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4 Gym Workout Programs That Work [2023]

The new year is coming in hot, so people will be searching for a routine to follow in the gym. So, I thought I would make things easy for you by reviewing 3 popular weightlifting programs and 1 hot, up and coming program (it's mine lol).

If you're still on the fence about whether or not to get in the gym, check out an older article of mine, "You Probably Know What You Need to Do."

I'll say this first: just showing up is a huge part of success... but you also need a plan. Don't just show up to the gym, hop on the elliptical, and then check "working out" off your list.

Fads will come and go but strength and conditioning is forever... because it works! In this article we will review my Gym Gainz Guide (favorite obviously), Starting Strength, Stronglifts 5x5, and the PHAT program (second favorite).

1: Ben Barker Fitness Gym Gainz Guide

I'm sorry but I couldn't start the list with a program other than mine... Here's what my program has over the others: My Gym Gainz Guide is a hybrid program with a focus on gaining strength and lean muscle mass, while also losing body fat.

Each workout will have structured strength work, a conditioning portion, and vanity work like biceps, triceps, abs, or calves.

The beauty of my workout subscription is that it follows 4-week waves to keep you seeing progress, as well as subtle weekly changes to keep it fun.

Weekly Schedule:

Mon: Lower Body

Tues: Upper Body

Wed: Core and Cardio

Thurs: Lower Body

Fri: Upper Body

Core and cardio is basically a bonus day, the base of the program is a 4 day per week strength and conditioning program.

Downsides to my program: becoming muscular and fit. On a serious note, I would say the downside to my program is that there will be a bit of a learning curve. It is not super complex but there will be some moves such as kettlebell swings, push press, and good mornings that require learning the technique.

Luckily, each exercise is linked to a demo video on my YouTube channel.

Check out a free 7-day trial of my program here and get my 3-day-per-week gym plan ebook as a bonus!

2: Starting Strength

Starting Strength is a classic book/ program written by Mark Riptoe.

It is a basic/ minimal approach to gaining strength and muscle mass focusing on the big 3 lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift.

I think this program is great for gaining general strength. Beginners would see great muscle mass improvements from focusing on getting strong on the basics.

Downsides to this program: zero upper back and biceps training. My biggest issue is the lack of upper back training as this is vital for building great posture.

If you try this program I would add rows, face pulls, pull-ups, and leg curls to some of the sessions.

Starting Strength has you training 3 days per week. Either Mon, Wed, and Fri or Tues, Thurs, and Sat, alternating between "A" and "B" workouts.

Workout A:

Low-bar back squat: 3 sets of 5 repetitions (3×5)

Barbell bench press: 3 sets of 5 repetitions (3×5)

Conventional deadlift: 1 set of 5 repetitions (1×5)

Workout B:

Low-bar back squat: 3 sets of 5 repetitions (3×5)

Barbell overhead Press: 3 sets of 5 repetitions (3×5)

Power Clean: 5 sets of 3 repetitions (5×3)

The beauty of the program is in its simplicity. I just like a little more spice. Check out the book here. (Not an affiliate link)

3: Stronglifts 5x5

I prefer StrongLifts 5x5 over Starting Strength. Mainly because it includes barbell rows for building the back. This is another simple program for building strength and putting on muscle mass.

Squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and bent rows are the movements comprising Stronglifts. Not much variety.

I would say the two main downsides to this program are:

1: the lack of auxiliary exercises like curls, triceps extensions, calf raises, etc

2: lack of any high reps sets

Stronglifts has you training 3 days per week. Either Mon, Wed, and Fri or Tues, Thurs, and Sat, alternating between two workouts.

Workout 1:

Squat: 5 sets of 5 repetitions (5×5)

Bench Press: 5×5

Barbell Row: 5×5

Workout 2:

Squat: 5×5

Overhead Press: 5×5

Deadlift: 1×5 (1 set of 5 repetitions)

It seems too simple but the devil is in the details and the effort at which you hit the workouts. Again, with this workout I would add some pull ups, leg curls, etc... and you've got yourself a program!

Learn more about StrongLifts 5x5 here (not affiliate link).

4: PHAT Workout

PHAT stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training, and was designed by Dr. Layne Norton, Pro Natural Bodybuilder.

Other than my own program, the PHAT program is my favorite! This is a five day per week hybrid program that helps one develop both strength and put on lean muscle mass. This program has the exercises that I feel Stronglifts and Starting Strength are lacking. However, this program has A LOT of volume and is not for beginners.

If you are a seasoned lifter and looking to increase strength and aesthetics, this would be a great one to try.

The program goes as follows:

Day 1: Upper Body Power

Day 2: Lower Body Power

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy

Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy

Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy

Day 7: Rest

To learn more about the PHAT program, check it out here! (non affiliate link).

If you are just starting, I think Stronglifts or Starting Strength are both great options!

If you are a seasoned lifter and looking to step it up, the PHAT program won't disappoint!

If you want a little bit of everything: more muscle, less body fat, increased strength, and improved cardio, go with my Gym Gainz Guide!

As always, don't overthink it... make a decision, pair it with proper nutrition, and just start!


Ps for more on my story check out my "About Me" page here!

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