The weightlifting-101 blog post on the stackexchange blog and posts on fitness.SE has helped me learn more about strength training and body building. My goal is body building (to bulk up) in short term to get a proper structure (size & shape) and then move onto strength training.

Here is my current workout routine (in order, 3 sets each of 12-10-08 reps with increasing weights (same weights in some cases)):

Mon - Bi's & Tri's & Forearms

Preacher Curl
Dumbbell Alternate Biceps Curl

Lying Triceps Extension
Barbell Close Grip Bench Press
Barbell Reverse Curl

Close Grip Push Up

Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Weighted Bench Dip

Cable Push Down(with V-bar)
Cable Push Down(with rope attachment)

Tues - Legs & Cardio

Seated Leg Press
Lever Leg Extension
Leg Extension(Reverse lie down, couldn't find a name)
Two more machine related ones( couldn't find a name)

Wed - Shoulders

Seated Dumbbell Press
Side Lateral Rise
Front two Dumbbell Press
Machine Shoulder Press

Lever Lateral Rise
Upright Barbell Row

Thu - Cardio

Running & Cycling

Fri - Back & Chest

Barbell Bench Press
Decline Barbell Bench Press
Push Ups

Lever Alternating Narrow Grip Seated Row
Machine pull down seated(couldn't find a name)

Cable Standing Fly

Cable Wide Grip Seated Row
Lever Underhand Seated Row

Assisted Pull Up

Lever Chest Press
Lever Seated Fly

I have been training for 2 years now and have increased my weight few months back from 63-70kg and mostly due to following the above workout schedule for the past year. My goal is to increase my weight to around 70-85kg and get into proper shape.

  1. Is this workout schedule right for my goals?
  2. Does this cover opposing muscles as explained in the blog post?
  3. Does this cover large before small muscle group exercises as explained in the blog post?

I plan onto get Practical Programming on Strength training, Life without bread and Chemicals for life & living to enhance my knowledge further in this field. If someone can help in the meantime with my questions, I would appreciate your inputs.

2 Answers 2


Unless you are already strong, this is the wrong plan. Putting bodybuilding before strength training does not make any sense.

Strength Then Bodybuilding

Virtually everyone in the strength and bodybuilding community agrees: one becomes a bodybuilder by developing a base of strength and mass first, then targeting specific muscles and body-composition work. This means that at first you should use a program that will get you stronger and bigger as fast as possible. When the gains from that program have been exhausted, then you switch to a bodybuilding routine such as described above.

Arnold's Beginner Program

From Muscle & Brawn:

If you’re a beginner and you want to train like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then you have to train like Arnold Schwarzenegger trained as a beginner. When Arnold first began training he trained 3 days a week, so you’ll train three days a week. When Arnold first began training he followed a Reg Parks routine, so you’ll follow a Reg Parks routine. When Arnold first began training, he focused on the big heavy compound lifts, so you’ll focus on the big heavy compound lifts.

The key phrase in that quote is how Arnold trained "as a beginner". His later programming was for bodybuilding after he had developed his base. His beginner programming was essential for getting him big and strong enough to bodybuild.

Reg Park's program includes a lot of compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, dips, bench and overhead presses), but also a good deal of bodybuilding-oriented accessory work (calves, wrists). Per your specific questions: (1) it will get you bigger, (2) it does work opposing muscle groups (notice the pushes and pulls), and (3) it does do smaller exercises after bigger ones (notice the wrists and calves are after the squats, deadlifts, pulls and presses).

Workout A

  • Back Squats 5×5
  • Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups 5×5
  • Dips or Bench Press 5×5
  • Wrist Work (Grip Work) 2×10
  • Calves 2×15-20

Workout B

  • Front Squats 5×5
  • Rows 5×5
  • Standing Press 5×5
  • Deadlifts 3×5 (2 warm-up sets and 1 “stabilizer set”)
  • Wrist Work 2×10
  • Calves 2×15-20

Week 1: A, B, A

Week 2: B, A, B

More details are available in the link above. Once you've followed this program for a few months, it would be appropriate to move on to what's called an intermediate lifting program. Your intermediate program would include strength work but focus more on bodybuilding.

Building Mass & Strength Quickly

The primary problem with a bodybuilding routine such as you describe is that it is inefficient for putting on mass (and getting stronger). Why?

  1. Machines isolate muscles instead of working multiple muscle groups. The body responds much better when resistance is applied across the entire body, moving across multiple joints. The program you describe uses a lot of machine exercises and isolation exercises, which are great for bodybuilding but sub-optimal for getting bigger and stronger as fast as possible.
  2. Compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, pull-ups, and dips are the best way to tell your body to get bigger and stronger. Doing these full-range-of-motion exercises with heavy weight multiple times a week stimulates growth. Squat- and deadlift-oriented programs in particular are known to produce growth at a rate unmatched by programs that focus on shrugs and curls.

Other Options

It's possible that I misunderstand your goals.

  • If you want to look strong, then the plan above is fine.
  • If you want to be strong, then there's no need to bodybuild at all. For that, you should look into a strength-oriented beginner program like Rippetoe's Starting Strength.
  • If you want to be powerful (in other words, lifting heavy things quickly, like this), then you should probably look into Olympic weightlifting. That would involve a beginner strength program with an emphasis on power development, eventually switching to a program oriented entirely on the "fast lifts" (snatch, clean, jerk).

What I Recommend

From your comments, it sounds like you want to get big and strong. I recommend buying Rippetoe's Starting Strength and following his program. Essentially, it involves:

  1. Three lifting workouts a week, with no other exercise. This means no running on the off-days. The idea is to focus on getting bigger as fast as possible, with the knowledge that one can cut weight later by eating less and running.
  2. In each workout you will squat, press and pull. The presses alternate between bench and overhead. The pull alternates between deadlifts and power cleans. If you don't know how to power clean, 3 sets of chin-ups to failure will do. The deadlifts are 1x5 (1 set of 5 reps, after warming up), power cleans are 5x3, and all the rest are 3x5.
  3. You add 5 pounds to every lift in every workout. So if you start with 3 sets of 5 squats at 135 pounds, your next workout would be 3 sets of 5 squats at 140 pounds.
  4. If you're looking to get bigger, you eat enormous quantities of food, particularly protein, particularly meat, eggs and milk. One popular technique is called GOMAD: you drink a Gallon Of Milk A Day in addition to 3 BIG meals.

I followed the program poorly for four months--I skipped workouts (including a week-long vacation) and didn't eat or sleep enough. Despite not following the program well, I gained about 12 kilos. This is not out of the ordinary: most people gain 10-20 kilos by following the program for about six months.

Once you do the program for several months, you can decide what you want to do: cut weight and get lean, switch to a bodybuilding program, or move to an intermediate strength program.

  • Thanks for the detailed response @DaveLiepmann. I am still learning the differences between Strength Training(ST) and Body Building(BB). I have been training for 2 years now and only came to know ST & BB in recent weeks. I have increased my weight few months back from 63-70KG(+7KG) due to weight lifting and mainly due to the program described above(used for the past 1 year). Could you let me know if my workout program above will help me increase my weight from 70-85KG(+15KG) and also get in proper shape. If so could you please provide your input for the questions against the workout schedule.
    – Dave
    Sep 25, 2011 at 16:32
  • I added a section about "Building Mass and Strength Quickly" that I hope answers your questions about your proposed schedule, as well as a section called "What I Recommend" based on what it sounds like you want. Sep 25, 2011 at 16:57
  • 1
    Great answer, you could easily reword this into a blog post! (and I'm also seconding the Starting Strength recommendation, it's really that good)
    – VPeric
    Sep 25, 2011 at 17:42
  • 1
    Thanks @DaveLiepmann. Now I am starting to understand and it is also helping what other options mean as well. The reason I focused on machine based workout is that it is easy to maintain form. But I see your point in that it targets only specific muscles. I will follow your suggested workout for 6 months. So it's Squat, Bench Press(1 type), Overhead Press(1 type), Dead Lift, Chin Up with appropriate sets/reps 3 alternate days a week. In terms of adding 5 pounds, is it added for every set? So for squat(3*5), it is 165*5, 170*5, 175*5. 1 gallon of milk a day you suggest seems an interesting idea
    – Dave
    Sep 25, 2011 at 18:23
  • Glad to hear @Dave. The wiki is the best source for the program until you get the book. The 5 pounds is added on every workout, not every set--so 3 sets of 165 on Monday, 3 sets of 170 on Wednesday, 3 sets of 175 on Friday, 3 sets of 180 on the next Monday...for as long as you can keep adding weight. Sep 25, 2011 at 18:26

Sources that I would recommend are Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and Strong Lifts 5x5 program.

If you focus on getting stronger, size will come.

  • Thanks Justin for the recommendation. @DaveLiepmann suggested it as well, I will buy it.
    – Dave
    Sep 25, 2011 at 19:12

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