‘The Big 3′ Routine

how_to_deadlift_moreYes, the deadlift works the biceps.

The core of building a strong body is the Squat, Deadlift, Bench and their variants. Anyone that tells you otherwise is simply ill-informed. As a look at weight category competition powerlifters will show you, you don’t need anything other than these three to get big, strong and ripped.

I neglected the Squat and Deadlift for years, not realizing their fantastic all over body training effects and I wish someone had told me years ago so that I didn’t waste so much time initially.

‘The Big 3′ Explained

What is it?

A deceptively simple yet brilliantly effective training program for putting slabs of muscle on a beginner trainee. It does this by focusing all the trainee’s energy and recovery efforts into the ‘big money’ exercises alone – the Squat, Deadlift and Bench.

Who is it for?

Anyone new to training, or anyone who has been spinning their wheels on ineffective workouts up until now. More advanced lifters will do these ‘big 3′ in a split-routine of some sort, but for those relatively new, you’ll make faster progress training all three in the same workout, 3 days a week.

An experienced lifter that is coming back after some time off may want to start out with this to get back in the groove of things.

When can it be used?

This can be used in a cut or bulk.


‘The Big 3′ - How to Guide

‘The Big 3′ In A Nutshell:

A fixed set-rep pattern is used. This means all working sets (not the warm-up sets) are done at the same weight. Every set is the same number of reps.

You’ll finish all your sets for the one exercise before moving onto the next.

What does it look like?

Here is the standard 5×5 big 3 routine.

Monday

  • Warm-up: Foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

1. Squat

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps (90-120seconds rest between sets)
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

2. Bench

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps (90-120seconds rest between sets)
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)

3. Deadlift

  • Warm-up sets
  • 5 sets of 5 reps (90-120seconds rest between sets)
  • 3mins rest (or however long it takes you to warm-up and be ready for the next exercise)
  • Cool-down: Foam rolling, stretch out any tight places.

Wednesday

As above


Friday

As above

How To Progress

How much should I lift?

For the first workout, choose the weight you believe you will be able to lift for all five sets. – Go conservative, you can always increase the weight next time.

Beginners will need to concentrate on getting their form right for the first month or so of working out. – You’re programming your brain and nervous system to remember a pattern, so don’t worry about lifting a lot of weight like you feel you should, and don’t worry about looking cool. Begin light. Slowly move up the weight as form improves. For the first few workouts I think it is a good idea to follow the advice of Rippetoe:

Do sets of 5 reps, gradually increasing the weight until it is a struggle to complete the 5 reps. Rack the bar, the workout for that exercise is done. Move onto the next exercise.

For the next workout do the same but challenge yourself to lift a slightly heavier weight for that single heavy set. From the third workout you can move onto the standard pattern above. Try starting with the same weight as you could lift the previous workout but this time try 5 sets as per the example above.

When should I increase the weight?

When you get all sets for target weight and reps increase the weight for the next session.

When should I decrease the weight?

When you miss 10% or more of your target reps in total, for two* consecutive sessions. (*Bad sessions happen.) With 5×5 this means if you get less than 22 reps total then decrease at the next session. The set you’re most likely to miss any reps on will be the last set due to cumulative fatigue.

Example Squat Progression based on the rules above (weight x reps):

  • Session 1: 130x5x5x5x5x5 clear – increase next.
  • Session 2: 140x5x5x5x5x5 clear – increase next.
  • Session 3: 150x5x5x5x5x3 missed 2 – same weight next.
  • Session 4: 150x5x5x5x5x5 clear – increase next.
  • ….
  • Session 22: 250x5x5x5x5x5 clear - increase next.
  • Session 23: 255x5x5x5x4x3 missed 3 - try same weight next.
  • Session 24: 255x5x5x5x5x5 clear - increase next.
  • Session 25: 260x5x5x5x4x3 missed 3 - try same weight next.
  • Session 26: 260x5x5x5x5x2 missed 3 - reduce weight next.
  • Session 27: 255x5x5x5x5x5 clear - increase next.
  • Session 28: 258x5x5x5x5x5 clear - increase next.
  • Session 29: 260x5x5x5x5x5 clear - increase next.

Golden rule: Lift only as heavy as you can for your target number of reps without any breakdown in form.

How much should I increase the weight by each session?

Increases need to be slow and incremental to allow your body to adapt to the load. (This is not just about muscle growth, but the connecting tissues, nervous system, & bone density changes).

There is no fixed rule for weight increases, however generally you’ll be able to make bigger increases in your Deadlift and Squat each session compared to the Bench because of the greater overall use of the body’s musculature in the former two.

A 10lb increase in the squat and deadlift, 5lb increase for the bench is common initially for each session. The increases you’ll be able to make to the lifts will gradually decrease over time. This is reflected in the progression example above.

How long can I continue to progress with this routine?

This is going to depend on genetics, starting muscle mass several factors, and recovery capacity. Recovery capacity will depend on:

  • Energy balance (surplus/ deficit/ maintenance energy needs)
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Quality of your diet.

At some point you’ll need to change things up to keep progressing. Recovery is an essential element of that and cutting back on the volume (number of sets or reps) or frequency (number of times per week) of an exercise can be just the trick.

Volume
This is the first thing to look at – reducing the number of sets from 5 to 3 for example. Many people will find that lower back soreness will become an issue first, so reducing the deadlift from 5 to 3 sets is a common progression.

Frequency
If the above reduction in volume allows you to keep increasing the weight each session then great. If not then you may need to reduce exercise frequency and look at some form of split routine – which is covered in the article, Progressing from ‘The Big 3′ to the ‘Split’

Don’t miss the obvious though:
Progressions can’t continue in a deficit forever, regardless of how clever the programming is. So if you’re cutting, don’t overlook the simplest answer – you may have to eat more to gain more strength, and that’ll mean you’ll need to make a choice between fat loss or muscle/strength gain. Beginners get spoiled initially as they can achieve simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss and forget this.


Pros, Cons and FAQs

What I like about The Big 3

  • Effective, simple, difficult to mess it up.
  • Volume gives the lifter plenty of form practice.
  • Cuts through the crap & focuses on the exercises that will give the trainee the most bang for your buck.

Drawbacks of The Big 3

  • Equipment availability – some gyms don’t have a squat rack (a smith machine doesn’t count). Some gyms don’t allow deadlifts (seems to be more of a problem in asia). – Change gyms or build a home gym.
  • Knowledge - Can be tough to find a trainer who can show you proper form. – Use the videos and books (see below) as your guide. Change gyms if possible.

Big 3 Specific FAQ

Will this routine still give me abs?

Yes. The abs are worked in the isometric contraction in every lift. Taking the squat as an example (as it’s the easiest to visualise) the abs, combined with the obliques and lower back, perform the function of keeping your torso rigid/tight so that your spine does not bear the load and/or tilt forward and snap you in half. Further reading from Mark Rippetoe.

Do I have to stick to those exercises above?

Unless you have a good reason (injury, mobility issue, etc.) then I’d advise you stick to the exercises above.

Front Squats, The Overhead Press, Rack Pulls, Dips (weighted/assisted), Chin-ups, Row variations… basically any multi-joint/compound exercises that lend themselves well to incremental loading can be used with this routine.

Advice: If it’s tough to perform some of the exercises initially, just try working into them slowly, foam rolling, stretching and practicing. It’s normal for it to be tough or a little weird initially. Assume you don’t have a mobility issue or imbalance first and practice, rather than falling suffering special flower syndrome that modern society loves. Note also the correct height to start the deadlift from.

What is a good warm-up?

You’ll want to do the minimum that you can to get warm and ready for the top set, without tiring yourself for your main work sets. I’ve covered this in detail in the FAQ, WARM-UP: What should I do?

Can I add in…?

No.

Why no chin-ups?

Adding this fourth compound exercise to those big three on a single day would be too much for you to recover from and threatens progress.

Yes, your biceps are worked with those big three. It’s the isometric work through holding the bar with the deadlift.

Got any lifting videos/resources?

Best Book:Starting Strength 3rd Edition’ by Mark Rippetoe. It will teach you about form.
Best Videos: Rippetoe’s are here: Main Barbell Movements Other Lifts & Tips.
Other videos: Type any exercise you’re looking for into Youtube along with any of the following names and you can be sure it’ll be good: Mark Rippetoe / Eric Cressey / Tony Gentilcore / Bret Contreras / Jordan Syatt

Final words of advice?

  • Work yourself gradually into it. Think of training like a suntan, you don’t take all the sun at once, and you must not try to grind yourself into the ground on your first session either.
  • Use a stopwatch to keep your rest times constant and make a log to track progress.
  • If your gym’s atmosphere is lame, put on some music to get yourself in the mood.
  • Headphones are also a good tool to keep people who love to chat at a distance.
  • Keep your Facebook addiction out of the gym.
  • Get 8 hours sleep.
  • If you don’t have a trainer of friend to who can check your form, using your phone to video yourself so that you check. – Compare with those videos linked to above and make adjustments.
  • Have fun!

Got it, now how do I put together a nutrition plan to go with this?

RippedBody Results CollageThat’s what I specialise in. Some people hire me to do it, but you can find everything you need to do this on this site. The level of depth and ease of use I believe is the main reason for the site’s popularity.

I’ve put all the diet guides in one place. This includes, How to Calculate Your Calories, How to Calculate Your Macros, Optimal Meal Timing, Calorie & Carb Cycling, Supplements, How to Track your Progress, basically everything you need.

Continue to -> Diet Guides


Principles | Programs | CardioFAQ

515 thoughts on “‘The Big 3′ Routine

  1. Hey Andy,

    Been doing the big 3 for a little over a month and I’ve strictly been using pronated grip but I’m seeing in the comments you tend to recommend mixed, is that correctt? Also with the mixed does it matter which hand I switch?

    • Hi Dylan. Do the pronated grip for as long as you can. If you can’t grip the bar currently then that simply means your connective tissues haven’t adapted and need more time. A switch grip is not a recommendation for beginners, it will just mask the underlying issue that will simply be fixed with a little more time.

  2. Hi Andy,

    I get a busy schedule sometimes and don’t have enough time in the morning or evening to do a full work-out. What do you think about say doing deadlifts in the morning, then OHP and Chin-ups after work in the evening?

    • Sounds like you have a prioritising issue Kierran. There are 168 hours in a week, you’re looking to find space for 3. The solution when we get busy isn’t to add things in to our schedules, but often to reassess and prioritise. Otherwise you end up doing multiple things half-heartedly.

      • Good answer, and you’re probably right. I’m still hitting the gym 3 x a week so it’s nothing to worry about yet.

  3. Hey Andy,

    Just curious, why the switch from RPT 3 sets in the slightly higher rep range to the 5 x 5 routine?

    Lloyd

  4. Hi Andy,

    I have a question regarding my chin-ups if you don’t mind? Yesterday i did the following progression: 1x5BW + Strong Band, 1×3 & 1×2 the same. I then did 1×5 with a light band, 1×3 with no band and 1×4 with a medium band.

    Previously i have managed 3 sets of 6-8 reps with the strong band. Seems clear that I’m not strong enough yet to do enough sets/reps on my own or with a light band. Any suggestions on some sets/reps i should try to aim for?

    • Stick wight he strong band for now until you have built up enough strength to move to a lighter one. If that means more volume whether sets of reps per set) then that’s fine.

  5. Hi Andy,

    I’ve recently started lifting again after a year of on/off half-assed working out. For the past few weeks I’ve been doing the big 3 in addition to other isolation exercises. Should I stop doing the additional exercises? I’m not really a beginner but I’m still classic skinny fat – no muscle. Will I lose the slight progress I’ve been seeing in my biceps, etc?

    Thanks

    • “Will I lose the slight progress I’ve been seeing in my biceps, etc?”
      See the image at the top of the article bud. Stick with the plan and you’ll be fine.

  6. Hi Andy!

    Just wanted to progress you since my last coaching with you ended. I’m on the slow bulk currently but have been very slow to add carbs. Thus far the weight has remained about the same and my lifts are still progressing. Everything is fully barbell now including overhead press.

    Two questions: I have finally hit intermediate strength on 3 of the 4 major lifts (Chin-ups, bench, squat, deadlift). Only one is lacking is squat as I had to restart it because I wasn’t squatting deep enough. Slowly getting it back but now my hips are always lower than my knees for a full parallel squat. 1. From intermediate to advanced, do I need to be more careful on how much surplus calories per week on bulk? 2. From intermediate to advanced strength, is it still a linear progression? Any tips from intermediate to advanced that I need to be aware of?

    Thanks! I’ve never been able to lift this heavy in my life so this is all new to me. Thanks to your coaching!!

    PS. I hope to send you an after picture in another 6-12 months. It’s a slow but steady progression.

    • Hi Eric, good questions.
      1. In theory yes, because less muscle gain be gained the more advanced we get. Intermediate and advanced are not easily quantifiable though, there is large genetic degree of variability, and those strength standards can only serve as a rough guideline.
      2. Yes. New article coming this week that you’ll find useful bud. Hold tight.
      Loom forward to that picture too.

  7. Hi Andy….I’m a senior in decent shape and follow your style of training/eating closely when I can. Unfortunately I am on the road quite often and am unable to find the time (travel city to city in US and abroad) or a gym to weight-train.

    In the past I have used hotel gyms just to keep some tone and the psych. benefit of lifting but lately I have been staying in places with NO facilities.

    Calisthenics just don’t seem to get the job done……Any ideas or suggestions?

    Thanks

    • Andrew Zomberg of Cressey Performance has a good article on making the best of ill-equipped hotel gyms that you may find useful here. Put this out on Facebook recently, consider liking the page so that stuff like this comes up in your feed.

  8. Hi, I’d like to add barbell glute bridges (hip thrusts) into my Big 3 routine. Where would they fit in? Once or twice per week, and if so, on which days?

      • I started lifting two years ago actually, using Starting Strength to learn form. I moved on to RPT for a while, and then stopped lifting for about a year. So am I back at beginner lifting then? I guess I am, since I took a year break right?

  9. Hi Andrew, do you have any suggestion to make for someone who will workout at morning, right after waking up ? I will have to do it for some days and I’d like to know if I should eat anything or if it is fine to train in fasted mode.

  10. Hi Andy

    Can we use the following variation for the beginner (female) who is working out at home.

    Day 1, 3 & 5 : Partial squats ( as she is a beginner) 5×5
    Knee supported push ups (as she is a beginner so not enuf strength) 5×5
    Kettlebell Deadlifts/Rack pull (bar picked up from a bench/high platform) 5×5
    Cardio 5-10 mins

    These can be further progressed to regular full squats, regular push ups and BB deadlifts as form, strength and mobility improves ??

    Thanks
    Gooch

    • Would it be sufficient workload for a beginner or should we add some more movements in the sessions for her?

    • Hi Gooch.
      Don’t do partial squats, just do squats with a lighter weight, air squats if necessary (i.e. no weight) and then a dumbbell clutched to the chest in the ‘goblet position’ while she works her way up to being able to handle the bar. – Shouldn’t take long unless they are obese.

  11. Question about the rest periods between sets, especially with the higher volume 5×5 Big3 workouts. Reading more details on the Starting Strength forums, Rippetoe seems to be a big proponent of increasing the rest periods between sets to as long as one need to crush the next set (anywhere up to 10 min it seems).

    I understand that 1) he has slightly different overall goals for his trainees and it shows in his programming and 2) we want to keep the rest precise and consistent to show gains, but I am wondering where you fall on at least systematically increasing rest periods as one lifts heavier and heavier. I am wondering where you fall on this and how it fits into your training philosophy, programming, and trainee goals.

    My main motivation is researching “stuck on bench press” recommendations from Rip, and after food and form (which I know I can work better) being the first thing he hammers on, the next very common answer is increasing rest between reps.

    Thanks,
    e

  12. Hey Andy,

    First: I hope the commentators posting here who haven’t used Andy’s coaching, please do! Andy saved me years of stupid gym training and dieting.

    Just wanted to update you that I’m fully barbell only now and I love it! I can’t believe I didn’t started sooner. Sometimes, I can be my worst enemy! Should of listened to you when we first started back in December. I can only imagine the difference it would be now! Luckily, on some movements, I’ve been able to hit pass intermediate strength. Looking forward to hitting advanced in a matter of years.

    1 quick question: How important is grip strength on training? I’ve switched to using straps for deadlifting on the first 2 sets and on the last set, I use my hands only. But also doing barbell row can get very taxing on my grip. Currently on the barbell row, I do 2 sets (no straps) with barbell and the last (3rd) set, I use one-arm dumbbell row to try to build grip strength as well. Should I only focus on strength and not worry about building grip strength?

    • Update: I did some research on Starting Strength and noticed Rippletoe like Stronglift, talked about doing barbell rows like deadlift. Meaning the bar starts and stops every time on the floor instead of hanging around the kneecap area. I will switch it to that for my 3 sets RPT. Now I don’t have to worry about grip issues because I don’t rush my rep and let it dead-hang before.

      But if you feel grip strength is important along with strength, I will probably do straps on deadlift on the 1st set. And the 2nd and 3rd set with 10% lb off, I will focus on raw hands.

    • Hi Eric, good to hear from you. Thanks for the kind comment. To answer your question:
      Very important. If you start using straps you will not develop your grip sufficiently. If you can’t pick the bar up off the floor without an aid, it’s a good sign that your other connective tissues haven’t developed enough to handle the weight of the bar yet. I would not use straps for as long as possible, if ever, unless there is a specific imbalance or other reason to.
      “Sometimes, I can be my worst enemy!” – Yes you can. But this basically comes down to fiddling with things unnecessarily.

  13. Hi Andy, I really need some advice here, after following your RPT style program for almost a year Ive had great success. However, lately Ive done something to my squat form and am now having really bad bicep pain down near my elbow during and after the exercise(elbow torque??). It is extremely painful and is obviously affecting my bench and dead lift afterwards. Ive researched and tried to correct on my own but cant seem to fix it. Can you please provide some suggestions as to why I’m getting this pain all of a sudden? I squat low bar style.

  14. Andy,

    You must have a lot of experience working with different people in different styles. From your experience working with clients, which style is “better” in terms of faster gains when doing a recomp / slow bulk – 5×5 or 5/3/1?

    You seem to be a big fan of 5×5, the thing is that although I fail or almost fail in my last set (bench) and really push myself doing squats and deads, by the end of the workout I don’t have that “wiped out” feeling that I used to have training five times a week, for 90 minutes,”super setting” between different machines. (when I did that I left the gym exhausted)

    It feels “strange” for me going out of the gym not totally wiped out and I wonder if that’s normal on 5×5. I also usually add 2-3 supporting exercises.

    Jeff from this post: http://rippedbody.jp/2012/07/08/a-little-summer-motivation-for-you/

    seems to have great results doing 5/3/1 @ four times a week. (I’m doing 3).

    Any thoughts?

  15. Hey Andy,

    After our time working together, I have been sticking to 5×5 for my main compounds and RPT to accessories. I read alot of guides on training by Lyle etc.it seems that 6-10 reps seem to be better for hypertrophy. Can I alter my rep ranges to 5×10 instead? Is there a a reason why 5×5 and not 5×8 or 5×10 is used?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  16. Andy,

    Is lifting heavy one of the primary ways to increase metabolism? What are other ways to do so?

    • Hi Dean. I could explain here in the comments without context, but that’d likely lead you down a road of irrelevance. Check out bodyrecomposition.com as Lyle’s articles are very thorough.

  17. Hey, Andy. Quick background, I was doing a starting strength 5×5 routine for a couple weeks, found your site and switched to big 3 with RPT. Did that about 5 weeks but then got lazy and took a month off. I realized that spending as little time in the gym as possible is important for me to stay motivated. I don’t think I could do the 5×5 routine as laid out in under 1.5 hours, maybe more like 2, due to working out in a crowded gym, and I think eventually I’d get discouraged by that. I’m comfortable enough with my form at this point to push to a pretty high intensity, I think. My question is, how to handle this? I was thinking just do the RPT split, accept the fact that it’s not the most efficient use of my time, but hopefully I’ll find it easier to stick with it and be successful. Or, maybe it would make sense to take this updated 5×5 big 3 routine, but rotate out one exercise per week, so I’m only concentrating on two in a night. Is this reasonable to you, or is some manning up in order?

  18. Hey Andy,

    First of, thanks for sharing your knowledge and putting up this awesome collection of infos. It’s probably been asked before (and I apologize if I repeat) but I just would like to get one thing straight with the Big 3 Routine and would have another question.

    Is it correct to stop after the 5th rep in the first one or two sets (even though I would be able to do a couple more) to save up strength for the sets to come? In other words, is the idea to have the muscle completely exhausted after the 5th set of 5 reps (and only then)?

    Also, I would like to know what exercise or exercises you would recommend in replacement for dead lifts since I can’t do them in my gym. Would you go for chin ups instead?

    Thanks again,

    Nuno

    • Hi Nuno.
      1. Yes.
      2. Not necessarily. The idea is to finish the work sets, go home, eat sleep and grow, then come back stronger. Training is the stimulus for that. Perceived rate of exertion shouldn’t be a guide of progress or main training concern.
      3. Racked deadlifts.

  19. Thanks Andy for the update to the article. It appears to be very simple to implement and I am looking forward to starting it!

    I’ll be joining a gym that doesn’t provide barbells, and I’ll have to make do with dumbbells.

    I’ve looked at videos on youtube that show how to do the 3 exercises using dumbbells, but there seems to be a bit of variability.

    Do you have any videos to recommend that you think do a good job of showing how to do the 3 key lifts using dumbbells?

    Thanks so much!
    Mark

    • Join a gym that has barbells Mark. Start as you mean to go on. Anywhere that doesn’t have barbells isn’t going to be a very serious training environment. – Such intangible factors shouldn’t be underestimated.
      You’ll make better progress using dumbbells in a powerlifting gym than you would in a shitty gym.

  20. Hi Andy!

    I’ve been having trouble lifting past 265lbs on deadlift with Pronated grip only. My original goal was to get to 315lbs on Pronated grip before introducing the Mixed grip.

    2 questions:

    1) Is the above strategy too ambitious, and I should insert the mixed grip when pronated grip fails? Or keep my current strategy and eventually it will hopefully build pronated grip strength to move up weight.

    2) Any recommendation on building Pronated grip strength?

    Thanks in advance Andy!

    • 1. Start using a mixed grip. The 315 is a nice goal but arbitrary.
      2. Practice with that. Do you want to have a very strong pronated grip though, or a strong deadlift? If it’s holding you back and then consider carefully switching grips or using straps.

  21. Hi Andy

    I’ll try and keep this as concise as possible.

    What are your thoughts on strength training (i.e the proposed 5×5) versus hypertrophy training (reps of 8-10)?

    I’ve done quite a lot of research and quite a few scientific studies would suggest that the latter is definitely better for growth due to total mechanical tension, the former for strength due to total mechanical load.

    I realise that strength gains is a good indicator of muscle growth, but I think the majority of users on here are looking at training in an aesthetic manner to look ripped and may benefit from having the option to do higher reps once a base level of strength is achieved.

    Personally I think (once our consultation is over) I may move onto a four week rotational routine:

    month 1 – strength emphasis. 5×5 big three
    month 2 – Hypertrophy emphasis. 3×8-12.

    repeat ad infinitum.

    Thoughts?

    All the best

    John

    • The differences between the two for size gains is going to be small if executed correctly and I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. No program will work forever and it needs to be tweaked.

      A program needs to be based on progression and logical changes made. Changing things like that ad infinitum may work for a time, but it’s not necessarily going to be optimal. To others reading (I think you’ve already read it John) the revenant article containing the principles is, The Principle Of Progressive Overload.

      • I’m starting to think ‘optimal’ is the most used word in the muscle community, bar none!

        I suppose it boils down to the individuals responses really, or do you think person A and person B could change, intertwine and overlap training methods and end up at the same place with very similar results?

        Read that article a few times now, brilliant as per the rest.

  22. Hey Andy! Great article!
    I just started this routine (I did RPT before, because I thought it’s better for beginner…)
    and I’ve got a question. My gym doesn’t have these very light 1,25 kg plates, and I’m sure I can’t progress from 55kg on benchpress to 60kg(because I’m on a cut).
    Can I increase the rest when moving to bigger weight and decrease later?
    For example:
    Session 1: 55kgx5x5x5x5x5 with 120 sec rest
    Session 2. 55kgx5x5x5x5x5 with 90 sec rest
    and on 3rd session try 60kg with 180 seconds of rest between sets?
    If succeed to do 5 sets of 5, then on session 4 decrease rest to 120 sec
    etc.

    Thanks in advance!

    Oh, and I’ve got an idea for article you could write in the future. How to choose good BCAA and is more expensive BCAA better than the cheap one?

    • Buy smaller plates bud.
      Thanks for the suggestion. I have no interest in recommending specific brands but I’ll edit the supplements article to make it clearer.

  23. What SPECIFIC suggestions can you give a MOTIVATED 60 year old (lifting regularly 45+ years)especially volume, frequency and macros for cutting and staying lean. Currently 197lbs/18% fat.

    Also, don’t you think setpoints are broken and injuries prevented by changing up routine after 6 (?) weeks?

    Any help you can give to the older, experienced, often plateaued lifter greatly appreciated.

    Best!

    • Professor K.
      1. I’d say that you may take more time to recover between workouts, so sleep and a good diet are more important, and you may need to have more rest days. However, if you’ve been lifting for 45 years then you know your recovery abilities. Nothing else needs to change, principles remain the same.
      2a. Not necessarily. Also, as you’re cutting and a very experienced trainee, maintenance of muscle mass is the key, sticking points (assuming you’re referring to strength gains) will not get unstuck while in a calorie deficit – clever programming will be in vain.
      2b. You may wish to change up the style of rows, chins or pulls or presses every x weeks if you have joint issues (elbow is a big one) but that isn’t a blanket recommendation.
      Please use your name when commenting from now on Prof.

  24. Andy,

    Do you recommend stretching following a lift or does that affect gains in any way?

    Thank you, sir.

  25. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the updated post. Truly amazing site here.

    I’m sort of sad to see the loss of going to ‘failure’ (with good form) on the top set. Is the need for recovery just too great? I really liked the way that you can gauge how much more you are capable of doing that day based on how hard you can kill that top set.

    In fact, the high-rep one-set-to-fail approach worked strangely well for the squat these last four months and not for anything else, which I’m wondering whether you think I should change–I used to get minorly injured every time I worked up to squatting 225 for more than a week with 3 sets of 5 and the last one as many as I could, but by doing only one set of ~20 reps once a week, I ramped up to 315 for 7 with what felt like some of the best form I’ve ever had, and a back-off set of 265 for 20. A few minutes after that, I would leg press one set of 295 lb for 15 reps.

    My other lifts did not get stronger, and actually got even weaker. I’d usually be tired…

    My eating wasn’t even that strict at all, but I’m in a college dining hall and would just aim for a lot of protein. (I’m 22, 6’2″, BW 194 lb, my weight didn’t change more than a pound or two in 4 months, but I got slightly less defined)

    This is all a way of saying, I’m happy to switch all this to 5×5 or 3×5, but I’m nervous that made me stall from last time.

    Should I do a high-rep RPT or 3×5? Or knock myself on the side of the head?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Dan, Knock yourself on the side of the head. Two reasons:
      1. You’ve become attached to a style of training and that’s not a good thing.
      2. There are always individual differences. You’ve got some experience now and you can decide for yourself based on experimentation.

      • a combo of questions and answers with andy as well as experimenting (within reason) has proven a lot of what andy advises. my training was professing slowly (or going backwards) with 5×5 to failure. now that I’m on 3×5 and only going near failure, I’m recovering much faster and my lifts are increasing faster too. even my bench which had initially dropped, is climbing back up. i think ample recovery (especially on a cut) is not given enough respect by many.

  26. So Andy, got a question for you: I’ve been half-assing both my training and my diet for about a year prior but since february I’ve been really anal about each and every gram I consume and got myself a powerlifting gym membership to get my form really crisp, so coach is the one setting up my training program 3x a week. He also want us to compete ASAP so competition day for me is the 18th of May.

    Now here’s the issue – I’ve been on a cut but making steady progress seeing as how going from sloppy to crisp form will do that for you, I’ve gained in all lifts except for the bench. There are 2 weight classes for me either 83 kg or 94 kg, I’m currently weighing in at 81 kg, having started out at about 87 in february seeing as how I don’t really want to compete with the big boys at 94 kg or cutting even further to 73 (don’t think it’s possible given the time limit) I’m thinking re-comp until competition day, I’ve pretty much stalled completely in the bench, which is to no surprise being on a cut and I’ve got more of a deadlifters body i.e. long Bones Jones arms so I figure if I go on a recomp now I might be able to make gains and maintain my weight or at least be close to the 83 kg (no more than 84 a week prior) limit come competition day.

    Also I’m thinking about adding bodyweight exercises on rest days, mainly push-ups for my weak ass bench. Thoughts?

    other stats that might be of interest:
    height 184 cm
    Bf 10% ~ (visible 6 pack and these sexy little veins poppin’ all over my body)
    Squat: 140 kg
    DL: 230 kg
    Bench: 90 kg (!)

    • Hi D. You’re not going to pack on any significant muscle mass or make any significant improvements to your lifts in just 16 days. It7s certainly not the time to be making changes. Ask your coach bud, that’s what he/she’s for.

      • I love my coach and he’s really thorough about technique and I’ve learnt so much from him when it comes to the big 3 but when it comes to diet he would prefer to have me fat and stomping it out with the big boys over at 94 kg or more. See allot of powerlifters are pretty fat, there’s allot of old powerlifters in wheelchairs cause they “caught the beetus” and had they foot cut off and I’m not trying to be one of them, no strength gains in the world is worth that. I wanna be sexy, healthy and strong – in that order.

        The powerlifting is a mean to an end, not the other way around. But I guess recomp? If I’m lucky I might be able to gain some strength in the bench, yeah?

  27. Hey Andy,

    I’m not quite sure which routine to choose. I’ve been lifting for a couple of years now. I’m pretty experienced when it comes to upperbody barbell lifting but it has been quite some time since I did any deadlifts or squats.

    Do you recommend doing the Big 3 routine?

    • Hi Carlo.
      To gauge progress… is what I understand from the article.
      Better for you to have a good re-read of the comments on that article or ask him than I.

  28. Hi Andy, again thanks for all this info, your articles and even reader comments and your replays to these make for excellent reading.
    From reading the 3day split and big 3 articles, I have come to the conclusion that if you have more time to train and are capable of recovering quickly from the main compound movements, that the big three is the better workout. Am I correct to assume this and also assume that it would be the better workout for someone looking to loose weight and gain strength? Is it also suitable for a slow bulk diet?
    Would it be detrimental to add chins to each big three day?

    With regards nutrition, I know rice is a great carb source but I am not the biggest fan. What is your opinion on using ground oats as an alternative? Also, if it fits my macros is it ok to drink 1ltr of low fat milk on training day? It contains approx. 50grams carbs but should I opt for a better source of carbs?

    Thanks and again, sorry if questions scream ‘newbie’.
    Rick

    • Hi Rick, thanks for the questions.
      1. Yes. 2. Yes. 3. Yes, this is specifically addressed above. 4. Not a good idea, your fibre intake will go too high. – See the FAQ fore guidelines. 5. Yes, but drinking calories is less satiating.

  29. Hey Andy. I wonder what exactly is the difference between previous system and this one’s 5×5. Do you believe this one is much more efficent for beginners? Or should I do whichever I like, this one is just easier to remember and less mentally challenging?

  30. Hi andy, i just read the new article explaining the big three. When you set up a plan for me it was based around RPT, this new article concentrates on 5×5 style. Any reason for the change in info? I have been considering going from RPT to 5×5 so this was good timing.

    • Hi Alan.
      The reason for the change above is that I wanted to keep it simpler and make the two more distinct.
      Also, in my previous writing I had worded things in a way that could have lead people to think that RPT was inherently better, or more effective, and thus lead a lot of beginners into a style of training that simply wasn’t suited for them. (Everyone wants to move ahead into something they consider more advanced.)

      RPT has no place in a beginners training.
      RPT and straight sets (5×5, 3×5, 4×6, etc.) an be used by non-beginners, so feel free to make the change.

  31. Thanks for another great article Andy.
    I have a question regarding deadlift volume.
    My deadlift seems high compared to my other lifts. For example
    Deadlift: 315 x 4
    Squat: 220×8
    Bench: 140×8
    My question is, given that my deadlift is quite out of proportion to my other lifts, would I be likely to burn out from 3x a week dead lifting? I was thinking pull-ups 2x a week and 1 deadlift session a week may be a good idea.
    Your advice is appreciated, and sorry if you have addressed this already, tried reading most of the comments.

    • Hi Sean. Yes, possibly/probably depending on your recovery capacity.
      Important to note that your deadlift could be higher because of your frame/proportions. Everyone will have lifts they are mechanically more efficient at.

  32. What’s the reason you didn’t include chin ups? To quote Berkhan: “In addition to the big three, I’ll say chins. This movement complements the big three perfectly by adding biceps and lat work, which are two muscle groups that the three other lifts don’t do that much for, relatively speaking.

    Besides being a great back movement, chin-ups also add more shoulder work to the arsenal, and delts in particular. I think I owe a great deal of my biceps and delt development to the fact that I have always been a fan of chin-ups. Never did much targeted work for these muscle groups (curls, lat raises, etc.).”

    • Or better yet, what do you think about adding pull up to this training? Would that be suboptimal and should I leave it till split routine?

      • Martin, thanks for the question, very often asked.
        You nailed it with this second comment. Always be careful to look at the context upon which someone has given advice. Martin says chins are his favourite compliment to the big 3, however I doubt he would recommend that someone attempt to do all of those four on the same day – would be too much. His recommendation is for some form of split routine, for the non-beginner.

        The beginner can get away with more frequency as they can recover quicker, so they will focus their efforts on exercises that matter the most.

        • Hey Andy,

          Could you please give a recommendation on how such a split program would look? I was thinking of incorporating the “Big 3″, chin-ups and military press. What would be your recommendation on how to combine these 5 during a week? How many sets/reps should I aim for with the latter two? 5×5 as well?
          Any other basic exercises you’d add?

          Thanks!

  33. Hey Andy!

    does it makes sense to train your butt with an extra workout if you doing deep squats and romanian deadlift? or is this fuckarounditis?

    • Not necessarily Julia. Would you like to make yourself extra bootylicious without adding more muscle to the thighs? The glutes, as they can be isolated quite easily, can take a hammering more often than is allowed if you just stick to the main compound lifts. Check out Bret Contreras’s work.

  34. Hi Andy,

    I am currently having issues with my deadlifts. The problem is im 5’2 which correlates with the size of my hands. I wear an xs in women’s size gloves. More than the weights themselves, I am having more trouble with keeping the grip on the barbells. I did an adequate 6 rep at 120 lbs today but I could not reach that on the other two reps to complete my set.

    Do you suggest the one hand over, one hand under technique? Or any suggestions at all? I don’t want to peak at 120lbs because of grip issue.

    • Chalk and alternating between one hand over and under is a good way to go. Would be a good idea to search around the starting strength forums for this one and see if Rip has jumped in to answer – not sure if there would be a recommendation for straps to help with those top sets – could well be.

      • Hey!
        I’m a short woman too (165cm) and always did my deadlifts (75kg) without gloves or anything else. Today I tried straps and it felt a lot more comfortable, I would really recommend them. I think next time I can even go up with the weight because my palms are not hurting anymore.
        And one hand over and one over helps a lot too! It feels safer in your hands and not like it’s almost slipping out your hands (felt like that when i didn’t use the one over and one under grip).

  35. Hi Andy,

    I’d have some questions about proper squat technique and would appreciate your insights a lot. The squat remains the exercise which is the hardest to learn for me.

    1) I’ve read Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength in which he suggests to take a big breath before each repetition. He suggests to breath in a way that allows pressure in the abdominal and thoracic muscles. I’ve found this video that explains the proper breathing technique for squats. Is this guide compatible with the suggestions from Mark? Personally I find it hard to lift my chest when breathing into the stomach. Do you have some tipps for this issue?

    2) Proper squat depth. Mark Rippetoe has an overview of 5 pics in his book which describe the different bottom depths. To me the difference between proper full squat below parallel and the position which is confused (undersurface of the thigh is parallel with floor) is a bit hard to get right. Do you have som tipps here?

    3) I didn’t find a trainer in my area yet, who teaches the proper lower back squat. Do you know some trainer who teaches the right technique online, e.g. with video analysis? Or do you even (consider) offering this service?

    Thanks in advance!
    Best regards Mike

    • Hi Mike.
      1. Check my twitter account. Linked to a video series there just on breathing.
      2. Use a camera, side on shot. Compare with the photo illustrations and/or Rippetoe’s videos.
      3. I don’t. Personally I don’t do it as I think there are a few too many issues with trying it online. Some things just have to be explained in person.

  36. Hi Andy,
    While Mark Rippetoe wrote that there should be no emphasize on any particular muscle group during the bench press,
    Lyle McDonald writes in his article http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/training/benching-with-the-pecs.html that one should focus on the pecs in order to build a bigger chest.

    Since bigger chest muscles are a common goal of many trainees and myself I was wondering of you have any experience with the different styles and if so what your recommendations would be?
    Thanks a lot!
    Kr Michael

    • The views are compatible. Beginners won’t be able to feel what muscle is being worked with a movement and just need to focus on lifting the weight, which is the reason Rippetoe says to focus on lifting the weight. His book has far more detail.

    • What I mean is, I’ve started following the Big 3 routine, and I’m just wondering about the rep ranges. For deadlift you recommend 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 in the RPT version. I tend to enjoy working in this range, even for bench and squats, so I’m wondering if I’d be okay doing bench and squat in this range as well, or if there’s some strong reason to use 6-8, 8-10, 10-12. It’s probably annoying when people question the details of a workout you put together, but I’m just wondering what your thought process was in choosing those ranges. thanks!

      • If you are making progress towards your goals then that’s fine. It’s a mistake to get hung up on a specific rep range, many/any will work, for a time. The above is Martin Berkhan’s example.

  37. Hi Andy, finally back on the mend and have been training again which is great.

    I wanted to ask if you’ve got any articles on muscle imbalance, I’ve notice a slight imbalance in my Lats and wanted to read up on this, as ever there are a lots of variants on the topic.

    Hope all’s well

    Nick

  38. Hey there!

    First, thank you for this site. Fuckarounditis is going way down with things like this.

    Just one question. I always heard barbell rows (pendlays or yates, I dont care) are a great exercise for the back and it helps to improve at pench press also.

    Is it not for beginners?

  39. Starting Strength is an intense program for sure, yet it only prescribes one top set of deadlifts. I’m curious why you suggest more deadlift volume, especially when on a cut? Considering it’s one of the most taxing exercises one can do, I’d think the least amount of sets required to progress would be the way to go, so why the extra 2 sets?

    • A single set of deadlifts may well work fine for a very well supervised beginner (like in the kind of gyms Rippetoe is hoping people will attend). However in reality people simply need more practice.

      • Thanks for the reply Andy. I guess at this stage I’m less concerned with practice and more worried with over-taxing myself, especially my low back. Besides, in Rippetoe’s setup you do about 5 warmup sets, three of them at five reps, so I think you still get practice in.

        Also, I see that Berkham in his Reverse Pyramid Revisited article wrote about doing just two worksets with deadlifts, so I think I might try that as a happy medium and see how I go.

        • Martin’s two warmup set recommendation is based on people following his split routine RPT model, which isn’t targeted at the beginner. Don’t mix things. – This is especially important at the early stage of things.
          Always concern yourself with practice. See every set as practice. I still see every set as practice. The effort and change comes as a result of focus on good form.

  40. Hi Andy, I’m a few months into eating and lifting along the lines that you recommend for a beginner body recomp. My workout is a modification of your Big 3 – basically I alternate Bench with Overhead Press, and alternate DLs with Weighted Chins.

    I love the workouts, and I’m progressing nicely with all my lifts (though pressing is a struggle). My question is about sometimes feeling worn down – both mentally and physically – the day after a workout. It’s not every time, but sometimes I’m just really lacking in energy the day after lifting. I’m fine the following day, my next lifting day. It’s not about soreness; it’s about lacking the energy to do much.

    Any ideas as to what might be going on these days? Any experience with this? I’m wondering if these “low” days are occurring when I don’t get enough carbs following workouts. That’s my best guess. Any thoughts?

    • Yes, could be that the carbs are low (but then lethargy goes hand in hand with calorie deficits to an extent – part of your body rebelling). Other potential causes in order of likeliness: stress, sleep, deficit continued for too long (take a diet break), training/exercise frequency too high, food choices.

  41. Hi Andy, David Bier here. I have a couple of questions.
    Firstly, you’re keen on 5×5 but Starting Strength is quite clear about a 3×5 scheme. Personally I can’t imagine doing another 2 sets so this seems to be a choice of volume vs intensity. Is that right?
    Secondly, I’ve missed by squat reps for 2 consecutive workouts and it’s only Week 2, which shouldn’t be happening! Should I drop back to my last successful weight and work back up in smaller increments? I only added 5kg to my last successful one which is completely in line with the SS advice, but can’t get out of the hole halfway through Sets 2 or 3.

  42. Hi Andy,

    First of all congrats on helping so many people and also putting together this website.It’s only been a few weeks since I discovered it.However I think it was a good timing because I want to start working out.It would not be my first gym experience but undoubtedly I am a beginner.I’m 22 years old,1.85cm height and 86kg weight.The problem is that I don’t have much muscle mass and the worst thing is that most of my body fat is on my belly and my obliques (or love handles lol).Also a little bit on my thighs.My arms are really skinny (32-33 cm),forearms the same.Pecs,not as bad as my arms,but still bad.Back and legs are ok-ish so to say.I’m a bit worried because,as you can see,my constitution is not too good.But I am young and confident I can make significant progress with the right discipline,diet and training routine.Which brings me to my question: What do you think would be the best training routine for me in order to lose the fat in my midsection and in the same time put on muscle mass especially on arms and chest,where I have an acute lack of muscle.

    Thank you for reading and keep on the good work.

    Cheers,
    DL

  43. Hey Andy, hope all’s well.

    Have a few questions, that might have been asked before.

    1) I’m still on a cut and doing the big 3, 3 times a week – I’ve noticed strength gains and some coming down in size and weight but it’s been marginal, biceps have stayed pretty much at the same level, chest, waist etc has gone done by .2, .3 week on week. Should I be looking to change the nutritional requirements as suggested or stay doing what I am doing as I am going down but slowly for the time being and then look to alter it when I reach a plateu with no change for 2 weeks?

    2) Biceps, these guys are a problem muscle for me, prior to getting into this programme they were problematic, anything I ca do to try and get a bit more girth there?

    Thanks

    Nick

    • Hi Nick.
      1. Fat is burned from all areas of the body. Strength gains in most cases correlate to muscle gain. Your bicep measurements holding steady while your strength going up and waist coming down is evidence of that. If you want to put more focus on fat loss, make an adjustment downwards. Sounds to me like you have a nice balance. Further info on How and When To Manipulate Your Macros.

      2. Adding in direct work is a common mistake too may make when they need would be better off getting stronger overall in the main compound movements. For beginners, everywhere is a weak point. If you’re doing the big three, stick with that.

  44. Andy,

    I am not a complete beginner since I worked with weight for some time in past.

    However, I hadn’t been worked out for long time and just started light workout couple of month ago when I tried to loose some weight.

    What is the best strategy for progressing for person like me? Should I treat myself as total beginner and do all three lift at same workout?

    This has been always a problem before when I took long time off from Gym. I wasn’t sure how fast/slow I need to progress when I come back.

    When I go slow, I felt like I am not putting 100%. However, when I go fast, knowing I’ve done much heavier weigh before, I felt like and I actually moved too fast.

    What is a good strategy for person who came back to weight game?

    • Start as a beginner at first while you work your way back into things.
      Please use your name from now on when commenting.

      • Thanks for quick reply!
        I am doing leangain IF now for loosing my body fat.

        When is the good time to switch to RPT style split routine? After a month on full body big3 routine?? Or would it based on the weight that I lift? I used to bench 225 for 5 reps. Should I switch to split if I am close the that number? Btw, I currently bench only 145 for 8 reps.

        Sorry about the name thing.. I just hit the post and it’s posted like that. I am a newbee here so not much familiar with UI.

        Thanks!
        Young

  45. Hi Andy,

    I have a two part question: as a client you recommended the big 3 with 1x 5 dead lifts and 5 x 5 bench and squats. The Starting Strength wiki (that you recommended) seems to set the last two exercises at 3 x 5.
    1) Should I ever increase my sets of dead lifts beyond 1 per session?

    2) Why the difference between your prescribed 5 x 5 and SS’s 3 x 5? What do you see as the advantages of 2 extra sets?

    As always thanks for your input. Eveb after finishing my online training with you I remain an avid follower of the site.

    Max

    • Hi Max. All comes down to recovery capacity. The recommendation regarding the deadlift was based on guessed recovery capacity (based on your overall training plan volume, frequency, deficit and verbal feedback on feelings of soreness etc.) at the time. The main thing always is this: are you progressing? The set, rep, frequency, not forgetting diet, can all be adjusted for that.

      • Thanks for this mate, it makes a lot of sense. This could be why my bench press dropped by 14kg during our body recomp training and I haven’t been able to increase in strength despite moving on to a bulking macro intake. Granted I was training at 3×5 before your recommended 5×5 three times a week, but it’s still a significant drop. A drop that I haven’t been able to climb back out of (in fact, it still lowers even further from time to time).

        As I communicated to you during training, I suspect my recovery time is below average at least as far as my chest is concerned. My chest remains sore for a week after one work out. Whereas my squats continue to increase and my deadlifts too. I’m going to be experiment with 3×5 twice a week and see if I can get my strength back.

        Would the eventual aim to be to bring deadlifts up to 3×5 and then 5×5? Or are certain body/recovery types simply better suited and limited to 1×5?

        Cheers
        Max

        • That isn’t to do with body type particularly. As I said, the goal is to progress with strength, which isn’t necessarily going to be linear depending on the level of experience. Get yourself a copy of Rippetoe and Kilgore’s “Practical Programming for Strength Training” as this covers things in a very high level of detail.

  46. Andy,

    It’s been a while since I’ve read this page. I notice you reccomend a slightly higher rep range for RPT now, going from 5-6 reps on the top set to 6-8, and increasing onwards from there.

    I’m just wondering why is this?

    Regards,
    Lloyd

  47. Hello Andy!

    I feel like i am gaining a whole lot of confidence on both the squat and the deadlift.
    Been able to push my limits on both pretty good. The bench on the other hand, i feel as i am not going forward at all. 4 weeks ago i went from 55 kg to 58 kg and then i tried upping it to 60 kg 3 weeks ago but failed on the third set – spotter had to help lift the bar off me. I have been doing 5×5 on 58 kg since then and today i tried 60 kg again. Failed at the third set again, had to get help to lift the bar off my chest.
    I do not believe that it has anything to do about form. My ass in on the bench and my arms are vertical. My question here is should i keep going 5×5 on 58 kg until i feel more confident and then try to nail down 60 kg or should i go 2×60 then 3×58 for a while and then up each set until i reach 5×5 on 60 kg.

    Hope you have had an awesome christmas and a happy new year!

  48. Hi Andy – so close grip chin up is not needed when doing the big three routine?

    Kind of like chin ups even though I can barely do eight at the moment.

    Cheers.

  49. HI Andy!
    I started LG two months ago and have made great strenght gains, being relatively new to barbel training, but i started with a traditional split routine, i’m just reading this 3 big routine for starters now, (Monday: DL – OHP / Wed: Bench – Dips / Fri: Squats – legs- using RPT on all big lifts) i’m 73kg – 1.73m 24y.o. i have gained strenght in all my big lifts (started DL 100kg now i’m 140kg 5 reps) but i’m still not seeing much fat loss on my waist area. i’m on a -10 -30 cut (thats 1900-1400 cals).

    Now that i read that i should have probably started doing the big three lifts three times a week, my question is, is it better if i switch back to this routine, or is it too late and i should better stick with the “split” that i’m already doing? i ask because i don’t really feel soared during the week, maybe just a little on squat day but that’s it, so maybe i should be doing those 3 bigs 3 days a week.

    Thansk a lot for your help!

  50. Hey Andy,
    I have been on ss for about six months now, but have had to deload my squat about 3 times because my form consistently breaks down at the same weight- in that time, rippetoe nutrition advice has increased my waistline 5 inches (37″) Do you think cutting down on rpt and then proceeding to a slow bulk would be better, or are you a fan of packing in the calories (and the fat) until the trainee has exhausted their linear gains?
    also, here are my current stats and changes in six months on ss
    6’2″ 145-189 lbs id guess now 15-20 percent bodyfat? and I am not one to underestimate- barely visible 4 pack in right lighting haha)
    bench-135-165 lbs
    squat-135-242-back down to 165 because of shit good morning form
    deadlift-185-300(just had first deload)
    ohp- 88-110
    chinups-5, period.

    1.- I overdid the pushing knees forward and out on squat when adjusting my form and now my left knee hurts like a bitch, what should I do?
    2.- yes, I have read ss like 8000 times and am getting help on the ss forum. I just wanna know if If is an answer to gaining muscle without turning into a fattoo (which is what my skinny fat body tends to do.)
    3- any idea what a good timeline is for my cut? possible goal weight?

    Thanks again for all of the help!
    Michael.

    • shoot I forgot, you see anything wrong with doing incline bench instead of bench. I am a young actor going for the ladies love it upper chest b.s.- if your answer it “go look at martin beckham” no need to write it out.
      I only ask because my pecs seem to consistently develop like man boobies and I’m kind of sick of it.

    • Hi Michael.
      1. Possibly. See the FAQ on injury.
      2. Yes. If you calculate things correctly, track and adjust according to the guides on this site.
      3. That depends on you. See this post and this one as there are recommended rates of fat loss in there. This is also known as, reading the site.
      4. Take your pick between those two exercises. Similar activation anyway. Your “mobiles” are made of fat and the issue is solved by getting leaner overall, no spot targeting can take place.

  51. Hey Andy – finally got round to asking this as I’m sure I saw it somewhere on the site but do you recommend a warm down? I usually do a 5 – 7 min light jog or some boxing pad work for 5 mins.

    • Irrelevant David. The objective of the workout is to lift the weight and get out of the gym to eat and recovery for next time.

  52. Hi Andy. Great resource this, thanks for the info. I’ve been on the ‘Big 3′ for the past 9 weeks or so and made some great strength progress, especially as the deadlift and squat were exercises I’d only merely dabbled with before, so I’m very happy with this. HOWEVER, I’ve just started a cut and several sessions in I’m seeing a noticeable drop in my endurance. I’ve not dropped weight yet, but come the end of my session I feel totally drained, and whereas before I was able to get in some weighted chins or OHP, I simply can’t do that anymore. It takes all my effort to finish the big 3. And this is only a week in to my cut, so I’m concerned how it’s going to go from here. Do you think I should switch to a split instead? Or maybe drop weight? I’m wary about if I did a split, doing these exercises less frequently could be detrimental to strength and general progress, but then I know on a cut I have to accept things will be harder. I’m on about 1750 cal deficit per week, aiming for about 0.5lb loss/per week. I’m approx 12-13% bf, aiming to get to 10% before i bulk. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Figured I’d chime in since I’m in the same boat. I’ve had to scale back my workouts into more of a split routine. I used to do squat, press, deads, chins 3x a week but now I’ve had to scale it back to:

      Mon – Deads / Press (rotating OHP with bench every other day for balance) Wed – Press / Chins
      Fri – Squats

      My current weights are 325×6 for deads, 205×6 for bench, 110×6 for OHP, and 235×8 for squats just to give you some scale, I’m 5’8″ 171lbs currently, trying to shred another 15 lbs.

      I started the routine in a surplus and had no end in sight to my strength / recovery, but now since starting a deficit over the last 3 weeks I’ve had a tough time accepting mentally that I can’t lose body fat and still be the incredible hulk.

      I was even deadlifting 3x a week right up to 3 plates and beyond. The first thing I noticed in a deficit was my lower back’s ability to recover.

      For me, splitting up the volume is what worked, along with shifting the mindset to “holding on” to strength instead of trying to continually jump up 5lbs weight each workout. Now, even if I reach my top set, I don’t move up the following session unless I’m VERY confident. Moving up in a deficit (For me) has been a tricky game.

    • Hi John, this is natural as now you are in an energy deficit and so recovery capacity has been cut back. You’ll want to correct that by dropping work volume in some way. One method would be to work towards some form of split with the goal of maintaining your strength from here through to shreds. See this article.

      • Hi Andy

        Recently started Starting Strength last month (similar to The Big 3 Routine) and I’ve found that until I increased my rest day calories to a surplus (+10% Rest/+30%Training), I wasn’t able to progress with the weight each workout.

        i.e lots of 553 / 552 reps for Squat/Bench/Deadlift/OHP when I was following the -10%/+30% macro.

        As soon as I used a surplus – I hit all my target reps every workout.

        Is this a sign for me to switch to a split if I want to have a deficit on a rest day?

        • Hi Andrew.
          Forget about the +30/-10 or +30/+10 (or whatever numbers in between). Energy balance calculations are theoretical only, metabolism is adaptive. You have your answer on what was working already. Make increases or decreases relatively, based on goals, from this baseline.

  53. I am a big fan of compound training. I have see several testimonials photo with six packs, does only compound training will give me 6 packs abs or I need to do additional abs workouts. Thanks Regards
    Pascal

  54. Hi Andy,

    It’s Friday… I just finished the last workout for the 1st week:

    Squats (5 mins light cardio, joint warm-up, 3-4 sets of warm-up, 5 sets of 5 reps)
    Bench Press (5 mins light cardio, joint warm-up, 3-4 sets of warm-up, 5 sets of 5 reps)
    Deadlift (5 mins light cardio, joint warm-up, 3-4 sets of warm-up, 5 sets of 5 reps)

    1. I finished each workout 1.5 hours and out of breath… is it not too much? On the 2 last sets, I usually rest more than 90 secs.

    2. You recommended to read Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength and I’ve bought and read it… and he said, “you should be able to keep your back arched through the whole squat” + hip drive… when I did these, my lower back really felt the pressure through the whole squat… is it okay?

    3. He also recommended to look down, how do you know we have reached enough depth (parallel squat)? It’s really hard only to visualize it (the master cue).

    4. Is it true we can’t do weight training and yoga? Weight training = tightening, but yoga = stretching.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Rudy.
      1. This is a routine that has been performed by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world. You’ll be fine.
      2. Yes, it’s supposed to be difficult, your body will adapt.
      3. Video yourself from the side. Compare with the videos I have linked you to. (For those reading this comment, see the video links on the bottom right of the site front page.)
      4. No. Feel free to continue your yoga. :)

  55. What’s up Andy, so i was just wondering about the beginner style of lifting. Before getting into the RPT style, I wanted to follow Rippetoe’s sets of 5 reps style and keep increasing the weight until I couldn’t get a full 5 reps for each exercise. I have 2 questions about this: should I follow the standard exercise specific warmup (3-4 warmup sets, 5-6 reps, and rest 3 minutes before lifting) and are there any rest periods between the sets of 5 reps or do you just do 5 reps, load more weight and do 5 more reps and keep going in that fashion until you can no longer do 5 reps.

    -Thanks, Billy

    • Hi Billy. Your warm up question is covered in the FAQ and applies to all styles of strength training.

      are there any rest periods between the sets of 5 reps or do you just do 5 reps, load more weight and do 5 more reps and keep going in that fashion until you can no longer do 5 reps.
      What you are describing is the first workout recommendation to get a baseline of your strength. After that, the next workout you’ll warm up then start at the max weight you could do the last session and do it for multiple sets.

  56. Hey Andy,

    I was wondering about this full body workout. I see people advising to train every 2 to 3 days 3x a week yet there are contradictory programs stating to rest on the every other day. What gives? I feel that there’s not enough rest time (24hrs) between workouts due to deadlift and squats repeated so quickly

    Thoughts?
    Ty

  57. Hi Andy,

    I was wondering for the barbell exercises if they can be substituted with dumbbells. The gym at my university have only 3 barbells of which are always pre-occupied with other students (competitive to get a spot). Considering that I have just started exercising I was thinking I stick to the dumbbells for now until I increase my strength that demands heavier weight sets.

    Thanks.

    • They can, but if you’re new to training then you’ll likely see better results with the barbells. Not necessarily because they are better per se, but being a beginner you need to learn to work the muscle, and with barbells that will get done pretty much regardless, but with dumbbells it’s easier to make form mistakes that will reduce the efficacy.

  58. Andy, just wanted to ask you a simple question, I know your time is valuable so if you can give me a quick tip or some of your advice I’d GREATLY appreciate it.

    I started the big 3 routine and my weights are increasing nicely in all lifts. I read starting strength per your recommendation and have been low bar squatting per Mark Rippetoe’s recommendation (do you have a preference for low bar or high bar to maximize hypertrophy?)

    Anyways, my question is this. With the low bar squat things have been progressing decently fine, but the last 3 weeks or so I’ve developed some pretty severe groin pain. It’s not a tear or a sprain, but it sure does hurt like hell. Sometimes coming home from the gym I can feel some pretty intense pain if I raise my knee forward, and especially if I turn it outward.

    Is this a form issue? I re-read the squat chapter in starting strength and it seems I may not have been pushing my knees out enough like Mark Rippetoe suggests. Should I switch to high bar? Or is low bar OK to stick with and do you have any form advice or advice in general about my groin pain?

    As of now I am taking 2 weeks away from squatting to let it heal fully as I don’t want to make it worse…thank you SO much brother.

    • Jacob, thanks for the question. Preference is for low bar unless the person doesn’t have the shoulder flexibility/scapular ROM to be able to do so.
      Your issues could be form or something else. You need to get someone to look at your form and see what caused it. Further advice regarding injury in the FAQ on injury.

  59. Hi Andy,

    It’s Steve on your program. I’m having a plateau with my bench press. Been stuck on the same weight for about 2 weeks (about equal to my body weight). Any way to crack forward?

  60. Hey Andy,
    Can you elaborate a bit more on “progessive poundage”? For example does it just invlove doing one set per excersize and if so is a warm up still included? How many total sets and what percentage of weight and intensity?
    Any clarification would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks,
    Roman

    • Progressive poundage means increasing the weight whenever you can, given the same circumstances. – This means form, rest period, sets, reps, every other variable will remain the same.

  61. Hi Andy. Omar here (your imminent future client!). Would you recommend undulating periodization for someone who is new to strength training and doing The Big 3, RPT style? Periodization is something I am reading up on now. As I understand it, linear periodization would not be a good idea for someone doing strength training because in a typical set-up, there would simply be too much time – and all at once – spent on higher reps/lighter load. Undulating periodization seems to negate this problem but I have the impression it is recommended for non-beginners. Any thoughts?

  62. Hello Andy,

    I’ve been following your Big 3 Routine and have calculated my own macros with successful results, gaining strength while on a cut. I’ve been recently approached by my gym though not to drop my deadlifts because “it makes too much noise” (Korea still hasn’t learned how to properly DL yet). I can control my deadlifts but since they’ve become so heavy it makes it very difficult to do so without risking my lower back.

    My gym membership will be expiring soon fortunately so I will be switching gyms soon. In the meantime, are there other remedial exercises I can use to keep up with my strength goals? If not, should I just do one set of deadlifts? Any advice would be much help.

    Cheers,

    Jed

  63. Hi Andy,
    I apologize as I thought you had said that. Perhaps it was Berkham or someone else.

    Can’t drop the hot yoga, so I would rather get extra rest. Nothing has improved and transformed my life like yoga has.

  64. How much time do you put between your warm up sets? (ie 25,40,60,80% etc) I don’t wanna go too fast and snap something or wear myself out. But I also don’t take to take all day in the gym.

  65. Hi Andy,

    One of the more difficult components of training is knowing when I’m not rested enough and put down the weight and leave the gym. I learned this after pulling my back muscles several times through the deadlift.

    Yesterday I was able to do this. Last week I easily dead-lifted 355 x 5, so this week I attempted to lift 360 and couldn’t do it. I tried it 3 times and could only get the weight a few centimetres off the ground. I remembered what you said about never dropping weight from your lifts, so I unloaded the barbell and left the gym. That was tough!

    Going into the gym I knew that the signs of fatigue were present. Hot yoga from the day before had exhausted me and my glutes, hip flexors and other muscles were sore. I felt tired waking up and my morning kettlebell swings were lacking strength and endurance. However, like a Navy SEAL, I decided to press on anyway.

    So my question is, should I wait a couple days before making my deadlift attempt or can I just forget about it this week and make sure I’m well rested next week? The latter option is my preference as I like to keep squats on Sunday and not mess up 3-day split. Will I lose strength by putting off the lift for a week or perhaps it will be beneficial?

    I look forward to your thoughts.

    Ken

    • Hi Ken:
      “I remembered what you said about never dropping weight from your lifts”
      I do not recall making a blanket statement like that. Please link to me where I said that so I can see what context that was in.

      If you’re tired from hot yoga and it affects your training then you have your answer – drop the hot yoga.
      It may be beneficial to wait until next week.

  66. How pivotal is it to go below parallel on the squat? Should I drop weight to get there?

    My PT said some people aren’t flexible enough to go below parallel and keep their feet flat on the ground.

    Is it better to drop weight until I can get below parallel?

    • Squatting to parallel is important. It’s unusual for someone to not be able to get low enough to do even that if their bar position, stance and knees are our correctly. Perhaps watch the Starting Strength videos linked to on the bottom of the side-bar on the home page to see if there is something you can change. If not then stretch/foam-roll until you can get to that position.
      Not squatting to at least parallel can put undue stress on the knees.

  67. just making sure I understand the warm up concept:

    you do 5 x 5 just bar
    then For squats I usually do:

    5 sets of 5reps with just the bar
    25% x5
    40% x5
    60% x5
    80% x2

    then 3 minutes later do top set?
    is that your top for
    1×5
    or
    5×5?

    if the latter, it seems like a long time to hog a squat rack. 14 sets in total per exercise…

      • Not anyone’s slave thankfully, I just didn’t think your description was clearly defined and was asking for clarification on your personal approach so I can make an informed choice of my own. Still curious.

        • Still curious? Fair enough, but I don’t have anything more to add bud. Play around and see what works for you so that you perform best.

  68. Hi Andy,

    I have a question regarding warm-up sets for the big 3 routine, and working out the correct warm-up weights and reps. My top set for BP is 95lbs x 10 reps. In my last session, i did the following warm-up sets:

    30lbs x 8 – 45lbs x 6 – 55lbs x 5 – 65lbs x 5 – 70lbs x 3 – 80lbs x 3 – 85lbs x 2. Then ontop top set of 95lbs x 10 – 85lbs x 12 – 80lbs x 14.

    What are you’re thoughts on the above? I do feel i should probably drop the reps and up the weights for my top sets though?

    • Looks to me like you’re messing around a little too much with your warmups and you’re likely fatiguing yourself before you get to that top set. At the current weight you are lifting do 5×5, not RPT. You need volume and to work on form.

        • Also, is there any positive or negative in which order to do the exercises? IE: Squats, then Bench, then Deadlifts to split up the Squats & Deadlifts?

          • Squats first as you don’t want to be your most tired when you have a lot of weight on your back. Bench next to give your lower back a small break. Keep your order so you can track your progress objectively.

          • Thanks Andy, changed my routine to the following for DL: 5 x 0lbs – 5 x 30lbs – 5 x 40lbs – 5 x 60lbs for warm-up. Then top set i did 5 x 70lbs – 5 x 80 – 5 x 90lbs 5 x 100 – 5 x 110lbs. Is this better?

            • The idea of a warm-up is to leave you in a position to perform your best for your top sets. How you get there will depend on the individual.

            • That was fine for me, and i could probably lift a whole lot more tbh. But, just gonna build my form first and build it up slowly.

          • Hi Andy,

            With regards to RPT and warm ups; the bar i use weighs 20lbs. So would you then say 25 % of 120lbs is 30lbs + bar? or would you only put on 10lbs of weights to make the 30lb weight?

            • You’re looking at this a little too much in detail. See the FAQ on warm up bud.

  69. I really want to do the big 3 routine on my recomposition now -20% +20%, however, is deadlifting 3 times a week a good idea? I don’t know if I am a beginner in strength tho and if the big 3 would be good for me, my current lifts are: 60kg x 6 bench press, 90kg x 3 deadlift, 85kg x 6 squat and I weight 64kg with about 15% bodyfat 5’6 height – does that mean I am still a beginner and the program would be good for me? Also, would it work for future bulk? Can I add chins and dips to it while on recomp? like lets say +chins on Mondays, and + dips on Fridays? Thanks again Andy, your website completely changed my life, and you are a legend for sharing your knowledge with people! Respect

  70. Andy,

    I really want to do something like the Big 3, but I hurt my shoulder Bench Pressing awhile back, so I’m wary of it until I get checked out by a doctor. Weighted Chin-ups and Dips seem to make my shoulder feel much better, though, so I was going to substitute them for the Bench Press. I guess it would be the Big 4.

    I know you can’t give me any medical advice, but from a strictly bodybuilding or exercise perspective, what are your thoughts on subbing weighted Chins and Dips for the Bench Press? Pros and Cons? Any other suggestions? Thanks!

    • Sorry, one more thing. If the Weighted Chins and Dips are an acceptable substitute for the Bench Press, what rep range would you recommend? Same as the Bench Press, or lower like the Deadlift? I ask because I remember reading somewhere that Martin Berkhan recommended lower reps for Weighted Chins… Thanks again!

  71. Hi Andy,
    i,ve started the big 3 program.I,m new to the barbells world and fitness in general.Some years ago i suffer an accident. I have one leg with less strenght that the other and some problems like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cauda_equina_syndrome in this leg.
    i,ve have big problems to mantein theequilibrium with free squats.Can i do the program with this machine instead?, is not smith machine. http://www.google.es/search?q=squat+machine&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=SbyQUdXoAdHT7Aax7YHIAg&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1915&bih=1079#imgrc=_1hHjl-DZkmAHM%3A%3BhPziMwCE6ByPVM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fdi1-3.shoppingshadow.com%252Fimages%252Fpi%252Fb3%252F50%252F49%252F32985797-260×260-0-0_Body%252BSolid%252BLeverage%252BSquat%252BCalf%252BRaise%252BMachine.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shopping.com%252FBody-Solid-Leverage-Squat-Calf-Raise-Machine%252Finfo%3B260%3B260

    Thanks!

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