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Lyle McDonald’s Bulking Routine

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Lyle McDonald of BodyRecomposition is very well known for his in depth and no BS approach when discussing nutrition and fat loss. He has published a total of seven books, all of which are incredible resources especially when learning about proper dieting. To date, he has not published any books on training, but I suspect that day may come eventually.

Speaking of training, he has developed his own generic bulking routine which has its own sticky in the bodybuilding section on his infamous discussion forum. The program has been hashed out ad nauseam by the forum members and Lyle has referenced it in one of his training articles in which he discusses a few popular hypertrophy training programs such as DC Training and HST Training.

Lyles Bulking Routine is a combination of strength training and higher rep hypertrophy training. Here is an excerpt of the training article in which Lyle explains his bulking routine.

My generic bulking program is stock in the middle because I’m a middle of the road kind of guy. I generically like to see a body part hit about 2X/week with slightly lowered intensity (relative to DC) although higher than Bryan’s HST. I recommend about a rep short of failure so that the volume (which is higher per workout than either DC or HST) can be accomplished. I’m trying to strike a volume between the issues of frequency (for gene expression and protein synthesis), recovery (failure training can burn people out) and progression (I want to see the poundages going up consistently over the cycle).

Who is Lyle McDonald’s Bulking Routine for?

Bodybuilders, intermediate trainees, and your basic gym rats who train to look good naked. I cannot recommend such a program for newbies as they are more likely to benefit from more strength oriented training as well as full body programming.

The Bulking Routine

As presented directly on the forums.

Mon: Lower
Squat: 3-4X6-8/3′ (3-4 sets of 6-8 with a 3′ rest)
SLDL or leg curl: 3-4X6-8/3′
Leg press: 2-3X10-12/2′
Another leg curl: 2-3X10-12/2′
Calf raise: 3-4X6-8/3′
Seated calf: 2-3X10-12/2′

Tue: Upper
Flat bench: 3-4X6-8/3′
Row: 3-4X6-8/3′
Incline bench or shoulder press: 2-3X10-12/2′
Pulldown/chin: 2-3X10-12/2′
Triceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′
Biceps: 1-2X12-15/1.5′

For the Thu/Fri workouts either repeat the first two or make some slight exercise substitutions. Can do deadlift/leg press combo on Thu, switch incline/pulldown to first exercises on upper body day. A lot depends on volume tolerance, if the above is too much, go to 2-3X6-8 and 1-2X10-12

This is a four day training program and could possibly be converted into a three day program alternating upper and lower workouts every other day. As Lyle suggests, if the routine as laid out is a bit much, start conservatively with the volume and subtract a set on each exercise.

I highly recommend this programming to trainees who are past the beginner phase. I usually have them start out on the lower end of the spectrum regarding volume, and ask that they slowly ease into more volume as their work capacity improves.

You can also download my free bulking program below:

Give Me 4 Weeks And I’ll Make You Bigger and Stronger

Submit your best email, and I’ll send you a FREE 4-week bulking program for more size and strength…

Send Me The Program!

And no worries… your email is safe with me. I promise.

About the author

JC Deen

JC Deen is a nationally published fitness coach and writer out of Nashville, TN. Get more from JC here: Twitter | Facebook| JCD Fitness

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61 comments
Zak - March 23, 2014

Hey JC,

I was on Starting Strength for the past 10 months or so, and am thinking of transitioning to this bulking routine. However, what is the progress for adding weight to the lifts? On SS, you add weight basically every time you lift… but I get the impression that that is not the case with this program.

Any advice on how often/when to add more weight to each lift?

Reply
Shazid - February 19, 2014

Hey JC, been reading your articles for some time now – love it!

Quick question: how would this program turn out if I only did upper body days?

The reason being is that my legs are f***ing huge from starting strength. I think my legs are genetically gifted but upper body is mad soft, relatively speaking.

Thanks in advance dude!

p.s. I tried tweeting one of your articles but it doesn’t work.

Reply
    JC Deen - February 24, 2014

    you could just do legs once per week with low volume, and that should be fine.

    Reply
Jonathan - December 19, 2012

Low bar squat for leg press is a good substitute? I don’t have access to a gym and don’t plan to atm.

Reply
    JC Deen - December 21, 2012

    depends on the intensity. I’d rather see you do high bar squats if possible.

    Reply
Ross - November 20, 2012

For more chest work on upper days what should I add? Also, is there any shoulder muscle I’m missing by not hitting them as directly as I am currently? And shrugs on lower days would be ok or..? Thanks in advance

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Jonathan - October 24, 2012

What can I substitute for leg press? and what exercise would you recommend for biceps, triceps, and pulldown/chin? Also, you recommended 1-2 sets of biceps/triceps, do both sets have to be the same? for example I can do bicep curls on 1 set and preacher curls on the other set for biceps, is that okay?

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Sergio - October 24, 2012

Hi Jc, great article! I’ve been looking for a bulking routine for my next cycle, but I wanted to ask you something. How do you transfer from dieting to bulking as far as intensity goes? I know I shouldn’t start eating above maintenance right away so I’m hitting maint for 2 weeks before upping calories. But what about weight on the bar? Should I deload as Lyle recommends? Or can I start with the same weight?
Thank you for your time, and once again great article!

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Adam - August 23, 2012

Is it okay to substitute squats for front squats? I am a tall guy so I cant do really deep squats without putting a lot of stress on my lower back. If I do atg squats I have to work very hard to keep my torso upright. But when doing front squats I can go very deep and still have great form.

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Chris - July 11, 2012

I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this site until today. Bookmarked. Keep up the good work guys!

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Phil - June 19, 2012

I got a lagging chest and shoulders, so i have added dumbell press on both upper days, but where should i add shoulders and traps, also i got a bad posture, so i need to strengthen my rear delts.

How could i split it up and add in those.

Reply
    Jonas - June 20, 2012

    I also wondering about this, my shoulders are lagging badly too.

    Also what rows are best to do, underhand

    Reply
      Jonas - June 20, 2012

      Overhandgrip.. barbell row.., seated? T-row, whats best to thicken my back and add some wide

      Reply
      JC Deen - June 21, 2012

      so just do incline presses, along with some cable flyes. pre-exhaust the muscle. as for rows, I like t-bar rows, neutral grip

      Reply
        Jonas - June 21, 2012

        Would it be Okey to add shrugs on lowerday, and

        Reply
          Jonas - June 21, 2012

          Onthefirstupperdayi addleteral reisesandonthelastoverheadpresses

          Reply
Phil - June 17, 2012

I did not understand when you add weight?

“For the next 4-6 weeks, the goal should be to make improvements as much as possible. When you get to the top end of the rep range on the first set with at least a rep or two to spare set add weight. Some may find it better getting all sets at the same weight before going up at the next workout.”

Reply
    JC Deen - June 17, 2012

    how is this hard to understand?

    Reply
      Phil - June 18, 2012

      Sorry mate, my english is bad, find it hard to understand sometimes.

      Do you just add weight as much as you can every workout after the submax run-ups

      Reply
nate - June 4, 2012

for the flat bench it says 6-8 reps, do you think it will be alright if i do 3 sets of 12 for the flat bench press?

Reply
    JC Deen - June 4, 2012

    why not do it as prescribed?

    Reply
      nate - June 4, 2012

      just curious, because i read that if you do at least 12 reps it works 100 percent for muscle hypertrophy. If i do the bench on monday for 165 3×8 and then do the bench again on thursday do i move up to 170 3×8 or scale back and do more reps?

      Reply
        JC Deen - June 4, 2012

        attempt to add weight each session. if you can’t, go for more reps.

        I doubt that 12 reps is 100% hypertrophy. no one can know that for sure.

        Reply
          nate - June 5, 2012

          thanks for your help! How long actually should an individual stay on this routine especially if they are bulking?

          Reply
            JC Deen - June 5, 2012

            No given time frame, really. I’d stick with it for at least 8 weeks.

            Reply
Phil - May 3, 2012

On this program do you go heavy every workout, also og my back is a little sore, would it be bad to work my back?

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    Phil - May 3, 2012

    Also can i do forarm, shoulders an abs on one og the rest days

    Reply
      JC Deen - May 3, 2012

      no. don’t mess with the program.

      Reply
Bob - May 1, 2012

Can I add 10-20 minutes intensive Cardio after workout or would it be a bad idea?

Reply
    JC Deen - May 2, 2012

    depends on the reason for adding it. what’s your reason?

    Reply
      Bob - May 4, 2012

      defining/fat loss.

      Reply
        JC Deen - May 4, 2012

        this is not a good program for fat loss

        Reply
Liviu - April 10, 2012

what it means 10-12/2′ ? that 2’?

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    JC Deen - April 10, 2012

    10-12 reps with 2 minute rest

    Reply
Mohammad - November 3, 2011

Can this be done on a cut?? I can’t imagine myself doing all these on a caloric deficit,

Reply
    JC Deen - November 3, 2011

    reduce volume by about half for best results and possibly vary the frequency – maybe every other day instead of 4 days per week.

    Reply
George - February 14, 2011

Great article there

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Jean Paulo - July 13, 2010

Love this routine JC. I’ve been doing Lyle’s generic bulking routine for quite a while.

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McB - April 19, 2010

Just FYI – I believe Lyle added ab work to the Lower component now.

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JC - January 26, 2009

Thanks for the kind words GMichel. I was literally thanking the bodybuilding gods when I found this PDF myself.

Reply
GMichel - January 26, 2009

JC, great summary and discussion of, Lyle’s Bulking Routine. I also find it quite enjoyable that you posted a link to a pdf guide version of the program, personally whenever I looked for it, it proved to be elusive. Thanks!

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