Does one exercise per body part work?

I met a guy at the gym who does only one exercise per body part and he is huge and very ripped. He has been working out for long time though. He is also purely natural does not even take supplements. His protein mainly comes from Eggs, Soya and chicken.

On asking him about his workouts. He says he like to keep it simple and does only one exercise per body part and works out each part twice a week and exercises 6 days a week.

He follows a pyramidical approach to working out. On his way up he does REPS of 10,8,6,4,2 and continues to add weight and then he reduces weight for each set and increases the REPS from 2,4,6,8,10.

His program looks like :

  • Monday : Bench Press, Skull crushers, Pull overs.
  • Tuesday : Overhead Press, Squats OR Deadlift
  • Wednsesday : T-Bar Rows, Shrugs and Preacher curls.

Repeats the same and takes a day off on sunday.

He does his AB Work every morning at home. He also changes his program every 3 months. Keeps the program same but changes the exercises.

Does this routine make sense? Can it add both add size and make someone ripped?

  • 1
    If it works for him, then obviously it can work. Also, close but not exact duplicate: fitness.stackexchange.com/q/4795/1771 Nov 30, 2012 at 14:10
  • Was his program like this from the start? Novices gain muscle the quickest using a small set of compound lifts. He probably started out with a much simpler program without pyramiding.
    – user4644
    Nov 30, 2012 at 16:10
  • 2
    This isn't really one exercise per body part. It looks like for triceps, he's doing bench press, skull crushers, overhead press, and pull overs. For biceps, he's doing curls and t-bar rows. He's also mostly ignoring leg work by squatting only once in the cycle. This isn't a very well balanced program.
    – user4644
    Nov 30, 2012 at 16:13
  • I agree with @Kate, this isn't "one exercise per body part". If a person truly did one exercise per body part, they would come out looking and feeling rather lop-sided... huge biceps with no triceps... bad things like that. Think about it: he has 9 or 10 exercises there (counting abs). How many muscle groups are there in the body? Check out the major muscle group diagram on odec.ca/projects/2006/sabh6a2/2.htm. Nov 30, 2012 at 16:52
  • @kate,@nathan : I can only share what the guy told me. He says he tried a lot of other programs till he figured out that this works. I also trust him the bloke seems honest. He strongly says that 3-4 exercises per body part with 8-10 reps are a waste of time for him. No he is not a novice might have 7-8 years of training behind him. His legs are well built, I forgot to mention that he does straight leg dead lifts.
    – Geek
    Nov 30, 2012 at 16:59

3 Answers 3


Dedication > Programming

Lots of programs work. Twenty-rep squats get people plenty big and strong. Working on deadlift singles gets people plenty tough. Three reps, five reps, eight or ten or twelve or twenty, with one set or ten sets or whatever--the major factor is that if you're lifting and recovering, you'll get somewhere.

That's not to say that some programs aren't better in some circumstances. Different people have better results from different programs, and people need different programs at different points in their progress. But if someone consistently works hard, if they dedicate themselves to proper recovery, they will get results.

Given hard work, plenty of good food and sleep, and some time, lots of programs can have surprisingly good results. That doesn't mean that the program is optimal for that person, or that point in someone's progress. It means that hard work and consistency pay off.

One Set per Muscle

Generally, I'm of the opinion that doing fewer exercises is better than more exercises. Most people don't need to do both squats and leg press, for example. It's usually a waste of time to do lat pull-downs and curls and chin-ups, instead of just chin-ups. I think that focusing one's effort on fewer lifts is better than spreading one's effort across many similar things.

However, I don't think "muscles" is the right thing to divide one's workout on. I prefer "movements", like pressing, pulling, squatting, and hinging. (I cribbed this from Dan John.) But if you prefer muscles, that can work too.

What seems to work is lifting heavy things. If you only lift light things many times, then you never lift the really heavy things. If you only lift a super-heavy thing a few times, maybe you're not lifting it enough times, so maybe it is better to lift a heavy but not super-heavy thing also. Pyramiding up from ten reps with less weight to two reps with more weight sounds like a fine way to do that.

  • I agree with your answer mate on few exercises being better than more exercises. In some other answer I think I told you that nothing works for me apart from SS. I am not trying the Pyramid anyways, have learnt from my mistakes :-)
    – Geek
    Nov 30, 2012 at 18:15

First impressions about this program:

This isn't really one exercise per body part. There are several exercises that hit his triceps, for example.

This person is focusing almost entirely his upper body. Maybe he's trying to fix an imbalance, and his exercise selection that he does every few months is for that purpose... choosing to work on what he thinks needs the most work in those few months.


This lifter may have started out using a simpler program suited for novices, without the complicated rep scheme, just using a few compound barbell lifts. It could only be in his later years that he's needed to specialize.

If he was actually using this program for his entire 8 years, I think Dave is correct, that his progress would have been quicker on a simpler program.

What you should take away:

This program is working, for this guy. But, this guy is at an advanced level of training, and "working" can have various meanings. If you go to the gym and come out tired, you're "working" something. But, compared to what? Would another program be better? It's hard to tell, but most people, especially novices, do best using a very simple program, with 3 or 5 sets of 5 reps on a small selection of compound lifts. Novices would get more return for their time investment in the gym on a simpler program.

  • Can someone get very ripped with the pyramid program with only one exercise(one obvious exercise) ?
    – Geek
    Nov 30, 2012 at 17:20
  • My guess would be yes, but that for a novice, this pyramid approach would take a lot longer than a simple strength-first approach that has you adding weight as aggressively as possible. Mark Rippetoe talks about the pyramid approach to sets and points out that they wear you out too much as you approach the max weight for the day, so that it's very hard to add weight (strength) on a regular schedule. If you take the strength-first approach, with 3 or 5 sets of 5, and appropriate warm-up sets, you'll get strong all over, in a predictable progression, then you can specialize after.
    – user4644
    Nov 30, 2012 at 17:25
  • 2
    Oh my, that is very long comment. Basically, "yes, but compared to what?"
    – user4644
    Nov 30, 2012 at 17:26
  • @Kate : I agree with your comment and Mark Rippetoe.. I fail fast on most programs because I cant keep on increasing the weight. +1 on the definition of "working" too, most people come out so tired from the Gym that they cant do anything meaningful after that.
    – Geek
    Nov 30, 2012 at 18:09
  • 2
    Novice, not newbie :) you can be in the novice stage of your training for a very long time.
    – user4644
    Nov 30, 2012 at 18:55

I think it looks good enough. It makes sense, yes. As a trainee you need to have high strength and high volume. The Program he is using looks like what Chuck Sipes did, whom was a pretty big name in body building.

10 or 9 sets is very good. His exercise selection is just about right; it doesn't split focus too much, hits major muscle groups, and hits complimentary muscle groups within and between workouts. 20 - 30 total sets in a day using high weight is very good.

You could mimic his program and make progress. It has a horizontal and vertical push and pull which means it's comprehensive enough. It has a heavy posterior chain lift (squat and deadlift) which is very good for power and aesthetics. It has the simple bicep tricep accessory work which is great for progress in power as the other exercises are torso dominant, and of course aesthetics improve. And it has dedicated ab work done at home which seems to imply it's done every day, and that is very good for power and aesthetically. This is a simple program that works.

If you wanted to do the same thing go ahead. I'd recommend stretching the worked muscle after every set for 15 seconds, starting your workouts with 10 minutes of jogging, and doing some Ben Patrick "kneesovertoes guy" stuff at home for mobility/ athleticism. 30 minutes of walking after each workout could only do you good as well.

As for pyramid sets: If you can't hit an extremely heavy 2 reps then that's fine. You are still doing something that is heavier than whatever else you were doing, and you are getting work in at high reps as well. The fact that it's high volume with heavy or extremely heavy weight means you will progress. The exercise selection and frequency assures you will grow muscle.

Deload every 8th week and you will get to see your muscles grow.

Good luck work hard

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