Picking the right workout routine is a hotly debated subject.
You have guys on one end of the spectrum saying that you should train 5-6x per week in order to build muscle and get ripped but on the other hand you have the “minimalist” training guys who think training 5x per week is the worst thing in the world and you should only train 1-3x per week.
So who’s right and who’s wrong?
Neither side is right.
The thing about training is, it’s all dependent on your current situation and goals.
When trainers tell people that they should only workout 2x per week or only 5x per week, it shows just how little they actually know.
What if someone is trying to prep for a fitness competition? Do you really think it’s wise for that person to only train 2x per week just because they’re’ in the minimalist training circle jerk?
Note: Just so you know, a circle jerk doesn’t involve actual dudes jerking each other off. It’s simply when a belief is constantly reinforced because it gets repeated in the same environment. Walk into a crossfit gym and you’ll see what I mean 🙂 Jk I love the crossfit
cult culture. Okay getting off topic…
And just so there’s no confusion, this article is strictly talking about resistance training. If you do bodyweight stuff, that’s great but it’s an entirely different beast and not my specialty.
Make a choice – what is your #1 goal?
Your workout routine will vary greatly depending on whether you’re currently trying to lose fat or build muscle.
If your goal is to lose fat, then you can get away with training a bit less than someone trying to build muscle.
If your goal is to build muscle, you’re going to need more and more volume over time especially once you hit advanced stages of development (that is, if you wish to be super muscular).
Your aesthetic preference is completely up to you, I know some guys are happy with a Brad Pitt “Fight Club” look while others want a much more developed Chris Evans “Superhero” look.
Training as a newbie
I classify beginners (newbies) as someone who has never lifted weights or someone who has lifted but hasn’t done so consistently for at least a year.
Fat loss training for newbies
Beginners are a special breed.
They’re the only group of people who are able to easily lose fat and build muscle at the same time even while in a calorie deficit.
This means that even if you’re overweight and want to lose weight, chances are you’ll gain a decent amount of muscle as well if you start lifting.
This is due to the new stimulus that lifting gives beginners. Lifting weights is a huge shock to your body so if you’re a beginner who has never lifted before, your body will have no choice but to build muscle (regardless of your diet).
Something along the lines of a 3-day upper/lower/full body split is great as well.
My Superhero X12 course is also structured around lifting 3x per week.
Training any more than 3x per week is going to lead to burnout and shitty recovery.
And ideally, your 3-day split will be structured around compound lifts (squats, heavy presses, pull ups, etc…). You want the most bang for your buck at this stage, so doing nothing but endless amounts of curls won’t do much good.
Muscle building workouts for newbies
The amount of training you need as a beginner looking to build muscle is actually very similar if you’re trying to lose fat.
The only difference might be a slight increase in volume.
Most importantly, you need to make sure you’re eating in a calorie surplus so you’re actually gaining weight.
As a newbie, expect to gain about a .75-1 pound of muscle per week.
So within 3 months, you should be able to pack on about 15 pounds of muscle which is very solid.
- A 3-day full body split or a 3-day upper/lower/full body split is recommended for beginners looking to gain muscle or lose fat.
- Beginners are able to build muscle, even in a calorie deficit, due to the new stimulus of lifting weights.
- Training more than 3x per week isn’t ideal for beginners since they haven’t built up the training tolerance yet, plus it’s just unnecessary on so many levels.
- Your diet matters more when it comes to building muscle as a beginner.
Training as an intermediate
You’re not an intermediate, until you’ve gained your first 15-20 pounds of muscle and have been training for at least a year.
Sorry, that might seem like a long time but if you think about it, most serious guys lift their entire lives.
The best physiques in the world…including fitness models and guys like Hugh Jackman and The Rock, have all been lifting for at least 5 years, most lift for over 10 years.
Point is, if you’re not in this for the long haul, you won’t last long.
Fat loss training for intermediates
As an intermediate looking to lose fat, a 3 day split is typically best.
But not the same 3 day split you used as a beginner.
Intermediate lifters typically need either more overall volume or a change in training style.
Since intermediates already have a fair amount of muscle, their #1 goal when cutting should be to maintain the muscle they have. They shouldn’t expect to gain any muscle and any strength gain while cutting is simply a bonus.
This is when I recommend people to incorporate training styles like reverse pyramid training into their workout.
A 3 day split incorporating reverse pyramid training is more than enough to maintain muscle and lose fat.
Muscle building workouts for intermediates
Because you’re already well past the newbie growth spurt, you obviously won’t see the same fast results as someone who just started lifting.
The rate at which you can gain muscle as an intermediate will slow down, A LOT.
At this point, you should expect to gain only about 2 pounds of muscle per month.
That might not seem like a lot but if you look at it over the course of 6 months, that’s 12 pounds of rock hard muscle.
And 12 pounds of muscle can make a huge difference in your physique.
Intermediates can still gain muscle on a 3 day split if they incorporate more advanced training techniques like reverse pyramid training and if volume is sufficient but eventually a 4 day split may be needed.
- Intermediate guys require an increase in volume and intensity to continue to progress.
- Gaining muscle as an intermediate is much much slower than a beginner.
- A routine that incorporates reverse pyramid training principles is highly recommended for both fat loss and building muscle
- A 3-day split is fine for fat loss as long as long it incorporates high intensity training styles like reverse pyramid training
- Graduating to a 4-day split will most likely be necessary if you’re trying to gain muscle
Training as an advanced/super advanced lifter
At this point, you’ve been training for at least 5 years and things are going great.
But it’s both a blessing and a curse.
It’s great because at this stage, you probably already have a pretty badass physique.
You look great naked and you can push some pretty damn heavy weight in the gym.
But it also sucks because progressing any more at this point requires some serious effort and strategic planning.
Strength gains will be much more sporadic and volume will once again need to be bumped up in order to force growth.
At this stage, it’s more about your training than your diet.
Fat loss for advanced lifters
Losing fat as an advanced lifter is the same as everyone else – your #1 goal is to retain muscle mass.
While you can technically “get away” with a well put together 3-day split, I find that the majority of advanced lifters do best while training at least 4x per week.
As an advanced lifter, you’re already at the top 1% of strength and muscularity so to really ensure no muscle mass is lost while you’re cutting, it’s best to lift 4x per week.
Something like an upper/lower split can work great for fat loss as an advanced lifter.
Muscle building for advanced lifters
Building muscle as an advanced lifter requires much more strategic planning and periodization.
Also know that gaining muscle at this point is EXTREMELY slow (don’t expect to gain more than 1 pound per month).
You can’t just follow a 5×5 routine and expect to progress but you also can’t just follow a high volume pump training routine either.
So what do you do?
You do everything.
Well not technically everything, but you incorporate high rep training, low rep training, higher frequency training, lower frequency training, along with different training styles (reverse pyramid training, pyramid training, drop sets, super sets, cluster sets, etc…), and different rep schemes.
Programs like Visual Impact Frequency Training are great here since they are catered to advanced lifters and will help you easily blast through any strength plateaus.
This is really the only way you continue to progress as an advanced lifter.
For example, this is a solid mass building routine you could do as an advanced lifter:
- Workout A: Upper (Lower rep, strength focus)
- Workout B: Lower (Lower rep, strength focus)
- Workout C: Upper (Mid-high reps, hypertrophy focus)
- Workout D: Lower (Mid-high reps, hypertrophy focus)
Or as a super advanced lifter, could do a 5-day split:
- Workout A: Upper (Lower rep, strength focus)
- Workout B: Lower (Lower rep, strength focus)
- Workout C: Push (Mid-high reps, hypertrophy focus)
- Workout D: Pull (Mid-high reps, hypertrophy focus)
- Workout E: Legs (Mid-high reps, hypertrophy focus)
But this is FitMole, I thought you said lifting 5x per week isn’t necessary to build a Superhero physique?
That’s totally true.
If you want a body like Daniel Craig, Chris Pratt, Stephen Amell, Chris Evans, Brad Pitt, or even Gerard Butler in 300…you DO NOT need to train 5x per week.
You can do a lot with a 3-4 day split.
But if you want to take your physique to that next level of muscularity…
If you want something akin to a pro fitness model or Hugh Jackman in Wolverine (who’s been training for over 10 years), you really will need a 5th day at some point in your lifting career.
Not saying you will need to lift 5x/week permanently, but it will need to be incorporated into your routine at some point to spark new muscle growth.
- Advanced lifters require not only more volume but much more strategic planning and periodization in order to continue gaining strength and muscle
- Gaining muscle as an advanced lifter is extremely slow. Expect to gain only about 0.25-1 pound of muscle per month depending on how advanced you are.
- Incorporate a wide variety of training styles into your routine if you want to continue to progress.
- A 4-day split is ideal for advanced lifters looking to lose fat.
- A 5-day split will most likely be needed at some point to gain muscle.
What workout can I do to lose fat and build muscle at the same time?
Like I said before in this article, you should not try to lose fat and build muscle simultanenously.
Is it physiologically possible?
By essentially calorie cycling (overeating on training days and under eating on off days, you can lose fat and build muscle) you can do both, but it’s an extremely slow process that will make you want to kill yourself.
However, like I said before, beginners tend to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously pretty easily since they’ve never properly trained or dieted before.
But if you’re not a beginner, focus on one or the other, not both.
What are your goals and how do you train? Let me know in the comments below.