Lyle McDonald’s generic bulking routine (GBR) is a 4 day upper/lower split that focuses on building mass. It is a bulking routine for building mass that is designed to be run while on a caloric surplus with a weight gain goal of about 0.5 to 1 pound per week. It can be run for 6 weeks to 8 weeks before a 2 week deload.
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Spreadsheet: Lyle McDonald’s Generic Bulking Routine
The “hypertrophy version” is the generic routine originally posted by Lyle. It is called this to differentiate it from the other versions with a greater strength emphasis, which are discussed below.
None of these spreadsheets are endorsed by Lyle. They were created by Lift Vault based on an interpretation of his posts regarding this routine.
Alternate Versions of the Generic Bulking Routine
Here are spreadsheets for the alternate versions of the routine, discussed in more detail below.
Program Overview: Lyle McDonald’s Generic Bulking Routine
Lyle McDonald’s generic bulking routine allows for a lot of flexibility within the program. If you are not comfortable with making some decisions within your training, then this program may not be for you. Alternatively, this may be a good opportunity to learn how to experiment, learn, and adapt with respect to your training.
All of this information is interpreted from posts on Lyle’s forum, which were preserved by the good folks at jcdfitness.com. Massive thanks to them. They compiled a massive PDF of FAQs from which I derived the information summarized below.
Set and Rep Ranges
Most exercises have sets and reps prescribed in ranges. For example, you will perform 3 to 4 sets of squats, each with 6 to 8 reps for the squat on lower body training days.
There are three different recommended set and rep ranges used in this routine:
- 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps (3 minute rest between sets)
- 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps (2 minutes rest between sets)
- 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps (90 seconds rest between sets)
How do you decide whether to go for the higher option within a set range (e.g. for 3-4 sets, choosing to go for a 4th set)?
Here is why Lyle said:
“3-4 sets means 3 to 4 sets. So after your third set, you need to make a judgement call. If I were
there coaching you, I”d make it for you. Judging by how fatigued you looked on the third set,
what your reps looked like, how fried you looked. If you still looked strong, I’d have you do a 4th
set. If you looked fried, you’d stop at 3.”
If the above recommended set and rep schemes are too difficult to complete, one set can be removed from the first two ranges. The lower volume set/rep schemes would be:
- 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps
- 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps
The rest times do not change. Also, there is no “lower volume” version of 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps.
How to Add Weight/Progress in a Cycle
During your 6 to 8 week cycle, you can use the following guidelines as suggestions for how to progress.
- Phase 1 – Week 1: Start around 80% to 85% to your rep max.
- So for a 6 to 8 rep set, you can start with 80% of your 8 rep max.
- Phase 2 – Week 2-4: add 5% each week
- Phase 3 – 5-8: add 2.5 to 5 lbs on larger movements, 1 to 2.5 lbs on smaller movements when you get your target reps with one or two reps in the tank
- e.g. If you are shooting for 8 reps, get 8 reps, but feel you could have done 10, then you can add weight. If getting 8 reps was a grind, do not add weight.
Phase 3 may last anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks (putting the total cycle length at 6 weeks to 8 weeks, respectively). The goal of this phase is to push the weights and set new maxes while still maintaining good form.
Exercise Movement Optional Adjustments (e.g. Deadlifts)
The spreadsheet provides a “vanilla” interpretation of Lyle McDonald’s generic bulking workout routine. It is perfectly fine to run it in that form, but here are some changes you can make if you like.
Note: Any changes you make on the “Week 1” tab will automatically copy over to the other weeks. Lyle does not recommend making changes to the program within a cycle.
Here are some options for adjustments you can make:
- Do deadlifts and leg press as the main lift (first two lifts using 3-4 x 6-8 rep scheme) on the second lower body workout of the week (Thursday).
- An example of how to do this can be found on the “Hypertrophy Version w/ Deadlifts” version on the Thursday: Lower day.
- Do incline bench press and pulldowns as the main lifts on the second upper body workout of the week (Friday).
Adjusting for More Strength Focus
These were alternate rep ranges suggested by Lyle for less hypertrophy focus and more strength focus. These rep ranges apply to the main lifts and secondary lifts, as noted. You can run the different cycles in sequence (hypertrophy –> strength/hypertrophy –> strength) or stick to only one and run it repeatedly.
Spreadsheets for these versions are available above.
- Pure Hypertrophy: 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps for main lifts, 10 to 12 reps per set for secondary lifts
- This is what the vanilla version of the routine already uses.
- Strength/Hypertrophy: 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps for main lifts, 8 to 10 reps per set for secondary lifts
- Strength Focus: 3 sets of 3 reps for main lifts, 6 to 8 reps per set for secondary lifts
Set count is not adjusted for second tier (e.g. shoulder press on upper days) or third tier (e.g. calf raises on lower days) lifts.
Direct isolation work (e.g. the tricep and bicep work on the upper body days) is not described in these alternate recommendations and presumably stays the same as laid out in the original generic routine: 1 to 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
Video Interviews with Lyle McDonald about the Generic Bulking Routine
Here are two lengthy conversations from the Revive Strong YouTube channel with Lyle McDonald about the generic bulking routine and training in general.
Shout out to Steve @ Revive Stronger for providing these timestamps!
- 01:16 Lyle starts with talking about how he got into creating The Generic Bulking Routine
- 05:46 Lyle talks about labelling lifting status
- 07:49 Furthermore Lyle describes how he defines beginner, intermediate & advanced
- 11:12 Lyle explains what he means with “Productive Training”
- 26:18 Lyle’s opinion on adding weight to the bar as a necessity for progressive overload
- 30:01 Lyle shares his thoughts on functional overreaching
- 42:46 Lyle take on junk volume
- 00:36 Lyle continues where he left off and further talks about continuing progressing with exercise selection/variation and the impact of the crossover effect
- 22:47 Lyle goes back in talking about the setup of the Generic Bulking Routine
- 36:40 Lyle talks about progressing as an intermediate
- 57:30 Lyle elaborates how to programme specialisation cycles
- 01:06:42 Lyle shares his thoughts on advanced trainees and their personal observations