9 workout programs reviewed shovelglove, stronglifts, gvt, wendler 531, shortcut to size, PHAT, p90x

April 16, 2016

I have tried many workout programs throughout the years. Each one of these listed below I tried for at least a month and most I tried for six months or more.


I started shovelglove because it was a way to get in shape using very little equipment from home. I stuck with this for a month. It didn’t take me long to get bored with it. I also switched because heavy weights are fun. One other problem I noticed was I didn’t find anyone online that used shovel glove to attain an admirable body.

I am thankful to shovelglove because it got me working out and it was fun. Here is an embarrassing video that shows how much fun it was. ;)

Random machines at 24 hour fitness gym

I shifted from shovelglove to a real gym. The closest gym to my house was a small 24 hour gym. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good gym at all. The biggest pro was it had real weights and I was able to workout at any time.

I promised myself I would go every day so the fact it was open late was great. If I had to work late or procrastinated I was able to go and still get in my workout. The worst thing about the gym is they didn’t have any free weights beyond a few dumbbells (I think they went to 50 pounds).

StrongLifts 5×5

I started with just the bar and slowly worked my way up. It was the first program where I did the following exercises: squat, barbell rows, deadlifts and overhead press. I also benched a ton. I did stronglifts for about a year until I started stalling out on most lifts.


I read about German volume training online. The descriptions sounded like it was intense but effective. That’s pretty much my dream workout.

I started by just running bench and doing 10×10 with 45s. At first I hit 10 reps for 7 or so sets. I eventually got up to 10×10 before I stopped.

Wendler 531

I started this program because it was intended to up your strength on key lifts. You start by testing your one rep max on a lift. Then the program has you work at 90% (and less) of your max.

I never felt comfortable with the program. I felt as a natural lifter I needed more volume.

Shortcut to Size

I did Shortcut to Size for the shortest amount of time. Here were my issues with it:


Layne Norton is a big dude. My thought process at the time is if I wanted to get big I should follow a big dude’s program, right? Plus Layne has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences with honors. He is constistently reviewing and researching on his own. His Phd thesis was on “Leucine is a Critical Factor Determining Protein Quantity and Quality of a Complete Meal to Initiate Muscle Protein Synthesis”  Sounds like a big, smart dude.

The program has three things that I found very helpful:

  1. The program contained more volume than most
  2. There was a nice mix of heavy (powerlifting) and medium (bodybuilding) days
  3. Each body part got worked out 2x a week.
  4. Days contained a nice array of big “serious” movements like squat, deadlift and bench

I would consider running this program again. In hindsight, it looks to me that Layne is on juice. Plus the program isn’t available in his site. The links for it are in interviews and articles by others about the program and that always struck me as a bit odd.


See my thoughts on P90x and my P90x completion post for more information.

Homegrown Split

During P90x I added 3 gym days where I lifted. In the gym I did pull-ups, dips, OHP and squats three times a week. Each time I would start with a different exercise. That way I was fresh and able to focus all my energy on an exercise that may have been towards the end of my last workout.

At the time I was cutting pretty drastically and running P90x (and doing extra cardio). Even with all that exercise and dieting I was still able to maintain my strength. For each 10 pounds of bodyweight lost I added 10 pounds of extra weight to my pull-ups and dip.