Sticks and stones may break my bones but squats will make me badass. — Unknown
Contrary to what you might think, muscles are not grown during your workouts but instead in the hours afterward [1, 2, 3, 4]. Working out provides our muscles with the necessary incentive to get bigger, but only through proper nutrition and health do they actually grow.
Trying to build muscle through lifting alone is like trying to build a house without the materials needed. All you end up with is a crappy house made out of scraps. In this analogy, the house is your body and the materials represent your nutrition. Crappy nutrition = crappy body.
For evidence, feel free to roam around your local gym and ask people how long they've been working out. Then, ask them "what is the most important thing needed in order to grow muscle?". We guarantee that the girls with the looks you want will always say nutrition while the other folk will mention something different.
Before even attempting to begin the workout programs below, get your nutrition and health down as much as possible. Without both drilled down, it will take years instead of months to get to the ideal physique! If you're ok with that, by all means, take your time and enjoy the ride.
General information for your workouts:
Make sure to read through these toggles before continuing to the workout plans. They will speed up your progress even more! The toggles marked with a "★" are especially important and our own personal favorites.
- Reps: Short for repetitions, is the number of times you perform a specific exercise. For example, if you do 8 reps of bicep curls, you have curled your arm with weight 8 times
- Sets: The number of rep cycles you complete. If you need to do 8 reps for 3 sets, that means you need to complete 8 repetitions of an exercise 3 times
- Rest time: The amount of time you are resting in between sets
- Volume: The total amount of weight you moved (weight × reps × sets)
Creatine (discussed in the health prep page) can potentially double your muscle gains. It is nature's closest thing to steroids but without all the bad side effects! Here's how to take it in order to maximize the benefits:
- For the first week, take your creatine in 4 doses of 5g (20g total per day for one week)
- Afterwards, take only 5g of creatine every day to see its effects
Since creatine can be quite coarse, you can mix it into a hot beverage like coffee or tea to melt it down. The flavor of your beverage will help mask the taste of creatine!
You might have noticed at the bottom of the "Your Info" tab that there is a table for the amount of caffeine and citrulline malate (CM) you need for your pre-workout drink.
If you're on the foundational program (a beginner), make sure that you take your CM mixed with at least 16oz (2 cups) of water about 45 minutes before your workout. Caffeine is optional but recommeneded.
If you are on the hypertrophy program (or an intermediate to advanced lifter), take your CM and caffeine together with at least 16oz (2 cups) of water about 45 minutes before your workout.
Don't worry about which program you'll be using yet, that's coming up soon! These details were put here for you to reference later. Anyways, citrulline malate (CM) is very sour. By mixing it with caffeine and water, you make sure you don't get a nasty surprise and get hydrated before your workouts.
Additionally, you'll want to eat a small meal with protein and carbs in it before lifting. This snack will keep your energy levels stable throughout the workout and prevent you from getting tired. A protein bar is perfect as a pre-workout meal!
Making sure that you are performing exercises correctly is vital to maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts and avoiding injury.
If you are at a gym that has certified personal trainers, ask them to show you how to perform each exercise (even the most basic ones).
If you don’t have access to a personal trainer, the strong app has an “about” section for each exercise that will explain how to properly perform it. But, it's strongly recommended that you get in contact with a certified trainer as they will be able to point out the flaws in your technique.
If you have access to neither, there are plenty of great youtube videos that will walk you through the proper form of each exercise.
When you first go to the gym, follow these steps for every exercise:
- Find a weight that doesn't feel to heavy
- Do 8 reps in good form
- Take a 2 minute rest
- Increase the total weight by 5lbs (2.2kg) and do another 8 reps in good form
When you get to a weight you cannot perform 8 reps in good form, make a note of the previous weight. That is your starting weight for this exercise.
You should only warm-up if your body temperature is low. If you feel the need to wear a jacket or long pants, you'll probably want to warm up before going to the gym.
Here are two ways to warm up:
- On the way to the gym turn up the temperature in your car until you have a light sweat
- At the gym jog on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes until you have a light sweat
Time to be controversial: Stretching before a workout is unnecessary in most cases . Contrary to popular opinion, stretching your muscles can decrease workout performance and increase the chance of injury if done before [1, 2]. Additionally, stretching has not been shown to be effective in reducing muscle soreness after working out [1, 2].
The only times when you should stretch would be either:
- You have injuries that prevent a proper range of motion (consult your doctor for advice on this)
- You are powerlifting (why are you even here?)
While you're working out you'll want to make sure you have these things:
- Your phone or journal to track your workouts
- A water bottle to stay hydrated
- And a small towel to wipe off your sweat (optional but really shouldn't be)
Every time you head to your workout session, you should be making a mental note that you have these things with you!
Switch to mobile if you have Strong
If you have downloaded Strong (the recommended workout app), make sure that you continue reading on your phone to download the workout routines. If you're already on your phone, that's weird. This guide looks way better on a desktop browser.
Anyways, if you are instead keeping track of your workouts in a journal or different app then continue reading on whatever device you're currently on.
To easily switch over to mobile:
- Take out your phone
- Open the camera app
- Point it at the QR code and press your finger on it
- Then click the link that pops up!
Getting the programs
If you cannot go to the gym, check out the . If you do have access to a gym, the training programs—like the nutritional phases—are conveniently split into three parts:
To prevent any confusion between the nutrition and training pages, note that you will always be in a nutrition phase while using a training program. Simple!
Read both options below and then head over to the workout program you need to be at. Like on the previous page, come back to this page where you're done there and continue with the guide.
Remember to click the bold, underlined links above to go to the page you need to be at. After getting your training program details, come back here to finish the page.
When to switch training programs
As per the infographic above, after you run the foundational program for 8 weeks you'll never run it again. Instead, you'll switch to the hypertrophy program to take advantage of your newly built foundation.
Once you are on the hypertrophy program, you won't switch off of it until you reach ideal (as outlined soon below). At that point, you'll switch to the maintenance program to stay at ideal forever.
If you want to remember all this stuff and are considering taking notes, don't. We've already done the work for you and condensed this entire guide into one "cheat sheet" that you can get access to by signing up below:
If you've already received the cheat sheets, good on you. You're almost done reading this entire not-so-long guide. Now back to the science.
How to measure for ideal
Once you have cycled through cutting and bulking twice while working out —about 6 to 8 months for the average individual— you'll be very close to the ideal physique!
To check, cut down until you reach a body mass index (BMI) score of 19 and check what your body fat percentage (BFP) is on your smart scale.
If you're curious about why the ideal male body is achieved at a body mass index score of 19 and a body fat percentage below 20%, you've forgotten the science on the first page of this guide!
As a quick refresher, both the average man and woman found women with a BMI of 19 to be most attractive. Additionally, men that were at or below 20% BFP were found to be the most attractive to most people!
Besides these numbers correlating with high levels of attractiveness, having a BMI score of 19 while at 20% BFP is also well within the range of healthy body weights. If you want to refresh yourself on why this is so beneficial, check out this guide's cheat sheet!
Remember, the ideal body designed by this guide was carefully formulated to prepare the owner for everything life will throw at them mentally, physically, and of course, sexually. Getting your body to have a BMI score of 19 while at 20% BFP does exactly that.
After you get the information for your shiny, new training program, you are more than welcome to browse the
Not that you asked, but there are over 130 research papers worth of information condensed onto this one page. If you're still not the research type, we don't know what to say to you anymore.