The Anti-Hero Training Plan: Build Big, Brutal Muscle & Strength

Nothing pretty here! You're about to become a big, bad anti-hero behemoth. This no frills, get it done 4 day workout split will help you pack on both muscle and strength.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
12 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Male & Female
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Workout Description

Brad Borland is a strength & conditioning specialist, cancer survivor and the founder of WorkoutLab.

Raw muscle and strength is impressive when witnessed with our own eyes. With the constant stream of superhero movies churning at the theaters, CGI and techniques of Hollywood magic can make the meekest of actors appear to have superhuman strength, speed and sometimes more muscle. But when we see someone at the local gym perform a feat of strength, carry an impressive amount of muscle or have the ability to execute some sort of agility or body weight strength move we pause for a brief moment of awe and the desire to experience it for ourselves.

These movie heroes possess abilities only seen in movies, but what about you? Can you build a strong, lean and muscular physique to blow away those “heroes” with a specific, no-frills program that will produce real-world results?

Building a foundation of big, brutal muscle and strength isn’t easy and at times can get a bit ugly – but, boy can it get fun! Although challenging, this program leaves out the unnecessary noise and focuses on the infrastructure of training.

The core of this program covers all the bases regarding building some muscle, developing functional strength and keeping you lean as long as a sensible diet is followed. Become the anti-hero and build something real. Enough talk, let’s take action!

Anti-Hero WorkoutThe Anti-Hero Training Plan Principles

  • Perform this training plan for four to six weeks. Afterward, take a break or go to a program with decreased intensity and workload.
  • Perform each workout once per week such as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • Fight the urge to add in ancillary exercises such as chest flys, cable work and leg extensions. This plan utilizes the basics for a reason – to build muscle and strength. You can, however, add in some cardio on non-training days.
  • Feel free to alter the order of some exercises and/or substitute in some alternative moves for personal preference due to injury prevention or equipment availability.
  • Pay considerable attention to rest periods and warm-ups.
  • Try keeping a record of your workouts for easy reference. Attempt to lift either a little more weight or one or more reps each session. If you don’t succeed every time, don’t let it derail your motivation. Simply note it, move on and try again for the next training day.
  • Above all, since this program stresses progression, don’t let your ego get in the way of proper form and technique. Slow and steady progress trumps short-lived perceived daily personal records.

The Anti-Hero Training Plan

Day 1
Upper Body
Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Incline Bench Barbell Press 2x12 4x4-8 60
Flat Bench Barbell Press   4x4-8 60
Close-Grip Pull-Up (weighted if needed) 2x12 (pulldowns) 4x4-8 60
Bent-Over T-Bar Row 1x12 4x4-8 60
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press   3x6-10 60
Standing Lateral Raise   3x6-10 60
Floor Crunch   3x20 30
Day 2
Lower Body
Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Seated Calf Raise 2x12 4x6-10 30
Stiff Leg Deadlift 2x12 3x6-10 60
Barbell Squat 2x12 4x4-8 90
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat   3x6-10 60
Barbell Curl 2x12 4x4-8 60
Close-Grip Decline Bench Press 2x12 4x4-8 60
Hanging Leg Raise   3x20 30
Day 3
Upper Body
Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 2x12 4x6-10 60
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press   4x6-10 60
Wide-Grip Pull-Up (weighted if needed) 2x12 (pulldowns) 4x6-10 60
Bent-Over Barbell Row 1x12 4x6-10 60
Standing Barbell Push Press   3x6-12 60
Wide-Grip Barbell Upright Row   3x8-12 60
3-Way Sit-Up   3x20 30
Day 4
Lower Body
Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Standing Calf Raise or Single Leg Calf Raise 2x12 4x8-12 30
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 2x12 3x8-12 60
Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat 2x12 4x8-12 60
Barbell Front Squat   4x6-10 60
Seated Dumbbell Curl 2x12 4x6-10 60
Parallel Bar Weighted Dip 2x12 4x6-10 60
Lying Leg Raise   3x20 30

49 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sun, 12/22/2019 - 16:37
Abdulai Timbo

Am eating 3000 calories per day can i steel do that with this workout

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Posted Tue, 06/02/2015 - 12:59
David Lavely

I always have some confusion with the warm up sets and the working sets, as well as what weights to begin at. I am just starting this specific routine. Any guidance would be welcome.

MikeWines's picture
Posted Wed, 06/03/2015 - 09:20

For the warm up sets, use a lighter weight than you use for your work sets. These are mainly to improve neurological activation, blood flow, and prime the nervous system for the subsequent workload.

Use a weight that you can control for the specific number of sets of reps.
Try to increase either the weight or the reps each week to continue to get stronger and encourage physiological adaptation.
Repeat until you become jacked and diesel.

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Posted Thu, 02/19/2015 - 14:52

Question- is it okay if I add more an work along with the floor crunches?

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Posted Sun, 02/08/2015 - 00:00

Hi Brad, how can I incorporate deadlifts into this routine...which exercise would be best to substitute them for? Many thanks

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Posted Mon, 05/11/2015 - 23:51
Sam M

When I do this routine, I do squats on one of the "lower" days, and deadlifts on the other one.

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Posted Wed, 02/04/2015 - 23:03

2nd time reviewing this workout. It's a solid workout. I just got done with Jason blaha ICF 5x5 and this is a solid transition. This workout is more fun though because you have so many different workouts. I find this workout helps me put on muscle with about 2-3 pounds per month.

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Posted Tue, 01/13/2015 - 00:52
Raimondo Harrell

If I had limited time and to choose a plan that is optimal and time savy, it would definately include legs (squats) and back. I this plan I can always include squats and dealifts. Im a person who looks for intensity and am only impressed by people and exercises that nobody else does. usually when other people aren't interested,its because its harder.So this gives me a competive edge and i posses strength and size that nobody posses.(this is what motivates me and fuels my determination. you can't trade natural hard work for for the status quo.

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Posted Sun, 10/12/2014 - 05:16

Can I do this workout like Wednesday rest, rest, Friday, Saturday, Sunday?

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Posted Mon, 07/14/2014 - 06:50

Hi, Are the rest periods after 4 x 4-8 in a row or after each set of 4-8 reps?

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Posted Sun, 06/29/2014 - 06:57

How much weight should you use on the warm up sets?

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Posted Sat, 06/28/2014 - 13:53

Nice plan i'll try this on my next workout. I have one question though can i replace the standing barbell push press with clean & jerk? And if i want to include DLs here what exercise should i replace?

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Posted Wed, 05/07/2014 - 02:31

I know this routine doesn't focus on aesthetics... But will it help? I can put muscle on fairly easy. I just want to know if this workout plan will help me look good as well as helping get good strength and foundation.

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Posted Sun, 05/04/2014 - 16:15

What exactly are you suppose to do for the warm up just a lighter weight.

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Posted Sun, 05/04/2014 - 16:11

What exactly are you suppose to do for the warm up just lighter weight then heavier weight for the work out?

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Posted Wed, 04/16/2014 - 22:44

Great workout. I'm already sore but no pain no gain.

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Posted Wed, 03/19/2014 - 20:01

i was wondering if there was a way to calculate the amount of calories this burns daily on the different exercises i am currently 6'1" at 265#s and i am keeping track of my food intake on please if someone knows respond to this so i can accurately keep track thanks again

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Posted Tue, 03/11/2014 - 06:04

I really like the setup for this but I csn only get in the gym 3 times a week. Is there any way this could be adapted to 3 days or would you recommend another similar routine?

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Posted Mon, 03/03/2014 - 14:42

Is there much development for traps in this routine? Also can you suggest substitutes for the machine sets as i only have a bench and dumbells to work with

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Posted Mon, 02/24/2014 - 06:22

Just started this training plan today, kind of motivated starting of with a new training plan.

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 20:11

I started following this program and I'm on my second week using it. Before, I was not doing squats and deadlifts in the same day so I'm struggling a bit on the leg days.

What percent of your max should you be using for your working sets? I think I might need to back down the weight a little so I can get through all the exercises.

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 16:57

I think the love handle comment was a joke!!!! Take it easy guys lol.

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 10:13

Love this site but does anyone know if there is a printable copy option of these workouts?

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Posted Thu, 02/06/2014 - 16:13

Can I incorporate deadlifts into the program?

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Posted Thu, 03/06/2014 - 18:56

Yeah I am including normal deadlifts on the second lower body day combined with the front squat, calf raises and split squats.

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Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 20:49

I am currently trying to bulk up, how long should use routine before taking a week to deload/rest? Also would you recommend inverted rows on a smith machine in the place of close grip pullups?

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Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 12:06

Working sets are 4 sets of 4-8 reps, if you can complete a full set of 8 with not much strain, you should up the's a strength workout so you build the weight up over the plan.

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Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 01:13

how does the working sets work

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 23:57

how does 4x4-8 means is it four sets with eight reps?

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Posted Mon, 12/14/2020 - 15:17

I guess is something like 4 sets with 4 or 8 reps. you choose, for me i choose 8.

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 17:19

Why is there upper body exercises in the Lower Body days but no Lower body on the upper body days... it doesnt make sense to me...

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 04:05

Really looking forward to it! I’m relatively new to bodybuilding and I find this program easy to follow.
One question: can I add 30 minutes cardio at the end of each session?

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 08:48

If you need to add cardio, do it on your non-lifting days. Stacking both on the same day ensures one workout will suffer. But cardio also implies your focusing on fat loss which is counterproductive to adding lean mass.

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 18:16

This looks awesome, thanks Brad! Also I read your blog and just wanted to say it's inspiring to read about someone whose gone through cancer and come out the other end even stronger. If that doesn't motivate me nothing will. Keep up the good work :)

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Posted Mon, 02/10/2014 - 09:04

I can see how this comment deserved a "thumb down". /end sarcasm

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 18:10

The article is a "beginner's level" program. Designed to "build a foundation" and "cover all the bases regarding building some muscle, developing functional strength". And this basically covers the entire body. Arm ARE world on in this workout.

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 18:00

I understand the point of this article. It's all about building and strengthening the larger muscle groups. Aesthetics is not main focus here. Mass and strength is. If you look at the splits., you have dips, rows, curls, all working shoulders, traps, ris and bis. I for think people are really looking at the joke program. Only day 1. -__-

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 17:10
Keith McRae

Looks good, but what about arm work? I'm doing a two day split right now (Arnold's Level 1 advanced trainer) and I'd advocate anyone who can handle high volume doing two day splits or splits like this, just confused why no attention is given too the arms to build shape and size.

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 15:37

I like this set up. Close to my previous routines. But better developed. I'm going to do this workout.


Regarding "love handles" you would have work your entire core and include dieting and cardio or HIIT.
My background is in martial arts. And "love handles" (aka obliques) need to be targeted. The best way, in my experience, are twisting and bending motions. Waist twists, Side Bends, Rusian twists. To really build strength, burn fat, and develope the muscle, try using a medicine ball, for Russian twists, dumbellsnor kettle bells for side bends, and weighted barbel for upright twists. Don't forget to balance out your lower back. Roman back extensions is my personal favorite.

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 17:16

You cant TARGET love handles or and other fatty area... you can target the muscles underneath... that's it...

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Posted Sun, 02/02/2014 - 15:17

What about working out your bis abs tris?

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 17:41

Bis - pull ups, rows, curl,
Abs - pull ups, rows, crunch, leg raise, Romanian deads..
Tris - barbell press, shoulder press, etc

What's your question?

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Posted Sat, 02/01/2014 - 09:16

What about exercise for love handles??

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 08:42

Exercises for love handles are:

1. Head Shakes - when someone offers you food you shouldn't be eating, shake your head from side to side.

2. Push-Aways - when you've eaten your targeted amount of calories for the day, push away from the table.

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Posted Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:56


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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 08:45

Love handles are a derivative of excess fat. Focus on your diet.

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2014 - 20:37

Do I need a day rest after the first two days? (Ex: Day 1, Day 2, rest day, Day 3, Day 4)

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 17:17

its in the description DA...

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2014 - 18:22

Looks like a solid upper-lower split. I just started the PHUL program, another upper-lower split. I'll probably get around to this one eventually. Thanks.