Use Full-Body Workouts to Build Muscle Mass
If you want to build muscle mass, there are hundreds of different training programs you could choose from to help you achieve that goal. Although many of them will give you decent results, at least for a while, if you want to build the maximum amount of muscle in the shortest possible time, you really can’t beat a full-body workout routine.
This is especially true for those who are just starting out. So if you are in your first year or two of training, or you haven't had much in the way of results from your efforts so far, this article is of particular relevance for you.
How to Build Muscle Naturally
If you go to the gym regularly you’ll know that body part splits (where you train say chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, and arms on Friday), are very popular.
But the only real reason for this is that this is what all the top bodybuilders do. However, what works for top bodybuilders may not work for the rest of us. This is because competitive bodybuilders take a lot of steroids to enhance their muscle growth. They also have really great genetics. And on top of this, they are very near their limits in terms of how much muscle they can put on. So they need a very large amount of volume and intensity in order to stimulate further growth. And the only way they can achieve this is to use body part splits.
But if you are natural, genetically average, and simply want to put on 20-30 pounds of muscle as quickly as possible, a full-body workout is the best way to go.
Full-body workouts are the best way to build muscle because they allow you to train all your major muscle groups more often. This, of course, means you get more frequent growth stimulation, which leads to greater muscle growth over time - provided you can recover from it.
Another reason this type of training works so well is that the focus of your workouts tends to be on compound exercises. This is because compound exercises enable you to train more total muscle tissue in less time, so you can work your whole body quickly and efficiently. Compound exercises also give a much stronger growth stimulus than the smaller isolation exercises, due to the amount of weight being used. And they produce a much higher level of hormonal response too, which again helps to facilitate muscle growth.
So a full-body workout routine can pack on muscle more quickly than anything else, provided that you know how to structure it in the right way.
The Best Full-Body Workout
All you really need is a squat, lunge or deadlift variation, an upper-body push, and an upper-body pull. Do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.
How to Structure a Full-Body Workout Routine
- Train three times per week, but don't do exactly the same workout every time, as this will soon lead to recovery issues. Instead, alternate two (or even three, if you are more advanced) different routines over the course of the week.
- Your workouts should not be too long. A big mistake many people make is doing too many exercises. You can work your whole body very well with just three or four exercises. And six is the most you should do. Doing more than this will only make it more difficult for you to recover, and this will limit your gains.
- All you really need for an effective full-body workout is a squat, lunge or deadlift variation, an upper-body push, and an upper-body pull. You can add in some additional arm work at the end if you wish, but that’s about it. By simply alternating between two different workouts over your three weekly visits to the gym you'll get all the growth stimulation you need to ensure maximum progress.
As an example, a simple, but highly effective routine might look something like this:
A Full-Body Workout Routine for Rapid Muscle Growth
|Workout 1||Workout 2|
Parallel Bar Dips
Stick With Two for a Few Months
If you are a complete beginner, stick with alternating between the two workouts above for at least a few months. After that, you can move on to doing three different workouts if you wish.
After a few months on the above routine you may wish to move on to doing three different workouts. So now each exercise will be worked just once per week, but each body part is still being trained three times per week. This will further help with recovery, enabling better consistent long-term progress to be made.
An example of a three-day full body workout program might look like this:
Three-Day Full-Body Workout Program
Incline Bench Press
Parallel Bar Dips
When to Increase the Weight
Increase the weight when you can do 8 reps on all 3 sets. If you do 8 on your first set, you should be able to do it on all of them, as you should be stopping your first set a rep or two short of failure. The only reason to go below 8 on subsequent sets is if you push your first set too hard, or if your rest periods are too short. If you push to your max on all your sets, your progress will grind to a halt more quickly than if you hold back a little.
What About Sets and Reps?
Another important factor to consider is your training volume. That is the number of sets and reps you perform. Most people will find they’ll get the best results by working in the 5 – 8 rep range most of the time (a little higher for your arm work). This builds hard, dense muscle, and is also great for making gains in strength.
Occasionally, however, you could use higher reps (10 – 12) to create additional growth through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. That is an expansion of the non-contractile components of the muscle cells. And going down to 2 or 3 reps for a while will help build more strength. This is important as it will mean you will then be able to use more weight for your higher rep sets, which will result in even more gains in muscle size.
So most of the time your training should consist of around 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps (after a couple of warm-up sets) per exercise.
At a later date, you can switch to 3 sets of 10-12 reps for a month or two. And after that do 4-8 sets of doubles or triples for a while.
Vary Your Workouts
It may also be a good idea to change some of your exercises occasionally too, as this will prevent your body from getting too accustomed to them. However, the principle of "muscle confusion," which states you should be changing your exercises on a regular basis, is a myth. Think of powerlifters and Olympic lifters. They use the same exercises all the time yet still manage to build enormous strength and massive muscle size.
So whilst body part splits can have their role to play for more advanced trainees, if you want to pack on as much muscle size to your frame as quickly as possible, do a full body workout routine in the way described here. Combine this with a good muscle-building diet, and get sufficient rest and sleep, and you’ll be certain to make the best gains of your life.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What should you be doing on your non-weightlifting days? Steady state cardio, HIIT, or just rest?
Answer: You can rest if you wish, but if you are not doing any cardio on your lifting days, it would be a good idea to do some on your off days. Just go for a brisk 20 - 30 minute walk each day and/or do a HIIT workout twice per week. That should be enough to keep you fit and lean if your diet is also on track.
Question: Being an ectomorph, what should my diet ratio be as far as carbs, protein and fats go, in order to gain weight and muscle?
Answer: Well, to gain weight and muscle you need a calorie surplus. At least 16 times your bodyweight in pounds will be required, but you may have to go as high as 20. You also need much more carbs than an endomorph would. So set your protein intake at around 1g per pound of bodyweight, your fat at around 0.45g per pound, and make up the rest with carbs. That would mean 20 - 25% of your calories would come from protein, 20 - 25% from fat and 50 - 60% from carbs.
Question: What direct shoulder, ab and calf exercises can I do for full bodyweight training?
Answer: It's not easy to train shoulders directly if you are doing just bodyweight exercises. Handstand push-ups are excellent of course, but most people can't do them. So the only real alternative is to get a set of dumbbells and do overhead presses or lateral raises with them.
Calves and abs are easy though. For calves, just stand on a step or a book and do heel raises. When it gets too easy to do them on both feet, do them on just one foot at a time. And there are lots of good exercises for abs. Weighted crunches, isometric crunch, reverse crunches, hanging leg raises, ab-wheel rollouts, planks, and side planks to name a few. Just pick one or two and do them for a few weeks. Then swap them around if you wish.
Question: Are the total number of sets per week of this full-body workout routine not too low to grow muscle? How much rest between sets?
Answer: No, beginners and early intermediates will grow muscle just fine with this number of sets. More advanced people will need additional exercises of course, in order to get complete and balanced development. Rest as long as you need to be fully recovered for the next set, but usually around 2 - 3 minutes, or maybe a little more for the bigger exercises.
Question: How much rest should you have between full-body workout sets?
Answer: Just rest long enough for your muscles to fully recover, so that you can put the maximum amount of force into each set (but stop a little short of failure). For the bigger exercises that will usually be around 3 minutes, and for the smaller exercises about 2 minutes.
Question: In the 3 day full body workout, triceps are only been trained once per week, and this is not optimal! Is this ok?
Answer: You are right that training a body part just once per week is not optimal, but the triceps are getting some indirect work with the pressing movements on Monday and Friday. A set of any pressing movement (for chest or shoulders) is generally regarded as counting as half a set for triceps. Also, this is a basic routine, designed to build size and strength in the most effective way, especially for someone who is in the early stages of their training career. At a later stage, you will likely progress to a different method of training, such as an upper/lower split, and in this type of workout, the triceps will be getting more regular direct stimulation.
Question: Can you build muscles doing a two day a week full body weight training program because of a busy schedule?
Answer: Yes, you can definitely build muscle training just two days per week. In fact, although most people will do better training three days per week, this does not apply to everyone, and some people can actually do better with two days, depending on their recovery ability, stress levels and what else is going on in their lives at the time.
Question: Is a full-body workout good for a sixty-year-old male? I see varying opinions on whether this type of program helps build muscle at my age.
Answer: It is if you are just starting out, or have not been training very long. Though you may want to reduce the volume a little, at least initially. For more information on training for older guys see my article on that topic.
Question: I have been going to the gym for the past two months, but my muscles haven't grown. Do you know why that might be?
Answer: There could be any number of reasons, but to summarise, you need to do the following. Train hard, but not excessively so. That is, don't go to failure or grind out your last rep. Train consistently. Don't do too much cardio or other energetic activities. Eat a calorie surplus with plenty of protein. If you still don't grow, eat more. Get enough rest and sleep. And try to keep stress to a minimum. If you do all of that you must grow, unless you have underlying health issues or hormonal problems.
Question: I am a natural bodybuilder. What is the most suitable workout, a full body workout or split workout ? (I am now doing a push pull legs workout).
Answer: It depends on how experienced a lifter you are and how strong you are. If you've been training less than a year, the best way to train is with a full body workout performed three times per week. This is still a great way to train for many intermediates or even advanced lifters, depending on how it it structured. However, after you have been training for a while and have built up a decent level of strength, you will probably find you'll improve better if you do an upper/lower split, training three or four days per week. The push/pull/legs and opposing muscle groups split are also good methods for intermediate and advanced people. But for the best combination of strength and size development you can't beat the upper/lower split.
Question: I see your workout examples don’t include calf exercises. Should I add calves to this workout at some time?
Answer: You can add calf work into your routine whenever you wish. I tend not to bother with them in my beginner routines, but do include them in all my intermediate programs.
Question: I really enjoy doing full bodyweight training. The exercises I’ve been doing for months now are normal, and feet elevated push-ups, pull-ups, inverted rows and bodyweight squats with a 50-pound weighted vest on me. Is this a good full bodyweight workout for me, being on a busy schedule?
Answer: Yes, that is a good, well-balanced routine. The push-ups and inverted rows are complementary, working chest and back thickness. The pull-ups work back width, and the squats work the thigh muscles really well. Ideally, I'd want to add in a direct shoulder movement, but this is not essential. And you could also do an abdominal and a calf exercise if you wish, but again, this is entirely optional.
Question: "And going down to 2 or 3 reps for a while will help build more strength." I suppose that in this case you should increase the weight, right?
Answer: Yes, that's right. The weights you use should always be challenging, but you should not go to actual failure very often. And you should never do this when training with low reps/heavy weight.
Question: Do you have to lift really heavy weights to build muscles, or can you lift moderate/semi-heavy weights with more reps?
Answer: You can build muscle just as well, if not better, with moderately heavy weights. The ideal rep range appears to be about 6 - 8 for the big compound (barbell) lifts, 8 - 10 for the smaller compound (dumbbell/cable) lifts and 10 - 12, or even up to 15, for isolation exercises. You will, however, be able to get bigger if you are stronger, so doing the occasional phase of heavier, lower rep, lifting is recommended.
Question: Is it better to do a 2 to 1 ratio as far as pulling to pushing exercises go?
Answer: It may be for some people who have particular issues to address. But for most people a 1:1 ratio is fine. Generally speaking though, you would not want to be doing more pushing exercises than pulling.
Question: I know you need to do both of these exercises, but if you had to pick one, which would you pick overall, bench press or standing overhead press?
Answer: Personally I would pick the bench press, as I suspect, would most people. But there was a time when the standing overhead press was regarded as the most important upper body lift. And, as you say, you should really do both.
Question: Will I be missing out on any results by using a Swiss/Multi Grip/Football/T Grip barbell? For me personally, this specialty barbell feels a lot more comfortable than the traditional barbell and dumbbells, and I want to train safely, as I am new to weight lifting (barbell training, that is)?
Answer: No; this type of barbell is very good to use if you have access to it, and you certainly won't be missing out on any gains.
Question: What is the best workout for a volleyball player?
Answer: Full body workouts are ideal, but you need to program movements to help with strength, power, speed, flexibility and mobility. So as well as squats, bench press etc., you should be doing some squat jumps, sprints, push presses and a few other sports specific movements.
Question: My full body workout I’ve been doing recently consists of these exercises twice a week - TGRIP Barbell Thrusters, TGRIP Barbell Rows, Leg Raises, Neutral Grip Pull-ups, Neutral Grip Inverted Rows, and TGRIP Barbell Bicep Curls for my strength training. I also walk/power walk for 7 miles twice a week for my cardio. Is this a good workout plan to get good results health wise and for toning and building muscles?
Answer: Yes, it's basically a good routine, but in your strength training workout you have two rows and no chest work. So if you replaced your inverted row with bench press or parallel bar dips (which would have the added advantage of working your triceps very well too), you would have a more rounded routine. I'd also put leg raises at the end of the workout, personally. As for your cardio, 7 miles is a long walk, but if you are feeling good with it, then carry on doing it. But all you really need is to get yourself moderately out of breath and maintain that for 20 - 30 minutes. You can go a bit longer if you are walking, but I wouldn't go over an hour.
Question: Is one or the other better, as far as shorter vs longer rest periods in between sets go for strength training? Because for me personally, I’ve seen better results taking longer rest periods of around 3 to 5 minutes. I was just wondering, is one better than the other for the best or better results?
Answer: Yes, it has now been clearly shown that longer rest periods between sets is better both for strength and muscle size gains. You need to rest long enough to be recovered, so you can perform optimally on all your sets. For the smaller exercises that may be as little as 2 minutes, but for the biggest exercises, it could be 4 or even 5 minutes.
Question: Can you get great results from doing the 3x3 or 3x5 full body strength training plans, if you wanted to do mainly those 2 workout plans?
Answer: Yes, those are excellent for developing strength, and if you are a beginner you will gain a decent amount of size from them as well. Later on though, you will need some higher rep work if you want to optimize size development.
Question: Is it possible to gain weight in a healthy way by just eating three meals a day, if that’s all the time you have in a day, because of a busy schedule throughout the week?
Answer: Yes, it's certainly possible to do that. The total amount of calories and protein that you consume in a day is far more important than how many meals you eat. And although, for bodybuilding purposes, 4 or 5 meals per day is considered ideal, because this will keep your muscles in a constantly "fed" state, it won't make that much of a difference, provided your total calories and protein are the same, and that you are in a calorie surplus of course.
Question: I’m a female who weight lifts 4/5 days a week doing a bro split. Will this work for me too? I have been mainly working in 10-12 rep range, but recently lowered it to 6-8. I have mobility issues, so I can't do squats and deadlifts, but I can do rdl to the knees, split squats and lunges. Just wanted to clarify it was ok for women too.
Answer: Yes, this is perfectly ok for women and will work well. However, I prefer a slightly higher rep range for females, so I would not go below 6 reps. And do 10 - 12 reps for your arm work. For more information on how women should train, see my article on weight training for women. But it's not much different than how men should train really.
Question: I started working out with dumbbells at home, doing full body workouts, 4 months ago. I then joined a gym a month ago, and have been doing full body workouts. So should I now continue with the same program, or move to a split routine?
Answer: If you are making good progress I would continue with the same program for at least a few more months. Then, after that, you could consider moving to an upper/lower split routine if you wish.
Question: Could I do neutral grip barbell and dumbbell floor presses instead of bench presses in order to avoid injuring my wrists, shoulders and elbows? Can you still get great results doing floor presses instead of bench presses?
Answer: Yes, a neutral grip will stimulate the muscles in a slightly different way, but it is just as effective for building size and strength. Obviously, you can't use a neutral grip with a barbell though; it would have to be dumbbells or machines. Floor presses are a great exercise, but they work the triceps more than the pecs, due to the reduced range of motion, so they are not really a good substitute for bench presses.
Question: All of the upper body exercises I do, e.g. inverted, barbell and dumbbell rows, pull ups, barbell and dumbbell bench press, shoulder presses and push-ups, I use the neutral grip position for, in order to be safe and to save my wrists, shoulders, and elbows from getting injured. My question is this: will I still be able to get good or optimal results from using a neutral grip position on all of the upper body exercises I do?
Answer: Yes, you will still get great results. Although using a neutral grip will activate the muscles in a slightly different way, it will not compromise your overall results at all.
Question: If you build muscles and get abs, shouldn’t you eat healthy?
Answer: Yes, of course. If you want to stay healthy you need to eat healthy most of the time.
© 2012 David
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 10, 2020:
It's a decent routine, but you are doing quite a bit of work for your back, and very little for your chest or shoulders (which are only being trained once per week). Also, it would be better to do two different workouts, if you can, rather than just changing the one exercise. I don't know what equipment you have got, but if you have got squat stands and an incline bench, you could do:
Workout 1 - squat, bench, row, overhead press, pull-ups.
Workout 2 - front squat, incline bench, inverted row, dumbbell overhead press (or lateral raise), pulldowns.
That would give you better variety and should provide more consistent long-term progress.
Omar Brown on September 07, 2020:
I do minimalist strength training with my bodyweight and with a multi grip / Swiss grip/ Football / TGRIP Barbell twice a week due to my schedule and life I have. My exercises consist of Front Squats ,Barbell Rows standing or chest supported from bench , Standing Overhead Press, Pull-ups, and Bodyweight / Inverted Rows one day on Tuesdays and then again on Fridays consist of the same exercises except on this day I will do bench instead of Overhead Press. Is this a good minimalist full body workout plan for me to see or get good results? As far as my sets and reps I’ll do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps on my barbell compound exercises. When i can do either 5 or 6 reps with perfect form consistently I increase the weight by 5 pounds each time. Is this a good plan or routine to do and continue to get results? Thank You
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 22, 2020:
Yes, I take your point. Maybe I'll change the picture at some time. Glad you liked the article though.
FormerBBChamp on July 22, 2020:
I enjoyed this article. At 56 I personally enjoyed FBW's. My only complaint is using a picture of Robby Robinson. He represents the opposite of the expressed message. Nothing against Robby. I admire him very much. Is just that he's not a poster child for FBW. Wrong image. A picture of John Grimek, Clarence Bass, Dan Lurie or Steve Reeves would've been more appropriate. Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on February 11, 2020:
Depends what you mean by "normally", But, yes, if you are on a calorie deficit your recovery will be compromised, so deloads, or just easing back a bit occasionally, will be even more important than when you are on a calorie surplus. So you could program them in a bit more frequently, or just be aware of how your body feels and do them as required.
Toni on February 10, 2020:
Sorry if this is stupid question, but do you deload normally when you are eating minus calories.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on October 29, 2019:
Any exercise can be substituted for a similar one when you have been training for a while, but I wouldn't suggest you do it if you are still quite new to training. RDL's and front squats wil be less fatiguing on the CNS than back squats and conventional deadlifts anyway, but nothing can pack on size and incease overall strength like the later two. Ultimately it's up to you what you do, and if you have a particular reason for wanting to become more proficient at these lifts, then go for it. They are still excellent exercises.
John Per on October 26, 2019:
Two part question:
What do you think of running the 3 day varient, but subbing squats and deadlifts for front squats and rdl?
And then not doing leg press, but alternating between the two (each friday, do rdl if you did front squats wednesday and vice versa). This, in order to get more profficient at front squats and rdl. Or is the legpress put in to avoid CNS fatigue?
I'm doing 3 work sets on all exercises.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 05, 2019:
Not really. That's pretty much exactly what I recommend now. But I wouldn't do 4 sets of deadlifts; that will likely be too much. And if you are doing 4 sets of the other exercises, just remember to stay a bit further away from failure, or recovery could soon become an issue.
Toni on September 05, 2019:
Love the simplicistic program.
Bench Press 4x5-8
Bent-Over Row 4x5-8
Barbell Curls 3x8-10
Overhead Press 4x5-8
Parallel Bar Dips 3x8-10
Is there anything you would chance. I would consider my self early intermediate. I´m 36, 6" 190lbs.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 23, 2019:
You can train abs and calves at the end of any of the workouts, two or even three times per week, although personally I would not train abs more than twice per week. My favorite loaded ab exercise is cable crunches, but you can do ab wheel rollouts, hanging leg raises, or any of a number of other exercises for a couple of sets of anything between 10 and 30 reps. Straight leg calf raises are best done for 3 - 4 sets of 8 - 10 in my experience.
As for the curls (and dips), I do say in the article that I prefer higher reps for these - usually about 8 - 10. Hubpages/Caloriebee have edited it to look like I'm suggesting all the exercises should be done with the same number of reps, so I'll need to make some changes to clarify that. Thanks for reminding me.
John Per on August 21, 2019:
Love the program. How would you go about implementing abs/core and calves training in this routine? Train them monday and friday? Every day? What exercises and reps/sets would be most optimal?
Also, could you elaborate on why the curls in the program use the same reps and sets as the more strength focused compound exercises?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 05, 2019:
Yes, that looks good.
Anthony on August 04, 2019:
Thanks for your last reply, in case of your suggestion maybe it would be better for me to do alternating sets with the upper body lifts and do the lower body lifts on their own? E.G.
Incline DB Press/60s/Pull-ups/60s 3x8-10
Curls/30s/lat raises/30s 3x10-12
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 03, 2019:
You could take a look at the one on the bodyrecomposition website (sorry I can't put links in here). He also gives a good writeup on the subject, which is well worth reading.
Pete on July 30, 2019:
Hope All is all with you
Can you please direct me to a solid full body Heavy/Light/Medium Workout
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 25, 2019:
Yes, that's perfectly fine. Personally I don't like using alternating sets with the very big exercises, like squats and deadlifts, but if your other exercise is a small isolation exercise it should be fine. I have done sumo deadlifts alternated with calf raises in the past and that worked well.
Anthony on July 24, 2019:
Hello David, hope you’re well. What do you think of using alternate sets to quicken the workout up. E.g
Incline DB Press 8-10
Repeat 3 times
Isolation exercise 8-10
Repeat 3 times
How does that look for a workout? Cheers David!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 17, 2019:
Yes, doing some post-workout stretching is definitely a good idea, and will hopefully help your joints feel better. As a minimum, stretch your chest/biceps, back, hips/glutes, quads and hamstrings. But you can add in some additional ones if you wish, such as neck, triceps and calves. I can't describe them all here of course, but I may write an article on it soon. Meanwhile, you can find some good descriptions elsewhere online. It might also be worth taking an omega 3 supplement as well.
Andy on July 15, 2019:
I've been using this article for some time now and found it very useful. I perform 3 full body workouts a week and 2 cardio session, one 20-30 minutes of cardio, and one 10-15 minutes of intervals. This has been going well, however, I feel quite tight and my joints don't always feel great and I am only in my 20s. Therefore, I have been looking at adding some sort of stretching to my routine, I warm up by doing warm up sets for my lifts. So I am thinking of adding 5 minutes of stretching to the end of all my exercise sessions. Does this seem like a sensible way to add some sort of stretching/flexibility work to my routine? As currently for each workout I warm up using whatever mode of exercise I will be doing, warm up sets for weights, walking for running etc. And I don't have any stretching or the like in my routine, but want to add it in. So does 5 minutes at the end sound good? And do you have any go to stretching protocols etc? Thanks for all the great help, this article really helped my training!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 10, 2019:
If you are using fairly light weights on your squats and are improving well, you could squat three times per week for a while. But it will soon get to be too much. Better to use the three day full body routine, where you deadlift once per week, and do just one work set of 5 reps, leaving a rep or so in the tank when you finish your set. And make sure your form is really good. You are right, deadlifts put an enormous strain on the body and CNS, but they are an excellent exercise if used properly.
kriss on July 10, 2019:
Still I’m discovering my body and now I know deadlift is super hard for my CNS.
I’m considering to switch deadlift to squats and to do it 3 times per week (4 x 8) to check my body limits.
When will be hard again, maybe I will try to decrease volume or just switch one day for deadlift with only one work set. What do you think about it?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 04, 2019:
Yes, that's an excellent routine. Personally I would bring in a little more rep variation by doing your incline DB press, seated row and leg press for 3x8-10. But it's still fine just as it is.
Daniel on July 03, 2019:
I’m quite an advanced lifter but really like full body splits. How does this split look?
Front Squat 3x5-8
Incline DB Press 3x5-8
BB Row 3x5-8
Ez curl 1-2x10-12
Standing crunch 1-2x10-12
BB Romanian deadlift 3x5-8
Standing DB Press 3x5-8
Calf raise 1-2x10-12
Leg Press 3x5-8
Bench Press 3x5-8
Seated row 3x5-8
Hammer curl 1-2x10-12
Hanging leg raise 1-2x10-12
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 03, 2019:
You are welcome Nick. Glad to be of help.
Nick on July 02, 2019:
This was actually very helpful, thank you so much!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 27, 2019:
Many people like to do 3 sets of deadlifts with their working weight (after their warm-up sets). However, I always got my best results from working up to one top weight set. So I might do 10, 5, 4, 3, 5, or something like that, increasing the weight for each set. Ideally you should have a rep or so left in you even on your last set. Deadlifts are extremely demanding, and put a lot of strain on the entire body, so they are very difficult to recover from. But you might want to experiment a bit to see what works best for you personally.
kriss on June 26, 2019:
Hello, I have one question about volume in deadlift. All sets/reps I should do with the same weight? Or I should implement some progress method? I'm afraid it will be so heavy..
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 26, 2019:
Yes, that looks very good. The first three lifts of each workout are by far the most important, so it's fine to reduce the volume on the others if you are short of time.
John on June 25, 2019:
Reading comments below, can I do the 3 main lifts of the day 3x5-8, but then just do 1 or 2 sets for the isolation lifts at the end to save time and still get similar results. Say something like
Bench Press 3x5-8
Barbell row 3x5-8
Tricep dips 1x10-12
Calve raise 1-2x10-12
Overhead Press 3x5-8
Bicep Curl 1x10-12
Weighted Crunch 1-2x10-12
How does this look David? Thanks!!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 24, 2019:
When you say "knee dominant", I presume you mean "quad dominant". But yes, that's an excellent routine, and if you can manage to do it whilst travelling you should do very well.
Liam on June 24, 2019:
Hello David, I will be travelling for work for about a month staying at various hotels and therefore using different hotel gyms, however, I don't want this to affect my progress at all. I hope to perform strength training 2-3x week and cardio 2x week. Is this a good way of setting up a full body routine whilst travelling long term, just alternating between A and B whether I go 2 or 3 times in any given week?
(knee dominant lower body lift) Goblet Squat 3x6-10
(horizontal push) DB Incline Press 3x6-10
(horizontal pull) DB Row 3x6-10
(Isolation superset) Tricep Pushdown/hanging leg raise 2x8-12
(hip dominant lower body lift) DB Romanian DL 3x6-10
(vertical push) DB Seated Shoulder Press 3x6-10
(vertical pull) Pull-ups 3x6-10
(isolation superset) Bicep Curl/Calf raise 2x8-12
2 warmup sets and 2 minutes rest for compounds. 1 warmup set and 1 minute rest for isolations. Increase weight when upper rep limit is hit on all sets.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 15, 2019:
Yes, sorry, I meant a deep knee bend, like a squat variation or a leg press.
As for dips, I see what you are getting at, but these are included because they work both the chest and the triceps hard. So the best alternative is a close grip bench press. But if you were to simply want a secondary chest exercise, I would go with an incline press rather than a decline. Presses, however, are always much more effective than any flying movement.
John Per on June 14, 2019:
Thank you for the quick reply!
Prowler sled push is a knee bend exercise, but maybe that still cant replace squats?
The high to low cable Cross Over was thought as an alternative to dips (decline press), as that is used in your routine. Maybe you have a suggestion for a Better decline press?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 14, 2019:
It's a perfectly reasonable and balanced routine, although I really like to include some form of knee bend exercise. If you can't do squats, can you do front squats or goblet squats or split squats or hack squats or leg press? Also cable crossovers will not be as effective as an incline press (barbell or dumbbell).
John Per on June 13, 2019:
Hello David, is this a well rounded full body, 3 times a week routine? If not, what would you change? It resembles yours, but has more exercises. DL and squat hurt my back, so I have replace them. Reverse grip curls and upright rows to hit forearms and traps, being that DL isn't included. Thank you in advance.
3x5-8: bench press
3x5-8: wide grip cable row
3x5-8: hip thrust
3x8-12: upright row
3x10-15: standing calf raise
3x20 steps: prowler sled push
3x8-12: high to low cable crossover
3x8-12: reverse grip bb curl
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 11, 2019:
I would do lunges or split squats, as you are already doing squats on Mondays.
Frank on June 10, 2019:
I am looking into starting your three day workout plan as its simple and straightforward. I do most of my workouts at home and thus dont have a leg press machine but do have a squat rack. Should I simply replace the leg press with squats or do you suggest lunges instead?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 01, 2019:
Training to the point of actual failure (that is when you fail to complete a rep and the weight comes back down on you) causes a lot of muscle damage and is extremely difficult to recover from. Granted this does give the maximum muscle buiding stimulus, but you can only grow from what you can recover from, and going that far is too much for most people most of the time. Stopping just short of failure (i.e. the point where you think the next rep will be realy difficult and you may not manage it) is preferable. Also, those really slow grinding reps should be avoided as well. Complete your reps cleanly and with good form; then stop when you can't do that any more.
Also, your level of effort should be cycled anyway, starting off more moderately and progressing each week until you are going close to failure. Then contine this until you stall, at which point you should reduce the weights and start building up again.
As for one set, well the first set is the most important, and again more sets are more difficult to recover from. So it's possible that you might get maximum stimulation from one set, or you may need one or two more. Certainly it is down to the law of diminishing returns when you perform more working sets, and it may be better to increase your volume either by using work up sets before you reach your working set weight, or doing additional exercises for the same body part, rather than more sets.
In fact Frank Zane is reported as saying he effectively trained the same way as Mike Mentzer in that he did five or six sets of an exercise, but he increased the weight each set, with only the last set being a true maximum set. Mike did pretty much the same, but he called it one set, because it was just the last hard set that he counted.
Finally, a warmup set with 50% will not prepare you adequately for a maximum effort work set. You need at least 75%. So I would suggest you do something like a warmup at 50% and 75% for the bigger exercises, and just one with 75% for the smaller exercises.
In short though, yes one set, after a warmup set or two, and stopping just short of actual failre can give good results. You may need to do periods of higher volumes, or do higher volumes for one or two muscle groups (alternated every 4 - 6 weeks) to reach very close to your maximum potential though.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 22, 2019:
Yes; I would say that looks excellent for a long-term (maybe lifetime) plan, as long as you bear in mind my comments re. intensity (effort and load) cycling. As for warm-ups; I do a five minute burst on the elliptical or treadmill, followed by some mobility work, and then anything from one to four warm-up sets per exercise - depending on when in the workout the exercise is done, and how big an exercise it is.
Jonathan on May 22, 2019:
Okay, thanks david. I'm thinking this then:
Front Squat 3x5-8
Incline DB Press 3x5-8
BB Row 3x5-8
Alternate sets: BB Curl and Ab rollout 2x10-12
DB Seated Press 3x5-8
Alternate sets: Tricep Pushdown and calf raise 2x10-12
Leg Press 3x5-8
DB Row 3x5-8
Alternate sets: Hammer curls and hanging leg raises 2x10-12
Does this look good for a long-term plan? and also how would you recommend warming up? I normally do a dynamic warmup then 2 or 3 warm up sets. Thanks for all your help.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 21, 2019:
I agree that information overload and misinformation are big problems and it can be difficult to find a plan that you can stick with. There is certainly nothing wrong with your template, but you may find that training each lift every 4 - 5 days will become more difficult to recover from over time, and a three day full body split will probably work better later on. I know that it seems you will improve your lifts faster with an AB split, but that will not be the case long term. Also, you will probably find that three working sets of deadlifts will become too much as well. These are extremely demanding on your whole body, and it's likely you will have to cut down at some point if you are pushing them hard. I've always made my best progress doing just one working set of deadlifts (but with a few work up sets). That's just me though; you may be different. And like you say, when you stall you can switch the exercise, or you could simply reduce the weight and build back up again, perhaps changing your rep range a bit at the same time. Although, when you establish the best rep range for you for each of the lifts, you should stick with that rep range at least 70% of the time. One final point, which is very important, is that you need to vary your level of intensity. That is, don't push close to failure all the time. Train in cycles, where you start the cycle fairly easy and increase each week until you are pushing close to failure. Continue this until you stall, and then reduce again (changing exercises if you wish). Hope that helps. Best of luck.
Jonathan on May 20, 2019:
Hello David, I have been lifting for around 6 years, however, have followed so many different plans and to be honest I have a serious case of information overload. Even though I am an advanced lifter I just want a simple template to follow and modify from here on out. I was thinking of the A/B split as I quite like that setup and doing.
Front Squat 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
Incline DB Press 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
DB Row 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
Then use the alternate set you mentioned below for tricep pushdown and an ab exercise for 2x10-12 30s-60s between alternate sets.
Deadlift 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
DB Shoulder Press 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
Pull-ups 3x5-8 2 minutes rest
Then use the alternate set for Bicep Curls and calf raises for 2x10-12 30s-60s between alternate sets
Would this be a good approach even for an advanced lifter for the rest of his lifetime as the amount of misinformation in the fitness industry is confusing even for someone who has been lifting for so long? So I really want just a simple routine which will continue to make me stronger and more aesthetic, I am not looking to be a bodybuilder I just want to look good and be strong training 3 days per week. I understand I am more likely to stall as an advanced lifter, so I was thinking of whenever I fail to add a rep or increase weight for an exercise 2 times in a row I would swap it out for a similar exercise. Does this seem like a good approach? and are there any tips you could give someone who plans to use this as a lifelong template? Thank you for all your help David.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 18, 2019:
Well, the strict definition of supersets is going from one of the paired exercises to the other with no rest in between. Personally I don't like those. But alternating sets is the same thing, except that you have a rest before performing the second of the paired exercises. I think that is a good approach, and will still save time, as the rest periods can be shorter than if you were doing straight sets of the same exercise. It's often used with opposing muscle groups, but can also be done with completely different muscle groups, and the way you have set it up should work fine.
Liam on May 17, 2019:
Hi David. What's your opinion on supersets, I have been doing the split we spoke about a while back. However, I am looking at trying to fit in some isolation exercises with my main work, but am still under the same time constraints. I found an article online talking about full body splits that recommended having either a squat/push/pull as a strength focused move and then superset the other two that you didn't perform first and then superset some assistance exercises after if you like. Something like the following, with / signifying a superset between the two movements:
Squat 3x5-8 2 min rest
Incline DB Press/Pull-ups 3x8-10 90 second rest
BB Curl/Hanging Leg Raises 2x10-12 60 second rest
Bench Press 3x5-8
DB Lunge/DB Row 3x8-10
Calf Raise/Lateral Raises 2x10-12
DB Shoulder Press/Goblet Squat 3x8-10
Tricep Pushdown/Weighted Ab Crunch 2x10-12
Would this be a good approach to fit in more work within the same period of time? Thanks David!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 11, 2019:
If you were a complete beginner, I would suggest you stick with the dips, but as you've been training a while now, and built up some strength, it's a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
Mark on May 10, 2019:
Hi again. Can i switch the parallel bar dips on Wednesday to tricep cable pushdowns? I can feel it way more in my triceps even if it is a isolated exercise. Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 09, 2019:
Yes, that's perfectly reasonable, as long as you stick to the same exercise for a few weeks. You don't want to be swapping exercises every week. There's no need to train abs three times per week anyway.
Jack on May 09, 2019:
Thanks your feedback David. The reasoning for the intervals is that they’ve really helped with jiu-jitsu. Based on your comments I’m thinking this:
25%x5, 50%x5, 75%x3
Front Squat 3x5-8
DB Row 3x5-8
Exercise of choice if time 2x10-12
DB Shoulder Press 3x5-8
Exercise of choice if time 2x10-12
DB Lunge 3x5-8
Incline DB Press 3x5-8
BB Row 3x5-8
Exercise of choice if time 2x10-12
My rationale about the exercise of choice, is that rather than doing abs after every session. If I have time I’ll choose an isolation depending on what I feel like bringing up and then do that if I have time. Having the full body as base then having the option to do an isolation at the end if I have time. Is this a good strategy? Thanks for all your help David.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 08, 2019:
There's nothing wrong with your exercise selection at all, but personally I would do slightly higher reps for the dips and lunges. Also, I wouldn't go from a 50% warmup straight to my working weight. A 75% (ish) warmup is needed really. And you don't actually have any isolation exercises there (apart from abs). You just have big and small compounds. I would want to do one warmup set for the smaller ones, but that will take extra time of course. Same comment for arms/calves isolation. These are not essential unless you particularly want to bring up these areas more, but they will necessitate a little more time if you do them. And finally be careful with those intervals. 15 minutes solid is tough and will take some recovering from.
Jack on May 07, 2019:
Hi David, looked over your articles and really like them. I’m a really busy guy who wants a good looking physique and also be in good athletic shape. I can consistently make 30 minutes a day 6 days a week. My current plan is Monday/Wednesday/Friday: full body strength training, Tuesday/Thursday: cardio, Saturday: yoga. I’ve tried so many different routines for years and want something to actually stick with. So I need something in 30 minutes I can do 3 days a week based on aesthetic and strength. Based off your article I’m thinking this.
Fwd leg swings 15s per side
Lateral leg swings 15s per day side
Squat hold 30s
Fwd/bwd arm circles 15s per side
Rotations 15s per internal/external
Band Dislocates/wall slides 30s
Monday - Strength:
Front Squats 3x5-8
DB Row 3x5-8
*Weighted Crunch 2x10-12
Tuesday - Interval Cardio
5 min warm up
30/30 intervals for 15 mins
Wednesday - Strength:
DB Shoulder Press 3x5-8
*Ab Rollout 2xfailure
Thursday - Cardio
5 min warm up
20 mins cardio
Friday - Strength
DB Lunge 3x5-8
Incline DB Press 3x5-8
BB Row 3x5-8
Hanging leg raise 2x10-12
Saturday - Flexibility
30 minutes Yoga/Pilates
*Only do if have time
Warm up 25%x5, 50%x5 for main lifts, none for iso.
Increase when hit upper rep goal on all sets with good form.
Stop 1 or 2 reps short of failure.
2 minute rest compounds, 1 minute rest isolation either superset or alternate sets.
The only thing I’m worried about is that there is no arm/calf isolation. Does this look like a good plan? Or how can I add those things within the 30 min limit. Thanks for all your help David.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 06, 2019:
You can certainly do some abdominal exercises if you wish, but it's unlikely to make your abs look much better, unless you have very underdeveloped abdominal muscles, which I doubt. You make your abs look better mostly by reducing your body fat. If you want to train them though, I would probably do them twice per week with something like ab wheel rollouts on Mondays and hanging leg raises or reverse crunches on Fridays. A couple of sets of 10 - 30 reps is enough (after at least one warmup set). If you can't do hanging leg raises with straight legs, do them with bent legs at first, and gradually straighten them out over time.
Mark on May 05, 2019:
Hi again, I have decided to continue bulking, since I only really have about an inch of fat on my lower abs. My body is about 17% BF. I have just estimated it using an app. Should I do some abs exercises too at the end of my workouts, just so I can maybe make them look better while im still dirty bulking? What should i do and how many reps and such? Someone told me its a good time to work on your abs when your bulking and in a caloric surplus. Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on April 08, 2019:
Glad you have done well with this Mark. Yes, you can use the same routine for cutting, but there are just two things to bear in mind. Firstly, your recovery will not be quite as good when cutting, due to being in calorie deficit, so you may want to cut back a little on volume and/or level of effort. And second, you should increase your protein intake even more than when bulking to help maintain your muscle mass better.
Mark on April 07, 2019:
I have been dirty bulking with this routine for a few months and have seen amazing results in size and strength but i want to start cutting now and continue using this routine. Should i keep lifting heavy and doing the same amount of sets and reps? I want to add 30 minutes of treadmill after too. Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 27, 2019:
Yes jgjdjr, it should work great if you are just starting out. But don't try to push it too far before changing to a less demanding routine. See my article on training for older guys for more info on this.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 27, 2019:
I suggest you start with the 2-day. Do this consistently for at least 6 months, and then consider changing to the 3-day.
Karim on March 27, 2019:
I have first started working out around 10 months ago. Since then, there has been lots of ons and offs and workout trial and error, switching between splits and fullbody workouts etc. been doing a 3-day split for a month now. I have gained a little bit, but not that much.
Your workouts seems to be perfect for my aims and schedule. I want to start doing one of them. Would you recommend starting with the 2-day or the 3-day? Thanks!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 05, 2019:
Hi Mark. For most people, training biceps directly three times per week is fine and gives good results. But triceps tend to take a bit longer to recover. So it might be worth just training them twice per week. Or you could reduce the number of sets. Also, make sure you are not pushing them excessively hard as well. Only go close to failure on your last set.
jgjdjr on March 04, 2019:
Is this a good program for me (male, 61)? I've seen varying opinions on gaining muscle at my age, some suggesting lighter weight more reps.
Mark on March 03, 2019:
I have started doing additional arm exercises on each workout like you said with 8-10 reps. On Monday I got an insane pump and the next day my biceps and triceps were a bit bigger, :) but my triceps were really sore. My biceps were fine though. I continued to workout on Wednesday and Friday, and today is Sunday and my triceps are still sore from Monday. They are still bigger and a bit harder. I think it has to do with the rep range and not so much the exercise since I always have worked my triceps with soreness lasting just a day or two and would be very mild. Nevertheless, should I remove the 2nd arm exercise from each workout, and just do the normal 1 arm exercise routine with 8-10 reps? Is this telling me that 2 is too much or is it that I just need to get used to it? Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on February 27, 2019:
I don't have a specific one, but if you take a look at this article it will give you a good idea of how to set one up: www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/build-hlm-full-body-workout
Rocko on February 24, 2019:
Can you direct me to a solid Heavy/Light/Moderate full body workout for an intermediate lifter
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on February 23, 2019:
Yes, there is already an arm exercise at the end of each of the workouts, but you can expand this to do both biceps and triceps each time if you wish. The reason we have parallel bar dips on Wednesday is to give the chest some additional work, as well as the triceps. But yes, you can still change it. So you coud do barbell curls and lying triceps extensions on Monday, dumbbell or cable curls and triceps pushdowns on Wednesday, and hammer curls and overhead extensions on Friday.
Mark on February 22, 2019:
Hi, again. Sounds good. You have said that you can do an additional arm workout at the end of your workouts, and I really want to work my arms a bit more. What would be a good arm routine to include for each workout. I'm doing the 3 day routine. And 8-10 reps should be fine. Also, on Wednesday, could I change my parallel bar dips to tricep pushdowns? And do 8-10 reps?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on February 19, 2019:
Glad you are doing well with this, Mark. Yes, it will probably be a good idea to increase your reps for the arm exercises to 8 - 10 for a couple of months, and then go up to 10 - 12.
Mark on February 19, 2019:
Hi, i have been doing the 3 day workout for 2 months now and have really seen my legs grow. I have also seen my arms and lats grow. Awesome! I do 3 sets of 5-8 reps. I see that you say that for arms you should do 10-12 reps. Is that only for arms and should i start doing arms with 10-12 reps? Thanks.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on December 09, 2018:
Full body workouts are the best way to train for beginners and early intermediates, but they can also work well for more advanced lifters, especially if your recovery is quite good. The program you have written is well structured and arranged in a way that will optimize recovery, so I'm sure it will work very wel for youl.
Liam on December 08, 2018:
Hi David, I currently have a hectic work schedule and will for the foreseeable future. I have been training for 6 years, so I am wondering how this split will work for a more advanced lifter. I no longer have the time to do my usual split, therefore, I need something more time efficient like this. So I was thinking of Monday: Incline DB Press, Pull-ups, BB lunges. Wednesday: Overhead Press, Barbell Rows, Deadlifts. Friday: Flat BB Press, Lat pulldown, Leg Press. All for your 3 sets of 5-8 reps. I have put legs last on all days, as they are my most developed muscle group and I want to bring up my upper body.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on November 24, 2018:
You can replace back squats with front squats, goblet squats, Zercher squats, split squats, machine hack squats or even leg presses. However squats and deadlifts are not necessarily bad for taller people as long as you have decent mobility in the hips and ankles. And you may have to adopt a slightly different position as compared to a shorter person. Also, partial squats don't really activate the hams much at all, and they don't work the glutes or even the quads as well as full, or parallel, squats. So you might want to find out what it is that's causing your knee pain and try to address it if possible.
Yes, you can replace barbell bench and incline bench with dumbbells if you wish, though I prefer barbells for beginners. Or you could do one with a barbell and one with dumbbells.
Mark on November 23, 2018:
Oh, I forgot to mention, when I do the squats they are half squats since I can't go down all the way for a full squat, cause it hurts my knees too much. But, I've heard they don't work your hams and glutes the same as full ones. hmmmm
Mark on November 23, 2018:
Hi, David. I have been following your 3 day a week program and have gotten a lot stronger after only 2 weeks. I have been substituting deadlifts with forward lunges though. Since I never worked out my legs before, I can carry so much more weight now, as i'm a stock clerk at a grocery store. I just want to know, I'm 6'5" or 1.956 m tall. I heard that deadlifts and Squats are bad for tall people. I want to substitute my squats now. What would be a good alternative for it? And also, can I change my flat and incline barbell bench press and use dumbells instead, because of the better free range of motion? Thanks. Sorry for all the questions.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on November 23, 2018:
Yes, doing a barbell complex after your main workout is great for conditioning. You could take a look at my article entitled "Best Full-Body Fat-Burning Workout Routine" for more info on this if you wish.
Michael Bialuk on November 23, 2018:
Hi David, I really enjoy your articles and knowledge about weight training. Thank you. I enjoy doing a full body workout three times a week and have been doing so for some time with excellent results. I would now like to incorporate a barbell complex for conditioning after the weight training session. Does this sound like a good approach to you? I would like to do this three times a week.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on November 09, 2018:
That workout is not full body, as only chest and arms are being trained, so you will become completely unbalanced if that's all you are doing. With my three day plan, if you want to do more arm work you could add one of those bicep exercises to Wednesday's workout, and add a triceps exercise to Monday's and Friday's workouts.
Mark on November 08, 2018:
I have followed Leroy Colbert for 2years nowand I love doing full body workouts.I have been doing the same 6 exercises, every workout though for 3 days a week. 3 sets. 6-10 reps as he says.
-Incline dumbbell press.
-Flat dumbbell press
-Seated half barbell curls.(Love this one but started getting sore wrists.)
-Barbell Drag curls
-Tricep Cable pushdowns.
I have gained more in strength and not much in overall size, just bigger arm peaks, but I think its because of doing the same exercises every workout. Do you think so? This changing your workout every day sounds good though. You said that you can add a few arm exercises to your workout if you wish. Should i just follow your 3 day workout as is, or add Seated dumbbell curl and drag barbell curls to it too?
Thanks! Sorry for the long comment.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on November 07, 2018:
The two day program is for people who are just starting out. Their priority should be to get strong on the big lifts, and I wouldn't add anything to those workouts if you are in your first 6 months of training. After that the three day program may be more appropriate, and you can certainly add an exercise to each of these. In your case I would add lateral raises to the first workout, face pulls to the second and upright rows to the third. Do them for 2 or 3 sets of 10 - 12 reps.
Raphael on November 07, 2018:
Hi David, first I would like to thank you, your basic and minimalist approach has literally changed my way of thinking and living fitness.
Now I like the two and the the three days program but I would like to add some delt/traps work. My favourites are lateral raises, shrugs, face pulls and wide upright rows. How would you include some of them in a 2 or 3 day schedule? Which exercises and rep ranges do you recommend?
Thanks in advance and greetings from South Italy!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 25, 2018:
No; it's fine to do those twice per week for a while, but if you do it too long you will likely run into recovery issues. So after about 2 - 3 months, or sooner if you are starting to struggle, I'd do a different set of complementary exercises on your second day.
Notafool on September 23, 2018:
I am getting back into lifting after 15 years. I did not do much leg work before because I was doing a lot of cycling. I get to the Gym twice a week. Say Monday and Thursday. I want to be able to cycle at least 30 miles a week at 10-15 miles, which is easy for me.
Is there anything wrong with doing the major exercises each workout? As in:
Bench Press (155lbs 4x8)
Overhead Press (85lbs 4x10)
Bent Row (115lbs 4x10)
Lat Pull Down (100lbs 4x10)
Squat (85lbs 4x10)
Deadlift or Romanian Lift (85lbs 4x10)
Squat and deadlift are new to me so I am starting very light to work on form.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 09, 2018:
Yes, you can stay on the upper/lower split indefinitely if you wish. or you can move on to a push/pull/legs split. Or alternate the two, doing a few months on one and then a few months on the other.
As for straps for deadlifts; personally I don't like them because you get dependent on them. So I would only ever use chalk. Also I would only do three sets of deadlifts for a while. Once you get reasonably strong on them, reduce to two sets, and maybe later to just one set.
Pilgrim86 on September 07, 2018:
Thanks for replying David. Going through the routines for six months then progressing sounds good. I'm guessing you'll stay on the upper/lower split forever once you're on it? or is there another progression from that - obviously a couple years down the line.
Also deadlifts - you've programmed deadlifts in all the routines the same as the other exercises (3-4 sets of 5-8 reps). Would you recommend lifting straps to handle the multiple sets? Great article :)
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 06, 2018:
It's all very well to give advice re. time/strength needed before moving on, but the problem is that everyone is different, and will therefore respond differently and reach different levels before they reach the optimum time to move to the next phase. For instance, I might be tempted to say stick to the two way full body for 6 months, then do the three way for another 6 months, and then move on to the upper/lower split. But really the best advice is to stick to each one until you stop progressing, and then move on. But you'll need to allow for at least two or three de-loads (backing off and then building back up again) before you decide you are no longer progressing on any particular plan.
Pilgrim86 on September 06, 2018:
Hey David. Great article regarding full body training.
You've written about the progression from going from the two routine full body to the three routine full body and then eventually to an upper/lower split.
I was wondering if there was a realistic/average time you would recommend staying in each phase before moving to the next one? Is it time related (weeks then months) or strength related (wait until achieving 2 plate bench, 3 plate squat, 4 plate deadlift on a 1 rep max).
Any advice regarding time/strength needed before moving from one phase to another would be great. Thanks :)
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 17, 2018:
Well, the first thing I would say is I don't think your workouts are really arranged optimally, but if you are happy with them and making progress, who am I to argue? As for diet, you need 150 - 200g of protein per day, most of which should come from meat, fish and eggs, and perhaps some cheese and whey protein (if you can find one you like). Take a look at my article on the best muscle building diet for more info, and let me know if you have any more questions then. Best of luck.
Keith on August 17, 2018:
I am 43 5'6" weight 190 I have been doing a full body work out 4 days a week for some time now and notice it takes around 2 to 3 hrs. a day. I preform bench warmups then 1 heavy then working sets. Then move to arms warmup sets then working sets I go back and forth from the bench to the bow flex for full arm workout. Then I work on legs warmups on squats then working sets, then deadlift warm up working sets. then I do barbell row sets then head over to bow flex work back. I always feel good when working out in fact my days off I look forward to working out again cause I feel better when I am working out. My question is I am OK with my routine but really suck on what to eat and protein all protein shakes taste like crap. What should my daily protein be for my size and routine and how is the best way to get it. Also I will mention I only eat dinner everyday that is it in the morning I have coffee on workout days I just started an energy powder that feels great that's all I have. What would you recommend?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 02, 2018:
That depends. If you have got quite strong you will probably benefit from splitting your body up a bit now, rather than continuing with full body. However, if I read your comment right, you are looking to be training 7 days a week. That would be too much. You need your recovery days. For most people 4 days per week would be the most I would recommend. You might want to take a look at my article on the upper/lower body workout to see if that gives you a better idea of how to split things up.
Tanis on August 01, 2018:
I’ve bern doing full body for almost 2 yrs, 4 days a week. Doing a glute/ham, quad, back, chest and a core. Then conditioning or HIIT afterwards. Am thinking of splitting it now... 2 days of Deadlifts, 2 days of glute/ham, 2 days quads, chest and back. And stocking in a gratuitous bicep, shoulder and tricep exercise. Would this be just as effective as doing all 4 compound movements 4 days a week?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 30, 2018:
Leroy was very advanced and had great genetics and recovery. This is for more typical trainees who have not been training that long. But even if you have been training a while, workouts of this sort will allow for better recovery and therefore better long term progress for most people.
Berd on July 30, 2018:
But Leroy Colbert has many exercises (about ten or eleven) in his workout ... you suggest just doing four or five ...
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 09, 2018:
Yes, it's a perfectly reasonable choice. Just continue with this as long as you are making good progress.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on July 09, 2018:
Do your exercises as a circuit, with minimal rest between each one. See my article on the full body fat burning workout routine for more information.
Tanveer Mustafa on July 09, 2018:
How can we use full body workout to reduce wait or fat.
Nikhil on June 04, 2018:
Hello, I'm coming from a gap of 50 days and started full body workouts 3 times a week to get back on track. I have noticed that it does not tire me as my previous hypertrophy based workouts used to also I'm lightly heavyweight and i assume full body workouts is the rught chouce for me, isn't it?
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 31, 2018:
You are welcome Pete; all the best to you too.
Pete on May 31, 2018:
Thanks again Dave,all the best
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 31, 2018:
Glad you are enjoying your training Pete. Myofibrils are thickened with low to moderate rep work. So if you do your big compound exercises for sets of 4 - 6 reps and your smaller exercises for 6 - 8 reps that should work well.
Any sensible weekly plan will work, but I still prefer upper/lower or something similar.
Pete on May 29, 2018:
I still enjoy only working 3 days a week and am now looking to build up my myofibrillar fibres to make them thicker.
Do you have any ideas on how I perform a well structured workout weekly plan?
jgjdjr on April 29, 2018:
Thank you sir from a dumbbell!!!
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on April 27, 2018:
Ok, I understand the article doesn't really address the upper/lower/upper approach, but it gives you an idea of that sort of training. Maybe I'll add that to the article. But for older guys especially I tend to prefer upper twice per week and lower once per week. And you stick to the same lower workout.
So maybe Monday would be bench press, bent-over row, seated dummbell shoulder press and curls.
Then on Wednesday you could do squats, Romanian deadifts, leg press and calf raise.
And on Friday you'd do incline dummbell press, pull-up, lateral raise and lying triceps extension.
That's similar to what I'm doing at present. But you can choose your own exercises of course, and make the workouts a bit longer if your recovery is good. But most older guys don't recover so well, so this will probably be enough.