Training Effectively – Core Principles

Andy MorganTraining, Training Principles428 Comments

Effective Training

Barbell Big Three The best bodies in the world were built with these basics.

There are multiple ways to go about achieving the same shredded look with resistance training. There is already too much training information available on the internet. My goal is not to add to it, but to simplify it. The topic is too vast and varied to cohesively guide on everything without confusing and paralysing people with information. It’s simply not necessary either.

We will focus on a training style with a bias towards progressive strength gains in the main compound movements. I believe this is the fastest way to get strong, fit, and change your physique with the least risk of spinning your wheels (i.e. effort without results).

I don’t want you to waste years of your life, as I did, before finding what really works.

You can achieve amazing change by training just 3 days a week for an hour.

If you are new to training, you’re in luck. This will be the best training year of your life, and is your opportunity to make the most dramatic changes to your body. You will have ‘beginner bonus gains’ as I like to call them. Do not waste this opportunity, and do not suffer fools that try to steer you off the path toward ineffective routines.

If you have been training a while and haven’t seen the progress you thought you would, a renewed focus on the basics will benefit you greatly also. It’s not too late to start now, but it would be a waste to continue something and expect a different result.


Training Principles

[I will expand on this section heavily and plan to make it into it's own article.]

An effective training routine must follow The Principle of Progressive Overload. This means it must allow for you to consistently adding reps, or weight to the bar over time to drive physical adaptation and change.

Barbells exercises are best. They are one of the easiest tools for allowing incremental loading, they are toughest to cheat on, and the easiest to gauge your progress with.

A beginner needs less overall training volume to bring about change than an advanced lifter. Do the minimum you can to keep progressing at a sustainable rate. The pros train 5+ days a week because they have built up the workout tolerance for it, and also because they need it to still make gains. (You’ll also see skinny guys down the gym copying them without knowing any better. Focus on your own training, not others.)

<—- Beginner — Intermediate — Advanced —->

Cutting:   3 days — 3 days — 3-4 days

Bulking:   3 days — 3-4 days — 4-6 days

Do not jump to something more ‘advanced’ as you’ll simply make slower progress. Most trainees are not nearly as ‘advanced’ as they think. Everyone carries less muscle mass than they think. Following a 5/6-day split routine like your favourite bodybuilder you read in a magazine is not going to be optimal for a drug-free individual. Simple training routines focused on barbels do not make for a sexy article in a magazine.

Always use good form.


‘Correct Form’ When Training

If you do not use correct form you will not only sacrifice your gains, but set yourself up for injury somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Good form is critically important, I recommend you to:

  1. Read Mark Rippetoe’s ‘Starting Strength – 3rd Edition‘. He’s considered one of the best. It is the best ‘how-to’ guide to performing barbel exercises I have ever read.
  2. Watch his Youtube video lectures.
  3. Invest in a good personal trainer to check your form. (Not always that easy to tell. Here I’ve written more about choosing a good trainer.)

Making a small investment now will pay big dividends in the future.


Suggested Training Programs

Here are two tried and tested, proven routines:

1. ‘The Big 3′ Routine Whenever anyone mentions ‘The Big 3′ they mean the Squat, Deadlift and Bench-press. Hundreds of thousands have got big, and defined physiques just using these three exercises.

2. ‘Three Day Split Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT)’ For those with training experience. This is recommended by Martin Berkhan of leangains.com, and builds on the principles and minimalistic style recommended by Stuart McRobert in his highly acclaimed, much recommended book, ‘Beyond Brawn’.

How do I choose the ‘right’ training program for me?

If you’re new to serious barbell strength training or haven’t done it in a while then consider ‘The Big 3′. If not then you may need the full 3 day split or somewhere in between the two. Have a read of both the articles as I’ve recently rewritten them to help make the decision easier. Also see How to progress from the Big 3 to Split Routinesas this explains what I mean when I saysomewhere in between the two”.

From the article, ‘The Principle of Progressive Overload‘:

  • The most important thing for the beginner trainee is that you get on a good strength training program then stick to it.
  • The most important thing for the intermediate and advanced trainee becomes not what program you follow (for you must have followed a good one or you wouldn’t be intermediate or advanced), but how you tweak it to follow the principle of progressive overload so that you keep advancing with your training.

Principles | Programs | CardioFAQ

Andy MorganTraining Effectively – Core Principles

428 Comments on “Training Effectively – Core Principles”

  1. macks

    Hi Andy, wanted your opinion on something. I’m currently on a slow bulk and recently switched from Big 3 to RPT after I’d stalled on Big 3 for about 2 months. Initially my heavy set on RPT stayed at the same weight as the Big 3 loads while my two lighter sets increased steadily in reps and weight from week to week. In the last fortnight every set has dropped in weight and reps across all exercises, even my heavy sets that I brought over from Big 3. I am following the example RPT in your post (3 days a week split routine) and can’t understand why this is happening (especially as my macro intake has increased and I’m no longer in a deficit). Have you seen anything like this before? I don’t push my sets too beyond failure, if anything, I stop just short of it. The only thing that I could suggest is that I have issues with insomnia and sleep apnea that might affect my recovery. Looking forward to any insight you might have, mate.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Macks. Some questions to ask yourself that may help.
      Are you stressed or lacking sleep recently?
      Should you be pushing for maxes every set of still working on form? RPT is very taxing on the CNS.
      Should you be on a full split or would an AB split like the progression example in this article help?

  2. Jason

    Hi! Great site with great info. Two questions:

    1. Rippetoe suggests beginners alternate between overhead press and benchpress, but you seem to suggest sticking strictly with bench. Why?

    2. I’ve read in other places about the benefits of interval sprint training, either after weights or off days. What are your thoughts on that?

    Thanks!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jason.
      1. Initially people benefit from a very narrow focus, especially if they learning on their own and don’t have someone with them to coach them on these lifts. Limiting options to the basics, purposefully, also stops people from getting ideas about further modifications/additions.
      2. For physique goals? Unnecessary, and likely detrimental, regardless of whether you’re chasing a fat loss goal or a muscle/strength acquisition one.

  3. Tim Goodman

    Hey Andy,

    As an intermediate trainee progressing from a cut into my first slow bulk very soon I’d like to increase my training days from 3 to 4.

    Thinking about programming, I’m tempted to go for:

    Mon: Squat & Overhead Press
    Tuesday: Power Clean & Bent Over Row
    Weds: Rest
    Thursday: Bench Press & Weighted Dips
    Friday: Deadlift & Weighted Chins
    Sat & Sunday: Rest

    Which is basically just adding in the PC’s & Rowing to my current routine.

    I’ve chosen to rest Saturday & Sunday as it fits around my current lifestyle (I play cricket on Saturdays).

    Am I in the right ballpark? Is there anything in there you’d advise against?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Looks good Tim. If you aren’t familiar with the power clean and don’t have access to a coach then I would change it for something else as it poses an unnecessary risk I think. That(s up to you though. Some hip hinge movement would be good there, like hip-thrusts perhaps.

      1. Tim Goodman

        Thank you Andy, it’s always good to have a sense check and your time is much appreciated!

        I actually mean Power Clean from the hang position as I find it a lot easier to master but agree it can be quite complex.

        For anybody interested, Mark Rippetoe teaches it brilliantly in the book ‘Starting Strength’ (in my opinion).

        Hip thrusts are a good shout though, I think I’ll potentially alternate with the hang power cleans fortnightly.

        Cut is pretty much finished now so expect a progress report at your inbox soon!

  4. daledykesDale

    Whereas I continue to maintain my barbell deadlift, as a classic ectomorph, I’ve never looked better since transitioning to gymnastics strength skills. I practice them 5-6 days a week for just a few minutes at a time. Acquisition of the skills is gratifying. The way it makes my body look is bonus. :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Dale, thanks for the comment. What do you think of that Damian Walters gymnast? Looks pretty amazing to me but I don’t have a trained eye in these things.

  5. Chris Seah

    Hi Andy,
    I’m ending my cut in about 2 weeks time, I was wondering how to transition from 3x a week to 4x a week for a lean bulk when carb cycling. You instructed that I would add 50g of carbs to training and 25g of carbs to rest days. If I change my workout schedule to 4x a week how should I adjust my macros?

    Thanks, my 12 weeks with you was great, hope you can provide more advice!
    Chris

    1. Andy Morgan

      Just adjust the intake as I said, but work out on four days Chris. The difference will be small, and we’ll still be under maintenance at that first transition anyway as you’re building things back up.

  6. Ioannis

    Hi Andy,

    great revision of a classic article. It doesn’t get any clearer.

    What are your thoughts on training less than 3 times a week on a cut for someone older and/or with a stressful schedule? Stuart Mc Robert seems to be a proponent of this.

    As you may recall I have been facing some fatigue issues with the program and I am thinking to add more rest days around the more stressful periods.

    Cheers
    Ioannis

    1. Andy Morgan

      There is definitely a place for it, however it’s is prudent to assume that it’s not necessary then adjusting all variables one by one until you determine this works best.

  7. Ray Riverol

    Hi Andy,

    Previously i was doing an isolation type workout routine every day at lunch for and hour and class (P90x, or nike fitness club or xfit (for a 2nd hour in the evening). This seemed to plateau (as expected) and i was basically doing same amount of weights week in and week out.

    I came across leangains.com and your website and completely revamped my approach.

    Now i have been doing a Monday (bench/squat), Wednesday (overhead press/weighted pullup), Friday (pendeley row/deadlift) routine for 5 or 6 sets of RPT and note down improvements week upon week.

    From doing this, ive had same or even better results from amount i can lift and muscle definition, so basically becoming more efficient with my training and reducing stress to nervous system.

    Im doing 45 day cycles of bulking and cutting. Now being in my cutting phase.

    A couple things i have not been able to improve much on are calves and love handles.

    For calves: I have small calves genetically to begin with, so they have been a sore point to me. Would you suggest on Tue, Thurs or Saturday to do specific exercises for calves to help them grow or add farmers carries as an extra compound body movement? Is there enough stress on calves from just squats and deadlifts?

    For love handle area, would you suggest to add low intensity steady state cardio (keeping my heart rate low) and if so how much should be done? Add to tue, thur, sat “rest” days?

    I guess this may also depend on cutting or bulking phase if would be too much stress on nervous system?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ray

    1. Andy Morgan

      Ray, thanks for the comment. Glad you’re finding the guides useful.

      “Im doing 45 day cycles of bulking and cutting. Now being in my cutting phase.”
      I do not advise setting things in an arbitrary way like this. This is the p90x mentality breaking through still.

      1. If you wish to add in some calf work, as long as it doesn’t hinder the main lift progression by being too sore to balance/produce the required force then that’s fine.

      2. I wouldn’t.

  8. Darren

    Hi Andy,

    Over the past couple of years, I have experimented with your approach at one time getting very good results. However, I did not get the results I wanted due to not completely committing to all of the principles you specified (no cardio, not tracking. etc). I have restarted the program and have started following it to the letter. My question for you if you have ever had the experience where a person has permanently screwed up their metabolism by doing long duration (60 mins.) moderate intensity (75% HR) cardio six times a week? For about eight years, this has been part of my flawed weight loss strategy. I at no time got as lean as I wanted to, I was always hungry, and never as strong as I should be. I am 43 now and I am worried that I may have done permanent damage. Thanks for putting this site together.

    Darren

    1. Andy Morgan

      Spend the last five minutes trying to find where I quoted Alan Aragon on this recently, it was something like the following:
      “I know of no evidence one can permanently damage the metabolism by extended calorie restriction.” I would imagine that extends to the energy input side of the equation through cardio.

      1. Darren

        Thanks for your reply. Would there be anything special I would need to do in order to repair my metabolism other than dropping the cardio and concentrating on strength training?

  9. Jon

    Hi Andy,

    Great site and very interesting. I have always done cardio workout like Instanity or just go jog 2-3 miles on the weekend. I’ve never done weight training before so I watched videos you suggested for Mark. I notice for the Press videos, they are pressing the weights standing up. Is there a big difference if I was to press standing up or bench press? Which is a better recommendation?

    Thank you.

  10. Scott

    Any thoughts on Bryan Haycock’s HST (Hypertrophy Specific Training)? Better or worse than pure strength training on Leangains?

  11. Kierran Clarke

    Hi Andy,

    I have a friend who i am helping out. Do you have a recommendation for a work-out that can be done at home with no/minimal equipment, or an article you can point me too?

  12. Dorin

    Andy, long time no talk my friend. I’ve been training off and on due to schedule restraints and going back to school and what have you. I came across my old training regimen that I received from you and am excited to get back into it. Although I have one question: I like to do my training at night usually (after my feeding window) just because the gym I go to now is so crowded during the day, so I was wondering what your thoughts were on eating during my training window (12-8) but then working out after that, say around 9:30 pm?

  13. drpbier

    Hi Andy

    Another training question. I seem to have a problem with barbell squatting. My knees ache and feel unstable now, and the weight has never really gone up. I had my form checked and my knees were coming forward at the bottom of the descent, so that may be putting strain on them and impeding my progress. For my last workout last week, I did some dumbbell goblet squats as a way of reinforcing good form and giving my knees a little extra recovery while still squatting. I felt it in my quads, and my knees feel much better.
    SO…if I have mobility issues, why shouldn’t I continue to squat in some other, less technically demanding form than barbell squatting? Isn’t the movement, and progressively loading it, more important than the specific barbell modality? Dan John says “Goblet squats are all the squatting most people need”.

    1. Andy Morgan

      From your description it seems that you need to need to sit back more into the lift and feel it more in the hamstrings. If that’s tough to do without the feeling of falling over, then it could be that you have the bar in a “high-bar” position yet you have the rest of your body trying the “low-bar” technique. Check the bar position first and try again. Ask the guy helping you to show you the low-bar back squat, if there is a blank expression initially then it means they don’t know, which will be the case for most people. Check out the way that Rippetoe teaches it in Starting Strength.

      Dan Johns words have been isolated and taken out of context. Be very careful of that, you can choose quotes to fit your needs for anything.

  14. Alex P.

    Hi Andy, i’m just wondering how much time you dedicate to doing the bar sets – before your weighted sets ? I can spend up to 30 mins total on one big 3 ex. at a time (especially if doing 5×5 before). So curious to know how you clock in only 1.5 hrs/week and could you describe frequency/rest time between all sets ?! Thank you for your time. Alex

  15. Potestatum

    Hello Andy,

    I am new to this thing so I would appreciate your help.
    Is it ok to do the same excersices for years without changing to diffeent ones?

    I have been told that after some time you body gets used to them and you hve to change your programme.

    What is your opinion?

  16. Jakeson

    Hi Andy, hope is all going well for you, I have one quick queery i’d appreciate your input on.

    I, through years of playing computer games with terrible posture, have developed some shoulder issues on my right side which results in, whenever doing chest pushing movements (dips/bench), my right shoulder overpowers my right pec, resulting in a big left pec, small left shoulder, big right shoulder and small right pec.

    As of recently I switched to more strength orientated routine and have read a lot of great things for military / shoulder press.

    I was wondering, would replacing my bench/dips with shoulder press suffice? Im not fussed about having a huge chest, but would like to maintain the current mass I already have there.

    Do yoiu think shoulder/military press a few times a week would be olkay for this? Until I have sorted out my shoulder imalance issues of course.

    THanks Andy!!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jakeson. Imbalances and posture issues are not my field of expertise. Though you can read some excellent articles about this online, (Eric Cressey’s for example) it’s best you seek advice of a local professional.

      1. Jakeson

        Absolutely Andy ad I’m currently looking for a physio to help out the imbalance, but my main queery here is would it be suffice to replace bench with Military/shoulder press?

        Would this be enough to maintain my chest mass?

        1. Andy Morgan

          Not sure. Would depend on how well trained your chest is at the moment. There is definitely crossover. I wouldn’t worry about what you can’t help anyway. Rehab gets in the way sometimes but it’s necessary.

  17. timg82

    Andy,

    Thanks for a very comprehensive reply and for clarifying the pharse ‘de-load’ which I now realise I used rather generically.

    I am going to opt for reducing the weight slightly on my squats and aiming for more reps (I have hit 0 on my top set for the last 4 weeks), monitor things and see how I go from there. As I’m pulling 1-2 reps on my deadlifts I’ll leave those alone for the time bieng.

    I’ll keep you posted once I have some results to share from the cut.

  18. timg82

    Hi Andy,

    I’m still working on the final stages of my cut which is coming along nicely post Christmas. Wondering what your thoughts are on de-loading during a cut?

    I am at the stage where I aim for a max of 162.5kg x 6 on my top set of deadlift but am more often than not hitting 1 rep or less, similar with my squat (110 x 1). This is not due to dud workouts, it has been the case for a few months now. I Train RPT style so i get higher reps on my back-off sets.

    Whilst I am happy with the fact strength is not going to go up until I am at the bulking stage, I wonder if I would be better off looking to get a few more reps with a slightly reduced weight (form is no doubt slightly compromised at 1RM in my view).

    Should I continue on with the same weights and low reps or take off a small amount of weight?

    A little concerned about de-loading on a cut as I’ve seen it advised against on here in other comments (apologies if it has already been covered but I can’t seem to find it anywhere).

    Thanks

    Tim

    1. Andy Morgan

      Tim, thanks for the question.

      I’d consider a deload to be a reduction in overall total training load: volume, intensity or frequency (mainly). A ‘deload’ generally is used during a bulk, before working into another phase of training to push into new boundaries (often meaning heavier weights, or the same weight for more reps).

      I wouldn’t recommend a purposeful ‘deload’ during a cut because as a non-beginner you won’t be making progress with your lifts anyway. If what you mean is to take a small break, say a reduction in any of those three main variables, then I’d combine it with a diet break so you’re roughly eating at maintenance and thus avoid any muscle losses during that time. (I admit this is a cautious approach, as muscle losses when protein intake is high, calorie deficit modest, and break from training relatively short, is not likely to happen to any significant extent.)

      A reduction in total weight and an increase in number of reps done for that weight is a reduction in intensity but an increase in volume. Thus, the net change isn’t necessarily going to be a reduction in training load. So feel free to do that without taking a diet break while doing so.

      Though I know you’re likely aware of this Tim, for others reading I’d like to note that there may be times when you need to reduce the weight. If you have an off day, never force yourself to lift something you can’t do so with good form.
      When getting leaner your top lifts may drop simply due to the mechanical inefficiency of being leaner (think of the bench press and the bar having to travel further).

      Hope that helps.

  19. Alex Starr

    Hi Andy great site appreciate the info! I have been lifting on and off for years and have been doing a modified split of:

    1.Squats, Benchpress, Bentover Row
    2. Deadlift, Weighted dips, weighted chinups.

    I alternate these workouts 3 days a week for the past 3 months. Doing drop sets of 6 reps, 8 reps, 10 reps. My question is, should I start to add in extra exercises or just change my rep/sets to switch it up? I still get a good workout and my gains are going up but would like to add some more mass. Thanks for any info.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alex. Hope I can help here:
      I still get a good workout and my gains are going up but would like to add some more mass.
      By ‘good workout’ people often refer to the feeling of exhaustion, level you have sweated, or some combination of both. That’s a workout. Training is a planned protocol to bring about a specific change in the body. Thus, a good training session will be one where you completed the plan for that day. – This has nothing to do with the feeling of fatigue.

      “…my gains are going up but would like to add some more mass.”
      By this do you mean your lifts are increasing but you believe you are not adding more muscle mass?
      How are you measuring changes in muscle mass? What tool and time periods? If not, then how do you know you aren’t actually gaining muscle mass? Strength correlates fairly well to muscle mass.

      Furthermore, how is your calorie intake right now? Are you in a deficit? Recomp?
      What level is your training/strength at? Are you currently seeing strength gains as well as fat loss which is hiding muscle gain?
      Are you an intermediate lifter that simply just needs to increase his calories? (i.e. choose clearly between a cut and bulk).

      I’m throwing these questions out there to give you something to think about. No need to answer bud, as that’s well beyond the scope of what I can handle in the comments.
      Hope that helps.

  20. steven

    Hi Andy,

    I’d like to start the big 3 or the split routines. I’ve been lifting on and off for years, but lately I’ve started really enjoying cross-fit type endurance work outs. Is there any way to combine the big 3/split workouts with two other weekly workouts more directed towards endurance ?

    Cheers,

    Steve

  21. Matt

    Hey Andy,

    Because of my work week schedule, I need to do my workouts on Sat, Sun and Wed. Is it ok to workout out two days back to back?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Preferable not to in you are doing full body workouts, if you’re advanced enough to need to split your workouts then you can look to work that in.

      1. Matt

        I’m definitely not a beginner, but not sure I would consider myself “advanced” either.

        My 1RM’s are:
        Squat: 380
        Deadlift: 375
        Bench: 250
        Press: 160

        1. Andy Morgan

          You’re going to be splitting your workouts then. Consider putting the push day next to the squat or deadlift day.

  22. Isaac

    Hey Andy,

    I know you have said that it is only necessary to work out three days a week, but my schedule is so open i normally do 2 workouts a day M-F. It is sort of a stress reliever to me. Is there any way to do more workouts throughout the week and what would be your suggestions if i did?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Working out twice a day is going to cripple your progress in the gym long term. Find another way to relieve stress.

  23. Khuyen

    Hi Andy,

    Are you planning on a slow bulking training guide soon? I know your site has cutting as the main focus, but i thought many people will be interested to know too.

    Thanks,

  24. Dave

    I always used to do 3 days a week as it fits in with other activities, but at the moment my time can be quite flexible, so have been working out every other day, averaging at 3.5 days a week of course.

    I don’t notice significant soreness doing 3×5 at my limits.
    Does the double rest day offer any other benefits?

    Dave

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Dave, It could be argued that with a complete split it offers an extra day of lower back recovery for between deadlift and squat days but it’s mainly for scheduling.

  25. Sami

    Hi Andy,

    and thanks for the great site!

    Is there a difference how fast you get results on recomp vs slow bulk + cut?

    I am a skinny fat with BF around 17 % and my goal is to be in as good shape as possible for the next summer. I’ve been on recomp for two months now doing SS with RPT style progression but I feel my strength gains are quite slow (I’ve lost 2 cm on my waist and my weight has stayed the same though!).
    My upper body is really skinny and I’d like to gain some muscle fast :) So can I achieve sexiness quicker by switching to slow bulk and cut afterwards vs doing steady recomp? Thanks!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Is there a difference how fast you get results on recomp vs slow bulk + cut?
      Beginners will be able to get a recomp effect and should choose so, as that is the faster way. Intermediate trainees will not see significant changes on a recomp, they could be slow or just not happen, and so it’s better for motivation to choose a clear cut or bulk.

      1. Sami

        Thank you very much!

        One more question. Do you recommend RPT over the standard linear progression of SS on a recomp?

        1. Andy Morgan

          That will depend on the individual and their experience generally and with those lifts. Basically it comes down to what is going to give them progressive overload and strength increases. In that regard both could work.

  26. Amy Claire Grant

    Hi Andy!

    Love love LOVING the website. I have learned so much!

    I am just starting my journey and whilst I’m pretty sure I have the diet aspect nailed it’s the training side of things I’m struggling with slightly. I’m finding it pretty tough to find a decent trainer in my area of the UK to help me get set up with weight training – I’m looking into the Big 3 Routine as I am a complete beginner to Barbells… Do you think Crossfit would assist in anyway?
    I’m happy to give it a go myself and have ordered the ‘Starting Strength’ book and watched the vids over and over but nervous about form and pushing myself enough. What are your thoughts?

    Ideally I’d like to get to stage where I’m able to apply for personal consultations with yourself but understand you don’t take on ladies without previous barbell experience… I don’t suppose you would consider it just this once?? ;)

    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Amy x

    1. Andy Morgan

      Amy, thanks for the comment (as well as the Facebook like). The keys to getting fit and healthy are doing what you need to do, but no more. Adding in the unnecessary will threaten recovery capacity and growth. If going to a Crossfit gym gets you access to trainers and/or motivates you in a way that you can not get elsewhere to get adept at the main barbell lifts then feel free to do that. As soon as you feel comfortable though consider getting out and focusing on strength alone – you will see good changes as a beginner regardless but there comes a point where more focus is needed. No point taking double the length of time to achieve the same thing.

      Barbell training experience for ladies is a requirement. It’s not a “no”, just “not now”. Reasons on the specific reasons for this are listed here.

      1. Amy Claire Grant

        Hi Andy,

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

        I definitely want to focus on the strength training (and spending as little time as possible in the gym!) I just worry that with no previous experience my form won’t be up to scratch. Currently in the process of trying to find a trainer to assist with the set up etc but not having much luck. Hopefully I will get there!

        Do you think it’s possible to start totally from scratch by myself?

        Thanks again,
        Amy

  27. timg82

    Hi Andy,

    I have a quick query regarding squats please.

    I have recently switched over to high bar squats as I was getting some elbow pain with the low position and I didn’t feel safe under the weight.

    Whilst the high bar position now feels great and safe as hoses, I cannot get myself ‘out of the hole’. This has happened for 3-4 weeks now. I am almost getting there but not managing it. This happens on 1st and 2nd set of my RPT, 3rd set I manage about 2 reps which is well down on what I was doing.

    I’m on a cut so a bit worried about de-loading, should I carry on battling away or take off a bit of weight? If so, what sort of percentage would you recommend?

    1. Andy Morgan

      You’re going to want to decrease the weight Tim until you can get out of the hole. Try sitting back into it a little more to activate the hamstrings and the stretch reflex. There is no set percentage I can give, you have to practice and listen to your body.

  28. Jakeson

    Do you think chin ups only RPT style 4 sets 3 times a week would be enough for back and biceps?? Or should I throw in some rows for good meaure

    1. Andy Morgan

      Chin-ups get the same amount of bicep activation as curls.
      Regarding the back, are you deadlifting? If so then you’re good.

  29. nickprowse1

    Hi Andy not sure if anyone has asked this already but, if you don’t have a squat rack or a spotter to help with your squats, whats best to do? As you can only clean a certain amount up to get into a squat position.

    1. Andy Morgan

      No squat rack or spotter? Then you’ll need to find an alternative way to train your legs right? That depends on the equipment available, your current training program and your training experience.

      1. nickprowse1

        Right ok, in which case then if you are following the big three what can you do instead of squats? I’m trying to start training in the way prescribed in readiness for working with you which should be in a few weeks.

          1. nickprowse1

            Barbell (not Olympic if I workout at home), free weights, dumbbells, resistance bands. I don’t belong to a gym so I use variant of different gyms and try and train as much at home if I can help it.

            1. Andy Morgan

              So pistol squats, goblet squats, rear foot elevated split squats, step ups.

  30. Peter Steele

    Hi Andy!
    I usually workout at home, 6 days a week, mostly because i love working out. My routines for september look something like this:
    Mon – Upperbody
    Tue – Legs
    Wed – Back/biceps
    Thu – Chest/triceps
    Fri – Legs
    Sat – Upperbody

    I like mixing bodyweight with circuit training. My only extra tool are the bars and one dumbbell. Do you think this is a good way to train under the IF approach?

    Thanks in advance, excellent site!

    1. Andy Morgan

      IF can be used with most training styles. There are many training styles that work. The training style I recommend is that of the above.

      1. Peter Steele

        But do you think i could still get results with no gym, bodyweight training, 3-4 days a week? I want to get the best approach with IF under my conditions, you know…

        Thank you very much for your help!

  31. Peik

    Hi Andy. I have been on LG for some time now, and thought it about time to try out the RPT I have heard so much about. Your site and articles have been tremendously helpful and I am really looking forward to getting started, but I feel have to take the opportunity to ask you a question that I have been pondering some time.

    Almost everywhere you find info on LG, RPT and Intermittent fasting in general you are told to drop the cardio. Pronto. And your article’s are no exception. You seem to bash frequently on running and on cardio in general, and that’s because with a good diet and following these routines you don’t need cardio to look good. My question is only: why do I want to be strong in the big 4 movements and look shredded but not be able to run fast or far? Why isn’t it desirable to be able to lift heavy, look amazing AND be a fast runner and have great perseverance in these communities?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Pelk, thank you for the comment. Please don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t feel that cardio is useful, just that it isn’t necessary in most situations for physique goals. When is Cardio a Valid Tool for Fat Loss with Intermittent Fasting? is an article on that.
      Of course, everyone would like to be strong, fast, and have super endurance, but there are trade-offs. Endurance training hinders strength adaptations. It’s possible to train for all of course, but the more effective and quicker way would be to build a strong base first. Also, don’t miss that weight training does train the cardio-vascular system.

  32. nickprowse1

    I’m just getting over a chest infection and haven’t been exercising which is killing me, can you suggest anything that I could do as I feel I’m putting weight on and losing any muscle mass I have :-S

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Nick, sorry to hear this.

      When you got sick it often isn’t wise to run a calorie deficit. Calories help with recovery and furthermore, prevent muscle catabolism. In a short time period without a calorie deficit muscle loss will be minimal, but bear in mind your strength may be down temporarily when starting back at the gym.
      Also, weight gain you are experiencing may well be due to an increase in water weight due to increased carb/salt intake.

      So relax, rest and worry only about getting well again.

      1. Nick

        Thanks Andy and quite possibly I did forget where I posted it ;-) I’m feeling a bit better now so have just done some body weight stuff to ease back in. Can’t wait to get back to the UK to get started on my training proper with you.

  33. Angela Wilson Ursery (@HerHealthySelf)

    Andy,
    I don’t have a question, just wanted to thank you for this tremendous and useful compendium of information on LGs (from both the food AND training sides). What you’ve provided is extremely helpful. I also really appreciate your laid-back, don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff approach–it is way too easy to get all worked up (and stuck on) the insignificant.
    Thanks again.
    Angela

  34. Joseph

    Hi Andy ! I am 5.9 tall, 165 lbs,132 LBM. Squats and deadlifts 1RM=200lbs, bench press 1RM=145lbs.I believe I still have some linear progress left in me. However,I want to get rid of the fat so that I can start leangains effectively, but a 3 day split is too easy and SS/big 3 is too tough. My recovery abilities arent great. Do you think a 2 day split, push+squat and pull, 3 times/week would be better for me? Or should I just follow the big 3->3 day split progression and dont bother with tiring my mind with all the details of putting together a well thought out programm ?

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  36. Alex

    Hello Andy
    Happy to be able to ask a question, this time training related.
    Currently on recomp, doing a lighter version of Stronglifts 5×5,mainly 3×5 (less volume)
    Being on recomp, means I’m on a weekly deficit, albeit small one… And from what I remember, no muscle gain can happen during a deficit… Right?
    I either calculated my tdee wrong or something, but I can’t seem to break my plateaus at all, stalled on the squat, deadlift, bench press… Basically all the big 3 from this program.
    What should I do? Increase the tdee by 5 or 10% and therefore up the macros accordingly or change the training program to RPT?

    Kinda desperate here, as months are piling up and my numbers look similar to those in april / May :(

    Thanks very much

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alex.
      And from what I remember, no muscle gain can happen during a deficit… Right?
      Wrong. This is especially true of beginners. However more relevant to you is that you’ve stalled, which likely means you aren’t a beginner any more. Consider changing up your program first, before changing up the energy intake.

  37. RD

    Hi Andy,
    I have access to gym only once a week. al other days i have access only to pullup and dip bars. what kind of excersises should I choose for a singe gym workout?

  38. aaron

    Andy, hows it going? Hope all is well.

    I have re-read the articles on training and have a question regarding the choice between military press and barbell bench..

    You say you need only one or the other and I’m leaning in the direction of military press as my gym is lacking benches. Would doing military press with pushups really be enough to maintain/gain in the chest region?

    Also, I understand some people are gaining strength whilst losing weight. Does this make any difference to the muscles of the body (if gaining strength but not growing). Do they become more dense or is strength simply to do with the CNS?

    Thanks Andy

    Aaron

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Aaron, all good thanks.
      Doesn’t have to be a choice between the two. You’re approaching this from the wrong direction. Do what you need to gain strength in either of these two exercises, the gains will come.
      “Also, I understand some people are gaining strength whilst losing weight.”
      Yes, beginners can, lucky people can. I’ve covered the scenarios many, many times before, just cant find an appropriate link. Perhaps the, 12 weeks, what can you expect to achieve? one has it in there.

  39. Albers

    “Do as little as needed, not as much as possible”

    Henk Kraaijenhoff (Dutch Olympic coach)

    Says it all!

  40. Martin Lennon (@Leviathan8)

    Hi Andy, Thanks for all your hard work.

    I’m hoping to get some advice on my IF diet. I’ve been doing it for almost 3 weeks now. After the 1st week I was down a kilo and loving it. From Saturday to today I’ve gained back the kilo I lost plus another .4! I am keeping up the protocols – 8hrs eating 16 fast…but I did have a few drinks on Sunday. I was pretty sure I that i stayed within my calorie requirements but this has gotten me frustrated. Is this a normal day to day occurrence? Or could it be my body is rejecting the fast? thanks for your help

  41. Aaron T

    Hi andy, hope you’re well

    My question is, for someone with no access to barbell training / posterior chain exercises, do you think dumbell swings are a necessity? If no, how often and how many sets/reps should one aim for. Thanks!!!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hitting the posterior chain is important. Dumbbell/kettlebell swings are one way to hit part of it, but this is not the only way and should not be the only exercise.

  42. Kerry

    Hey Andy,
    I have an imbalance of strength in my upper body causing my main lifts to be imbalanced as my left side is stronger.
    I want to know what training you would recommend?
    Thanks in advance

  43. John

    Hi Andy,

    Just finished my cut with you, and am now transitioning into a slow-bulk (still currently with you).
    I believe you have a copy of my training program.

    During my cut, I was sticking to really low reps (e.g 4-6 top set of chin-ups). Now that I am slow-bulking, I have changed my top set to 6-8 reps on chinups. If the weight I am using (same from the cut) does not allow me to reach my minimum amount of reps (6), would it be wise to lower the weight and hit the minimum on my top set?

    My fear was of losing muscle if I cycle back intensity for the sake of volume.

    1. Andy Morgan

      If you can’t reach your minimum then drop the weight so that you can. Staying at that weight when you can’t actually lift it is only kidding yourself. As for the fear of muscle loss, put more focus on your squat and deadlift numbers, and even then it’s all in context of training program, deficit and experience.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Try it and see how much you can get for the target number of reps, with good form. Build up slowly of course testing to see how the weight feels and use lower rep numbers. Really though I can tell from your question you need to do the Starting Strength beginners routine outlined on the big 3 page.

  44. phoenix914

    Andy,

    I’ve been doing RPT since I started working with you back in November, and I’ve been thrilled with the results. I’m looking to ad some assistance work in for the shoulders, do you think that this is alright to do with RPT, and if so, what exercises would you recommend?

  45. ANTO

    Hi Andy
    Have you ever had anyone follow IF while training gymnastic specific conditioning plan? If so how did it work? If not how do you think it would work or what’s your thoughts?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes, the principles remain the same. The application really depends on the situation however. Sorry I can’t possibly cover all possibilities in a comment box. If you have a more specific question then go for it.

  46. Pericu

    Hi Andy,

    do you suggest going 100% out on the max 5RM set on SS or should the max set be something of 90% what you’re able to lift?
    Andy Bolton is f.ex. training much below what he’s capable of and when it comes to championships, he goes for the 100% (or even more ;-))

    BEst

    1. Andy Morgan

      SS is 5 sets of 5 reps, generally so there won’t be any maxes. Just keep reading buddy. And don’t make the mistake of mixing the advice of one coach and another. SS is Rippetoe’s routine. If you have specific questions concerning it then check out his forum or sswiki.

  47. Emil Westrum

    Training RPT to “failure” during a long cut, e.g. +12 weeks. Should one incorporate deloads during said scenario, or not? If yes, how? If no, how to prevent overtraining?

    Personally I train using the 5/3/1 style, both when cutting and when bulking. I usually skip volume work and deload week when cutting, but I am much more conservative with increasing the weights. I feel the sub maximal two first weeks keeps me fresh, but they still are heavy enough to maintain strength/muscle.
    What is your thought on this Andy?

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  49. Jason

    Hey Andy, must say it’s hugely helpful and I aswell as others I’m sure are hugely grateful not only for the website, but the time youre taking to answer each one of our questions!

    On the topic of training, I have no access to a gym but train gymnastics sort of training or ‘street workout’ (just basically calisthenics) in my garden as I have a pullup and dip bars.

    What do you think of instead of having a programme just training insticntively, 3x a week not till failure?

    1. Jason

      Perhaps I should specify that this suggestion is due to practising advanced moves rather than doing sets.

      1. Andy Morgan

        If this is what you prefer to do, and you progress, then do it. If you fail to progress physically, and it bothers you, then you know what to change.

      1. jettie

        Thanks! It’s the same as the other workout routine 5×5 principles. Will try to look on my results on 12 weeks after reading your page and following your FB group for a week. Currently been doing it religiously for a week, down to 11 week more. Hoping for a better result.
        Honestly, before on the months of Jan-Feb span I was doing the 16/8 but just hitting my macros and/or the not doing the right carbs cycling method so literally I am not doing it right that’s why I am seeing minimal gains.
        Thanks again!

  50. TWut

    Hey Andy, got a question (though in the mean time… Yellowknife Canada was RIDICULOUSLY cold. Will have some photos for you the next time we chat!)

    Question is for medium to medium/strenuous hiking trips (4-5 hours roundtrip) as well as longer distance trips (8-12 hours roundtrip), both at a good enough pace that I’d be sweating.

    Would you count cardio macros on those days (average between training and rest day) or just stick to rest day macros? (Would not be doing these hikes on a training day).

  51. Jason

    Do you have feelings on 5/3/1 and how it relates to IF? I’ve been on RPT for over a year and I’m nearing the end of a cut. I was looking for a bit more volume once I begin a slow-bulk. Or do you recommend continuing with RPT and adding in some extra accessory work?

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  54. Jermel Purcell

    Yo Andy,
    I’m trying to figure out my macros for training and off days. I weigh 188 at 6’2 and my gym said im around 13-15% BF..I came up with training day macros at about 205g for carbs and protein, with fat at about 45g or no more than 50g. Since rest days are higher fat and lower carbs…What should be my intake for both ?

  55. Chris

    Hello Andy, you did a great work with the site!!!

    I have only one question for you and is about training frequency.
    According to Lyle Mcdonald some very important factors in training for muscle growth are Progressive overload, Training Frequency and Recovery.
    Lyle recommends to train each body part twice or at least every 5 days to increase gene expression and protein synthesis, and ore repetition short of failure for better recovery.

    I know that RPT routine is very good on recovery and progressive overload but what about gene expression and protein synthesis?
    The question is about intermediates and advanced trainers.

    Thanks, Chris

    1. Andy Morgan

      Lyle has a bodybuilding style approach, mine follows more closely with the powerlifting principles of Rippetoe and the like. Both clearly work but on balance I prefer the latter which is why I introduce it on this site. Choose one was, stick with it. Mixing and matching is a sure way to run round in circles.

  56. George Green

    is RPT only suitable for experienced strength lifters?
    I have worked myself silly in Cross-fit, I can push myself very hard, etc. But I am new to pure strength training. in terms of dread for the next session (through muscle fatigue), I can certainly get to that point and continue.

    But as I said, I am new to pure strength training. Perhaps the Big 3 or SS?

    a little unsure.

    thanks.

  57. Leonard Souza

    Hey Andy,

    I went to a chiropractor who evaluated my lower back injury. He said it wasn’t serious and felt my recovery should be relatively quick (1-2 weeks, continuing workouts at lower weight). That’s the good news. However, in the meantime, my lower back still hurts when performing squats and deads. Today was my squat routine and I only felt comfortable performing them at 250×6 vs. my usual 330×6, which is a significant reduction in intensity. Considering I’m on a cut, do I need to change anything in my diet, or otherwise? I know on a cut, less intensity equals muscle loss. I don’t want to lose a lot of strength while I’m healing. I’m hoping by my next squat session, I’ll be within 10-15% less than my best weight, but if not, is there anything I can do to minimize catabolism? Thanks again man!

    Best,
    Leonard

    1. Andy Morgan

      If it hurts you gotta stop, surely your chiro told you that though. Keep your protein high and its not much of an issue for such a short time frame.

  58. Daniel Quinn

    Hi andy great info on this site been a great help!! When training and doing the IF, whats an easier way to explain macros? And when eating at your certain times could you use just a pure protein shake if say u don’t have the time so you don’t mess up one of ur meals so you have it at the same time everyday? I looked at the big 3 and compound is the best way to build mass and strength, I know you gain good abs from this but what about ur biceps they stil grow too and like ur trapezius and that etc Thanks daniel

    1. Andy Morgan

      “When training and doing the IF, whats an easier way to explain macros?”
      Very loosely:
      Training days: eat lots of meat, veg and carbs. Eat past your usual hunger point.
      Rest days: eat lots of meat and veg. Fattier meats are fine. Stay a little big hungry.

    2. Emil Westrum

      Can you do 3 x your bodyweight in deadlift?
      Can you do 10 chinups with extra 10% of your bodyweight?
      If no, dont spend your energy and time thinking about biceps growth. When you can do these lifts, your biceps and traps will not lack size, believe me.

        1. Daniel Quinn

          Hi Andy thanks for the reply, can you eat anything other than vegetables with the lean meat on the rest days? Some people I know use shakes cud that be ok to hav some sufficientness out of it? So i just keep doing warm up sets and go up in percent of my strongest weight and once done that do a rpt of that is that right? Or do u just do 5 sets of each squats, deadlifts, bench press, dips and pull ups every session? Thanks daniel

          1. Andy Morgan

            Hi Daniel. Shakes can be used in part yes.
            Given that you have to ask the question, the answer is likely that you should be doing straight sets of 5 for now.

            1. Daniel quinn

              Thanks Andy, so just the 5 exercises everyday in the same session 3 days a week, but just do 5 straight sets say of 8-10 reps on same weight and eventually keep increasing? If I can’t as a pull up bar on the day I train if I train at home instead any other exercise I cud do? Thanks again Daniel

            2. Daniel Quinn

              Yeah I did miss a few things thanks, so just the chin ups what exercise can I do if I can’t use a pull up bar or pull down machine? Thanks daniel

            3. Andy Morgan

              Depends on the context of the program and what you have available. Cause there are many ways to work around that but nothing quite exactly the same as that action. It’s not the end of the world mate, throw on other back work. Or find a nice tree.

            4. Daniel Quinn

              Thanks again mate, I was thinking rear delts or bent over rows, I trained Tuesday light so wudnt cripple myself lol and I’m gonna train again Friday and then 3 days a week next week if I’m stil telly aching should I train again tomorrow? Thanks Daniel

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