There were two types of people during the early COVID-19 apocalypse: those who hoarded toilet paper like they planned to live strictly on Taco Bell Chalupas for the next six months … and those who stockpiled home gym equipment.
If you’re in that first group, do your intestines a solid and visit a doctor. If you’re in that second group and among the 59% of us who ghosted our gyms post-COVID, Athlean-X’s Jacked program is calling your name.
Read on to learn more about Jeff Cavaliere’s 12-week program designed for the home-gymmers with a bench, a set of dumbbells, and eyes on getting jacked.
About the Creator – Jeff Cavaliere
Jeff Cavaliere (of Athlean-X stardom) is an online fitness icon with over 2.2 million Instagram followers and YouTube views in the billions. The Athlean-X founder is the former physical therapist and strength coach for the Mets, with a slew of A-list celebrity clients and a passion for injury prevention and biomechanics.
The Athlean-X Jacked Dumbbell Training Program Overview
“Jacked” goes where no Athlean-X program before it has gone — a dumbbell-only program that’s 100% customizable to your training experience and equipment stash.
The concept of Jacked is simple.
Select a weight that allows you to crank out 8–12 reps (ideally) of the exercise before hitting form failure. This is your “Ignitor” set.
What follows depends on how many reps you actually perform. Cavaliere tweaks the exercise, manipulates the rest times, and switches up the rep totals based on that initial Ignitor set.
Either way, Jacked leans on the principles of hypertrophy to help you build muscle in 12 weeks, whether you perform 3, 10, or 30 reps in that initial set or have adjustable dumbbells or a single pair of dumbbells.
Here’s a quick breakdown of Jacked, Athlean-X’s first-ever dumbbell-only program for lean mass.
- Fitness level: Any
- Duration: Three months (but that “accountability feature” is a devil)
- Workouts per week: 5–6 days per week
- Average workout duration: 45–60 minutes
- Equipment needed: Dumbbells & a weight bench
- Goal: Build muscle mass
We recommend an adjustable dumbbell set for this one. While you can adapt the program to heavier or lighter dumbbells, you’re better off following the Jacked path as often as possible for lean mass!
Learn more about Athlean-X’s Jacked program in the next section!
Athlean-X Jacked Dumbbell Training Program Details
For the doubters out there, yes, you can get jacked with nothing other than dumbbells. (In fact, here’s a full guide explaining how to do it at the internet’s favorite meme-inspiration, Planet Fitness.)
Before you bet a Benjamin (essentially) on Jacked, here’s a more detailed overview of the program:
The dashboard picks up wherever you left off on your current Athlean-X program (Jacked, in this case). From this page, you can access your:
- Workout calendar
- Today’s workout
- Other purchased Athlean-X programs
- “More” stuff — like the Six-Pack Shuffle (a really watered-down version of Core4)
- A Challenge Leaderboard ranking the top-performing AX’ers for Jacked’s Pull, Push, Legs, and 10 by 400 challenges (plus, you can throw a “Prove It” flag if petty is in your blood)
- A newsfeed where the community can post questions, ask for advice, access videos, etc.
Honestly, the dashboard itself is somewhat idiot-proof as long as you mark your Jacked workouts as complete and master the art of trial-and-error.
The Workouts [What to Expect]
Do yourself a favor … before you attempt your first Jacked workout (Chest A), click on the Phase Explanation tab in the workout module. Then, watch the 15:43 video.
Warning: it’s about as exciting as that one professor that would stand in front of a PowerPoint and read directly from it for 80 minutes, and lower the volume on your computer (Cavaliere has one volume: loud).
Each workout targets 4–5 dumbbell exercises, typically four standard exercises and one “corrective.” Also, because it’s a dumbbell-only routine, it lessens the odds of some of Cavaliere’s wackadoodle exercises.
Cavaliere dubs this bad-boy an “educated bro split.”
By that, he really means the ordering of workouts maximizes recovery instead of focusing on just obliterating each muscle group once a week before six days of next-to-nothing (i.e., following chest day with back day allows the pecs to return to full-force sooner).
Take the example of Chest A’s first exercise — the dumbbell bench press. Here’s how your path forward would change based on how many reps you perform in the original Ignitor set:
|Path||Ignitor Set Reps||Rest Period (Example)||Rep Goal (Example)|
|Hi-Load Lifeline||1–3||60 seconds||30, 20, or 15x Ignitor|
|Jacked Down||4–7||120–180 seconds||4x Ignitor|
|Jacked||8–12||90 seconds||3x Ignitor|
|Jacked Up||13–20||60 seconds||2x Ignitor|
|Pink Dumbbell Protector(Crush Grip Bench Press)||20+||45 seconds||1.5x Stop Ladder|
Note: Your “path” will vary for each exercise. For example, you could follow the Jacked path for the bench press, Jacked Up for floor flies, and Pink Dumbbell Protector for push-ups.
(The module also has a spot to record the weight used, sets, and reps to better track your progress when you cycle back to the same workout in two weeks!)
Us staring at the Jacked workout module trying to figure out what a Box Score, Jacked Up/Down, and an Ignitor Set are before watching the video:
One of our biggest gripes with Athlean-X programs (including Jacked) is that damn “accountability feature.” Cavaliere essentially locks you out of months two and three until enough time has passed and he’s sure you completed month one, which is a bit startling given the price tag of this program.
Regardless, Jacked’s schedule is full of satisfying consistency and will captivate the bro-split-lovers:
|Chest A||Back A||Triceps A||Legs A||Shoulders A||Biceps A||Rest & Recovery|
|Chest B||Back B||Triceps B||Legs B||Shoulders B||Biceps B||Rest & Recovery|
|Chest A (Beat Your Totals)||Back A (Beat Your Totals)||Triceps A (Beat Your Totals)||Legs A (Beat Your Totals)||Shoulders A (Beat Your Totals)||Biceps A (Beat Your Totals)||Rest & Recovery|
|Chest B (Beat Your Totals)||Back B (Beat Your Totals)||Triceps B (Beat Your Totals)||Legs B (Beat Your Totals)||Shoulders B (Beat Your Totals)||Biceps B (Beat Your Totals)||Rest & Recovery|
If you don’t want to lug your computer around or access the module daily, you can also download PDF versions of the monthly meal plans and workouts. Just make sure you watch the Phase Explanation video first, as the charts galore in the workout PDFs are a mindf**k.
Last (but most important) is the Jacked Meal Plan, which will look and taste extremely familiar if you’re an Athlean-X addict — it’s the same-old X-Factor Meal Plan (2.0 at least).
- While the food choices are undoubtedly healthy, the lack of calories, macros, and serving sizes is a huge oversight — at least for newbies.
- Every meal includes a breakdown of the ingredients as well as why you’re eating it (color-coding proteins, starchy carbs, fibrous carbs, and fats).
- The X-Factor 2.0 Meal Plan lists three main meals and three snacks per day.
- You’ll cycle through every meal eventually. Cavaliere also leaves you the option of picking and choosing your favorite meals if you’re a picky eater.
- Each major meal has a Standard Meal, a Shred Swap (to lose fat), and a Size Swap (to maximize lean mass) with slight ingredient variations for each. (Jacked is a mass-building program, so the inclusion of a Shred Swap is unusual and potentially confusing.)
- Cavaliere does include nods to his Athlean-RX supplement line each day.
The Jacked nutrition plan is slightly repetitive (eventually) and glosses over a few key bits of information. But we can’t deny it — the dishes sound pretty darn good, and there’s no doubt they’re healthy.
7 Athlean-X Jacked Pros
- Jacked is an excuse-free zone. If you have literally any dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench, you’re set.
- Every bit of it is modifiable. The Size Swaps (for mass) and Shred Swaps (for fat loss) in the X-Factor Meal Plan are only the beginning. Each exercise has five unique “paths” customized to your original Ignitor Set and dumbbell access — Jacked Up, Jacked, Jacked Down, Pink Dumbbell Protector, and Hi-Load Lifeline.
- Jacked leans heavily on the principles of hypertrophy. The American College of Sports Medicine lists 8–12 reps per set for maximum muscle mass. However, a new theory published in 2021 by one of the leading voices in exercise science (Brad Schoenfeld) suggests that both high and low-load sets can build mass efficiently at the right volume.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency. Every week follows the same format, at least for the first 28 days. Month one of the Jacked alternates between “A” and “B” workouts following the same “bro split,” with the second half of the month following a “Beat Your Totals” theme.
- Month one is a so-called “educated” bro split. Cavaliere really shines a spotlight on his biomechanics background on this one. Alternating between antagonistic muscle groups encourages more recovery on rest days while also not settling for a once-a-week frequency. Research from 2021 also suggests that bro splits aren’t deserving of their bad rap, with a 10-week study proving that splits are better for mass while full-body routines are preferable for strength.
- Each month of Jacked has its unique twist. We’ve only seen month one because of that damn accountability feature. But based on feedback from other users, month two is a different split and introduces those classic Athlean-X challenges and super sets. Month three cuts the weekly workouts in half (to three) for more of a de-load, full-body vibe.
- The program depends on the dumbbells you have and your current strength levels. Many Athlean-X programs require full-gym access or are strictly beginner or advanced programs. If benching with a set of 20-pound dumbbells is “too easy,” the Jacked Down path will increase the volume through higher reps and decrease the rest between sets.
6 Jacked Dumbbell Training Program Cons
- Athlean-X has a strict no-refund policy. But in the rare case, that they do offer an exchange, or you accidentally buy Jacked when you meant to buy another, make sure you don’t download the PDFs.
- That “accountability feature” is a blessing and a curse. Unless you read online reviews from those who’ve completed Jacked in its entirety, months two and three will be complete surprises.
- The X-Factor Meal Plan (2.0) is missing a few key parts. The X-Factor Meal Plan pretends macronutrients, calories, and serving sizes don’t exist. Not that it matters that much, since more than half of us completely ignore calorie counts on restaurant menus anyway.
- At first glance, it’s complicated. The Jacked terminology is ridiculously confusing unless you watch the 15-minute video where Cavaliere explains it in detail. Even then, it might take a few days to really master the concept of Box Scores, Ignitor Sets, and which path to follow for each exercise.
- The workouts tend to be long. Many disappointed users complain that many Jacked workouts inch close to the two-hour mark.
- Many agree it loses its spark by months two and three. Jacked has its fair share of critics, as all programs do. The lack of cardio and Burst training makes this one a definite fan favorite for many home-lifters. But the challenges in month two are frustratingly intense, and the training intensity takes a nosedive in the final month.
Athlean-X Jacked Dumbbell Training Workout – Final Thoughts
Honestly, the Jacked program is one of the better Athlean-X programs we’ve reviewed (and there’s been a lot of ‘em).
It’s modifiable to any experience level, and it’s doable with nothing more than a set of dumbbells and an adjustable bench — though we’d recommend an adjustable dumbbell set. Plus, it doesn’t overcomplicate training (for the most part) and is compatible with home gyms.
Of course, if you have a tight schedule, fragile ego, or no nutrition experience whatsoever, Jacked may require a longer adjustment period.
All in all, this is one of our faves from the Athlean-X line-up.
Rating: 4.4 out of 5