Many will say that you can only train for mass or definition, but not both. I’m not sure who made up that stupid rule, but it’s outdated and certainly not accurate.
Whether you’re a competitive bodybuilder, or like me and just have a passion for the weights, you can indeed train for both mass and definition.
I’m going to share the perfect workout routine that will help you reach both goals. In fact, this is one of my personal workouts. Oh, you and I are also going to debunk the myth that you either have to be bulking or cutting.
Mass or Definition: Why You Don’t Have to Choose
Before we jump into the workout routine, I want you to think about something. What’s the reason you lift weights? Why do you go to the gym and train so hard?
The fact is there’s not just one reason. There are several…
- Build an awesome looking physique (don’t lie…we all want that!)
- Gain muscle size
- Get stronger
- Have muscle definition and visible striations
To sum it up, you want to get jacked and make gains!
Now, here’s what you DO NOT want…
- Gain size but not be able to see your muscles (ummm…this means get fat)
- Get ripped and defined but look skinny
Why Bulking vs Cutting Doesn’t Work
The old way was you’d go on a bulking phase for a few months, usually the wintertime because you’re covered up in clothes (unless you live where I live, in Florida, where winter doesn’t exist!).
During that time you train heavy. And you’re also putting away ‘massive’ amounts of food. You think about doing some cardio but then decide, eh, its mass season…who needs cardio?
A month or so before springtime rolls around, you realize that you need to look good with your shirt off (or if you’re a girl, in a bikini).
It’s time for your cutting phase. So you start training with more reps, eating less, and hitting the treadmill twice a day.
At a glance, bulking and cutting look great. But here’s what really happens…
- Bulking Phase: Gain some muscle and strength, but you get fat and unhealthy
- Cutting Phase: Get ripped and lose weight, but you lose most of your hard-earned muscle and go on a crazy unrealistic diet, which is also unhealthy
The Myth of Low Reps for Mass and High Reps for Definition
One more myth I’d like to cover is the high vs low reps myth.
Many will tell you that you have to do high reps for definition and low reps to gain mass. But this is not the best way to train for either goal, whether it be mass or definition.
The truth about rep range is you need both high and low reps for both mass and definition. And you’ll see that in your workouts below. In fact, I think you’re going to enjoy training this way more!
High and low reps can be a controversial topic among bodybuilders and gym rats. Learn the truth about rep ranges in my post: High Reps vs Low Reps: Best Rep Range for Muscle Size
Mass and Definition Workout
Ready for the good stuff? This is the workout routine you’re going to do for the next 6-8 weeks (I suggest running this program for at least 6 weeks).
You’ll see some notes for each workout as you’ll be treating each muscle a little differently. For example, your leg workouts will be more volume and higher reps whereas your chest workout won’t be as much of either. I’ll explain why in the notes.
One of the key differences with this routine is there are some muscles you’ll hit more than once a week. For example, the first workout is ‘Back and Some Quads.’ This is why these workouts are so interesting, and of course, I’ll explain the details below.
My workout for mass and definition is a 5-day routine. The schedule below can be used as an example. It caters to the Mon-Fri schedule but feel free to move things around to fit our own schedule.
- Monday: Workout 1 – Back and Some Quads
- Tuesday: Workout 2 – Chest and Some Arms
- Wednesday: Workout 3: – Legs
- Thursday: Workout 4 – Shoulders and Some Back
- Friday: Workout 5 – Deadlifts and Arms
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
*If you don’t have a fear of overtraining, you could just take 1 day of rest and start the routine over again on that 7th day. Or you could also split your rest days up. It’s up to you, but I do recommend at least 1 rest day per week.
Workout 1: Back and Some Quads
You’re going to start out with an old school mass and strength building method called 5 x 5. You’ll move onto some heavy dumbbell rows and then the reps will start to increase as you get deeper into the workout.
This is a longer workout. But you have to understand that back is your largest upper body muscle. It demands more attention, and most don’t give it enough (which is why they don’t grow…but you, you’re going to grow!).
You’ll hit several sets (7) of leg extensions at the end. I’ll explain why in the leg workout that we’ll get too, soon.
*Where you see in asterisk below, it means to do a drop set on the final set. If you do not know what a drop set is, read my post: 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Barbell Rows||5 x 5|
|Dumbbell Rows||4 x 6|
|Seated Rows||4 x 8-10*|
|Lat Pulldowns||3 x 10-12*|
|Cable Pullovers||3 x 15|
|Leg Extensions||7 x 15*|
If you want to learn about how you can benefit from 5 x 5 and an advanced 5 x 5 workout, read my post: Advanced 5 x 5 Workouts for Muscle and Strength Gains
Workout 2: Chest and Some Arms
Now it’s time for some chest. Many train chest on International Chest Day, which is Monday. This is one of the reasons I have you training chest on Tuesday. The benches should be available.
The other reason is that as I mentioned, back is your largest muscle. So it’s good to start out your week of lifting with back, not a smaller muscle like your chest.
Training chest for mass and definition is going to require a lot of pushing and squeezing. So make sure when you get to those flyes that you’re contracting your chest muscles. You’ll also be doing some drop sets (*).
At the end of your chest workout, you’ll train a little arms. Since you’re only doing one exercise for biceps and triceps, I’ll have you doing a rest-pause set at the end (where the dual asterisk is **). Rest-pause sets are also explained here (this is the post I mentioned above).
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Bench Press||4 x 6|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||4 x 8-10|
|Cable Flyes||4 x 10-12*|
|Hammer Strength Chest Press||3 x 15*|
|Cable Pressdowns||3 x 10**|
|Preacher Curls||3 x 10**|
Workout 3: Legs
All workouts count, but this is the one day that counts the most: leg day. And you’ll start with the kind of all exercises, squats.
One of the things I sometimes do prior to squats is riding the recumbent bike for about 5 minutes. This helps warm up your quads and gets your blood flowing.
You’ll squat heavy, in that 6-8 rep range. If on your last set, you don’t get 6 reps, that’s ok. Push yourself harder on that last set with heavier weight.
After squats, you’ll go to an extreme opposite with reps. You’re going to go for 15 reps on every set of leg press.
I have you doing this for two reasons:
- Quads seem to respond better to higher reps
- I’m saving you from the embarrassment of being like everyone else that loads up the leg press only to pump out a few half-reps if that
From there, you’ll be pumping out more sets and reps to increase the overall volume of your leg workout. Like higher reps, volume is another thing your legs should respond well to.
*Drop set on final set
**Rest-pause set on the final set (this technique works wonders for stubborn calves)
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Squats||5 x 6-8|
|Leg Press||5 x 15|
|Stiff-leg Deadlifts||4 x 10|
|Leg Extensions||4 x 12*|
|Leg Curls||4 x 12*|
|Seated or Standing Calve Raises||7 x 15**|
You may have noticed that you hit a little quads on back day. You’ll also work your lower body again in 2 days by doing deadlifts with arms.
Legs are your largest muscle and that’s where you’re going to gain the most muscle.
I prefer to do something for legs at least twice a week. You can read more about the ‘huge’ benefits of training legs twice a week in my post: Training Legs Twice A Week: How to Build Bigger Legs
Workout 4: Shoulders and Some Back
In this workout, you’re going to do some pushing and pulling with shoulders and back. You’re going to walk away with a tremendous upper body pump!
I personally don’t train shoulders with as much volume. Why? Because you get a lot of shoulder work with chest and back. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train them hard though.
And feel free to throw in another shoulder exercise if you feel the below is not enough.
The interesting part of this routine is you’ll do a second back workout. You trained it hard and heavy in the beginning of your workout week. Now you’ll be going strictly for the pump.
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Seated Dumbbell Press||4 x 8|
|Lateral Raises||4 x 10|
|Bent-over Raises||4 x 12|
|Reverse Grip Barbell Rows||4 x 15|
|Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns||4 x 15|
Workout 5: Deadlifts and Arms
Before you start this workout, I suggest doing the same thing I had you do on leg day; ride the stationary bike at a moderate-fast speed for about 5 minutes. You’ll want to get the blood flowing and energy going before you jump into deadlifts.
I believe in heavy deadlifts for size and strength. Deads are also great for conditioning and burning calories.
You’ll start out with a light warm-up of 10 reps, and then move to a second warm-up with a little heavier weight of 5 reps. After that, you’re doing your heavy working sets. This exercise is all about power.
For arms, you’re training agonist-antagonist. So you’ll start with a few sets for triceps and then move to biceps. This will give you an all-around better pump.
*You’ll do drop sets on the final set for those last 2 arm exercises.
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Deadlifts||5 x 10, 5, 3, 2, 2|
|Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extensions||4 x 8-10|
|Barbell Curls||4 x 8-10|
|Rope Pressdowns||4 x 10-12*|
|Dumbbell Hammer Curls||4 x 10-12*|
There’s a reason I don’t have a day for just training arms. You can read more about that in my post: 3 Reasons Why Training Arms Only is a Waste of Time
You don’t need a fancy, trendy, or over-extended cardio session to burn fat. But it is important that you do some sort of cardiovascular work 3-4 times a week when your goal is to gain mass and definition.
There are 2 types of cardio I recommend:
- Longer durations of moderate cardio (walking outside, walking on an incline on the treadmill for 30 minutes or more).
- HIIT (high-intensity interval training) – This is where you ‘go hard’ anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, then back off for a minute. Keep repeating until you reach your designated time (usually about 15-20 minutes).
If you don’t want to get bored, then alternate these 2 types of cardio like this:
- Monday: moderate cardio
- Tuesday: HIIT
- Thursday: moderate cardio
- Friday: HIIT
I personally prefer to walk outside or on an incline on the treadmill for most of my cardio, and I make sure to do something active on the weekends, like kayaking (my favorite!).
**There are 2 supplements you can take to boost your muscle gains and burn more fat at the same time if you’re having trouble in this area.
Both links below go to my review pages for each supplement so that you can see if they’re right for you. This will open a new window so you won’t lose this page:
Premium Testosterone Booster
Fat Burner and Conditioning Agent
Tips to Start Building Quality Muscle
I’ll wrap things up with some tips you can use with this workout routine for size and definition. These are just some things to think about when you’re in the gym.
Let’s be real about something. Training for mass and definition is hard work. So your mindset is crucial, and it’s going to determine how far you go (or don’t go).
- One thing I do is breathing exercises before I go to the gym. Breathe in slow, hold your breath for 5-10 seconds, then breathe out slowly.
- Among many benefits, doing 2-3 sets of this will also help clear your mind.
- Don’t let any negative thoughts (or people!) in your headspace before your workout.
- I suggest staying away from social media or any type of distraction an hour before your workout.
- Instead, write some notes on what you plan to do in the gym.
- Listen to something motivating (like metal music) or something positive like a podcast or video.
It may sound like I ventured off track a little there, but these things are extremely relevant to what kind of workout you’re going to have.
Train with Passion,