I understand that if I want to build muscles I have to follow through a plan that gradually increase the number of reps and weights, probably some plans like this:

Find the max: You can get a rough estimate of your max if you know how many reps you can perform with a certain weight. The formula to find your max is as follows (note that it’s most accurate in the five- to eight-rep range).

One-rep max = (weight x reps x 0.0333) + weight For example, a guy who can bench-press 225lbs for six reps can probably do one rep with 270lbs, but be conservative.

4-week plan

Week 1:  4 sets of 8 reps @ 65-70%

Week 2:  4 sets of 5 reps @ 75-80%

Week 3:  3 sets of 3 reps @ 85-90%

Week 4:  5 sets of 5 reps @ 60-70%

As far as I am concerned this plan, although looks scientific ( with all the precise numbers), but impractical. You can't expect me to carry a calculator and do all the computations for the correct max reps in the gym?

Is there an-easier-to-remember 3-day workout plan that achieve essentially the above? Just some rule of thumbs shall already suffice.

  • Beginners have something often known as newbie gains. You will build muscle and get stronger without scientific looking plans. You also don't need to know your one rep max until you've got your basics down. If you don't want to compete that is. In fact, if you lack proper technique, you might hurt yourself trying to lift as heavy as you can. What equipment do you have?
    – Raditz_35
    Feb 20, 2020 at 5:40
  • I have all of the standard gym room equipment s
    – Graviton
    Feb 20, 2020 at 5:41
  • Great. Now this is where it will get down to personal taste. I like the barbell, however beginners may have crazy strong right arms (if you are right handed). That's why I liked dumbbells in the beginning, they can equalize a lot. It's also a great time to experiment. You can go really light and try out all sorts of stuff for a couple of months until you have some basic skills. Newbie gains = it doesn't matter as much. Could you describe what you enjoy doing and what you'd like to do? But whatever that is, safety first. Practice the movements, use safety bars
    – Raditz_35
    Feb 20, 2020 at 5:50
  • Wendler's 5/3/1 (which is basically the program you quote) isn't meant for complete beginners, it's meant for people with some experience of lifting. And you don't carry a calculator into the weight room, you carry a training log, or you just have a spreadsheet and look at it before you train. You'll get used to it faster than you think, but, if it seems like too much effort to you, then go with a different program. There is no "right" program, just pick one you think you can follow
    – Dark Hippo
    Feb 20, 2020 at 8:37

2 Answers 2


You can't expect me to carry a calculator and do all the computations for the correct max reps in the gym?

If you have a phone, you have a calculator that you can use in the gym. Alternatively, for a non-autoregulated program such as this (one where you do not adjust the workout on the fly based on how each set goes) you can calculate each day's weights before you go to the gym.

Is there an-easier-to-remember 3-day workout plan that achieve essentially the above? Just some rule of thumbs shall already suffice.

Many beginner programs instead provide expected weight increases from workout to workout. E.g. Having a non-elderly male trainee add 5lbs/2.5kg to the squat and bench press, and 10lbs/5kg to the deadlift each time these lifts are performed. The program should then indicate what you are expected to do when you can no longer maintain that rate of improvement.

If you're doing non-compound lifts (those targeting only a single muscle, such as curls, leg extensions, tricep pushdowns) or bodyweight exercises then these will typically progress much more slowly and you may need to set a target number of reps at which you will increase the weight. (E.g. When you can do 15 bicep curls at a certain weight then you would increase the weight and the reps would naturally drop down to maybe 12.)

Finally, that program doesn't really look great. It's asking for a ridiculously high total number of sets performed per workout, which are needed because of the unnecessarily high number of different exercises it prescribes, and to make this possible it prescribes very low intensities. Then the deload week uses a high volume but ridiculously low intensity, when typical practice is for deloads to use normal intensity but low volume. I'd recommend finding a reputable beginner-specific free weights program instead. This definitely won't come from Muscle & Fitness magazine, and you may need to pay for it, though the cost will be trivial when compared to hiring a personal trainer.

  • Any resources that you can recommend?
    – Graviton
    Feb 20, 2020 at 7:29
  • 1
    Barbell Medicine have excellent beginner programs, both free ("The Beginner Prescription") and paid ("The Beginner Template"), but those are autoregulated and so require doing math in the gym. For programs that don't involve calculations, Stronglifts 5x5 and Starting Strength both just increase weight in constant increments, however the latter uses the power clean as one of its lifts, which is unnecessary, overly technical, and really requires in-person coaching. If you were to do SS, I'd suggest replacing the power clean with chin-ups or bent-over rows. Feb 20, 2020 at 12:05

First on the rep percentages..

It's easier to to one of two methods, train to muscle failure or train with a couple reps left over by the last set. Training to muscle failure is choosing a weight just heavy enough to finish the sets and reps. If you're doing 4 sets of 10 but can only do 3 sets of 10 and 1 set of 7 this is ok too.. what you do is instead of adding weight just focus on finishing the reps which is technically progressive loading. I would only do this if you're a couple reps short on the last 2 sets however. This is easier than choosing a percentage of weight each week. I do keep an Excel sheet of my lift totals for different reps and sets, as well as a PR sheet with all my personal best lifts to give me an indicator of what weight to start with. Some people have a "starter" week or use a week to start light to make sure the form is good and they can complete the exercise, then they add weight each week. Your strength increases easier starting lighter rather than hopping to the most weight you can do as it becomes more difficult to add weight when you're already struggling and haven't adapted your body yet to increasing each week.

On the workout- The workout seems fine, everyone has different rep schemes that they adapt to best. When I switch reps each week, personally I like to do each rep scheme for 2 weeks before changing reps so that my body can adapt to it and I can even progressive overload if needed . It is very hard unless you're keeping track of all your numbers to find the perfect weight to use each week for a rep scheme, so I like to do 2 weeks to make sure I get the perfect weight as well before moving on. If I'm only doing one week at a time rather than 2 I also like to keep my sets the same that way my body is only adapting to the changes in reps rather than sets and it's easier to add weight or subtract each week, allowing your body to grow more efficiently. Ive had good results with the following rep scheme:

Week 1: 3x12-15. Pick a weight for each exercise that allows you to complete the given reps and sets to muscle failure

Week 2: 3x8-10 add weight since you're decreasing reps

Week 3: 3x4-6 (or 5x5 or 6x4 or 4x6) Add weight since you're decreasing reps

Week4: 3x8-10. Keep the weight the same as before, the overload will be the extra reps

Week 5: 3x10-12 keep the weight the same as before, the overload will be the extra reps

The above plan uses linear and delineate periodization techniques to build strength and muscle doing both reps and weight increases. It's also easier to increase weight when you go down a rep scheme as well.

You could also make each of these 2 weeks and do the following: 2x15 4x10 5x5 3x8 3x12

You can change the sets and might get better results since the sets reflect more of the goals of those 2 weeks. This plan still uses linear and delineate periodization and gets you results two different ways.

You could also just do 4-6 week periods where all the reps are the same and you just focus on adding weight each week before changing the reps. Then do a deload week and switch reps and exercises to better suit those reps. For instance, mostly barbell exercises for reps 6 and below where you should have mostly dumbbell and others for 15 reps+, etc

I would advise looking into undulating periodization as well as linear and delineate periodization, etc.. as this can also enhance your workout.

A good rule of thumb when guessing your weight is to use previous rep schemes you've done in the past. When you add reps you subtract a weight increment. When you go down reps you add a weight increment. A weight increment is roughly 5 lbs for dumbbells and 10 lbs for barbells. If you're doing 30 lbs bicep curl for 10 reps, then 15 reps you'll do 25, and for 6 reps you'll do 35.

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