Criticise my workout plan!

Hi there,

So, I am skinnyfat. A shocking realisation, but not one that can’t be dealt with. There’s an obvious cure for this–exercise. Unfortunately, I’m a 26 year-old wussie novice who never did an honest day’s sport in his life.

I went to the gym today, got shown around the machines, did a bit of reading, and I think something like this makes sense…

[li] run MWF (probably couch to 5k)[/li]
[li] gym T Sat at first, then maybe T Th Sat.[/li][/ul]
What do you think of my gym plan (below)? Am I missing anything major? These are the weights I was able to ‘just about’ do for 10 reps. As you can tell, my upper body was by far the wussiest part - in particular, my chin up/dip performance was an embarrassment.

I’m thinking either early in the morning or at about 5pm, so I can have a protein-heavy-ish meal afterwards in either case. Morning minimises double-showering, but is easier said than done.

Any advice appreciated!


gym plan follows

Warmup 10min treadmill

Quadriceps 2x10 90lbs
leg extensions

Hamstrings 2x10 90lbs
leg curl

Calves 2x10 170 lbs
leg press

Back 2x10 90lbs
seated row

Deltoid (Side) 2x10 50lbs
lateral raise

Chest 2x10 70lbs
chest/overhead press

Deltoid (Front) 2x10 50lbs
shoulder press

Biceps 2x5 86.5lbs assist
chin up

Triceps 2x10 86.5lbs assist
tricep dip

Abs 2x10 90lbs

Cooldown 5min treadmill

Ditch anything specifically for abs, you’re wasting your time.

You’ve got chest/overhead press, is that a machine? You’ve got a lot of machine-based exercises, rather try free-weight compound exercises - e.g. bench press for chest, military/shoulder BB press for shoulders. Don’t worry about how much weight you’re lifting, rather focus on lifting it correctly (smooth controlled motions). Also don’t worry about isolation exercises at this point, that is more the realm of bodybuilders - unless you have a particular muscle group that is weak and affecting a compound exercise from improving.
Add some pull ups in. Instead of doing assisted chins with weights, do them unassisted without extra weight.

and lastly… squats :wink: squats or deadlifts, preferably both, are a part of any quality workout routine. Start off well light, maybe even just the bar so you can get your form right.

Apart from that, the gym is the easy part of the battle, the rest is in your shopping cart and your kitchen. If you don’t eat right don’t bother wasting time at the gym…

You are just messing around with all those bodybuilder exercises. You are the exact kind of person who Starting Strength was designed for. Learn the five lifts in the “SS Novice Program,” lift three times a week religiously, eat a lot and eat healthy. The fundamental idea is “linear progression,” that is, start with a very comfortable weight for sets of 5 and add a small amount each workout. 10 lbs. each time you deadlift and 5 lbs. each time you do each of the other lifts should work well. Buy the book (should be easy to find at Barnes & Noble) for lots of information on technique and programming.

If you work hard on technique and eat and sleep well, you will make spectacular gains in strength. Weight gain and big muscles will follow naturally. I am jealous… you only get to be a beginner once. Take full advantage.

My main impression is that you are overthinking this to start. You said you have never been very active, so the main thing IMO is to get started. And the more demanding you make your initial plans, the more likely I think it is that you will fall short.

Your main initial goal ought to be to get your carcass moving. Get used to working some type of physical activity into your regular routine. The most imoportant thing is to make it become a part of your lifestyle, not a “chore” that you will easilyy be able to convince yourself to skip or eliminate.

Try some different things. Maybe your gym has some classes that you might enjoy - for aerobics, strength-training and/or flexibility. You can get a LOT of muscle work with simple exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges - without having to start off by hitting the weights hard. And don’t forget flexibility. One thing I used to like to do was just say if I had the TV on, I would be on the floor stretching or doing push–ups and crunches. If I didn’t feel like doing any work - well, the TV stayed off.

I REALLY disagree with the comment of ab work being a waste. I am firmly convinced that a strong core is key to avoiding many back issues. And you don’t know how your body will respond to exercise. Maybe you will develop a 6-pack more easily than huge guns - which would provide you added incentive every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror.

Don’t know if this is helpful to you. But if I were in your position, I could imagine an initial goal being simply getting 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week. Maybe try out raquetball or shoot some hoops. Try out the rowing machine, stationary bike, stairs, and elliptical.

And add physical activity into your daily routine. Walk distances of less than 2 miles instead of driving - which requires that you figure in the time. Use the stairs instead of the escalator/elevator for less than 3 floors. Buy yourself a bike - and use it.

Then, when being active has become a part of your life, start increasing the frequency and length of your activities, and start narrowing down which activities you enjoy most and find most beneficial.

Now turn off the computer and get your carcass moving!

I agree with the previous posts that say essentially, squats, deadlifts, hard work = strength. Don’t be in a rush to add weight to the bar if you can’t do it with good form. I’ve seen people get results with every type of program you can think of, and I’ve seen people fail on all those same routines. The ones who were successful worked harder or had better genes, nothing you can do about the latter so work hard. I would stick with compound exercises if I were you. Why curl a dumbbell when you can do chin-ups? Functional strength wins out over big muscles in my book but of course it depends on you goals.

Good luck. I wish I could start over.

Thanks for the replies!

I hear what you are saying about the basic need just being to get my activity level up. Since I moved to the US and started grad school 2 years ago, my activity level has collapsed: for some reason, I find that life here is very sendetary except for planned/dedicated exercise. Not to mention how much everyone eats out, and how big the portions are in restaurants! Sorry about the cliches.

With that in mind, I have put in an application for my university’s “biggest loser” type programme in the spring.

About getting off the machines–one thing that concerns me, do you need a spotter for those types of exercises? It’s sad to think of it, but I really don’t know a single person who I could ask to spot for me (and that’s one of the things I like about the gym – most of my friends like running but avoid the gym, so I can just go there and get on with the job with no distractions/embarrassment).


Some will undoubtedly say otherwise - and have good reason, but unless you are really maxing out with heavy weights (which I think would be really stupid of you in your situation), you can do most lifts w/o a spotter.

I agree. At your level you need to stay within your limits. My experience has been that spotters make things worse rather than better. For squats it’s nice to be able to do them in a rack though.