Me: 6'5", 195 lbs, eat fairly healthy, drink on weekends, always been tall and skinny

Desired results: increase upper body mass and definition

My Current workout routine (each day is usually 45 mins to an hour)-

7 minute warmup on eliptical
Superset - Assisted Pullup/Assisted Dip - 3 sets each, 8-12 reps
Superset - Standing Military Press/Barbell curl - 3 sets each, 8-12 reps
Twisting Standing Dumbell curl - 3 sets, 7-10 reps
Seated Dumbell shoulder press - 3 sets, 7-10 reps
Usually one other shoulder or bicep thrown in -3 sets, 8-12 reps
Abs - One or more of: russian twist, plank, crunches or TRX Suspended Reverse Crunches - Three sets until failure

7 minute warmup on eliptical
Superset - Assisted Pullup/Assisted Dip - 3 sets each, 8-12 reps
Standing Military Press - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Standing Tricep extension 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Skull Crushers OR Tricep rope pulldown, 8-12 reps
Abs - One or more of: russian twist, plank, crunches or TRX Suspended Reverse Crunches - Three sets until failure

Saturday or Sunday:
7 minute warmup on eliptical
Superset - Assisted Pullup/Assisted Dip - 3 sets each, 8-12 reps
Standing Military Press - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Dumbbell bench press 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Hammer strength Incline bench press machine - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Hammer strength bench press machine - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
Abs - One or more of: russian twist, plank, crunches or TRX Suspended Reverse Crunches - Three sets until failure

Other stuff-

Whey Protein after every workout
Bike commute with hills: 12-24 miles per week
Run once per week, 3 miles
Not sure if it counts, but I walk 7-8 miles per week

Let me know if I left out any pertinent information. Based on my desired results, can anyone see anything that I'm doing wrong or that can be improved?


UPDATE: Below is the starting weight and current weight for each exercise. I started about 2 months ago.

Assisted pullup - Start: 100 lbs assist, Current: 55-70 lbs assist
Assisted Dip - Start: 70 lbs assist, Current: First set unassisted!, then 20 lbs assist
Standing press - start: 40 lbs, Current: 50-60 lbs
Barbell curl - start: 40 lbs, Current: 50 lbs
Twisting standing dumbell curl - start: 20 lbs, Current:20-25 lbs
Seated Dumbell shoulder press - start: 27 lbs, current: 27-30 lbs
Standing Tricep extensions - start: 35 lbs, current 35 lbs
Dumbell bench press - start: 30 lbs, current 35 lbs
Hammer strength incline - start: 70-90, current 70-90
Hammer strength regular - start: 70-90, current 70-90 

On some of the larger gains I may have been underdoing it at the start

  • How much weight are we talking about in these exercises? How long have you been doing this and how has it been working? Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 16:05
  • Add some deadlifts Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 16:23
  • @DaveLiepmann, I have updated with starting weight/current weight. I've been doing this for about 2 months. It seems like I am making good progress in the stuff I do every day. I feel like I'm getting stronger, but still no weight gain. This is typical of what has happened in the past when I worked out.
    – Broham
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 4:11

4 Answers 4


With your workout, you'll see some results, but not the best results. This is because:

  • your program doesn't focus on the things that are important at this phase of your training
  • your program is inefficient
  • your program could be much simpler
  • your program omits useful exercises
  • your program doesn't plan for predictable progression


You're skinny and weak, but your routine looks very specialized, like might be appropriate for a bodybuilder with an already well developed base of strength and mass looking to balance out particular weaknesses or highlight certain portions of their body. But, right now, you're weak all over. You should first get strong.

(I don't mean weak as a pejorative. What I mean is that given your current height and weight, it's clear you have a lot of room to grow in terms of muscle and strength. This is a wonderful time for you as a lifter. If you use the right program, you will see quicker gains than any other demographic.)


Regarding time-wasting, one of your workouts includes this:

  • Standing Military Press - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Dumbbell bench press 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Hammer strength Incline bench press machine - 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Hammer strength bench press machine - 3 sets, 8-12 reps

Why 3 different chest exercises, and 4 exercises working the tricep? Doing the simple barbell bench press for three sets of five, with weight heavy enough that you can't do another chest or tricep exercise in that workout would be a much better use of your time and give you a better return on investment. You'd get stronger more quickly, and while the 5-rep range is more tailored to strength gains than hypertrophy (size gain), you'll be lifting so much more weight that it would make up the difference. You can't get strong without also getting big.

The same goes for when you include both overhead press, tricep extensions, and a tricep pull-down in the same workout. The overhead press, when done with sufficient weight to exhaust your ability to do additional exercises should be all you need, and better for you, at this phase of your training.


For a novice, even if the eventual goal is bodybuilding, one should stick to a very focussed, simple program, with no more than three exercises per workout, chosen from a small set of basic barbell exercises and accessory exercises (squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift, power clean, chin-ups/pull-ups) until you have exhausted strength gains on that program. That won't take long... perhaps 3-6 months. Then, you can specialize. After a general strength program, you'll be in a much better position to sculpt your body as you wish.


Also, by omitting heavy barbell squats and deadlifts, you are missing out on the full-body hormonal response triggered by these types of lifts. Even if you only care about how your upper body looks, there's no replacing the effect of the hormonal response (growth hormone, testosterone) triggered by heavy, full-body lifts like barbell squats and deadlifts. Add these to your routine, and you should see better progress towards your goals all-around.

Planning for progression

Further, in the way you describe your program, it seems you have no plan for progression. You often say "3 sets, 8-12 reps", but why 8-12? Why not 8? Why not 12? Does it depend on how you feel? You really should know when you step in the gym how much weight, and for how many reps you'll be able to do an exercise, based on performance from the last workout and a predictable adaptation in your body between the two workouts. You would be better served by switching to a program that allows these type of incremental increases.

What to do?

Two very popular novice programs that adhere to these principles are Starting Strength and Stronglifts 5x5. I give some info about these programs in another answer here.

  • Awesome response, thanks Sancho. I don't know if this will make a difference, but just to clarify, I wasn't out of shape before. I had been doing a "Body Pump" (you can google for details) class at my gym 2x a week for about a year and half. It's lighter weight with a lot of reps. I was getting more definition, but not gaining any weight. Based on this would you still say I still need to build up a base of strength?
    – Broham
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 3:52
  • Regarding "Planning for progression", I typically do 8 when I move up in weight and 12 right before I move up in weight. It doesn't have anything to do with how I feel, I just try to go until I can't go anymore. I usually know what weight I will be doing when I walk into the gym, I will update my question with the weights I am doing currently.
    – Broham
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 3:56
  • Thanks for the updates. Yes, I still believe you will see best progress towards your goals by doing a general strength program for several months. The Body Pump program has kept you in very good shape, but just hasn't built a lot of strength. Also, the amount you have progressed in two months on your program is very small compared to what would have been possible using Starting Strength or Stronglifts. For example, in my first 2 months on Starting Strength, my press went from 60->90. My squat from 165->215. My bench from 95->125. I gained 15 lbs bodyweight. Typical results are even better.
    – user3085
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 4:39
  • 1
    As for what you should expect from yourself, there are some strength standards listed here: exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/BenchStandards.html, exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/PressStandards.html, etc. At your weight, to be considered a novice, you should be benching 175, overhead pressing 115, deadlifting 290, and squatting 230 (all of these are one-rep maximums). Don't worry about the exact numbers.. but my point is you definitely have some easy strength to build under the right program.
    – user3085
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 4:40
  • Alright, well you're not the first person I've heard about the Starting Strength program from, so i think I will give that a shot. Thanks for all your help!
    – Broham
    Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 5:03

I can't do comments yet, so I'll have to do an answer instead. I was going to say mostly what Sancho did, but also add to take more rest days. Stronglifts 5x5 and Texas Method suggest working out 3x/week, which I'll admit is quite appealing, but I've found I have to take 2-3 rest days, really with the best results when my schedul forces me to not hit the weights for 3 days. Muscle gain comes mostly in your sleep, and otherwise when you're not doing much. Lifting weights only promotes it, but you have to let your body do it then.

Also, reduce your workout so it fits within 30 minutes, that'll be a good constraint to address what Sancho talked about with efficiency.


If I were you, I'd drop three quarters of the exercises and switch to compound exercises for lower reps. Bodybuilding (hypertrophy) programming is great, but really does best after you've developed a basic level of strength and are doing some sort of heavy whole-body movement.

The way to eliminate exercises would be to pick one lift for each type of movement or muscle group, and just do that. So, instead of a sitting press, standing press, dip, and one additional exercise, you'd just do the standing press. (Dips are also a good choice.) There's just no need to blast your triceps the way you do on Thursday. Doing less in the gym might allow you to more quickly reach your goal, by allowing you to lift heavier weights and recover better. Remember--it's not lifting that gets you bigger, it's the recovery after you lift that makes you grow.

That said, all of the advice in my answer here applies. For you, that means lifting heavier for five or so reps, adding squats and deadlifts, doubling or tripling your food intake, and sleeping like it's your job.


Add in lower body work - SQUAT AND EAT!!! By adding in squats and deadlifts, they have a tremendous indirect effect to the rest of your body, meaning that they help you put on size and strength everywhere!

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