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7 Reasons NOT To Use A Fitness Model Workout Routine

By Marc Perry / July 1, 2017

When I first started lifting weights at 16 years old, I used a fitness model workout routine I learned from reading Muscle & Fitness magazine. Almost 15 years later, the same workout routine is still used by most fitness models today. I know this because I’ve met many fitness models (male and female) in the last few years and combed through over a hundred workout routines of well-known fitness models on various bodybuilding websites.

By writing this article, I don’t mean to belittle the time and effort many fitness models put into achieving very impressive physiques, I just think there’s a better way for most people to get 95% of the results in far less time. I have done fitness modeling myself and will likely continue doing so in the future without following the standard approach. In addition, I know of fitness models who use training methods that are almost the exact opposite to the typical fitness model routine I’m about to present to you.

The “Standard” Fitness Model Workout Routine

The following is the typical fitness model workout routine, which requires a minimum of 5 workouts per week, oftentimes as many as 10, or more. The routine of a fitness model can be very similar to that of a bodybuilder, but less calories are consumed and the desired body proportions are different.

Day 1
AM Cardio
PM Chest/Abs
Day 2
AM Cardio
PM Back/Abs
Day 3
AM Cardio
PM Arms/Abs
Day 4
AM Cardio
PM Legs/Abs
Day 5
AM Cardio
PM Shoulders/Abs

Below are 7 reasons why you should NOT use the typical Fitness Model Workout Routine, especially if you are a normal guy, or gal with a desk job:

1) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Uses “Straight Sets”

“Straight Sets” is a strength training term that means completing an exercise, resting for 1-2 minutes, then complete the same exercise again. While this approach does have its merits to help increase strength, it’s terribly inefficient when done every workout. For example, a much more efficient approach would be alternating between exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups with minimal rest, or even pairing together multiple exercises in a circuit. You will get a lot more exercise completed in much less time with minimal sacrifice to overall strength.

2) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Focuses On One Muscle Group Per Workout

This photo is of top fitness model Greg Plitt who trains one muscle group each workout. He could have likely achieved similar results with training protocols that required much less time investment (but still a lot of effort!)

While this isn’t always the case, most fitness models split their workouts so one muscle group is being worked each day (excluding abs) as shown in the preceding chart. For a fitness model who is looking to shape every square inch of his, or her body, this does make sense…but it’s not efficient at all. Even alternating between a small muscle group and a large muscle group is a far better idea, which cuts down your gym time.

For example, you can do a chest/biceps, back/triceps, and shoulders/legs body part split each week, alternating between the large muscle group and small muscle group every set (I did this for years). This allows more exercises to be completed in less time while still allowing control over sculpting your physique. If you want to be lean and fit, but do not care about sculpting your body with the precision of a fitness model, you should even consider full body workouts (See: Full Body Workout vs. Body Part Splits: Which Is Better?), which offer the added benefit for some people of working a muscle group 2-3 times per week vs. just once and burns significantly more calories.

3) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Uses “Steady State” Cardio

It’s amazing that many fitness models still do cardio 1-2 hours in the morning on an empty stomach in an effort to lean out before a photo shoot. While this strategy certainly works, the time allocation simply isn’t necessary. Interval training, which alternates between light exercise and intense exercise can help burn fat faster and burn more calories in much less time. If you are busy, interval training should be the preferred cardio of choice. I’m not saying “steady state” cardio at light to moderate intensity is a complete waste of time, it’s just not ideal.

4) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Has Too Much Volume

Back in the day, I would follow the arm workout of a guy I saw in a magazine who had 18 inch guns and was probably taking steroids. So I completed an insane number of exercises, sets, and reps for each muscle group, which resulted in the following: (1) made it impossible to recover properly, (2) led to overtraining, and (3) I didn’t get the results I wanted. Even now, most fitness model workout routines have far too much volume (the total amount of exercise in a workout), which invariably leads to overtraining for someone who doesn’t take an ergogenic aid like steroids, or doesn’t have a very high fitness level.

For example, many routines call for 16+ sets focusing on just the biceps muscle, which is a tiny muscle even on a bodybuilder! That type of volume is completely unnecessary whether you are trying to lose fat, or build muscle.

5) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Lacks Functional Exercises

By separating a workout routine into muscle groups with 100% focus on aesthetics, important movement patterns may be neglected. For example, you can get a killer fitness model body without ever doing a twisting motion in the gym. The problem is, however, if you play in a game of hoops with some friends, you may find your core is quite weak and you have trouble changing directions quickly. This is one of many examples of how focusing simply on muscle groups can lead to muscle imbalances and lack of functional strength that are useful in your everyday life.

6) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Requires Training Almost Every Day

If you are strength training 5x per week and miss only one workout, you may go another week without working a given muscle group. If you are strength training 2-3x per week yet hitting your entire body over the course of these workouts, it’s a lot easier to reschedule a workout if you have something come up. This is a big reason I recommend most busy people complete either full body workouts, or a body part split that covers the entire body in only 2 workouts.

7) A Fitness Model Workout Routine Is Not Sustainable

Unless you are getting paid a 5 figure supplement endorsement deal and have a lot of free time, exercising as much as a fitness model can be very difficult to sustain for many years. The good news, however, is you can have a body that looks like a fitness model, performs very well, while spending a lot less time working out. You can follow much of the advice on this website and other websites that emphasize efficient strength training protocols and efficient workouts like in my BuiltLean Program.

I hope this article provides enough reasons for you to consider changing your body part split if you currently use the fitness model workout routine, or if you are searching for one, to reconsider other alternatives that may be a better fit for your fitness level and goals.


  • novan says:

    great article marc !!! sometime we want to build a great looking body and forget about the point of functional exercise that you have described on this.
    thanks marc

  • dave says:

    this is a very compelling article and actually highlights what I love about your program. Efficiency, sustainability even with a busy schedule, and great results. Most other routines like the routines that fitness models follow are completely unsustainable for most people where as what you recommend is super efficient.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks Dave, I appreciate it.

  • Hank says:

    I also think that the use of steroids runs with many fitness models. That may be less prevalent now that medical evidence is so one sided about the ills of chronic steroid use. I do know that the body changes from steroids last a long time both in the face and the rest of the body. What are your thoughts about steroid use by fitness models?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Hank - From my knowledge, most fitness models who are on the cover of supplements take ergogenic aids like steroids, or HGH. Sad but true. I've met a bunch and it's prevalent in the industry. In order to look "full" and ripped at the same time with very bright lights during a photoshoot, many men and women go to extreme lengths to get a body that is basically beyond what can be accomplished naturally. There are, however, fitness models that are not as extreme and do not need to look as huge depending on what they are modeling and the context.

  • soji says:

    wonderful article marc! I agree with you on alot of points here. I always tell my clients to train for real world applicability. The muscles of our bodies work uniformly to produce movements and as you said training them otherwise leads to imbalances, which eventually lead to injuries. I have also never been able to be a 2 hour gym guy (it's just me i guess!), but i find the time- efficient pairing of opposing muscle groups, etc much more effective and intense! Total body workouts work a number on calories as well! For a fitness model working with a functional routine, do the amount of cardio sessions (interval) remain at 5?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @soji - happy you liked the article. The answer is no, slow duration cardio is absolutely not required to get very lean like a fitness model if other training protocols are used.

  • ATUL says:

    hey ... can i use lats exercise for modeling body...

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Atul - Of course, pull ups are a classic lat/back exercise to help you develop a v-shape back.

  • jsncruz says:

    Great article! I've always focused on core strength and flexibility when it came to my personal training and when instructing students. It's great to be reminded by articles like this that in the end, function and efficiency will always be better in the long term as compared to form and immense time investment.


  • Tanishq Tanna says:

    The article was quite helpful loved it.
    I am a beginner and I have some issues with lower belly fat.
    What should I do in order to trim it?
    And which exercise should I follow?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Tanishq, I would worry less about exercise and more about nutrition to lose the lower belly fat. There are many workouts on this BuiltLean site that can help you. In general, full body strength training a few times per week can be helpful combined with eating fewer calories than you burn comprised of whole natural foods. Thanks for your question! Also, you can consider our BuiltLean Shred program which is designed to help people lose the last bit of fat => BuiltLean Shred.