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Illustration of a weight lifter trying to manage his stimulus to fatigue ratio while building muscle.

How to Optimize Your Stimulus-to-Fatigue Ratio (SFR)

The Stimulus-to-Fatigue Ratio (SFR) is a way to compare how much benefit a workout stimulates against how much fatigue it generates. The idea is to increase the stimulus while reducing the fatigue. For example, if you’re trying to build muscle, you could try to stimulate more muscle growth without generating as much fatigue.

At first, this can create the illusion that fatigue is bad and should be minimized, but it’s not quite that simple. Fatigue can also provoke adaptations, helping you grow bigger, stronger, and fitter. You don’t want to min-max away those benefits. Better to stimulate as much muscle growth as you can without generating too much fatigue.

Finally, you can improve your body’s ability to generate energy and recover from training. One of the best ways to reduce fatigue is to become not just bigger and stronger but also fitter.

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Illustration of an intermediate male bodybuilder doing a Push/Pull/Legs hypertrophy workout routine to build muscle.

The Best Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) Routine for Building Muscle

Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) routines divide your muscles into three groups: your pushing muscles, your pulling muscles, and your legs. Each group of muscles gets a dedicated training day, allowing you to work out six days per week while still giving your muscles 3-4 days to recover.

It’s a powerful way to train. You can stimulate a ton of muscle growth this way. These routines are incredibly popular with serious bodybuilders, rivalled only by the mighty Bro Split.

The other great advantage of Push/Pull/Legs routines is they’re relatively easy. Full-body workouts are great for beginners, but as you get stronger, the weight looms heavier, and training every muscle in a single workout can become oppressive. Much easier to divide up the workload.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder doing chin-ups first in his hypertrophy workout.

Exercise Order: Which Exercises Should You Do First?

The conventional wisdom is to start each workout with the big compound lifts, then move to smaller assistance exercises, and then finish with isolation exercises. That’s a perfectly fine way to structure your workout. Ordering your exercises that way will work.

However, the research doesn’t quite support that advice; there’s some nuance to delve into, and you might prefer to put your exercises in a different order.

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Cartoon illustration of a beginner doing a cardio program.

How to Do Cardio—The Complete Beginner Guide

The guidelines for general health are simple: you need at least 150 minutes of cardio per week. If the cardio is twice as hard, you only need half as much. More on that in a moment.

But there’s more to cardio than merely putting in the time. You also need to provoke an adaptation. You need to train in a way that improves your cardiorespiratory fitness. That way, you get the benefits of having increased mitochondrial density, a higher VO2 max, more blood vessels, and a lower resting heart rate.

Marco has over a decade of experience helping people improve their cardio, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. We’ll explain the basics of cardio, give you a beginner routine, and then show you how to progress to more difficult workouts.

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An illustration of Milo Wolf (the lengthened partial researcher) mixed with the Outlift guy.

Lengthened Partials: What They Are & How to Use Them

Lengthened partials are the trendy new bodybuilding technique. The idea is that by challenging your muscles under a deep stretch, you can increase mechanical tension on your muscles, stimulating more muscle growth.

They aren’t as new as they seem. For several decades now, many of the best bodybuilders have built their routines around lengthened partials. So there isn’t just scientific evidence we can reference; there’s also a long bodybuilding tradition we can draw from.

I won’t bury the lead: lengthened partials work. My only gripe is that they don’t always take the principle of stretch-mediated hypertrophy far enough. Oftentimes, there’s an even better way.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder doing dumbbell goblet squats as part of his leg workout.

The Best Dumbbell Leg Exercises & Workout

Dumbbell leg exercises are great for beginners. They’re perfect for gaining your first 30–40 pounds of muscle. Think of exercises like goblet squats, dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, and step-ups.

Our main Bony to Beastly Program heavily emphasizes dumbbells. Some of our best transformations come from guys working out at home in simple dumbbell home gyms.

It gets a bit trickier as you get stronger. Dumbbells make it harder to lift as heavy. That isn’t as much of a problem for your arms, chest, or even back, but it can definitely make it harder to train your legs. You’ll need to progress to exercise variations that let you get more muscle growth out of less weight. We’ll show you how to do that.

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Illustration of a man doing a dumbbell biceps curl workout to build bigger arms.

The Best Dumbbell Arm Exercises & Workout

Dumbbell exercises are fantastic for building bigger arms. They’re often better than the barbell, cable, and machine variations. You don’t need anything more.

Our main Bony to Beastly Program heavily emphasizes dumbbells. Some of our best transformations come from guys working out at home in simple dumbbell home gyms.

Arm exercises pair together well. You could quickly alternate between sets of biceps curls, triceps extensions, and lateral raises at the end of all your workouts, keeping your arms growing steadily all week long. You could also do a heartier workout focused solely on your arms. We’ll cover both approaches.

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Illustration of a man doing the dumbbell bench press exercise during his chest workout.

The Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises & Workout

You can bulk up your chest perfectly well with just dumbbells. In fact, you could make a strong argument that dumbbell chest exercises are better for your chest than the barbell, cable, and machine variations.

Our main Bony to Beastly Program heavily emphasizes dumbbells. Some of our best transformations come from guys working out at home with simple dumbbell home gyms. Dumbbells can be amazing for building muscle.

The trick is to choose exercises that train all the muscle fibres that fan across your chest, ideally while challenging them under a deep stretch. You can combine those exercises into a chest workout, or you could spread them out across the week.

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Illustration of a man doing a dumbbell pullover workout to build bigger back muscles.

The Best Dumbbell Back Exercises & Workout

You can build a big, strong, and balanced back with just dumbbells. Chin-ups and pull-ups are the foundation of most back workouts, but it’s pretty easy to replace them with dumbbell exercises.

Our main Bony to Beastly Program heavily emphasizes dumbbells. Some of our best transformations come from guys training at home with a simple dumbbell home gym. You aren’t at much of a disadvantage. Dumbbells are fantastic for building muscle.

Still, good back workouts are difficult to program. Each back muscle is responsible for slightly different movements and thus benefits from slightly different exercises. That’s why a good back workout usually has around 3 different complementary back exercises.

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