generally does enough to develop the lower chest and the majority of people are lagging in the upper chest, that’s why my program focuses on it.

            Welcome! Talk soon.

          • Arafat Sultan

            Thanks a million man for your nice reply!

          • My pleasure!

  • Joanne

    I think I’d be considered a newbie. I’ve been reading A LOT of these articles all over your site and I want to get started so I can finally see results. Few questions though:

    I can’t go to a gym with all the equipment. I have free weights and a barbell. Can I still accomplish what I need to with these?
    I’ve been doing weight training for a couple of months and progressing very slowly because I was worried about lifting too much and getting injured but now I can see this method is not getting me anywhere (I lost about 4.5lbs since starting 4 3 months ago and my fat% hasn’t budged from 32-33%!!) and so I’m going to up the weights like you’re suggesting and change my cardio to HIIT. I’ve only been doing 2-3 sets-with about 6 lbs on each arm-do I just jump right in to 3-4 sets and increase my load right away or still increase load gradually? I can see myself handling 8 lbs each and then incorporating a barbell at 15lbs I think.
    I’m liking the 3 day routines you show here. Can I do all my cardio on the in-between rest days or do I have to do cardio on the same day as weights?

    And last but not least…
    I’m watching my food/calories and macros, etc. I’m vegan and finding my amount of protein is not even close to where one of the calculators on your site said I should be. Is the only way to increase this without increasing the fat too much using vegan protein powder supplementation?

    Thanks for all the information you have on here and for any advice you have for me. Sorry so many questions.

    • Lucky you! Hope you’ve been enjoying the articles.

      Understood on not being able to make it to a gym. Do you also have a squat rack, barbell and an adjustable bench?

      Yep, you gotta be lifting heavy and constantly pushing to progressively overload to get results. Let’s bump the weight up on all the exercises so that you’re lifting as heavy as you can for 8-10 reps. That is, if you can get more than 10 reps, you need to increase the weight. If you can’t get at least 8 reps, you need to drop the weight.

      From there, stick to that working weight until you’re able to get 10 reps in one set. Then you can go up in weight and repeat.

      Glad you like the 3-day split! You can do the cardio on your off days and/or on your workout days. Just make sure the heavy lifting is done first.

      I hear you on the protein with a vegan diet. Take a look at this:


      My pleasure!

      Yep, the book does give illustrations and there are also videos of all the exercises in the free bonus report. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Joanne

    Oops, one more question–does your book for women give example pictures of how to do the different exercises for us newbies?

  • Nacim El Bezzazi

    Before to read your book, I lost 30 pounds (172cm, before : 72kg now : 57), but I’m still a little skinny fat. So, last week I read your book and went to the gym for the 1st time ever thursday. But now I’m really confused :
    1) I don’t have any strength at all, benchpress : 10 pounds (+ the barbell : 20 pounds). Should I move to Starting Strength before to train with your 5 day split ? Or should I go on with your training ? (and putting my ego in the lockroom with this kind of perf’)
    2) I’m still skinny fat but I don’t want to look like a skeleton. Hence the problem, how should I eat ? Maintenance ? Go on cutting ? Or can I afford to bulk a while to have decent gains ?
    Thanks to you I now know this is possible and there is no price to a such gain.

  • Grace Dolwing

    Hey again Mike! As a 21 year old woman, I already have broad shoulders from swimming growing up. I’m really nervous they’ll get broader. Should I decrease the weight on shoulder exercises or just skip doing them at all? I’m following the 5 day plan above, what to do? Thank you so much!

    • Hey Grace! I understand the concern. Yeah, let’s reduce the training volume on shoulders. Just stick to 3 sets of OHP or military press and that’s it.

      YW! LMK how it goes.

  • Bruno

    Hey Mike. I’m currently cutting and my strength has dropped. I’m on a 5 day split and wonder if I should switch to a 3 day split since maybe the problem is I need more time to recover. What do you think?

  • Aidan

    Hey Mike,
    I’ve been doing the 5-day split for a while now, but I like the idea of a push, pull, legs twice in a week. I really like going to the gym so I’d rather not do anything less than five days a week. You said that you are not against training a muscle group twice in a week, so do you think a push, pull, legs split 2 times every 7 days might work?

  • henry uffoh

    Hi Mike
    I have been reading a lot of your article and started wondering if my routine needed to be changed. I have been doing full body which consist of squats, deadlift, bench press, military press, pull up, dips biceps curl and triceps extension. I do this three times a week.
    I want to combine your workouts with Gregs Greek god workout and came up with a workout.
    workout A 3 sets of 4-6
    Military press, incline bench press, cable rope triceps extension, lateral raise, rear delt raise, chest dip and calf raise.
    Then workout
    B pull ups, bent over row, barbell squat, calf raise, dumbbell curl, deadlife, lung and calf raise.
    It will be done Monday Wednesday and Friday alternating between the workout.
    what do you think of it?

  • Catalin

    Hello, MIKE
    Do know a really good exercice or exercices for tranversus abdominis?

    • Hey Catalin,

      For working your TVA, anything that has to do with stability will work it out. This includes your big lifts such as the squats and deadlifts. Planks, bridges, and rollouts also engage it.

  • OKD

    Hi mike

    I’ve been doing a weak point training split on my arms lately working them properly on Tuesday and weak point work on Saturday, however I feel my results aren’t amazing. should I remove this extra arm session as I know they are constantly stressed in every workout throughout the week and therefore I could be overtraining them ?

  • Francisco Velasquez

    Hello Mike, or RogerT since I’ve been seeing more of you lately. I’m hovering around 9-10% BF however intend on reaching 7% as my goal. Given this, it means I am cutting. So my question is, assuming that during a cut one still trains to progressively overload, is it safe to incorporate weak point training sets while im cutting? I’d hate to overtrain, although Im looking to improve my lats and chest. Is it better to just wait when i reverse diet into a bulk? I will say however that on the days that i would ;like to incorporate weak training sets (cutting) i intended on eating about 150-200 ish extra cals based on protein and carbs. By nature i am a cross between meso and endo, if that helps- and my cutting calories are about 1550-1600. And dont worry, its not as low as you think. I’m 5’4 at 125 lbs. I attatched my current physique. By the way, i gained a good amount of muscle WHILE cutting, just to give you an idea of meso-endo based I am (can’t imagine when i bulk). Anyways my hip bone takes away from what could be a better V taper, and I can’t change that. This is why I’d like to weak point train my chest and lats further, or shoulders even (alternating between weeks). Thoughts? Opinions? Is it safe from overtraining if i add extra protein and carbs on the weak point days?

    • Hey Francisco,
      You can still incorporate weak point training during cutting, but significant muscle growth will not happen until you transition into the bulking phase. The extra intake won’t do much currently.

  • amos

    Hi Mike, whats your take on adding more legs and back into the 5 day split. I’m an athlete and II really need to increase my squat and back strength for my sport. Should I add more sets to my squats or split them up into different days? The same goes for back. Thanks.

    • For developing strength, the most effective way is using this program to get your numbers up:

      Your other option is putting them into a 6th day higher rep (8-10) workout.

      • amos

        Can I try doing 6 sets Barbell Back Squat, 3 sets Leg Press and 3 sets Romanian on a leg day instead? In your book, I saw the article that each workout must have no more than 12 working sets. Will that do? By the way, loving your program, gained 6 lbs on the first week. I started of very lean (<10%) so I noticed the skin fold of my lower abdomen becoming more thicker and fluffier, is this normal?

        • That’s a lot of volume and intensity on your squats to be working in the 4-6 rep range. Better to move them to another day or use the strength program I linked.

          If you’re on a bulking diet, that’s normal. Inevitably there will be fat gain along with the muscle. Keep it to a minimum by doing this:

          • amos

            I currently can only squat 60kgx6x3. Will only following ur program without any additional stuff for legs be suffice to increase my strength and numbers on the squat? My goal is to gain more strength on my lifts and improve aesthetics. The problem I heard with starting strength is its more on building strength but lacks in aesthetics wise. I’m stuck in a rut on choosing either one. If I were to do starting strength. Any recommendation on how to add accessory work into the routine so I can still improve my aesthetics and increase my lifts at the same time? Or should I stick with ur program?

          • Amos, you’ll be able to make good strength gains on the BLS program. Take a look here: http://www.muscleforlife.com/one-rep-max-calculator/

            It’ll break down benchmarks for you to hit on key lifts depending on your level of experience.

          • amos

            OMG! Today I did leg day and in 1 week, I’ve managed to increase my squats from the one mentioned above to 65×6, 70x5x2, even though I had a slight flu today. I felt stronger and stopped one rep shy to failure on each set cause I felt if I rep in one more, my form might compromise. There’s one problem though, my sports science lecturer says I’m leaning too forward on my squats and said my torso should stay upright throughout. I felt good during my squats, I felt my legs working, my back wasn’t hurting and felt comfortable, stable and secure throughout the movement. I said I was dong a low bar squat and my torso will naturally be at an angle but he still insists I must get my torso upright. Should I listen to him or listen to my body and follow my instincts as I feel absolutely confident that I’m doing everything right?

          • Nice!! Well done.

            The answer to that can be found here:

          • amos

            Today I did an extra higher rep with 60kgx8x3 on arms day. Can you check my squat form?
            And what is the benefits of doing an additional high rep workout 8-10 reps on squats on another day compared to another heavier workout 4-6 rep on another day in addition to your weekly leg workout to develop leg strength?

          • Hey Amos,

            Your descent needs to be slowed down and done with more control. Ascent looks good.

            Added 8-10reps keeps the intensity without overstressing.

          • amos

            If I follow ur program without adding any additional sets to the leg workout, will I still see amazing results in terms of the increase in my main lifts and strength compared to the other strength training programs (starting strength). These programs lack aesthetic wise but ur program balances both but how much strength gains should you expect with bls? You recommend me doing additional legs on the 6th day but I’m only able to lift 5 times a week. On what day I should add in?

  • Francisco Velasquez

    just a random topic- what’s your take on “stomach vaccums” ? I’m sure you’ve heard of them for shrinking the waist by creating a strong muscle mind connection with the TVA to pull in your midsection.

    • A lot of old school bodybuilders swore by them so I’d think there’s something to it. Don’t really have experience with them myself, though.

  • Andre Wee

    What’s the best workout for building mass and size for 3 days? I heard upper/lower is good tho.

  • Yo Mike,

    Scheduling question: I recently received a promotion at my job and with it came more hours. I’m having a hard time fitting my 45 minute workouts in before work, even just three days a week. My job is physical and gets me home at night, so I don’t have tons of energy when I’m back. Since work is 5 days a week, my weekends are precious recovery time, though I do legs on Saturdays more weekends than not. I’ve programmed my workout per your recommendations (3-4 sets, 4-6 reps per muscle group), but the timing of it has me getting to work late more often than I’d care to be. I’m thinking of doing a truncated split like this:

    Mon- 5×5 Bench
    Tues- 5×5 Deadlift
    Weds- 5×5 Squat
    Thurs- 5×5 Incline Bench
    Fri- 5X5 Sumo Dead
    Sat- 5×5 Front Squat

    The big 3, plus minor variations. Should come out to roughly 25 min/workout. Should this programming elicit some kind of growth response? Any thoughts? I’m still fairly green with lots of gains to make, so we’re safe there.

    Thanks for all the help,

    • Hey Ben,

      You can strip down a 5-day split by taking away the optional exercises and superset the calves and abs.

      Or, you can try 5×5 or Strong Lifts 5×5:

      See how the timing goes on those. 2min rest is your max between sets, and you’ll have to be under the bar and lifting when the timer goes off.

      • Hey Roger,

        Thanks for the 411. What do you mean by “optional exercises”? Maybe I should have been more clear about my current program- day 1 is bench, military press, and incline bench, day 2 is wide pull down, Seated row, and close grip pull dowb (can’t afford a commercial gym yet, so no deadlifts for me), day 3 is pistol squats (again, no gym=no bar), ham curl, and Weighted lunge. There’s not much else to it.

      • Ps, thanks for the quick response!

  • Ariionna

    Hi Mike,
    Great article, thanks! I am doing Thinner, Leaner, Stronger and have been on it for five weeks now. I am loving some of the progress I’m making. Consistently hitting my macros and haven’t missed a workout yet. One thing…I feel like my legs may be getting a bit bulky. What should I do? I do tend to pack on muscle easily. I am a 5’10 woman, 170 lbs trying to get to about 160 or 155ish. Should I just keep going and expect my legs to get leaner as I lose more fat?

    Also, I’m going to be in Portugal for eight days next month with no access to gym or really much of a way to calculate what I’ll be eating. Any suggestions? Thanks, Love your book!

  • David Soobie

    Hello Mike,

    I have been doing the 5 day work out for the past two weeks. I love it. I have calculated my calories too, I’m on a cut to 10% body fat from 19% I am 170lbs and so eating 1800 cals a day, 204 g protein rest in carbs and 20% fat.

    I had a couple of questions on this workout.

    The abs – I love the circuit. But I find that because of the length of 6-9sets I sometimes tend to rush the reps and maybe don’t go until “failure” as it states to do. Perhaps it’s because I’m slightly tired after pushing myself with the weights.

    1.) If I am doing say at least 12 reps per excercise (e.g. cable crunch, weight leg lift with 30lbs, and ab roller) per set, is that enough, or is it really good to keep going until failure? I notice i am perhaps slightly mentally fatigued to do unlimited number of reps per set for 6-9 sets. Is there a good number you would recommend? Or just stop being a lil*** and go to failure and allocate 35 min or so to a solid ab routine after the days’ workout?

    2.) Is it ok to double up on ab days? I have been switching calves and abs but today I felt like doing abs again so i did them. Any harm in daily ab work if one feels inclined?

    Greatly appreciate the site, thank you for the great info!


    • Hey David,

      1. That’s good. We’ve had great results with implementing body weight into the circuit. If you’re going on forever with body weight, then yah add some resistance.

      2. No harm in it, but like any other muscle, abs need recovery and growth time.

      3. For best results, yes. But, not necessary.

      Happy to help!

      • David Soobie

        Sweet! Thanks again as always Roger. Already Seeing good results following this program! 2 weeks and 1 day in, I have lost about 5mm of belly fat and already starting to like what I see! Thanks bud Have a Great Day

        • Awesome! Keep up the great work.

          • David Soobie

            Thanks Roger, will do! Another question if you don’t mind for you or Mike. I would like to focus on improving my posture as well. Upper back/rounded shoulders, etc. I am doing the 5 day work out Mike has laid out. Is there another excercise I can add to address the weak spot or are the excercises targeting it already? Also, what day should I perform them on? Back day? Thank you again!!

          • This is actually an article I want too write (how to improve posture). It’s on the list.

            Not exercises per se but stretches, mainly.

            I’ll queue the article up for the next 3 to 4 weeks.

          • David Soobie

            Wonderful! Definitely look forward to it and will be ready to apply it!
            Another question actually came up in the past few days. Brief recap- strictly following your 5 day weight routine, with 1-3 HIIT per week. Eating about 1800 cals per day for a 20% deficit (I weigh 175, 34 yrs old) and trying to cut to 10% fb from 19%.
            Anyway..my question…
            I now realize the importance of heavy lifting and limiting prolonged cardio, etc. and my focus in the gym now is first and foremost weights and diet that you have so clearly laid out. HOWEVER on Sunday , yesterday I was tempted to sign up for a 10k, and I did. So what I had done this past week was moved legs to Wednsday, did upper body Friday and Saturday and then ran the 10k Sunday. I am now taking a rest day (today) for my legs and body. If possible I would like to do a 10k on occasion but stick very strictly to the program apart from that – what you have laid out. I am thinking of doing races as they come into town. There is another one this Sunday. Any thoughts? I am honestly limiting the running to focus weights but hoping that a 10k a week or so won’t kill my gains in this program, if I handle it properly. E.g do leg workout 4 days before 10k and only 3 days after? Sound reasonable? I did up my calories a bit yesterday after the run, to I think 2500 but I was pretty wiped..ran it in 50 min, 29 second…but it was fun and tempted to sign up again when they come in to town…but I don’t plan on doing any additional training. I was already doing incline sprints before i switched to your program/ now I just row on HIIT days. Sorry for the length and thanks Roger or Mike!!! Have a great day

          • David Soobie

            Hey Guys! Just checking in. Started your 5 day a week weight training program about a month back and calculated my macros as you so clearly laid out. It’s been working. I was 19% BF 30 days ago. I got tested today by same lady and facility, I am 15%! Wahoo!! I am going for 10% and then want to see how I feel and may aim for lower depending. I gained 1cm of muscle on biceps and no other muscle loss, so all the loss is fat! 👍🏻. A few questions:
            1.) Any tips for this second month? Switch up excercises at all? I was thinking about doing legs 2x a week, maybe Monday after chest? Any thoughts on that?
            2.) Also, read the article on fasting, would you reccomend I give that a go?
            3.) are waste trimmers bs? Heard they increase blood flow to the abs and can help lost fat?

            A few stats:
            6/29 to 7/29 went from
            19% to 15%
            170.6lbs to 164.4lbs
            Lost mm in the the following
            Chest 12mm to 5mm
            Abs 27 to 16
            Subscapularis (back) 20mm to 16mm
            Flexed bicep muscle increased 35.6cm to 36.5
            Legs: 53.3-52.8 (slight loss was negliable but maybe I need to do more legs.

            Thanks guys!!!

          • Hey man! Thanks for checking in. Nice work on the fat drop!

            1. Keep doing what you’re doing.
            2. No need. All that matters is the calorie deficit. Fasting isn’t a magic bullet to increase fat loss.
            3. Yeah, it’s bunk.

            Keep up the great work!

          • David Soobie

            Excellent! Thanks Mike! Will do- I’ll keep to the plan! Loving what I am starting to see. Peace!

          • Excellent. Consistency is key. Keep it up!

          • David Soobie

            Mike! Man- I think I was using sloppy form on a deadlift yesterday and tweaked my lower back. Saw the onsite physio and they ruled out anything major- whew! Hot/ice and rest for a couple days. So, I think will have to do that. And when I get back in I plan to contract a trainer to help me on form to make sure using it properly as I am going quite heavy.
            Anywayzzzz in the meantime while I am not working out, I don’t wish to erase my gains.
            I’m presently 165lbs, 5’10, 15% body fat. I’m wondering what I should make my calorie target be presuming no excercise. If I say <1 hour per week, it shows 1537 would be my calories for a 20% deficit. Should that be my target. ? Missing the gym obviously already but need to rest and hope to be back in soon. Thanks!!

          • Aw dude…sorry to hear about your back. Try 1750 instead. That’ll keep you around BMR. Hope you make a speedy recovery.

          • David Soobie

            Thanks Roger! I rested last week, tried to stay around 1750…I had a couple of very light workouts and am feeling much better. I had a great heavy chest workout yesterday with hiit and today again with arms. So I am back on it which I am very happy about! However much more cognizant of how important form is now. Especially since I am goin heavy. The dead lift that did me in was 195lbs. I presume it was poor form that did it. I need to keep that in check. Any advice for insuring good form? Perhaps a trainer is vital? I have watched videos and always Try to ask more experience people in the gym or the general trainers to watch me. To be honest I’m a little hesitant on the dead lift now/ squats is another, until I’m 100% certain on. Any tips? Or just secure a trainer for a couple of weeks , perhaps is vital. Thanks again and happy to be back in it! Hope to slice down to 10% still! Peace!

          • Glad to hear it.

            1. A knowledgeable trainer can help, sure. So can recording videos of your sets and making the necessary corrections after review. I suggest lowering the weight and practicing form if you do not feel confident about it right now. Have someone record videos.

            2. There are trap bar deadlifts and hack squats!

            3. I recommend free weights for best results.

          • David Soobie

            Thanks Mike! Recording is a great idea, I hadn’t thought if that! I haven’t seen a trap bar, but also never looked! I will be checking my gym tomorrow.
            You the man, and greatly appreciated as always!

          • YW. Sounds good, David. Thanks!

          • David Soobie

            Hey Mike and Roger!
            I hope all is well.
            Brief update. Have gone from 19%bf to 13%. I have been tested by the same lady and she seems very knowledgable with many measurements taken so I trust in the numbers. She said I have not lost any muscle which I am very happy about. 6/29/16 I was 19%bf. 7/29/16 15%. 8/31 – 13%. The need to rest me back and slightly slipping on diet I think resulted in slower loss. I am now 163lbs standing about 5’10.5.
            Someone said I am starting to look a little skinny but my goal is to be lean and strong. I am targeting now for about 1900 cals and my goal is to get to 9% and then take it from there, if I want to bulk, maintain, etc.
            1.) does this sound like a good plan? Keep cutting? any other reccomendations? Most of my fat is in the mid section…Have been on a 20-25% cut now for about 2 months.
            2.) any word on the posture article:)?
            3.) I am taking whey protein. But ideally I like to be vegan. I have not found rice and pea protien here in South America, so I take whey.I am coming back for a visit to CA and want to get my hands on some. Does your company make on or reccomend a brand? I will happily support the cause since you have added a lot of value to my fitness plans.
            Thank You!

          • I gotta second the idea of a posture article! 😛 I’m an office drone and I think a good article on sitting and standing postures would be great.

          • Cool! Lemme see what Mike’s got planned.

          • Hey hey! Thanks for the update. Great job on the continued progress!

            1. Yup, keep cutting till you reach 10-12% BF. If you feel you’re too small at that point, no worries. It’s part of the process. Go ahead and start a bulk and focus on building muscle.

            To help with last bit of fat, keep these in mind:



            2. Not yet! I will be writing it, though. 🙂

            3. Understood. It can be tough to get enough protein with a vegan diet. This will help:


            I’m in the middle of nailing down the formulation for our vegan protein as we speak. Should be ready and selling later this year.:) Stay tuned!

            Happy to help! Talk soon.

          • David Soobie

            Hey Mike! Roger!

            Sorry for the delay in getting back on this. I was in between travels and just arrived back in CA.


            Some updates.

            Crazy. Last Monday, September 12th, I had another bf test with same nutrtionist lady. I came in at 8% bodyfat! I went down a cm in most areas but from 13 to 5 cm on my triceps.

            WTH! I was really suprised! I don’t think I have every been that low, and definitely marking up and seeing 4/6 pack come in.

            6/29 – 19%
            7/29 – 15%
            8/31 – 13%
            9/12 – 8%

            I think the bigger discrepancy on the 13% was after a week of travel and lack of exercise, perhaps built up sodium or something, not sure. But worked really hard for two weeks and I had a feeling the 13% measurement was probably temporarily inflated a little.

            Anyway! 8%!!!! Wahooo!!!! Slight bad news is…she said I lost 2cm in bicep size when flexed. She takes measurements and uses calipers. But overall I didn’t lose much muscle and dropped a ton of fat. I think I was eating maybe not enough and too much cardio…probably lack of carb intake I am thinking.

            Anyway. I have now upped my calories to get 2,000 per day and I am making sure I am getting to more carbs in.

            I am pretty lean everywhere but I still have belly fat. It’s about 9.5mm or so on my belly with the capiler. Ideally I want that gone!! So am I in two minds. Keep cutting until that is down further, or start bulking. Or was there some error with the reading and I am more than 8%. OR is it extra skin that I will be burdened with! Do I bulk, continue to cut, etc. I don’t want to lose any more muscle, so i am hoping that the 2,000 cals will help. Maybe I should send you some pics, get your feedback? Lose skin or fat? Bulk, cut? I don’t aim to be huge. More athletic and cut up…Bruce Lee, Fight club, David Beckham, etc. Perhaps slightly larger than them but probably not too much. Just ripped as F***

            I am 5’10.5
            I think 157.5lbs now
            8% body fat. (down from 19% about 2.5 months ago and maintained majority of my muscle)
            I’m liking it ( hehe BIG GRIN!)

            I oddly feel fine eating this number of calories (around 2,000)….I don’t feel low energy etc. and I am at two minds to continue to cut or start bulking.

            I am wondering if I am bulking will that be detrimental to by belly fat..or will it come off eventually.

            Decisions decisions!!!

            Also I have now purchased rice and pea protein which I will be swapping out for whey? Anything to be cautious of there? (Fish, eggs, beans, oatmeal, quiona will be my other main sources)

            Do I keep cutting? Should I send you some pics? Maybe you can tell about the extra skin? lol or is it just fat…..

            Hope this is clear!! Anyways, super stoked with how I have progressed and as RogerT said the results will be long term this time. That exactly what I am intending. Raising my standards and expectations in a big way here for long term change.

            thanks guys!

          • Jesus. -5% in 12 days? I don’t know man. Time for a visual check:

            1. Rice/pea is a good blend with a similar amino acid profile as whey. Good choice.

            2. Let’s see what the mirror says after you reference the photos in the link above.

            3. Can’t say until we lock down BF%

            You’ve made big strides in your progress! Amazing work sticking to protocol and being consistent.

          • David Soobie

            Hey Roger!

            Thanks so much! I am going to dial in the bf% for sure asap and get back in touch here. Quickly! If you have any reliable spots in the Bay Area to check % I’m all ears. Many gyms don’t seem to do proper measuring (with tape and all) which I have been getting done.

            I’ll dial it in and let you know!! Thanks bro!

          • No problem. You can learn to do it yourself too:


            Let us know how it goes!

          • David Soobie

            Roger! Mike! I have been hunting for a reputable place here. Seems a lil tricky!!! The gym takes only a couple spots and I don’t really trust it. My previous lady took like 10 spots with measuring tape. Legit. In the meantime maybe I could email some photos? And you could give me your two cents? Do you guys have an email?

          • Strange. Though I just replied to this. Sure. Send photos over:
            mike at muscleforlife dot com

          • David Soobie

            Done! Just sent. Thanks boss!

          • Cool. Any time man!

          • David Soobie

            Sweet! Just resent to you just in case you missed it a few days ago. I’m sure you get inundated with emails!

          • OK All good man.

          • David Soobie

            Sorry!! Forgot, one more question please- might add HIIT on the days off, is that best on an empty stomach, early in the morning since I won’t be weightlifting that day?

          • Gotta watch those cheat meals, David!


            1. Stick with your 20-25% deficit for the week.

            2. Sure do! Take a look at this:


            Good! That’s the spirit!

  • Jeremy Bradshaw

    I hope this hasn’t already been asked and answered, I found 7 occurrences of “leg press” in the comments and none of those were this question. I’m wondering if, for legs day, as I don’t have a leg press at home, but I do have a power rack and olympic bar and plates – Would doing 4 sets back squats, then 4 sets of front squats INSTEAD of leg presses be acceptable?

    • Yup! Front squats are a great alternative to the leg press.

  • Lucas

    Mike! In the strength week, can we still keep doing our ab circuits and calf exercises or do you recommend just focusing on the compunds? Thanks!

  • Kris

    Hey Mike. The 3 day split example in this article, would that work for women as well or would you swap maybe some chest or back or arms for some more butt and/or legs exercises?

  • Hadi

    Hi Mike.
    So when you say
    The Best Chest Exercises:
    1.Incline Barbell Bench Press
    2.Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
    3.Flat Barbell Bench Press
    4.Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
    5.Dip (Chest Variation)
    Does it means the 1 and 2 exercise I can both include in my plan because they improve same group of muscles.
    I mean- can I include 5 of exercise in my workout plan or I need to chose here some????

    • Hadi, the primary ones to definitely include are #1-3.

      #4-5 you can include if your chest needs more work.

  • Matt

    Hi Mike! I’ve been following the 3 day routine (the 2nd option that mixes legs & shoulder day together) and have a question for you – i know it’s not ideal, but can Incline BB be used on the leg day as a substitute for OHP? I ask because I have been seeing a PT about an issue I’ve been having with my neck/levator scapulae and it might be an issue that can take MONTHS to correct, during which I cannot OHP (and tbh I’ve fucked up this part of my neck so many times I’m not sure I’m going to want to do it).

    So supposing the incline DB replaced flat BB in the chest & triceps workout, am I not getting enough shoulder work between incline BB, incline DB & dips on Monday, and then incline BB again on Friday?

    • Matt, does your PT give the OK for dumbbell front raises? That is a good replacement instead to work your anterior delts.

      • Matt

        Could ask, the only thing I was warned off of were OHP so I’m assuming it’s fine. OHP is the only lift that’s caused me an sort of issue in the past, I can do dips no problem etc. I’d guess it’s fine to to be honest

  • TJ

    My current training split

    Monday: Calves & Kegels
    Wednesday: Forearms & Neck
    Friday: Jaw

    I going for a physique resembling Popeye the sailorman

  • Abhishek

    Thanks for the great article Mike.
    Is this 5 day split better or the other one mentioned on the other page by u??? I m an advanced weightlifter lifting for quite some time. Actually I was following the 4 day split till now but want to increase. Which one will u suggest me to follow???

    • 5 would be best. You can also work in extra training for lagging muscle groups more easily on a 5-day split.

  • Alex M

    If I’m an advanced beginner and cutting around 11-12% trying to get lower, is there still a point in training 5 days a week with a body part split? Chances are I won’t be gaining much muscle right? Would it be better to reduce volume to 3 days with an upper/lower/upper or push/pull/legs type of workout?

    • I suggest sticking to the 5-day split. Since you’re on a cut, you actually want to have as much activity as possible. Not less. Newbie gains are still possible on a cut.

      • Alex M

        Considering recovery (for muscles and CNS etc.) is lower while in a deficit, isn’t “as much activity as possible” potentially an issue/not necessarily best?

        • You could of course overdo it, but as much as possible without risking overtraining would be good. With 1-2 complete rest days a week and a deload week or week off every 6-8 weeks, you’re fine.

          That way, you’re the least likely to lose muscle while cutting. And as Roger said, you could even make some gains while cutting. To add to that, the higher your activity level is, the higher your TDEE is hence the higher your cutting intake is.

  • Paul Putman

    Ok I am about to try out and do the five day split in beyond bigger stronger. You say you can vary which days you do each body part. There always seems to be crossover which I am trying to avoid between two consecutive days. Ie back day before arms day ie biceps trained on two consecutive days etc. Is there an ideal spread of which muscle groups on which days . What do you think on this

    • Yeah, you’re going to have crossover once you start playing with the schedule. I stick to Chest, Back, Shoulders, Legs, Upper.

      What you can do is insert a rest day in between consecutive bodypart training days to split them up. For example:

      Chest, Break, Upper body, Legs, Shoulders, Back, Break

  • Chris Cusimano

    Hey Mike, two guys at the gym bought the BLS journal recently and they have a strength week in their versions but I don’t have it in mine. I can’t find an article or mention in the book. Am I just missing it?

  • Bart Creamers

    I have been following your 5day routine for 8 weeks now. I get great results , much better results than a regular ‘bodybuild workout’ 😉 Two questions:
    I read a workout should not take more than 45minutes but counting +/- 15 sets x min 3min rest = already 45min of rest in a days workout ?! What am I missing?
    Shoulders side lateral raise needs very smal kg increment and therefor I seems not to grow in strength (fast) Whats your advice on this?

    • I’ll defer to the experts here, but I think as far as lunges, I’d say still keep it at 3 sets of 4-6 reps each. If 3×10 doesn’t seem like much, maybe you need to graduate the weight of what you’re lifting by a few pounds.

    • That’s great you’re getting solid results. Dropping your resting periods to 2min and being ready under the bar when the timer hits zero will shave a lot of time off your workouts.

      Side and rear raises aren’t meant for chasing big weights. The weight increase will be in small increments. If 2.5kg is too big a jump, then work in a higher rep range before attempting the increase.

      No problem! 3 sets of 4-6 is perfect for lunges.

      • Bart Creamers

        Oke , thanks for explaining.

        Question about the 2min rest period cause you write “2.5 to 4 minutes of rest in between sets is the way to go.” ,
        What has more effect, training around a hour or training longer but with 3-5min rest periods ?

        • You’ll do great on 2 min rest. For bigger lifts like Squats and Deadlifts, you can push that to 3 if needed.

          I don’t see how dumbbells will be too light. Imagine two 100LBS dumbbells in each hand…

          You can do regular lunges or Bulgarian Split Squat, which is like a static lunge.

  • Sean Carter

    I just finished week 3 of the program and start strength week next week. I just lent my book to a coworker last week and there’s not much info in the supplemental documents regarding strength week. I know it’s a 3 day week, but I’m not sure what exercises in what routine I should be doing. I’m doing the 5 day program and could use some guidance. Thanks.

    • Awesome. For strength week, this is the procedure:

      DAY 1
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 2
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 3
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets


      DAY 1
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 2
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 3
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

      • Sean Carter

        Thank you! That is exactly what i needed!

  • Nina O

    Thanks for another great article! I’m right now looking to get me the TLS book, I’m getting serious now about reaching my body goals and I’m excited!

    I have a question about knees and squats though. My whole life I feel like my knees have been pretty crap, though some days are better than others, usually they’re just generally weak. On a bad day, one or both of my knees would be painful for no apparent reason and I can barely manage even bodyweight squats, despite being naturally blessed with strong glutes/quads/hamstrings/calves. On a good day, I can maybe manage a few reps of heavy squats, but it’s so rare that my knees cooperate, especially to squat low/with better form.

    I recently discovered the “kneeling squat”, and it sounds ironic but I found that it’s much easier for me to complete my sets this way than with the normal squats. What’s your opinion, are the kneeling squats a good option to replace all squats with? Or do you have any advice to help my knees cope with regular squats?

    Or should I not bother altogether? For some reason, all my leg muscles seem so big and strong before I even started lifting. I know I know, I shouldn’t be afraid of getting too “big” lol, but I’ve been so tempted to quit legs altogether given how difficult it is for me and given that my legs already seem “big”. What do you think?

  • elias

    hi mike
    i make my own workout plan but i have question
    which one is better train every muscle once a week or twice ?
    but its not same exercise
    for example i train my chest 2 time, first day with barbell exercises and machine fly and second day dumbbell exercise
    if its necessary i can type all my workout routine

  • Brandon Dedic

    Thinking about going from a 3 day body part split to a 3 day push/pull. I feel like all the heavy sets from chest day and shoulder day are starting to aggravate my shoulder. Do you think this change will benefit me ? Thanks.

  • amos

    I’m 18 years old, 143lbs, 174cm and eating 4-5k calories just to gain weight steadily.

    I did SS for 2 months and progress from 50kg squat to 82.5kg and gained from 125-143lbs. Legs are developing nicely but upperbody seems to be not that good.

    Is it possible to add squats 3x a week to the program, for a novice lifter? The squat programming is somewhat like Starting Strength and the rest of the upperbody and back movement from BLS. Just like you said, SS fails to hit the upper body on volume. So will programming the workout like that work?

    3×5, Squats and Chest
    3×5, Squats and Shoulders
    3×5, Squats and Arms

    Squats should progress like SS where the weights starts to slow down during worksets but not so heavy till the point of failure each workout. Will doing this for 6 months until squats become very difficult challenging work?

  • Hey Mike and team, looking to switch my ab routine a bit to keep things from getting dull. I usually do the cable crunch, then either the hanging leg raise or captain’s chair leg raise, then the ab roller. Is the “stability ball pike with knee tuck” (http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/stability-ball-pike-with-knee-tuck) an effective exercise? I was thinking of replacing the ab roller with it once a week, but if it’s not a good exercise, I’ll stick with the ab roller.

  • Taj Eldredge

    Hey Mike, where in your articles it explains how much protein/carbs/fats/calories I need a day to gain muscle and lose fat? I am about a 185 pound male.

  • Nick

    Hey Mike, I’m a huge fan of yours. You have really helped me out this past summer to achieve my goals. I followed your HIIT cardio and progressive overload suggestions, and I’ve never looked better. This article was extremely helpful as well, but I wanted to ask for clarification on one thing.
    You say your book “BLS” has men do 45-60 high-intensity reps. Does that mean I should be doing 45-60 high-intensity reps per muscle group every week? For example, I do chest 2x a week. My chest workout is one warmup set then three working sets each of flat bench press and incline dumbbell press of 4-7 reps per set, so I get about 50 high-intensity reps per muscle group per week. Is this okay, or should I start doing more sets?

    Thanks a ton, and I can’t wait to keep improving with your help!

    • Hey Nick! Glad you’re enjoying Mike’s content and have gotten great results.

      50 heavy reps is great! About 9-12 heavy sets a week is all you need per muscle group.

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike all my big lifts have been stalled for a while. Currently my routine is basically a 3 day body part split where I do 9-12 heavy sets… Do you think I would benefit from doing more of a “A” and “B” workout where I would do 3 heavy sets each workout but hit the same exercise every 4-5 days instead of every 7 days? Or do you think calories are more of the problem?

    • Brandon Dedic

      Basically would changing frequency but leaving total volume and intensity the same make any difference

      • Not really. There may be some slight benefits to increasing the frequency, but ultimately you need to progressively overload.

  • Marcel P

    hi Mike, my PRs on Shoulder exercises – Military press 177lbs 4 reps, dumbell MP 100 lbs 4 reps but i still got small shoulders… What should i do ?

    My bodyweight – 170lbs

  • Thomas Cros

    What a brilliant article, this answers a lot of questions for me, I will be sharing this with a lot of misinformed friends at the gym.

  • Raph

    Should I do 4-6 reps with the exception of which exercises?
    Can I pause for a sec (rest for a sec) during reps or should I try to keep the muscles engaged the whole set? Its hard to maintain form if I’m not pausing.
    Thank you Mike

  • Eric Richey

    Hey Mike, I just started the 5 Day split off of this page, I spent the last year following the Kinobody Greek God program, focusing on a Push/Pull split, ABA, three times a week, and I made solid strength gains, but the size has not come in yet. My bench press went from 115 for 5 to 170 for 4, my Weighted Chin Ups went from bodyweight to 70 pounds attached for 4 reps (fresh), and my Shoulder Press went from 60 for 5 to 117.5 pounds for 4. Will my body gain strength faster on this split, inducing progressive overload, and enabling me to gain muscle as fast as possible? I’ve tested out my Squats (225 for 3 sets of 6) and Deadlifts (250 for 3 sets of 6) last week, at 160 pounds. Do you believe I could move on to BBLS after four months or so?

    • Hey Eric, for bulking to happen, you’ll have to be in a calorie surplus. Nice strength gains though! You’ll gain good strength on this routine, though maybe not as fast as your first year of lifting.

      For BBLS, the prereqs are:

      Squat: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for a 1RM
      Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for a 1RM
      Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight for a 1RM

      • Eric Richey

        Would an ideal bulk be just over 2 pounds a month, and pushing to increase lifts by 10-20lbs a month (Bench by 10 vs Deadlifts by 20 for example) so I ensure muscle gain?
        I have to eat ~3600 calories a day to slowly gain weight. I’m 18 at just over 5’11, with a 6’3 armspan, so I’m not sure if I’ll grow a bit taller.
        Just trying to progress as fast, and as healthily as possible 🙂

        • That’s a good goal to shoot for!

          • Marvin

            Hey, I was wondering whether those values (the 1 RM max ones) are fasted or non-fasted? Does it depend on your personal preference – meaning that if I will continue working out fasted, I should look to do those 1 RMs fasted whereas if I worked out non-fasted I’d have to hit those values while non-fasted?

            thank you SO much for taking the time to respond to questions 🙂

          • Marvin

            Adding to that:
            I was in a car accident a couple of years back and can’t really put weight on my back, so I switched to front squats – which seem to be way harder (I lost about 20-30 kilos on my working sets) – Idk if it’s just the unfamiliar movement though – what weight should I be aiming for in order to start BBLS? For the front squad, that is.

          • Sorry to hear that Marvin. Yup, front squats are tough. That’s very normal. I’d say if you can get your bodyweight for 6 reps, you’re ready for some heavier work.

          • Those 1RM values that are calculated are only estimates, regardless of fasted or nonfasted training. To get a better gauge of where you are, you can try a few nonfasted sessions for comparison.

            I’d use this calculator instead of doing the actual 1RM lifts:


  • HI Mike and gang, speaking of building a workout routine, I let you do it for me with the One-Year Challenge for Men. Anyway, can you suggest a good alternative for the shoulder shrug? It’s useless to me.

    It’s not the exercise itself; it’s the wrist straps. I’m at the point where the weight exceeds my grip, but using the wrist straps is pointless. I’ve watched instructional videos, read how-to guides. I just can’t keep them tightened, even after practicing with just the bar (no weights) and with light weights. I give up after tightening, retighthening, retightening–after I tighten the left, I have to tighten the right, and then retighten the left, then when I spread my hands apart, the straps untighten. If it’s an E-Z Bar, it flips when I lift it and the straps untighten. Blah blah blah. So I’m quite done with them and, I guess, with the exercise.

    Or maybe it’s the brand of wrist straps I use or some common mistake you can mention that I might be doing? I’m at my wit’s end with them.

  • Hossein Yaghoobi

    Hi Mike
    i dont have Strength week routine on my BLS bonus report

    • No problem! You can still implement it in your routine. It’s not in the Bonus Report.

      • Hossein Yaghoobi

        i just saw the procedure you replied in another comment.
        so after 3 week of normal training go for a 3 day strength week with main compound workouts like deadlift,squats, military and bench press?

  • Phil Bierhals

    Hey Mike.
    I see you use the 4-6 rep range aswell as the 8-10 range but what about the inbetween rep range of 6-8. Would you ever recommend anyone to work in this rep range.if so is there any benifits of working in this range. Thanks

  • P Mort

    Per another thread I took some time off. One week didn’t seem to be enough so I said “fuck it” and made it two, and finally feeling better. I was on a 5 day plan with HIIT one of those days and an extra day of HIIT, so six days total of working out, 1 of rest. Doesn’t seem like enough.

    I am thinking three day for fat loss and muscle maintenance, but trying to suss out how to structure this without repeating the same mistakes. Doing a Weight, HIIT, Weight, HIIT, Weight, HIIT, rest plan still seems like it’s too much and doesn’t allow enough rest. Recommendations?

    • Glad you’re feeling better! How about temporarily reducing the HIIT cardio, and switching to a maintenance workout:


      Adjust your daily calorie intake accordingly.

      This reduces volume while still keeping your muscles ready to rock after you feel recovered. LMK what you think.

      • P Mort

        Adjust accordingly………eat less? More? I was on a cut. Also I’ve been out for about two weeks so should I do only two days of weights?

        • If your goal is to maintain your current weight and recover since a 3-day split is too much for you at the moment, then you’d have to eat the appropriate amount of calories based on your activity level and 2-days of maintenance lifts to maintain that weight.

          If you’re for up for it and think you can handle it, then a 3-day split would be a good start.

          • P Mort

            OK, cool. I think I’ll go to that and will adjust accordingly. I read above under “How to Build a Workout Routine for Losing Fat and Preserving Muscle”, which is more what I’m interested in. Unrelated though now I’m suspecting a possible food allergy related to bloat, which hasn’t gone away since the rest. Not sure if it’s Whey+, or I’m suddenly lactose intolerant and just never knew, or what.

          • Sounds good!

            Have you tried eliminating food items one by one yet?

          • P Mort

            I’m actually in the process of doing this, looking at FODMAP diets and trying to weed stuff out. The more I think on it, the more I’m certain a problematic food item has to be it. Fatigue, bloat around the midsection (seriously I would look fantastic without this bloat as everything else is very well defined but my midsection looks like a bloated blob, and the kind that you can’t really grab a handful of). Not sure what the potential culprits are out of my standard meal plan but I’m eyeballing milk, Whey+, whatever cheat meals I do (sometimes spaghetti & meatballs, sometimes pizza), and sweet potatoes.

          • Nice. I love how you’re on top of your game. Sounds like it’s definitely a food item being a problem. It’d be pretty strange to all of a sudden be lactose intolerant. One question I have though: Did you increase consumption of milk products? (Includes whey)

            For example, keeping my 2 servings of Greek yogurt constant, if I take a 4th scoop of protein (as opposed to usual 3) the same day, then it’s game over. Bloat starts and so do the signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance.

            Could also be high fiber consumption, if that has changed.

          • P Mort

            I’m making a few adjustments and will reintroduce after a bit of time. I’m hitting the weights and cardio again and will see where I’m at. It’s been a stressful year and I’m also coming off a Cubs season which is stressful enough on its own so maybe things will ease up and that’s the source of the bloat. I’m sure some of it is fat gain but I feel like it’s significantly more of the former so I’ll keep at it on a more consistent basis.

          • Great! Let us know how it goes.

  • Marco Capuano

    Hi Mike, what do you think if i use the bls 3 days push/pull/leg for 2/3 months during a cut and than use the Beyond BLS 3 days push/pull legs while i bump my calories and stay couple months for bulk and than switch again to 3 days BLS for the cut, can be beneficial play this game? there are a lot of information about volume, intensity, frequency and i fell pretty confused… for example in your book you suggest 9/12 set x muscle group x week 40/70 reps ecc ecc
    But in your 3 days push pull legs split there are just 2 exercise for each muscle (6 total set x 4-6 rep)

    • There’s no need for that. Set your cutting cals, stay in a 20-25% deficit, and you’ll do fine on either BLS or BBLS when cutting. When bulking, as long as you’re in a 10% surplus, you’re all set on either program. No need to switch back and forth.

      • Marco Capuano

        Thanks for reply!
        Anyway, can I move from 5days split to 3day split week to week depend of my schedule?
        I would like to train with bbls because I feel much more enjoyable train with different reps range, but I can’t lift the target weight you suggest before start this program…

        • Sure! Reduce your calorie intake accordingly.

          I suggest continuing to work on BLS until you reach the BBLS prerequisites.

  • Georgia

    Hi Mike

    I have been training 5 x per week for about 9 months but I’d like to try out the 4 day split to free myself up on an extra night in the week.

    I know you say 5 days is better than 4 and 4 is better than 3 days. Just how much better is training 5 x per week over 4?

    Essentially you are doing the same workout across the week just over less days so the only difference is more recovery and shorter session time. How much more beneficial is that? I am a perfectionist so I am reluctant to miss out on maximum potential progress.


  • Georgia

    Also, in your TLS plans, in the chest workout which exercise should I do in the 4-6 reps range? Flat bench press is not in every phase of the year one book and if it is it’s not the first exercise.

    • The reason why we recommend women start in the 8-10 rep range (~75% of 1RM) is most start out with very low levels of muscle and strength and find that to be quite heavy. 4-6 would be really daunting and possibly even dangerous (due to poor form).

      Once women have put in a good 6 months or so at that rep range, though, they’ll have the strength and experience to comfortably (and safely) include some heavier work in their routines.

      So, if you’re at that point and would like to work in some 4-6 rep range training, I recommend doing 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range, and using it on the following exercises:

      Military Press
      Bench Press

      On the bench press, that’d include dumbbell bench presses too.

      • Georgia

        So for example if the workout starts with incline dumbbell use the 4-6 rep range there?

        Also have you had chance to look at my other query below? Thank you!

        • Yes, you can do that!

          Really can’t quantify how much better a 5-day split is over 4 days. The benefits are increased activity to burn calories and giving your muscles more stimulus to grow. Plus, you can work on weak-point training for lagging muscle groups if you have that extra day–which provides lots more flexibility with programming.

  • Diego Carrero

    Hi Mike,
    I am looking to build muscle while losing a little bit of weight. I’m starting out with a 6-ish day plan:
    1) Chest
    2) Back
    3) Arms
    4) Shoulders
    5) Legs and Calves
    6) Whatever is lacking most (6-8 rep training) and Cardio
    7) Rest
    I will start to incorporate abs and calves training next week, or after I feel I can without overtraining. Am I on the right track? Is there something I should modify or improve in my workout routine?
    Thanks a lot for all your work man.

    • This is a better idea when on a bulk. I’d do 8-10 reps on your 6th day. 4-5 exercises per muscle group a week (includes weak-point training) maximum. I recommend that you work on one lagging muscle group at a time, and use the 6th day to focus on mobility and flexibility. (do mobility work during the week as well)

  • Jennifer O’Reilly

    Are you still offering the 1 year challenge free with exchange book purchase? I just purchased thinner, leaner, stronger on amazon. 🙂

    • Yup! Shoot me an email with your book purchase receipt. That’s awesome you picked up a copy of TLS!

      mike at muscle for life dot com

  • Marco Brasil

    Hi mike/Roger! I’ve been following bls 5-Day split. If i want to work more on my legs should I just add 3 additional sets of 8-10reps of barbell squat on my back day, after deadlift?
    Or should I do it after all back workouts?

    • That’s great! You can add them after the Deadlift. I wouldn’t recommend tacking it on after all your Back Day lifts.

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    “The triceps are heavily involved in your chest training so it makes sense to train them directly as well.”

    This has never made sense to me. Isn’t that a good reason to train them on _separate_ days? I know that I definitely notice, if I train my chest first, I then have to reduce what would have been my max weight for my triceps workout, and vice versa. For that reason I do chest and biceps and triceps on back day, so neither muscle group suffers for the sake of the other. Is that wrong?

  • Miz Eloise

    hi mike. so i totally overlooked the rep range when i started out the bls 4 months ago. im a woman 23 percent body fat skinny fat. i have been doing the 4 to 6 rep range instead of 8 to 10. sometimes i domt hit 6 sometimes only 5. but on most days i do. do u suggest i go back to 8 to 10 with lighter weights or just keep pushing til i get to 6? im trying to preserve as lean mass as possible as im slowly withering away. getting too skinny. help?

  • Victor Guardiola

    Hey Mike, I’ve always been lacking in shoulders. What day could I add some shoulder movements to increase shoulder gains? Everything else (diet, rest, supplementation) is on point. Also, if deadlifting has hurt me in the past, what can I sub for it? I’ve particularly had a stronger lower body and back in comparison to my chest, but I still want to have a developed lower back/lower body. I’m 18 and I don’t want to hurt myself to much haha. Thanks!

  • Hi Mike, when I eat cheat meals over weekends I gain weight which I then have to lose during the week or I gain weight too fast. Is that counter productive when you are trying to gain muscle? Do you want to be gaining weight while you are training during week and not over the weekend when you are not training? Thanks.

    • Pretty normal. Be sure to not over-do it on the cheat meal:


      My clients see a small increase 1-2lbs after a cheat meal over the weekend, but their weights end up lower the following week while cutting.

      If you’re bulking, slight weight gain is really no big deal. It should normalize after 1-2 days. It’s primarily water weight you see.

      • Thanks good to know! I eat two cheat meals over the weekend one small and one big and I don’t work out then either. I see a weight increase of about 2kg.

        • Well, as long as your calories are within reasonable limits on those two days, great! 2kg is rather huge, though…

          • That’s a bit of an exaggeration it’s more like 1.5 kg. But if I wanted to I could gain 5 kg over a weekend. That’s how easily I gain weight and why I weigh myself about 20 times a day. The up side is I can also lose weight easily although that takes an awful lot more discipline than gaining weight as you can imagine!

          • I recommend just weighing yourself in the morning after using the restroom. You’ll get the best reading then. Other times will have stomach contents and all the food and liquid you’ve taken in during the day as part of your scale weight.

            Haha yeah, I agree.

          • Oh don’t you worry I know all about weighing lol. You don’t weigh yourself 20 times a day and don’t know what the score is.

          • Haha I hear ya.

  • Pete Mick

    Hi Mike. I’ve had back problems for years and just got back into lifting this fall. After trying the five-day sample routine above for a few weeks my lower back is killing me, probably because I pushed myself too hard on deadlifts and RDLs. My legs are already big I just need to tone them and build upper body so I’m considering opting out of deadlifts For a while until I can perfect the form and avoid hurting myself. What would you recommend in the meantime to help tone and build muscle when I’m missing out on DLs?

  • Christian Baumgartner

    Hey Mike,I bought the BLS journal and BLS Kindle version. But I don’t have a strength week in my versions.
    Please can you send me the missing strength week(s) , and when I should do these strength week(or weeks).
    By the way your program is awesome.
    My email is [email protected]
    Nice greetings Chris

    • Awesome! Will do.

      • Christian Baumgartner

        But when should I do the strength weeks?

  • Pat Geale

    Hey Guys,
    Not sure if this is this best place to ask this question, and it’s pretty inane, however I’m a little confused with my rest periods and workout timing.
    I’m onto week 3 of BLS ( and loving it), I’m down 6lbs, strength up on all my lifts and looking a lot leaner than I was previously and I logged my workout using Stacked for the first time today – also great!
    I find that when following the program to a T I’m still in the gym for longer than the recommended 60-70 minutes. Usually an hour 20 to an hour 30. I noticed that Stacked calculates rest times, and am I supposed to take rest times off my actual workout time, because that would mean I’ under the bar for the recommended 60 minutes or so…

    • That’s kinda long. You should be finishing around 1 hour. Make sure you’re under the bar and ready to go the moment the timer hits 0. Take 2-3 min breaks for your big lifts. 2min is sufficient for everything else. You just have to be efficient. Clients working with me in person finish 5 exercises in exactly 1 hour. It’s definitely doable.

      • Pat Geale

        Alright cool, get back under the bar Pat gee haha. Thanks man!

        • If it helps–and Roger (or Mike), feel free to correct me–I usually finish each exercise in about 10 minutes (not counting the big four at the beginning).

          If each set takes about 30-45 seconds and each rest period is about 2-3 minutes, you should start your first set of one exercise about 10 minutes after starting the first set of your previous exercise. For instance, if you start set #1 of the leg press at 20:00 according to your stopwatch, you should be starting set #1 of lunges (or whatever) at about 30:00. This should help you time out the workouts a little better to see if you’ll go too long.

          Like I said, the big four (squat, deadlift, military press, and bench press) might go a little longer, and the warmup sets might stretch things out. Also, the calf and ab sets skew the timing a bit too.

          This might help you figure out where you’re losing time and if you can afford three-minute breaks or need to go down to two-minute ones.

  • Jlane210

    I just realized, on the recommended leg workouts, leg curls are listed but leg extensions are not. Is there a reason for this, or is there another article showing that it isn’t as beneficial as a lot of people think it is?

    • Yeah, not really a fan of leg extensions. They put a lot of stress on the knees and your quads get plenty of work from squats, leg press, hack squats, etc.

  • Salah El Mackawi

    Suppose i did 190 lb on bench press for 6 reps. So on my next set i have to do 4 reps of 200 lb.
    But what about the 3rd set?should it be 4 reps of 200 lb?

    • Of course!

      • Salah El Mackawi

        So if i did not get 4 reps on my last set we have two option either extend the rep range with original weight or microload.

        Suppose i get only 2 reps in that set then directly decrease the weight and continue the set.
        Is this method good?

        • Yup!

          • Salah El Mackawi

            This method suited for isloation only or it can be used for compound movements

          • Both isolation and compound.

  • Eddie

    Hi Mike. One quickie.

    In the book it says 6-9 working sets per large muscle group. Tri and Bi 6 sets but in the PDF files I got after reading the book it says 3 sets (tricep extension) next to the day 1 exercise of the 4 day split? Confused. Please clarify for me so I get it correct…. ty

    • No, do the 3. That’s that trouble with 3 and 4 day splits–you can’t cram in all the volume of a 5-day program. No problem, though. Just follow the Y1C PDF as it is printed. If the machine is too long, you can consider doing dumbbell incline or flat bench.

      • Eddie

        Thanks Roger. That was confusing. I checked the 5 day split, it also says 3 working sets next to that exercise? as well so I was not sure. I will do the 3. For now I think the 4 day split would work best for me. I will do the exercises that you suggested if the machine is hogged next week. Thanks

        • That’s right. On Upper Body day of the 5-day split, you have 6 sets of triceps-specific exercises (close grip and triceps press). Also, keep in mind through the week you’re already hammering them with bench presses and the overhead press. You’re getting enough volume following the Y1C, don’t worry 🙂 Everything is working as intended and designed with the book’s guidelines in mind.

  • YF

    Hi Mike, I’m much in agreement with your prescription here. Question: I’ve been doing chest and back on the same day for ages. Is this a mistake? Should I separate them into two separate days? Alas, I only have 4 days (at most) to train per week.

    • I’d separate the two. No problem if you only have 4 days. Go with a 4 or 3-day split!

  • Marquez


    Doing the 4 day routine. just started. question i have to make sure i do not fault on week 2. if i did ez bar curls for example: lets say 60×6, 65×5, 70×4 do I start on 70 lbs next week when I hit ez bar curl. and not go up until i can get 6 reps of 70? and progress from then. i am not sure if i am doing right as i posted above but that is what i did. i am new so i was not aware what i could curl. 70×4 i could not do a 5th….

    • Marquez

      I mean i did 60×6, 65×6, then 70×4. sorry for my error

    • That’s correct, Marquez. In your example, you would start with 70×4 the following week and increase weight once you hit 6 reps.

  • Devin Michael

    Hi Mike,

    I just finished week 6 of BLS and am loving it. I do the routine in the morning and then usually try to do a class at the Y in the evenings. I am wondering if you would recommend working out on weekends too if I have the time? If so, should I focus on cardio or on muscle groups where I am weak? Thanks.

    • Sure! Working out on weekends is fine. A 5-day split is enough, so focus on cardio.

  • Jesper Østerdal

    Hi Mike,

    Could you share the program for the strength weeks?

    I am doing your 5 split routine, and getting to week 5 now, so as I understand I should do the strength week next week?

    Thanx for some great articles!


    • Totally! This is what it looks like:

      DAY 1
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 2
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 3
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets


      DAY 1
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 2
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      DAY 3
      Barbell Squat – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Flat Barbell Bench Press – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets
      Barbell Deadlift – Warm-up sets and then 3 working sets

  • Hi Mike and Roger,

    This question is slightly on/off topic here, but I couldn’t find a home for it. In terms of breathing in/out at the right times in exercises, I have asthma, which doesn’t affect me anymore except that I have a lower lung capacity than the average dude. So, when we’re supposed to inhale/exhale during some exercises, I find my lungs are already empty/full before I finish the motion and I have to exhale/inhale too early. Is this affecting my motion, are there any general tips you have, or am I just fussing about minutae that don’t really matter?

    • As long as you’re holding in enough and bracing your core to create that pressure and stability, you’re all good.

      • Awesome! Glad to know! Thanks for putting me at ease! (Now, time to get to the gym to put myself OUT of ease. :P)

        • NP! It’s tough with reduced lung capacity, so do your best!

          • Meh. It’s honestly not too bad. If this is the worst anyone experiences at the gym, they got it made. The worst of it is when you should be breathing out but you have to breathe in, and your range of motion is a little tight if you have full lungs when they’re not supposed to be. I can live with that.

          • Oh that does get a bit tight!

  • Pat

    Hey MIke, I just finished your book and embarked on the 3 day a week workout program. From the purchased book it has my Monday start with back and Biceps with Wednesday chest and triceps. When I peruse the web site the workouts are the opposite. Logically I believe it shouldn’t matter but thought best to pose the question before I get further into the program over the next 8 weeks. Please advise

  • Pat

    Got a couple of questions regarding protein intake and diet calorie intake.
    1.I am 235lbs plus or minus 2lbs and by the visual figure charts for fat % I an definitely 35% +. My goal is 180lbs therefore should I be eating for that size? I mean 180 grams of protein or should I be eating 235 grams of protein?
    2. Second question is somewhat the same regarding calories. I want 180lbs to be my goal so shouldn’t I eat as a 180lb man would which would logically adjust and slow my weight loss to a stop once I reached that goal? I was using an old quick math that says whatever your goal weight X 10 calories per pound which puts me at 1800 calories.
    Please advise.
    btw week one complete. Felt like I should be doing more but refrained from doing so as per your instruction. Look forward to your reply, ciao.

    • Hi Pat,

      Find your cutting targets here using your current bodyweight and body fat %:



      Follow those targets and reduce calories and increase HIIT cardio when you hit a fat loss plateau.

      • Pat

        Thanks Mike,I opted to take all the guess work outta this equation and subscribed to your meal plan purchase. I want to make these efforts with all the right instruction and hopefully get the results advertised in your book. Wish me luck brother.

        • No problem! That’s awesome you picked up a meal plan. Let me know how everything goes!

          • Pat

            will do. Stay frosty Brother, I’ll give a sitrep after I get it all in play,ciao.

          • Great!

  • Salah El Mackawi

    Hey Mike,

    What routine do u recommend during cutting phase.
    The 3 or 4 or 5 days?

    • 5 days is definitely preferred, but if you have trouble scheduling time for cardio, then a 3 day split would be best. That way you can at least guarantee that you can fit in at least 2 cardio sessions if you have 5 workout sessions available during the week.

  • Rott Weiler

    Hey Mike! What are your thoughts on doing a 2-day split, going A B A one week and B A B the other one, A being Chest/Shoulders/Triceps (maybe Incline Barbell, Flat Dumbbell, Standing Military and Dips/Pushdown/Close-grip) and B being Back/Legs/Biceps (maybe Deadlift, Squat, any Row, any Curl). I’m asking because I feel like I need to do the same exercise more than just once a week, so I can improve my form. Also, I’d still do the BLS style, with a Strength week after 3 weeks

    • I mean, you can, but you’ll be missing out on volume for those muscles. Why not a 3-day split spread over 5-6 days? (Same volume, just spread out)

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    I have a question about rest periods. What if you are training two totally different groups, such as chest and legs? Is it more beneficial to do a set of chest, wait 2-3 minutes, before a set of legs? Or can I do a set of chest, then go directly to a set of legs, and the important thing is to have the 2-3 minutes break in between the two chest sets, and the two leg sets?

    Secondly, I see the chest/tris split recommended everywhere and you recommend it in two different splits here. I don’t understand why this makes sense, because when I try this, I can feel my chest press is significantly weaker if I just did a set of tricep work, and vice versa.

    • In your example, that’d be fine. OK to mix in mobility work and abs as well.

      Yeah, that’s enough. If you need more volume, throw in an extra exercise.

  • Dan Howard

    Hi Mike

    I’m cutting, want to use your 4 day workout, would this be suitable and if so is cardio really necessary if i make sure i’m always in a minor deficit? also how much weight loss per week while cutting is optimal for retaining muscle? My diet and macros are not a concern just need to tweak them so im not losing too much or too little.


    • Totally! I strongly recommend that you do HIIT cardio. You’ll have faster results that way and finish your cut sooner. 1lb/week is a good target, but if you’re over 19% BF, 2lbs/week is not unreasonable.

  • Sonny

    Hi Mike!

    As per the 4 day routine in BLS, is it okay to omit the incline bench press on day 3 and just do shoulders and calves? I assume it’s there in case there are any chest weaknesses that need to be ironed out?

    • I suggest keeping it so you can develop your upper chest for a fuller looking chest.

  • Lindsey Marchant

    So do circuits fall into place lace anywhere? When I look up HITT workouts for cardio a lot of them have strength moves and ab moves in them. Is that okay when I’m lifting too? Or should it just be cardio HITT. It’s hard to know which ones are good

  • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

    Hi there, I noticed in the workout routine in this article, there is calf workout A, calf workout B, and etc. What do you mean by that? What specific exercises do you mean by that?

    • Good question. Take a look at this:


      • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

        Hi mike, if i am going for the gain muscles while losing fat goal, which protein supplement should i take? mass gainer, whey or something else you recommend???

        • Whey protein can help you meet your protein requirements.

      • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

        If you could also recommend me some good brands for protein powder, I noticed an article where you are selling your own whey isolate protein powder. however I am not from america so it’s difficult to get it locally. Perhaps you could give me a recommendation of which brand to get.

        • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is a great option.

          • Nicholas Wan Cheng Yao

            Hi Mike, I am looking for whey isolate protein specifically, any suggestions?

          • That’s exactly what I recommended.

  • Aditya Thatte

    I am 32, Skinny fat and restarted my workout regime, after going through your article and podcast on skinnyfat thing.
    From, Last 2 weeks, I am doing full body workouts i.e. Upper body for 2 days, Legs for 1 day and Swimming as cardio for 1 day… I am super impressed by your work and knowledge and would be starting the 5 day workout a week program. Please help me with:-
    1. Whether its okay to start the 5 day workout week program now (after 2 weeks of full body workout)

    2. In the 5 days workout a week, Where can we squeeze in Abs / Cardio workout.

    • Hey Aditya, that’s great you’re enjoying my content!

      1. Yes, start the 5-day spilt. Doesn’t matter when or what you’ve been doing in prior weeks.
      2. Three out of the five days. For example: Day 1, 3, 5.

  • Jon

    I was looking through the BLS book and the comments on this article to see if I found an answer to my question but I didn’t so here it goes.

    I follow a 5-day split but 50% of the time I am not able to go more than 4 times a week for strength training sessions.

    So, as to not lose the volume typically exerted on my 5-strength-training-day weeks, it is recommendable if I do the full volume of a 5-day split into 4 days, even if that means longer workouts?

    If so, I imagine I could just combine all exercises from day 4 (shoulders) and day 5 (legs) + calves into one workout, right?

    Something like the following when I can’t do 5 days of strength training/wk:
    Day 1) Chest + Abs
    Day 2) Back + Calves
    Day 3) Upper Body + Abs
    Day 4) Legs + Shoulders + Calves
    Day 5) HIIT + Abs
    Day 6) HIIT

    Thanks for the help!

    • Awesome you have a copy of BLS, Jon. I do not recommend combining days like that. There’s only so much volume you can pack into one day. I recommend just doing the 4 day split instead.

  • P Mort

    Ughhh I’m at wits end. I’m trying to reassess my routine with BLS but I’m struggling to figure out what to fit in where. I was doing the 5-day BLS routine last year, with fasted strength training in the morning, and then with HIIT the same day as chest (in the afternoon, so a 2-a-day) and another HIIT round on Saturday, with only Sundays off. I saw a bit of fat loss early on but I got burnt out quick (yes I was doing deloads/rest weeks…I also dealt with a bout of insomnia that lasted about a month and there was a period where I was experiencing blurriness in one of my eyes that didn’t let up until I backed off), I was extremely tight all over because I had no stretching/mobility exercises in there (the simple act of getting in/out of my car was painful), and on the diet side of things I was so hungry I was miserable (was eating 2200 on a calculated 2800/2900 tdee). I did get bulky though! Something I didn’t want to happen at all…many of my shirts are now too tight and have tears at the seams along the shoulders, and I’ve popped the button off of several size 34 pants…instead of feeling like the ripped, lean & lithe guy I wanted to be, I just feel like a slow, tired, and hungry ogre.

    So I’ve been reviewing some of the information across the web and factoring more details into my plan. I’m a mesomorph, and putting on muscle has always been easy for me, but I have some unseemly visceral fat that won’t go away (never had much issue with subcutaneous…the visceral seems to run in the family and I am sedentary outside of my training which I know is a factor, but at the same time during this phase I had no energy to do anything!).

    I don’t know, I figure I don’t need as many strength training days as ecto-leaning dudes. I’m happy with my strength and I’m not looking to get “swole” (in fact that’s the last thing I want). And I could probably afford to do add a round of HIIT; my body always seemed to respond well to it, my waist & midsection felt a lot slimmer after those, and it seemed to work wonders in curbing my appetite, which is a plus. However, I know this is sacrilege, but I would like at least a round of steady state cardio as well, as even with HIIT, I feel gassed for anything longer than the short bursts from those (and I feel like I need to add some aerobic component that I’m neglecting with anaerobic HIIT, as heart disease runs in our family as well). And finally, I do think I need to add some yoga/mobility component in to remove the tightness I’ve been experiencing, as well as to help de-stress.

    I just don’t know where to fit all of this in without spending 10 hours/week or more in the gym. This is all I can come up with at a high level.

    Mo: Strength
    Tu: HIIT
    We: Strength & 20-30 min run
    Th: HIIT
    Fr: Strength
    Sa: HIIT

    But that’s still a lot and I already feel like that’s going to wipe me out with only one rest day.

    Anyway, sorry this is long, but I’m extremely frustrated and feel like this isn’t sustainable.

    • Easy fix:

      1. Be in a sufficient deficit where you’re losing fat and inches every week.

      2. Stop increasing weight on your lifts.

      3. 3-day split is fine, with the rest being cardio days.

      • P Mort

        1. I was doing that but was still struggling with hunger issues. Trying to get an accurate TDEE calculation is hit or miss with me.
        2. OK.
        3. What kind of cardio should I be doing in between those 3 days? HIIT, steady state? Won’t the former burn me out? If I’m doing heavy/hard work six days a week I feel like I’m going to be right back to the burnout I was experiencing before.

  • Mark Robison

    When you reach the point that you can do the 3 sets for six reps, how much should you increase your resistance for the next workout?

    • A 5-10lbs increase.

      • I thought we increase the weight when we hit six reps regardless of if it’s for one set or the whole 3. Did I get that right, or am I not remembering? Should I increase the weight only if I hit 6 reps for all 3 sets?

        • It is up to you, but if you get more than 6 reps the first set, that indicates you are ready to bump the weight up.

          • Sounds good. I typically up my weight when I hit 6, but if I have trouble at the new weight (i.e. I’m not hitting 4 or my form is so bad, I’m either not getting anything out of it, I risk injury, or I exhaust myself so much my subsequent exercises suffer), I knock it down until I can manage properly. I guess this is a good rule of thumb to keep?

          • Yep. You’ve got it down. Awesome job!

  • Jan Sandoval

    Hello, just a simple question: let’s say I do one of the workouts above, how much time until I have to change it? Thanks

    • You never have to change it. You can use the same workouts for a long time and see results, if you apply the progressive overload principle.

  • Mikel

    Hi mike. When you say progressive overload over time you mean in a specific exercise putting more weights in the bar or by over time you mean after X weeks of workouts?
    Many thanks

  • Anthony Lomangino

    Mike – is this type of workout (heavy 4-6 reps..etc) good for 40+ year old? I’ve always read higher reps/lower weight was safer on “older joints”..etc..Thanks foe your input!

  • Lauren

    Hey Mike,
    I’m a woman who’s been doing your TLS 5-day split for a few months now. I want to make sure I’m doing squats twice a week, but doing them the same day as deadlifts is just killing me (since those are the two hardest exercises I do all week!). Is there a way to switch up the order of the split so that I do squats twice a week, though not on the same day as deadlifts, and still have enough rest between squats and deadlifts?

    • Awesome work making TLS work for you! You can do deadlifts as your first exercise on back day, if that works better for you. LMK how it goes and if you have other questions!

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    I joined a gym and have been doing the BLS routine at the gym for about 7 months now. For whatever reason, during all that time, I somehow blanked or forgot to go to Phase 2, Phase 3 etc…I’m technically in week 27 now but have been doing the Phase 1 exercises (with the strength weeks and de-load weeks) all that time. I’ve made considerable gains and lost more than 20 pounds.

    My question is, would it be bad if I cycled through the remaining phases quicker than the normal two month periods? I’m anxious to try out the new exercises and can’t figure out how I could have forgotten to change to the new phases. Would it be bad if I was to do Phase 2 this week, Phase 3 next week, just to catch up to where I’m supposed to be? Or would you recommend going through them as their normal 8 week cycles?


    • Hey, if you lost 20 lbs just doing Phase 1, that is great! I recommend doing Phase 2 and 3 as they are laid out, instead of rushing it. Keep working hard.

      • Zak Smith

        Cool, thanks Mike

  • Joedog5

    Hi Mike,
    This is a little bit off topic but are you’re books, The Year one challenge and Bigger Leaner Stronger appropriate for someone my age, (15) or are they meant more for people who are in 20’s 30’s and forties. I already have a pretty good lean body . Would these books help me get an even better defined body as well as adding pounds of muscle?
    Thanks for your time man, you’re the best

  • Damien

    I bought Bigger, leaner, stronger and in the routine program you said that you suggest to use the programme during 8 weeks before the others in the bonus page. I have found no workouts in the bonus page. Is this program good after the routine in your book? Thank you

    • Hey Damien, the Year One Challenge workouts are in the bonus report. The different phases follow the same principles as the BLS workout. I just make some exercise substitutions from the approved exercise list 🙂

      The workout in this article is similar, and would be great for you.

  • Jordan

    I play rugby for both my club and school. If you don’t know what rugby is,it is like if NFL didn’t have stoppages and you have no pads. So as you might realise it’s A very physically and mentally draining sport. I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for any pre and post game meals in terms of macros (an example would be perfect aswell) or if I should just have a pre and post workout shake. Any recommendations or advice would be incredibly helpful.

      • Jordan

        Thank you so much for answering me.I just finished reading the articles which I thoroughly enjoyed. But I was still curious as to whether I should have a pre-workout before a game (which typically lasts 70-80minutes). Or if I should have a more traditional meal. I’m still only 16 and I don’t know if that would make a difference. If you or anyone else could shed some light on my question that would be amazing. I also recently finished your bigger leaner stronger book and to be honest it blew my mind. I think that you are heavily under appreciated and that you deserve a lot more thanks. Anyway I wish you all the best. Thanks,Jordan

        • Thanks for the support! I’m glad you like the book and the articles.

          I wouldn’t overthink it. Have a meal that includes protein and carbs before a game, and that’ll be fine 🙂

  • John

    Hi mike, my name is john and I’m 17 years old from Ireland and have been going to the gym on and off for about 2 years now. I recantly finished your book and i thoroughly enjoyed it. I play rugby and I compete in athletics, specifically 100metre and 400metre sprints. I was wondering if I should do some sport specific exercises and if I do what should I change in the programs given at the end of your book? Should I add in box jumps etc. My coaches have also suggested implementing some Olympic lifts aswell such as power cleans etc. It would help me a lot of you could voice a opinion or give me some advice on my situation. Thanks a lot, all the best John

    • Hey John!

      Thanks for reading the book man! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      When it comes to specific exercises for your sport, I think your best bet is to follow a program that’s tailored to getting better at that sport and then adding some bodybuilding style accessories if you also want to add some lean mass.

      Seeing as I’ve never competed in rugby or football, I can’t really vouch for any particular products, but the programming in this book seems very solid overall: https://store.jtsstrength.com/collections/digital-resources/products/the-juggernaut-method-2-0?variant=2106546819

      I recommend checking that out and then modifying it a little based on your goals. Another option is to follow BLS for the off-season, and then 2-3 months before rugby starts you change your training to focus more on your sport.

      Let me know how everything goes, and if you ever want to become a success story on the site!

      • John

        Thanks for the advice, I’ll check out the link. I’ll let you know how I’m getting on, all the best John

  • 蓝狗

    Hi Mike. Started back after 7 years out. Back then I’d do 8-12 reps 8 sets every 5 days for each major muscle group. I could also run 5K in under 22 minutes as a 42 year old. I did a lot of cardio and as such couldn’t increase my weights. Body weight was 84-86kg,
    I’ve been back in the gym for the past 8 weeks after a 7 year hiatus where I put on 25kg of pure saturated fat. Was progressing slowly with my old ways and after 6 weeks was benching 4 sets 8-12 reps 25-30kg each side after beginning with the same sets and reps at 20kg each side, but only managing 5-6 on the fourth.
    I read this article two weeks ago and began loading the bar and focusing on 4-8 reps. In two weeks I’ve jumped to 37.5kg each side with an easy 8 rep start, then work it down through 6reps to finish with two sets of 4. Next chest workout I’ll be upping to 40kg each side. A huge improvement. Beginners jump start perhaps but more gains in the past two weeks compared to the previous 6 weeks.
    I’ve stil got some flab to lose around my belly.
    I’m looking forward to further progress in the future. Less cardio and no running for two reasons, footballer’s/soldier’s knees, and a focus on building muscle strength and mass before an earnest effort to get to around 10% body fat.
    Moreover, great myth busting article.


    • Hey Mike, great to hear you’re doing well! Keep me updated on your progress 🙂

  • Marc Roberson

    One more question boss. Can I substitute the Tbar row for the bent over row? Or just add it to the workout? Would you recommend either? Reason is because, for some reason, I make significant gains on the Tbar in size and strength. Thanks again.

  • C_1911

    Hey Mike, hope u doing well. I have a quick question, inside BLS bonus content “the yesr one challenge” u saying for the need of a Strength week every four weeks of training, but u show in this bonus Phase 1 is 1-8 weeks and then Phase 2 is 10-17, so i guess strength week duration is 2 weeks, BUT my question is WHAT routine you follow in these 2 weeks ? U saying is monday-wednesday-friday routine and is a more traditional strength program but what about exercises selection, volume, etc ?

    Thanks for ur time Mike.

  • Ahmad

    Hi Mike,

    Just wanted to let you know that i completed all of your books. Its been around a 1-1.5 year period which helped me be consistent. I definitely got bigger and stronger. I did know a lot about working out prior to you but you helped me realize what natural lifters should do and how to train smarter, so thanks on that.

    Right now, im completing the bonus(beyond bigger leaner challenge) and i wanted to know what i should do after? The workouts from Maximum Muscle(beginning of workin out) all the way to now changed a lot so im curious in what do you suggest and how should i continue my workouts? Also my arms are still a lagging part, they did grow, but still unsure if heavy lifting helps so much due to them being a small muscle.


    • Hey Ahmad, it’s great to hear that you’ve been enjoying the books and content, and that it’s helped you out over the past year!

      You can basically continue doing the BBLS routine and keep building strength. Arms can be stubborn for some people, but if you keep getting stronger, they will grow. One thing you can try is adding a couple of additional sets of arms to the end of your Chest and Back days to squeeze in a bit more volume.

      BBLS discusses periodization, and includes 8-10 rep sarcoplasmic training in the routine. It also goes over weak point training. These concepts will help you with the arms.

      This article might be useful for you: https://www.muscleforlife.com/best-arm-exercises/

      I hope this helps!

  • Jonathan Mena

    In this article, under your “Best exercises for..” section, what’s the difference between the “Barbell Row” and “Barbell Rear Delt Row”? I assume the first you pull below chest and the latter you pull towards upper chest, but I wanted to confirm.

    • Exactly. With the barbell row, your arms are more tucked in towards your sides. For the rear delt row, your arms will be more perpendicular to your torso. I hope this helps!

  • Kris

    Hey Mike, thank you for the great work that you do. Im 40 yrs old male and have been working out for the first time in my life for the last 8 months. Ive been making great progress, however, Ive been doing your recommended 5 day split but noticed my recovery is just not able to handle it.

    So now I do a watered-down version that adds more days to spread the more taxing days apart: Chest day, abs/calves/neck day, Back day, day off, Arm day, Shoulder day, abs/calves/neck day, Legs, day off, repeat. Yes, I realize that’s a 9 day cycle but it just is SO much better for my recovery.

    I really enjoy the volume that the 5 day split gives for each body part, along with the relative quickness of the daily workouts, which is why Im doing this instead of a smaller split. Even after my watering down, I continue to make about 1.5- 2 lbs of lean gains a month so so far it works. Should I just ride this out until I stop making gains or am I a fool for breaching your tried-and-true 7 day cycle? Have a great day brother and I send my best to your team and family.

    • Hey Kris, it’s great you’re making progress with that routine! It’s true that as you age, you may need to take extra measures to ensure adequate recovery, so if that routine is working for you, keep it up! Keep me updated.

      You might like this article, by the way: https://legionathletics.com/fitness-at-any-age/

  • Sam

    Hey Mike

    I was wondering if I can resume the 5 day cycle immediately on day 6. Meaning, is it okay for me to have no rest days and repeat the cycle from day 1 on day 6, day 2 on day 7 and so on? I will still be giving each muscle 5 days before working them next. Or does my body still need at least 1 day free from any kind of workout?

  • ryan wooten

    Hey Mike,

    I was hoping you could give me some advice. I’ve been following the 4 day workout plan for about 7 months now along with a custom meal plan from you guys. I was able to cut from 210lb to 170lb, about 11% body fat. I just recently started a bulk cycle about 3 weeks ago. My issue is I’ve been stuck on the same weight for all my exercises for several months now and haven’t seen much improvement. Since I started the bulk, I am gaining weight again but not improving. For example, some back days I can deadlift 305lb 5 reps each set. Then the next week I can barely lift it 3 times in my first set alone. I workout out at the same time everyday and my sleep schedule is pretty consistent. What do you recommend I do?

    Thanks in advance, Big fan by the way!

    Ryan Wooten

    • Hey Ryan, great job on that cut, man!

      Regarding the plateau, are any of your other exercises during the workout progressing? When’s the last time you took a deload week?

      I recommend checking out this article: https://www.muscleforlife.com/weightlifting-plateau/

      I hope this helps, and thank you for the support!

      • ryan wooten

        Hey Mike,

        I took a deload week about 3 weeks ago to transition from my cut to the bulk. Unfortunately, all of my exercises stalled and I maintained with the same weight for a few months. Is it just because I lost so much weight on the cut that I’ve been seeing little progress increasing weight recently?

        The article you shared with me definitely helps.

        Thanks again

        • I’m glad it helped! Maintaining your strength while losing a bunch of fat on the cut is actually great. It’s pretty difficult to gain strength while cutting unless you’re a newbie 🙂

  • David Dietsch

    I have slightly rolled shoulders, fixed them a lot with face pulls. I have 12 sets of compound chest presses, 12 sets of compound back pulls, and 6 sets of military press along with 6 sets of face pulls. My question is, I want to add close grip dumbbell press in my arm routine, but I’m nervous that I’ll routine my posture that I’ve worked so hard to fix. My triceps are by far my weakest body part and 9 sets of triceps, even in a surplus has got me no where. Thoughts?

    • Hey David, doing close-grip bench won’t ruin your posture. That said, you could pick a different tricep exercise instead that doesn’t incorporate the front deltoid as much, like the overhead tricep extension, skullcrushers, or triceps pushdown.

  • SolarxPvP

    In the year one challenge for men, should the strength weeks and weeks where I had to do the body weight workouts in BLS count in the “phase” weeks? For example: phase 1 is week 1-8 do I need to do 8 weeks of those exercises or go to the next phase?

    • Hey man, Week 4 and Week 8 in each phase are Strength Week. Basically you do 3 weeks or normal workouts, and then a strength week. Make sense?

  • SolarxPvP

    In phase 1 of the Year One Challenge, do strength weeks and weeks where you have to do body weight workouts when traveling count as a week in 1 phase? Or do I go on after 8 weeks?

  • Enzo

    Hi Mike

    I just wanted to know if the 4-6 rep range using the 80% 1RM is recommended for beginners just starting to workout. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks and want to make sure I’m not taking the incorrect approach

  • Jawsh Yoast

    I am doing the 4 day split. Should I take a rest day between Day 2 and Day 3? Thanks!

    • Sure, that can work well. It’s really up to you where you put the rest days 🙂

      • Jawsh Yoast

        If I wanted to go 4 days in a row, would there be any problem with chest exercises on day 1 and day 3 being too close to each other for proper recovery? I am 42.

  • Anettte

    Hi mike
    I do weight training 4 times a week i want to loose like 25 ponds to reach my goal weight how much cardio should i be doing in order to build lean muscle. I mainly want to loose more lower body weight. I want to get lean legs and build my butt. Pls give me some advice thanks

  • Evan J. Lim

    Hi Mike, any reason why 3 working sets instead of 4 working sets of 4-6 reps?
    Can I do 4 sets instead? For a total of 12 working sets since there are 3 exercises. Thanks.

    • Hey Evan, 9-12 sets per muscle group is a great workout. You can definitely do 4 sets if you plan your routine accordingly. It’s all about weekly volume and balancing that with intensity and frequency 🙂

  • Evan J. Lim

    Do I include the accessory workouts eg dips for chest, lat pull downs for back as part of the 12 sets?
    For eg. My chest workout: 4 sets of 4-6 reps, incline DB bench, bb bench & flat bench.
    Followed by another 3 sets of 6-8/8-10 reps of dips. Or must I include the dips in the 12 sets?

    • Hey Evan, the 12 sets include the optional sets. If you count up the working sets on chest day for the first three exercises, you get 9 sets. The 3 optional sets would give you 12 sets total. I hope this helps!

      • Jay L

        Thanks for replying Mike.
        What’s the downside of adding those optional sets like dips *on top of* the 12 sets? ie. 4 sets of incline bb, 4 sets of incline db, 4 sets of flat db + 3 sets of weighted dips. Can I still do so?

        Btw, I bought both BBLS and TLS! BLS isn’t yet available so i went with BBLS first.

        • That’s probably more volume than you need, but the only negative (besides making your workout longer, if that bothers you) would be if it caused symptoms of overtraining. There’s only so much heavy lifting your body can handle. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/signs-of-overtraining/

          You should be able to find BLS on Amazon, no?

          • Jay L

            Amazon costs too much to ship to my country, so I actually use another book store.

            Okay I will take your advice; even though I feel like only 12 sets makes me feel like I’m “not working hard enough” haha.

            Will I eventually increase volume or does it stay this way and just focus on heavy weights?

          • If you’re used to long, “pump” style workouts, then these will feel pretty different, but 12 heavy sets is definitely enough. To progress on the routine, rather than adding sets, you increase the amount of weight you’re lifting over time. For example, once you reach the top of the rep range on a set, you add weight to the bar.

          • Jay L

            Hi Mike,

            Just another question. It’s been 5 weeks since I’m on this BBLS style routine and I don’t get as sore as compared to when I was doing “pump” style 4 sets of 10-12 reps training. Sometimes I don’t even feel any soreness in the body part the next day.
            Should I be concerned in anyway? Or as long as I’m adding weight to bar Over time and physique in the mirror looks better?
            I used to always think soreness means muscle breakdown means muscle growth.

          • Don’t worry about it. Soreness is not the best indicator of muscle growth. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/sore-muscles/

          • Jay L

            Thanks that’s very helpful as always.

          • No problem 🙂

  • Alex

    I moved and joined a gym that doesn’t have a proper leg press (it’s one of those cable machines and stops at 200 pounds) and doesn’t have a seated or standing calf raise. I’m following Bigger Leaner Stronger Year 1, and wanted to know what you alternatives you would suggest I do for these exercises?

  • Christian

    What if I did 6 reps and 12 sets into my workout or even 4 sets and 12 reps? Is that effective ? You’re workout just inquires 3 sets, which I feel like it isn’t enough for me.

    • Hey Christian, the workouts are usually 3 sets per exercise, for a total 9-12 sets per workout. Make sense?

  • Mark M

    Mike,i’m about to cut soon and i’ve been fallowing Bigger Leaner Stronger principles and routines for over a year now. Its been amazing man!
    You talked about the strength weeks in your book and my question is : Is there any value of keeping it during my cut? Should i keep it or not? What would you do?

    • It’s awesome you’ve been enjoying the program, Mark! You can keep doing the strength week while cutting. The lifting workouts don’t really change when you cut. The biggest change is your overall caloric intake. I hope this helps!

  • Marko

    Hey mike great work been following you now for over a year and made some good progress! Thank man. Due to time and commitments I’ve had to drop the 5 day for the 4 day I was just wondering if I could do side lat and rear delts on chest day and do over head press then arms on the Thursday. My arms are a lagging part. Thanks mike 👍

    • Hey Marko, glad to hear you’re making good progress! Keep it up 🙂

      You could definitely do what you’re suggesting, but have you considered following the 4-day routine as laid out? You’ll hit your arms on Monday and Tuesday, and Shoulders on Thursday.

  • Tania

    I have the BLS 1 Year Challenge book, and see mention of a strength week. However, I cannot find any information on what the strength week actually is. Can you tell me what to do for the strength week?

    • Hey Tania! If you check in BLS, I describe what Strength Week entails. It’s basically a week of focusing on your main compound lifts, with 3 workouts during the week. You perform Strength Week every 4 weeks. The Year One Challenge outlines the exact workout, although I’d recommend doing one set of deadlifts, not three.

      I hope this helps!

      • Tania

        I checked in BLS and the Year One Challenge, and it’s not in there. Have there been updates and I have an older version? I got them in early 2016. So basically you do deadlifts, squats, bench, and overhead press all in the same workout? And do this 3 times in the week? 3 sets of everything except deadlifts?

        • Yeah, it was added in an update to the second edition, so it’s possible yours doesn’t have it. Check on page 213.

          You don’t HAVE to include Strength Week, but if you want to, here’s how:

          You squat (warm-up and 3 sets), military press (warm-up and 3 sets), and deadlift (warm-up and 1 working set) on Days 1 and 3. On Day 2, you squat, bench, and deadlift. The next time you do Strength Week, just swap military press and bench so that you’re benching twice during the week instead of once. Make sense?

          • Tania

            Makes sense. Thank you!

          • YW! Keep me updated on your progress 🙂

  • Renny Baptiste

    Hey Mike, I plan on implementing a new 5 day workout routine where I can work on my boxing, though I’m concerned about overtraining. What do you think?

    Mon: chest, back, abs, heavy bag workout

    Tues: HIIT on a recumbent bike, followed by some shadow boxing and speed bag work.

    Wed: arms, shoulders, abs, heavy bag

    Thurs: same cardio as Tues.

    Fri: legs, abs, heavy bag

    • Hey Renny, I’d probably pick one of the 3-day workouts I outline in the article, and add in the cardio and heavy bag after your workouts and/or on the off-days. Ultimately, I’d give it a shot and see how your body reacts. You can always back off on something if you notice any signs of overtraining:


      I hope this helps!

      • Renny Baptiste

        Sounds good. I’ll add the cardio during push and pull day and heavy bag workout on my off days. Thanks man.

  • Cameron Neil James

    Hey Mike, I am looking to get in shape for a law enforcement career. My strength/size isn’t very good (120 lbs, male, 5’7) and my running isn’t very good either (20 minutes to complete one mile). I’m confused on how to start a training program that will let me gain size/strength plus help my running time, that I can do for decades to come. Appreciate the help.

    • Hey Cameron, the routine I outline in this article would be great for you. You can incorporate HIIT cardio a few times a week to improve your conditioning, as well. You should really check out my book Bigger Leaner Stronger. it goes over everything you need to know about diet and training to improve your strength and physique:


      I hope this helps!

  • Hauke

    Hi Mike,bI have been doing your 4 day split workout routine for 8 weeks now. It’s fun and I can already see some progress. Anyway, I have accidentally been doing day 2 (phase 10-17) instead of day 2 (phase 1-8) for the first 8 weeks now. Shall I continue doing day 2 (phase 10-17) for week 10-17 or am I better off doing day 2 phase 1-8 for week 10-17 instead?

    • It’s great you’ve started the program and are making progress! You can keep doing what you’re doing for Day 2.. There’s nothing special about the phases besides changing up the routine a bit every 8 weeks or so. You can mix and match as you see fit 🙂

  • Stephen Theunissen

    Hi Mike,

    I was wondering where you get the information from, for the 4-6 rep range? I thought higher rep ranges were better for building mass (https://www.freedomfly.net/Articles/Training/training29.htm)



  • Bart Creamers

    Hi Mike,
    I’m almost ready for BBLS, but after cutting (-10kg) I still got most of my strenght. Because I wanted to stay at this weight I didnt eat less or more and I stayed at the same weight (+-1kg). I’m still progressing and getting stronger, but what does that mean.?
    Question, if someone gets stronger and stronger without eating more, staying at the same weight and being in deficit, will that be a loss for growing/building muscle when I start bulking again cause the muscle doesnt have a need to grow as it is already strong ??

    • Hey Bart, great work! Sounds like you’re doing really well with the program and making excellent progress. Keep it up! 🙂

      As long as you keep adding weight to the bar, and progressively overloading your muscles, they will keep growing. You will be able to build muscle more efficiently while you’re in a calorie surplus. There’s also something to be said for just continuing on with what’s working for you as long as you can, and once it stops working, you can make a change.

      In other words, you can keep doing the recomp (losing fat and gaining muscle) for as long as it works. It’s really up to you.

      Check this out:


      • Bart Creamers

        Thanks for you fast reply!
        Read your suggested url. but I’m not a beginner and not in a deficit myself (staying between 81kg and 82kg), but breaking records (+1rep or more) weekly, while already training using your workout routine for 2 years.
        I rephrased my question:
        “Does a bodybuilder miss out muscle mass when gaining strength / neural adaption while in deficit or at the very low end of maintenance (staying at the same weight)?
        In other words, is a real natural bodybuilder missing out of muscle mass if he gains strenght but not in a surplus diet , or does a body “catch up” on musclemass as soon as he goes into surplus?”

        You are the only one I trust to be natural and have alot of scientific knowledge to give me a answer that makes sence ! 🙂

        And I agree, as soon as I don’t get stronger anymore or notice decline in recovery or have more injuries, I will make a change.

        • Hey Bart, there really isn’t a “catch up,” but what’s going on is that muscle gains are probably just very slow, and they won’t show up on the scale over the short-term. That said, if you’re truly in a surplus and are adding weight to the bar over time, you’ll get bigger. It just won’t be obvious for a while. I’d raise your calories a little and see how it goes.

  • Eric Andrew Nutt

    Hi Mike et al,

    I love the BLS and Year One books, your podcasts, and your Legion products. I’m still at the beginning of my journey but I’m seeing results already.

    I have a question regarding the 3-, 4-, and 5-day splits. Is it okay to switch between them? In other words, let’s say one week I’m doing Phase 2 Week 1 5-day split, but I know that next week I’m not available to go to the gym as many days. Can I sub in, say, the Phase 2 Week 2 4-day split instead?

    • Great to hear you’re already seeing results, Eric! Keep it up!

      It’s totally fine to change it up and do the 4- or 3-day routine on a week where you know you’re going to be busy or have other things going on. No worries there 🙂

      Let me know if I can help with anything else, and keep me posted on your progress!

      • Eric Andrew Nutt

        Thanks for the help, Mike! I will definitely keep you posted.

  • Ori Dahan

    Hi Mike,

    I’m reading your articles and really enjoying them and learning a lot, thank you for that.

    Is it possible to build an effective workout routine that includes only dumbbells?
    As i don’t have access to a gym.
    All I have are dumbbells and a bench that support incline.


    • Hey Ori! Yup, you can. It’s not ideal because you can’t squat, deadlift, bench, or military press without a barbell, but you can focus on the “approved” dumbbell exercises like dumbbell chest press, dumbbell shoulder press, lunges, one-arm rows, etc.

      Let me know how it goes!

      • Ori Dahan

        Hi again 🙂

        Thanks for your reply.

        I have two questions:

        1. Can’t I use dumbbells to do squats and deadlifts? It’s not good enough?

        2. I’m 5 feet 12 inches, 156lbs.
        According to TDEE calculators (I plan on exercising for 4 days a week, about 3-4 hours total a week), I need to eat 2000 calories a day.

        I have about 15-16 body fat percentage.

        In the last few years I mainly did HIIT exercises like insanity.
        I’m after a break from training for the last couple of months.

        My goal is to stay my current weight give or take, and go down to 10%.

        So I want to lose body fat AND build muscle (but you said it’s really hard, and possible for newbies – do I fall under the category?)

        Just want to be sure I have the right idea after excessive read of your articles.

        I calculated the following macros:

        Protein (1 to 1.2 of body weight in pounds): 156g (624 calories)
        Fat (0.2 to 0.25 of body weight in pounds): 39g (351 calories)
        Carbs: 256g (1025 calories)

        Are these calculations correct to achieve my goal?

        I hope you can read my overly long comment and help me out 🙂

        Thank you very much,

  • Luke Randolph

    Hey Mike,
    Question I’ve wondered for a while. If you have to take some time off from the gym (injury for example), and your 80-95% of 1RM range lowers…can you still build muscle at that lower weight?
    Say I was originally squatting 225 for 4×6 but now after a month off I am only strong to enough to squat 205 for 4×6…will my body be able to build muscle, or does it need to get back to 225 to start building NEW muscle? Does that make sense? Thank you so much.

  • Jay L

    Hey Mike!
    Thanks for always taking time to answer questions. I’m currently on my second cycle of BLS and wish I had discovered it earlier.

    I know that you’ve already addressed this in this article regarding volume and 5-day splits like the one I’m following in BLS.

    How would you compare your BLS and BBLS against the many other programs by natural lifters like theonlinecoach, who quote research and advocate hitting every body part 2x a week for optimal hypertrophy and strength, whereas the only two I know who are advocating less frequency are yourself and Kinobody.

    Recently, what’s popular is doing 2 upper/lower splits a week, with one session focused on strength/lower rep range and one focused on hypertrophy /slightly higher rep range.

    Will I be missing out on anything? Thanks!

    • Hey Jay! With BLS, you’re hitting every muscle group at least twice a week. Don’t let the names of the workouts fool you. Even though there’s only one Chest Day, for example, you’re still going to hit your chest on the Upper Body day with the extra sets of incline. Your legs get a workout not just on Leg Day, but also when you deadlift.

      You aren’t missing out on anything by following BLS. Once you’re past the beginner stage, though, it doesn’t hurt to try out other well-designed options and vary your training a bit. Change it up, find what you enjoy, and do whatever works for you 🙂

      For example, here’s a Shoulder workout worth trying:


      • Jay L

        Thanks Mike as always !
        And if I’m no longer a beginner, will BLS still serve me well vs these upper lower splits?
        For that matter will BBLS be more than good enough for me even after I’m no longer a beginner?

        • Yes, BLS will still work well, and once you’ve hit the strength milestones, BBLS will suit you perfectly! I’d stick with BLS for one or two years first 🙂

          • Jay L

            Thank you Mike! At rate I’m going, I think another cycle or two of BLS and I’ll hit the strength milestones outlined in BBLS. I’ve alr hit them for deadlifts and squats. Just left with bench and OHP.

          • Sounds good man!

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