T Nation

Seeking Routine Critique/Advice


So this is my first post on T-Nation. Although i've been working out for several years, I consider myself a beginner since I've only begun taking it really seriously the last year or so. I also sprained my ankle back in December which really messed up my progress.

Since I'm only 5'7 138 lbs, my goal is to bulk up and gain muscle. I got up to 155lbs before I sprained my ankle but have come back down. I've always been scared of getting fat and wanting I've always wanted abs and I think this has been screwing up my progress. I know realize that having abs at 130 lbs is not a good look. I'm now 100% committed to gaining size/strength and will not care if I put on some fat (in moderation).

I've been reading Bodybuilding.com forums for a while and recently T-Nation. I've tried my best to piece together a routine from people's suggestions and feedback from other posts (especially stickies) and tried to keep it simple as possible. I'm keeping a training log so I can track my progress as well. Prior to this I've been on Starting Strength, an upper/lower split and a one body part a day split.

BB Bench: 3x8
Incline DB Bench: 3x10
Seated DB Military Press: 3x10
Weighted Dips: 3x10
Tricep Extensions (Skull crushers): 3x12

Deadlifts: 3x6
BB Row: 3x10
Assisted Pullups: 3x10
DB Pullovers: 3x10
EZ Bar Curls: 3x12

Squats: 3x8
Leg Press: 3x10
Hamstring Curls: 3x10
Calf Raises: 3x12-15

I'll be going 4 days a week (sometimes 5 if I can). Tues-Thurs-Fri-Sun. Going in order Push-Pull-Legs repeat.

I will make sure to eat enough to steadily gain pounds but just need to know if this routine will help me with my goals.

Any criticism would be greatly appreciated.



personally at 138lbs you can still milk a lot more out of programs like starting strength or even stronglifts...try an get your squat an deadlift up to at LEAST 1.5x your b/w before you think about doing isolation exercises like curls, extensions and calf rasies and training up to 5 times a week like you mentioned


personally at 138lbs you can still milk a lot more out of programs like starting strength or even stronglifts...try an get your squat an deadlift up to at Least 1.5x your b/w before you think about doing isolation exercises like curls, extensions and calf raises, let alone training 5 times a week like you mentioned


What is the reasoning behind this suggestion?

To the OP, check out this thread: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/do_this_routine_instead_of_that_dumb_one?id=4404649&pageNo=1

It contains several well written programs that would probably work for your goals. The most important thing is to pick a program and consistantly get stronger at the exercises included.

How is your diet?


Thanks I'll check it out.

Before I sprained my ankle I was tracking everything. I was getting between 1 - 1.5g protein per day. Approx half my bodyweight in fats and the rest in carbs. I was eating enough to gain 1 pound per week. However, I found that I was gaining a little too much fat compared to muscle. Maybe it was my routine, who knows.

After I sprained my ankle I didn't track anything just because I was focussed on other things. Couldn't even walk for 3 weeks.

I'm going to track my diet again but probably gonna look to gain weight a little more steadily perhaps 0.5-0.75 lbs/week.

Should I be buying into this no carbs stuff? The info on this is so conflicting. i've read books where they've done studies which showed no difference beweent low GI/high GI and low carb vs high carb diets. This time around I was thinking of just concentrating on getting enough protein and enough calories and not worry too much about how much of the rest is carbs/fats. I do eat very clean though and try to avoid anythign with straight up sugar. I pretty much never eat desert but do pack some Kashi granola bars for work.
I do know that it's important to get carbs in at breakfast and immidiately after a workout though.

This is a sample of what I'm eating now:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, bowl of raisin bran with milk, slice of whole weat toast with peanut butter
Snack: Apple, kashi granola bar
Lunch: Usually 3-6 oz of meat with vegetables and rice
Snack: Peanuts, cottage cheese, banana
Dinner: 6 oz of meat/fish with vegetables and rice
Post workout: 23g of Whey Protein with 1.5cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of dextrose
Before bed: Some cottage cheese


Different people have different experiences on low carb diets; some love them, some hate them, some notice little difference. Carbs aren't evil, if you respond well to them, eat them..if not, don't.

Are you gaining weight with this?


I just started tracking my food and weight again so I can't really answer that. Like I mentioned before, I haven't been able to committ like I was before with my sprained ankle. Now that I'm ready to put in the time and effort, I just want to make sure I'm heading in the direction.

I weighed myself at the beginning of the week and currently eating 2,600 cals a day. I will increase if I'm not gaining enough weight. I'm gonna shoot for 0.5-0.75/lbs per week.

What I really want to make sure is that my workout routine is suitable. I read beefcake's thread and that's what it was inspired from. I tried to keep it simple, in a logical order, and decent volume for my level.


I'm going to be honest-- for a guy your weight I do NOT like the push-pull-legs split!

Now, it's not that the workout you posted up isn't any good--it has mostly big money exercises and is reasonably written out--but frankly for a guy in the growing muscle business nothing grows you faster than whole body or upper/lower splits.

Now before the body part split guys get on me, I am NOT suggesting that splits are no good. There comes a time when you just can't get enough stimulation from a whole body program without burnout, or enough volume from and upper/lower split for stubborn body parts. I actually use a modified split routine myself. HOWEVER, for a very underweight beginner, and honestly for most intermediates I have encountered, frequency of stimulation is absolute king!

You just can't get the frequency up with a push-pull-legs split if you are only training 4 times a week. 5 a week might do it pretty well actually, but since you cannot absolutely COMMIT to 5 days a week on a regular basis, I really feel the upper/lower split is the way to go.

If you still really are stuck on the push/pull/legs I would recommend these changes:

BB Bench: 5x5
Incline DB Bench: 4x8
Seated DB Military Press: 4x10
Weighted Dips: 4x10
Tricep Extensions (Skull crushers): 3x12

Deadlifts: 5x5 --I would actually suggest either a) changing to rack pulls from above the knees, or dropping deadlifts if you are going to squat 48 hours later due to a probably very sore low back!
BB Row: 6-8x8-10
Assisted Pullups: 3x10
different row variation: 4x12 --pullovers reallly aren't a big money exercise for someone in your underweight condition
EZ Bar Curls: 3x12

Squats: 5x5
Romanian DL 4x6-8 --or you can substitute goodmornings if you are confident with your form. However I would not advise that atm.
Leg Press: 4x10
pull-throughs: 3-4 x 10
Hamstring Curls: 3x10

1) too much use of 3x10 rep scheme. It's not terrible, but if you're only going to hit each muscle group once every 5 days or so you could do some more volume, and some more intensity.

2) the 5x5 sets DON'T count warm-up sets. Warm-up. It's good for your muscles and joints.


What is the reasoning behind this suggestion?

Weighing at 138lbs im pretty sure the OPs biceps will grow from just performing chin-ups and rows and triceps from all the pressing and dips. Taking that into consideration, i thought it best for the OP to go all out an hammer these exercises, given the level he is at now, and further arm work won't really be necessary...
Although having said that he has only included a few sets of curls and extensions which isn't really going to make or break the workout...
i just personally reckon it best for him to get the main lifts up (bench, squat,deadlift, military press... and 1.5x b/w for squat and deadlift was just good place to aim)

as for 5 times a week, i believe thats just crazy for someone weighing 138lbs an not necessary

though both the routines that you an aragorn have posted are very decent an would help the OP get getting in the right direction...however for someone his experience id be more inclined to use a full body or upper/lower split
monday-Upper body Horizontal push/pull
tuesday-Lower body Quad dominant
thursday-upper virtical push/pull
friday-lower body hip dominant


Direct arm work helps prevent elbow injuries.

He's only promising three workouts a week. One of the advantages of increased specificity in a workout (i.e a split) is increased recovery. Why shouldn't he work out as often as he can handle?


Only weigh yourself week to week, daily fluctuations can make a scale next to useless in terms of day to day measurement. Pay attention to changes in the mirror and take progress photos like once a month or so. Don't be afraid to gain more weight per week, as long as you aren't putting on too much body fat you have a lot of room to grow.


Appreciate the feedback guys. I think I'll make some minor tweaks to my routine based on suggestions especially on back day (take out Deads, switch the pullovers), but I think I wanna stick with the Push/Pull/Legs split to see where it takes me. I'm gonna try 4x a week to start off and see how I progress.


Cool. good luck!


I agree that direct arm work helps really save my elbows. However, I pretty much agree with kursk on this point: money exercises for overall growth. You allow a newb to put some curls in his program and 90% of the time after a couple months have passed his program has morphed into "chest and curl" specialization day 4 times a week. I'm overstating things of course, but for someone as underweight as he is, there's just no point on isolation exercises when you can be doing bigass compounds. See: Starting Strength :).

Here I agree with you atg. Frequency is king when you are looking to add mass fast, especially in someone so underweight. Besides which, a beginner will almost NEVER tax himself hard enough to be incapable of doing 3x a week full body workouts or 2x a week leg days (in an upper/lower split). Once his body gets over the first 2-3 week shock period of "shit-I'm-moving-around-a lot- more-than-I'm-used-to" DOMS, newbs will be able to handle it.

There's a reason whole-body workouts are popular--they work! and they work well when applied properly. The frequency is what puts them into the scene (again, see: Starting Strength).

The reason I said 5 days a week for a successful push/pull/legs scheme is because the frequency is increased along with the volume. 4 days a week only allows you to hit 1 portion twice in a week. Average is what, 6 days rest? Kursk, you yourself recommended upper/lower like me--reason is the frequency is up. You hit every portion of the body twice a week instead of just one part. That's why I said it could work well if he's going to do 5 days lifting: then you get to repeat 2 of the 3 portions of the body in any given week, so the frequency is significantly bumped up. Everything goes back to frequency, provided you eat enough.

A newb doesn't need the extra recovery time because he hasn't learned how to coordinate his body or recruit the high-threshold motor units efficiently yet. Therefore, assuming his food intake is up to par, more frequency is better (within reason of course!) An advanced guy, yeah there's a good argument for increased recovery time with him.


Yea i know his routine lists only 3 workouts a week, but he says how he'l try to get in 5 times a week in his original post. I believe given the OP's experience that like most fresh beginners 3-4 days a week will provide all the necessary stimulation for the muscles he needs. Sometimes more isn't always better, an i rekon with someone of his experience, 3-4 days a week going all out will create a perfect balance between exercise an recovery...if perhaps he finds he isnt growing after a month of 3-4 days a week (which providing his food intake is adequate il find very unlikly) then he can perhaps include another day of training. IMO 5 days a week is just overkill when all he'll need is 3-4 days max for proper stimulation and growth.


Do overhead press standing.


I disagree. Even Rippetoe acknowledges in a backwards fashion the need for direct arm work ("everyone is going to do it anyway"). The only reason it's not included in SS in my opinion is that it would kill the "mystique" of the "big compounds only" method behind SS. This whole idea that bench, deadlift and squat (or bench, deadlift, squat, row, clean and pull up) are sufficient to build a well functioning, proportional physique is not really born out in the results.

I started out on a full body, 5x5 style routine, and if I knew then what I know now I never would have. These routines put too much stress on the low back for many people and lack any programmed maintenance of the shoulders and elbows.

As long as a lifter is getting stronger in the big compounds, what's the harm in adding accesory exercises? Especially if getting strong in those accesory exercises might reduce injury to vulnerable joints further down the road? If the inclusion of curls and extensions is going to cause such confusion in a lifter that their routine morphs into bench and curl only...they probably aren't cut out for this shit in the first place.


One more question if I may... Should I bother with BCAAs? Or should I not worry about any supplements until I get to a more advanced level?

Currently the only 'supplements' I'm taking is EAS 100% Whey Protein powder & Dextrose post-workout. Also multivitamin and fish oil.