Routine customization

It is important to realise that the basic routine presented on this site consists of generic protocols and exercises designed to work for a majority of people. However, it can be easily adapted to fit specific goals such as weight loss, hypertrophy (muscle gains), maximizing strength gains, or developing strength-endurance. It can be used in a circuit, or as a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT); it can also be adapted to be more sport specific, with certain goals in mind.

What is more, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fitness, just general parameters such as the ones presented here from which, as individuals, we are free to stray. Some people do not need rest days; others will need more than one. Some people will see better hypertrophy results from doing sets of 15-20 than sets of 8-12...

The art of a trainer lies in adapting these well-established protocols to fit the uniqueness of their clients.

On this page, I will discuss a few principles allowing for routine customization. You can also find a couple of sample programs HERE.

Sets and repetition ranges:

-          Typically, pure strength training programs feature 5 sets of 5 repetitions. This range can be used as part of a split routine to maximize strength gains or break through a plateau. An example of such a routine is provided below.
-          Strength-hypertrophy programs normally consist of 3 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions, with rest periods ranging from 2 to 3 minutes between sets. The StartBodyweight basic routine is firmly rooted in this training zone, though the reps range has been slightly expanded to 4-8 to allow for smoother transitions between exercise variations. Rest periods have also been slightly shortened to keep a standard workout within an hour.
-          3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions is the range of muscular hypertrophy. It is ideal for those wishing to optimise their muscle gains.
-          3 to 5 sets of 15+ repetitions takes you into the domain of strength-endurance: it is suited for more specific purposes such as HIIT programs which concern themselves with the number of calories burned in a workout. This range can also generate good results for hypertrophy by targeting slow-twitch muscular fibres. Finally, it is also suited to certain sports such as rock climbing, where strength-endurance becomes an asset on long climbs.

Rest periods:

-          Rest periods of 3 to 5 min are typical of the pure strength realm
-          2-3 min: strength-hypertrophy
-          60-90s: hypertrophy
-          Less than 60s: strength-endurance. Some protocols such as Tabata intervals have shown to maximize VO2max gains by using extremely short rest periods (10s) and working sets of 20s.

Split routines:

Split routines are not generally thought to be for the beginner. They can however prove to be very useful for the intermediate who wants to maximize his/her strength gains or break through a plateau.
Split routines also offer the advantage that greater volume can be achieved for a given exercise (5 sets of 5 reps) within a reasonable time, and that workouts can take place on successive days whilst giving muscle groups that have been targeted the previous day a chance to recover.

Commonly, split routines consist of either a 2 day split, or a 3 day split.

Examples of a two day split could be:

DAY 1 (PUSH): squats, handstand push ups, push ups/dips, leg raises
DAY 2 (PULL): deadlifts, pull ups, horizontal pulls, planks.

Or a full body routine:
DAY 1: squats, handstand push ups, pull ups, leg raises
DAY2: deadlifts, push ups, horizontal pulls, planks.

Example of a 3 day split:

DAY 1 (PUSH): handstand push ups, push ups, dips
DAY 2 (PULL + CORE): pull ups, horizontal pulls, leg raises
DAY 3 (LEGS + CORE): deadlifts, squats, planks


Supersets involve performing two or more exercises in quick succession, with no rest period(s) in between. Typically supersets take two forms: combining exercises that target the same muscle groups in order to exhaust them quicker (i.e. push ups and dips); or exercises targeting opposite muscle groups (i.e. push ups and horizontal pulls). This last method is useful to shorten rest periods and keep a workout at a reasonable length.

NEXT: Some sample custom programs


  1. Hello! I am new to this site and have been using the 666 site for about 2 weeks now. I have fallen in love with BW training!!! I was set to do Starting Strength program but because of a persistent arm injury I have relented and now doing only BW progressions, and I'm hooked... THANKS!!!
    I notice in the sample split routines you show deadlifts. I am not aware of any BW versions of DLs. Are you referring to those with barbells or dumbbells???
    Keep up the good work and thanks for ALL your efforts!!!

    1. Yes, I was refering to barbell or dumbell deadlifts... It's not so easy to find bodyweight alternatives (though there are a couple)

  2. Hey El Diablo, I started bodyweight 666 about 2 months ago, but after finding this, I'm going to switch over. Anyways what are your thoughts about adding a bodyweight progression for the posterior chain e.g. starting with a glute bridge and

  3. Cont.

    progressing to a single leg hip thrust?

  4. Well, yes, that sounds good. In that case replace the deadlifts in the split routine with posterior chain exercises. So do the exercises you suggest, then you can progress to glute ham raises, reverse hyper extensions, reverse hyper extension elbow levers, reverse back levers, then back levers.

    1. Sounds good, I'll give progressiona go. Thanks.

  5. Hi! I've been working out with your beginner program for a while now, and I think it's about time I edited it to suit my goals more... I'm just having a bit of trouble figuring out which changes I should make.

    Just to be clear, my goal is to get a balance between muscle gain (aesthetics ;)) and strength-endurance (to be able to pull of high numbers of reps).

    I'd really appreciate some guidance on what specifically I could change from the beginner workout to move toward these goals.

    Also, how do you think is best to start implementing some more difficult exercises that don't fall squarely into the categories in the basic plan?

  6. More advanced routines, like the one you are looking for, will feature in the Start Bodyweight ebook & book when they come out in the forthcoming months.

  7. How's the ebook progressing? I like your site. I would definitely purchase your book.

  8. Hello, I'm a female climber, and I'm using your beautiful program a month now, to strengthen all my body. My goal is overall strength, but not hypertrophy. My legs are already very muscular, and on alternate days, I run for about 1 hour. Should I do squats all the same? I don't want to get more muscle in my legs...
    Thanks for all your excellent work!!!

    1. Stick to repranges of 4-8, and you shouldn't put on much mass in your legs, but yes, I would still advise you to do squats. For a climber, one leg squats and shrimp squats are ideal, really.

    2. Thank you very much for your quick answer! I really like your program, and the progressions are easy to follow and really constructive. Again, thanks a lot. Cristina

  9. Hi Nick thanks for the insight into bodyweight training,I an a six days a week trainer how could i do the split as want to give muscles ample time to recover and how could i add plyometric exercises to these routines.Thanks.

  10. Hey Nick! Awesome website! What do you think about full bridges? Can you do progressions for those as well? What about adding them to the workout?

  11. If I do the 3 sets of 8-12 where would I start for progressing I.e. once u can do 12 of a given exercise and u move to the next, where do u start? Would I start back at 8 or is it the same a the basic bodyweight workout where u start at 4 but instead of working u 3 sets of 8 u go to 12 then progress

  12. Hi,

    Why (in general) do shorter rest times (60-90s) benefit hypertrophy more than longer rest times of 3-5 mins? I realize that strength is about more than just muscle size, but I do not understand this part. If this time/effort relationship were exactly true then a person could become insanely strong, but small by using the longer rest times, or much bigger but weaker by using the shorter rest times.

  13. Hi, your site is a great inspiration and is helping me out a lot especially for progression exercises but since I do a pure strength routine 5x6 I was wondering when to move up in exercises because this routine is always 5x6 and it doesn't increase every workout like the 3x4 -> 3x8.

  14. Dear El Diablo,
    just wanted your opinion on my own take on split programming. In an effort to lose weight I've been walking 30 minutes a day. To save time I was thinking of doing different exercises daily, for example : day 1 pullups and dips 4-5 sets of 6-12 reps. Day 2 squat variation and leg lifts 4 sets same reps. Day 3 pushups, handstands and rows, again same set and rep scheme. I want to keep the whole workout to under an hour. What are your thoughts?

  15. Hello, I just started this program and am new to lifting, but I do like to run. I do about 3 to 5 miles, 3 times a week. How can I incorporate running into bodyweight routine? I would prefer to run on the same day as the routine, but do you recommend that I run on the rest day?

    1. depends on a lot of factors. post your stats here. ( weight/height/body type). What is the reason for running.. endurance/cardio? I am sure bodyweight training can help anyone.

  16. Hi would it be possible to continue the bodyweight 666 work out but with the rep/set scheme from this work out until i get some rings for the horizontal pulls

  17. Hello,

    I have recovery problem so I can't do full-body 3 times per week. I hesitate between a push-pull split and upper-lower split (core is included in lower) ?

    What's your opinion please ?

    Thank you :-)

  18. Hey, am starting out with a the big 6 exercises..
    I have always been considered thin but ripped. my legs in particular are pretty strong because of 6+ years of swimming/football/cycling.. I actually want to focus on my upper body more ( especially shoulders/back/chest) and want to put on some mass.
    any recommendations?

    thanks in advance.

  19. Hello, what do you think training one arm pull up, front lever and back lever together on the day of pull? Sorry for my english, and thanks for your attention.

  20. I really want to do the basic routine. I do bowing conditioning twice a week, and am curious if the SBW routine can be done only twice per week and still get results. If so, what tweaks are recommended and how do you program dips and pushups (still every other or just drop dips)?thanks

  21. What about if I were to do the following (is it too much? I like it):

    warm up stretches
    handstand progression
    leg raises
    L sit progression
    support hold progression
    skin the cat progression
    push ups
    pull ups