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

Andy MorganTraining Programs206 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 spit 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 a full split is used.


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


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


  • 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.


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

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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.

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Andy MorganHow to Progress from ‘The Big 3′ to Split Routines

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

  1. Pingback: Qual Treino Devo Escolher? - Dieta & MalhaçãoDieta & Malhação

  2. 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,

  3. 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.


    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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  6. 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?


    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?


    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.
      You can’t outrun your mouth. More thoughts on cardio here.

  9. 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,


    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?



    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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 :)

  18. 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?

  19. 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?


  20. 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.

  21. taz dave 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.

  22. Gurv

    Hey Andy,

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

    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.


    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.

  23. Jake

    If we wanted to rotate OHP with benching what day would you recommend? I ask because my back is taxed on deads and squats days. If I alternate on wed as my pressing day that would be a 14 day gap doing them every other week switching off.

    I want to ensure I get total shoulder development , as just doing bench can lead to over developed anterior delts and shoulder impingements.

    Just wondering how you balance OHP with bench basically.

    1. Andy Morgan

      That depends on your own recovery capacity Jake. Every 14 days seems quite extreme though.

  24. Jake Buehler

    When you start the progression with deadlifts to Mondays only, I notice that exercise comes first. Is that intentional? reason I ask is I need to definitely drop my deadlift to Monday’s only at this point, but my squat fell behind from an injury so I still do that 3 times a week. Should I do squats after deads?

    I’ve also split my bench press to Wednesdays only because I’m doing 100lb dumbbells now. So on Monday’s should I Deadlift, give myself 10 minutes break, then squat? Or just jump right into squats after 3 minutes rest? Really appreciate it!

    1. Jake Buehler

      Sorry if this is too specific of a question, I just really enjoy the structure you have for RPT and I have made AWESOME gains and progress with it over the last 2 months. I want to keep up the good momentum as I enter my split but want to know your opinion on doing only squats and deads on Mondays, which should come first, and how much break to have in between each ?

  25. jbdeen

    Would you think that a nagging jumper’s knee injury that limits one’s ability to linearly progressive load the squat 3x/wk (SS style) would be a good reason to move to a 3X/wk split RPT routine (where squatting is just 1x/wk) even if that trainee considers themselves a novice lifter (bench<1*BW, DL<2*BW, etc)?

  26. Alex

    Hello Andy,
    Alex again this time with a training related question

    1)For a cut (+10 / -30) – 3 days split of course, how can i determine how many exercises to begin with and what exercises complement others well too
    I keep hearing the “you do as much as you can recover from” – ok, but how can i know i’m not undertraining like this? (just a thought)

    For example, starting from your example above –
    Monday – Deadlift, Chins
    Wednesday – Bench Press
    Friday – Squats

    2)Wouldn’t it be too less of a workout to just do these in RPT style, of course?
    Could i add dips on the bench press day?

    I’m sorry in advance if this question may have been asked repeatedly already in a different form…..
    Thanks a lot, Andy & take care

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alex.
      1. Focus on making strength progressions*. If you’re doing that then you’re doing fine.
      2a. Depends.
      2b. Yes, but that depends.
      *If you’re an intermediate trainee looking to cut then there may well be no strength gains, because you are cutting.

  27. John

    I have a question about the BENCH PRESS… is it preferable to use DUMBBELLS or a BAR? I have always been told dumbbells are best. And would it always be a flat bench, or would it be advisable to alternate between flat/incline/decline through the week? Your advice would be much appreciated. Love the site… your info has helped me LOADS! :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Firstly and most importantly – there are pros and cons to both. That said I usually recommend the bench: at very heavy weights the dumbbells can be unsafe to get into position, and the barbell allows for smaller incremental increases in poundage.

      1. John

        Thanks for the response. Yes, with heavy dumbbells, unless I have someone to help, it does feel unsafe, and I often avoid heavier weights I could lift simply because getting in to position would be too risky! My gym has a flat and decline BARBELL bench (no incline though)… is one better than the other, or doesn’t it really matter? Best to alternate?

        On a separate issue, I suffer from a weak lower back… consequently I struggle with DEADLIFTS far more than any other exercise. I’ve often avoided them in the past, but should I simply persevere, incorporating them into each of my 3 workouts per week, just keeping the weight low initially (plus correct form of course) and gradually building the weight up? Would that be the best way to strengthen those muscles in my lower back? Thanks again. :)

        1. Andy Morgan

          When benching it’s best to stick with one or the other for a period so you get good at the one rather then mediocre at both.
          Best to speak to a specialist regarding the lower back. See my recent addition to the FAQ John regarding injury.

  28. Brook


    First let me thank you for posting such great information. Been following the site and learning alot. I had a quick question regarding the strength standards that Martin talks about in the linked article. When he classifies an intermediate as someone who can bench 1.2*BW, etc., is that referring to one rep max or for reps? Thanks for your time and keep up the great work!

  29. Richard

    Hi Andy, i’m really struggling with squats as I have a hip impingement and I’m worried i’ll get a labral tear from squating heavy. Is there an alternative that works everything out in a similar way to a squat, or a couple of exrcises I can do to replace them, or maybe there some stretches which might help give my hips the flexibility they need?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Not to the same extent than endurance training will. This depends on where you are regarding your strength levels. Here is a good explanation by Martin. Don’t let this alarm you though. Things you love doing and are important to your mental well-being should never be sacrificed for physique goals for small potential benefits.

  30. Joey

    Hello Andy,
    This might be a question you dont get asked often, but I am need of your help.
    I want to know how I can loose muscle the right way. I have been lifting weights for years and your plan has done a good job and making my muscles more visible.
    I really want to trim down some of my muscle and get rid of the bulky look that I have.
    What would be your advice. I really enjoy the heavy compound movements, three times a week workout without cardio, but I’m guessing that’s the opposite of what I need.
    The advice I’m hearing is cut out protein and stop lifting altogether doing only cardio.
    Any advice will be appreciated.

    1. Andy Morgan

      You need to lose fat bud, not muscle. Building muscle takes time and consistent, dedicated training. Pinch your arms, back, stomach – all that fat will be burned off when you diet.

      I can appreciate that this may sound like an arrogant answer, however I mean well. The only situation where one may wish to lose muscle I can think of is in the case of a very experienced trainee looking to cut down for a sport. – But then they would know the answer to this question anyway and not ask. – Cease training. Create a calorie deficit. Drop protein intake.

      1. Joey

        Thanks Andy,
        I have about 15 years of weight training under my belt and I honestly have more muscle then I would rather have at the time.
        Your system has allowed me to shed the fat that has been on top of the muscle; although, I still feel too bulky. Not as a trainee cutting down for a sport, but just a guy that wants his clothes to fit better (21″ arms just aren’t cool to me anymore).
        So is: “Cease training. Create a calorie deficit. Drop protein intake,” your answer to my question?

        1. Andy Morgan

          21″ guns? Well then yes, my answer is as above. Take a break from training. Drop the calorie intake because your recovery demands will be lower and energy expenditure also. That will keep you lean while your muscles waste away. (Rather than slowly just getting fat.) When you are at the level you’re happy with, resume training, perhaps twice a week focusing on the main compound movements and increase protein intake and calories back up. That will be enough to maintain.

  31. Daverse Beats (@daversebeats)

    Started this plan from the obese or muscled but fat category depending on who you ask. I just finished week 3 and as of last week I lost 5lbs. It doesn’t sound like a lot but the scale isn’t the biggest change after two weeks I could see my body changing. I do the beginners workout dead lift, squat, bench 3 times a week. Having never lifted in my life but being naturally strong my body has taken a liking to lifting. I was unable to finish 5×5(reps x sets) on the bench at 165 last week this week I finished 5×5 @ 185. I have yet to take a picture yet but I will at the end of each month. I am 6′ 3″ 305lbs now. My goal is to be down to 220lbs in a year. I only saw one person on here with that type of weight loss. So I am taking it upon myself to add to that so I can be an example for others who may think they are too far gone for IF/lean gains.

    (This time last year I lost 55lbs in 3.5 months doing only cardio the problem was I got weak. Knees hurt, had a hard time supporting my own body weight. I was also doing paleo/primal. I stopped the cardio and started eating carbs again and went right back up to my previous weight. I say this for those beginners who might think paleo and cardio is the way to go. IF is far more sustainable.)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Take the fat loss a little slower, and you’ll find it more sustainable and avoid skin issues.
      Thanks for the comment, please use your name next time. Good luck!

  32. Khuyen

    Hi Andy,
    I’m progressing from beginner to more immediate and started to find that I can only squat (1.8x bw) and deadlift (1.85x bw) once a week now. However, since I just resumed benching recently (1.15x bw) due to shoulder injury I can do it 2x /week. How should I alter my training accordingly, given that I’m on a recomp?
    My current program is M: Squat + Bench + OHP W: Dead+Chin F: Bench+Row+Dip
    The conventional wisdom is to have Dead on Mon and Squat on Fri, but since I want to do bench 2x a week it should be on Mon and Fri too, in which case I’m not sure what exercises to do on Wed.

    Thanks for your advice!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes you could consider a split like that. Or put the OHP on the deadlift day. I’d swap the Wednesday and Friday around though to give yourself more lower back rest.

      1. Khuyen

        Thanks for your quick response!
        So now it will be
        M: Squat Bench
        W: Bench Row Dip
        F: Deadlift Chin OHP

        I think taking off OHP from Monday makes sense because it will give my shoulder less stress since the next bench is already on W. I’d experiment with benching on M + W for 2 weeks to see how i response; right now my legs are too sore after squatting on M so Deadlift must be on Friday.

        On another note,
        1) what’s is your thought on adding more bodyweight chins to my program? I have a chin up bar at home, and can do 12 reps now.
        2) Should OHP be the last on Fri or should it be in before chin in order for me to rest my lats more? I’m thinking of the latter.

        Thank you.

        1. Andy Morgan

          1. If your main lifts are increasing then there is no need to mess with things. If you insist on adding them, then remove them if you fail to make progress in the main lifts. The idea here is not to add as much as you can, but to get stronger in the main lifts as quickly as you can.
          2. Either. Make a decision, keep it consistent. There is no right or wrong answer here.

  33. Michael C.

    Andy, I know that you may not have an exact answer for this since all scenarios are different but do you have an average amount of time most people can continue with the Big 3 for three workouts per week before they need to start progressing to a split?

    I think I’m going on about 7 months now and I’m starting to see strength stalls. So far I haven’t actually had to decrease weight significantly (only bench fluctuates ~5lbs week to week), so I don’t believe I’m losing muscle mass and I know on a cut if you are maintaining lifts then you are doing well. I’m just wondering if I’m at the point where I need to start moving towards a split. Should I wait until weight decreases significantly? It’s not a soreness issue (foam roller FTW) so I know my recovery is still there.

    Sorry lots of questions with probably not much info to go on but any insight is appreciated!

      1. Michael

        That’s what I figured. I was just hoping there was an easy indicator. I am hesitant to move to a split because I want to ride out the beginner gains as long as possible.

  34. Alex

    Hello Andy, a little question here

    Currently on Stronglifts which as you may know assumes heavy lifting – squat in each workout, deadlifts and overhead press in workout A, while bench press pairs up with barbell rows or inverted rows on workout b. 3 times a week, proper recovery is really needed or else stalling occurs. Period.
    I’m at ~15% body fat at the moment and started lean gains IF 10 days ago. I feel better, due to the carb cycle thing, yet dunno if the “cutting” method would bE best here or should I go body recomposition way?
    1.82 and 77kg momentarily…. Underweight BMI wise!
    Thanks a lot

    1. Andy Morgan

      That really depends on a few things, a recomp mainly on your level of advancement. Try it at a recomp level. Track your progress and adjust up or down based on your goal accordingly.

  35. Roman

    I am currently on a cut, and have had pleasing results sticking to a three day split involving Bench, Chins, Squats, and Deadlifts and the occassional set of Dips; my question is twofold: if a dip station is unavailable, can bench dips be just as effective? Also, on the subject of Bench, I have had success with increasing weight gradually week by week, but have noticed with the increase in weight, that my shoulders are becoming obviously more taxed, is this a common occurence in regards to weight increase or is it a cause for concern regarding possible shoulder injury? What has been your experience, and how have you combated this issue? Have you at any point added supplemental shoulder excersizes?
    Sorry for all the questions,
    All the best,

    1. Andy Morgan

      Can bench dips be just as effective?
      For weak people yes.
      …cause for concern regarding possible shoulder injury?
      Depends on form and any previous issues/personal flexibility and overall training volume vs recovery (diet + rest period)
      The last question is too vague/ has too many possible scenarios.

      1. Igor Mosyagin (@shrimpsizemoose)

        Hi Andy, I have a follow-up.

        When would you suggest to switch from bench dips to regular dips? For example, if I can make two-three regular dips, should I concentrate on increasing the reps or rather stick with bench dips until I would be able to do a couple of dozens of those?

  36. John O.

    currently on a cut and this is my training regiment that i have been following:

    Monday: Bench 3 sets, 4-6 reps. Dips 3 sets 5-7 reps

    Wednesday: Squat 3 sets 4-6 reps. Shoulder Press 3X5

    Saturday: Deads 2 sets 3-5 reps, Chins 3 sets 4-6 reps

    Is this too much volume? Do I need to cut anything out?

  37. Michael C.

    Andy, you state that if poundage progressions stall that it might be time to start changing to a split routine. You are familiar with my lifting stats from our assessments so far and I’ve slowly started to stop progressing on my lifts. However, I don’t have any lower back soreness so it “seems” that I’m recovering no problem but the poundage stalls seem to indicate otherwise.

    I guess my question is how to judge if the poundage progression stall is just due to noob gains being fully maximized or if it’s really due to recovery. I know on a cut I shouldn’t expect to see too much increase in strength, but it’s just hard to accept that since I’ve been increasing steadily in the past few months.


    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Michael, I need all the data for such a question and it’s not just a training question – everything is intertwined. Please wait for the reassessment.

      1. Michael

        Will do Andy… should I just continue with the Big 3 every session unless something goes horribly wrong until the next reassessment?

  38. Joe

    Hi Andy,

    Great site! Can you tell me why you don’t include chin ups in the begginer rpt routine. Is this not critical to develop the upper back and biceps or do ‘the big 3′ hit these also?

  39. Chris Colameco

    Hey Andy, I understand that I am not a client and if this is asking too much then I won’t be offended if you do not reply.

    My deadlift is lagging way behind my squat (Squat @ 295 3×5 Deadlift 255×3 (DL was at 290×3 at one point but form got shakey so I reset and my strength has gone down ever since)

    Any programming tips to bring it back up? (or prioritize the DL) Also I attached 2 videos of my last deadlift session

    W/U @ 225

    Work @ 255*

    *Now watching the video I realize that I was using a double overhand grip and should have probably used a mixed grip.

    If it helps I’m 6 feet tall, weight around 180 and bench 210×3 / 190×8

    Thanks again for making such an awesome resource.


      1. Chris Colameco

        Its fine. You probably tried this but If you haven’t yet, you can lower the quality by pressing that “gear” looking button on the bottom left side.


  40. Ben

    Great advice andy, thanks.

    What if you are on a cut, do you think you are better sticking to a 3 day split, one exercise per day?

    Also should you just concentrate on matching what you did last workout and not try to exceed it, even if you feel you can?

    1. Andy Morgan

      1. That depends on your recovery capacity. If you can do the big 3 then you should. It’s not one or the other. That’s the point of this article.
      2. Always try and exceed what you did last workout if you can do so with good form. This isn’t going to be impossible with advanced lifters when cutting. However there is a whole grey zone of people out there that may or may not gain strength when cutting.
      -Lifting status.
      -Severity of deficit.
      -Stupidity of previous diet.
      -Change of workout plan. (Recovery..)
      Oh this list goes on..

  41. Nick

    Hello Andy,
    I have a question for you on weighted chins and tracking progression. Let’s assume I start a cut at body weight of 200#. (I’ll use 200# as it makes the math easy) Also assume I can do 5 chin-ups with 50# on a weighted belt. In this case the total weight “chinned” would be 250#. Now let’s say after a 12 week cut, I reduce my body weight to 170# and I can now do 5 chins with a 60# weighted belt. While the % of weight (relative to body weight) added has increased, the overall all weight “chinned” has decreased. (250# vs. 230#). Would this be indicative of a loss in strength?

    1. Nick

      Hello Andy, add
      Adding to my question above. What prompted my inquiry was as I was reading the FAQ/Training Questions/#5 and #15, I started thinking about mechanical advantage. As you stated, during a cut, as you get leaner, the distance the bar has to travel (e.g. when benching) increases. However, with chins the distance traveled remains the same. In thinking about it last night, the same holds true if you’re doing weighted dips (in that the distance traveled stays the same). This question is more out of curiosity vs. anything else. As always, I welcome your input.

        1. Nick

          Thanks Andy. As stated, it was more of a “hmmm, I wonder why….” sort of thought vs anything else. I’ll now get back to my fasting and lifting 8>). Take Care.

          1. Andy Morgan

            Can’t be sure Nick. Muscle loss? Very rare for all stats to remain the same with experienced lifters dieting for a long time. Look at things as a whole.

  42. Vegard

    Hi Andy. Regarding the selection of days. People normally pick monday, wednesday and friday as training days. This leaves the weekend with two rest days. But if ones likes to eat like a pizza on weekends wouldn’t it be better to train tuesday, thursday and saturday/sunday? Kind of answering myself here. But just want to hear your comments!


      1. Igor Mosyagin

        What if you want to eat pizza on weekend but already trained on monday, wednesday and friday this week? :)
        Is it ok to add training on sunday and shift next week trainings one day to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday to get back to Monday/Wed/Fri the week after?

  43. David

    HI Andy, Great article. I have been doing IF for 8 weeks now, dropped fat from 24% to 10%. But i think im making some mistake, i dont know why cant i see my abs and my chest is still flabby and not in shape.sometimes it pisses me off. I train 3 days a week. I do basics like deadlifts,squats, benchpress, chinups and dips all of the 3 days and so do some extra shoulders, back and triceps if i get time. my current stats are bodyweight 71kg, lbm-60.80kg and bf-10%. training day macros-200-300p/200-300C/30-50F.
    Rest day- 200-300P/50-100C/30-60F
    Im still not ripped and some people say that i look skinner and i personally feel my arms are not growing from past 1 year. sometimes im lazy and eat some rice bubbles or cereals as my post workout, they are high in sugar, i dnt know if that sugar is ok for me or i should switch to some other carb foods. Will appreciate your advice.Keep up the good work :D

    1. Andy Morgan

      David, sorry mate but this question is too vague and general and could be any number of things. If you sometimes eat foods high in sugar it is not an issue.

  44. John


    What are your thoughts on taking the occasional ‘full week off’ from training? If you feel it’s good to do, when do you think it should be done? Every 3 months or so? Just curious. Thanks.

  45. Phil

    Hi Andy, thanks for directing me to this article. Doing squats & deadlift too much in one week has lead to overtraining/injury. My quads seem to need more recovery time. I need to space them out, and was thinking of the following routine. Do you think this looks okay in your opinion? RPT whilst on recomp macros:
    Mon – Squat / Bench / Weighted chins
    Weds – Deads / Overhead press / chins
    Fri – Squat/ Bench / Wide grip pull ups

    Not sure if I should bench every session or alternate with overhead press?

    Was thinking of doing this for 10 weeks before re-assessing. Thanks for your help, Phil

  46. Jonathan

    Hi Andy:
    Question on training twice a week instead of three times a week for a cut. I estimate my BF at 9-10% and I’m on a straight cut. I’ve been training heavy weights every 3-4 days – basically twice a week, with a current target of +10% maintenance on training days and -35% maintenance on training days. My thought was, as long as I lift every few days, the more days I have a deficit, the more quickly the cut will work (and there have been some results so far) but is there a reason that 3 times a week (such as M/W/F as you outline) would be MORE effective for the cut, despite the fewer days with a caloric deficit? Thanks again.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Depends on a person’s training status and time commitments. You can argue either way for muscle preservation. The weekly calorie deficit will need to be kept constant and macros adjusted accordingly. I don’t usually use 2 days for clients, but that’s not saying that it doesn’t work.

  47. James

    Hi Andy,

    I have been doing RPT now for 3 weeks after doing SS for 3 months. I feel RPT is working well for me however I find the additional reps hard work compared to SS. Maybe I just lack endurance, but I find myself pausing for 5-10 secs between reps especially towards the end of the set (on squat/deadlift, less so on bench). I feel that if I don’t wait I might fail the rep, at the very least compromise my form. I can still (eventually) manage all the reps with good form though and generally increase weight each week. Is this OK, or should I keep the weight the same until I can knock out the sets with no pause between reps? Thanks in advance.

    p.s. great site

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi James, good question. Basically you should try and keep things consistent when progressing with weight. To have a quick pause to get your breath is natural, 3-5 seconds even before the last rep of a set. However waiting for 10-15 seconds is a little successive and probably means you have gone up in weight a little quick. Try dropping back down. Unless you’ve always trained this way, then 10-15 seconds is fine. Consistency.

  48. arnaud

    i have some questions and you might have some answers.
    Firstly, judging from Layne Norton and some others, if overtraining is unlikely to append why switching from the big three to a split?
    Secondly, won’t doing the big three only lead to imbalance (from a health point of view only such as shoulders health)?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Andy Morgan

      1. There are conflicting opinions on things to be found everywhere. Choose the advice of one person and stick to it.
      2. No I don’t believe it does.

  49. Dalius


    Is it unhealthy to squat barefoot? I also do deadlifts barefoot. If it is not healthy, what cheaper shoes are good?
    Thanks in advance

  50. Igor Mosyagin

    I would like to add that fitocracy helps to make a transition. Suppose you are logging big 3 and you got 1000 points for one workout. When switching to RPT you expect this to drop a little but not much, say, to 800 points not to 200 pts. That helps to figure out set weights and reps for transition.
    Maybe one can just track the amount of kg “processed” during workout instead of fitocracy points and use the same principle here.

      1. Igor Mosyagin

        It’s not a question of tracking 5 rep max it’s more a helper tool for warmups in transition phase. You mean one should start the switch to RPT without any warm-up sets with his 5RM from the “big three”?

  51. Jo

    I’ve built a good deal of muscle using these essential compound movements, but my workouts also included a mixture of compound and isolation for specific muscles ( Traps, Medial deltoids, Posterior deltoids) . Are these compound movements alone enough to maintain muscle I’ve gained using other exercises?

    I see many people have reported gaining strength during IF, which from my knowledge, is mostly related to nervous system adaptation. Is strength training, in regards to rep range, also enough to retain muscle I’ve gained using a 6-12 rep range?

      1. Jared


        Is it necessary to combine push and pull exercises? Right now I programmed my lifts and each day reall only focuses on push or pull. Is that a problem? Here is my current setup:

        Mon: squats, press
        Wed: bench, dips
        Fri: squat, chins

        Also I am currently on a slow bulk; since this is my first year barbell training would I be overtraining if I added Pendlay rows to Wednesday and some hamstring curls to Friday? Or am I hitting those muscles enough already. I am 153 pounds and squat 205 x 5, bench 185 X 5, dead 235 x 5. Strength of course is going uP every week…

  52. JK


    So right now I am on a slow bulk and created a routine similar to a split but with two squat days RPT. Here is an example of my workout

    Mon- Squat (RPT), Press (PRT), Calf Work
    Wed- Deads (RPT), Chins (RPT), Back/Bi Accessory work
    Fri- Bench (RPT), Squat (RPT), Overhead Extenstions, Calf Work

    I have a few questions requarding my workout plan….

    1. When transitioning into a cut cycle, should I continue workout plan and drop or include accesory work? Or should I just switch to a “Big 3″ workout routine?

    2. After I transition back into a slow bulk I was maybe thinking about changing things up and going from RPT to Beyond Brawn in terms of reps. Yet I am still unclear what ‘Beyond Brawn’ entails. Do I do the same amount of reps each set and if so, how many reps do I perform? and how many sets do I perform? And is this style of reps less intense on the CNS compared to RPT? Cause if so I will incorporate more accessory work…

    **If it helps you to answer these questions, I am 5′ 10″ 152lbs 9%. My goal is to eventually get to 160lbs and maintain the same leaness as I am now. I have been training with barbells for about 7 months now after not lifting for about 2 years. I lifted since I was 18 and now 26yrs old.

    1. Andy Morgan

      1. On a cut your capacity to recover is reduced, thus you will cut things if anything.
      2. There are no set rep numbers. Buy the book, it’s great.

  53. Igor Mosyagin

    Hi Andy.

    I love doing squats and deadlifts but I hate bench presses (and I think I stuck at them). Judging from my macros after a session with you I think I’m on cut now. Should I consider split routine or rather keep doing big 3 for the next 6-9 months? I mean, I’ve been weightlifting for just a 6 months but lack of progress at bench press kinda bothers me.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Lack of progress with the bench while cutting is normal. Please see the FAQ for reasons.
      Whether you need to switch depends on your recovery capacity and is usually governed by lower back/hamstring soreness.

      1. Khuyen Bui Gia (@GKhuyen)

        Hi Andy, I’m interested in this issue too. I’m on a recomp (weight not decreased but squat, dl, chin and dip increased), but the lack of progress in bench press still bothers me. How did your bench press progress and do you have any tips to overcome this plateau?

      2. Igor Mosyagin

        Ok thanks. I think I’ll stick with this routine then.

        Why bench press is stalling? I mean why not any other lifts? Just because it’s the smallest excercise in terms of muscle volume?

  54. Joe

    Hi Andy,
    I’ve been reading a lot on German Volume Training. I know on a cut you and many advocate keeping the volume low. I just started my intermittent fasting this week “hoping to see great results”. I have tried GVT sporadically in the past (I must say I do not do 10×10 on squats, I would not walk for at least a week if I did.)

    My question to you is what are your thoughts/experiences on GVT? Do you feel this would also be a decent program while intermittin fasting or am I way otta the box? I’m interested in more of a volume based program for a few reasons. 1. A few months ago I had a shot in my left shoulder for tendonitis. 2. Sparing my joints at the age of 36 and beyond is kinda important to me. 3. Strength is not as big of a priority as having an attractive body. I’m not joining any power lifting competitions in the near future that I can see. I feel any strength gains I get from adding weight to my lifts will be sufficient. Strength is not the main goal.
    My GVT routine looks like this

    Bench 10×10
    Incline Bench 3×10-12
    Seated rows 10×10
    Lat pull down 3×10-12

    Cardio – abs

    Squat 3×10
    Leg Press 3×10
    Ham curl 3×10
    Calf raise 3×10

    Cardio – abs
    Dumbell Curls 10×10
    Skull crusher 10×10
    Shrugs 5x failure
    Front raises 4×10
    Side raises 4×10

      1. Liam Williamson

        Andy, just out of interest do you have any thoughts on combining low and high volume training on a bulk for both strength and hypertrophy? I know people like Dr Layne Norton who trains 5 days a week swear by it, but do you think it could still be suitable for using the IF 3 day a week cycle?

  55. Chris

    Hey, how do you feel about the Starting Strength advanced novice program with reduced volume for people imbetween the Big 3 and the 3 day split on a cut? Possibly with RPT


  56. Jared

    I have been following LG since Jan 12′ which means I am 6 months into program. I have made some nice gains and great body recomp over this time. I have also been using a split routine which seems to be recommended by Berkham. Though I am confused because I see on your website you recommend that for the big 3 one should squat and deadlift the same day. I thought Berkham advised against such a routine. Should I continue my split or switch over to a big 3? I am currently 155 lbs and doing slow bulk up to 160. I bench 185×5, squat 195×5, DL 225×5, Dip BW+70×5, Chin BW+45×5. As you can see I have good strength for all my lifts but lacking in squat. Before I started LG I rarely trained BB due to l5s1 problmens but strong enough to do it now. I follow form based on rippetoe. So how should I go and format my workout? Continue split or go to more big 3 with focus on squat?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Jared, the whole message of the article is that there is no one size fits all for everyone. It depends on recovery, and for that you need to listen to your body.

  57. dennisstanhope

    Hi Andy,
    I’m sorry to bother you but could you help me check my deadlift form again? I tried your tips to keep the neck neutral but i think the weight was too heavy so my neck shot straight up and my lower back rounded at the beginning of the pull. I thought of using more hip drive like you recommended. It felt much more powerful.

    Thank you.

  58. Ken

    Hi Andy. Great website! I’m new to LG and deadlift and squats (started for about 3 weeks) . I’ve been doing bench press n pull up not very consistently for about 2 years. I’m making great gains I think.

    I’m 19, 1m70, 67kg and my stats are as follow

    Chin: bw+12.5kg x 6
    Dead: 90kg x 6
    Squat: 67.5 x 5
    bench press: 60 x 7

    Would you mind to comment on my deadlift form?

    By the way, if I feel good and no sore at all, can I add 2 squats 2 deadlift instead of 1 1 for 4 sessions? (i’m following your 3 day split routine. I’m planning to cut down a bit. I think I was eating less before I started LG, which is quite counter intuitive: i’m cutting and eating more! LG is really awesome!)
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Andy Morgan

      1. Tuck your chin more to keep a neutral spine.
      2. Thrust with the hips more.
      If you’re doing a split rather than the big three though then stop. Do the big three. You’re weak with the potential to grow big and strong but you need to give yourself enough stimulus.

      1. Khuyen Bui Gia (@GKhuyen)

        Hi Andy
        1. Should I look a bit closer to my feet to keep my chin tucked more? Right now i’m looking on the floor about 3m in front of me
        2. Thrust with the hip more means that my pulling up of the bar should be faster you mean?
        3. If I do the big three, should I still follow the cut diet or do I have to eat more to meet the higher demand?
        4. If I do the big three then where can I put the weighted chin?

        Thanks for your quick reply!

        1. Andy Morgan

          1. Keep your chin tucked to keep a neutral spine. Google neutral spine if you don’t understand. Your eyes can move independently of the chin.
          2. No, I mean more use of the hips thrusting. Imagine you’re screwing Angelina Jolie, hard.
          3. The big three can be done on a cut.
          4. You don’t.

          1. Khuyen Bui Gia (@GKhuyen)

            I’m sorry to ask so many questions ><
            3. I can do only ~10 chinup with my bw so I consider myself as beginner. What is your rationale behind not doing chin ups?
            4. For beginners doing big 3, if these are the scenarios a) feel a bit of sore but still make poundage progress each training b) not feeling any soreness but stall in progress, is this time to consider switching to split routine?

            Thank you mate. You helped me to clear up lots of thing about LG program! I have been quite obsessed with dieting and today I felt scared to see myself swallowing bread to meet the carb requirement today (although it's still short by 100gr)

            1. Andy Morgan

              The big three are enough stimulus because you are a beginner. Whether you are able to comprehend the reasons for that or not is irrelevant.
              You said yourself you’re a beginner, and that tells me right there that you don’t need to consider a split routine.

            2. dennisstanhope

              Thank for the clarification Andy. I’m worrying too much I think. By the way, do you usually offer form critique through this blog or email? I will greatly appreciate your help.

            3. Andy Morgan

              Only clients, otherwise there simply wouldn’t be enough time in the day. Watching these videos and comparing with a video of yourself would be a good place to start for most though.

  59. Christopher A.

    Branko, if you progress at pace it’s fine. But maybe you’ll have to vary the intensity of a set or an exercise..

    Say for Chest,
    Mon: Heavy Bench (3×6-8)
    Wed: Weighted Dips (3×8-10)
    Fri: Dumbell Incline (3×10-12

  60. Jimmy

    Hi again Andy-

    Just a quick question about rep ranges. Was wondering what the difference is between 4-6 and 6-8 for the top set in RPT. Is it just whatever makes you happy? or is there more in it? Just a little confused as Scott chose to opt with 4-6 on his cut. Im thinking that going to 4-6 like Scott would lower volume, but still keep the intensity. Or does it just come down to your recovery and personal choice?

    Thanks in advance mate! :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Generally lower for strength, higher for size. Deadlifts work better with a slightly lower rep range to the rest as they are far more demanding.

      1. Charles

        Hey Andy, hope all is well.

        I’m doing your recommended 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 RPT layout and I hit 200lbs on my squat on my 2nd workout of last week. My quads were super sore and I definitely felt the DOMS. I haven’t had DOMS prior to this, as my squat just kept going up with no problems. My last workout of last week (3rd workout) I hit 205lbs for 8 reps (PR) but I felt sharp pains on that set. Actually, I started feeling a less intense form of that pain in my warmup sets. Then when i went for 185 for 10 reps I was grinding them out the whole time. My legs were shot and I could not even begin my 3rd set so I just went into Bench Presses. I am going to go back and try to complete those poundages today. If the pain persists, however, should I scale back down to 4-6, etc. or maybe drop squats to 2x a week? In Rippetoe’s SS he has you do a total of 15 squats per workout. I’ve been doing 30 per workout 3x a week. Could it be too much volume for me? What are your thoughts? Thanks a bunch!

        1. Charles

          I really want to hit my workout today though. I just had a little chicken and rice and a glass of milk so I’m definitely ready to hit it hard today lol

        2. Andy Morgan

          “Sharp pain” -> Have someone check your form. If fine, see a sports doctor or specialist physio. Pain from training yes, but shouldn’t ever be sharp.

          1. charles

            Maybe “sharp” isn’t the right word. It feels like DOMS. You know when it’s difficult to get up out of a chair because your legs are sore. Don’t you feel a pain in your quads getting up? It feels just like that. Only when coming upur of the bottom of the squat. Is it just regular soreness that I should push through? I’ve posted form checks on starting strength forum. I’ll do it again. But what do you think Andy?

            1. Andy Morgan

              The forum is your best bet for a wider range of opinion. I don’t have pains like that when squatting once warmed up, even with DOMS.

    1. Andy Morgan

      That would depend what lift it was, what your goals are, what volume you’d be training that lift with, and how your recovery capacity is. -In other words very difficult to answer.

  61. James Connolly

    Hi Andy,

    Following my exams I’ve been studying Stuart McRobert’s brilliant book Beyond Brawn. Considering following Stuart’s guidelines whilst doing Intermittent Fasting, I had the following question;

    Have you used micro-loading yourself? If so, do you have any general thoughts about it? Did you gain well on it?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Micro loading and RPT are not mutually exclusive systems, even an advanced trainee often when slow-bulking will be able to do both. This is the goal -increase in poundage every workout where possible.

  62. branko

    im doing a rpt-style of program that goes like this :

    day 1. bench , db bench , dips

    day 2.deads ,chinups . pendlay rows

    day 3. military press barbell and db + upright rows

    day 4 squats , good morning and legpresses .

    i alternate these workouts on a mon wed fri .

    regards branko

    1. Andy Morgan

      For anyone reading:
      1.) Volume is high. 2.)Deadlifts and Squats are less than once a week.
      Conclusion we can draw? Slightly more advanced, non-cutting routine.

      Thanks for sharing Branko.

          1. branko

            got you ! but as i see this .. its already low in volume on each day im doing only between 6-9 total sets for each muscle group to me that is low ?

            if i were a client of yours and i was on a cut what changes would you suggest ?

            cheers mate !

  63. emily

    Hi- I’m doing the split routine, and I’m wondering how tired I should be after workouts. I do the exact workout recommended by Martin Berhan in his recent fuckarounditis article (3 sets of about 5-7 reps for BP, DL, SQ) and I definitely hit exhaustion in every set at the right rep number, such that I don’t have any reps left in me to do. But when I’ve completed all 3 sets, after a short rest, I feel like I could do another set or two. Should I? Or am I perhaps doing something wrong, such that I’m not as wiped as I should be? Should I switch to Big 3? I’ve only been weight lifting a few mos., but I’m a slow recover-er, so I figured this would be the right approach. Until last week, I was doing 2 days of multiple exercises (lunges, squats, rows, flys).

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes this is usual. The goal is not to train yourself into the ground, but to lift the weight that you planned to do before you set foot in the gym and then get out. Adding extra exercises that bring little to the table is a very common mistake and can lead to overtraining, especially when on a cut.

  64. Pingback: Training Effectively – The Guide |

  65. Bart

    Great timing, great article, thx.
    When I started the lean gains 4 months ago i decided to go with a 3 day split as I was doing 4 or 5 days a week programs, so I wanted something hard but no as often. Initially I was making progress on all exercises, but after 3 months I got stucked with squats, presses, pull-ups and chin-ups. For some reason I was still able to make progress with dead-lift and dumbbell bench press. I noticed as the dead-lift was my first exercises in the week that extra one rep would make all the exercises suffer. I wonder if this means not enough recovery? Anyway, I decided to take one week off and restart. Also, many times I see Martin Berkhan talking about working out every 4,5 days due to lack of time. Such a routine was not recommended here, but I am curious how this would compare to typical 3 day split? I assume all would depend on recovery time, but what if we just give that extra time to recover and see what happens then.

  66. Sergio

    Awesome article, Andy! It’s actually what I needed to read!

    I’m on a cut and I’m doing The Big 3, adding chinups (still not RPT style)

    Recently, it’s difficult to progress because I’m doing 130 kg DL and 155 kg SQUAT.
    I was thinking to change the routine, and I will be like this:
    Monday – DL, BP, chinups
    Wednesday – SQ, BP, chinups
    Friday – SQ, BP, chinups

    What do you think?

    I left SQ off on Monday ’cause DL take lots of effort, or should I keep the SQ everyday? Thank you in advance!

  67. Jason Lor (@jasonlor)

    Great Article Andy!

    “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.”

    I just had this experience this week. Did squats at 1.2*BW and have been sore for the past 3-4 days. Looks like it’s time to change it up.

        1. Andy Morgan

          I mean that that is one possibility, or which a few exist, but is beyond the scope of the comment space bud. Try it and see, and then if not try something else.

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