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Routine with Only the Big 3?


because of a cartilage defect on my left shoulder i cannot lift weights overweight, the injury isnt repairable surgically so will just have to wait it out in the mean time i made this routine with the big 3 only...

monday 3x5 wednesday 12x3 friday 5x5

i cant overhead press because it aggravates my shoulders and i'm not too sure about rows

i wanted to put on some muscle mass what do you guys think of the routine?


i don't understand your routine.

monday 3x5 of what, exactly? squat, bench, and deadlift?

do you have range of motion in your shoulder (can you lift your arms over your head without weight)?

are you just starting out training or were you doing a training program before? what were you doing? how was that working out for you?


yes dead lift, bench and squats

i can lift my arm overhead but doing it with weights (moderate to heavy) irritates it and inflames it fast.

i injured myself 2 years ago and before that i was a competitive amateur boxer and did strength training 1-2 times a week.

since then i have lost a lot of weight and muscle mass and have taken on the 'skinny-fat' look.


so, if i'm following along you plan on training squat bench and deadlift 3x per week?

um... most people find (heavy!) deadlifts fairly hard to recover from. do you have progression built into your program? (e.g., a way of progressively increasing the load or whatever)

there is a saying 'use the muscles, spare the joints'. like how you can use your muscles to hold your spine safely, or you can fail to use your muscles to hold your spine safely and so the disks rub in inflamming ways. i wonder if there might be a similar thing with your shoulder? start out with just the movement using your muscles to hold the joint comfortably and then gradually add very light loads learning how to use your muscles to prevent the joint jamming?? maybe... i used to think i had capsular problems with my hip (a number of hip replacements in my family). used to click something awful and i'd get a grindy feeling. just learning now how to use my stabilizers to hold my femur comfortably for squatting movements.

there are a bunch of 5x5 / 'starting strength' type programs out there that focus on the big three lifts with 3x per week training. why not do one of those programs (that we know is effective)?


yeah i'll look into those programs

i dont go heavy everyday btw monday i focus on heavylifts and wednesday light and friday a little heavier.

i've actually started to incorporate something similar to what you're talking about, i'm doing shoulder press with 3-5lb weight plates for now and plan on making the weight bigger as/if i get stronger and feel comfortable.


you will feel more comfortable and get stronger if you take it gently.

if you really love the program you are doing and you work hard at it then that is probably the most important thing...

but here is an example:

squat 5x5
bench 5x5
deadlift 1x5

squat 5x5
row 5x5
press 5x5

alternate between A and B every time you train and train 3x per week.
start out LIGHT and focus really hard on form (getting the movement feeling smooth and comfortable).
WHEN the movement feels smooth and comfortable and you get all the reps then increase the weight. say, 5kg for squats and deads and 2.5kg for bench or something like that. ideally increase the weight every time you train - but if you didn't get the reps with good form (or if you felt joints grinding) then you didn't get them so don't increase the weight.

eat. lots. if you want to grow you need to eat.

  • how are you with chin-ups / pull-ups?

at the very least i'd try and do something for your upper back to try and balance the benching (no, deadlifts aren't enough).



Here is my ha'penny worth :

Talking here as a relative beginner (8 months only) so that's a filter.

I am now training with mainly the big 3 (squat, deadlift and bench) 3 times a week using a Dan John inspired workout where one of the lifts comprises the main lift for the day using both a 3x10 and 5x5 together and doing just a couple of light working sets of the other movements.

Note--that i do also do chins/pull ups and press ups each session.

I am also doing what alexus has pointed out which is lots of movements with the bare bar (i do it as a 5 or 6 move complex) or only just weighted, also a Dan John idea.

As to whether that makes for a muscle building routine...i damn well hope so !!


alexus i cant chin/pull up at all it gets painful!

Dont most powerlifters only focus on the big 3 and some of them have pretty good physique's!


Do you use a shoulder width grip on overhead and bench press, or wider? My shoulders would always feel like they were pulled after each workout when I used to use a wide grip on these exercises. Then I used a shoulder width grip and it put my shoulders in a stronger and safer position.

Also I don't know if this would help because it might be a bone/w.e problem instead of a muscle problem, but whenever I get sore, for example, after a hard squat day, doing light squats the day after makes my legs feel a lot less stiff. Maybe you could try doing light overhead press at shoulder width grip and progressing slowly.


They FOCUS on them but they certainly don't only do them. And if you're training for physique enhancement reasons, train like a bodybuilder, not a powerlifter.

I.e. if you want gain muscle and look good, this is not the route to go, as you will be neglecting a ton of muscle groups, and even in the ones you do train, not training them optimally for hypertrophy.


thats the problem i cant do a bodybuilding split due to my injury.



I rotate every 3-4 months to a similar split. I call them Monster Makers and I focus on hitting those 3 lifts for a 4-6 week stretch. I lift heavy 2 days / light 1 day to make sure my body recovers. My objective during that period is total growth. I eat to lift and then Lift to eat. The focus is on heavy volume with moderate weight - ex 315 x 10 x 4. I use short rest periods with the intent that I can get in and out in 45 minutes.

The one difference we have is that I will often finish my workout with pushpresses to ensure I'm done physically.


I feel like if you can bench press, you can probably find a way to work around your injury for a lot of muscle groups. The thing about only doing squat, bench, and deadlifts is, as far as training for hyptertrophy, squats and deadlifts alone aren't enough for your quads, hamstrings or calves, bench alone isn't enough for your chest, and your tris, bis, lateral and rear delt, and most of the back musculature is barely hit at all. My recommendation would be find exercises for each muscle group that you can do without pain, and organize them into a better plan.


how long till you are healed?


doctor didn't give me a specific time but just told me to keep the joint strong doing rotator cuff work etc.

the injury i have is a grade 2 tear on the gelnoid cartilage, basically the ball of the ball-socket joint, the cartilage is articular meaning it has no/little blood supply so it will take forever to heal and theres nothing doctors could surgically do to fix it.


Thought about it more, and I realize this may sound like I'm saying with your particular injury, work out everything, when really I have no idea if that's possible or not. I just find it odd that you can squat, deadlift, and bench, but nothing else. And from a physique enhancement standpoint, that is definitely nowhere near optimal.