This is the short version of Darrin’s view on muscle recovery time.   To read the longer version, click here.  To read Jason’s view, click here.

How long do your muscles need to recover between workouts?

recovery time for musclesThat is one of the most important questions for any lifter – whether a newbie or a competitor.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest to answer.

You’ve probably heard 48 hrs.  Or maybe you’ve heard 72 hours.  Some people even advocate a full week of rest between working each muscle group.

For this article, we are talking about resting particular muscle groups, not about rest between workouts (unless those workouts hit all your muscles).

In general, you probably need more recovery time than you think.

I’ll give you some scientific and empirical evidence as anchor points so that you can evaluate muscle recovery time for yourself.

To make this easier to digest and act on, I’m going to score each recommendation in the rest of this article into three buckets:

a) tend towards a 2-day muscle recovery period

b) tend towards a 3-day muscle recovery period

c) tend towards a full week to rest your muscles

But all of the recommendations I make interact with each other – you can’t look at just one factor and say “ok, the ideal recovery time is X”.  Some guidelines may trump others, so the key is to take this knowledge and start applying the ones that you believe will have the biggest impact on your particular situation.  And then test.

One final preamble.  We’re talking here about force recovery – the time it takes for your muscle strength to return to optimum levels for their next major exertion.  It’s a proven fact that after working a muscle intensely, it is actually weaker while it is healing than when you started.  It takes days until it is capable of exerting the same (or more) force as before the workout.  And since you want to exert maximum force in each workout, this is the recovery time we are working with.  So don’t equate soreness with recovery.  Whether you are sore or not, is secondary.

The Factors That Influence Recovery Time

There are tons of factors that influence how long you should rest your muscles between workouts.  And because there are so many factors, this is a very long article.  LeanLifters Members get the full article.  Everyone else gets the short version.  Here are the factors:

Things You Don’t Control

  • Your genetics
  • Your age
  • Which muscles we are talking about

Things Related To Your Workouts Themselves

  • Your experience lifting
  • What program/routine you are on
  • How intense your workouts are
  • What non-lifting exercise you also do
  • What you are doing on your “rest days”

Things You Control, But Outside The Weight Room

  • Your diet
  • Whether you are taking steroids or not (hopefully not)
  • Your sleeping
  • Your stress levels
  • Your mental strength

With all these factors, there’s no way to have a universal rule!

Factors You Can’t Control That Affect Muscle Recovery Time

Let’s start by talking about genetics, age, and different muscle types.

Fiber Types – Genetics

You may have heard about Type I, Type IIa, and Type  IIb muscle fibers.  Well, we’ll skip the physiology class for now and let’s just call them “fast” and “slow” muscles.  Fast muscle fibers are designed for explosive movements.  Sprinting.  Jumping.  Powerlifting heavy weights.  Generally, these muscles require more time to recover between workouts (and between sets, but that’s a different topic).  The slower muscle fibers are designed for endurance activities – jogging, for example.  And they take less time to recover.

We’re all born with a mixture of types.  But some people are skewed towards one end of the spectrum or the other.  The split can be anywhere from 40% to 60%, vs 60% to 40%.  But that 20% swing makes a big difference between whether you’ll be a champion marathoner or an Olympic shotputter.

Keep this in mind when we talk later about routines.  But for now, just recognize that your recovery time is impacted by which fibers are used, what your mix of fiber types is, and how trained those fibers are.


The older you are, the longer it takes to recover.  It can be more complicated, but let’s leave it at that.  How much longer?  Well, that depends on your workout.  But it’s not like a 50 yr old takes twice as long to recover as a 25 yr old.  It’s more like 50% longer.

General guideline:  20 yrs old – tend towards 2 days; 50+ – tend towards a week for a muscle group to fully recover.

Muscle Groups

Arnold used to talk about how his calves and biceps recovered faster than his back and chest.  I’ve found this to be true as well but it is related to whether you are doing compound or isolation movements (see next section).  And it is related to the fiber type issues above.  It appears, in general, that larger muscle groups take longer to recover. But that’s not an absolute rule.  Anecdotally, some guys will say that their smaller muscles take longer to recover.  Those are the same guys who try to do bench press 3 days a week…

General guideline:  smaller muscles – tend towards 2 days; larger muscles – tend towards 3+ days; and then there are the back muscles hit by deadlifts – tend towards once a week.

Factors In Your Workout That Affect Muscle Recovery Time

Your Experience

I just heard Tom Venuto talk about this exact issue and I must agree 100% with him.  (Duh, of course I’d agree with him.  Have you seen him?  Heard him?  He’s got to be the smartest bodybuilder I’ve come across with the best physique.  Anyway…)

When you are just starting out, full-body workouts every other day are perfect.  You hit every muscle group in every workout, or 3x/wk per muscle.  That also means each muscle (in fact, your whole body) rests only about 48 hrs.

But the more experienced you are, the more you’ll need extra recovery days.  That’s mainly because (presumably) you are learning to be more intense with each workout as you get more experienced.

Pro bodybuilders (especially the few that are all-natural) end up often resting each muscle 6 or 7 days before working it again.  That’s why 3-way split routines, with lots of isolation movements, are ok for bodybuilders.  But for the mid-experienced lifter, 72 to 96 hrs is usually perfect.

General guideline:  just starting out – tend towards 2 days; mid-level experience – tend towards 3 days; very advanced lifters – tend towards letting each muscle recover a full week.

Your Program/Routine

In line with your experience level, you will likely modify your routines over the years.  The worst thing any newbie or beginner can do is jump into split routines.  You really need a full-body lifting program.  That said, I’ll try to step off the soapbox and simply describe the effect that different routines have on recovery time….

If your routine calls for you to isolate particular muscles, then you can lift more frequently.  As long as you use different muscles in each workout.  For example, if you did legs one day, you could do chest the next day, then back the day after that, then shoulders, then arms, etc. and workout 6 days a week.  In practice, that’s very hard to do in a pure isolated fashion.  For example, deadlifts use a heck of a lot of your muscle groups!  In fact, all of The Big 7 exercises hit multiple muscle groups.

The workaround is to do 2-way or 3-way splits.  A 2-way split is usually upper body/lower body.  A 3-way split example is legs/upper pushing/upper pulling.  Or legs/chest/back.  And some people do 4-way splits by adding in either shoulders or arms.  (I recommend only 2-way or 3-way splits.)

So, if you are doing a lot of compound movements, or hitting multiple muscle groups in a single workout, then you need more days off for recovery.  If you are doing more isolation movements, then your “recovery days” are actually spent working different muscles.  Those really aren’t days off, so to speak.  The distinction is less about how much time each muscle needs to recover – it’s more about whether those recovery days should be “days off” or not.  Make sense?

General guideline:  full-body/compound workouts – tend towards “days off” recovery periods; for isolation type workouts, your recovery days are spent working other muscles.

How Intense Your Workouts Are

Forgive my presumption here, but I bet you are not making your workouts as intense as they need to be to see sustained progress.  I say this with confidence, because I see it in 99% of the people at every commercial gym I visit.  I’ll save the lecture, and stick to the facts:  there’s a continuum of intensity and most of us are in the middle.  The less intense your workouts, the less recovery time those muscles need.  And of course, the more intense, the more recovery needed.  [Note that I'm talking about lifting intensity for producing force, not cardio intensity.]  Actually you could even do a test to see how intense your workouts really are.  If two days later, you can lift the same weight for the same exercise for the same reps, then you most likely weren’t at maximum lifting intensity the previous workout.

Some notable exceptions:  1) newbies; 2) endurance workouts (like metabolic workouts or fat-burn workouts with weights).  On both of these cases, you can be intense and still only need a couple days of recovery.

General guideline:  extremely intense workouts – tend towards a week recovery for those muscles; if you are just going through the motions with little intensity – tend towards a 2-day recovery (better yet, just make your workouts more intense!).

To read more about muscle recovery time, join LeanLifters and read the full article here.

As I wrap up this shorter version of this article, take a moment to think about what you’ve read.  What are you doing right?  What are you doing wrong?  What advice can you offer fellow lifters?  Please make a commitment to post a comment below ok?

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140 Responses to “The Truth About Muscle Recovery Time – Short Version”

  1. Darrin,
    You know I’ll have my own opinion, but….
    Olympic/power exercises, such as a snatch, use the whole body. What’s your recommended rest time? I usually end up doing them twice a week. (Provided I’m not doing other ppls workouts…)

  2. hello,

    i’m doing Two times a week, which includes Compound Movements working most of my body muscles. that means i am working my each muscle group twice in a week. for now it is the best for me as opportunity for time.

    But i must say that it is quite tiring when you make a hard bench press and an upright row and than a squat at one workout’!

  3. I´m doing deadlift, snatch, squat, full squat and other partial movements to develop power 3 times a week in about 50min. After that i go to agility training for 20min. I rest the other day and go for the gym again. That´s o kfor me and made me already a little bit faster for the 30mts dash that i do as a control once to three times a month. My time is 3s68 and i´m 31 years old, 4th month of training.

  4. @Rod – wow, that seems hard to maintain. Have you been doing that routine 3x a week for all 4 months? You are still a beginner at 4 months (funny, I thought from another comment many weeks ago that you had been lifting for years…) so you will recover a little faster. But at 31, I’m impressed if you can deadlift 3x a week. That said, I might tweak you a little and say that I bet if you next week you only deadlifted 1 day, then the following week I bet you’d be able to increase your reps and/or weight much more. Are you willing to try that?

    @Cameron – see Rod’s comment. Apparently he’s able to recover from power-focused moves quickly. Of course, this is all complicated because everyone is different. I’m still relatively new to “power training”, having more experience in bodybuilding and strength training. I’ve definitely seen that power training requires a lot more time in between sets. But between workouts? I would venture to say that it depends on which movement we are talking about. Clean and press, or snatches, for example (where the weight is going from the floor to over your head) use so many muscles that I’d definitely want to take the next day completely off. But does that mean you can’t use your shoulders, biceps, quads, traps, calves, or back in your next workout (since all those muscles are activated)? No, that’s not practical. My traps kill the next day after hang cleans, so I would take several days before working them again but if I was really working on my traps, I could probably do them 2x a week. I think we have several powerlifters who read this – can you guys chime in?

    @Nick – if you are doing full-body routines twice a week, that’s probably ideal (unless you are young and/or new to weight training, in which case you could probably move to 3x a week). Even experienced guys can do a 3x/wk full body routine for a while, just not year round.

  5. but then, does not that mean we do not spare enough time for each muscle group when we work them 3 times a week? in that case i will be doing 3 times a week squats or bench presses which may overtrain my body, because full-body workouts are already eventually more tiring than separated ones..

  6. Is my workout ok because I go hard but I do it monday, wednesday, and friday muscle and tuesday thrusday and saturday I want to do cardio but school is just keepin me busy but for now lets focus on the muscle here it is my strenght workout:

    Chest First:
    Warm-up 1 set of 10 with 15 lbs
    Dumbbell bench press with chest flys 10 reps each (90 sec rest, repeat another 2 more times for a total of 3 total sets each.

    Then dumbbell press and Bent-Arm Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets 10 reps ea and 90 sec rest between sets

    Bicep and tricep workout


    3 sets of 8 bicep dumbbell curls (20 lbs)

    2 sets of dumbbell arm alternate curls, abt 6 reps each arm but later 10 because I just got the 20s a while ago and its hard for me to do 6 so I push myself to do it.

    Isolation curls abt 8 reps each arm (15 lbs)


    3 sets of Standing Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension

    And after all that I do some alternate arm curls abt 6 curls per arm but with a 25 lb because Idk I just feel like I wanna do it lol

  7. Due to the change in my schedule, I am going to be needing to spend less time on my workouts (so that I can actually do them instead of either doing a shortened version or not even doing them at all because I have no time).

    I’m considering a 2 day per week total body workout. Now if my workout is pretty much going to consist of the Big 7, is that going to be about 2-3 days rest? And also, Darrin, do you think I would be working my body enough? I’m not a beginner (but I’m also not a professional bodybuilder).

  8. What I tried to lay out is the fact there is no single answer to recovery time. There are many cases of “it depends” and I’ve done the research on the variables that affect it. The rest of the variables are in the longer version [here].

    @Nick – For beginners, I believe there is no better program than the 3x/wk full body. Recovery should be fine. But for more experienced lifters, or older lifters, or in many other individual cases, you might see that little recovery start to stall progress. I still do a 3x/wk full-body routine for about 3 months of the year but not all year long.

    @Shayne – I really advise against any workout that has so much dedicated to arms (unless you are a competition level bodybuilder). Sounds like you would be better off with FullBodyAttack for 3 months. Then think about a more advanced routine.

    @Mat – I think that 2x/wk for a full-body routine is usually fine, though it depends on your goals. It’s most likely plenty of recovery time. Certainly following a good 2x/wk fullbody routine is 10 times better than half-way following a more advanced routine.

  9. @ Darrin- yes i practice weight training since i was 11 years old.The old fashion training for mass…youth huh… this routine is what i´ve been doing for 4 months now. Last year i stopped training in october and returned april this year; 7 months doing absolutely nothing, just eating junk food and watching tv. May this year i begun with the old 3 sets of 10 reps, 90sec max of rest and so on. In may is started with strenght and those exercises above with only 60sec rest between sets. Of course there were days that i skiped training, 1 week lighter than normal or totally off due to rainy or cold weather. and agility i started in late july. but the rest periods are kept in 60sec no matter what. Now i´m deadlifting 110kg for 3 sets of 4 reps with 60sec rest, full frontal squat with 60kg for 6 reps and 60sec rest, snatch with 40kg for 8 reps and 3 sets with 60sec rest. upper body i do one arm row with 50kg barbell for the same numbers in sets, reps and rest, pull ups, abs and then agility. That works for me and in about 2 weeks i´ll slow down to rest and then try to hit hard again.

  10. A very good article, and a very necessary one too. You clearly know what you are talking about, and you do not presume to know ALL. Personally, I train as follows: Day1, Back & Biceps; Day2, Legs; Day3, Chest, Shoulders & Triceps. However, after exercising my chest, I find that my shoulders have been pumped-up quite dramatically, and that my triceps have also been worked quite well. So, although it would seem practical to work Chest, Shoulder & Triceps together, I am in two minds whether the shoulders & Triceps should be worked on the same day as Chest.
    As for recovery: I aim for quick results, but am aware of the absolutely necessary for recovery time. I am 53yrs of age, and have practiced heavy-weight training since 21yrs of age (on & off). I also did some weight-training at school. Since starting again in July 2009, I have been surprised that I have loads of energy, and can do more sets than years before. I have very intense workouts, and am always pleased with my sesions.
    However, two difficulties:-

    1. It is said that, when working the chest with bench exercises, your shoulders & triceps are also worked quite hard, and so, the shoulders & triceps should be exercised seperately on the same day. And it is said that, as the shoulders & triceps have already been hit by the chest exercises; although the muscles are weaker, and you may not be able to exercise them so hard after the chest, that you can get better results for the shoulders & triceps. I am not conviced as, it is not easy to get a pump on these muscle-groups after the chest, and sometimes the shoulders & triceps, simply don’t want to work after the chest exercises. Yet it might seem silly not to finish working the shoulders & triceps on the chest day.

    2. I am keen on isolation exercises, and like to feel the muscles ache. And so, am not averse to isolating these muscles as much as possible, and training them as hard as possible. Yet, this means training each muscle group once a week, with 2 days rest mixed in.

    I have no trouble with doing the exercises strictly, or with the intensity. I am not so sure about only exercising each muscle group once a week, even if the workouts are at maximum intensity. And, as said before, I am not sure about training shoulders & triceps with chest.
    You have said that men in their 50′s need 50% more recovery time ?), so you might say go with the intense training and train each muscle group once a week. And, you may say that, since I have not been back in the gym for long that I should go for the less intense training schedule.
    It’s all ‘Swings & Roundabout’s). I guess I’ll have to work it out by ‘trial & error’.

    Your articles have made me think more deeply about the two difficulties I face, so thank-you for that.

  11. @ Mike – thanks for the compliments. Although a bit off topic, I never think of “training triceps”. I try my best to train movements rather than smaller muscles unless there is a particular shortcoming (like calves for me and many people). So triceps get worked with pushing movements. It also depends on what you consider “shoulders”. Read this.

    As to your isolations and your “is once a week enough” question, here’s my take:
    - if you do intense isolations, do them AFTER your compound movements
    - I don’t see any reason to go to the gym and not work as intensely as possible; only exception is the first month of working out; I’ve never been a fan of “light days” except to the extent that super-light days are really just active recovery
    - if you are focusing on very specific muscle groups, and isolations, and thus you are really destroying each muscle, then once a week is probably plenty; the two all-natural bodybuilders I follow most closely are Skip LaCour and Tom Venuto – both are usually on a once a week per muscle group routine
    - of course, Tom and Skip are far advanced; I’d still suggest that for beginners, a full-body is best and for intermediates to lower-advanced then a semi-split is best; only very advanced should be thinking about strict splits
    - and unless you are truly considering yourself a “bodybuilder” I would not do strict isolation splits for more than a few weeks a year no matter how advanced you are; most of us just want to look really good, feel really good, and be able to do cool things (like play sports, lift furniture, etc.) so compound movements rule

  12. Darrin,
    I am writing in response to Cameron’s question about recovery from a power lifting type training session. While it is true you use several muscle groups for movements such as the snatch, power cleans or deadlifts (not to mention squats) or even shrugs, it basically all boils down to how intense your training is.
    Lets say for example you’re deadlifts are done moderately heavy and you’ve been training for about a year, I’d say wait at least 6 days before doing deads again (especially if lifting heavy enough to limit yourself to no more than 4 – 5 reps; anything below 4 reps I’d say at least 10 days).
    If you do deadlifts heavy enough and strict enough you should feel it in your forearms, biceps, rear delts, traps, lats, lumbar supports, and numerous other assister groups in your upper back (and especially the hamstrings if you are doing Romanian style deadlifts or more in the glutes with a Sumo style lift).
    Of course if you are training this intensly it would be a good idea to back off at least every other week to avoid injury or overtraining.

  13. Hi Darrin,

    I found your article on muscle recovery time extremely interesting. I’m a 56 year old male who’s been working out at a commercial gym for just over a year. I first started working out 16 years ago and this lasted for about 6 months. I restarted work outs sporadically over the years never lasting for more than 6 months or so. This last time has been the longest, as I mentioned above just over a year. I started off doing the super circuit (all machines)twice a week and cardio (either treadmill, swimming, eliptical, steps or stationary cycle)also twice a week on alternate days to the circuit. This I did for 3 months and then went on to doing strength training, mostly machines, three times a week for about a month until I purchased a book entitled “Strength Training Past 50″ by Wayne L Westcott and Thomas R Baechle. After assessing my current strength according to their guidelines I started on the Advanced Training Program doing the full body free weight workout once a week and the machine full body workout also once a week i.e. 2 workouts per week. I noticed significant gains in both strength and muscle size until I hit a plateau. I have now changed to doing just free weights and doing less exercises with greater intensity. Concentrating on the Big 7 and working out twice a week i.e. Mondays and Thursdays giving me 2 days and 3 days rest between workouts. I’ve only been doing this for 2 weeks now so haven’t yet seen how this is working. What do you think and recommend for someone like me who is over 55 years of age?

  14. @ Ron – thanks for adding that!

    @ Peter – it all depends on your goals and intensity. Two days a week, full-body, high intensity is definitely enough for muscle growth even at your age. And the 2 or 3 days of recovery is great. The problem is few people really lift at high intensely. We all think we are working hard, but the ultimate intensity is going beyond what you think you can do, yet staying safe. It’s hard to know where that line is but invariably the line is farther out than you think. But if your goal is to just maintain, then 2x/wk full-body is probably enough even with just good intensity (not even max). However, age again rears its head because the older you get the more intensity you need even to maintain your muscle mass. Young kids can essentially just look at pictures of a barbell and start adding muscle (that’s a joke, people). But older guys need to work really hard. The older you are, the more intensity you need AND the more recovery you need.

  15. I have been doing body building for 2 months now and am noticing huge differences in muscle tone and strength. Apparently rest and nutrition make up for 80% of muscle growth after hitting the gym recommended by my personal trainer.. so diet is as important as rest

    we work a different muscle group 5 days a week doing 4 sets @ 12,10,8,8 …like this….. 12 reps (light Heavy), 10 reps (heavy) 8 (heaviest you can manage) 8 (heavier then you have done before). we never do more then 5 different exercises on the same muscle group in one session as this can be counter productive…. we work our abs everyday as this muscle recovers quickly… i do 200 reps each day on abs. (25,25 -25,25 Break, 25,25,- 25,25)…. we have 2 days complete rest with excessive eating… we look to increase the amount of weight we lift each week even if only by a few pounds… but as i say 2 days off complete rest… this seems to be working well for us.. i recommend to anyone anyone else.. any questions just ask i let you know on our program… in 2 months we have put on 1 stone of muscle mass. im a little bit of body fat too although we will cut that in the later stages maybe towards march.

  16. I work out just 2 times per week. Mondays I do upper body using dumbbell bench press, dumbbell rows, dips and pulldowns. That’s it. 3-5 sets each. On Fridays I do dumbbell squats, leg presses and curls. I should perhaps do curls on Mondays, but I find my arms are fried after the rows and pulldowns. My workouts are never longer than 45 minutes, but I go to near failure very set. I’m 65 by the way. What I notice most in the gym is a) people spend way too much time on the weights. People that are hard at it when I arrive are still hard at it when I leave and b)people spend far too much time on curls. What is it with curls that people feel they have to do a dozen or more sets. I see people doing standing dumbbell curls, followed by seated concentration curls, followed by standing barbell curls followed by preacher curls. I`ve seen people doing nothing but curls in the time I`ve completed my entire workout. I`ll do maybe 3 sets of either dumbbell or barbell curls followed by a couple of sets of either hammer or reverse curls. Five sets max.

  17. Darrin- a quick question please; if I train chest and biceps like I did last night is it ok to to do back and triceps tonight or is it not possible to work the triceps out without also working my biceps to the point that recovery is prevented?

    Thanks in advance, yahya.

  18. @yahya – my advice, is twofold:
    a) don’t “train arms”; see this:
    b) if you ignore me anyway, then do biceps on your back days and triceps on your chest days; do arms AFTER all your real lifts are done

  19. thanks Darrin, I’ll try that and see what works and fits best, thanks again!

  20. Hey Darrin!

    I’m doing

    Back/Bi’s (Tuesday&Friday)

    I’m 20 years old and i’ve been doing this routine for several months. I’m taking NO-shotgun and Synthesize and I feel like I generally get enough recovery in before the next time i work out a given muscle group. I’m just wondering if this is detrimental and if I should instead work out each muscle group only once a week.

    Thanks Darrin!


  21. @Zack – no, you don’t need to move to once a week per muscle group. Because you are young, you’ll likely recover quickly. If you were in your 40s, I’d say you should do shoulders on your back/chest days (front and side delts with chest, rear delts and traps with chest). Here’s the magic questions: are you making progress every week? do you look forward to each workout? are you able to be fully intense each workout? If the answer to all these is yes, then you are probably well recovered.

  22. Unfortunately I wrote a comment on Jason’s article before I read your more complete coverage. However my comment is basically the same.

    I am 65 years old and have weight trained semi-seriously including a couple of short stops for 50 years, this did not include serious body building or hulk training. I did have the opportunity to meet Arnold in Austria and the California crazies from the early 60′s through the early 70′s. I was particularly impressed by Sergio Olivia (spelling ??)

    Your article is perhaps most of note for emphasizing the intensity factor. But this (in my experience) relates to a very small percentage of people who think they are weight training (including myself).

    So my comments are really addressed to more normal weight training.

    First, maintenance or slow growth training (perhaps typical of Jack Lalanne) 4 or 5 sets of 10 reps, three times a week seems fine.

    Second, for 3 (or fewer) sets of 6 or 8 reps with heavy weights for a growth program twice a week should be ok until you get to the point of being one of the 5 strongest or biggest guys in the gym, then you need to be careful. One or Arnold’s comments was that you could ruin a big arm easier than a beginners arm.

    Third, most young guys change level too quickly, even Sergio told me that except in intense periods, he stayed at the same weight for 20 to 25 workouts – and following this, I have never suffered workout related injuries.

    On my two off days (not including Sunday), I do 250 watt exercycling for 1/2 hour one day and a serious hilly bike ride the other day.

    The deep breathing seems to be good for recovery.

    Obviously electrolytes/ sugars / proteins etc. must be carefully maintained, most mountain climbing accidents occur in the afternoon when the electrolytes are low and bad decisions come easier.

    Unfortunately I am perhaps a victim of my experience, any comments?

  23. @Quijas – well, you have far more experience than I do, so I can’t presume to correct anything in your comment! But I do think that it varies. More advanced lifters are going to find it harder to safely increase poundage frequently. Generally, I advise people to try to beat SOMETHING each workout compared to the previous. Not on every exercise of course. Just one thing so that after each workout you can point to one area you improved. One more rep, 5 more pounds, better form, etc. I recently wrote about the rule of 3% ( – but I didn’t really talk about the “when”. It would not surprise me, for serious, long-term lifters, if you would see ~20 workouts before you would be ready to increase by a tiny amount (like 3%). Beginners CAN progress faster, but that doesn’t mean they should. Like you said, too many of us want it all immediately.

    On a related note, I was surprised not many people commented on my article about intensity. I’d love to get your take on that Quijas : .

  24. @ Darrin

    Thanks Darrin! I definitely look forward to each workout but sometimes, when I’m doing incline and sometimes decline, I feel like my shoulders are strained. I warm them up before each work out and stretch throughout the workout, but they still feel almost injured. They’re fine the next day: am I maybe just hitting the wrong angle or using bad form?

    Thanks for reading and responding!


  25. Hi Darrin! I’m 15 years old and I workout 2-3 times a week. I believe my workout’s not “intense” cuz Im not getting results. (I’m just using 5 lb-dumbbells each hand) And since twas not intense I decided to do it daily for 45 mins. each day. I’ve watched several workout videos using just the bodyweight and workouts requiring minimal equipments. And I have put together the workouts that worked best, as many people say, to lose body fat, and gain muscle. Here’s the workout I’m gonna do starting tomorrow:

    Jog (for 1 min.)
    Squat – 12 reps
    Rest for 30 secs. between circuits and repeat once

    Tricep Kickbacks – 8 reps each side (no dumbbell plates; only the bar cuz I cant do it with it :))
    Kneeling push-up – 8 reps (the only type of push-up I can do :))
    Rest for 30 secs. between supersets. I do the superset for 3 times.

    Deep-knee squats – 12 reps
    DB Deltoid Raise – 10 reps (w/o plates if I cant do it for 5 reps with it)
    – 5 reps (w/ 10 pound dumbbells)
    Rest for 30 secs. between supersets. I do the superset for 3 times.

    Split Squat – 6-8 reps per side
    The Row – 8 reps (using 10 lb dumbbells)
    Rest for 30 secs. between supersets. I do the superset for 3 times.

    DB Chest Press – 8 reps (10 lb dumbbells)
    1-leg Romanian Deadlifts – 30 secs. per side (w/o dumbbells)
    Rest for 30 secs. between supersets. I do the superset for 3 times.

    Then Ab Planks for 3 times (w/ 30 sec. rest in between) after the last 30 sec. rest of the last superset.

    Then I do stretches for the tight muscle groups.

    Darrin, please tell me if there’s something wrong about my workout and if it’s okay to do it daily. As u can see I only use 10 lb dumbbells.. only because it’s the only weights we have at home. DB plates are a bit pricey and I’m not rich u see… and have no time to go to gym cuz its too far from here and I’m quite busy to go there.

    I really need to lose fat. Look lean and a bit muscular. I want to transform my body… please help me Darrin. Thanks in advance!

  26. @Hi Its Me
    Even though you are using light weights, it sounds like you are still doing rep schemes designed for muscle growth. And it sounds like you haven’t yet gained enough strength to warrant higher weights. So, I don’t want you or me to be misled into thinking you are doing light weight. It doesn’t seem like it is like to you and that’s what matters.

    If you are lifting weight that is heavy enough that you can only get 8 or so reps per set (and that might mean bodyweight), then you are essentially doing a muscle building workout. And as such, I would take a day off in between. You can jog or something on the days off as long as it is “easy”.

    Now, in your last sentence you say you want to burn fat. If that’s more important to you right now than gaining muscle, then I would say your current workout is not ideal. I would probably REDUCE the weight so that you can get 12 to 15 reps per set. Keep the rest periods short.

    And if you are doing high-rep, short rest type of resistance training, then you CAN do it every day, but I wouldn’t. I would do it two days, then 1 day off, then 2 days on, then 1 day off, etc.

    Hope this helps!

  27. Oh, and one more thing – you really do need to gain some strength. Fat loss might help your visual appearance but your strength levels are really low and to be healthy you need to get stronger. an idea protocol would alternate fat-loss type of metabolic training with strength training but I think that might be too complicated for you right now. In a couple months we can talk about how to add strength training.

  28. Thanks Darrin… Now I know ^_^… and one more question… Is it okay to workout first thing in the morning, with an empty stomach? Im confused. Some people say, you can burn more fat if ur gonna do it while some people say you first need to eat light carbs and protein an hour before workout. Please let me know. Thanks…

  29. Yes it’s ok, but there is conflicting science on it and it seems to come down to the individual. My recommendations is that for beginners, never lift fasted. After you are more experienced, you can experiment and see if it is right for you. Also see

  30. Okay… thanks again :)

  31. Yeah I had a quick couple questions??? I’ve been working out for like 6 or 7 years off and on but like 5 months ago I really got into it and I do chest and tris one day then back and shoulders the next and biceps the next and my Bi’s and shoulder and back I’m bulking up and lifting heavey but my chest and tri’s i’m just trying to cut up…. but I MAYBE take a 1 or 2 day break… Is that bad??? What would you recommend??? And I’m 20 years old

  32. @Rob Dawg – ready for some tough love? NEVER put “tris” or “biceps” in the name of your workout day. That indicates a misunderstanding of where the best strength and hypertrophy (and fat loss, for that matter) come from. The best lifting exercises are multi-joint compound movements that work multiple muscles at once. Check out . Now I know you are young, and I didn’t know all this when I was your age either. So if you are asking what I recommend, I’d say throw away your workout and focus on the Big 7. Quick idea for a workout: a day focused on pulling, a day focused on pushing, a day focused on legs, then a day off. Repeat. Since you are young, you MIGHT have enough energy to do some biceps work after 5 sets of deadlifts, 5 sets of pullups, 5 sets of rows but even if you did, it would be a waste of time. Instead, use that 15 minutes to read a couple more articles on this site each week.

    And getting “cut up” is really about your diet. Weightlifting will help grow muscle, but you need to have low bodyfat to show off the muscle.

  33. if i bench one night and the next night i do push ups am i giving my body enough time to recover?

  34. @dana – it depends on your goals. If maximum increase in the size of your pectorals is your goal, then you should change to give your chest more days of recovery. If your goal is local muscular endurance – being able to do more, even when fatigued – then your routine is fine. I often cite the fact that the military does pushups – many, many pushups – every single day with very few injuries and with good results for muscular endurance. If you are looking for maximal strength, then pushups themselves are really hard to maximally load and really aren’t part of a pure strength program (though they still make great warm ups when on a pure strength cycle).

  35. I’m 22, and in college, with about 6 years of intense, weekly training. I have always lifted atleast 3 days a week since my freshman year of high school. Lately the last 3 years or so, I have increased the intensity of my workout days and shortened my rest times. I lift specific muscle groups together: Mon-Chest,Back Tues:Legs,Abs Wed:Arms Thurs:Shoulders Friday: off. And then Saturday will be my “Chest,Back” day again. On every given day I hit each muscle with 4 sets of 3 different exercises (12 total sets) of varying reps (10,8,8,6) for each exercise. My last set of 6 reps is always to failure for each exercise. I eat around 3000-3200 calories a day and more than my body weight in protein each day. I also am on several supplements: whey protein, glutamine, arginine, Neurocore, and MuscleMeds Amino Deconate.I am 6’1, 190 lbs. Having said this to you, do you think I am overtraining? People always tell me that I am, but i have seen a 5 pound increase on my bench the last 3 months to 335, and added an 1/8 inch to my arms over the last 6 months to just under 17”.

  36. @Joe – the fact that you are making progress is a good indication that you are NOT overtraining. So I could leave my answer there. But in addition, it looks like you are giving each muscle group 5 days rest. That’s another sign that you are not overtraining. I might quibble like I always do about “arms day” usually being a waste, but it’s not like it’s harmful. Just probably not needed. Anyway, I don’t see any indication at all that you are even close to overtraining. Keep it up!

  37. Darrin,

    I’m 37 and lift heavy 4sets reps of 10,10,8,6. Yes I’m still sore on the 3rd day, should I hit my chest again on the forth day or is that enough rest?

  38. @Teto – Soreness is not really the best indicator of recovery. The best definition I’ve heard of optimal recovery is “the shortest time before you can actually progress”. Meaning, if you are waiting x days between days emphasizing a muscle group, and you are not able to keep progressing week after week, then you are not waiting long enough. It’s highly individual, and will change when you are a more advanced/experienced lifter. Are you progressing each week under your current cycle?

  39. Darrin,

    yes I am getting stronger benching 6reps of 275 and adding 5lbs a month, just wanted to fill my week. Tore some cartilage in my knee so legs are out for awhile. Maybe I can hit back twice.

  40. Hi
    need some advice.
    I am close to 50 years of age (height 5 ft 10 inches, weight 75 kgs )and have just about started going to gym for basically ensuring core muscle fitness and reasonable toning up of the body which is so essential at this age to prevent having a fledgling , injury-prone physique.
    I have been handed a chart for a number of exercises for the upper and lower body on alternate days. No rests as such have been prescribed by the trainer but I normally take a day off after two days. the work outs given are–
    for upper body–
    arc trainer/sit ups/dumbbell side-bends /bench press/inclined bench press/lat pulls/body extension/tricep pull downs/DB shrugs/DB overhead push ups/seated DB curls/DB wrist curls/pelvic thrusts

    for lower body—arc trainer/treadmill/ free squats/free lunges/leg press/stiff leg dead lifts/pelvic thrusts/plank

    its been about 12 days now— only a little visible development.Also, I am not sure if I am following a healthy regime.
    Kindly advise whether to change the regime and what to go for

  41. @ranojoy – I have to say, that routine sucks. Not because it is dangerous, but just that it was written by someone with no clue. Seated DB curls? Wrist curls? For a total beginner for basic fitness? Seriously, it’s mostly a waste. The lower body day isn’t too bad but you don’t need so many exercises when starting out (skip the leg press). Do you have any known injuries? Did the trainer do a screen that told you/him anything about your movement patterns?

    You want to do full-body movements (do a search on this site for The Big 7) but start with light weight – you don’t want to get injured. I could sell you one of my programs on the right of course, but there’s a ton of free info here. Or sign up and get the free “3 months to a new you” ebook – it has a free routine in there.

    Having said that, even though his routine sucks, even on a good routine you probably won’t see much difference in 12 days. You’ll feel great, but visual changes usually take many weeks.

  42. Hi darrin
    thanx for ur prompt tip—just one request–since it s quite apparent that I need to cut down on many of the workouts given, could u help out by weeding out the unnecessery ones from the regime i have detailed.
    I do get ur point surely— will be checking on the Big on the site, but could u help meanwhile for this

  43. Just get the free ebook here: .

  44. Hello Darrin,

    I am a newbie but I am 29 years old. However I got some muscle groups developed from 10 years of swimming trainings, yet havent been training for 6-7 years. Got thin hands, 31cm 33cm biceps…but stronger lats and chest…

    I dislike gyms and I’m all into bodyweight excercises, but I understand that some of my muscle groups are too weak so I’ll use some weights to assist me in the beginning.

    At the moment I can do 3×10 pushups and 3x6pullups, so im not like a total noob..

    I am thinking about 3split bodyweight:
    1 back, biceps, forearms
    2 rest
    3 chest, shoulders, triceps
    4 rest
    5 legs

    and abs somwehere…

    Now I am a bit in a dilemma how to adapt recovery time for bodyweight excercises, because for ex. I’ll do BACK, biceps, forearms together because the bodyweight excercises bind those muscles together, but…what to do about longer recovery time for the BACK and shorter recovery time for the arms…and the same problem with the CHEST vs shoulders, triceps bodyweight excersises?

    Big tnx!

  45. @Drako – I think you are overthinking. On your proposed routine, you are hitting each muscle group every 6 days. At your age and experience level, you should have no problem recovering.

  46. Now that you’ve said 6days it hit me…isn’t that too much rest… I forgot to mention that I want to gain mass with bodyweight excercises…

    Any suggestion for some better/optimal split according to my age/shape(I’m 78kg 185cm) and still not get into overtraining?


  47. @drako – I almost never run into people who are overtraining. Most people are way undertraining. That said, you can read this:

    Now for you, I would try what you suggest (normally I’d remove the arms movements, but you seem very self-conscious about your “small” arms and so I’ll not tell you to skip them – just do them at the END of your workouts).

    In terms of your goal: to add mass with bodyweight movements. Very, very hard to do my man. Even with external loads (i.e. weightlifting) it’s hard to gain lean mass. Bodyweight just isn’t enough load to stimulate much growth. Best I can say is work in single-leg, single-arm movements to increase the load. You could probably train full-body 2 or 3 times a week and still have enough recovery but to grow you need to truly push it intensely (not tons of reps, but tons of load) and also eat a lot.

  48. darrin,

    I used to lift weights quite frequently starting from age 13 all the way through high school. Then i took a long hyades for like my first year and a half in the navy in which i focused on stamina and cardiovascular. Now I’m starting to hit it up again. my routine usually goes as follows:

    (I will normally spend anywhere between 1 hr to 1.5 hrs in the gym)
    Tri’s and Pecs
    Bi’s and Back
    Day off
    Tri’s and Pecs
    Bi’s and Back
    Day off

    This gives each muscle group 48 hours, but i kind of do two-a-days, and include calisthenics up to 5 days a week with two days off, and low impact cardio exercises (occasionally high impact as well) anywhere up to six times a I’ve been on this routine for about 4 months now and have seen no injuries. I’ve improved my 1RM from 225 to 260 (so far)

    Ok with all the evidence at your feet i just wanted to verify that this is the smart and healthy way to keep at it, if not please let me know.

    thanks much

  49. @steveoreno – no legs days? also see my comments here (and in many places on the site) about my frowning on workouts that have “bis” and “tris” in them. If you are doing the Big 7, you should have no trouble getting arms proportional to your overall strength. So, I think your routine probably needs a lot of work, but in terms of recovery you are probably fine.

  50. Hey Darrin,

    Thanks for the very informative article. I am unsure if my routine is able to produce the best results. Please give me your views. Thanks!

    I will work out one day and rest a day before starting on “day 2″. In short, there is a one day rest after every workout.

    In the first exercise, I would target upper chest, trape, pull ups, deltoids, abs, obliques, hamstrings and quarts. I will usually cycle in fat burn mode for 15 mins before swimming 10 laps.

    Rest one day

    In the 2nd exercise, I would work out my lower chest, lower back, back deltoids, triceps, shoulders and calves.

    Rest one day

    On the 3rd day, I would work out my middle chest, back, pull ups, abs, obliques, hamstrings and quarts. After that I will run 2km and swim 10 laps.

    Rest one day

    The cycle repeats.

    Basically, i try to split chest work out to 3 components and target them in 3 separate days. I usually do each workout till failure point before continuing on another workout. Progress has been so far so good, with a 2.5-5 pound increase in weight for every cycle. My workout (including swimming, running or cycling) can take up to 3-5 hours each time.

    Base on this, i have a questions to ask.

    1) Am I resting too long for each muscle group? On average, my upper chest/lower chest or middle chest gets to rest 5 days before next workout.

    I have thought of combining the 3 exercises together, putting them in blocks of 3 days e.g. Exercise 3 days, rest a day and exercise 3 days again instead of exercise one day, rest a day and exercise again.

    I am 21 this year. I have started this routine recently. Have been working out in the gym for about 2 years or so.

  51. @glad – if you’ve been lifting regularly and intensely for 2 yrs already, I’d probably recommend a split routine, but just a simple split. Like upper/lower. But it depends on your goals. And depends on whether you’ve really been a regular lifter and how intense you’ve been lifting. If you share your goals, and how “real” your past 2 yrs have been I can give you better advice.

  52. Thanks Darrin for your reply.

    I have focused the bulk of my trainings in the past on arms, abs and back. The routine I mentioned is actually the one I adopted recently (around 2 months or so). My main concern is actually my chest. I am unsure about how long I should rest for my chest.

    I have decided to split chest workout into 3 separate days because it is very intense to target the entire chest in a day. Currently i am doing bench press of around 75 pounds for each side for regular and inclined bench press. For dips, I have an added weight of 10kg. This is my progress in 2 months. I started out at around 35 pounds each side for bench press.

    I have seen some progress for my chest over the weeks but it hasn’t been very fruitful for my upper chest. THe middle chest is doing fine.

    If I were to adopt the simple split routine, isn’t it very difficult to build the muscle groups as many exercises includes multiple muscle groups?

    Lower body and abs aside, my goal is to achieve a more massive chest that is proportionate and well-rounded.

    Once again, thanks for your advice!

  53. @Glad – so, as for goals, it sounds like your goals are related to chest size, right? (Not to get off topic, but clarity of goals is paramount to making progress.) If that’s the case, then presumably the following are NOT your top goal: fat loss, absolute strength, competing in a marathon, etc.

    So if we focus purely on hypertrophy (muscle size increase) then we are talking essentially bodybuilder style workouts. There is substantial evidence that you would want to target that muscle group only once or twice a week, but really, really blast it. Remember, it’s cliche but true: muscle isn’t built in the gym, it’s built during the recovery period outside the gym. Most people would respond well in the 8-10 rep range (at least for chest), 3 or 4 working sets (not counting warm ups) per exercise, 2 or 3 exercises per bodypart, going to form failure, and 60 seconds of rest between sets (which likely means you’ll have to lower the weight slightly for each set). There are a million routines you could use but my Hypertrofreak routine is in this mode (though not just focused on chest). But seriously, many will work, not just mine.

  54. @Darrin – Thanks for answering most of my questions, it has been very helpful.

    I would like to ask how often can I do mild to mid-intensive cardio a week? The goal here is to burn fats.

    Also, what should the rest time for each sets be? I believe it does differ for different muscle groups. In particular, I would like to enquire on chest, back and legs. I usually take 1.5min to 2min break in between sets, is it acceptable or highly personal?

    Lastly, is a day’s rest for my leg good enough? Or do leg muscles require longer rest?

    Thanks for your help!

  55. @Glad – depending on your definition of “mild” and “mid-intensive”, you can do that cardio every single day. It’s once you get intense that you have to be careful. For example, today I did true Tabata sprints and with that intensity I would not suggest more than twice a week for most mortals (myself included).

    Your rest time is fine if you are doing pretty heavy lifts, where you can only get 4 to 6 reps. If you are doing sets of 10 or so, then a slight shorter (60 second) rest between sets has been show to release more muscle-building hormones. But don’t overthink this.

    For legs, you are young so you might recovery quicker than guys in their 40s but for people in the middle age group I think intense leg days once or maybe twice a week is ideal. I’m NOT counting light/moderate running or other cardio training. But sprinting would count as a leg workout so I tend to sprint on the same days as squats (sprint after squats, though your sprint times will be pretty slow). One day of rest between intense lifting of any specific muscle group is not ideal except for beginners or in rare cases when experienced lifters do a short 3 or 4 week insane session followed by a full week of recovery. So in your case, ignore the previous sentence!

  56. Got a few questions. 1. I put myself in the hospital for a week with some pretty bad Rhabdo about a year back and wasnt allowed to go to the gym for quite awhile. Am I more susceptible to getting it now that ive had it? Is there anything i should watch out for at the gym or with talking supplements? Also, would the type of workout im doing make a big difference?Power vs Endurance. 2. With my new job i can only make it to the gym on Tuesday’s,Friday’s & Saturday’s. I know most people do the chest/tri’s, back/bi’s thing. Id like to do Tuesday-Chest&Bi’s. Friday-Back&Tri’s. Saturday-Legs&shoulders. Traps,Calfs,abs on all. Im 28, in decent shape and I eat my vegetables. I dont have a spotter and its hard to break myself off. I like the idea of hitting my arms 1.5 times a week. The reason being that their slightly disproportionate when compared to the size of my chest. Any input? Thank you.

  57. *TAKING supplements. NOT talking. I already know there’s something wrong if my supplements are talking.

  58. @0311 – sorry, not sure I’m qualified to comment on this one. If you have a question about recovery time, happy to help. Otherwise, perhaps a post to the forum would get a response from someone familiar with your particular situation.

  59. @Darrin – Alright, I shall heed your advice. Thanks for your help once again!

  60. Great article…
    Could you please let me know what your opinion is of my workout? I’m 44 btw.
    My workout sounds complex, but it really isn’t. I got the idea from an old Weider booklet I got from GNC a long time ago (25+ years). I work my abs, calves, and forearms every other day (alternating days). Arms- bi’s then day off and then tri’s then day off. Chest one day, back the next, and then shoulders the following (giving each 2 full days off rest in between). Legs will have 3 days of rest. So, as you can see I workout 7 days a week, but my routines are always changing since I don’t work the same bodyparts on the same days all the time. I hope that wasn’t too confusing…what do u think? Thanks for your time.

  61. @MarkB. Unless you are about to compete in a bodybuilding contest, there’s really no need to list “arms” in your workout. That elevates them to an artificially high importance. I’m pretty consistent throughout this site that if your workout days have arms in the title, there’s probably something wrong. All you need are the big 7 and variations on them. Read this (as well as just about any article here).

  62. For anyone else who wants feedback on their particular routine – unless it is a specific question about recovery times – please just use the forum so that this article stays focused on recovery. Thanks!

  63. @darrin,
    Hey,i put a lot of workout on my biceps and triceps basically hands and it got swollen for few days..well but the problem is that i have not been able to lift the same weights now even after the rest for few days.My right hands been a problem you see,,i mean its not getting enough strength for the gets exhausted soon..i feel powerlessness in my elbow..what should i do?

  64. @Rockie – yes, here’s the solution: don’t do “arms”. And seriously, if any future person posts here about their “arms” routine, I’m not answering. I’ve said at least 6 times on this page (and probably a hundred times across the site) that I advise against isolating your arms and if people aren’t going to follow my advice on that, they aren’t going to follow my advice on recovery issues.

  65. I am 65 yrs old and have been doing pullups chinups for a long time and do sets of at least 25, 4 days a week for a total of between 600 and 800 a week, usually 2 hundred per workout, Thinking of starting to add weighs. as I did as a kid yrs ago, Good idea or not. Thanks Tom

  66. @Tom – 600+ pullups/chinups a week at age 65?!! I’m impressed. Clearly you’ve shown that once you get accustomed to a certain movement, you don’t need as much recovery. My guess though is that by doing chins every two days, you are simply maintaining rather than progressing. Once you start trying to really progress – say, by moving to 1000 a week or moving to adding weight – you will need more recovery time.

    Honestly, you are already in a category here beyond me and beyond anyone I know. I know some people doing that many pushups a week, but pushups are easier than pullups in terms of bodyweight rep counts. So I’m in uncharted waters here in offering advice…

    My inclination is that you should either do one of the following approaches:
    a) add small weight, like 10 pounds every 2 weeks, and stick to the lower limit of your weekly rep ranges (so, 600 only); then after you are doing them with 30 pounds, stop increasing the weight and try to get back to 800 a week
    b) add 20 pounds right away, and really blast it by doing 300 a day and only doing them every three days

    I really don’t know which would be better but I’m leaning towards plan (a). Anyone else have advice in how recovery might work at this level?

  67. Darrin, Thanks for the advice on my chinup and pullup routines,I usualy do 100 each for each workout or i’ll do all of one and change to the other next day. I plan on retireing from the Post office next month,mI’ve been walking 8miles a day for 40+ yrs. I’ll have more time to be devoted to a different workout.. I’ve used weights a while ago,got to 80lbs for just a few reps. I’ve done 25 reps with 30 lbs, but at the tme I was a regular body builder and chinups were just an ocadional thing for back workouts. Since I stopped weight training because of time limitations I kind of got hung up on chins and pulls and can do 50 either way for sets, I have done 8 sets of 40. It only takes me about 20minutes to do my 200 but it is an intense 20minutes. Again thanks for the time. Tom

  68. hey darrin, is it good to jog every day and every other day, do resistance to work on the muscles? and by jogging i mean use the elliptical machines.
    i drink whey protein to help recover my muscles after, but i heard that doing cardio everyday may burn my muscles as well…
    is this true and do you have any advise on what im doing

  69. continue from previous comment, i use the elliptical machine roughly 45min- an hour every day

  70. @bao – what are your goals? If your goal is to get huge, then that’s too much cardio because your muscles likely can’t recover. but if you are just looking to be in good shape, relatively muscular, relatively lean, and relatively fit, no problem (though I personally almost never see anyone using an elliptical effectively – 45 minutes on that is probably more like 20 minutes of real running/jogging).

  71. Ty for that darrin, my goal is to get a six pack, but so far only showing a 2 pack because of my belly fat, id wIsh to lose the fat but not to burn muscle at the same time, any suggestions?

  72. @Bao – there are many articles on the site dealing with your question, so please read those. Then, since this article is about recovery, please post your remaining questions on fat loss/6-pack either under a relevant article or actually just in the Forum ( ). Thnx!

  73. I have seen many articles about muscle recovery time but I have never seen a reference to a scientific study that supports any of the recommendations. If seems to all be based on “expert opinion”. Can anyone point to or cite a scientific study of the issue?

  74. @Mike – yes there are plenty of real nitty gritty science articles on recovery time. in preparing this article I relied heavily on years of articles from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research but they require an expensive annual subscription. You should be able to find a ton on pubmed too (I just did a search). But be prepared for many hours of reading and parsing out the results. It’s really tricky when looking at the science because it’s such a controlled environment. For example, they’d take 24 untrained individuals (people who have never lifted) and then when you look at the protocol, all they had them do were single-arm bicep curls for 4 weeks and took muscle biopsies before/after each workout. That’s not really useful science is it? Then there are age and gender issues. One of the reasons I put this article together is to help people understand that it’s never a single factor.

  75. Does creatine help with recovery at all? I know it helps during work outs but My muscles feel relieved even after 24 hours unlike before when i would start working out after 2 days and my muscles still hurt from the previous work out…

  76. @Joe – great question. I personally feel like it reduces soreness, but I know other people who don’t see that benefit. So I dug into the research on it. I was not able to find any study that proved creatine helped with recovery or with soreness. “Some” test subjects experienced that benefit, but nothing reliable. There are also some individuals who do not benefit from creatine in terms of strength and muscle size (two areas that are indeed proven benefits of creatine). These so called “non responders” show that there is an individual difference in how we respond. [Side point, I can't prove it, but I suspect that some non-responders simply are getting so much creatine through their diet that the extra dose doesn't add any other benefit. But again, I can't prove that.]

    In the end, if you are convinced that creatine helps with your recovery, then great. It’s safe so go for it. also search this size for other articles on creatine, like this.

  77. I think small muscles like biceps and triceps can be good again in about 2 days but its the larger muscles like chest and legs that need 3+ days to recover.

  78. Hi darrin I don’t know if your still answering questions but here go’s I am 33 years old I am about to start training and not exercised in a while is this routine ok to build a bit of muscle and lose a lot of fat and will my body recover my routine is day1 legs and then 20-30mins of HITI 2mins rest 1min work if I progress the active rest will be a lot shorter. day2 chest shoulders and triceps day3 back biceps and abs 20-30mins HITI day4 rest Then back to day1 I really need to lose a lot of weight as I have let my self go over the last few years and is 5″10 and nearly 16 stone and have approximately 32 percent body fat my goal is to get to 10 percent body fat within 18 months or so and have a decent size muscle mass. Please let me know if this workout seems appropriate for what I want to achieve.

  79. @Darren – first off, great for you to start taking care of yourself. second, it’s very hard to assess someone’s plan over the internet. third, if your main goal is lose a lot of weight (that sounds like your main goal), then it’s all about eating right. Exercise certainly will help, in particular helping my making sure you mostly lose fat rather than muscle, but changing your eating is the best plan. But in terms of recovery time, for someone just getting back into fitness, this seems reasonable. And good on you for STARTING with legs – most people save legs for last, but if you are doing exercises like barbell squats, you will build more muscle and burn more calories than almost any other exercise. You may find yourself still sore on day 3 in terms of legs, so your “HIIT” may just turn into fartlek-type intervals but that’s ok – just do your best.

  80. Thanks mate my main goal is to lose the fat I hear you when you say that diet is important and I plan to go on a good eating plan like chicken breast and veg for dinner oats for breakfast a few protein shakes here and there mainley before my workout and after my workout thankyou for your words of encouragement it means a lot. I start on the 5th of July 2012 and can’t wait to get my life back.

  81. Hey ive been working out for two years but i recently took some time off and just started back up again about 2 or 3 months ago. When will i know when i reach the point where i need to give my self extra time to recover from excersicses such as bench press? Right now i do dumbell bench press 3 sets ,triceps pushdown 3 sets, shrugs 3 sets, chest flys 3 sets, and military presses 3 sets on one day. The next day i do alternate curls, wrist curls, pull ups, seated lat rows, and goodmornings (Also all 3 sets). But i go back and forth between those usually with about 2 or 3 rest days a week. Should i be giving myself more time to rest? I also do 25 minutes of cardio training with about the same amount of time off a week. Will that interfere with muscle recovery??

  82. @Travis – I feel like I address most of your questions (especially your last one) either in the article or in my other comments to other people’s questions. If I understand it, you are doing “chest” about once a week? When you get more experienced, and can make those lifts far more focused and intense, and as you get older, once a week per intense session per muscle group seems to work best. But how do you know if you aren’t recovering enough? You know when you experience overtraining: .

  83. @Darren – sounds great, but if you already know the right thing to do, why wait until July 5th? Sounds either like you are going to binge on July4th or else you psychologically want to delay. Don’t delay – start now, even if you then take July 4th as a fun day.

  84. Am not going to pig out I have a project to do at work which is going to take a little bit of my time I know this sounds like an excuse but I have recently got promoted and I really want to impress that’s the main reason why I want to start on the 5th. Sorry darrin just a question I know you mentioned a few days ago about the barbell squat could I get some of those results by using a dumbbell squat and then when I get strong enough go onto barbell squat what do you think mate.

  85. @Darren – my advice: there are only two reasons I can think of to not start with a barbell: a) some structural issue that makes you unfit to ever do back squats or b) you literally have no access to a barbell. DB squats are quite different from BB squats. We really should post the squat articles to stay on topic, so post something on one of those and I’ll share my additional advice about this there.

  86. Got a few questions for you Darrin, So recently I’ve been on the study of true recovery, fat loss, and just building the bodys muscle. I work out the main muscles chest, triceps, back, biceps, shoulders, and legs throughout the week.(I excluded abs due to the rep range and intensity)Ive only been at the gym for 6 months and ive seen tremendous gains since then. I say this because, I’m almost 2x my body weight in Bench Press, my squat sits right over 2x my body weight, and my pullups are 20+. Before the six months, I wasnt strong at all. I write everything down, even if its incorrect, I analyze it and fix it. But anyways let me get back to the catagory with the first question.
    Alright I have a theory and a question for you to possible influence it either way. Say we go to the gym monday and workout Chest and Triceps. And to begin with my goals are to not build mass but to build a lean body with extraordinary power a mass builder would have. Ok now I think the body recoveries differently by the exercises we do, which comes closer to my question. For instance full body exercises like push ups (ENDURANCE) you can recover in 2 days(I would say), as to where dumbells (ISOLATION) would take 3+ days and then you have cables and machines (MultiCompound) which would take 2-3 days because of the less resistance to a dumbell. I would even say machines would be a different catagory because you dont use stability muscles like dumbells. Now see I usually do 4 exercises for chest and depending on the week im in during the 6 week phase would conclude which catagories to work with. And when I say work with I mean which catagory to use for each exercise. And my theory states that in order to become a lean body type of person with power (which is my goal for the clients I work with) you need to throw in different catagories in your workouts to have the variety of power and endurance. My questions are do you replace bench press ever with flat bench dumbells during the 6 week phase to gain max power at the end? Because Bench press to me is a must every week and I cant seem to throw in flat dumbell BP. I feel like its gonna effect my bench press the next week if I replace bench press itself. Another question is Isolating the chest on chest and tri day is it more effective then doing both? and if so would I do more or less exercises on the chest?
    I know this is alot to cover and I greatly appreciate it if you even spent the time to read it but I have another question in the bicep and tricep catagory. I know if you overtrain the bicep and tricep it requires 4-6 day recovery if not a full week. and if you do less stress catagories like cables and machines, it would require 2-3 day recovery. My question is like chest and back you can change the phase of heavyweight 90% to lightweight 70% if you plateou in either phase to keep the consistant gains but how does the bicep and tricep workout? Do you keep the same rep area for each one during each phase or can you change the bicep tricep rep range every other 2-3 days? like lightweight one day and then heavyweight the next time. or do you get better gains from just consistantly doing the same rep range everytime?
    Again I know this is alot to cover but it would be very useful if you could help me narrow down my theories. My name is Jordan Flores, I work at GNC, and Im just trying to change the youth in my community at the high schools that are in sports.

  87. @mr. nutrition – lots of questions here! You have made amazing progress! First off, I talk about fitness being both Art and Science because for some things, there are proven answers and for other things, they are highly individual.
    - On the compound recovery vs. isolation recovery issue: I don’t think there’s any proof on this one way or the other but keep in mind there are different recovery systems (I didn’t go into this in the article). There is “muscular” recovery – literally, have the fibers healed. There is central nervous system recovery – is your nervous system ready for another “shock”? There is joint recovery. Etc. And then there is application recovery. Recovery for muscle growth is different than recovery for power, for example. One thing that is always true: the more intense your workout, the longer you’ll need to recover.
    - On bench press vs. db press: done right, they both can have very similar results for power, strength, etc. At elite levels, then there start to be differences. One nice thing about barbell bench press is that you certainly can handle more weight than with db press so your cns is more taxed. However, db presses are much friendlier on the shoulders so you have less injury risk. In terms of recovery differences, I don’t know.
    - I almost never train, nor prescribe training, biceps and triceps separately from other movements. I’m learning that there are cases where people need more arm strength though, just to be able to add weight to the barbell row, or deadlift, or press, etc. In your case, you are clearly plenty strong and so I’d keep “arm training” to a minimum. If you were a bodybuilder, then that’s ok. But for strength and power, I think you’d get more bang out of explosive movements which are compound. Also, if you are training teenage boys, you can be sure that if you focus them on compound movements, they will STILL end up doing arm curls when you aren’t looking! lol

    In the end, keep experimenting like you are and find what works for you but recognize you may have trainees for whom the complete opposite is true.

    Hope this helps!

  88. Hi there!

    Glad I found this. So here’s my question. I am very active, I teach pole dancing and cardio based classes 4x a week as well as hill/stairway sprints 2x a week. I am in pretty good shape and have been doing this for a little over 2yrs. I am 5’5″ 125lbs with a slender athletic build (think track runner carrying most of my muscle/weight in my lower half).

    My goal is to add mass & bulk up to 135lbs. I’ve begun by adding (found on YouTube) Dana Linn Baileys “Big 3″ : bench 20 reps, squats 20 reps, clean and press 20 reps w/ 2 minute rest and then repeat for 3 (goal 5) sets adding deadlifts 20 reps & lunges (walking & backwards) to each set. Right now (I’m in week 1) I’m lifting 30lbs for that bench and clean and press 50lbs for deadlifts & squats. (goal is to lift close to my body weight by next yearish)

    So to my question, how much recovery do I need to see results with this kind of routine considering my already active & heavy cardio based lifestyle? Is every other day (3x week) of the lifting workout too much?

    I’m a 31 year old female.


  89. @Nina – well, this “big 3″ (hadn’t heard of this particular routine before) is essentially a cardio workout, not really weight training. “bench 20 reps, squats 20 reps, clean and press 20 reps w/ 2 minute rest and then repeat for 3 (goal 5) sets adding deadlifts 20 reps & lunges (walking & backwards) to each set” is what these days is called a metabolic workout. Not really new – Jack Lalane was doing these 50 yrs ago but the Crossfit world has rediscovered. For the record, I love these kind of routines. Well, except 20-rep sets of deadlifts. Not sure that’s very smart.

    a) they are cardio-heavy
    b) they are more prone to injury because lifting weight over your head in a fatigued state is almost certain to have poor form (and same could be said for the other movements too)

    People can argue with me, but they’d be wrong. (And if anyone does, please do it in the forum, not on this post since this is about recovery.)

    So for recovery, essentially you are doing metabolic work 10x per week. I do not see that as sustainable unless you are dialing back on many of these workouts and not really doing them intensely. This article was really focused on recovery from weight training and since you aren’t really doing weight training, I’m not sure how much of this applies. Perhaps, if you are planning to stick to this plan, you can write back in about 3-4 weeks and tell us how you are doing in terms of stress levels, injury, sleep, progression (getting stronger/faster), etc.? I’m really interested in how it works out!

  90. Thanks for getting back to me & I will get back to you in a few weeks with an update. I thought that the “big 3″ was weight training cos I’m doing the whole thing with weights. But it’s cardio? So my chances of getting bigger are less likely with this workout considering I am resting in between those workouts to let my muscles grow? Just wondering if I’m working against my goal…

    Trying to keep the question about recovery, appreciate your response.

  91. Yeah, I’m not seeing a female who’s already been doing metabolic training (pole dancing, sprinting) able to add 10 pounds of muscle just by adding a metabolic routine with weights. For muscle growth, you basically need three ingredients:
    - stimulus of the muscle fibers, usually in the 4 to 12 rep range (weight heavy enough that you can only do that many reps), with 60-120 seconds rest between sets
    - plenty of well-timed, high-value calories (so that you don’t gain fat)
    - lots of rest
    Your routine is likely to get you very lean (which is great!) and improve endurance (which is great!) and relatively strong (stronger than the average female but not absolutely strong compared to where you could be on a different routine) but I’m worried about overtraining because 10x/wk metabolic training is just plain hard on a person. Just for comparison – when I add in metabolics to my routines, the most I’ve ever been able to add in – while also doing true weight training – is 2x/wk. But there are routines like p90x that are essentially metabolic routines that are 5-6 days a week. But even that, which appears to be really effective at the same things (leanness, endurance, etc.) is only 5x or 6x /wk.

    If you want my advice (which I guess you do!), then: because of your job requirements, and because of how you are currently built (already muscular on your lower half), I’d cut out the hill sprints and add heavy, intense lifting 3x per week, something like this (adjust based on your real life days) if you want to add 10 pounds of muscle:
    Monday: teach, add in a short lower body workout of squats and lunges, targeting 8 reps per set, where you can just barely get rep #8, rest 90 seconds between sets, 4 sets of each exercise and you’re done (30 min)
    Tues: teach, add in long upper body workout of pulls [chin ups, rows, maybe deads, maybe snatches]; pick 4-5 exercises, same protocol as above (45 min)
    Wed: off (nothing)
    Thurs: teach
    Fri: teach, add in long upper body workout of push [overhead press, bench press, pushups, etc.]; pick 4-5 exercises, same protocol as above (45 min)
    Sat: off
    Sun: off
    Obviously this is just a rough outline. But muscle growth for non-steroid folks is really hard, requires lots of rest, and lower amounts of cardio/metabolic. Compared to what you’ve been doing, this will feel “too easy” during the session but you will probably feel sore the next day. Good luck!

  92. Thanks! Hmm go figure, so I am indeed working against my goal by doing my current routine? Okay, thanks again for your advice and I will give your recommendation try. Although I can’t cut out the pole dancing because of work I will give up those hills and focus more on the heavy lifting/less reps. I will let you know. I appreciate the feedback & it works easy enough with my current schedule. Now if only I could get the whole calorie thing in order….a different topic for a different post….


  93. I am a 58 yr old women who used to lift weights a couple of years ago. I got really sick and decided that I had better go back to what I was doing. Unfortunately I gained a lot of weight. So I am starting my fifth week of exercise and lifting weights. My goals are to lose weight and gain muscle mass. I have always wanted to be a bodybuilder. I recently found that lifting 15 lbs. I was doing too many reps and sets. So I increased the weights to 25. I do 3 reps 3 sets each for a total of 45. I have seen muscle increases and have lost 20 lbs. I take suppliments and write everything I eat in a journal, and I keep track of my Protein intake and fiber intake. I recommend highly for Nina to take a Whey protein for muscle mass, my coconut butter is great before a workout because it increases energy levels besides taking one scoop of Whey before and after with water. I also make sure I drink water during workout.
    I found out it is so important to eat right, make sure you get enough rest, and protein, and fiber in your diet. I take other suppliments and vitamins. As far as this article I just now increased my workout to 5x per week 2 hours. I was working out 4x but because of feeling so great I did 5 this week. Which could vary. But, I like to take 2 days off rest for muscles. I have seen muscles in my stomach, arms, back, legs, and buttocks. I do this all at home. Good Luck to all!

  94. Hi, I been working out for a while now. Had a break for a couple months for external reasons but am back into lifting. I developed a routine, Monday compound workout, Wednesday isolation workout, Thursday compound workout and then rest until Monday; sometimes a cardio on Sunday. Is this an ok routine or are my rest times not optimum to see differences, you could probably still class me as a newbie lifter tending to perhaps into slightly advanced, I am 18. Just wondering if I can get any advice? thanks :)

  95. @Cassius – it’s pretty hard to say, based just on what you wrote. for 18 yrs old, I would venture a guess that this is fine if a) these are whole body routines and b) you are very intense (working very, very hard for your level). if these are not too intense, or if they aren’t full-body, then you are probably over-recovering. i worry about doing isolations the day before an intense full-body compound workout b/c i worry you might be non-recovered and thus not able to lift intensely. but as a newbie, you can probably do it for a few months.

  96. Darrin, your artical is great and was very helpful. I am 19 years old and have just started working out again for the first time since high school (about a year in a half ago). I threw together a pretty basic workout plan that consists of, Monday: chest, back, and arms. Tuesday: legs and abs. The next day would be a day off and then repeat. I was hoping you could give me your opinion on my workout plan and tell me if you think there are any changes i should make.

  97. @David – good for you for starting up again! The only thing I would caution you on is having “arms” in your workout. Best to be 100% focused on the chest and back, do those as compound lifts, with intensity. Your arms will then grow just fine because they get worked hard in chins, rows, presses, etc. When you get much more advanced – say 1-2 yrs from now, you might need more recovery time b/c you’ll be experienced enough that you’ll be able to be even more intense in your sessions. But for now, your sequence is excellent.

  98. yo darren my boy wat up. yo i do chest biceps lower back everyday for 5 days straight then take a 3 day break. every time i come back from that 3 day break im much stronger and can add more weight. people say my regime sucks but ive been making gains so should i stick with it or change it up?

  99. @jason smith – that indeed sounds crazy. but humans are unique individuals; if it’s working keep at it until it stops working (and all routines eventually stop working as you progress). just curious – you must be young right?

  100. Darrin,
    I just finished reading your article and I found it very informative. I’ve lifted in the past but never could stick with it because of a full time job. Now, however, I’ve just won our state lottery and I have all the time in the world. I am building myself my own personal gym with a dozen pieces of workout equipment. However, before I start trying to build muscle, I need to burn some fat. I need to lose about 80 to 100 pounds of accumulated fat (by the way, I’m 39 years old), and I want to lose it before I start building muscle. This is what I plan to do, so please tell me what you think. Any feedback will be appreciated.

    First off, I will lift light weight with lots of reps to burn fat 3 days a week. I’ve did this in the past before and it seems to work well for me. I’ll probably lose the 100 pounds in about 3 months or so, since I’ve been really good at losing weight in the past. During this time, I will be eating right and dieting exactly the way I need to, with plenty of protein such as baked chicken breasts replacing the Oreo cookies.
    After I’ve lost what I think I need to lose, I will begin a full body workout twice a week. In the past I’ve did it 3 times a week and started to see gains, but couldn’t stick with it because of long work hours. I will then start to pack on the protein and continue to raise the weights on my lifts every time I can complete the necessary sets and reps. I was thinking 3 sets of 6 in each lift. So, here is a question. Should I start lifting 3 days a week on the full body workouts after I finish the weight loss part of my lifts, or should I go straight into the 2 day a week lifts? I’ll have plenty of time on my hands, but I want to make sure I give my body plenty of time to recover between workouts. I’m not the most intense lifter out there, but I do my best and if I can complete the 3 sets of 6, then I go up by 5 pounds the next time. I’m still a young guy, even though I’m 39, and I want to take that into account. So, any feedback would be appreciated.

  101. @jimmie – that’s a pound a day of fat loss! You’ve done that before? That’s seriously amazing if you can do that safely. I have no experience with that level of fat loss so I trust you have good advisors/nutritionists/doctors on hand.

    In terms of lifting – I definitely recommend all beginners (or people who haven’t lifted in a few years) start with 3-day a week, full-body lifting routines (like the free on you can get on the link at the top of the site or a more advanced/interesting one at ). Do that for your first 90 days at least, and recovery is unlikely to be an issue (especially since, by your own admission, you are not an intense lifter). Eventually some kind of split routine works best but no need to complicate things now.

  102. Darrin,
    I appreciate the feedback. Yes, I can easily lose a pound a day, and sometimes more. I seem to be better at weight loss than about anything else in this world. I have lost as much as 65 pounds in 45 days and I kept it off as long as I was working out. It all comes down to one simple fact: burn more calories than you take in. My doctor told me what signs to look out for that would let me know if it was unsafe and I never saw them.
    I certainly want to lose the weight before I start lifting for muscle gain, so I can see the results better. It’s hard to see a growing muscle under a layer or two of fat. Also, when I do lift weights, I seem to get a lot stronger very quickly. I’m a real tall guy, being 6′ 7″ tall and I weigh 340 pounds now. I usually weigh around the 250 pound mark, and the extra weight was accumulated from sitting in front of a computer for a couple years. Now that I don’t have to worry about that anymore, I can really focus on lifting.
    I’ve always loved lifting and nothing made me madder than having to stay at my job for extra hours that cut into my workouts. That’s why I had to quit lifting before. It either came down to lifting weights or sleeping so I could afford to put a roof over my head. Easy choice.
    Every time I have ever lifted in the past, I’ve always did full body workouts 3 times a week. Those usually consisted of about 6 to 9 different lifts and I always seemed to get stronger by the day. At one point I never hit a peak and was benching 405 pounds when I had to quit. For nearly three solid months, I was adding 5 pounds to my bench every time I lifted, which was 3 times a week. I always did 3 sets of 6 reps on all my lifts.
    That’s getting a little off subject, but I just wanted to mention it because I always wondered if I rested more between working out, perhaps my muscles would grow faster and I would make even more gains. I never knew how much rest was enough and how much was too much. Since it worked for me in the past, I will do as you advised and go with the 3 time a week full body workout. I guess I’ll continue to do that until I can’t see any more gains or when I’m ready to mix it up. I just always worried that perhaps if I rested one more day between working out, maybe my muscles would grow more. I guess time will tell on that.
    Thanks for everything. You’ve been a great help. Superb health to you always.

  103. Hi Darrin,
    Thanks for the article on recovery time – I find it’s something not spoken of enough. I remember when I first started bodybuilding at 30, my trainer never mentioned recovery time, and just stuck me on an intensive full body workout 3 times per week. Along with my physical job of catering aircraft, I felt exhausted much of the time, especially after each workout, as I was also going to failure most of my sets. I did make good gains, but I noticed I was much stronger whenever I took a week off. The books on training I bought by Joe and Arnold didn’t mention any recovery time, just focus on intensity. Eventually I quit, and only started back up when I was 55. I then designed my own program and went with what my results and body were telling me, and I put a full inch on my arms in 3 months! I was impressed, and kept doing it each winter as I run a tree removal business full time spring through fall, and can’t train then. Now, at 57, I’m finding I am even more sensitive to recovery time, just as your article suggests, and am doing 3 days of training to get the full body done, as the intensity is too much to do it all in one day. I rest 3 days, so that I am back to the 1st routine on the 4th day, taking 8 days to get two full cycles in. Another thing I learned that afforded me so much quick improvement, was taking the same number of grams of protein supplement per day, as my body weighs in pounds. So, 180lbs. means 180 grams of protein. Creatine also helps to bulk up, but it is artificial, as the extra mass it gives disappears as soon as you quit taking it. Pyramiding 5 sets works best, because of the thorough warm up, going with the last 2 or 3 sets to failure.

  104. Darrin,

    Just wanted to say that I’m impressed that you follow-up with all these replies to a 3 year-old thread. I found your article via Google search on muscle recovery. No need for me to ask any questions, because you’ve covered everything so fully in the original post and the follow-ups.


  105. Just an update. I’ve followed your advice & I’m seeing great results! I see alot of strength gains & I’m starting to see a change in my physique. I’ve now decided to give a figure competition a try in spring 2013. I am going to bump up the training to prepare. I’m am now going 4-5 days with/ weekends off is that enough rest time to make the gains I’m trying to make (10lbs) without over training & working against my goal? I’ve scaled back my poledance teaching to 3/4 hrs a week.

    Thank you for help!

  106. Hi i have read your article and thought it was very factual but i’m not sure what the best method would be for me so i was wondering if you could help.

    A little bit about myself, I am 15, I go to the gym 4 times a week and have been going for about 4months now. For every lifting exercise I use, I will do 2sets of 10reps on as high a weight as I can do and then for the last set I will increase the weight and do 6reps for strength.

    I currently have a routine of:
    -Monday + Wednesday -Chest and triceps, so i will do things like bench+chest press both flat and 45degree and then i will do butterfly and some free weight exersises.

    -Tuesday + Thursday -Biceps, Back and Shoulders, so i will do things like negative curls and just generally used the machines that do those muscles

    So could you please recomend whether I should keep my current routine or do isolate muscle routines and if so can you tell me some exercises I can do for each muscle as I cant think of any that dont end up using other muscles anyway. Secondly can you recomend what my resting should be?

  107. @Nina – sounds like you are quickly progressing – that’s great! Competition huh? That’s definitely at a level beyond my experience. My friend Skip LaCour has some programs around that, as well as Vince Delmonte. If you want me to intro you or just direct you to some specific programs, either post to the forums or send me an email to support | @ | (without the |).

    @Jim – you’re a bit young, so I’ll cut you some slack about having “biceps” and “triceps” in your routines. As I’ve said in numerous threads (including this one) that for most people it’s a waste of time to focus on arms so much. That said, as this article relates to recovery, you are young enough that there is plenty of recovery in your routine. However, where are squats? I usually say people starting out – regarding of age – should start with full-body workouts – do all muscle groups in each workout and workout 3x per week. As you get more advanced – and you are not there yet in my opinion – you can do various splits. For example, an upper body day, a lower body day, then a rest day, then repeat. Or a “pulling” day, a “pushing” day, a “squats” day, and a rest day (then repeat). As for exercises, these are all you need: .

  108. Darrin,
    Hi, I’ve talked with you before and you’ve given me some excellent advice. I just have a couple quick questions, so I won’t take much of your time. I’m about to start working out next week for the first time in 4 years and you’ve already given me some good advice on this. My questions are these. #1: Since I will be lifting high reps and low weights to burn fat, would the 3 day a week plan work best or can I do it more often? #2: Since I will be primarily working out to burn fat (low weight, high reps), how important is nitric oxide intake here? I know this probably doesn’t belong here on this page, but I’ve been unable to locate anyone else who will contact me back and who has the knowledge you do. I’m considering Force Factor while I work out, but would it be better to use this only when I’m building muscle and not just building fat? I should be able to burn fat okay without it, but would it help much to use it while dieting? I believe it would be best to only use it while building muscle, but I would love an expert’s opinion. A couple quick answers would be fine here, since I know you are busy, such as “3 days a week is enough and nitric oxide is best for building muscle and not burning fat” or something like that.
    Thank you very much and much health to you,

  109. @jimmy – for fat loss, the #1 strategy is related to eating. Master that, and you’ll lose fat. Weight training during fat loss is really to prevent muscle loss while being in a caloric deficit. That said, from your previous post you seen to know how to lose fat! It sounds like you are using weights simply to burn calories… that’s fine, but let me tell you, a 60 minute session of heavy squats, low rep (say, 4 rep loads) will burn a ton of calories too. If you are using really light weights, extremely short rests between sets, then essentially you are doing a metabolic workout and you can likely handle more days without recovery days. I’d still recommend 3 days a week but then for extra calorie burn do something different 2-3 other days (swimming, intense cycling, bootcamps, or similar). Again, you seem to have done this so you might know more than me on this!

    As far as nitric oxide, it’s crap. I’ve never used it, and so far all but one scientific study says it’s crap. The one that didn’t say it was crap wasn’t a clear study anyway. The marketing pitch is that it’s for muscle building, not really fat loss. Save your money and buy healthy food (since that’s a little more expensive than junk food) and you’ll be much happier.

  110. Darrin,
    Thanks for the great advice as always. I do know how to lose weight quickly (I’ve did it before) and I incorporate weights into that. I was mainly curious about lifting more than 3 times a week, since that’s all I’ve ever did was 3 a week. I wasn’t sure if more days than that would hurt me or not. I’ve read all your advice to other folks and I know about how much time to rest when building muscle, but I wasn’t sure about the burning fat. I think I will stay with the 3 days a week cycle.
    I appreciate your time and you have a great one,

  111. Hi i have a quick question.

    I have recently started lifting weights prob a month ago.
    I am following the strong lift 5×5 workout is it any good?
    and i did a few sessions and my leg have been sore now for 3 days do you think i’m overdoing it or do i just need to push thru it.

    thanks a lot

    have a nice one

  112. Stronglifts is very good for beginners. Soreness for many days is normal, especially when starting out and also when pushing to the next level. Stick with it.

  113. Darrin,

    Currently, I am training for a position within the government. As I wait to leave for their training class, I am trying to become as physically fit as possible. I am 25 years old and have been weight training on and off for the past ten years. I started training a month ago through aerobic exercise, calisthenics, weight training, and healthy eating. Since then, I have lost 17 pounds, and my lungs or “wind” has much improved; however, my concern is my muscle strength.
    Once I am in training class for this government position, I will be tested on push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run, so my workouts are focused around these aspects. My workout routine has consisted of a 3 days ON – 1 day OFF – 3 days ON – 1 day OFF…etc, etc routine. For example, here’s a non-detailed description of my routine:

    - Day 1 consists of a 1.5 mile run, 30 mins of intense elliptical workout, wide chin-ups, close chin-ups, pull-ups, isolated bicep sets, isolated lower back sets, isolated upper back sets and lastly, a pull-up/chin-up assistance machine with sets until failure (I can’t do anymore).

    - Day 2 consists of a 1.5 mile run, 30 mins of intense elliptical workout, push-ups, wide push-ups, push-ups with my legs alleviated, isolated chest sets, isolated tricep sets, and lastly, a dip assistance machine with sets until failure (I can’t do anymore).

    - Day 3 consists of a 1.5 mile run, 30 mins of intense elliptical workout, standing military press, squats, isolated shoulder sets, and lastly, isolated leg sets.

    - Day 4 consists of total rest.

    - And then repeat…

    *Note that although I did not mention it, I do a variety of abdominal sets in between most of my other sets on ALL 3 DAYS. I would say I do about three different abdominal workouts (three sets each) for each day. I like to mix my abdominal workouts in with my three days so that I constantly keep moving and maintaining a good heart rate with only small periods of rest during my workout.

    Now, this brings me to my problem. Like I stated above, my lungs or “wind” has much improved; however, my concern is my muscle strength. I am having difficulty increasing the number of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups that I am able to do. This is a huge concern of mine since I will be tested on these exact exercises. After reading your article, I’m assuming my problem is not giving my muscles the proper time to rest in order to increase my repetitions. Do you have any suggestions for helping me improve? Any information will be greatly appreciated.

    Sorry for writing so much,

  114. @matthew – can you give a sense of the # of reps you are stuck at? For example, if you are stuck at 8, then there’s a lot we can do to help; if you are stuck at 35, then that’s already great and progressing will require very specialized training.

  115. Darrin,

    Since I last wrote you, I am noticing an increase in my push-ups, sit-ups, and 1.5 mile run time. I guess my main concern would be discovering ways to increase my number of repetitions for pull-ups/chin-ups. As of now, I can only do roughly 6-8 repetitions in a set. I would like to increase that number to 10-12+. Any ideas?

    Also since I last wrote you, I started switching up my weekly routine a little bit for better muscle recovery time. This past week, I have been trying:

    -DAY 1. 1.5 mile run/pull-ups/chin-ups/upper back/lower back/biceps/abs
    -DAY 2. 1.5 mile run/30-45 of cardio on elliptical machine(s)
    -DAY 3. 1.5 mile run/push-ups/inclined feet push-ups/chest/triceps/abs
    -DAY 4. 1.5 mile run/30-45 of cardio on elliptical machine(s)
    -DAY 5. 1.5 mile run/shoulders/deltoids/trapezius/squats/calves/abs
    -DAY 6. 1.5 mile run/30-45 of cardio on elliptical machine(s)
    -DAY 7. Total Rest

    I figured exercising this way would allow my main muscle groups to be fully and hardly worked only one day per week, allowing for recovery time and growth. How do you feel about this?


  116. Hello Darrin, This is my first time to your site. I wanted to know if you could give me a link to the information or give me the info in a quick answer. I am a 39 year old women who has recently, within the last year lost 50 pounds. I have for the first time noticed my muscle mass is gone compared to when I was younger. I would like to build muscle mass and then after being satisfied with my new shape and definition, taper off and maintain a leaner me. I feel like I understand nutrition and feeding the muscles properly, but I have always been in the dark with sets and reps and what’s right for me. What is the difference between warming up the muscle and then just exhausting it quickly with less reps and more weight verses more reps and less weight, can I do that or is it harmful to the body? Could you give a suggestion as to how many sets and reps for building mass?

  117. Congratulations Juana! Here’s an article for you:
    Also, you might be interested in this 4-part series:

  118. @Matthew – re: pullups and chins ups, I’ve written a few articles on how to increase so just do a site search and you’ll find them. As far as your other changes to the routine, I think your new one is better based on your particular goals.

  119. Hi Darren. Great article!

    I’m a fan of full body compound workouts, I just like their simplicity and effectiveness. I’m able to workout 3 times a week but at the moment I’m trying to cut down as I have a little unwanted body fat from a recent bulk. I’m conscious of over-training whilst dieting so wondering weather to workout out just twice a week (e.g. Wednesday and Sunday). What would you say?

    I’m 23 and I’ve been training for about 18 months. My workouts consists of the ‘big 7′ or variations of them (I now do my dips and chin ups weighted). I’d like to think that I train pretty intensely, I try to go beyond failure if you no what I mean.


  120. @Josh – it’s nearly impossible to overtrain (as clinically defined) with a 3-day a week routine. But perhaps what you are just wondering if in a calorie deficit, do you need more recovery time? Your overall metabolism can take more than three workouts a week, even on a significant calorie deficit. But individual muscle groups may need more recovery time. Part of this is just because you’ve now been lifting for over a year – either way, you are probably strong enough now that most muscle groups are going to need several days rest. There are lots of exceptions though – there are people (even without drugs) who train the same muscle groups multiple times a week. But they vary the intensity and their programs are very complicated.

  121. Hi, thanx for a great article. I just wanna run my training routine with you. My main goals this year is to be able to do 10 clean muscle ups on bar. No kipping. And do a 5 sek front lever.
    My training routine looks like this;

    Day 1
    1 muscle up with perfect form x 7 with 3-5 min rest between reps.
    Dips 10 x 5 with 3-5 min rest

    Day 2
    Do the front lever with assistence band 10 sek x 6. 1 minute in total. 3-5 min rest.
    Tucked planche same time intervall

    Day 3
    Weighted pull-ups
    5 reps with 20 kg
    5 reps with 25 kg
    3 reps with 30 kg
    3 reps with 35 kg
    3 reps with 40 kg

    Handstand pushups 3 x 5
    Rest 5 min betwenn sets.

    How many rest days is needed between workouts?
    I tried to train monday, wednesday and friday but my joint hurts to much and not feeling recovered. What would you recommend.

    Thank you!

  122. @ Mike – sorry, gymnastics is not my forte. Hopefully someone else can respond.

  123. Hi Sir Darrin I need your advice, what do you think of my new routine…

    Monday: Legs & Chest
    Tuesday: Back & Biceps
    Wednesday: Triceps & Rear Delts
    Thursday: Legs & Chest
    Friday: Back & Biceps

    I only do Full Squats 4 sets…80,100,120,140kgs (20,15,10,5 reps) i want to have big and strong legs so i can bench heavier…
    For my chest I do: flat bench press 3 sets…50,60,70kgs (15,10,5 reps), incline dumbell press 3 sets…15,17.5,20kgs each side (15,12,10 reps), incline dumbell flyes 3 sets…5,10,15kgs each side (15,12,10 reps)
    For my back and biceps I do: Deadlifts 4 sets…60,80,100,120kgs (20,15,10,5 reps), pull ups 4 sets of 10 reps slow and control, reverse grip Yate’s row…60,80,100,120kgs (20,15,10,5 reps), EZ bicep curls 2 sets…I do 21′s on my first set 30kgs, then normal curl 40kgs 10 reps, alternate dumbbell curl 2 sets…10,15kgs each side (12,8 reps), single arm dumbbell row 2 sets…17.5,20kgs (15,10 reps), Tbar row 2 sets…70,90kgs (20,15reps)

    For my triceps and rear delts I do: Standing dumbbell extension 6 sets…17.5,20,22.5,25,27.5,30 kgs (50,40,30,20,15,10 reps), incline EZ skull crushers…20,25,30,35kgs (20,15,10,5 reps), normal dips 3 sets of 30 reps, side lateral raises 3 sets strict form each side…5,7.5,10kgs (20,15,10 reps)

    As you can see on my routine on Wed and Thurs my question is…is it okay to train triceps on Wed and the next day back to Chest?
    And training legs,chest,back,biceps twice a week any good?with the same intensity?

    Im 25yrs old 5’7 tall 75kgs… I want to gain muscle and strength

    Thank you

  124. @Obz – I’ll refrain from my usual comments on seeing “Biceps” as a focus and just say that your overall routine seems fine. Personally, I’d reverse the rep sequence though and do my heaviest set first (after warm-up sets of course). But overall, for making up your own routine, this is pretty good. The key will be recovery. You’re young so that’s in your favor. But I see that your goal is size and strength – that implies you should be eating like a horse and that will help with recovery too.

  125. So do you think its okay to train my triceps on Wed and do the same intensity Chest workout on Thursday?

  126. With sore/fatigued triceps you’ll probably find that you have to use your pecs more (so, from a strength perspective you might be weaker but from a mass-building perspective you’ll probably get more chest muscle activation). So probably fine – try it and report back!

  127. Sir what do you think of pyramid vs drop sets

  128. @Obz – I like them. If you have a specific question, perhaps the forum would be a good place since that’s a bit off topic.

  129. Do you have additional advice/recommendations for knee recovery?

    From years of playing basketball on multiple types of surfaces (sometimes blacktop or cement) and from a previous knee twist injury, my knees can’t take much pounding. When I do squats or lunges, my knees take longer to recover than any other muscle in my body no matter how intensely I work it (on heavy bench my chest recovers quicker than my knees on light squats, quads and hamstrings recover quicker than my knees on squats, etc.) Also moderate impact aerobic exercise or even very light plyometric exercises (jumping jacks, running in place) cause my knees to need long recovery time.

    My knees pop, ache, and get stiff after a strenuous leg workout. If I push through it at the next workout, they will swell up and really pain me. However, if I don’t work out my legs at all, my knees never bother me. It takes some moderate impact on them in order for them to act up.

    Can you recommend any recovery techniques so that my knees don’t sideline my lower body workouts? Right now, I’m modifying my workouts to keep the stress off my knees by either doing light lowerbody workouts or skipping the lowerbody altogether. It’s holding back my overall progress. Please help!? Thank you.

  130. @Doug – sorry, you’ll need to see someone who isn’t on the internet. Hands on evaluation is needed. Good luck!

  131. I am only doing certain lower body and ab exercises to tone up for 20 mins a day. Should I still take a day off in between?

  132. Honestly it depends on whether you take supplements or not and how often and how many

  133. @Christina – Unless you are “insanely intense” in those 20 minutes, it’s unlikely you are causing enough stimulation to the muscles or joints that you need recovery days. It is possible to be intense and get a great workout in 20 minutes but we’re talking about doing things like sprinting, heavy squatting, doing movements to failure with no rest between sets, etc. It doesn’t sound like you are doing that so you could do it multiple days in a row. For example, walking – absent some odd issue, you could walk 20 minutes every day no problem. Or basic yoga, stretching, etc. all can be done daily.


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