I know there's plenty of similar questions, but none that answered what I have to ask exactly.

Here's my situation. I'm a 23 year old male, about 6'0 ft. tall, and about 180 lbs. I have a gut, and I'm not really in that great of shape.

I want a workout routine that's not going to own my life so to speak. I attempted P90X about 6 months ago, and made it about half way through. I didn't stop because of the work outs, I stopped because of the meal plan. I was spending so much money to try and eat according to their specifications, and it just ended up being the same food day after day, I couldn't continue. Problem is, doing P90X without this yields little to no results, and I need results to stay motivated, I get de-motivated very easily without seeing things actually happen.

I don't mind working out a lot, I just mind when it takes over my life. P90X was everyday for a minimum of 1.25 hours, eating at specified intervals, etc. and it basically makes every day of your life a P90X day, you can't even make plans anymore or go out, because even if you did, you can't eat restaurant food anyway.

I'm looking for a workout that is going to provide me with the following things:

  • RESULTS. Results that I can clearly see progress with and keep me motivated.
  • A workout that is going to make me lose my fat (so I can finally see my abs!), and build some muscle. Yes, I want to LOOK good just as much as I want to FEEL strong and healthy. Shallow - but important to me.
  • I have a gym at my apartment building. I'd prefer to use this and to not buy extra equipment since I pay for it already and it's right down the street. They have free weights, and some machines for like chest presses and shoulder presses, and they also have a bench for that type of stuff - meaning they also have a straight bar as well. They don't have things like a pull up bar or whatever. They also have cardio equipment (treadmills, etc.)
  • Something where I can eat what I normally eat. I don't over eat like a huge fatso - but I like to eat. I usually skip breakfast and have like coffee or something, or a small snack if they have some for free at work, and I usually eat a decent size lunch (yes I'll go to five guys if I feel like it!), and then I'll have a good dinner that my girlfriend makes along with maybe dessert if we have some. Tack on some snackies throughout the day (not all the time), because a lot of times at work they'll have free snacks or whatever. Honestly, I don't think I eat that badly because if I did, I would be much heavier than 180 lbs. right now.

Is there anything I can do that would satisfy all these bullet points? I've looked at things like SL5x5, and it just seems like the workouts are way too severe. Plus, I don't have a squat machine at the gym or anything, and honestly, they say you can work your way up to like dead lifting so much weight, I'm not trying to be a bodybuilder, I just want to look good!

  • It would seem that I'm not trying to be a bodybuilder, I just want to look good! and A workout that is going to make me lose my fat (so I can finally see my abs!), and build some muscle. are at odds with one another. If you want to be lean enough to see your abs and have muscle tone, body building is exactly what you want to do. Aug 8, 2011 at 13:23
  • I just meant not to the extreme. I think there should be something out there where I can achieve a lean muscular body without looking like the governator.
    – slandau
    Aug 8, 2011 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Slandau, part of that has to do with the rep volume you do per set (higher volume=more bulk), and part of that has to do with what and how much you eat. Looking at your overview of your diet, it appears you are heavy on carbs and not enough on protein. That can be a recipe for pudginess. You'll have to skew it more towards protein consumption to help reduce the impact on your gut. Aug 9, 2011 at 15:58

5 Answers 5


The bullet point list of items you are asking for are at odds with one another and you need to recognize this and adjust either your goals or what you're willing to take on in order to achieve them.


You want to continue your current diet AND lose enough body fat to be able to see your abdominals AND work out less than 90 minutes/day. If you are currently 180lbs with a gut, you are most likely genetically predispositioned to carry fat around your abdomin so you'll need to hit single digits in body fat percentage. That doesn't come without serious dieting, extreme amounts of time working out, or both.

  • And if this is the ONLY solution, that's fine - I just want to know that right now. Is something like P90X the ONLY thing that is going to work for me then? Or something as strenuous as it?
    – slandau
    Aug 8, 2011 at 16:04

You will likely have to make adjustments to your diet to see the types of results you want to see. Higher protein, lower carb, and moderate fat. In essence if you split your calories in a day evenly between those macro nutrients you'll probably be doing much better in that department.

Now you said you didn't like Strong Lifts 5x5, but did you look at Starting Strength? Here's the benefits of a strength based program (either SL5x5 or SS) as far as your goals are concerned:

  • It is three times per week, up to an hour per session. It won't rule your life. In fact, rest is a very important part of the program.
  • You will build muscle which in turn burns more calories at rest.
  • You start small and build from there.
  • Results are measurable, and continued for a long time. This builds confidence and enjoyment of the program.
  • You don't have to be quite as concerned about what you eat, as long as you get the protein you need, and enough energy (fat and carbs) to recover your body will do the rest.

Now, if you don't have a squat rack (not a machine), you can always use the Steinborn lift to get the bar on your back. It's a great core workout in its own right.

Now, here's the thing. You have some trade-offs to consider. Weight training is probably the only way to get your conflicting goals close to satisfied. Anything else that will allow you to eat the way you want will take over your life. In short you will have to generate a lot of work to burn a lot of Calories. If you can be good with 3x a week and spending between 30 minutes to 1 hour on your exercise (it will progressively get longer as you rest longer between sets), weight training is the answer. Otherwise you will have to make major changes to your diet or do lots of work.

  • Steinborn lift is a good tip; I hadn't heard of it before. Nice way to go old school without a rack.
    – G__
    Aug 9, 2011 at 20:34
  • +1 for starting strength. An important point to remember is that you have to eat as if you want to grow. The coach literally recommends a gallon of milk a day. If you are following the lifting plan, eating like this will support muscle growth, and for most folks will also lead to some increase in body fat. It’s easier to lose fat after you get big muscles than it is to grow big muscles while staying lean.
    – J. Win.
    Feb 13, 2012 at 20:21
  • It's worth noting that Starting Strength only advises a gallon of milk a day as a cheap way for scrawny young guys to gain weight. It is not recommended for anyone who needs to reduce their bodyfat percentage.
    – Dr. Funk
    Aug 11, 2020 at 22:02

monday and friday

  • deadlift 3x5 two warm up sets 25% and 45% of 1rm
  • benchpress 3x5 two warm up sets 25% and 45% of 1rm
  • dumbbell bentover row or barbell bentover row. 3x5
  • barbell curl 1x15 go all out on one set
  • ab wheel or sit ups 2x20


  • goodmorning or RDL 3x8

  • shoulder press 3x5 two warm up sets 25% and 45% of 1rm

  • dumbbell lateral raise 3x8

  • hip thrust 3x8 (girl friend will thank you ;) two warm up sets 25% and 45% of 1rm

  • barbell curl 1x15 go all out on one set

    Do 15-25 minutes of cardio on tuesday, thursday and saturday if you want to, dont be a buster and walk for cardio. Also try to skip on potatoes, breads, candy, pasta, soft drinks, fried foods and to much alcohol they will spike your insulin and be stored as fat. Dont be afraid to pack down every thing else its ok to eat up to 3400 calories a day.

  • A little about myself i'am 23 yrs old 6'3" and 230 lbs it sounds heavy but iam pretty lean, i eat atleast 4500 calories a day and lift something like the template above more squats though. This template should work for you if you dont like it you should try HST which basically is periodization of sets and reps two weeks 1x15, two weeks 2x10, two weeks 3x5, one week break. You apply that set and rep scheme to your 6 chosen exercises and keep cycling through that. I have trained a few ppl and they have had great results with there goals.

  • remember to progressively load with all your exercises add five pounds to all exercises every work out and 10 pounds to deadlift monday and friday.

One more thing go to youtube and look up the correct way to do deadlifts, they are perfectly fine for your back if done correctly!! mark rippetoe has a good video on youtube about deadlifting correctly.


I have the same reservations as you about working out. I can only share what's been working for me (switched the past month or so). I don't pay too much mind to the specifics just try to workout when I can and based on how I feel (don't force it when tired).

Hight intensity means shorter workouts (less than 20mins). I sprint as fast as I can then walk and do it over and over. If there is bad weather I use an exercise bike 10 secs fast as possible 20 secs rest for about 15mins. It can be hard and difficult but it's over quickly.

Started lifting for first time in my life. Bench press or deadlift, clean and jerk & squats. 3 reps 5 sets usually no more than 5-8 a set or I try to add weight. Don't focus on the amount of weight focus on form and being consistent in doing it.

Started being aware about limiting carbs. I try my best to limit it to 1 beer a day and anytime i have a sandwich it's one piece of bread for me. Heavy cream,lots of butter ,tons of salad and veggies with some meat mixed in. You'd be surprised how easy it is to switch out mashed potatoes for greens or regular fries for sweet potato fries. I go to reddit.com/r/paleo or /r/keto to get ideas.

I went from 33-34 pants to consistently fitting in 32's now and even my ex-gf commented on my arms so something is working.


Adding muscle mass and losing fat are opposing processes. If you're gaining weight, you're gaining both fat and muscle. If you're losing weight, you're losing both fat and muscle. Except in cases of extreme obesity, it's essentially impossible to gain muscle mass and lose fat simultaneously. You can push the proportions one way or the other (gaining more muscle than fat or losing more fat than muscle), but gaining or losing body mass almost always entails either losing both fat and muscle or gaining both fat and muscle. If you want to both gain muscle mass and lose fat, you're going to have to tackle them in separate phases.

Losing weight is all about caloric intake. It doesn't matter how often or how hard you exercise - you can't outrun your fork. Believe me, I've tried. If you want to lose weight, you're going to have to limit the calories you eat. This doesn't mean you need to eat magic foods or the "right" foods. It doesn't mean you can never again eat at Five Guys. You just need to track your calories and your weight and then adjust your daily calorie limit until you're seeing sustained weight loss. You can eat pizza and cheeseburgers and hot dogs and you'll lose weight, so long as you accurately track and limit your caloric intake.

To gain muscle mass, you need to be doing strength training and you need to be eating enough protein to support muscle growth (typical recommendation is 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day). You also need to be eating at a surplus to enable gaining body mass. You also need to get adequate rest, which entails rest days and adequate sleep every night. The best way to gain strength is with compound barbell lifts. If your apartment gym doesn't have a power rack and a barbell with plates, I would request that they get them. If necessary, find a gym that does have them. I recommend running a novice linear progression with the main barbell lifts (squat, deadlift, press, bench). If you need guidance on how to run such a program, check out Starting Strength, Barbell Logic, or Andy Baker's material. If you run a NLP for 6 months using 3 sets of 5 on the main lifts and adding weight every session according to the program, and you're eating enough and sleeping enough, then you will easily put on 20lbs of muscle mass in that time. And it will show.

You can tackle these two things (losing fat and gaining muscle) in any order. You can lose the fat (and some muscle) first through diet and then start your strength training program. Or you can start the strength training program, gain 20lbs of muscle mass, and then shed the fat.

I recommend starting the strength training first. I think this is the better option, because it's easier to lose the fat when you have the extra muscle mass burning calories. It's also easier to go from 160lbs to 180lbs of lean body mass and then hold onto that while you lose fat than it is to drop from 160lbs to 150lbs of lean body mass and then try and gain it back. Gaining weight is easier than losing it. Gaining muscle helps you lose fat in the future. Also, consistently putting more weight on the bar each workout is way more motivating in my experience than watching the scale bounce around over the course of a weight loss regimen.

It's also worth noting that you can gain muscle and fat and still have your bodyfat percentage drop. If you start with 25% bodyfat and then gain 16 lbs of muscle and 4 lbs of fat, your bodyfat percentage still dropped even though you gained some fat. So it's entirely possible that, after adding 20-30lbs of mostly muscle, you might be so happy with how your body looks after your NLP that you decide to forego a cut and just keep training.

I was (still am) in your boat, only to a much greater degree. At my peak, I weighed 370 lbs with a bodyfat percentage around 50%. I bought a rowing machine and did high intensity interval training six days a week for several months, and I dropped some weight. But I quickly plateaued. I couldn't break past 340lbs, and the HIIT was keeping my appetite up, which made restricting calories hard (I also wasn't tracking very closely). I started out rowing 6 days a week, but I had to start reducing that until I was down to just 3 days per week because I just couldn't keep up that frantic pace. Then my rowing got derailed by life events and I stopped doing any kind of training and gained some of the weight back over the next several months.

Last spring, I started following the Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression. Bought a rack, a barbell, some plates, and started doing the program in March. I started out at a bodyweight of about 345lbs. My starting numbers were 135lb squat, 135lb deadlift, 65lb press, and 75lb bench. Eating roughly at maintenance (because I had such a fat surplus), after six months my squat had increased to 275lbs, my deadlift to 330lbs, my press to 115lbs, and my bench to 190lbs (still to fat to do a chin-up). I was addicted from the start - seeing 5 more pounds on the bar every single session for weeks and months on end wasn't just motivating, it was life-altering. I never thought I could do anything to dramatically change my physique or my abilities, and that program proved me wrong.

Then in February this year, I started doing strict calorie tracking in order to start shedding fat. I've lost some muscle mass, too, and some strength, with my deadlift down to 265lbs, my squat down to 205lbs, and my bench and press holding pretty much stagnant. But I've lost 70lbs, 10 inches off my waist, and dropped from 45% to 30% bodyfat since February. I have to keep doing small resets, but I'm still able to keep pushing the weights up slowly in between those resets. The barbell training is really what got me on that path, and it's helped me stick to my calorie limits - I don't think I could have done it without the barbell training. It's much easier to stick to a diet when you have training goals to meet than it is to just limit calories with no goal other than weight loss. The barbell training gave me a tangible result that I could see every day that I trained, and that really motivated me to stick with it. Even if the weight on the scale stayed the same from one day to the next (or increased due to inflammation after training or water weight after eating carbs), I was still able to point to the weight on the bar as progress.

So, you're definitely not in as dire straits as I was, and you probably don't have as much fat to lose as I still do, but I really think you would benefit from starting the barbell training now and wait until later to worry about cutting fat.

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