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 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.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.