Critique My Full Body Workout Routine

Posted July 31, 2009 in Your Questions 6 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.

Raina wrote:

“Thanks for your guidance and insight. I recently joined Gold’s Gym and they have a lot of cable and other kind of machines.

Why do u recommend free weights vs using cable machines?

For example, a machine to do tricep extension or seated dips or even seated barbell curls does focus on the particular muscle group and i feel the burn.

So why are they not effective?

Also, can you please comment on my routine: (Mon, Wed and Fri)

  1. Bench, Dumbbell Press and Incline/decline press for chest
  2. Military press, Barbell upright rows and dumbbell side raise for shoulders
  3. Bent over barbell, pull ups and seated rows for back
  4. Barbell curls, Dumbbell curls and close grip chin up for biceps
  5. Skull crusher, Dips and Push down cable machine for triceps
  6. dumbbell wrist curl, reverse curl and wrist curl again for forearms
  7. Hanging leg raises, floor crunches and crunches on exercise ball for abs
  8. Machine leg press, squats and leg press for quad
  9. standing calf raise, donkey calf and seated calf extension for calf
  10. Stiff leg deadlifts and back extension (based on energy level left)

I do about 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps and i try to take less then a minute break. Is there something you would like to correct/add?”


I recommend free weights versus cables, and so do most good personal trainers, because they target a more complete set of muscles. I am not saying cables and machines are not effective, they are just not as efficient as free weights and odd objects.

Sure, cable and machines are sometimes good for bodybuilding because you can do 15 strict reps of hypertrophy-inducing isolation exercise without worrying about balance or tiring out ancillary muscles first. But if you are looking to really build strength, size, power, and density in your whole body, you are much better off using free weights or odd objects in order to tax your whole body, or at least all the muscles in and around the target area.

This sort of training also helps you discover and bring up weak points, rather than working around them by isolating just the strongest muscles by using a single plain of motion, which is a typical limitation of cables and machines.

The free weights vs. machines argument applies more to larger, rather than smaller, muscle groups. As a personal trainer, I would be much angrier if you chose leg extensions over squats, than I would be if you chose cable curls over dumbbell curls.

Remember, your goal is not to “feel the burn”. That is just lactic acid build-up.

Your goal is also not to “feel the pump”. It feels great to be pumped, but you want to be pumped for the right reason: not because the tissue is just filled with blood, but because you did some seriously intense training with the intention of forcing your entire body to adapt to the trauma.

Isolation = cables & machines.

Full body = free weights, odd objects, and moving your body through space.

Your Workout Routine

Your program looks OK, except for legs being buried at #8 and #10, with #10 being labeled as optional. Other than that, I would make a few smaller changes based on my own experience and preference.

  • I would take the first three spots and alternate them between the big three muscle groups: chest, back and legs, unless you are prioritizing any of those three. In that case I would keep the priorized muscle group at #1 and rotate #2 and #3 between the remaining two muscle groups. Does that make sense?
  • I would move legs (#8 and #10) up to the top 3.
  • I would add full deadlifts and weighted lunges because they are so good for your posterior chain, legs, and balance.
  • I would work the smaller muscle groups into supersets in order to save time.
  • I would use more effective exercises in a couple places.

This would be your new routine (Mon, Weds, Fri):

  1. Barbell Bench, Bent Over Rows, Squats
  2. Pull Ups, Weighted Lunges, Dumbbell Press
  3. Deadlifts, Incline/Decline Press for Chest, Seated Rows for Back
  4. Military Press, Side Raise/Front Raise for Shoulders, Upright Rows
  5. Leg Press for Quads, Good Mornings, Stiff Leg Deadlifts
  6. Superset #1a: Tris – Skull Crusher, Dips, Close Grip Bench for Triceps
  7. Superset #1b: Bis – Barbell Curls, Dumbbell Curls, Close Grip Chin Up for Biceps
  8. Superset #2a: Abs – Captains Chair, The Bicycle, Full Vertical Crunch
  9. Superset #2b: Calves – Standing Calves, Donkey Calves, Seated Calves

That is actually a pretty good routine that I might suggest to any experienced weight lifter.

Some of the changes I’ve made are to incorporate regular deadlifts in slot #3 for day 1. I replaced some exercises with more effective alternatives such as abs, good mornings instead of back extensions, and close grip bench instead of tricep push downs.

The supersets will also help you get more work in at the end of your routine and will elevate your heart rate in order to burn more fat.

Also, try to keep your workout under 1 hour if you are not already.

Three sets of 8-10 reps should be fine, unless you wish to focus on strength gains, in which case I would do three sets of 5 reps instead.

So Raina, there’s your workout critique and answers to some of your questions. I hope I could be of some help. Please send feedback if you have any.

Share the Swole!

Tags: , , ,

6 Responses to “Critique My Full Body Workout Routine”

      • re: rep range.

        Personally (both through my own training and speaking to others) I have found that even in the 5-7 rep range you are still allowing for more hypertrophy than pure strength (which if you are aiming to achieve should be in the 1-3 range imo). Obviously it’s pretty dangerous to be doing squats and bench presses for 1rm though without an experienced spotter (at least in a deadlift you can drop the bar) and you’re at higher risk of muscle/structural damage do to the high intensity required at the lowest rep ranges.

        You are correct about the legs being prioritised unless focusing on growth/gains on another area of your body. General rule of thumb is to start with the biggest muscle group and work your way down to the smallest during any given workout.

        Anyway hope this comment is of some use!

  1. I totally agree with you that doing legs first is good…even though I’m tired after heavy squats, everything else afterwards seems lighter and easier.

  2. I have to agree with you that free weights work better than using cables. I have always thought about this but within the past few weeks realized that free weights do really work much better. Thanks for the post!

  3. I recently (tonite) worked out with a friend and instead of doing back and then shoulders and THEN legs, we jumped into legs (squats and rack pulls) right after our chest workout. i must say that doing legs at the beginning of your workout will warrant you with MUCH greater amounts of energy to go heavy and get big results. AND after reading this article, i too will incorporate legs into my #2 or #3 spot.

    My workout routine goes Chest, Back, Shoulders, Legs, Abs. and by legs i am running out of energy, i know this because i can feel it. but tonite i have plenty of energy to squat and what not and ended up being able to put up more weight with better form because i wasnt fatigued.

Leave a Reply