T Nation

Beginner -> Intermediate


What up everyone, I've been lifting on and off a little bit for a couple years, but only in the last couple months got real serious (stupid girlfriend broke up w/ me...). Since then I've hit my strongest point ever increasing my bench working weight from 145 to 195 and going from 8 pull ups to 18 with no cheating. I haven't plateaued really, here is the routine I've been using:

Day 1: Chest, Tris...40-50 sets, 4 exercises per set, 90 seconds rest. Enough weight for 5-8 reps to failure.
Day 2: Backs, Bis...same thing
Day 3: Rest

Been mixing in some cardio as well

Obviously there are a couple problems with this. For one, by completely neglecting my shoulders I can do 60 push ups but then my shoulders burn so bad I can't continue and they are the first to give out. Gotta start working them in. Second, its a lot of sets, I'd prefer do a little less. I guess I am a little unique, I don't care about working heavy with legs, I'd rather gain speed/athleticism unless I start to get out of whack size-wise.

Anyway I was thinking about switching to something like this:
Day 1: Chest (Tri's secondary), 30 set range
Day 2: Back (Bi's secondary), 30 set range
Day 3: Shoulders/Abs/little bit of cardio
Day 4: INSANITY (basically a cardio/plyo program, ton of jumping, kills my legs
Day 5: Bi's/Tri's
Occasional rest day thrown in there when I'm too busy

I'm 5'10, 180...about 20% BF according to my fancy scale.
Goals in order are:
Lower bf to 12% range
Get bigger upper body
Increase endurance

What do you guys think of the new plan? I'm a little concerned about overworking my tri's since I'lll be hitting them on chest day, shoulder day, and arm day. Do you think this is a problem? Also, what day would you put stuff like dips/push ups, chest or arms?


train legs, you massive sissy

if you are 5 10", 180lbs and 20% bf (144lbs lean), you need all the muscle you can get


I second that! Get training those legs, you're only holding yourself back otherwise, no matter your goals.


Plyo is good... plyo only is "I used to play basketball in high school and still wanna try and look kewl in da gym" lol. Squats and deads required to be intermediate :slightly_smiling:


Ok if I start throwing in legs, when do I do the cardio/endurance? I can't have my legs too dead. It's not a huge goal of mine to be able to run long distances but I have a bad family history of heart disease so I do need to put in some work to prevent that


I used to think of myself as an intermediate lifter. I also used to hate squatting because it made my legs sore, and did them merely as a formality to be able to say I included my legs in my routine.

Only now that I have been working on my squat and deadlift for seven months, and my olympic lifts for four months do I realize that I am not even approaching intermediacy.

Train your legs.

Squatting the day before I run doesn't make my legs too tired to run. Running the day before I squat however...

Give this article a read:

You can train power and "cardio/endurance" if it's important to you.


You can still do your conditioning whenever. Your legs will be tired at first, so take it easier in you first few sessions. After a week or 2, you will be used to it.

Everyone should condition, weather heart disease is in your family or not doesnt matter, CVD is the biggest killer in America.


Just do it...



Good article


don't forget there are forms of conditioning that either don't involve running or will impact your lower body differently.

  • jump rope
  • rowing machine
  • HIIT with various explosive movements/complexes
  • heavy bag striking or grappling drills
  • loaded carries for time or distance
  • superset/giant set/short rest between sets
  • swimming/ underwater drills

that's all I have off the top of my head that doesn't involve running.

pick one that won't impact your next lifting session and have at it.


Everyone posted good suggestions but has no one noticed the 40-50 sets thing? Are these all working sets OP?

If so, and it works for you, thats insane.


Who really cares.

His diet is no good.
His program, is well, stupid.

Did you read his goals?

He needs a real program, real diet, set goals that includes more then his upper body and to stop blaming his girlfriend for breaking up with him.

Oh, and realize that he is still a beginner.

So, if OP is open minded, all he has to do is ask.


Lol oh I know, I'd be shocked if he responds to this honestly. Just thought the 40-50 sets thing was funny.


Why is 40-50 sets so funny? Takes me about 1.5 hours. Do 4 sets of everything, 10-12 exercises normally. I watch the second hand on the clock and rest 90 seconds almost exactly between sets.

Here's a normal chest/tri's day

4x8 Bench 195lbs (when I can complete the 4th set I move up...started at 145 when I first started working)
4x Body weight inverted handstand pushups against wall until failure
4x8 Incline bench
4x8 flat dumbell bench (70lbs each these days)
4x8 skullcrushers
4x cable flys
4x pushups until failure (usually around 25 at this point after doing everything else)
4x dips until failure (usually around 20)
4x tricep pushdown
4x pec dec
4x seated dip machine (240lbs)

Maybe a short treadmill run after that of an 8 minute mile or something if I'm not completely burnt out.

I'm definately open to advice. I've always been small so I feel like the more time and sets I put in, the bigger I get. And going by my numbers of pullups and bench it is working to some extent- so say what you want, I've put in work and gotten some results at least. When I started you wouldn't barely even know if I flexed my muscles at all. Gotta drop some fat though and keep moving up. When I go I work HARD, no bs sets or anything.

Maybe I'm a beginner, but not a complete beginner just because I've been working my ass off for 4 months to put on a little muscle, even if my routine is misguided it is working to some extent. Bench is still going up, I get another rep every week or two, another pullup every week or two.

My diet is good except for all the drinking and going out/drunk food is completely wasting all my efforts during the week. I've gotta work on that period, but its no mystery just self control.

Anyway I'm open to suggestions. I'll throw in a leg day. I guess I'm so conditioned to doing this many sets that doing 30 sets feels like I'm just being lazy, guess I've gotta get out of that mode. Maybe that's why I'm afraid of doing legs, 40 sets of legs is straight up intimidating.

SO, throw me your best advice.

Pic is of me right after hitting the gym, so usually I'm smaller than that...


I just counted the sets I did today for back and I did 32 sets. It was a long workout (1.5 hours) but I don't think it was anything crazy.


Did you count warm ups and shit though? I mean if someone counted warm ups its very easy to get up there.

I have nothing against people who do lots of volume, for some people it just works. Thats why I said OP if it works for now, you may not even want to fuck with it. However, just cause it works doesn't mean its optimal. Try and do some research on 5/3/1 because if you really want to keep high volume assistance stuff in you could easily do it there.

And the fact that you posted a picture and responded gets you a +1 in my book.


Oh and for gods sake add in legs and at least count calories and protein if you do nothing else.


warmup sets weren't counted. lighter sets were though.

and OP yes maintain accountability and credibility by posting pics. that's good.


So I guess what I'm hearing is its not terrible as long as I see some progress. Maybe I'll just stick it out, throw in a legs and maybe separate arms day...if I feel like I'm plateuing then I'll start to switch it up more dramatically.

Guess I'll go to something like
Day 1: Original chest/tris day
Day 2: Plyo/Cardio
Day 3: Original bis/back day
Day 4: Legs (squats, deadlifts, lunges...maybe 20 sets total?)
Day 5: bi's/tri's/shoulder (30-40 set range)
Day 6: Plyo/cardio
Day 7: Take off or go back to 1

5-3-1 looks interesting...I don't like do anything not to failure, or where I can do more than 8 reps...feels like I'm wasting my time. Maybe that's just a mindset I need to get over though.

Tell me that sounds like at least a SOMEWHAT decent plan. Maybe I'll try and keep track of my diet, but sounds like kind of a pain in the ass, I feel like I know whether I ate crap during a day or not.


You almost have it.

What are your goals? Real one. Strength? Getting big (think powerlifter/Olympic lifter or Bodybuilder)? Need to get stronger for sports? Overall fitness?

What did you eat today.

What is your fear of going "to failure"?