My current program consists of a 5 day workout. Each muscle group (say chest for example) has 3 different exercises divided in 4 sets of 12 repetitions. Tempo is 2 seconds down and 1 up.



  1. Bench press
  2. Incline dumbbell press
  3. Dip on bar


  1. Preacher curl with dumbbell
  2. Concentrated curls
  3. Barbell curl



  1. Chin ups
  2. Close grip pull (seated)
  3. Bent over row with dumbbell


  1. Push down
  2. Incline triceps extension
  3. Forward triceps extension



  1. Squats
  2. Lying leg curl
  3. Good morning
  4. Standing leg calf raise


  1. Lateral raise
  2. Frontal raise
  3. Shrugs

Every second day I do abs/forearms or reconditioning of shoulders (very light weight).

The Problem

The amount of weight that I could lift went down considerably (of course) but I am noticing more bulking in some muscles than others: My legs become inflated very fast and biceps as well, but I do not see the same result in chest and back. And I think it has to do with the amounts of sets per muscle, even though all muscles have 4 sets and 12 reps.

There are so many variables that I don't even know how to Can it be the tempo? Perhaps exercises?

Can someone guide me on how to improve?

Some more info:
- My goal is gaining muscle and toning (aesthetics)
- Changing program every second month
- 60g of protein on workout days
- 30 year old male, 174cm, 75Kg

  • what exercises are you actually doing, and what weights?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 13:36
  • added more info and better formatting
    – user981916
    Commented Aug 24, 2012 at 16:13
  • 1
    yeah, it could be related to the program. what you're describing a number of people would say is completely ineffective - that's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but i'd say it's true to an extent. have you tried a program like the texas method, stronglifts 5x5 or starting strength in the past?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 13:07
  • 1
    @user981916 strength is a necessary foundation for any other kind of fitness, your current workout is espoused by bodybuilders, who are only interested in size.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 16:13
  • 1
    @MikeS low reps is the fastest way to get strength, both in terms of workout length and total length of time. quickly gaining strength is the best way to achieve any other goals. you can get strong doing most things, but the OP is not satisfied with the results that he's getting, so he's best off switching to a program that consistently gets similar results for everyone
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 0:50

4 Answers 4


I appreciate that you are new to lifting weights etc - but let me save you years of wasted workouts by blowing apart some common myths you have referred to.

  • There is NOTHING you can do to control your body shape/physique OTHER than to loose/gain fat/muscle. There are no in-between activities like 'toning', 'shaping' or 'sculpting'.
  • Pumping light weights on shoulders for 're-conditioning' is just a waste of time
  • Any activity that promises "muscle tone' is usually an ineffective hypertrophy program.
  • Any techniques like tempo only serve to distract beginners from lifting as much as they can possibly lift and seeing real results.
  • There is nothing more limiting you can do for your progress (especially as a beginner), than to stop repping at a magic number.

With the other nonsense removed, all we have left is to gain some muscle. You may want to stop gaining muscle when you reach your 'aesthetic' ideal. Great. You will have PLENTY of time to stop as gaining muscle does not happen overnight - or without hard work.

Actively aim to lift MORE every set. More reps or more weight. If you aren't lifting more in any way (reps/weight) then assume you haven't grown muscle and immediately take a good hard look at your diet (are you eating enough?) or your intensity (are you really pushing yourself to the max). Remember, to put on muscle you need to become a bigger, stronger version of your current self. Your stronger future self will be capable of lifting a lot more than you are lifting now. Break this ultimate goal into smaller goals (rep/weight targets).

If you are lifting to failure your reps will look something like 12,10,8,6. If you have been capable of doing 4 sets of 12 it means you were really lazy on the first 2 sets (or perhaps too preoccupied counting the time it takes to rep up and down).


  • Keep the weight the same but add a rep or 2 (as much as you possibly can) each workout until you are repping somewhere in the 17-20 rep range on that first set. Congratulations, you can now put up the weight. Your reps will drop back down but now you can repeat this process all over again.
  • Write down every rep/weight of every set of every exercise. Use a spreadsheet to reduce the pain of this (one for each workout type) and add rows to it for each workout deleting old logs as appropriate. When you walk into the gym you will KNOW how many reps you need to do to beat your last workout.
  • Lift with explosive movements. Don't do any counting except for reps/weight.
  • Recover for as long as you like between sets (take as long as 5 minutes if you want).
  • If you are training a body part twice per week, 3 sets will be fine providing you are working as hard as you can each set.
  • Celebrate your wins. Laugh at your former weak self when you are doing 15 reps of what you could only do 5 of 1 month ago. Even if you added only one rep to an exercise, walk away knowing you are a little bit stronger (and bigger) than you were last week.

Good luck.

  • 1
    You said hypotrophy; did you mean hypertrophy? Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 3:01
  • 1
    I specially like the first bullet point of the advice. I am actually not "new" to weight lifting, have been doing since 16, but always had a trainer with me. But since I moved away from my country to another trainers are very expensive here. Could you get in the detail of why resting as long as I want? I thought that by keeping the heart beat constant I would burn more calories. Is it to lift the amount of weight I was lifting before?
    – user981916
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 6:57
  • By the way, I have been trying to find this image and I have been basing my workouts around this: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/3676/…
    – user981916
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 10:56
  • 1
    @user981916 If you look into the article behind that image, it becomes more clear that a simple 3x5 barbell strength program that uses linear progression and sets of 5 or so is more productive for novices than a program such as yours that emphasizes multiple types of exercises done in the 8-12 rep range for single muscle groups. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 17:36
  • 1
    @user981916 taking as long as you like (within reason) between sets helps you focus on getting the most STRENGTH out of every set to induce the maximum ADAPTIVE response from your body. You want to try to keep your calculated rep maxes constant across sets (not always possible). Arms respond better to fatigue induced hypotrophy and therefore try to keep breaks to 2 minutes or less on them.
    – Mike S
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 6:33

Your routine is scarily similar to mine.

12 repetitions sounds too much to me. In my case this would make me use less weight. Try to reduce this to 8 repetitions and increase 5-20 pounds the weight (gradually and according to your strength).

In terms of protein, recall that the recommended "dose" is 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

For better results in my back, I have found very helpful doing some rowing after my workout. This would also add some cardio (which seems to be lacking).



The problem very is obvious, at least to me. Your diet isn't sufficient for your workout.

There are two factors you need to consider: protein and carbohydrates. For the workout you show here and your weight you mention, I recommend these values:

  • 200 grams of protein per day (every day)
  • 350 - 400 grams of carbohydrates per day (every day)

I won't go further into the diet problem. I hope you at least know the basics and if not, you should probably read about it in other threads or create a new thread specifically for that.

Good luck with your workouts!

  • @RiMMER please update your answer with tangible advice for the OP. Thankyou.
    – Mike S
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 23:08
  • 2
    @Mike S I have to disagree. Diet significantly strays from the original question. Bringing it up as an issue, and suggesting asking a new question specifically about it is quite appropriate.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 1:45
  • @RobinAshe yes the parts that you pointed out are appropriate...
    – Mike S
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 0:03

If the amount you have been able to lift over time has been going down, and you're interested in muscle gain for aesthetics, I think you should do one of two things:

  • Switch to a novice 3x5 program like Starting Strength or StrongLifts, in order to get bigger and stronger. Once you feel you are big enough, you can cut weight with cardio and dieting, or switch to a bodybuilding routine like the one you have now.
  • OR you could do one of those novice programs, with a short metcon/cardio exercise at the end of each workout

Bodybuilding routines like the one you're on are more appropriate for people who are already fairly strong. If you're losing ground, you should probably eat more, lift no more than three times a week, and focus on less lifts, done heavier, for fewer reps.

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