Strength Training / Muscle Building

This page lists routines that are most commonly recommended by r/Fitness users for building strength and muscle. However, it is definitely not a complete list of all effective routines, and there are many more out there that will serve you just as well. For some other options to consider, you can also have a look at the Program Review Archive.

All of the programs on this page are effective at getting you both bigger and stronger, provided you eat to support it. A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle and vice versa. While the overlap is certainly not 100%, don’t fall into the trap of thinking getting bigger and getting stronger are mutually exclusive goals that require wildly different training methods – especially if it is based on the outdated concept of special rep ranges

As you make your choice, don’t forget the importance of having at least some cardio in your overall fitness plan, even if it’s not your primary focus. Read more about the benefits here: Why You Should Do Cardio

We also recommend looking over the following entry in our FAQ to help clear up a common misconception: Why is r/Fitness so focused on “powerlifting” routines?

If you are a complete beginner to resistance training…

…we strongly recommend getting started with one of the following routines, depending on your equipment access:


Barbell / Compound Lift Focused Routines

  • r/Fitness Basic Beginner Routine
    A simple, modified version of the old “Phrak’s GSLP” routine to be used as a short term introductory program for learning the fundamental barbell lifts, with guidelines for accessory work, cardio, and conditioning. If you’re new to barbell lifts, this is a good place to start.
  • LiftOff – Couch to Barbell
    A (paid) program by “Ask A Swole Woman” columnist Casey Johnston aimed at giving novices a successful start at strength training, no matter their current level of physical fitness, building up to training in the traditional barbell lifts.
  • Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1
    A popular, proven system for training that is effective for trainees of all levels by veteran coach Jim Wendler, which has many common variants available for free online. If you’re having trouble understanding any of the below, have a look at our 5/3/1 Primer for a breakdown of the system. Read reviews in the Program Review Archive.
    • 5/3/1 For Beginners
      The 5/3/1 program with modifications to target it more towards novice lifters. 3 days of lifting, cardio/conditioning on off days. 
    • 5/3/1 – Boring But Big
      One of the most popular 5/3/1 variants. Simple to follow and good for both strength and size. 4 days of lifting.
    • 5/3/1 – Building the Monolith
      A variant of the 5/3/1 program with a focus on building size. 3 days of lifting, 3 days of cardio/conditioning.
  • The GZCL Method
    Powerlifter and r/Fitness regular Cody LeFever’s training system. A very flexible program that can be adapted for many different goals. See r/gzcl for more. Read reviews in the Program Review Archive.
    • GZCLP 
      A linear progression template derived from the GZCL Method. A 3 or 4 day routine.
  • Greg Nuckols’ Programs – 28 free training programs from longtime friend of the Reddit strength training communities, Greg Nuckols of Stronger By Science. Read reviews in the Program Review Archive.
  • Strong Curves
    A program aimed at introducing women to weight lifting. The program can be tailored to the user and offers at-home alternatives for those without access to a gym. Some spreadsheets can be found in this post on r/xxfitness. More info can be found at /r/StrongCurves.
  • nSuns LP
    A “linear progression” focused program based very loosely on elements of 5/3/1 Spinal Tap, created by r/Fitness regular nSuns. Comes in 4 day, 5 day, and 6 day variations.
  • Metallicdpas PPL (Archive)
    Linear progression based push/pull/legs program. A 6 day routine. Can also be run as a 3 day routine.
  • Westside For Skinny Bastards
    A strength and muscle building program by Joe DeFranco. A 4 day program.
  • PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training)
    Size and strength program by Dr. Layne Norton. A 5 day program.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Splits
    Body part splits from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Two variations, both are 6 day programs. While the article categorizes these as “Advanced”, anyone who knows how to do the lifts involved is perfectly capable of doing this routine if weight is appropriately selected.
  • Jon Anderson’s Deep Water Method
    A free e-book on pro strongman and IFBB pro bodybuilder Jon Anderson’s training methods. Includes programs for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced trainees. Read reviews in the Program Review Archive.

Dumbbell Focused Routines

Bodyweight / Home / Minimal Equipment Routines

Hotel / Apartment / Planet Fitness-like Gyms