Avoid the Typical Bodybuilding Workout Split. What to Do Instead!

December 27, 2008

The traditional Bodybuilding Workout Split has unfortunately become the default routine in most gyms.

While a 3 or 4 day split is great for building mass, it is an inferior way to look slim and defined. This site is dedicated to the lean and slim Hollywood look, so of course I am going to recommend an alternative to the typical routine. An athlete in peak condition can teach you much more than a sluggish bodybuilder.

floyd mayweather knock out

[Boxers in the lower-to-mid weight classes are a great example of being functionally fit and lean. This look is built upon a foundation of gaining strength without putting on extra mass.]

Bodybuilding = Break Down the Muscle + Rest and Nutrition

If you think about bodybuilding in simple terms, the goal is to lift with enough volume and intensity to break down the muscle fiber in a muscle group. Following the workout, the muscle then needs to rest to repair itself.

Adequate protein and nutrients need to be present to insure a full repair of these fibers. Done properly the muscle fibers grow in size. Over time this leads to visible muscle growth.

Training the Entire Body Each Workout?

This would be bad for bodybuilding. The problem would be that the workout would have to be extremely long to insure enough volume of lifts to break down the muscle properly.

Another problem would be that the muscles worked last in the routine would get neglected due to fatigue.

Bodybuilding is About Blitzing the Muscle Then Resting

The approach to bodybuilding is working a muscle as hard as possible for many sets until that muscle is obliterated…and then avoiding any direct work to that muscle for days.

The way to do this is to setup a workout that works the entire body over a period of days. This is called a split workout (yeas I know you already know this). A 3 day split would take 3 different workouts to hit each body part. A 4 day split would take 4 days to work the entire body.

An Outline of a Typical 3 Day Split…

Day 1) Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (“pushing muscles”)

Day 2) Back, Biceps (“pulling muscles”)

Day 3) Legs, Calves, and Abs

Day 4) Rest

Functional Training is the Opposite of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is more about blitzing a muscle with high volume and training that muscle infrequently.

Functional  training is the opposite…frequently training the muscle without blitzing and damaging the muscle with an excessive amount of volume.

Train the Muscle Frequently to Get Stronger

Certainly bodybuilders get stronger, but they do so while adding mass.

The problem with adding mass when you get stronger is that it doesn’t make as big of an impact on athleticism. To get stronger without adding mass, the volume of sets and reps need to be kept low, but the tension needs to be high. As long as the muscles aren’t damaged, they can be trained many times each week.

black maserati

[I like to think of functional training and athletic performance like a sportscar. A Maserati and an over-sized SUV may have the same horsepower, but the Maserati displays that horsepower in a much more impressive manner…and looks better in the process. Increasing your output while slimming down is the way to go!]

Athletes in Peak Condition Work Their Muscle Groups Often

Most athletes don’t have any choice but to work their entire body daily. Take that picture of the the boxers up above. When they are 1-2 months away from the fight, they are sparring daily.

All of the muscles in their bodies are getting worked on a frequent basis. Same thing with soccer players, basketball players, gymnasts, etc. They are all working their entire body many times per week.

Frequent Strong Muscle Contractions Increase Muscle Tone

Again…take the example of the boxers above.

If they only fought once per week they wouldn’t display that amazing muscle definition in their arms shoulders and chest. Muscle tone isn’t just a result of low body fat (although that is needed to display the muscle tone) …muscle tone is increased by increasing your ability to contract a muscle. Increasing strength without adding size is the route to achieving this type of “true” muscle tone.

Here is an article I wrote about the subject of true muscle tone.

A Non-Traditional Body Part Split I Have Used

You can train the whole body in one workout.

Especially if you just want to maintain muscle and burn fat in a circuit type manner. If you want to do a split that allows you to train each muscle group many times per week, I have developed a solid one that works well for a number of reasons.

The 2 Day Split…

Day 1) Chest, Back, Abs

Day 2) Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps

End each workout with 1-2 sets of “planks” for the abs.  After the planks, do dome form of Interval Cardio or Circuit Cardio for 20-30 minutes. The total workout including cardio should take 1 hour or just slightly longer. I don’t do direct leg work, because I believe that tough intervals build better looking legs and butt for both men and women.

My Thinking Behind This 2 Day Split

I like to work opposing muscle groups in the same workout because it helps maintain posture. A common muscle imbalance problem is shoulders pulling forward after a chest workout. Working the back right after, prevents this from happening (especially cable rows). I also like it that the small muscle groups like biceps and triceps get worked each workout.

They are worked indirectly with the back and bicep workout and directly on shoulders and arm day. Bigger muscle groups recuperate at a slower rate (even with brief workouts like this)…but small muscle groups can get worked a bit more often. Your arms will look better than ever with this split!

No Need To Blitz A Muscle Group

Many people need to change their idea of a good workout.

The idea should be to work up a sweat while getting stronger and burning off body fat. This can be done with just a few quality sets and 1-2 different lifts per body part…blitzing a muscle group will just force you to rest more days in between workouts and will lead to slower strength gains. Also blitzing a muscle group will make you sore and you will be less likely to want to hit circuits or HIIT.

Enjoy Various Physical Activities Without Fear

Back in my clueless days when I was trying to build as much muscle as possible, I would skip out on fun activities if a muscle group was sore. I remember not wanting to go water skiing because my legs were too sore from doing squats.

Another time, I couldn’t play tennis because my pecs were too sore. Bodybuilding style workouts really screw you up, if you want to do activities outside of the gym. I’m glad I came to my senses!

Note: For those of you who do want to add a bit of mass, follow the bodybuilding technique of blitzing a muscle followed by rest…just make sure you don’t go overboard…you don’t want to get so big that you give off that cheesy vibe.

Put on a bit of muscle, but aim for that GQ look if you are a guy or Victoria Secret (Shape Magazine Look) if you are a woman.

If you want to get the huge bodybuilder look that went out of style in the late 80’s…then you are on the wrong site.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Samuel December 27, 2008 at 6:11 am

nice article keep updating your blog with great stuff . i am trying to get the slim muscle tone look also so this articles help alot . thanx

Adam Steer - Better Is Better December 27, 2008 at 9:40 am

It’s amazing that the “get huge” paradigm is still as prevalent as it is. It seems to have a stickiness that defies reason. The sad thing is that most people at the gym either adhere to the bodybuilding paradigm or the long slow cardio paradigm. They don’t seem to know that there is something much more effective in between…

I like your take on the functionality angle. Athletes use their bodies to perform an action and achieve an end. They don’t move to build muscle, they build muscle because they move. And that muscle goes on in the most natural way possible because it is only there to support their movement. The bodybuilding paradigm puts muscle in places where it has no purpose. It’s only there for show, not to support movement.

As far as periodization goes, I almost always use what is called a 4×7. Basically, it is 7 cycles of 4 days. Intensity is modulated over the 4 days to create what I call a 4×7 Wave. It runs through No, Low, Moderate and High intensity days. Everything is full-body movement. By systematically building recovery into the program you don’t need to split body parts. You can read more about it on this Squidoo lens.

My buddy and I actually just released a book detailing how to apply the 4×7 protocol using nothing but bodyweight exercise! I won’t link to it here out of respect for Rusty, but if you want to check it out you can find links to it on my blog and in the 4×7 Squidoo lens.

Another great post Rusty.


Leyton Stone December 27, 2008 at 9:57 am


Would the following workout fit your guidelines?

First superset:
Pull ups 3×6
Incline bench press 3×6
Bodyweight squats 3×50 done as quickly as possible
30 secs rest, repeat.
Second superset:
Rows 3×8
Flat bench press 3×8
Bodyweight jumping lunges 3×50 as quickly as possible
30 secs rest, repeat

HIIT + planks

First superset:
Overhead press 3×6
Dumbbell curls 3×6
Bodyweight jump squat 3×25
Rest 30 seconds, repeat
Second superset:
Side lateral raise 3×10
Rope pushdown 3×10
Bodyweight broad jumps 3×25
Rest 30 secs, repeat.

HIIT cardio + planks

Leyton Stone December 27, 2008 at 9:58 am

Or would you recommend more sets for certain muscles?

JE Gonzalez December 27, 2008 at 10:02 am

Knd of repeating yourself there, Rusty. Not that it is a bad thing, it is great to remind new readers about your philosophies. As for blitzing the muscle for some size. I also wanted to add that in your Cam Gignandet article that muscle imbalance is mostly bodyfat. You were sooo right. However, my arms a relatively small, 12.5 inches but the rest of my body is well-toned. Should I blitz my arms, or just keep doing what I’m doing?

RockStar December 27, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Another good article rusty. I’m sure people are always asking you about your workout plan so it’s nice to see it all laid out. I’m also glad that you mentioned the idea of “blitzing” a muscle group. It seriously sucks to be so sore after a leg workout, that you’re limping everywhere, and only want to spend your day sleeping. I’ve been there haha.

That being said, I do have a few thoughts to share.

First, the debilitating soreness usually subsides if you are consistent with training. Unless your are doing an obscene amount of sets per muscle group (>15), then you should be fine after a few months of consistent training. Following workouts in Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines is the problem. These workouts are sometimes ridiculously high in volume (like 30-40 sets per workout). But sticking to 9-12 sets for large muscle groups and 6-9 sets for smaller ones, shouldn’t leave you with the type of soreness that prevents you from engaging in other activities like tennis.

Also, I want to remind people that the bulky bodybuilder look isn’t that easy to obtain and takes years of effort in both diet and training, and outside of the IFBB pro bodybuilders or top-level amateur competitors, most of the other “bulky” people are bulky mainly because they are carrying too much fat. My opinion is if you’re worried about getting a big ass/hips and chunky thighs, lay off the krispy kreme’s, not the squats.

Finally, to reinforce my last point, when getting in shape for movies, many of the sleek hollywood physiques that you speak of are built on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses…etc. combined with cardio and a reasonable diet to keep the fat off. Case in point, is Mr. Daniel Craig who played james bond. His casino royale workout can be found on menshealth.com
(http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/James_Bond_workout/index.php). Among the many exercises he used, Clean and presses, squats, stiff leg deadlifts were part of the program and Mr. Craig didn’t end up looking like a bulky bodybuilder when he stepped out of the water in the speedos (like yourself in your picture)

Again, we all have our own opinions and I respect yours because you are obviously living proof that you practice what you preach and you’re looking good. I just thought I’d throw in a secondary view point.

Keep up the great stuff rusty!

Helder December 27, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Those are very good guidelines for anyone wanting to look good without getting too big. This is true for most trainees no doubt, but i’ll mention 2 types of trainees that need a slight different approach.

Hardgainers, if they do volume training looking for mass they’ll get nowhere, they only grow with low volume and medium to higher reps, so hardgainers who are already happy with they’re size and just want to look good, simply keep the low volume that made you grow, but lower the reps, with low reps most hardgainers won’t grow, you’ll be just becoming more defined good looking, also stop bulking, that’s what most hardgainers are told to do, cut those calories just to maintain the size you want, besides take advantage of being a hardgainer (low body fat usually)

Easy Hardgainers: This is me, first of all an easy hardgainer is someone who’s skinny, who has a fast metabolism, like any hardgainer, but instead of having mainly slow twitch fibers like hardgainers, the easy hardgainer has more white twitch fibers. For years i didn’t understand where i was, high volume didn’t work for me when i wanted hypertrophy, low volume taught by Stuart McRobert improved things for me, but the medium to higher reps wasn’t doing that much for me either, no mass, and no carved tense look. Low volume and low reps did it all for me, hypertrophy when i wanted, and a hard looking body, of course i made stupid things, i was looking to be big at the time, i even bulked for some months (so stupid to put my Health in danger) but when i came to my senses, i started to train only to look good, so if i grow with low volume and low reps, but if those low reps are needed to get strong and to look good the way Rusty teaches here, what do i do to avoid hypertrophy? Simply cut calories, and work hard on HITT cardio. Eat clean and Healthy.

Sorry for the long comment, but i remembered these two types of trainees, who grow with low volume.

Very good post as always

The Spaniard December 27, 2008 at 2:10 pm

I think it is good when you talk about athletes (and even some models) when you try to make a point, because they really have the bodies one would like to achieve, but not when you put the examples of Hollywood. An athlete works hard year round and follows a “natural” way of life (except when they start using steroids). Hollywood actors, except for a few, only take care of themselves depending on the movie they are going to film, and it usually means 4 to 6 hours of exercise every day for 2 or 3 months.
Now, talking about athletes. In this article you talk about boxers and you always use the example of soccer players. I think kick-boxers represent a better example, for not only they follow the same routine as boxers, they have to use their legs. The problem with boxers is that they have weeker legs. With respect to soccer players, their case is opposite to the boxers. They have to use their legs, so their training is primarily focused on that part of the body. They do very little upper body training. I think that a very good example of all around athlete (and people usually forget about them) is a Rugby player. It would be too long for me to compare soccer and american football with rugby, but it is one of the most demanding sports you can play.

Terry December 27, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Another great article!

I’m following your advice, I asked for a while back. It was not to work out my oblique ab muscles, except for the side plank and it’s working out well.

I would, however, like to build up my shoulders a bit more. I’m female and I like the look. I think it’s sexy. If you can address this sometime in an article or maybe answer if you find some time, I would appreciate it. But if not, I think by reading your site I can figure out how to bulk up my shoulders a little.

I’m small boned and petite but I like to feel strong and my muscles to look defined. Your site is helping me a lot. Thanks.

Jared December 27, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Would you recomend with the 2 day split a east after the second day or keep alternating them?

Ron December 27, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I was just wondering about the working of opposing muscle groups…let’s see if I can phrase this properly…

Say you’re doing a chest & back day and you had picked 2 sets of exercises for each muscle group. Let’s say, push-ups and incline press for the chest and pull-ups and cable rows for the back.

Would the routine go:
Push-ups, then rows, then incline press, then pull-ups?
Or would you do all of the chest stuff first, then move on to the back stuff?

There…I think I phrased that correctly. 🙂

David at Animal-Kingdom-Workouts December 27, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I couldn’t agree with you and your site more. There is a huge difference between looking like you are in shape, and really being strong and healthy. Bodybuilding methods can give you the appearance of size and strength, but that’s all it is, appearance. I’ve seen bodybuilders types come to Yoga classes who can barely lift their arms above their heads. This is healthy? Anyway, great site and I think we agree on a lot of things. I plan to come back regularly!

– Dave

Nick Glatz December 27, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Rusty – awesome article…..again. This type of routine would work great for you when you travel around the world..quick and easy without killing you during the time zone changes. For those of us staying in the states, would you use the two day split like:
MON: Chest Back
TUE: Shoulders, Bi’s, Tri’s
Wed: Rest
THUR: Repeat Monday
Friday: Repeat Tuesday
Saturday: Active Recovery
Sunday Rest

Would this work to lean out and maintain muscle mass?

Thanks – keep it up.

Seth Pattyn December 27, 2008 at 5:56 pm

I have been reading your website for sometime and I like your objective of creating a lean hollywood look. I no longer feel the urge to get to 185lbs @ 5’9″ like I used too. I’m think I look best at 160. I have tried a 2day split working the upper body on one day and legs on another. Genetically I have chicken legs so I really needed and still need a little bit of the squats and lunges. When I did the 2 day split I performed it 3 times a week and found my elbows and shoulders hurt at the joints as well as my knee’s. I was only doing between 2 and 4 sets per body part. I also was going really heavy keeping at 5 reps. Do you think a 3 day split done twice a week is enough to create the type of definition you are speaking of? That would at least be easier on my joints. I’m 24 and have been working out for about 8 years and have great definition. I’m at about 8% body fat maybe less, but I think I could look better, could it just be that I am still young? I’m not quite as toned as Cam Gigandet but I’m a little bigger then him. I guess I would like to be that toned. I don’t go till failure anymore and avoid getting sore, yet my joints still ache if I do the 2 day split 3 times a week if I go really heavy. But I have to go this heavy for strength training. Advice?

BRUTHABADDASS December 27, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Rusty,,,,thank you so much for this article! It answers so many questions that had baffled my way of training. I have tried so many techniques–3on2rest, lift every other day, 2on2 off. No matter what,,,I always had different results of the progress of my physique. Which in some ways was good because I wanted size,,,but I lacked energy and proportion(symmetry). The only question I have is about the abs which is my weakest muscle—I have the typical weighlifters “buddha belly”. Is it true you can work on your abs everyday(which in a way fits with your theory of working functional muscles often). Or should the theory of working them every other day is more practical for someone like me who wants to have ripped abs(via a flat stomach).

Jordan December 28, 2008 at 12:20 am

Ive never had a hard time keeping weight or body fat off. I really tried to stay away from alot of cardio due to my body disenegrating. But ive noticed a huge difference in a few weeks in my muscles. Ive always had really hard toned muscles but lately they been soft and spongy. Is this due to body fat? I have noticed my body putting on some fat. Just wondering if you knew anything about this?

BurritoKid December 28, 2008 at 1:50 am

Finally watched “Never Back Down”. What do you think of the type of training they do in that movie? (Kettlebells, tire flipping, concrete throwing, etc) Do you think that builds a good look? Would you use that training alone?

Frank December 28, 2008 at 2:14 am

Love the way you always use competitive fighters and martial artists in your posts. I’ve read from many sources now that to be truly fit/athletic that you have to train motions more than muscles. The two guys in that picture are both known for their amazing handspeed and ability to move well on their feet, and they get that from just doing boxing training, running and jumping rope. Keep up the work Rusty, I love coming here for inspiration from the advice you give and the pictures of athletes and girls.

Tom December 28, 2008 at 10:37 am

Hey Rusty,

In your sensible way to gain muscle mass you mention a workout that one could use. I am interested in knowing if i can take that type of workout and use it in a two day split. Also if so will it allow me to gain sensible size while toning? I’m im 6’3 204 kinda of skinny fat looking to get down to 185.


Yavor December 28, 2008 at 11:54 am

Once you have arrived at the size you want to be – i.e. well built, looking good but def not huge in clothes, training for strength and fat loss only is the way to go.


Matthias December 28, 2008 at 12:29 pm

The best about athlete training is that you don’t think about muscles like chest, shoulder, triceps, … but just about movements. You want to get strong in pushing, pulling, extending your hips, …

In most sports you stand on the ground, so those athletes would never neglect their lower body. Even rock climbers for which big legs are a disadventage train their lower body as leg strength is an adventage.
You need to be fast in most sports and hip extension is the most important factor, so a lot of deadlifts, box-squats, glut-ham-rises, back-extensions, pull-throughs, and a lot of unilateral stuff is very importan for atheletes, too, so bulgarian squats, reverse lunges, step ups, …

And they don’t confuse conditioning (e.g. HIIT) with strength training.

Of course the strength-training and the conditioning depends very much on the sport the athlets participate in.
Examples: For conditioning fighter mostly use circuit training often with many bodyweight calisthenics, very Ross Enamait / Crossfit / Mark Twight like, while Football player seem to do more stuff like pulling sleds, pushing “prowlers”, farmers walk, … . (That doesn’t mean that one type of training is exclusive to one group of athlets.)
Those that throw a lot, like base ball pitcher, don’t do much overhead work, because their shoulder already is pretty burdened and you don’t want to hurt them.

On top of all that there is a lot of sport specific training.

You see a two day upper-body bodypart-split plus some interval running is nothing like athlet-training. It’s still VERY bodybuilding like.

Fitness Guy December 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

I used to do a lot of splits in the past but now in my 40s I have become much more comfortable with killing my whole body in fewer sets. I feel a little sick after but I love the feeling of all my muscles being sore and the workout of my whole body done

Andrew R - Go Healthy Go Fit December 28, 2008 at 5:29 pm

This looks like a great workout split, I’m gonna give it a try. Also, what’s your take on doing HIIT before or after a workout? Do you alternate?

Thanks bud!

All the Best,

Andrew R

admin December 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm


Thanks for the compliment. I always enjoy hearing from new readers.


Thanks for the great resource on the 4×7 workout. I know a lot of the readers will get a lot out of visiting your Squidoo Lens on the subject. I’m excited for your guest post on my blog. The readers are going to get a lot out of it!


This looks like a great conditioning workout. This would work well if you did it for 6-8 weeks and alternated it with 6-8 weeks strength training with more rest in between sets (not superset). I love your approach to build explosive strength in the legs without using squats and traditional leg lifts. You will certainly display exceptional definition in your legs and butt wit this type of training…especially since you are finishing off with HIIT. This routine really looks well thought out…great job!


There are certain themes that I will repeat, because they are core to my training philosophies (and they work). I have gained so many new readers these past 3 months, that I wanted to make sure this info wasn’t lost deep on my site. For your arms…maybe just throw in a few more sets and lift for higher reps (8-10) for a while.


I know my avoidance of leg lifts is a bit on the extreme side. I also know that many guys have built great physiques while including direct leg lifts. I prefer bodyweight leg exercises and explosive HIIT, running stairs, sprinting, etc. over squats and deadlifts…but that is just my deal. I fully understand it when someone wants to use leg lifts instead. In the past I’ve used leg lifts and now I used bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, etc.

My big thing is that the type of exposive HIIT I recommend keep the legs ripped and hard without adding mass. I prefer the defined “GQ look” over bulky legs. Honestly, squats are so effective at building mass that before you know it you have a hard time fitting into nice dress pants, jeans, etc. It has happened to me and I have seen it happen so many times to others, that my stance is to avoid them altogether. They do work, you just have to “Use With Caution” if you want the lean Hollywood Look.


Great addition to this post. There are always exceptions to the rule and you did a great job of explaining this. You are so right about the typical advice given to Hardgainers…they are told to eat a ton calories, drink a gallon of milk a day, etc. What happens is they gain 40 pounds and get stronger, but 75% of that weight ends up being fat…they basically go from skinny to sloppy. They would be much better off following your advice.

The Spaniard,

Some Hollywood Actors do let themselves go, but I don’t feature these actors and actresses. I like to highlight people like Jessica Biel, Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Brad Pitt, Will Smith, etc…people who keep themselves in great shape year round. Great call on Rugby players being some of the fittest athletes! I completely agree. The sport gets such low exposure in the U.S. that I sometimes forget the sport exists. Kickboxing is a demanding sport as well and these athletes are in outstanding shape. I’ll make a point to highlitght these two sports in future posts.


I will do a post on shoulders in the near future. In the mean time, just add a few more sets and reps.


Ideally (when life isn’t too busy), I like to workout 4 days in a row and take one day off. This isn’t a realistic schedule year round for most people, but it is what I would recommend to someone who wanted to get in exceptional shape for summer or a vacation, etc. The rest of the time, 2 days on and one day off works out well. Another alternative is to do 2 days on and one day off, but every other off day just do 30-40 minutes of HIIT or a circuit of some sort.


I would do all of your chest exercises first and then all of your back exercises. In my opinion once you wake up the neural pathway to a muscle group you will be able to contract that muscle harder with each following set if you keep the focus on that muscle group…and not jump back and forth between muscle groups (that was a long sentence). Hope that makes sense. I expect to see you in a major motion picture soon, by the way.


A really awkward thing is to watch how a professional bodybuilder moves. The large amount of mass creates a very sluggish body. Most of these guys look ridiculous when they try to run. It is weird that so much time is devoted to training the body to become less functional. Training for excessive mass is pointless in my opinion.


Yep…that would work very well. Vary the amount of HIIT or circuit training after each workout depending upon how much fat you need to lose.


You will gain more muscle maturity and definition after a few more years of lifting. Your definition will improve dramatically over time, especially if you get stronger without adding a lot more muscle mass. If your joints hurt, consider alternating light days with heavier days…but still keep the reps low. It will help you get stronger without obliterating your joints. One of the best strategies to get stronger without pain. Type in “lift light weights” into the search bar…it should bring up a post on the subject.


You can work the abs every day if you keep it to just 1-2 sets. Getting rid of your belly is probably more about diet than lifting, so reduce the calories and get into a calorie deficit for a while as well.


Itr sounds like you are gaining body fat as well as not challenging your muscles hard enough. Gain strength while losing bodyfat and your muscles will feel hard again…it never fails to get the job done.


That training works well to build “real world” strength…someone who isn’t just strong when lifting a barbell, but is strong moving normal everyday objects. I have met guys who are stronger than me in the gym, but couldn’t keep up with me when we were moving furniture. It feels good to have strength outside of the gym and this training is outstanding for this. There is a slight downside to kettlebells…they do thicken up the waist a bit on certain people. Also, this type of training can be a bit tough on the body since it isn’t as controlled as lifting in the gym. That being said it can work well. I would make sure and throw in a bit of additional work like HIIT on a treadmill and planks, etc.


Fighters in classes that need to “make weight”, have ideal physiques in my opinion. The unlimited classes aren’t as impressive, because they can afford to let themselves get a little sloppy. I think trainers focus too much on weights these days and not enough on motions. If I wanted to learn how to punch harder, I would work on this by punching a heavy bag…not spend hour lifting weights. If I wanted to improve vertical leap, I would practice jumping. The problem with lifting often times is that it is near impossible to train “at the speed of the sport”. Thanks for the compliments…I’m glad you appreciate the pictures…I spend quite a bit of time chosing ones to hopefully inspire people.


This 2 day split should work well for you. Just add a few more sets to gain muscle. To be honest, if you drop 15 pounds of fat your physique will improve dramatically without adding muscle. You might just chose to do this 2 day split “as is” and track your results after 6-8 weeks. Add more sets at that time if it appears you need a little more mass.


Good comment…the type training I recommend certainly is more of a hybrid workout. I like to focus on athletic performance AND aesthetics. I think a lot of athletes would look better if they dropped certain movements, added others, etc. The way I perform HIIT has given me speed and explosiveness I never experienced from squats. I disagree with part of what you have written, but I also understand their are many paths to take to reach the same destination. Just two different schools of thought.


I have been doing Craig Ballantyne’s full bodyweight circuit the past month…it is probably the first time in my life I have worked all the muscles in my body in one workout. I am impressed with how I am able to maintain muscle definition with such a brief workout. I will most likely use this workout during vacations and during times in my life that I’m really strapped for time.

Whew…lots of comments…I love it,


Cristina December 28, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Hey Rusty,

I need to lose 20 pounds. Seriously :p .
Would the following be a good workout:

3 sets of 20 Lunges
3 sets of 20 Squats
HIIT for 30 min
1 minute Plank

oh and I have ballet twice a week.

I’m 16 and although according to my BMI I’m still in my healthy range. I’m 5ft 6 with a small frame so weighing 140 pounds feels really heavy esp for a girl.

btw I read your article on incorporating GI into one’s diet and it was excellent. I lost weight but something about my workout isn’t working.

DR December 28, 2008 at 8:29 pm

I can’t believe that bodybuilding type workouts are the norm at most gyms.

I have memberships at 4 different clubs (business purposes) and very seldom do I see anyone training in order to increase fitness or build a lean, hard, “non-puffy” bodybuilders physique.

When it comes to athletic performance, Olympic style lifters are some of the best conditioned athletes – incredible flexibility, better vertical jump than basketball players and the best strength to weight ratio…and oh yeah, except for the super heavyweights, they are all ripped and their muscles look unbelievably hard.

And one of the most popular training routines involves 3-8 workouts per day…short and intense.

Keeping in mind that they are lifting for a specific task and not general health and appearance. So, their training splits are going to be different than ours.

Rusty’s split is a great one. You can also look at breaking your workout up based on movements – vertical push (military press) – vertical pull (chins), horizontal push (push-up, etc….

Yash December 28, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Good post Rusty. My current regimen balances anterior/posterior chains pretty well, which is something a lot of people overlook. Many people aren’t aware of it, but a good way to test yourself is that your bench shouldn’t be more than 10% of your weighted pullup. Ex, if you can bench 225 for 5 reps, you should be able to pullup at least 200 lbs 5 times, if not the full 225.

Unfortunately, though i like my training routine, its winter break and i don’t have access to the gym for about a month so i’m getting inventive. I’m throwing in more HIIT and fun stuff like sledgehammer and kettlebell swings.

Do you have any suggestions for exercises that would be good for back/shoulders [i’m trying to create a more v-shaped torso]. I’ve been picking up that contrary to what most guys concentrate on [chest biceps abs] most girls are really more impressed by a strong back/shoulder base more so than the arms. I know it’s an individual question, but I would love to even see a full post on it. I know the message of this blog is to look the best you can and try and impress the other sex, so it fits right in.

Hope the holidays were good to you and wish you all the best in the new year!


Matthias December 29, 2008 at 6:05 am

Rusty, I think I’m not too far away from your side when it comes to leg training. People tend to train what they see in the mirror. Many squats, leg press and worst even leg extensions. Then they tend to do half squats, half leg presses which developes the outer parts of the quads more and than you have something that I – like you – don’t find very appealing.

Instead people should – like athletes 😉 – focus more on their posterior chain (your glutes, hamstrings, …) and you will have a way nicer look.

Bill December 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Hi Rusty,i have a couple questions for you,i weigh 308lbs i really dont know where to start to get this weight off is Atkins the answer so i can get my insulin under control.If i came to you and said could you help me lose this weight (fat) get down to about 180lbs and lean out what would you tell me to do.I am so confused about diet and exsercise.Thanks for a great site.


Yash December 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm

To Bill
I know Rusty is busy and can’t post/respond as often on here, but if you want a quick answer, here goes:

-Depending on your fitness level start slow and don’t try to overdo it at first, its one of the things that leads to quitting. Start with daily walking/light jogging if you need to until you can start running faster.
-when you can run faster, start throwing in HIIT. For people closer to their target, Rusty’s method that he’s posted is good, but considering you have a lot to lose, you can tweak it and still get good results until you get closer. You could do it 2-3 times a week. Push yourself during your workouts, but don’t work so hard that you’re fatigued and overtrained. People tend to overdo this too.
-You weigh 308 so you probably have a decent amount of muscle under there somewhere. Weight training will help you maintain it as you lose fat. You could forgo it if you want at first but as you start to lose more weight you don’t want to lose too much muscle so aim for about 2 sessions a week. Since you’re doing cardio to lose fat, these weight sessions don’t have to be extreme. Keep them short, intense and efficient, just enough to tell your body that you need to keep the muscle you have. You could do these on off days, or bundle them with the cardio if you have the time. You don’t want your workouts to be incredibly long though, so watch out.

and… [drumroll please]
-DIET. Not in the sense that, go on a diet to lose weight. that’s short term. Change your diet in the permanent sense. If you have the determination, aim for a low-carb diet. Cut the sugars and refined grains. This will not only lead to a bunch of water weight loss at first, but will help your body burn fat as you stop relying on glycogen for energy. Contrary to the advertised dangers of eating lower carbs, fruits and veggies will give you what you need. You may not even have to go that extreme: since you weigh twice as much as me, my normal carb intake is probably a low number to you. Aside from carbs, lower your daily intake by a few hundred calories [again, start slow if you need to]. Exercise is all all fun and dandy, but your diet is really whats gonna control what you see in the mirror.

A lot of this stuff is in Rusty’s older posts, but these are a few common themes to condense it and get you started. Go back and read his stuff, it’ll be a world of help. Hope it helps. Good luck!!!

[sorry if this was incredibly long. The office is pretty slow over the holidays]


Max L. December 30, 2008 at 1:07 am

Rusty…..kudos to your web page, I am a big fan. I have learned much more from this site than any other. Congratulations for its success, and thanks for sharing all that valuable knowledge.

I agree with MOST of the stuff you write, it is logical, simple to understand and motivational. Besides the look you are trying to achieve besides being more appealing to the opposite sex, I believe, is healthier in the long run, since there is nothing healthy in growing old with the body of a body builder. Just look at one once he retires and stops working out.

I just wanted to stop by and finally congratulate you.

With New Years coming up, it wouldn’t be a bad Idea to write a post dedicated to GOAL SETTING, since at least to me it has been hard setting realistic goals, and achieving them. Just an idea i think many would benefit from.

Best of wishes for 2009, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Max L.

Terry December 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Thanks, Rusty, for all your good advice and I very much look forward to your post on shoulders.

Anthony December 31, 2008 at 2:04 am

Hey Rusty I just discovered your site today and I really like it. I think that the information you serve up here is really helpful. I have already read things that have changed my mind about working out and dispelled many confusions.

You seem really knowledgable and I definitely appreciate all the work you put into this site. I’m looking forward to reading all the posts. Keep it up man!

Tom December 31, 2008 at 9:14 am

Thanks again Rusty!!! Keep up the great work!!

admin December 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm


You should work your entire body a bit more. You will find that you will burn more body fat if you hit your entire body and not just your legs. A lot of women only concentrate on legs and this is a mistake. If you are worried that you will gain muscle then do your upper body workout in a circuit style manner. Read that body weight circuit routine I recently wrote about. If you do this and follow it up with HIIT and do this 3 times per week, you will lose a lot of body fat. If you want to do some extra leg work, maybe do that 2 times per week before the body weight circuit. Type in the term “body weight circuit” into the search box in the upper right hand corner of my site to read the post I’m talking about.


Olympic lifters are a great example of an athlete that has to “make weight”. Good call on that. Any time an athelte has to compete against another in a restricted weight class they wind up looking great. Strength to Weight ratio is what creates that dense look. In every day life we aren’t required to make weight, but if you train with this in mind then you will look better than those who put on mass every time they gain strength.


My favorite back and shoulder lift is the “Power Clean from a Dead Hang Into the Push Press”. This is where you grab a barbell and do a power clean from the hanging position (no reason to Deadlit it from the floor…start it from the shrug position). Clean it up to your shoulders and then do a push press (a shoulder press where you start the lift with a drive from your legs and press it up overhead). Do sets of 3-5 to hit the muscles hard -or- a lighter 15-20 rep HIIT style for fat loss. This will build incredible density in your upper back and shoulders. A fantastic lift.


We certainly agree about people overworking the quads. If someone is going to train the legs directly, I would highly recommend things like Deadlifts instead of Squats. Deadlifts seem to work the legs in a more balanced manner.


Yash gave you great advice (thanks Yash). I will really emphasize diet if you have a large amount of fat to lose. It is easier to create a large calorie deficit through diet than it is through exercise. It takes a brutal amount of exercise to burn 1,000 calories per day, but pretty easy with diet…simply avoid eating those extra 1,000 calories (not an exact amount or anything, just trying to get a priciple across).


Thanks buddy. I will write a New Year’s post in the next 3 days. I know that every fitness site is doing one, it makes sense since getting in great shape and losing weight is a major New Year’s resolution. I’ll work hard to keep it entertaining.


The challenge with a lot of the Fitness Magazines and massive bodybuilding sites is that they offer a lot of methods that contradict each other. While I could probably afford to hire another full-time author to write on this blog, I have decided against it. I know that the methods I write about here work extremely well in getting the lean and slim GQ or Shape Magazine physique. There are other approaches that work as well, but I like to keep the confusion to a minimum by not offering conflicting advice from 8 different authors. The downside is that I typically only have time to write 1 post per week. Thanks for reading…I love hearing the feedback…it makes it worth it to know that many are getting something out of all of this.

Happy New Years!


Super-Trainer December 31, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Yeah this kind of goes along with Eric Cressey’s philosophy of stronger is better – And while I have done some bodybuilding, I do have to agree that training very heavy for strength is a nice change of pace for me –

Christine December 31, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Hi Rusty,
I’ve been following your site for almost 2 years. I have a request to make, and feel free to decline, if it’s too much to ask. I was hoping that you could do a post on how to “get to it quickly” and lose weight – maybe even geared towards women. I know it’s that time of year again – the infamous New Years resolution time. Therefore, instead of having to peruse through an infinite number of articles to come up with one plan, maybe you could put it all together (ie. IFing, HIIT, and how many calories/macronutrients to eat during the feasting stage). This would help tremendously!
Happy New Year!

NYC-Meathead December 31, 2008 at 9:47 pm


I’ve been an avid reader for some time now. I’m finally ready to take the plunge. I’m currently 220 with that “bouncer” look and about 20% body fat, even though I work in a large bank and wear a suit everyday. I’m about to head out for the night this NYE, but looking forward to logging in 35 lbs lighter and lean this exact time next year.

I’ve been through the posts and will re-read them religiously. Thanks for sharing your insight, and hope you keep blogging for the new year!

Happy 2009 All!

NYC Meat Head

Tom January 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Hey again Rusty,

This is off the beaten path but just curious about how tall is Hugh Jackman and what would you say he weight is for the upcoming Wolverine movie? You are great at finding or guess what a persons weight is for a role.

THanks!! Happy New Year!!!

Venkat January 2, 2009 at 12:14 am

Have you tried the crossfit workouts? They have some great workouts every day on their website http://www.crossfit.com

Dax January 2, 2009 at 2:34 am

Hey Rusty,

So, I am down to my last 20 pounds and will be going to Greece for vacation this spring. I really want to lose the weight and it’s getting harder (the closer to your ideal weight, the harder right?). I read this article, have read the articles you wrote on HIIT cardio routines, and the article you wrote concerning the 800 calorie a day diet for short periods (based on the LCD diet study).

But, I had some questions. When I read the article on the 800 calorie a day diet, they were comparing diet+cardio to diet+weights. The diet+weights was superior at maintaining lean body mass, which I’m concerned about. The study did not mention doing all three (the diet, weights, and cardio).

So, is doing all three too much? Will an hour long cardio routine (the first 20 minutes of which is HIIT) in the morning, a weight routine as you described in this article at lunch, and a 800 calorie a day diet be TOO harsh? I’m thinking of doing this for 3 weeks, then being moderate for a week, then doing it for another 3 weeks, etc.

I’d very much appreciate your advice.


admin January 3, 2009 at 5:49 pm


I have done bodybuilding-type lifting and strength training. Strength training routines are nice, because you don’t get the soreness that is typically associated with bodybuilding.


I’m going to create a free downloadable report focusing in on losing the last 10 pounds. Unfortunately the title “Losing the Last 10 Pounds” in taken. Darn It! As far as losing weight quickly, I’m trying to get an interview with a well respected trainer in California who helps clients drop large amounts of weight quickly. His course is kind of pricey, but much cheaper than hiring this guy for a couple of sessions.

NYC Meathead,

You are going to go from bulky bouncer to “hip GQ guy”…very good decision. You will fit into some nicer suits. The only down side is that you old ones aren’t going to fit anymore. Still, well worth it in my opinion!


Hugh Jackman is 6’3″ tall and has a medum-to-slightly-large frame. I’m the same height but have a small frame. I would estimate his weight at 210-215. Many people would guess higher than that, but his ripped looked is caused by dense muscle and low body fat but he doesn’t occupy a large space. When he wears clothes he looks a little bigger than average, but doesn’t have the bulky look at all.

I would guess he wears a size 44-46 Long Athletic Fit suit. He most likely has a size 34 inch waist. One of the reason’s I’m good at estimating sizes is that I have managed a high volume suit store over the past 5 years and I rarely need to use measuring tape to fit anyone these days.

In an interview with his trainer when Hugh was getting ready for the last X-men movie said this…

“Wolverine isn’t supposed to look like a bodybuilder. It’s a very athletic role that he has to play. So he needs to look the part but he needs to move properly so we tried to focus on athletic movements. Things that would not make him move like a bodybuilder but move like an athlete.”


I have a ton of respect for the people who are involved with crossfit. Definitely a step in the right direction away from bodybuilding type workouts…and more towards functional strength and health.


The politically correct answer is to tell you that the routine you described is too harsh. I would tone it down a bit and see what happens. Also…you could possibly do a tough 3 week stretch maybe just once. When you are 5 pounds away from your ideal weight, you have to be careful…you may have to alternate one week tough with one week moderate.

The more I think about it, the more I think that 3 weeks is just too rough for someone who only has 20 pounds to lose. Try 2 weeks on and one week off and calibrate from there. The cardio doesn’t have to be for one hour in the morning…I would stick to 30-45 minutes max. Always remember, the leaner you get the more cautious you need to be about a drastic calorie reduction or too much cardio, etc. The first 15 pounds can be lost in 4-6 weeks, but the last 5 may take 4-6 weeks if you want to keep all of your muscle.

Hope that helps,


Tom January 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Thanks Rusty!!

My question from your response on the Hugh Jackman is how to I know which is better for my frame. I am also 6’3 and I hover around 205 always. I know I have some fat to lose but no more then 10lbs. I am between a meso and endomoph and I am naturally lean. Should I work towards more of a will smith I am legend or the hugh jackman with a little more muscle mass at 205 i am very lean broad shoulders about the same suit size as mention for Hugh.

Dax January 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Hi Rusty,

Thanks for being so helpful and having such a great site. I appreciate your input. I’m leaving on my Grecian trip in June, so I have several months (though honestly, I would definitely like to get to my ideal weight . .. with abs . .. way before that.

I will do as you suggest and stick with my plan for 2 weeks, 1 week off, with only 30-45 minutes cardio, 800 cal diet, the weight routine. The weight routine would be set up so I can work upper body muscles at least twice a week (like the split you described). I don’t work my legs mostly because of the elliptical workout I do for cardio. I have defined muscular legs and calves already.

However, if you have a better suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks as always,


Chris January 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

I think a lot of people are mistaken about what effective training for bodybuilders consists of.

The body part splits that are often referred to as “bodybuilding workouts” are effective for precontest, heavily chemically enhanced bodybuilders with several years of training.

Even if your goal is to gain mass (mine isn’t), unless you meet the above profile, that kind of training is not the best way to do it.

Big, heavy compound movements are. Despite all the guys you see curling in gyms and the like most of them would have bigger bicepts if they put the toy weights down and spent more time deadlifting and doing chins. The programming most people seem to associate with “bodybuilding” either very specific to high level bodybuilders (not most of the gym population that wants to look good) or being misapplied.

ahm January 6, 2009 at 1:04 am

hey i’m looking for for some re-assurance that the next workout plan that i will preform is a good idea.
i’m 18 yrs old 5 10′ and about 155 pounds with very low body fat, i’m happy with my amount of muscle and am not looking to put any mass on(at least for a couple years)

so usually i’ve been working out with wieghts every second day alternating from a chest, back, and shoulders day to a legs, biceps, and triceps day. (abs are thrown in their as well)

and for the next week or two i intend on doing a efficient full body workout using mainly dumbbells and obviously in order to make it efficient the exercises are compound and multi joint
i’m wondering if doing the full body routine will give me enough recovery time and if there is anything else i should keep in mind about this plan it would be appreciated, keeping in mind it is not going to be my usual workout out i’m just doing it for a bit to switch things up
thank you!

Jim January 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm

When you say use low reps for getting toned what are considering to be a number of reps?

admin January 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm


I am betting you would look ideal right around 195-200. It is hard to know for sure. You will fit in a wider variety of clothes if you get closer to 44L in a suit coat. So I guess slightly bigger than Will Smith in I am Legend would be a great goal to shoot for.


You will have plenty of time to get in the best shape of your life. Make it a reality and enjoy that trip!


Good points. The big lifts are definitely the best bang for the buck for gaining overall body mass. Also…feel free to put the name of your website in the comment section. I want people who comment to get visitors to their sites as well. Next time you comment do this: Your Name – Name of Your Site. Have a good one.


A full body routine is a great way to switch things up. Once you get back to your original split, you will find you will get even better results from that workout. Not a bad idea at all (I recently did a similar thing for two months by doing a full body Turbulence Training Workout).


The typical bodybuilding rep range is 6-12 reps. I would consider 3-5 reps to be a low range for definition. The main thing is to avoid the pump, stop short of failure, make sure the diet is in order and do some form of HIIT.


Tom January 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Thanks once again Rusty!!! You input is so valuable. I dont know what I would do without this site. I check this site for new updates more than I check my email!!! Have a good one keep up the great work!!!

mike January 8, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I dont get the whole functional fitness thing. ( i actually do but ill get to that later). Who wants functional fitness. Most people browsing websites about fitness are not athletes anymore. What good is strenght and functional fitness if you are not in college or high school anymore. Why train like an athlete if you no longer are on a team? Also, you all act like its so easy to put muscle on..!!!??? If i just did cardio and high rep training i would be a skinny geek. Whats so bad about looking good. 3rdly, the bodybuilding look? Come on now. You only get that look if your on roids, or if you are naturallly a big person who works out. guys who are under 180 should look to build muscle. thats what looks good. Back to the funcional fitness thing. everyone wants to talk about functional training because its the only way personal trainers like you guys can make money … on athletes. There isnt much money in training the average joe just to get fit.

Anferney January 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Hello Rusty

Nice Post i really learnt lots of things from reading this.
Am also trying to go for that GQ look but i have more of a Running Back physique, for some strange reason i cant loose the mass on my thights and legs. am going to start The 2 Day Split work out you posted so at what rep and set should a 210 pound individual work with and also do i use light weights or heavy thats the only part that i get confused with.

Thank you.

Mark Thomas January 16, 2009 at 5:10 am

You say that you dont train legs directly? Surely to train your back muscles but to then leave your legs to tone through cardio would lead to muscle imbalances? The back muscles would become a lot stronger than the hamstrings, which would lead to back trouble. Or maybe i’m missing something here?

admin January 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm


Being functionally fit is what makes the body look good. Also, training like a bodybuilder, even without roids, create a bulky look that is not only unappealing, it slows you down. Being slim and defined is a way to not only look better now, but look better as you age. Anyway, it seems you have a different opinion and that is cool.


If I was you I wouldn’t do direct leg lifts. Stick with heavy weights, but try to drop overall body weight while you maintain strength. Thing low reps, without training for “the pump”…then hit cardio hard after that. If you are already lean, but still too muscular, you may have to focus a bit more on “marathon cardio”. This is steady state cardio done for 30-40 minutes at a moderate jogging pace. If you just need to lose fat and have the right amount of muscle, then do more HIIIT (Intervals). Either way, watch your food intake.


I know that my advice of “avoiding direct leg lifts” is my most controversial piece of advice. Even a decent amount of the regular readers of this site disagree with me here. I still argue that HIIT, sprinting, running stairs, and bodyweight circuit activities build the ideal legs…lean and defined without excessive mass (similar to male and female professional soccer players). Intense HIIT keeps the legs strong, but in a different way than lifting.


Goonie - Easy Weight Loss January 21, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Great Tips Samuel, This workout split would be better for people who want to get the best result on bodybuilding with proper ways. Slow but scheduled!

Hunter February 7, 2009 at 5:58 am

Hi Rusty,

So if it’s a 2 day split to you do it 3 times a week?

Regina February 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Hey Rusty,

So as you’re not a fan of bodybuilding type of training then what do you think of Bodypump? (http://www.lesmills.com/global/en/members/bodypump/bodypump-group-fitness-program.aspx) Would it be a good way for females to achieve the perfect shape of body by doing Bodypump? I mean it’s not going to bulk you up because of the really high reps, just give you some muscle tone. I’d like to know your opinion about this kind of training.

Al S February 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Rusty, i agree with everything you said in the article (along with the entire website), but i am confused with the 2 day split routine. DID YOU MEAN THAT I SHOULD ONLY LIFT 2 DAYS A WEEK OR DID YOU MEAN TO REPEAT THE 2-DAY SPLIT AGAIN DURING THE WEEK?

charlie February 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm

This is a great site. I don’t even know how I came across it, but I’m hooked. My question to you is…I’m 6 ft. 160 lbs. I’m not really looking to lose weight, in fact I’d like to gain maybe 5-10 lbs but I really want the look you promote here on your site. Right now my routine is similar to the bodybuilding routine you mention in this site, although I do your HIIT 2 days a week and also play hockey 3 nights a week. What’s your take on this routine for a skinny guy that’s trying to gain a little weight but achieve your look?

peter j March 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Hi Rusty-

Thanks for this great site – I’m very new to the gym and working out, so I’ve been reading and taking tips from you nonstop.

I like this split and it seems to get me where I want to go. I’m 6’2″ and weigh 150. Got so skinny because I was hit by a car a while back and loss all sorts of stuff in my recovery. Feeling good now, but want to get some strength and tone back.

I’m just about 4 weeks in, 5 days a week. I do this split and just a HIIT on Wednesdays. Problem is, I’m LOOSING weight! Haha, seems like a good thing, but I don’t want to waste away. What would you think about cutting the HIIT from my splits and just doing the weights? I bike 15 miles roundtrip to work everyday, about 25 mins each way with enough change to keep the heart pumping. I eat plenty, though never really had a massive appetite. I’m hoping more of this sort of training will just bring the tone out of my skin and bones…

Tim April 4, 2009 at 2:26 pm

So, with each set, do you increase the weight? I’ve been doing compound exercises for back, chest, and legs on Monday. Wednesday, I’ll do isolated exercises for biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc. Friday, I’ll do compound exercises again, but at inclines or declines depending on the week. For each excerise, I do four sets:
Warm up set: 12 reps, 50% of 1 RM
Acclimation set: 8 reps, 75% of 1 RM
Working set: 5 reps, 90% of 5 RM
Final set: 3 reps, 95% of 5 RM
I just started this routine last week, and I’m wondering if I have the wrong idea. Obviously, in reading this article, my objective is to gain strength and not bulk. Please advise. Thanks.

MB May 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Hey Rusty,

First of all, I can’t tell you how glad I am to find your site. Such good advice, written in a simple straight-forward easy-to-understand style is extremely rare on the Web! Keep up the GREAT work!

I’m 5’10” and weigh around 195 lbs with around 20% body far!!! I want to get down to 165 lbs and around 10% body fat.

I currently follow a “whole-body” workout routine 3-times a week, working with one exercise per body part. I do 3 sets per exercise of 8 reps each.
Following your advise, I’ve dropped leg exercises in favour of a 20-min HIIT session on a stationary bike afterwards. My routine is as follows:
Mon, Wed, Fri: “whole-body” followed by 20-min HIIT session followed by 2×1 min planks.
Tue: 30-min HIIT followed by 15-min steady state.
Thu: 45-min of squash
Sat-Sun: OFF (time with family)

I’m also trying my level best to eat a healthy low-carb diet.

Do you see anything in my exercise program that I need to change to achieve my goal??? Please adivce.

Many thanks.

MB May 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Also, how does a 3-day whole-body workout (1 exercise per body par) compare with a 2-day split (2 or 3 exercises per body part) like you’ve outlined above?


MB May 19, 2009 at 4:23 am

Yet another question regarding your 2-day split; doesn’t it lead to overtraining of the biceps and (specially the) triceps…because these are being trained on successive days, and even more so if the 2-day split is done “back to back” for 4 consecutive days?

Many Thanks,

Jonz June 30, 2009 at 3:40 am


I’m new to your site and i’ve been reading non stop for the past 2 days or so. I am currently caught in the “gym body” category for quite some time and recently took much time to hit more cardio to get leaner. Loads of ppl are sayin that i’m getting bigger – aint something I want coz i’m 5’11” and weighin in at about 185lbs and about 19% body fat mostly on the trunk.

I’ve just tried out your workout routine for the first time – to me it feels weird to churn out those low high intensity, controlled reps compared to the 8-12 reps i’ve been used to. I’ll keep this goin on for a month or so to test it out as your site has open my eyes to exactly what I’ve been goin after for so long. Hopefully i’ll be reaping off positive results from this.

Cheers for all the great write up.

fitness1st February 10, 2010 at 6:37 am

nice post!are manny pacquiao do this workout?are all boxer player do this?helpful topic.

Boxing Routine May 31, 2010 at 9:56 am

I agree. Among all athletes, I think boxers have some of the most impressive physiques.

carlos August 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm


Just wanted to let you know of the progress I’ve made over the last two months. I’ve lost 30lbs, down to 34″ jeans that are starting to feel loose around the waist, my strenght has greatly improved and I’m saving money on groceries!

I used to be in the military back in the day and was always a bit more fit than my non-military buddies. On our ten year reunion I was the only one who could still fit inside our class shirt.

Fast forward a couple of years and things had changed, I’m 5’9″and wal already up to 230lbs with a 37″-38″ waist. I was feeling like crap needless to say.

I made a comitment to get back into shapeon 6/6/10 and I’m chugging along nicely , next step is to get down to 190 and then re-evaluate where I go from there.

I’ve been thinking about trying this out, tell me what your think.

incline press 3×3
incline fly 3×3
db press 2×3
pull ups 2×3 add 5lbs every week
standing press 2×3

standing presse 3×3
db press 3×3
side lat 2×20
db rows 2×3
incline press 2×3

pull ups 3×3
rows 3×3
pull downs 2×20

thxs for everything!
incline flyes 2×3
standing press 2×3

Each bodypart has a day where it is prioritized and the others have a lower volume. i would do strategic cardio on the three weight training and go for walks or 65-70% cardio on “off” days. EST would be doneon sundays and thursdays.

Joe C June 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

If you want to build mass you do 6-8 reps (a former Mr. Universe says so), where do you get the idea that low reps doesn’t build mass? You need to do a little more research.

brian July 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Hello, my years of trial and error and being around “lifters” has taught me the word “bulky muscles” is just well….SILLY.See, you ever hear girls say ” I don’t wanna lift weights cause ill GET BULK muscles ??? Your silly for thinking muscles get bulky, when they simply ADD LEAN MUSCLE MASS, remember you will not wake up and look down and say to yourself DARN THOSE SQUATS GOT ME BULKY AND ALL I WANTED WAD MUSCLE TONE

sam July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hey Rusty,
I’m a soccer player and am not new to working out. Its just that im very inconsistent because i don’t see results like i want to. Anyways you mentioned that some athletes train their whole bodies everyday. I was trying to do a full body workout for three days but i want to know if i can do a full body workout every day(obviously it wont be intense). I want to workout in the mornings so i can do cardio/soccer in the afternoon with friends. What do you think? Also i know how you emphasize on toning so much, but i feel as though some of my muscles need to be a bit bigger.(ex i don’t have any back muscles but my chest is ok, i want bigger lats than my chest.) so is there a way to make all my other muscles stronger, while at the same time enlarging other desired muscles for a more proportional body?

bulk up fast September 20, 2014 at 5:08 am

If you bring together the latest scientific principles for training, the best
foods for achieving muscle growth, fast recovery and low fat levels,
and get the right amounts of rest, then you can totally transform your
body. As an advanced bodybuilder, protein should probably be the number one food in your diet as it will
help to build additional muscle while generally not add to your waistline the
way an over abundance of carbohydrates do.
It’s best that you purchase these from the reliable sources over the Internet.
Doing so would set your bodybuilding plan back by days, if not weeks.

Endomorph bodies are typically large, soft, and round, and men in this class will usually have trouble losing weight and slimming down their stature.

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