530 Comments

  1. Here are 3 questions i need answered:
    1. Is this the starting strength program you recommend? If so, what about adding chins?
    Workout A
    3×5 Squat
    3×5 Bench Press
    1×5 Deadlift

    Workout B
    3×5 Squat
    3×5 Press
    5×3 Power cleans
    alternating between the two?
    2. When is it time to switch from a recomp to a slow bulk and vice versa?
    3. How often is it ok to have cheat days and with your method, do we skip a whole rest days meals or training day?
    thanks

    1. 1. Don’t add chins to it.
      2. When you stop making progress in the gym.
      3. We don’t have cheat days. We make delicious stuff fit the macros and then everyday becomes glorious.

  2. Hello Andy. It’s Szymon again. I just wanted to tell you that I found a cool gym with rack and the most free weights in my city.
    I’m going to do The Big 3 Routine you recommended for beginners who are on cut.
    Och, and the best thing about that gym is that the trainer used to do powerlifting 🙂

    I’m planning to send you my success story with photos. If I succeed of course 🙂

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  5. Hi Andy,

    My folks have been recently working out more ever since they hit their golden years. My dad gave up his gym membership in favor of creating his own home gym, and now he has an elliptical and a pair of 12lb dumbbells sitting in our house. I want to help my folks stay physically fit, especially my dad. Unfortunately, he had sustained a back injury in his 30’s, and because of that he’s hesitant about lifting any kind of weights since surgery has permanently weakened his back. Are there any types of weight lifting exercises that can benefit my dad in his current age and physical condition? I’m a little hesitant about suggesting barbell lifts, but I’d like to hear your opinion on kettlebell lifts.

    -Nathan

    1. You probably can’t do lifts, however you can be encouraged with the fact that 90% of the game is the ‘cut’ diet…

      You can add some shoulder, arm and chest mass with isolation.

      It is sub-optimal to the big 3, but better than nothing. But if brad pitt can do it, so can you 🙂

      Getting lean should be your first concern.

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  8. Hey Andy! It’s Ben again.
    I just wanted to update you. I’m still gaining the same amount like before, which to me is great. I was wondering though, what are your thoughts on body weight exercises? I started off with that in the very beginning of trying to become stronger, and I do really like it, but I thought weights would speed up my goal for muscle mass. Do you think I can still get big with body weight exercises?
    https://jasonferruggia.com/top-20-bodyweight-exercises-for-building-muscle-strength/
    The exercises on that site would be the exercises I would be using in my routine if I do switch. Also, it sounds kind of stupid to me to say this, but I’m also debating on getting in parkour 😛

    1. Weights are better for getting stronger, but you can still build good body with bodyweight exercises. That link is very good.

      Parkour also looks like good stuff. Those lads have balls of steel.

  9. Hey!
    I’m really happy that I found this site. I’m following the Leangains diet and training for more than 3 weeks and I didn’t see any weight loss. Thanks to you, now I know that I just ate too much on rest days and got wrong fat and carbs quantity. I changed my diet yesterday and I hope to see first results soon! 🙂

    I’ve got 2 questions about training.
    Can I do squats and deadlifts using dumbbell instead of barbell? Is there any difference?
    I’m training in my room not in gym (basic barbell routine that i found on bodyrecomposition.com, using dumbbell instead of barbell) and all I’ve got is 3 dumbbells and 60kg of weight.
    Second question. I’m beginner (I trained from time to time, but not for long), should I lift really heavy? Or I will benefit more when I lift not so heavy?

    1. Hello Szymon. Thanks for the kind comment, glad you have been finding it useful.

      Squats and Deadlifts with a dumbbell are not the same. Not even close. It’s very difficult for me to explain why without rambling on, but please just trust me on that. If you can afford to buy a squat rack and weights for your bar, it’s an investment that will serve you well in life. If your car needed a new engine it’s set you back thousands right? Your body, the vehicle you soul is destined to spend it’s life in is now asking for an upgrade. You going to make it?

      Why is squatting important? Let’s ask Rippetoe.

    2. Last thing, if I had a garage, I’d probably go with a set up like this. There’s cheaper out there, but I know I will be using this set-up for probably my entire life. Training with a friend in your garage. = awesome.

      Oh and always lift as heavy as you can with good form.

    3. Main problem is that I’m student and I’ll be probably moving from time to time. At the moment I’m sharing room with my friend, so there is no room for rack.
      And as I am student, it’s quite expensive to buy gym membership…
      But I think if I sell my weights and dumbbells I could afford the gym membership for next 3 – 4 months. And then… We will see. I can save some money 🙂

      Is this https://activepower.wroclaw.pl/galeria/08d.jpg good for squats?
      They haven’t got any other squat rack in the gym that is the cheapest…

    4. Ok, thanks, I found your answers very helpful 🙂
      I’ll find proper gym, read Starting Strength and watch some videos of Rippetoe.

  10. Hello there, first off I want to say that this is a truly incredible website. I’ve been working out pretty hardcore for around a year, now. While I’ve seen changes in my physique, it’s nothing amazing and I need a change.

    Something about IF + heavy training jumped out at me as soon as I began reading, though.

    I prefer to workout shortly after waking. My routine for the past 12 weeks has been to wake up, have 2 cups of coffee (with ~25g of carbs in the form of liquid sweetener) with my breakfast.

    If I were to begin IF, I would choose for my feeding hours to be noon-8pm or 1-9pm. Would this mean that I would be training (10-11am) at the end of a 16 hour fast, on a desperately empty stomach? Because I hate hate hate doing any form of physical activity on an empty stomach.

    Or would I be waking to enjoy my sugar-coffee with a protein shake/BCAA breakfast, or what? Or should I just learn to work out in the afternoon during my feeding hours. Anything you suggest will work.

    1. Though it might seem tough now, once you get into the fasting routine there’s nothing about training fasted. Nothing at all. Really. I just did a workout after 37hours of fasting.

    2. Hi Andy,

      Kudos on the site, and thank you so much for all of the great information. Your site has really closed the gap on some questions I had about macros and diet with IF. I’m finally in a position, thanks to you, to begin my first solid bout of IF.

      In the post above, you stated you just worked out after 37 hours of fasting. This begs the question… why were you fasting for 37 hours? Maybe you have the info on the site i haven’t found yet, but isn’t the typical Leangains approach at 16 hours fast, 8 hours eating window?

      Thanks again for all the work you put into the stie!

    3. I missed your reply because I didn’t have notifications set.

      Ha ha, wow. I’m shocked you were able to down 3 of them. You marked it as a fail, but I’m impressed! 😀 I think I’ll start with 3 slices of cheesecake on my first attempt 🙂

      I can also vouch for training fasted. I train fully fasted every workout, and I always feel strong, and haven’t gone down in weight yet (on my lifts). Something I notice is the further I am into my fast, the more energy i have.

  11. Hey Andy. Jason here. I wasn’t sure where to post this question but what is the easiest and most accurate way to measure body fat %? I know you advise against measuring body fat because of the inaccuracies but for my own records, I’d like to give it a shot. Any recommendations?

  12. So if I’m just getting back into weights after almost 2 yrs, you’re saying it is okay to do squats, deads, bench press, chins, OHP, and push ups every workout 3x/week?? I don’t need to split squats and deads on different days?

    1. Squats, DL and Bench for a beginner yes. The others will be over-kill. In your situation you’ll have to try it and see. If your technique is good enough to cause enough muscle damage & require more recovery then you will need to split them. Beginners don’t have this yet. You might need a few weeks like this until your body ‘remembers’ the actions & gets back into the groove.

  13. Hi Andy. Loving the great guide. I have a couple questions regarding training which I hope you can help me out.

    Since going to the gym is out of the equation for me (at least for a while), is it enough to substitute the training part with certain P90X routines? I’ve tried googling around, but without much luck.

    This is my current schedule that I’ve planned which has a two week cycle: (Using original P90X names)

    1st Week
    Monday – Chest & Back, Ab Ripper X
    Wednesday – Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X
    Friday – Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X

    2nd Week
    Monday – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps, Ab Ripper X
    Wednesday – Back & Biceps, Ab Ripper X
    Friday – Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X

    Note: I use bands for Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups, and I’m currently on a “cut”.

    The cardio portion of the original program has been removed. I realize that you and Martin from LG have been telling people to skip the Ab workout entirely, but since I’m not able to rely on the “Big 3” for core, I suppose I could leave it in?

    Any help/comments would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Gravien, I completely understand your thinking behind leaving in the Ab Rippex because you are missing the training effect of the squats and deadlifts. However this “abwork” is very one-dimentional. We want to work the trunk as a unit, hence the barbell suggestions. Last week I was watching a lecture from a Doctor that specialized in spinal injury prevention for athletes, and he was almost totally against traditional crunches/situps as ab-work, and this is slowly becoming more and more accepted.

      So what to do? I’d highly suggest you incorporate Kettlebell swings in there to work your posterior chain and also your trunk. The link also has a guide on how to make your own cheaply. Also when you talk about the chin-ups with bands, I presume you mean you are using a chin-up bar? I’d highly recommend installing one in a doorframe if you can.

      I realise that this section is lacking in home-workout advice. Thanks for once again bringing this to my attention. It’s now on the “Articles to write list.” I’ll put you on the list to get mails when the blog gets updated so that you don’t miss it. But don’t expect this for a few weeks though as I have a lot of things to do before. Thanks and good luck.

    2. Thanks for the reply! Also thanks to Manifesto from TL for introducing your site to me.

      I’ve actually been doing P90X for 9 months straight, but never really fixed my diet… besides eating more veggies and cutting out sugary foods and fast food. Discovering Intermittent Fasting was pure euphoria.

      To clarify, I use resistance bands with a door anchor and attach it to the top of my bathroom door for my Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups exercise. The scenario is similar to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQUGnF-5PHM
      I agree using a Chin-Up Bar would be best, alas I don’t have this option due to the constraints of my small condo 🙁

      Another thanks for showing me the Kettlebell Swings. Seems like a very good home alternative for the Deadlift move. Now I’ll have to go and hunt for one. I do have a question here if you don’t mind. The guy in your link mentioned he started with a 53lbs Kettlebell and did 75 reps, 2-3 times a week. I do have a couple 20lbs and 30lbs Dumbbells laying around. Would these suffice even with the not-so-optimal grip? Is it possible to achieve similar results by holding 20lbs Dumbbells on each hand, butt them closely together and perform the exercise?

    3. For the chin-ups something like this might work? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6uiYbyr6ek Or you could try the other one that screws into the doorframe (the video with the girl at the top on the right hand side).
      Those pull-ups with bands are not pull-ups. They are possibly the worst excuse for a pulldown I have ever seen. All the stress is in the top of the action (last part) where you are weaker, and there is no stress at the start of the motion (where you are stronger). If anything, this is backwards. Get a bar, or go to a playground and use one. Try these if you’re struggling for 10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFtE27GzTTk They suffer the same problem of the ‘help’ being (arguably) in the wrong place, but it’s only moderate compared.

      RE: Kettlebell question. No, and to hold both sounds dangerous. You need the pendulum action that the weight at one end can bring. You can make your own https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/tim-ferriss-superhuman-kettlebell.htm

      Hope it helps.

    4. So I drove about an hour and hunted a 20kg Kettlebell down the next day. I had hoped to be able to do 75 reps consecutively, but ended up splitting it to 25/20/15/15. This move really pumps your heart beat rate all the way up. Loving it.

      Can you please add me to the email distribution list for updates again? I think I deleted the confirmation email as I thought it was the same email that I had already clicked on when posting; Although I already check the site everyday, and having been referring friends and co-workers to come take a look too.

      Thanks

    5. Regarding the Pull-Up Bars, I had considered getting them at first, but the only door frame my condo has is the bathroom, and there is an immediate wall (90° turn) right beside it, making it impossible to mount.

      I started with Ripcords resistance bands. It was pretty rough for me at start, but 2 months later I’ve out grown them. I now use Bodylastic resistance bands, which allows you to freely adjust and use multiple bands at the same time; Arguably one of the best resistance band brands out there.
      https://www.bodylastics.com/mega-resistance-family-edition-388-lbs/

      Maybe the video I linked before was not the greatest example. I actually do get a lot of tension at the start of the move, as I need to yank the bands back into my starting position, where the bands itself is not at a relaxed state. This video below is a better example of what I’ve been doing, but at least 3 feet further back as the starting position – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLVSPRA4CEU4
      I just started using 2 orange bands, and the tension at my starting position is enough to catapult me forward so I’m actually spending a lot of energy on my legs and abs just to anchor myself in position (I hate that). I use them in my P90X routine, which consists of Widefront Pull-Ups, Reverse Grip Chin-Ups, Close Grip Chin-Ups, etc. for about 100 reps spread in a 45 to 50 minute period.

      I tried doing Chin-Ups at the office yesterday using the kitchen door frame (when no one was watching), and was able to do 15 in one go. I was only able to do 6 in April.

    6. You have got stronger, this is great, however a beginner can get stronger on almost any program, this does not mean it is the most effective.

      The best way to grow muscle is to get strong. The best way to get strong is to lift heavy for low rep sets. You can’t get heavy with the bands, you can’t pull more than your body weight with them, or you will fly forward and your head will hit the door. Better to jog down to a park and do some chin-ups on a climbing frame or tree branch.

    7. I’m trying to help my brother adapt his at home training from p90x to something more focused on heavy lifting for leangains since he can’t get to a gym. One solution I came upon was sandbag training. It seems like it can be a great way to get squat, deadlift, and row type movements without the need of gym equipment. It also has the added benefits of hitting muscles which aren’t used with barbell exercises due to the unstable nature of the lifts.

      This site might be a good start if you’re interested: This site might be a good start if you’re interested: https://www.sandbagtraining.org

    8. The barbells hit all of the muscles in the body. There are no extra muscles not hit.

      As for the sandbag training, it certainly looks like it has a lot more benefits than the p90x, which is glorified circuit training, however it has it’s limits, and is still not going to provide the strength gains (and thus muscle mass gains) that squatting heavy or deadlifting heavy with barbells will. If he’s looking to diet, and needs a strength training (glycogen depleting) workout then it may well be sufficient to make leangains work. However if he wants to get strong-strong, then it is not an alternative.

      Thank you for sharing Carter, and please with your brother success from me.

  14. I have 2 questions……1st the leangains program is based on cycling high calorie days and low calorie days……but what if you work out 3 days straight and 4 days off due to schedule….would you do 3 high calorie days and 4 low with maybe one cheat day????

    2. is it possible that you can go too low calorie??? ive been doing around 2000 calories on workout days and 1300 on off days but not seeing the results….any suggestions??

    Thanks
    Owen Chaikin

    1. Hi Owen, 3 days straight is less than ideal. For recovery, as well as for the cycling to take effect, I wouldn’t recommend it. To have 4 straight very low carb days will leave you very depleted of glycogen and you’ll probably drag through your first workout.

      Yes, it’s possible you can go too low calorie. If you’re bulking then you won’t see any gains. If you’re cutting you should see fat loss but muscle loss is this is the case also. Suggestion? Have your macros calculated carefully. Try the guide I just wrote: https://rippedbody.com/2011/10/23/how-to-calculate-leangains-macros/

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  16. I’ve seen great progress in getting lean so far but my strength is flatlining it seems since the beginning of the diet.
    Currently doing chest/shoulders, legs, and back/arms days with different light abs/core each day.
    I focus on low reps high weight (max 8 reps for first reps). Zero cardio right now.
    Only have time to do exercise in evenings with either 40/60 or 30/70 breakdown of meals at lunch and then after workouts at 7pm.

    Any tips or should I wait it out?

    1. When on a cut (weekly calorie deficit), the goal is to preserve muscle mass foremost while burning off the fat. Any gains in strength should be seen as a nice bonus but not a ‘given’, except for the rank novice, who will make gains due to neuromuscular adaptation when starting the big barbell movements.

      HOWEVER, when on a cut especially, less is more.
      1. Cut out that ab work totally. Squatting will get that all done. Full squats, no smith-machine crap.
      2. Stick to 3 days training a week, and choose one of those two routines as they are more effective than your current split. (Especially while cutting.) The fact that you have written ‘shoulders’ and ‘arms’ in there worries me as they will smashed totally if you are doing those routines.
      3. The more calories you can put in the post-workout window (that means the rest of the day after your workout) the better. Experiment and find a ratio that works for you.

    1. No, just increase the weight. It is a common mistake to train to be sore the following day, and can actually stall progress due to hindering recovery.

      So why is muscle soreness (DOMS) not an end goal in itself after working out?

      Remember the ab-belts that sent electronic pulses to your abs to tone you up in the ’90s? People thought that because it make you sore, it built your muscles. This has long ago been debunked.

      You can get rock solid abs from Squatting and Deadlifting due to the isometric contraction to stabilize and take direct pressure off the spine, yet your abs won’t feel sore the next day. Do sit-ups and you’ll get very sore. It’s the eccentric contractions that make you sore.

      I feel the same when I see people screw around with tricep-kickbacks and think they work because their arms hurt the next day (DOMS). If I stabbed them in the leg, they’d expect to have pain when walking downstairs in the morning but they wouldn’t expect bigger muscles right? I promise you now, you’ll never see a guy that made big arms using triceps-kickbacks.

      Excluding the initial period of neuromuscular adaptation, if you progress with your poundages, for the same number of reps, under the same conditions (rest time between sets, etc.), you’re gaining muscle. Period.

      Don’t train for pain for pain’s sake.

    2. Tim Harrington

      Andy – do you hesitate to inform me I am suffering from fuckarounditis? Or is it perfectly OK?

      Gah – the gym just would not work.

  17. The amount of new, decisive, and long overdue information I have gleaned since learning about fasted training and committing to do the program, is truly remarkable. Actually, not all of the good information is technically “new.” Like, I have known for years that the most basic exercises are the compound movements: squat, deadlift, bench, chin-ups. All the same, another part of me came to believe it made sense to engage in a variety of activities that only fostered what Martin Berkhan so aptly calls ‘Fuckarounditis’. Three days in to the program (second workout today) chest, fabulous. I got three good, solid, heavy bench sets, then hit the floor for pushups, and nailed two good sets, excellent form. Came right home and had meal #1 and savored every bite.

  18. I understand that ‘starting strength’ can be very taxing and hard to recover from; but can you explain why this is not optimal while on a cut and rpt is? considering that you dont go until failure on ‘starting strength’ and you do on rpt, i dont see how rpt can be less taxing on the body. thanks for all the great info!

    1. From what I understand, Rippetoe’s ‘SS’ calls for progressively increasing in weight each session during a cycle of several months or until gains in strength stop. You start lighter than you can currently lift and the ultimate goal is to finish heavier than you can currently lift.

      He advises eating a calorie excess to recover from workouts and effectively advises to eat your way through the sticking points (when the weight doesn’t increase and progression stops).

      For a trained person on a cut this is not optimal. Not only may they not progress into new poundage territory, in the worst case they will start the cycle lighter than they can currently lift, and lose muscle due to the detraining effect and finish lighter that they can currently lift. Remember, when on a cut we need to remind the body why it needs to keep the muscle, or you will lose it. So training to maximum as RPT calls for, is advisable.

      If you decide to ignore the cycle aspect of the ‘SS’ course however, and just plug away at maximum or near maximum poundages from the start, I can’t think of a reason to hand why this would not work to maintain strength while cutting. If anyone can think of one, please feel to jump in with a reply.

      Thanks for the question. Hope this helps Jon.

    2. makes perfect sense… i guess i wasnt really taking in to account the fact that you are supposed to start well below you current 5 rep max’s. if i decide to do it ill just start at, or close to my current, 5 rep max’s and go from there. thanks for the response and all the great info on the site!

    3. I can confirm this. I’m doing SS right now, and I was successfully increasing the weights every single workout, but then I stalled out when my calorie intake got too low. My squats actually started getting worse. Once I increased my calories a bunch, then I started back increasing weights every single workout again. So ya, you basically eat your way through a plateau.

    4. Andy,

      Loving the site. 18 months of barbell work and leangains using your webpage and I got my DL near close to 315 x 3 reps and my Squat to 275 x 3 reps and I’m staying at a consistent 155lbs. Of course I’m approaching 160 as I complete a nice bulk and looking to transition into an 8 week recomp/cut to get below that 10% mark. Of course I got RPT on my mind but i was curious to see what you thought about a 5/3/1 rep scheme for a cut or would you reccomend that for a bulk cycle?

      Thanks,
      Jared

    5. I plan on solidifying strength gains and maybe make some more from bulk with a 4 week recomp and then run a cut for a following four weeks.

    6. Andy,

      I’ve had great results over the past year and a half with leangains and focusing on stregth gains through SS and RPT. Coming September I wanted to experiment with a high frequency workout routine compared to the usually high intensity low rep ive been doing. Do you have recommendations of high frequency workout plans?


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