T Nation

Switching to Push Pull Routine?


Ive been doing starting strength program as that is what I read many people recommend for beginners to build a solid strength base.. While I have gotten stronger in all of my lifts, I have grown incredibly bored. I got into lifting to look better not to become a power lifter. My lifts have gone as followsâ?¦. All lifts started with the barbell only.

Squats: 170 X 5
Bench: 160 X 5
Deadlift: 275 X 5
Press:105 X 5

I have gained weight over the last couple months doing this, about 12 lbs.. but some obviously went to my gut. I feel that even though weight was gained, and some areas are noticeably bigger, that the routine leaves other areas lacking.

So what I want to know is, is it to early to switch to a more hypertrophy based program like a push pull routine with higher reps and increased volume? I obviously will still keep working on adding weight to the bar, and adding reps but I just can't stand the same boring routine any longer.. I like the feeling of the muscles being pumped up after a high volume workout and ever since I started the starting strength program I just do not get the same feeling.


Google power bodybuilding and PHAT by Layne Norton. That should get you headed in the right direction. Also, don’t overeat. Just eat for performance.


Thanks for the reply brother I will definitely check those out.


You could switch now, but if you’re still adding 5lbs to your lifts 3x / week why would you stop? The point of doing starting strength even if your goal is mass over strength is to get your lifts up as quickly as possible – i.e., to milk your potential as a beginner to get strong quickly.

Why is your squat so weak?


[quote]Tnjed123 wrote:
I got into lifting to look better not to become a power lifter.[/quote]
Your goals are your thing and that’s fine. Starting Strength can be a good all-around base building program when it’s followed to the letter, but it’s not a must-do for every single beginner.

What are your specific goals?

[quote]All lifts started with the barbell only.

Squats: 170 X 5
Bench: 160 X 5
Deadlift: 275 X 5
Press:105 X 5

I have gained weight over the last couple months doing this[/quote]
How many was a couple of months? 2, 5, 8?

Are the stats in your profile current and accurate? 5’11", 182, 16% bodyfat. (Bodyfat percentages are iffy to calculate, but I’ll presume that’s roundabout where you are.)

Push/pull/legs can be a very solid routine, for beginners or more advanced. That should be fine as long as you stick to a well-designed plan. A well-designed upper/lower split could also be an option.

How long did you do a higher volume workout?


Hey thanks for the replies guys…

My specific goal is to have a better balanced physique. I am not trying to get huge, I surf and perform activities where keeping my weight lower is more beneficial to my situation. I just want to look good.

Yes the stats in my profile are correct. The body fat could be slightly off one way or the other, as calipers can only be so accurate but it has been measured multiple times by a personal trainer at my gym and I am consistently told it is about 16%. My over all goal would probably be to end up about the weight I am now, with a balanced physique at a decent body fat. I would rather add the muscle first and cut later.

I have honestly worked out off and on for a couple years, but never very serious about it. I would do the typical biceps and bench bs, never stuck to a routine I would just go lift when I wanted to and do what I felt like until I felt that pumped up feeling. I switched to starting strength about 2.5 months ago and have done that since. Some lifts were naturally stronger than others.

Squats are weak for me because I never did them before this, It is just not a strong lift for me. I do use proper form, learned from reading the book and checked a couple of times. I started from the bar and worked up. I have reset 3 times for my squat. It should be noted I have busted up my right knee multiple times and have also had torn ACL. Squats just aren’t my strong point.


Okay so you lifted on and off suboptimally for a couple years (as most of us did), then got on Starting Strength which you’ve done for 10 weeks and have gained 12 pounds. I assume your lifts have gone up significantly, so that’s pretty good progress. Except:

You almost certainly wasted a couple weeks, there. It’s also very strange you’ve had to reset 3 times in 10 weeks. Unless the injury is a significant factor your squat should be quite a bit higher, given you bodyweight and deadlift strength, even as a weak point.

Anyway, as far as what you should do now…personally, if I were you, and wanted to maximize muscle gain with the longterm goal of being aesthetic, I would stay on Starting Strength. I would keep eating to gain weight but tighten up the diet a bit – eat as clean as possible – and aim to gain 1/2 to 1 lb of bodyweight per week. You want to eat enough to build muscle and facilitate recovery and fuel performance, but also minimize fat gain.

I would stay on SS at least until Bench Press and Press stall – I would do ONE reset for each lift, work back up, and on the second stall I’d consider switching programs. Something like Push/Pull/Legs would be fine, at that point – you could add more volume, more hypertrophy and isolation work for weak points, and go from there. But for now it really makes sense to progress as fast as possible with the big lifts, because this strength is crucial to building muscle in the long run.

Last thing: I notice you didn’t list the power clean among your lifts – are you doing it? If not, are you deadlifting every workout? You should alternate another back exercise with deadlift, either Power Cleans or if you don’t want to do them for whatever reason, barbell (Pendlay) rows.


Thanks for the reply craze9. I do still struggle with a bit of pain when squatting… I have reset 3 times due to the pain, changing form slightly each time to try and find a way to avoid further aggravating the problem. After the last injury I had to stop doing all strenuous activity for 3 months while it healed, was on pain medication and just felt like I wasted 3 months of my life?

So I may be over cautious, but in my eyes since I am not a pro athlete or strength athlete and have no plans to ever compete, Id rather just take it slow and play it safe when it comes to legs. I have my whole life to slowly build strength there but if I get injured it will only set me back further. Not to mention work requires me to walk all day… If I get hurt, my family doesn’t have any income?

I do understand the importance of squats for not only your physique but for fitness and just general health and strength as well, but will taking my time building my squat strength up slowly really be that detrimental to me having a beach ready physique? Over the long term, I do have strength goals I would like to hit. But this isn’t a sprint for me, it is a life style that I plan to continue on for years to come. Eventually, I will have a respectable big 3. It simply is not my primary concern for right now. I mainly want to look better for now. Obviously the further I progress, the better my physique will be, but for the sake of sticking with this long term, I would rather be enjoying my time in the gym rather than dreading the workouts like I am now.

So that leads me to another question… What in your eyes would be a good strength base regarding the other lifts before switching over to something less strength oriented? You said stick with things until bench and press stall, then reset once… What kind of numbers would be decent there before switching programs? Even if I switched, I was planning on keeping my bench and press at 5 reps and trying to keep the same progression rate until my bench hit 175 X 5 and my press was around 135 X 5. Would that be a good starting point?


[quote]Tnjed123 wrote:

Not to mention work requires me to walk all day… If I get hurt, MY FAMILY DOESN’T HAVE AN INCOME?

I do understand the importance of squats for not only your physique

Sounds like you’d best forget squats or do them very sporadically. -Can absolutely build a rocking physique without squatting.

Re routine: look up kingbeefs thread


Ok well in that case definitely go easy with the squats, yes. If you feel any sharp pain during the ROM, distinct from muscle fatigue / soreness, you should stop the movement. Use your judgment, squatting is a great overall exercise but take it easy as you have been and if pain continues to be an issue you may want to investigate other exercise options, e.g. a hack squat machine.

If you are genuinely “dreading” the workouts, then yeah you should probably stop doing Starting Strength. Enthusiasm for a program is important, regardless of the program. I’m the kind of person who just cares about the results and as long as they’re coming I don’t ever get bored, but not everyone is like that, obviously.

As for your question about a strength base before focusing on hypertrophy / bodybuilding, the traditional Rippetoe answer has been 200/300/400/500. Those are 1RM in Press, Bench, Squat, Deadlift. More recently he revised it to 175/275/400/500. Those numbers may seem high. The truth is there is no right answer to your question – everyone is different in terms of their potential for strength, and people have different goals. There is no magic number where if you bench press it, suddenly the door to hypertrophy is unlocked and you can move to higher reps. The reason novices are told to focus on strength in the 5 rep range is because it drives adaptation in mass and strength about equally and therefore allows for optimal progression in both.

In other words, a bench of 175x5 is a fine benchmark. But if you could get it to 185x5 in just two more weeks of training, that would be better. And if you could get it to 205x5 in another month after that, that would be best. Not just because you’ll be stronger, but because the process of getting there will itself build muscle, probably at the fastest possible rate (if you’re eating properly).

Anyway, your issue isn’t so much lack of progress as it is boredom and just general distaste for the program, given that you’ve been doing it for a while. So you should switch it up. How many days / week do you want to lift? The problem with Push/Pull/Legs, if it’s done 3x / week (e.g. MWF), is that the frequency is low. You’d be going from squatting and upper body pressing 3x / week to once a week. If you did it 6 days – Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs/OFF/Repeat – the frequency is better, but I’m not sure you want to spend that much time in the gym, and it’s a lot to recover from.

If you want to keep lifting 3 days / week, I think an upper/lower or full-body routine would be better. Here are a few good options, though there are a lot of good programs on this site and all over the internet. The Layne Norton PHAT recommended above is good too, but I believe it’s 5 days / week.