T Nation

Program Critique Please

I have just started working out about a week now. My second day in the gym (small gym at my apartment complex) A guy told me about this website. Anyways, I’ve found some helpful, confusing, and interesting information on here. I’ve tried my best to develop a workout routine based on what I’ve read and heard. I would appreciate it if you would look it over and give me some pointers on whether or not I should change my routine.

Sex: Male
Height: 5’10"
Weight: 135-137
Goal: Gain 20-25 pounds of muscle

Also Note: I have no access to barbells, only dumbbells and machines. My terminology isn’t up to speed either, so please excuse the wording on some of the routines.

Day One:

Flat Benchpress
Incline Benchpress
Seated Rows
Bent Delt flies
Veritical Rows
Crunches/weighted Crunches
(note: Do not have a way to do declines bench press or dips w/ current equipment)

Day Two:

Leg Press
Calf Raises
Machine leg curls/ reverse curls (No idea on what you call these but it works out front and back thighs)
Weighted Crunches

Day Three:

Pull Ups
Overhead Press
Skull Crushers
Pull Downs
Hammer Curls

Day Four:

Cardio (nothing major just treadmill for 2-3 miles @ 6.5/7mph)

Then rinse/repeat…


Without access to barbells, you’re already at a major disadvantage. You can make due with dumbbells if they go heavy enough, but that sounds unlikely since you’re working out in an apartment gym.

Realistically, you need to find yourself a proper gym with barbells, heavy dumbbells, deadlift platforms, squat racks, and an atmosphere conducive to training hard and heavy. If you walk in and there aren’t all of the above mentioned things, don’t waste your money. If you walk in and they’re playing anything like Celine Deon or Backstreet Boys, don’t waste your money. If they don’t allow powerlifts or chalk, don’t waste your money.

Besides the gym issue, your program is basically non-existent at this point.

Any program is built on a few different factors: intensity, volume, frequency, and exercise selection.

With regards to exercise selection, it should go without saying that for most people, compound movements need to be the primary focus. Squats, deadlifts, pull ups, various presses, lunges, rows, and their variations should be the focus of your program. Single joint exercises can be performed as well, but they need to be placed on the tail end of your training sessions.

Volume and frequency go hand in hand. The facts are that your body needs recovery time and novel stimuli in order to grow. If your training volume is higher, your frequency will likely need to be lower. If your volume is lower, you can train each muscle group more frequently. Personally, I have had much better success with a higher frequency, lower volume approach. Others have good success with hitting each muscle group only once per week. However, their volume is generally higher.

Intensity needs to be keep as high as possible for most applications. This means that you want to be lifting explosively (in control), keeping your rest periods fairly short, and keeping the load high. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train all rep ranges, but heavy training is integral for hypertrophy and strength gain.

At this point, you might be best off using a “template” type program found on this website than designing your own program. Learning this stuff (and growing) takes years and years of patience, consistency, and hard ass work. You’ll learn what works best for you and how to accomplish your goals.

You’ll also need to eat a ton more than you’re eating now. A gallon of whole milk per day would be an “easy” way of adding surplus protein, carbs, and fat. You’ll need all in high amounts if you’re going to grow. Of course, there are other and better ways to add calories to your diet, but I’m using the gallon of milk as an example of what kind of caloric magnitude we’re talking about here.

Thanks for the response, CSUSON.

I have increased my calorie intake by nearly double that of what I used to eat per day. I also am trying to get my body weight in protein each day as well. And while my diet isn’t perfect, I cut out all complete junk food (such as fast food, sweets, and greatly reduced my Coke consumption)

The dumbbells go plenty heavy enough for me at the moment.

All of my lifts are done heavy for me. I stay in the 5-8 rep range on most of my workouts. I typically do 3 sets of each workout.

I’m just trying to find out if you see any significant holes in my current plan, or workouts I should add in that I am missing that can be accomplished with dumbbells.


I think you’d be better off sticking with pull ups, push ups, sprints, lunges, etc. (mostly bodyweight stuff) done at high intensity and high frequency (probably 4-5 times per week). At least that way, you’ll be building your conditioning and muscle endurance, which will help your hypertrophy efforts later on when you have access to heavier weight. If I were in your shoes and only had access to machines and lighter dumbbells, I probably wouldn’t even spend time in your gym other than to do some direct arm work (maybe).

If I didn’t have access to heavy barbells and dumbbells, I would spend my time doing things like: pushups (any and all variations, weighted, etc.), pull ups (again, any and all variations), sprints, car pushes (literally, go and push your car up a slight hill, i.e. don’t let it roll back on you when you take a break to PTFO), tire flips (flip the biggest, heaviest tire you can, as many times as you can), bodyweight jump squats, and any other “creative” method that forces you to use your ENTIRE BODY at high intensity levels. As a cheap addition, you could purchase a couple of 20 lb chains to help weight your pushups, pull ups, jump squats and sprints.

I don’t see the point of worrying about a program breakdown at the stage you’re at. That’s not meant as a dig against you by any means. However, I can recall all of the time I wasted as a rank beginner worrying about what flye variation I was going to do that day, when I should have been running sprints, doing a ton of pull ups, pushing cars, and generally training myself to be more explosive and more conditioned.

It’s hard to say if you’re program has “holes” in it because you don’t know yet if it will allow you to meet your goal of putting on 20-30 lbs of muscle (which is a lot, btw). I suspect that you will be putting on muscle due to the high frequency of your program, and you eating more. As I emphasized above, I don’t think that your program with optimize your potential, but the only way you’ll know for sure is by trying each way out and seeing what works best for you.