Charles Staley Total Body Strong Workout Program Review


Ever had that boss that micromanages everything to such an extent, that not only is the job not done in time, but you also hated every moment? Charles has had that boss, and designed a program that goes in the face of micromanagement!

Get ready to lift hard, heavy, and to the point!

About Charles Staley

Charles Staley, B.Sc., MSS, is one of the most renowned fitness and strength coaches around. Charles has spent the better part of his life trying to educate those willing to listen about the mechanisms of strength and fitness.

His feats in the fitness education world have earned him time on shows like “The Today Show” and “The CBS Early Show,”. Not only this, but he is a frequent guest on podcasts, and writes quite a lot of articles for companies like

Charles is now nearing his 60s, but fitter and healthier than ever! At this age, Charles has accomplished the following:

  • 400lb Squat
  • 510lb Deadlift
  • 17 Straight Chinups

Now, these may not seem awfully impressive, but to have those feats of strength at 58 years old is very impressive. In fact, he holds three World Championship titles in raw powerlifting.

Staley has used this experience combined with the current literature to train and nurture individuals into becoming their best selves. Particularly the individuals looking at more high intensity and strength goals.

High-intensity training differs slightly from other types, in the sense that it can be incredibly taxing, yet rewarding if done correctly. It takes a lot of knowledge to coach high-intensity effectively.

Whether returning from injury or setting up programs like the Total Body Strong; ready to take your training to the next level!

Total-Body Strong Overview

As the name suggests, the Total-Body Strong program is focused on building strength, and building muscle. Not only that, but it is also full-body training to get swole. This means you’ll be hitting almost every muscle group each time you exercise.

While the overarching ideas of this plan might sound intimidating, this program picks up where Goblet of Gains left off. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, male, female, or just looking to get dirty strong, the program can work for you!

  • Fitness level: Intermediate
  • Duration: 8 Weeks
  • Workouts per week: 3 Workouts per week
  • Average workout duration: 45 – 60 Minutes
  • Equipment needed: Full gym
  • Goal: Build muscle

Some people are too worried about the finer details of their fitness plans and fail to actually reach their goals because they overcomplicate things. This plan is simple, effective, and aims to make the choices in fitness easier.

For instance, Staley offers you simple substitutions for certain movement patterns in the gym. That simply means you can replace certain exercises with ones that have a similar neurological and muscle stimulus.

This makes the plan incredibly effective and malleable at the same time. While the program is simple, it will still require that you work your butt off.

The program is mostly focused on increasing muscle mass slowly over the 8 weeks. This increase in muscle mass is done slowly to make sure you gain as little fat mass as possible.

Doing a “dirty” bulk can lead to increased fat mass, which could potentially limit your gains, as well as increase inflammation quite dramatically. This increased inflammation means your recovery will suffer, and you will be underperforming.

The progressive overload that the plan offers in both the gym and the kitchen differentiates it from other plans that just say “max out, bro”. You’re likely to see quality gains and quality progression heer – without breaking a belt loop or tearing a pec.

Total-Body Strong Details

The program does not shy away from getting to the meat of the plan! As mentioned before, you’re going to do full-body training sessions, three times per week. This allows you to stimulate muscle adaptation at a higher frequency.

To get a better and more in-depth perception of what the program looks like, let’s break it down into 3 sections.


Because the training is simply full-body based, you’re going to be doing similar training/movement patterns every time you step into the gym.

This means you’ll always be doing a type of squat, some pushing, and some pulling. This is really the base of the program, and the only things that will change are particular movements and the rep/set scheme of course.

Because the training is based on movement/joint patterns, it makes it rather easy to switch out movements to those you feel good with. Trap bar not feeling great? Chuck it, let’s go do front squats – both stimulate the quads!

You’ll also be introducing the concept of RPE – or “rate of perceived exertion”. Basically, this is a measurement of how “hard” or “intense” that particular set was.

RPE 10 means you had 0 reps left to give. RPE 9 means that you had one good rep left in the tank. This takes a bit of time to learn, as most people don’t know where RPE 10 even sits.

RPE is hard to learn, and there is very little scientific literature to back it. That being said, many coaches, including Staley swear by it. It can be extremely effective if used correctly but don’t be too surprised if it takes you a long while to learn.

Unlike other programs, there are no real “phases” of training – which, from a scientific perspective, makes a lot of sense. Any physical adaptation will take several weeks to take place, which is why 8 weeks for a singular goal might work.

The only real change is at the turn of week 5, where the load on the bar begins to increase as the reps decrease. We usually see this as athletes are looking to peak for a competition, so it is reflected in the program.

You will only be doing full-body workouts for the entire 8 weeks. This means there will be ample time for recovery, and cardio if you need it. The workouts are focused on mostly moving weight in compound lifts but include a healthy amount of accessories as well.


As any Instagram influencer would be eager to tell you – Nutrition matters! They’ll also be eager to tell you about the 7 different supplements they use – and you should too.

Nutrition is really not that complicated, but it can be specified according to Charles. That means you merely need to follow a few guidelines:

  • 1g of protein per lbs of bodyweight (Split across 4 – 6 meals/shakes)
  • Keep your carbohydrates high in your PERI workout window (Pre and Post)
  • Eat enough to increase mass by 1% of total bodyweight per week
  • Eat healthy, whole foods

These are exceptionally good guidelines, with no filler, no fluff, and bound to actually help you get results. The program is also mostly focused on quality gains, and thus isn’t considered a “normal” bulking plan.

There is a macro calculator supplied within the plan, and even contains preferable food to choose from:

  • Protein: Chicken and turkey breast filets, lean beef, lean ground meats (90/1)), fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, tilapia, cod), seafood, low-fat dairy, and whey and casein protein
  • Carbohydrates: Brown and wild rice, quinoa, oats, beans, lentils, peas, and vegetables
  • Fats: Salmon, olive and canola oil, walnuts, almonds, flax and chia seeds, and some Saturated Fats as well

The program is also quite focused on carb timing. This might be the “most” complex part of the entire plan, as it specifies when to eat most of your carbohydrates. Particularly around your workout, as some studies suggest this could elicit better gains with less fat gain.

Overall, the nutrition plan is perfectly simple, yet solid. Does exactly what you want and need from it, but don’t expect flashy overnight oats or something. This might make it “boring”, but it’s perfect if you’re limited in time.


Recovery (for this situation) will include the rest/off periods from training, as well as the Supplementation part.

A big part of the recovery will be covered by the fact that you only train 3 times a week! That means 4 days per week to rest, recover, and grow. Charles also advises a 60-minute walk or 10 000 steps daily, which could help with recovery as well.

That being said, muscle damage is expected, and as a result, you can expect some DOMS – Delayed onset muscle soreness.

As far as supplementation goes, the program keeps it very simple – like the rest of the plan. Charles advises you to use the following:

  • Whey Protein
  • Multivitamin
  • Fish/Krill Oil
  • Pre-Workout
  • Creatine
  • BCAAs
  • Protein Bars (if you need them)

Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate

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3 Total-Body Strong Pros

  1. Full-Body Training has a great benefit in that you get to stimulate the muscle often. This means as long as your nutrition and recovery are on point you could see massive gains. Some might argue, but compare 156 leg sessions vs 52 a year… who’s gonna have better wheels?
  2. The no BS approach makes this program an extremely simple plan. If you are concerned about timing or management of factors, this is really a quality program to consider.
  3. The nutrition protocols given are spot on. There are so many non-scientific approaches online that either require a Ph.D. to follow or require you to buy a bunch of supps! This is definitely not that.

3 Total-Body Strong Cons

  1. Some may find training boring? I have trained individuals personally that cannot let go of the “Bro/Pro Split” of training one muscle group a week. That’s perfectly fine, but if you prefer that, then this program might not be for you.
  2. This is not for advanced lifters. While full-body training is perfect for beginners and intermediate lifters, it has its limits. More experienced lifters will need to put more time and effort into muscle groups.
  3. This could be hard to follow as a hard gainer. Hear me out, but sometimes people just suck at gaining mass. Because of the low and slow weight gain approach, hard gainers may struggle and become demotivated.

Total-Body Strong – Final Thoughts

The Total-Body Strong is a really great plan, honestly. I love this plan, it’s simple, effective, and gets the job done. There is so much stuff and junk on the internet, and it’s rather refreshing coming across a program that goes the other way!

That being said, the program does have limitations. It is 100% a lean bulking protocol, and if you are someone who struggles to gain mass, this might not be the best fit.

That being said, the leaner gaining protocol makes it ideal for someone who is looking to see an increase in muscle mass, but has a tendency to gain a bit of a belly? For this type of individual, this plan is perfect.

Then you have to face the fact that a full-body workout plan isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t enjoy it, and others have progressed so much they simply need 15 – 20 sets per big muscle group to make advancements.

There are of course 3 big positives to the plan:

  1. It’s simple and easy to follow
  2. You get to stimulate muscle growth often
  3. One of the best nutrition approaches – ever

The combination of the progressive overload both in the gym and the kitchen is what allows this plan to shine. Both are calculated and perfectly planned for max progress without hitting a plateau.

Keeping both the cons and pros in mind, if you like simplicity and efficiency, you cannot go wrong with the Total-Body Strong Workout Plan.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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