Workout Programs for the Gym


Self-designed workout programs can be great, but people usually avoid individually disfavored exercises, which can eventually lead to muscle imbalances; and nonprofessionals usually do too many sets and too many exercises, resulting in a lack of real progress. "Prepackaged" programs do not suffer from these failings, but their cookie-cutter nature still falls short of hiring a qualified professional. The Starting Strength program and 5x5 Workouts are well-rounded and easy to follow.

Starting Strength

  • The Starting Strength workout by Mark Rippetoe has been a workout standby for a number of years because it works. It's simple, basic in design, and for those who do not know better, it appears quite easy. The deceptive simplicity is its greatest strength, because it focuses strictly on heavy compound movements and does not waste time with excessive isolation and accessory work.

    The workout is performed three days a week, with an A-B-A pattern. If you work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, that means week one will look like this:

    Monday: "A" workout
    Wednesday: "B" workout
    Friday: "A" workout (again)

    The following week would start with the "B" workout, continuing the alternating pattern. The lifter should alternate lifting and resting days, and should avoid having two consecutive lifting days in a row unless otherwise impossible to avoid.

    Workout A:
    Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps per set
    Bench Press: 3 sets of 5 reps per set
    Deadlift: 1 set of 5 reps
    Weighted Dips: 1 sets of 5 to 8 reps

    Workout B:
    Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps
    Overhead Press: 3 sets of 5 reps
    Power Clean: 3 sets of 5 reps
    Chinups: 3 sets of 8 reps

    Optionally, after any workout you can add:
    Weighted sit-ups on a 45-degree angle: 3 sets of 5 reps
    Weighted reverse hyperextensions: 3 sets of 8 reps

5x5 Workouts

  • 5x5 workouts have been around for a while, and usually produce more than modest gains. A 5x5 split is program where the main exercises are done for 5 sets of 5 repetitions, hence the name. It differs from the Starting Strength program in that some accessory and isolation work is added, and a 5x5 program usually trains each body part once a week.

    There are many variations on 5x5 programs, but a basic plan is three days a week and looks like this:

    Squat, 5x5
    Romanian Deadlift, 5x5
    Single Leg Squat, 3x8
    Straight Leg Situps, 3x8

    Pull-up, 5x5
    Bent Over Barbell Row, 5x5
    Single Arm Dumbbell Row, 3x8
    Bicep Curls, 3x8

    Bench Press, 5x5
    Incline Dumbbell Press, 5x5
    Dumbbell Flies, 3x8
    Barbell Skull Crushers, 3x8


  • Increase weight on exercises wherever possible, even if it is only in 5 lb increments. When selecting weights for either program, choose a weight that provides a fair amount of resistance but still allows for completion of all prescribed repetitions. It is better to underestimate and have to increase weight the following week than to overestimate and fail early.

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