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My situation: I've been to the gym before and done some weight exercises so I know the basics. Lately I'm extremely out of shape though (184cm and 61kg, with a really high metabolism). I would like to build as much mass and muscle as possible and I don't care if I gain fat.

For three months forward I will have nothing in my life (no school, no work) meaning I can sleep and eat as much as I want, nothing stressing me.

Would it be possible for me to pull off going to the gym 6 days a week (alternating push, pull, leg) without it being negative to my gains, given my situation? Or would it be better to go 3 days a week?

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Don't try to get fat. That's a misguided approach. You can definitely hit 6 days a week (mix in lighter days etc). I'm assuming you're relatively young with summer break? If so, the under 30 male bounces back fast from exercise (especially under 20, test peak). Do a variant of a push/pull/upper/lower workout plan like PHAT. If you're new to the gym, you'll definitely gain a lot of size due to beginner gains assuming you're eating properly (appropriate macros) and getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a day.

Go learn how macros work and aim for a 500 caloric surplus. It's really crucial you get the macronutrients and diet aspect down if you're goal is mass. Search up videos by bodybuilders on macros. Really put time in doing your research and stay realistic. A pound or two of muscle gained over a week is really good progress. A lot of bodybuilders are on steroids (other factors as well like genetics, age etc.) and that's why they have those insane gains so keep that in mind before comparing yourself. Weigh yourself at the same time (once a week or every day etc. but just know if it's every other day or every day, there will be fluctuation due to water weight etc.) to gauge how well your macros are going. It's a live and learn game which gets even more fine tuned the more you go through with it. Go start reading up/watching videos on meal prep as well to make the proper meals you'll need to stay within your macronutrients as recorded on the MyFitnessPal app.

Get your form down for the exercises and the cues to activate proper muscle groups over the first two weeks and put the ego aside. An injury isn't worth it but at the same time know that you will have to challenge yourself to hit that growth. Constantly evaluate your training and watch other more experienced lifters/bodybuilders to see what you can do to improve yourself.

Remember strength is neural so don't try to go one rep max heavy as well every day. It's a long term play, a marathon if you will where you have to schedule your higher weight lifts properly. The first couple days you will feel some intense DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Do not ditch days at the gym. Go and do cardio and maintain your schedule. Most of the times those DOMS go away by moving about and proper nutrition. Eventually you get used to the soreness and start to miss it. If you feel fatigued or just not feeling right in the workouts take a day off. Or just go and do cardio and not lift. Adjust your macros and make sure you're getting you're proper nutrients in (Vitamin D, fish oil etc.)

Don't overeat and get fat. Hit some cardio everyday for health reasons and good luck with your gains.

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TL; DR: Possible yes, but not very efficient

Much of this answer is based on Practical Programming for Strength Training, if you are interested in the intricacies of how to lay out an effective training schedule, you should definitely give it a read.

Strength training is essentially about exposing your muscles to a stimulus that they are ill-prepared to deal with - namely, lifting heavy weigths. Subsequentially, after surviving this shock, your body sets off processes to recover from the stimulus. This is called "disruption of homeostasis". If the stimulus was of appropriate intensity, your body will "supercompensate", i.e. makes sure that in the future, you will be better equipped to deal with that kind of stress - you become stronger. If the stimulus was too intense, your adaptive capacity is overwhelmed; if it lacked intensity, homeostasis was not disrupted - in neither case did you became stronger.

As a novice lifter, you fully recover and supercompensate from an appropriate stimulus within 24-72 hours. After that timeframe, your body starts degrading back towards your fitness baseline. With your suggested schedule, each muscle group rests 84 hours on average before being activated again. This is not optimal at all. You should opt to work out every muscle group 3 times a week.

Splits are suitable for advanced athletes that need to do more volume work than what is feasible in a single workout session in order to break homeostasis. As a novice however, one high intensity compound lift plus maybe a lower-intensity accessory lift per muscle group is an adequate amount of intensity and volume for you to make optimal progress. Hence, I recommend a full body routine three days a week, focused on the big three lifts (Bench, Squat, Deadlift) after a linear progression model (meaning each workout you put a bit more weight on the bar than the workout before).


Here are some program suggestions:

  • Ice Cream Fitness This is a bodybuilding-focused novice program. The volume is pretty high, but since you said you can eat and sleep all day, it might be the most appropriate for you.

  • Greyskull LP These are several plans built around a three day routine. They allow a bit of customization and offers a variety of HIIT, LISS, mobility exercises for off-days, giving it a bit of a crossfitter spin. It's also the only linear progress program that managed to make resets (deload of weight after failing to do all reps for a lift in a workout) actual fun.

  • Phrak's Greyskull LP - Modification of the above core routine that gives pulling work (rows, pullups) the same priority as the big three lifts.

  • Starting Strength The godfather of linear progression programs. Has its share of issues but is probably never a wrong choice. Even if you don't plan to follow the Starting Strength routine, the book is absolutely worth buying. It has a thorough explanation of the intricacies of the big movements, and Rip is a fun writer in general.

  • ProgrammingTowin It's from the PowerliftingTowin guy and unsurprisingly, a dedicated powerlifting routine. More precisely a series of routines meant to accompany you from the very beginning up until the late intermediate stage several years in. You do only what he deems is useful for increasing your total on bench, squat, deadlift. There's no room intended for individual flavor and superfluous work. If you know you want to go the way of the powerlifter, I think this is the best program available bar none. If not, don't bother.

  • StrongLifts 5x5 not a fan of it, but many people like it and make good progress.


Also, more general advice apply, too:

  • Eat enough and enough protein (1-1.5g per kg bodyweigth)
  • Sleep long and good
  • Maintaining proper form is more important than lifting bigger weights
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I'm not a trainer, but as someone with a similar metabolism issue (formerly), perhaps I can share some perspective:

(1) First some free advice: it's better to be lean and fast than bulky with muscle turning to fat. I thought the opposite when I was in school, but now I realise that lean is way better for your health in the long term.

(2) 6 days of strength training sounds misguided, even dangerous, unless you're a conditioned bodybuilder. The chances of injury are extremely high. Also, your body will initially build muscle in bursts, making you think that it is working. But you will soon hit a frustrating plateau because your body can support only a certain amount of muscle building.

(3) You mentioned three months- what happens after that? Intense training in a short period followed by inactivity can affect your body very negatively, and I don't just mean muscle turning to fat. I'm talking about strain on your heart, blood pressure fluctuations, insulin spikes. Do consider picking up some exercise form which you can continue later, maybe at a lower frequency/intensity. The more functional, the better.

(4) My personal and controversial feeling is that light people benefit most from exclusive bodyweight training, because a lot of variations are more accessible to them. Since your bodyweight is low, the barrier for entry is lower too. These gains are likely to be longer lasting, and it's more 'natural', although that can be spun in any way really.

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    Would you mind providing some references for your points? Particularly the "muscle turning to fat" bit sounds fallacious. – UnbescholtenerBuerger Jun 1 '18 at 8:40

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