How to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines

Andy MorganTraining Programs229 Comments

Progressing from the big 3

The Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Press, Dips, Chin-ups/Pull-ups.
Slow-bulk or cut, put these exercises at the core of your workout program and you won’t go far wrong.

There are two key training templates introduced on this site, ‘The Big 3 Routine’ and the ‘Three Day Split Routine’.The questions often arise, “Which routine should I use?” or, “When and how should I progress from one to the other?” This article covers the latter question with detailed examples.

These routines are minimalistic so they are particularly suited for a cut. When cutting, to keep your muscle mass, think of things as quite simply ‘use it or lose it’. Keeping training volume low when cutting is important because of the body’s decreased recovery capacity while under maintenance calories. – If we overtax it, we won’t fully recover for the next workout, we’ll stress the central nervous system, increase our chances of getting sick, and miss training sessions.

Thus, the RPT rep pattern I feel is particularly suited for a cut as it allows for maximum muscle stimulation with low training volume. It can be used with any set of exercises.

When slow-bulking the difference in your routine will be an increase in volume, possibly the addition of one or two compound exercises, and perhaps an accessory movement or two.


Thoughts on How and When to Change Your Routine

Whether a person should be doing the ‘Big 3′ every session or more of a split routine depends entirely on recovery times. As Rippetoe said in his book Practical Programming for Strength Training, one of the most important things for determining what kind of program a person should be on, does not depend on the person’s lifting ability, but that person’s ability to for recovery.

Put another way, a person that can squat 1.5*body weight (1.5*BW) might recover quickly enough to make squatting 3 days a week possible, whereas another that can squat 1.0*BW may need several days to recover. He goes on to say that a coach cannot simply look at a person’s strength figures or body size and give them a program, they need to know their client’s capacity for recovery.

Are you Intermediate or Beginner? It depends on how you define it: Strength stats relative to bodyweight or, recovery capacity. Ideally we’d all keep our ‘beginners’ recovery capacity well into the ‘intermediate’ strength achievements range and we’d be able to train more and grow faster. But alas, the human body is rarely so kind.

It may be fun to choose a split routine because it’s labeled ‘intermediate’ and that makes you feel good, but if you could be making better gains on the beginner routine you’d be a fool to not do that. I assure you there are some very big boys and girls that use Rippetoe’s Starting Strength ‘beginner’ routine.

As I am not with you in the gym, only you can tell what your recuperative abilities are. Generally the lower back is the weakest link in the chain. Are you physically able to recover if you do the big three barbell movements three days a week, or do you struggle with lower back pain? When your poundage progression stalls or you get lower back soreness that prevents you from having consistent workouts you know it’s time to change.


Big 3 to Split Routine – Ideas on Progression

A progression from the ‘Big 3′ to a split can be done in stages. When you start failing to recover then move onto the next step in the series.

Rather than jumping immediately to a split, usually a small modification to the volume of deadlifting performed each week is sufficient – this is because it is usually the lower back that is the first to show signs of greater soreness. You’ll want to decrease the number of sets of the deadlift at this time, from 5 to 3 and then perhaps to 1, for each session. After that you’ll need to move into some form of split routine. My first suggestion would be an alternating split (an A/B split), then a move to a three-day split (A/B/C split) when again it becomes necessary.

 There are many different ways to do this, here is one example of a typical progression.

The Linear Progression Training Continuum

Phase 1: ‘Big 3′ Routine – Novices

Same every day:

  • Squats (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Bench Press (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Deadlift (5 sets of 5 reps)

Phase 2: ‘Big 3′ Routine – Deadlift Modified

The lower back starts to get sore, you make a volume adjustment to the deadlifts:

  • Squats (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Bench Press (5 sets of 5 reps)
  • Deadlift (3 sets of 5 reps) or (1 set of 5 reps)

Phase 3: The A/B split 

The lower back and legs are too sore, progress suffers. Bench form is good, but a little variety can be introduced.

Workout A:

  • Deadlifts 5×5 (Sets x Reps)
  • Weighted/Assisted Chinups RPT
  • Overhead Press (OHP) 5×5

Workout B:

  • Squat 5×5
  • Bench Press 5×5
  • Dips RPT / Seated Cable Rows (3×8-10 reps)

Week 1 – Monday (Workout A), Wednesday (Workout B), Friday (Workout A)
Week 2 – Monday (Workout B), Wednesday (Workout A), Friday (Workout B)
Week 3 – Monday (Workout A), Wednesday (Workout B), Friday (Workout A) etc…


Phase 4: Full 3 Day Split (A/B/C) – Straight-Sets

More recovery is needed between workouts so a full split is used.

Monday:

  • Deadlift (5×5)
  • Weighted/Assisted Chinups RPT

Wednesday:

  • Bench Press 5×5
  • Seated Cable Rows (3×8-12)

Friday:

  • Squat 5×5
  • Overhead Press (OHP) 5×5

A Note on Reverse Pyramid Training

Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT), is a double progression model set-rep pattern – when you can no longer increase weight, you work to increase the number of reps. Then when you can lift the same weight with more reps you increase the weight lifted at a lower target rep number. However with no periodization, while a little more complicated, it is still a linear progression system.

You may look to put the RPT set-rep pattern in at either the A/B Split (if you are very confident in your form) or 3 day split points. This may help to spark further progress, but you may just be fighting gravity when cutting.

In general, a little soreness is fine. How do you know if you’re actually too sore to train and need to change your workouts or are just being a pussy? It’s difficult to judge. You’re always going to be sore to a degree somewhere in your body. You’ll become more attuned with your body in time but for now, as a general guide if after a good thorough general warm-up, joint warm-up and warm-up sets (guide to these in this article) you’re still really sore or the weight feels considerably heavier than normal then it may be time to change. This is one reason why it’s important to keep a workout log, so you know what you were lifting last time and know what you should be able to lift.


Finally…

Strength coach Dan John proposes that people should expect 20% of all their workouts to be bad ones. For whatever the reason, this is what he has found with his coaching of athletes over many years. Before you switch things up, you need to make sure you didn’t just “have a bad one” but are genuinely in need of a change. So, if the weights feel unusually heavy one workout, or you’re extremely sore, listen to your body, stop your workout for that day and go home and rest. Sleep well. (Sleep, diet, and stress can all affect your gym performance.) Come back feeling refreshed, and then see what happens.


Related articles

The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance for Fat Loss and Muscle Growth

Nutrition Pyramid

There is a very clear order of priority when setting up your diet. If you don’t understand it, at best you’ll just be wasting money, at worst your time and effort as well.

If your training has stagnated, often it’s not the training that needs to change. Have you got your diet dialled in?

This six-part series teaches you everything you need to know about how to set up your diet in detail which I hope leaves you feeling freer and more in control of your nutrition.

Read more…


The Principle of Progressive Overload

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 this principle of progressive overload so that you keep advancing with your training.

Read more…

229 Comments on “How to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines”

  1. Antoine RB

    Hi Andy,
    me again.

    I’m still cutting, I’m down to arround 66kg, stenght are stil the same Bench:70×5 / Squats: 80kgx5 / Deadlifts don to 75kgx5 (safty mind thing).

    My Routine…

    A-Routine

    Squats 5×5
    Bench Press 5×5
    weighted Dips RPT Style
    cable row

    B-Routine

    Deadlifts 5×5
    Pull ups RPT Style (3 sets)
    Shoulder Press RPT (machine / 3 sets)
    Biceps Curls RPT (3 sets)

    Is this too much for my cut? Should I take out the curls? Would it help for loosing my last pounds of Bodyfat?

    And with the cable row 3 Sets of 8-10, how to progress? It’s not the RPT style?

    With the RPT Style…

    so for example for the first Set 6-8 should I go to failure? If I can do 10, I will, or if I reach the 8 rep I stop and adjust the weight for the next session?

    Now, I’m going every set to failure, meaning I will do every set the max of reps I can do.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Antoine. I’ll cover your questions in order:
      1. Depends on your work capacity and recovery capacity. Have a good read of, “Which Routine Is For Me?”.
      2. I can’t see curls making a big difference. Rules for accessories in the FAQ.
      3. See the Big 3 Routine article for notes on progression, same principles apply.
      4. Correct, it’s 3 sets of 8-10 reps, not RPT.
      5. RPT progression is covered in the RPT article, “‘Three Day Split RPT’ Routine”.

  2. Sean

    Hi andy before I found this I did the classic 6 day bodybuilding splits which didn’t get me very far. I started a cut and started the big 3 routine on a wednesday which means monday was my sixth session. Even though I’ve lost nearly one kg of body weight my strength has increased. Squat 80kg-97.5kg Bench Press 70kg-77.5kg Deadlift 80kg-105kg.
    The problem is I’m not even three weeks in and last workout which was the dat before yesterday I realized that when deadlifting you were supposed to let the bar touch the floor every rep. I amped up the weight and did it. Now my next workout is today and my lower back is really sore I don’t know if I should keep it this way or change to a split since I’ve only had 6 workouts and my strength is not intermediate. By the way I weigh 72kg.

      1. Sean

        Yeah I went to workout yesterday and half way through the worst workout I’ve ever had I broke into a fever and horrible cold. So the soreness was probably from that. I couldn’t even lift the bar. I did Squats and Bench Press with less weight than I should have did one set of Deadlifts and couldn’t take it anymore. I got home with fever and had to take medicine and eat like a workout day and go to sleep. Today is rest day and I have the worst headache. I hope I can train tomorrow.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Dave. Though I have read both online and on a piece of equipment about there being two types of dip, I believe there is only one – the way that is comfortable for your joints, meaning your wrists, elbows and shoulders. Generally that will mean your arms are fairly close to the body, your triceps don’t pass parallel, and your body is hanging as gravity takes it. Forcing it any other way is just asking for injury.

  3. Joe W

    Given the difficulty in getting the calves to grow when in a caloric surplus, is it worth training them when running a caloric deficit/doing a cut?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Joe. It could be argued that in most circumstances this wouldn’t be necessary for muscle maintenance given the isometric work they get from the compound lifts. Someone that has a high volume of calf work and fairly advanced development might need some though.

  4. Chris

    Quick question. I do the big 3 with cable rows, trice pull down, cable Flys, dumb bell straight legs and lat pull downs. My deadlifts are dumb bells as barbell hurts. Would you consider that overload for Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays? I recover fine and am always amped for the workout. Also would this fall under moderate or lightly active? Thanks for the help.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Chris. (Progressive) overload isn’t gauged by exercise selection. Check out Naoki Kawamori’s guest article, The Principle Of Progressive Overload so that you can judge this for yourself.

      “Also would this fall under moderate or lightly active?”
      If you’re struggling to decide, use an activity multiplier half way in-between.

      1. Chris

        OK thanks. I have read a lot about weight training doesn’t constitute moderate and those multipliers are for cardio. I just hate the thought of depriving myself of calories because I should be receiving more. I will go e it a shot.

  5. Antoine RB

    Hi Andy,

    still on my cut :)
    I’m doing the Workout A / B Spilt.

    Would like to know what you can tell me about deadlifts “sets across” or “ramp up”.

    Now I’m doing what seems to me “set across” so I do 60kg / 70kg/ 80kg/ and then my sets of 5×5 with 91,5kg. I think my form get sloppy at the end of the last Sets, maybe my muscles getting to tired. Is it better to do the “ramp up” style? So only the last set is the heaviest?
    What do you think?

    And what do you think about a deload week, do I have to this?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Antoine. Straight sets and RPT have their own pros and cons. They are covered in part in this article and also in the RPT one. You’ll find my article, “Which Routine Is For Me?” useful also.
      Whatever you choose, you need to stick within the rules of that system and not change it to lift more. So, if you’re doing RPT, do it. If you’re doing straight sets, do that. Don’t do 3 sets at your target weight when you should be doing 5×5 though as that just means you need to go lighter.

      Pyramid training (which I believe you’re calling a “ramp up style”) just doesn’t make a lot of sense. You need to be fresh when hitting maxes. Also, don’t confuse warm up sets with working sets.

      Deloads are covered in the FAQ. I think the issue here is that you’re taking things you’ve learned from elsewhere and trying to apply them here instead of seeing each system on it’s own.

      1. Antoine RB

        Thanks Andy,
        your’re right I mix things up ;) sometimes I need someone to get me back. It’s a patience thing, a marathon….

        I will stay in the Workout A/B split and continue with 5×5 deadlifts and lower the weight a little bit, so it should be fine.

        I puted the Dips after the cable row, or is it better to do it direct after the bench press?

        I was looking about deloading because I hit a plateau with my squats and bench press was going down a little bit. But of course I’m in a cut, so what did I expect ;)

        I was looking in you FAQ site but couldn’t find something about “Deloads” so I used the search functions and found it on the questions site….

        So no deloading in a cut, ok ;)

        I think maybe 2-4 weeks to go for my cut and then a little diet break, then a recomp or bulk.

        Thanks Andy

        1. Andy Morgan

          Either can work. I’d go with the dips straight after the bench. Thanks for the heads up about the “deloads” section being missing – I’ve been doing a lot of edits and it must have gotten lost. Will be sure to put it back in.

  6. Jason

    Hi again Andy!
    Been making the slow transition from our cut to slow bulk these past couple months. My questions is in regards to training. I was on a three day split (5×5 rep pattern) and would like to change it up, preferably to the RPT style training. If I keep the exercises the same it seems I would be doing less volume using the RPT style program. Should I add in extra sets or an accessory or two for best results or switch back to the A/B split and follow the guidelines referenced by Greg in the “What To Do When You’re Done With Your Beginner Strength Training Program” to add volume first? Thanks Andy, Jason

      1. Jason

        Main reason I suppose would be variety in rep pattern/change things up a bit. The main lifts haven’t really moved in the last 30+ days even with the increase in calories so my thought process was to change it up.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Jason, thanks. Two reasons to change things up then. I’d consider it as it is (without worrying about the small decrease in overall volume/work done), for the variety, as that’s important and the increase in motivation can bring about better workouts and better gains. (Sometimes you program for that, fascinating article here – make sure you read the first one.)

          From there you can progress to the periodisation principles in Greg’s post here.

  7. Fabian

    Hi.

    Thank You for the great site!
    Im doing kung fu classes mo and tue and one yoga class on thu.
    Im also used to barbell Training.

    Do You have experience on how I should change my barbell Training id like to follow the beginner routine 3x a week and nutrition regarding my martial arts? ( im doing it for about 4 years now)
    Do the martial arts days count as Training nutrition day?
    The Training is 1.5 h and normaly consists of slow movements of mediocre intensity.

    Thanks a lot!

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  9. Mike Williams

    Hi Andy,

    ive never actually trained the big 3 split, more fuckarounditis BB split then around 12 months ago i discovered lean gains and RPT so my bb split progressed from there. That started the ball rolling. but i feel i have missed out! Wish i had found your site sooner and payed more attention to nutrition but hey ho.

    I am in the best shape i have been in and now i am in a slight calorie surplus (slowly increasing it) i am feeling the need to want to train the big 3 more often, problem being i really enjoy my dips, chin ups and OHP along with a few accessory lifts. The A/B split above has caught my attention as it seems the best of both worlds.

    i think recovery time will be insufficient if i keep doing RPT for the deadlifts,squats and bench, would changing these to a 5×5 be a step backwards or it possible that it will be more beneficial from a volume point of view now im in a surplus?

    in terms of training and strength i would say i am hovering just about intermediate but my squat is lacking, i think this is the reason i want to increase volume plus i really like squats.

    help appreciated as always,
    regards
    Mike

  10. Chad

    Hi Andy,

    Looking to cut down, currently weigh 92kgs and wanting to get to 80kgs. Havent been consistent with my gym work for a good 9 months and very little the last 3 months but have been active with sports trainings. Past PB’s were 160kg squat, 195kg dead and 85kg bench. Question is whether i should ease my way back into trainings for a while before trying to go to failure on my first set on my lifts or if il be fine tucking straight into RPT training.

    Thanks,
    Chad

    1. Andy Morgan

      Definitely ease into things Chad. In fact, be sure to lift less than you feel you can for the first few sessions – your muscles can do it but the CNS isn’t ready. Everyone ignores that though and but learns the hard way suffering quite severe DOMS for days afterwards.

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  13. EricB

    Regarding the choice between a “sets across” or RPT split routine:

    I started with your basic 5×5 Big 3 program about 8 weeks ago. Based on my recovery capacity and exercise performance I have been both incrementally dropping volume to 3.5’s on all lifts and frequency as the weight on the bar is steadily increased. I am doing deads on Wednesday only and squats on Monday and Friday. I have also added in presses and chins so I am getting 2-3 exercises per session. As I see it now I am just one more notch away from going to an honest three-day split (once my squat cannot recover sufficiently 2x per week).

    1) Where would you generally advise going to a RPT rep structure vs “sets across”?

    2) In the example programming above, it is on purpose that you’re combining pulling movements into one day (deads and chins combined for example)? When I do chins after deads I am wasted and my numbers are markedly worse. Is this going to “Stress” the muscles more for a greater adaptation?

    Thanks,
    Eric

    1. Andy Morgan

      Eric, thanks for the question.
      1. Haven’t formalised any rules for that yet. Depends on a number of things, mainly though, progress, form and feeling.
      2. Purposeful, to give your back more time to recover due to the drop in frequency. The chins will naturally suffer.

  14. Jaime

    Hello, I’ve been reading your articles all morning. Learned a lot of new stuff. I am 6 feet 225 pounds with a 390 squat, 465 deadlift, 290 bench, and 165 Press ( based on calculations). I see you haven’t written much about Wendler 5/3/1. I think I’m an intermediate lifter, what are your thoughts on this program?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jaime, thanks for the comment. I’ve covered such questions in the start of this article. This is your first comment here, so I hope you find that helpful
      There will be a guest post by Greg Nuckols coming in the next week on “post-beginner” training that will probably interest you. If you want an update on that, put your e-mail in the box on the sidebar in the homepage, or just check back.

  15. Gooch

    Dear Andy

    My client is a 32 year female who has never exercised before. Goal : fat loss

    Being a beginner, she faces major problems doing squats & deadlifts due to mobility issues, weak core and poor proprioception. Even partial squats are challenging for her.

    How can i go about her routine?

    She being a beginner and hence very low intensity workout, can IF be given to her? Is it a good option? Is it also a good option to include daily low intensity 30 min cardio for her to utilize FFA optimally?

    Thanks
    Guchu

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Guchu/Gooch, thanks for the comment.
      “…she faces major problems doing squats & deadlifts due to mobility issues, weak core and poor proprioception. Even partial squats are challenging for her. How can i go about her routine?”
      This is probably just a matter of practice. But if you think she has special imbalances/needs then that’s for you to decide as her trainer, not I.
      “…can IF be given to her? Is it a good option?”
      The IF is completely unrelated. It’s a diet strategy, but if it’s going to add a layer of complication to things right now rather then simplify as it does for most people) then forget it and focus on one thing at a time for her. More here.
      “Cardio?”
      You can’t outrun your mouth. More thoughts on cardio here.

  16. Aaron

    Hi Andy,

    what would you recommend if I usually do the Big-3 5×5 (but on wednesdays no squat/bench and instead dips/chins) when going on a Cut. Should I keep my routine or switch to RPT during the cutting? Should I addionally reduce the volume i.e. only Squat, DL, Bench once a week (like stated in your article) and ditch the Dips/Chins during the Cut?

    I hope you can give me some advice.

    Thanks in advance!

    Best regards,

    Aaron

    1. Andy Morgan

      Sorry Aaron, there isn’t a single answer to this, all depends on you bud. You gotta apply the principles of the above article and the other training articles.

      1. Aaron

        Ok, so I guess it depends on my recovery.

        I was just wondering if 5×5 is unnesserary volume since I won’t get much muscles anyways. So RPT would be less volume and time spent with same result.

        So you wouldn’t generally recommend doing each exercise only once a week when on a cut since muscle preservation is the main goal – not muscle growth?

        1. Andy Morgan

          1. Did you see the pros and cons sections on straight sets (eg. 5×5) and RPT in those latest article updates? I think I have that covered there bud.
          2. This depends on the individual. Those more advanced can get away with training an exercise once a week, as they have learned how to hit the body/muscle harder – which also has CNS recovery etc. implications.

          1. Aaron

            1) Actually, I haven’t found it. Where can I find it? Would be very useful.

            2) Ok, I’ll just keep observing my training performance then. I’ve already noticed that doing DL on wednesdays is too much – I was still very sore from monday DL and Bulgarian Split Squats (BSS). I’m gonna skip DL today, too, to recover for monday and only do Bench and BSS today and continue from there. So I’m progressing to a split routine in stages like you’ve suggested in this article.

  17. Krzysztof Szczepaniak

    Hi Andy
    From the top sorry for my weak eanglish. ;-)

    Since January 2014 I trained for a full two months (3 x week) Basic movements ( squat , benchpress , back ‘s on machines because it’s my weakest party of the body and in addition have a curvature of the spine )
    Since April 2014 I’ve added 3 other exercises ( weighted Dips, straightening the legs on the machine, chinups )

    I train now running ABABABAB …
    A = Benchpress , Squats , Chin ups
    B = Weighted Dips , straightening the legs , the back ‘s on machine ‘s (still weak point of my body)
    I do not do crunches , cardio once a month for peace of mind, stretching at home, keeping the diet.

    I am writing because I wonder if they did not change the training plan, grew in strength little bit and on benchpress i can do 75kgx8 , 95kgx8 squats , back’s unfortunately are weak (load is given together with a barbell, 3 sets of 8/10/12 rep and subtracting -10 % of the weight at a set , my body weight is 75kg) .
    In the current exercise I am 90 % happy, because they are easy, quick, and I see more or less progress with time. But I wonder if they did not change the current plan for a 3 day split ( chest / leg / back) . Do you have any suggestions to add simple, quick exercises to do Split workout, something that will not damage my spine too. Can be with my current plan?, but to attack another method my back and change some exercise (for example, straightening the legs on the machine)?
    I was also worried about those back’s, from January (then touched the rod to pull) is a small improvement , as do 3 sets x5 chinup with 3 min break between sets , but still I am not happy and I do not know how to approach this part of the body that was on it so progress as he wants .

      1. Krzysztof Szczepaniak

        State of health: Bend back “S” and Light Scoliosis, Doctor told me not to deadlift, OHP and similar exercises requiring spine.

        1. Andy Morgan

          That’s recommendations on what not to do, rather than what you can do or better still, what types of exercises to avoid. As I said, it’s not for me to advise here bud.

  18. James Boyle

    Hi Andy

    Did my first barbell big 3 today following your revised guidelines. I am currently 5,11 and 234 pounds. I managed 5×5 no problem with bench 80kg, deadlift 95kg and a pretty pathetic first squat of 65kg (I was a bit nervous with the bar on my back).

    2 quick questions:

    1. I’d like to cut for obvious reasons (down to about 185-190) but is this realistic when starting barbell training (only have done dumbbells, chins, dips for about 2 years)?

    2. I work 8-6 and can do IF no problem during Mon to Fri pm but am less good at the weekend. I generally carb/calorie cycle a little like Lyle McDonalds suggestion – with this in mind Mon, Wed, Fri don’t seem to be ideal training days? What days would you suggest for a weekend calorie cycle? Fri, Sun and Wed (and have a higher calorie day on that day?

    Cheers

    Jim

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jim. Put the squat first.
      1. You can definitely get down to 185 or 190 and that’ll be a huge change and you’ll be looking great. You’ll likely want to take it further though, but there’s little point worrying about how you’ll look at that weight just yet, just get going and see.
      2. A minimum of one day of rest between workouts is what I recommend. I also recommend putting carb refeeds on the training days. See here for more.
      At the end of the day, the main thing is to start in a way you can be consistent with.

  19. Amaury

    Hi Andy!
    Thank you for this great website. I’m 52 years old and started your training for about 3 months ago.I have had good results, but there are days when I am not able to do the exercises without eating something before going to the gym.Generally I eat a portion of cottage cheese and take the 10g of BCAA as you recommend. Genarally I do not feel well when I take BCAAs. Seem to feel a little more weak.I’m now with 68kg and 10% body fat.I fell I need now,to earn more muscle density.I’d like to know when I should start doing the Press, Dips, Chin-ups and Pull-ups.Sorry,but I could not find in your article,the tips about implementing these exercises in my routine.
    Could you please,clarify it to me?
    By the way,I’m from Brasil and I’ve been talking about The IF for some friends and they are very happy with the results.
    Thank you for your attention.
    All the best,my friend!

    Amaury Guerra

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Amaury. There isn’t a single set of rules for when to add in exercises X, Y and Z. The principles are what are important – I can’t just throw out a training program at you. I’ve tried to cover this above, but I’ll have another article on training principles soon.

  20. Alan

    H Andy, I’m still on the big three routine while bulking as I still do not get sore the day after training My body feels tired on rest day so I know I’m pushing myself hard and my workouts are intense. Should I have progressed to a different routine by now? In regards to the big three, I dont seem to be progressing in adding weight either. I’m not sure if this is do to needing a change in routine.
    PS – You gave me an example of and AB split routine in the past but I have not tried it yet. Because I dont get sore Im still able to do all the big three exercises three times a week without issue. Although, since Im now bulking should I stay on the big three or use a split routine with 5×5 reps?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alan. If you’re still gaining strength and not feeling sore on the Big 3 routine then that’s excellent and stick with it. The goal isn’t to get to a perceived “more advanced” training split, the goal is to gain as much strength as you can in the quickest amount of time and the frequency of the Big 3 is great for that as long as one can still recover from it.

      1. Alan

        Thanks Andy, makes sense, soreness aside, just another thought, now that I’m lean bulking should I move to a split routine or remain on the big three routine?

  21. Yifan

    Dear Andy,

    Thank you so much for providing all the detailed information here about training and diet. It has helped me immensely. I have a question regarding progressing from the beginner routines. I am currently doing the big 3 on Mon, Wed, and Fri using 3×5 similar to the Starting Strength routine (slow bulk). I think I might be getting close towards the edge of needing to transition to one of the other routines you mentioned. In terms of RPT and split routine, what would be the difference in recovery that would indicate if one should go with one or the other? For example, from my current routine, I could keep doing 3×5 and do a split routine, or I could do the big 3 each day but using RPT, or it could be a mixture of the two.

    Thanks again.

  22. Nate

    Hey Andy my job only allows me to get to the gym on weekends. I know its not possible to do the big 3 on consecutive days but, can I do the 3 day split on fri,sat, and sun?

  23. matt

    Wow, I just came upon this site and I have to say that what I’ve read so far is very well written and refreshingly sensible. Nice job.

    I’m curious what feedback you might have regarding my current program. Basically I’m following the Starting Strength lifting protocol minus the power cleans (I do rows instead), with also weighted chins. So far I’m progressing on all my lifts and I’m loving the 3×5 heavy barbell workouts.

    My issue is that even though I’d like to continue lifting heavy, my current short term goal is actually fat loss. To that end, my strategy is to continue with what I’m doing until recovery becomes compromised, and if/when that occurs I’d adjust to a more minimal program like you suggest here. This makes sense to me but I’d love another’s opinion.

    My basic stats: Though I’ve lifted on-and-off since my early 20s, I consider myself a beginner as I’ve only lifted heavy like this for a couple months. I’m 34; 6’2″; 195lbs; and basically skinny fat. Recovery isn’t the best and I’ve had some real issues with lower carb fat loss plans when done in conjunction with heavy lifting.

    My diet is basically paleo plus starches. Aside from protein powder, I eat very little processed food. I don’t do gluten or dairy because of digestive issues. I’m not doing IF at the moment because in the past I’ve had some disastrous experiences, resulting in massive mood swings and really low energy, though those problems might have been a result of too much lifting, or not getting enough carbs; I’m not sure.

    My main lifts: 105 Press; 170 Squat; 240 DL; 150 Bench.

    Any feedback that you have would be greatly appreciated. And like I said, great site.

  24. Jess

    Hi Andy,
    I am performing pushups at the end of my bench day performing 2 sets of 8-12 reps in a slow, controlled manner but I am able to hit 12 reps easily, even if I elevate my feet. Would it be alright to have someone add weight plates to my back for extra resistance?

    Additionally, I am looking for a RPT calculator spreadsheet. I cannot find a one online so would you happen to have one or know of a link to a spreadsheet online?

    I appreciate your expertise :)

  25. tungi Mashamba

    Hey Andy,I am a terribly weak beginner,well,maybe not that bad (can’t do a single chin up).I use the free gym at school that’s open for guys on Tuesday ,Thursday and Friday.What’s my best option,big 3 on tuesday and friday ,big split on all days or any other suggestion you might have?

  26. Cody

    Hey Andy, love your stuff.

    Quick q: I understand that the general body recomp method is recommended to be +20% for lifting days and -20% for rest days.

    What are your thoughts on a +20% for lifting but -40% for rest days. I am trying to lose more fat, but will this method be detrimental to me in any way? Make muscle gain slow?

    Thanks.

  27. SteveJW2

    Hey Andy,

    As I mentioned in another comment, I recently started a leangains protocol. I’m doing a body recomp -20/+20. I have lifted a little before, but not much. My #s aren’t terribly impressive. I’d imagine you’d call me a beginner. BP – 140 3×5, Squat – 160 3×5, DL – 265 x 5. I’m 5’10 155 lbs at about 15-16% BF. Anyway. My lifting #s aren’t going up that fast especially on squats. DL is not really going up too fast either though I do have a little experience at them, hence the higher weight there relative to the other lifts. My question is – is the Starting Strength protocol too much to mesh with Leangains? Is it too taxing to see good gains on the lifts? Should I make any adjustments? I know it’s probably complicated and a little tough to answer over the internet. Any thoughts are welcome though. Thanks.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Steve.
      “…is the Starting Strength protocol too much to mesh with Leangains? Is it too taxing to see good gains on the lifts? Should I make any adjustments?”
      1. No, it can work gangbusters with the leangains principles.
      2. This depends on context: lifting experience and thus required recovery capacity (which will vary from individual to individual) as well as the energy balance which will determine recovery capacity.
      3. Always, if you aren’t progressing.

      1. SteveJW2

        Should I expect to add less weight to my lifts on a body recomp rather than bulking protocol? I would imagine so. I was figuring it’d probably be almost 1/2 as fast. I’m going to give myself a little longer to progress. But if I don’t, what do you think the likely culprits are? PS: Eating 3000 calories on training days and 2000 on rest days.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Hi Steve.
          “Should I expect to add less weight to my lifts on a body recomp rather than bulking protocol?”
          Yes, because the recovery and growth capacity of less. The latter question is too open ended.

  28. taz dave

    gday..how could i slip mill press into the big 3 or 3 dy split? realy good site and sound advice.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Dave. You could alternate that with the bench for the Big 3 routine. Clearly there are a lot of options/flexibility with a split routine. Play around with it depending on how you progress.

  29. Gurv

    Hey Andy,

    Still doing my lean bulk. Squats and Deads continue to progress slowly but surely.

    Question:
    If I’m struggling to progress in strength for bench press (Wednesday – 5reps x3 sets) and OHP (Friday – 5reps x3 sets) – permitting everything is on point with mobility/rest/recovery, would you suggest a slight increase in macros to bust through the plateau, OR a switch to RPT x3 sets? I know I could experiment, first with increasing macros and testing for about 2-3 weeks, but I thought I’d get your input first. If I kept macros the same, I bet if I went with RPT, I would probably see increases because it’s only one balls to the wall top set.

    Gurv

    1. Andy Morgan

      Both could work Gurv. How are your other lifts going? Are they improving? If so then you may want to hold off for now. Depends on your preference for muscle/fat gain. You could try RPT for those exercises if you wish. Then you’d have a different standard you will be judging your strength by though.

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