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Complete beginner to any type of gym-based activity here, I'm on a budget using my friends Black Card to go to Planet Fitness. I'm trying to find a good workout split online but it's been pretty overwhelming honestly.

I'm what could be described as "skinny-fat," but for the purposes of the gym I just decided it would be better to bulk, I don't have enough muscle to justify cutting at all. I don't care if I get fat or how I look so much, I just want to be able to do things like push-ups and pull-ups. So far when I go to the gym I just use the isolation machines with the highest weight that I can maintain a decent form for until near-failure. Sometimes I am able to, most times I am not. More often than not, I'm limited more so by my ability to breathe than by my muscle endurance. I haven't been dividing the parts of my body I exercise by day so every day is basically full-body.

I don't think this is efficient, I've been told that you're supposed to feel it when you wake up the next day. I feel it as soon as I'm done and when I just leave but after like 4 or so hours it's like nothing happened. I think I'm either not training hard enough or not efficient enough?

A lot of the splits I see online involve free weights such as deadlifts which I don't have access to given that I'm going to a Planet Fitness. However, there are dumbells and smith machines available.

Any workout split recommendations given the context?

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    How many days a week are you looking to train? Does Planet Fitness not have anything like barbells or kettlebells?
    – Dark Hippo
    Jul 18, 2022 at 8:37
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    @DarkHippo -- Planet Fitness usually has dumbbells and pre-loaded barbells. I wouldn't assume anything higher than 50 lb for dumbbells or 100 lb for the barbells. They have a large selection of weight machines and a few smith machines. What they don't have are free-weight-barbells and racks.
    – C. Lange
    Jul 18, 2022 at 17:32
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    Not really a duplicate, but I detail some possible dumbbell bits and pieces here fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/34061/…
    – Dark Hippo
    Jul 20, 2022 at 14:49

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So far when I go to the gym I just use the isolation machines with the highest weight that I can maintain a decent form for until near-failure.

This doesn't sound too bad, TBH, as long as you do effective exercises, a reasonable number of repetitions (which I'd define as anything between 5-20 for someone at your level) and sets (somewhere around 10/week/muscle group).

Decide on a rep count, and when you reach that rep count on all sets, you increase the weight next workout.

I don't think this is efficient, I've been told that you're supposed to feel it when you wake up the next day. I feel it as soon as I'm done and when I just leave but after like 4 or so hours it's like nothing happened. I think I'm either not training hard enough or not efficient enough?

Don't sweat it. Soreness is not a reliable indicator of how effective your workout is, the whole "if you can walk the day after leg day, you cheated" mentality is just masochism. Be consistent in your workouts and you'll be able to tell if you're getting stronger, sore or not.

A lot of the splits I see online involve free weights such as deadlifts which I don't have access to given that I'm going to a Planet Fitness. However, there are dumbells and smith machines available.

Any workout split recommendations given the context? Thanks

Let's see what we can come up with. Basically, a good full-body program has one or a few exercises covering the following movements:

  • Knee extension. Squats are the gold standard here (and work pretty well in Smith machines), but leg press isn't bad (unless you want to be a powerlifter of course).
  • Hip hinge. Deadlift (with variations) is the archetype here, can't really think of a single machine replacing it (since it works so many muscles) but back extension sort of covers the actual hip hinge part, as do hyperextensions (but progression is tricky to keep track of for such bodyweight exercises). I guess Smith machine deadlift are a possibility, too.
  • Pushing something away from you. Bench press and military press can both be done with dumbbells if you find an appropriately heavy pair, and there are machines like chest press (mimicking bench press). Avoid Smith machine bench press, especially if you don't have a spotter (you do not want to end up with a bar you can't move on your throat).
  • Pulling something towards you. Lat pulldowns, dumbbell row, cable row, they're all great.

Then you might want to throw some isolation exercises in, but compound exercises deliver more gains per hour.

As for specific programs, I've seen a program in the app I'm using. I've never tried it, but it seems reasonable.

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