I'm requesting a basic muscle-building program (4-5 days per week) that can be followed at Planet Fitness.

By Planet Fitness I mean mostly machines and dumbbells (since they don't have free-weight barbell Squats or Deadlifts). The only experience I have is Rippetoe's Starting Strength (at a different gym) for about 1-2 years, but haven't lifted at all the past 5 years. Looking to get back again.

In searching online, I've come across Lyle McDonald's Generic Bulking Routine. I wonder if one option would be to create a machine+dumbbell version of it?

Would appreciate any guidance from someone familiar with Planet Fitness.

  • 2
    Leg press squats+ weighted pull ups+weighted dips+calf raises+bicep curls+weighted planks. Reeat for each training day for a minimum of 1 set to failure... If you want more muscle growth then add some dropsets by decreasing weight by 1/5. But 1 set to failure should be enough.
    – user33290
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 16:55
  • Rather than requesting a routine from someone you do not know, you would be better served if you worked with a certified trainer. Requesting a routine from users on this board will not provide a routine that is specific to your needs. It can't. We don't know anything about you. What you will receive is purely opinion.
    – rrirower
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 17:23
  • 3
    @rrirower he would receive programs based on pure opinion from anyone, even trainers... That's how opinions work
    – user33290
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 20:14
  • @Kyu Actually, that's incorrect. Here's why...A Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is not unlike a physician who prescribes medication to a patient. The CPT works with his/her client to prescribe a fitness plan that addresses the client's particular goals and limitations. A reputable CPT will use his experience, training, and education to design a routine that is appropriate given the feedback from the client.
    – rrirower
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 14:14
  • 2
    @rrirower personal trainers are trained based on opinions, doctors are trained based on proven medical science
    – user33290
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


So you want a dumbbell and machine version of Lyle McDonald's Generic Bulking Routine that you can do at Planet Fitness? Based on this video's tour of Planet Fitness, I'll be providing a conversion for you.

Lyle McDonald's Generic Bulking Routine - Original

Monday: Lower Body

  • Squat: 3-4X6-8/3′ (3-4 sets of 6-8 with a 3′ rest)
  • Stiff Legged Dead Lift (SLDL) or leg curl: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Leg press: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Another leg curl: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Calf raise: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Seated calf: 2-3X10-12/2′

Tuesday: Upper Body

  • Flat bench: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Row: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Incline bench or shoulder press: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Pulldown/chin: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Triceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′
  • Biceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′

For the Thu/Fri workouts either repeat the first two or make some slight exercise substitutions. Can do deadlift/leg press combo on Thu, switch incline/pulldown to first exercises on upper body day. A lot depends on volume tolerance, if the above is too much, go to 2-3X6-8 and 1-2X10-12.

Lyle McDonald's Generic Bulking Routine - Planet Fitness Modification

Monday, Thursday: Lower Body

  • Smith Machine Squat: 3-4X6-8/3′ (3-4 sets of 6-8 with a 3′ rest)
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Leg Press: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Leg Curl: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Smith Machine Standing Calf Raise: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Seated Calf: 2-3X10-12/2′

Tuesday, Friday: Upper Body

  • Smith Machine Flat bench: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Seated Cable Row: 3-4X6-8/3′
  • Shoulder Press Machine: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Lat Pulldown: 2-3X10-12/2′
  • Tricep Pushdown: 1-2X12-15/1.5′
  • Biceps Machine: 1-2X12-15/1.5′

The goal is to progressively overload, so doing two of the same lower body days and upper body days through the week is a good way to ensure that progress is consistently measurable. However, if there are some variations or slight substitutions that you would like to utilize, try them out on the second part of the week. This routine does not need to be performed on the specific days mentioned, but the pattern should be the same regardless of the days you choose to exercise on. That pattern being Lower Body - Upper Body - Rest - Lower Body - Upper Body - Rest - Rest.

Additional Considerations

  • You can definitely build muscle while using machines. Some might argue that it's not as functional, but for the goal of hypertrophy that's irrelevant and erroneous. Irrelevant because machines ensure that the target muscles are being worked MORE than free weights can. Erroneous because it's not a matter of zero growth vs maximal growth for stabilizers.
  • Several machine based exercises will require technique modifications when comparing them to free weight counterparts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but attempting one with the form required of the other may cause problems.
  • Smith Machine Squats will require your feet to be slightly in front of the bar with the angle of the machine coming towards you as the bar comes down. Try to minimize how far forward your knees bend and stay as upright as you can.
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts sound like a mouthful, but they're pretty straightforward. Grab a pair of dumbbells and perform continuous deadlifts (not stopping on the ground) one leg at a time. Your end point should be about mid-shin and your unused leg should be held in the air behind you. Being one leg at a time, these may not require as much rest between sets.
  • Leg curl can be either seated or lying. Both is also an option, but stick to one per day and be consistent.
  • Standing Calf Raises should be pretty straight forward, but if a proper Seated Calf Raise machine isn't available (where your knees are bent) then use the Smith Machine once more and sit on a bench with your toes elevated on something.
  • For Smith Machine Flat Bench, you want the angle of the bar path to go DOWN from head to chest, and UP from chest to head.
  • For Seated Cable Row, use whatever attachment and grip you feel most comfortable with. Make sure you that your elbows are traveling as far back as possible.
  • For Shoulder Press, keep your elbows under your wrists in the direction that the machine has you pushing.
  • For Lat Pulldown, use whatever grip you prefer. Just be consistent.
  • Triceps and Biceps could be substituted with several exercises, so if you don't like what I've suggested feel free to swap them out with your favorite bicep and tricep exercises.

Quick answer here, but every barbell exercise can be changed to a dumbbell exercise. While some machines can have positive benefits such as tricep extension, Machines aren't going to get you the best results. Here is an example:

Squat: --> Bulgarian split squat is not only a unilateral exercise balancing each leg, it is arguably better than the squat in some peoples eyes. It also lets you load up your outer glute muscles which are hard to hit without specific exercises. This can be done with dumbbells and a bench

Stiff Legged Dead Lift (SLDL) or leg curl--> these target two different areas of the hamstrings, so it depends on if you want to focus on hip extension, or knee flexion. Leg curl is a machine exercise. if you want to do a stiff legged deadlift, you can use two dumbbells and hold them in front of your legs width-wise, as you would a barbell, and do the exercise. You can also do one-legged versions of this as well to increase difficulty.

Leg press: 2-3X10-12/2′ Another leg curl: 2-3X10-12/2′ Calf raise: 3-4X6-8/3′ Seated calf: 2-3X10-12/2′

Tuesday: Upper Body Flat bench: 3-4X6-8/3′-->use dumbbells on a flat bench and do a dumbbell bench press instead

Row: 3-4X6-8/3′-->you can do T-rows, one armed rows, supinated rows with dumbbells, or use a cable machine to do cable rows, which you can do low cable rows, high cable rows, or horizontal rows.

Incline bench or shoulder press: 2-3X10-12/2′-->easily substitute dumbbells and do an incline dumbbell press or a dumbbell press

Pulldown/chin: 2-3X10-12/2′

Triceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′-->this isn't specific but you can do tricep extension or tricep pulldown on a machine

Biceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′->dumbbell curl, incline dumbbell curl, or concentration curl, one armed preacher curl with dumbbell

  • Could you explain why machines "aren't going to get you there"? The muscles of the body are interested in resistance, not any specific source of resistance. Commented May 30, 2020 at 18:28
  • I said "machines aren't going to get you the best results". There's a few reasons for this. One is that machines are 2 dimensional, so if you're an advocate of functional hypertrophy it pays to use exercises that mimic real body movements. when in life are you doing anything mimicking a bicep curl on a machine? 2nd is increased range of motion, which builds better muscle/strength. 3rd is free weights use more muscles than just the target muscle to balance or maintain the weight- for example, balancing a bar during a chest press builds more muscle than a machine doing it for you..
    – user32213
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 16:02
  • You're only fighting one source of pull on a machine, whereas free weights require multiple muscles to trigger. again, balancing a bar during a chest press and continuing to do so as you press 100 pounds while maintaining grip and position, versus simply pressing up on a machine, will get you better results. Machines are not a bad thing, and they prevent injury, but if you are capable of using free weights, than you should use free weights. The science cannot be simplified in pure terms of a source of resistance.
    – user32213
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 16:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.