T Nation

Rate My Routine


It's been about a year since I've lifted, I'm 29 years old, 5'10" and 180 lbs. I'm essentially starting over, but I've managed to maintain some muscle mass through surfing. I'd like to get lean and strong at the same time.

I'm limited to lifting during the week. The gym I have access to is limited in free weights: no bench (but we do have a smith machine), dumbbells max out at 75 lbs.

Here is my routine. Very basic exercises, 5 sets, 6-8 reps. I plan on sticking to it for about 6 weeks. Feedback is appreciated:

Monday: Back
Pull ups
Bent-over dumbbell row

Tuesday: Chest
Bench press (smith machine)
Incline dumbbell press
Incline dumbbell flies

Thursday: Legs
Squats (smith machine)
Dumbbell romanian deadlift
Leg curls

Friday: Arms
Dumbbell curls
Seated dumbbell shoulder press


If possible, find a new gym. Seriously. Squatting/benching on a smith machine is all kinds of wrong. Personally I'd rather see you doing DB Bench, and doing DB Front squats, or Bulgarian split squats, but not being able to hit heavy back squats/bench/dead's is going to seriously hinder your progress.

Overall the program isn't great- there's too many well written, proven-to-work, professional beginners programs out there. The work has already been done for you, why not make use of it?

Also- does this gym have a normal BB? Because you didn't include any exercises that use it? If it does, this would open up a few more options for you..


Definitly stay away from that smith machine as well unless your doing inverted rows. Nothing quite like straight BB work. And don't forget your deadlifts


As you suggested, I'm going to cut out the smith machine all together and use dumbbells. We don't have a barbell either, otherwise I would make use of it. I'm going to have to stick with this gym for a little while at least (it's free and right next door to my work). I agree that this gym sucks (esp in the long run), but do you think it's going to matter in the first three months of lifting?

What is it that you don't like about my routine BTW? Just the fact there's no barbell? If I'm headed down the wrong path, then I'm definitely willing to scrap it and put another one together.

I looked at several beginner routines on this board, some I didn't like (full body routines for example), and some involved exercises I just couldn't do at my gym (barbell bench, cleans, barbell dead lifts). As for these beginner routines you've mentioned, I'd love to see them...can you point me to one (or two)?



Well, if the options are-
1. Lift in the gym that is free and accessible, with a lack of equipment
2. Don't lift

Then I know which option is best. As far as, does it really matter in the first three months of lifting, well, in my opinion, yes and no.. You could probably make faster progress if you had better equipment available to you, especially to be able to do BB back squats, and BB deadlifts. But you can/will still make considerable progress using just the equipment that you have. Just bust your ass and eat right.

Why no love for total body routines? I was going to suggest the DB version of SL/SS, but that's full body..
I suppose you could follow ws4sb's (www.defrancostraining.com) an upper/lower split, and choose exercises to suit the equipment you have. It would take a little fiddling around, working out exercises that are suitable, but if you post up your proposed choices, or if you get stuck with something, then I'm sure the board will help you out.

As for your routine, well, it's better than probably 90% of what people suggest when starting out and making their own program. I guess part of the reason is that I'm not a fan of splits, especially for beginners where they will essentially be only working each muscle group 1xweek. You've done a lot of things right, though- kept it simple, brief, and included "essential" exercises.
I guess if you switch bench to DB, squat to DB Front squat, and put DB press before your bi/tri work, it would be workable. You could certainly do a lot worse than to try it out and see how it goes.

Good luck!


I decided to join a real gym. After doing quite a bit of reading on this site, I've also decided to go with a full body routine. I'm particularly interested in the Starting Strength routine:

I'm really surprised with how little emphasis is placed on the bench press though. In the past I've really sucked at bench. Week A only has 6 sets of bench per week, week B only has 3 sets. Can my bench actually get strong with this routine?

I've also never done a power clean. Should I substitute power cleans with with Pendlay or Bent Rows as was originally posted in the article above?


I'm really glad to hear that you've decided to join a real gym, I'm sure it will be money well spent.

Starting strength is brilliant,
I started on the program, with some slight modifications, and gained about 25-30kg of bodyweight (from 60kg to 90kg, but probably 5-8% BF gain as well, @ 6'1), and at least doubled the weights I was lifting. This was over a period of about 5-6 months. A lot of that time I was only lifting 2x week due to other sporting commitments.
So yes, your bench will go up just fine, the press will help your shoulder/tri strength which has a lot of carry over, strengthening your back through dead lifts and what-ever other back exercise you choose will also make an amazing difference to your bench numbers.

Power cleans aren't overly difficult to learn for most people, there is plenty of good information available online to help you out. If you decide that you don't want to include them in the program, then Pendlay rows are a great alternative, as would be pull-ups or chin ups.

Good luck with the program, I hope you stick with it and keep hanging around the site.