Vegan Weight Training: Diet & Workout Tips

Vegan Weight Training Banner Image

If you’re looking for a vegan weight training meal plan, we can take a pretty good guess that you’re either already following a plant-based diet and looking to bulk up, or you’re looking to become vegan with the same goals in mind. 

Whatever the reason you’re here, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve put together everything that you need to know on this topic. We’re also qualified Nutrition Specialists, so you can rest assured that you’re getting accurate information!

Before we jump right in, be sure to check out OriGym’s Level 4 Certificate in Nutrition, or download our prospectus here for more information on how you can qualify as a nutritionist.


  • Can you build muscle on a vegan diet?
  • Vegan Weight Training Diet
  • Vegan Weight Training Workout 

Before you jump in feel free to download our FREE 16 Week Home Strength Training Programme:

Can you build muscle on a vegan diet?  

Vegan weight training image

It’s easy to see how this is one of the most searched questions on Google within the vegan weight training niche. 

While vegan diets aren’t necessarily new, they have risen in popularity over recent years. According to

The number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans, or 1.16% of the population; 276,000 (0.46%) in 2016; and 150,000 (0.25%) in 2014.

This means that a growing number of people are keen to find out more about how they can become vegan, yet still build muscle mass. 

It can be difficult for those who haven’t tried to bulk up on a vegan diet to learn how the process works, thanks to the lack of easily accessible information out there. Most articles state basic facts without elaborating on how to take actionable steps to increase your muscle mass on a vegan diet, but we’re about to take things to the next level. 

So, the big question is; can you build muscle on a vegan diet? 

vegan weight training protein image

The short answer is yes, but we don’t want to leave it there. We promised that you could find all of the information that you needed within our article, so sit tight if you want to learn more on this before we dive into the vegan weight training meal plan. 

When it comes to the truth surrounding vegan weight training and protein, it’s safe to say that it’s entirely possible to get enough protein to build a significant amount of muscle mass from a plant-based diet. 

The main thing that causes most weight lifters to fall at the first hurdle, or to give up before they’ve even tried to go vegan is the myth that following a vegan diet is expensive, time-consuming, and not as effective for muscle gain as animal produce. 

Plus, there isn’t much information out there on how to structure an effective vegan weight training meal plan, unless they speak to a qualified nutritionist

There are a few pieces of evidence that completely undermine this myth, the most scientific being multiple studies that have been conducted by fitness and health professionals. 

In ‘Vegan Diets: Practical Advice for Athletes and Exercisers’, David Rogerson (Principal Lecturer in Sports Nutritionist/Strength and Conditioning at Sheffield Hallam University) sets the record straight:

Through the strategic selection and management of food choices, and with special attention being paid to the achievement of energy, macro and micronutrient recommendations, along with appropriate supplementation, a vegan diet can achieve the needs of most athletes satisfactorily.

The key thing to remember is that while it may initially take some thorough planning, it’s certainly not impossible to optimise a vegan diet for weight training for your individual needs. When you’re armed with the right advice, it really doesn’t have to be as difficult as it first appears to be! 

Now that we’ve got the scientific part out of the way, another way to answer the question of can you build muscle on a vegan diet? with a solid piece of evidence is to show you some vegan bodybuilders. 

After all, how can you believe that something exists without seeing it for yourself? 

We spoke to Bre Wigley, a Plant Based Nutrition Coach and Vegan IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) bikini professional, about what it’s like to be a vegan bodybuilder. 

Can you build muscle on a vegan diet image

Being a vegan chef, she is extremely passionate about cooking and even owns her own meal prep business, The Vine Meals. She featured in Muscle & Fitness in October 2019 as an IFBB Bikini Pro, and runs a popular Instagram account that you can check out here

If you ask us, you’d struggle to find someone more qualified to talk about vegan bodybuilding! 

We asked Bre to provide some tips for our readers, so that we could give them some insight into how they can build muscle on a vegan diet. 

What are your go-to vegan protein sources? 

My go to protein sources include legumes and beans. There is such a large variety available (kidney beans, red-green-brown lentils, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans etc.) 

I'm able to incorporate legumes/beans into many recipes such as my lentil breakfast sausage patties. Legumes and beans also provide a high quantity of protein and fibre despite being carbohydrate dense.

If you could give a vegan weight training newbie one piece of advice, what would it be?

If I could give advice to a newbie in weight training it would be to take every training session as an opportunity to get stronger and better. Also, be patient with yourself. Results won't come overnight but the effort you put in is compounding and is contributing to your overall goal. 

Just a few words of encouragement; fitness and wellness is a very rewarding journey. You get out what you put in. Continue to dig deep and focus on the overall betterment of yourself, YOU'RE WORTH IT!

Now that we’ve fully answered the question; can you build muscle on a vegan diet?, it’s time to take a look at the nutrition side of things, especially since it makes up such a huge portion of the process.  

Vegan Weight Training Diet: The Ultimate Meal Plan 

It’s no secret that it takes some planning to make any drastic changes to your body, and this is certainly true when it comes to your diet. 

It might seem like the ‘boring’ part, but it’s a good idea to get it out of the way before you make a start on any new fitness regime, so that you’re not put off at a later date when it seems too difficult to maintain. 

Trust us; if you get the planning out of the way now, then you’ll have a much easier time sticking to your new lifestyle (and ultimately get better results). 

So, let’s take a look at how you should calculate your calorie intake, and how to optimise the macronutrients and micronutrients that you’re consuming when it comes to eating vegan and weight training. 

Calculating Calorie Intake

vegan weight training diet

First things first; it’s clear that you’re looking to build muscle mass, since this article is centred around vegan weightlifting. This means that the way you count your calorie intake will be completely different to the way that you will have done when working towards different goals in the past. 

If you’re looking to build a significant amount of muscle mass, then you need to ensure that your diet has the right balance of carbs, fats, and proteins. Eating the right foods and performing the right exercises is all well and good, but it won’t work if you don’t get the science behind it right. 

What we’re trying to say is that while calorie intake is important to monitor, it actually goes hand in hand with the macronutrients and micronutrients that you’re consuming, but we’ll talk about those in the next section. 

Eric R Helms (PhD, Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand) et al in ‘Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation’ writes: 

Caloric intake should be set at a level that results in body weight losses of approximately 0.5 to 1%/wk to maximize muscle retention. 

Within this caloric intake, most but not all bodybuilders will respond best to consuming 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, 15-30% of calories from fat, and the reminder of calories from carbohydrate.

It’s safe to say that following this advice will get you to where you need to be when you’re weight training alongside a vegan diet. 

We’re going to break down the formula that you can use to find out exactly how many calories you should be consuming per day, so that you have something to work with before you start to calculate your macros and micros. 

The first step is to work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the rate at which you burn calories during periods of inactivity. To calculate this, it’s helpful to take your age, height, weight, and gender (if this applies) into account, as these are the variables that can alter your intake.

If we go by the Harris-Benedict formula, it goes as follows: 

  • Women: 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years) = BMR
  • Men: 66 + (6.3 x body weight in lbs.) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years) = BMR

Once you’ve got this number, we can then work out your estimated calorie intake by adding another variable, which is how often you exercise.

If you’re about to start a regular weight training routine, it’s understandable that you would factor in this higher level of activity to make sure that you’re eating enough calories to gain muscle mass! 

  • Sedentary = x1.0
  • Very light activity = x1.2
  • Light activity = x1.4
  • Moderate activity = x1.6
  • High activity = x1.8
  • Extreme activity = x2.0

You can always use an online BMR and calorie calculator if you’re not a fan of formulas and equations, such as Omni Calculator, but it’s great to have this to refer back to! 

Once you’ve worked out how many calories that you should be eating, it’s time to take a look at what portion of these calories should be taken up by each food group, which leads us into… 

Macros & Micros Explained 

While you don’t have to be a nutrition expert to get into shape, it’s definitely good to have a basic idea of how everything works. This will noy only make it easier for you to reach your goals, but it will mean that you’re eating as healthy as possible too! 

In short, macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins

Many people find them easier to follow as there are less of them compared to micronutrients, and the way that they’re absorbed is typically less complicated. You can usually see the macronutrients contained within certain food products or meals on the packaging, or in the website of the recipe that you’re following. 

Micronutrients include:

  • Water
  • Minerals – Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Copper
  • Fat-soluble vitamins – Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K
  • Water-soluble vitamins – Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (B9), Vitamin C

Eating nutrient-dense foods is so important when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. While carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are good to focus on, you shouldn’t overlook micronutrients. 

Luckily, it just so happens that many of the food options within a vegan weight training diet are rich in micronutrients, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to squeeze them all in if you vary the foods that you’re eating!  

Vegan Weight Training Diet: What to Eat

It’s time to banish the myth that vegan diets are bland, boring, and limited when it comes to getting a good range of nutrients. 

We’re going to list some of the most popular vegan sources of each macronutrient, and list the main micronutrients that they contain so that you can see how easy it is to eat a balanced and varied vegan weightlifting diet!

Carbohydrate Sources

vegan meal plan for weight training

  • Sweet potatoes (iron, calcium, selenium, B vitamins (multiple), vitamin C) 
  • Brown rice (fibre, calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, selenium, folate)  
  • Lentils (fibre, vitamin B1e, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B5, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese)
  • Chickpeas (vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5)
  • Kidney beans (folate, thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5) 
  • Quinoa (manganese, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, thamin, vitamin B6) 
  • Oats (manganese, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc)
  • Bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, copper, manganese, fibre)
  • Beetroot (vitamin B9, fibre, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B9)

Protein Sources

  • Tofu (calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, vitamin B)
  • Tempeh (sodium, iron, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese)
  • Seitan (selenium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, copper) 
  • Lentils (fibre, vitamin B1e, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B5, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese) 
  • Edamame (calcium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin K, folate)
  • Chickpeas (vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5)
  • Quinoa (manganese, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, thamin, vitamin B6) 
  • Nutritional yeast (vitamin B1e, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, manganese)  
  • Oats (manganese, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc)
  • Soy milk (fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E)
  • Hempseed (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E)
  • Chia seeds (fibre, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2)
  • Green peas (fibre, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B1, folate, manganese, iron, phosphorus)
  • Beans (most varieties) (As an example, pinto beans contain: fibre, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K)
  • Nuts (As an example, cashew nuts contain: fibre, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, iron, selenium, vitamin B1, vitamin K, vitamin B6)

Fat Sources 

weight training vegan diet

  • Avocado (vitamin B5, fibre, folate, vitamin K, copper, vitamin B2, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, thiamin, iron)
  • Coconut (fibre, manganese, selenium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc) 
  • Chia seeds (fibre, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2)
  • Flax seeds (fibre, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium) 
  • Pumpkin seeds (fibre, vitamin K, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper) 
  • Almonds (fibre, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, phosphorus) 
  • Cashew nuts (fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc)
  • Walnuts (fibre, calcium, iron, sodium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6)
  • Brazil nuts (fibre, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, sodium) 

As you can see, most micronutrients can be found within the vegan food sources that are listed here as part of the macronutrient groups. 

This makes things a lot less complicated in comparison to how they first seem, and means that even if you don’t calculate your micronutrients, you’re likely to get a good dose of each of them if you follow a healthy diet that consists of a variety of these foods. 

Vegan Weight Training Meal Plan Example 

vegan weight training meal plan

To make things easier for you, here’s what a typical vegan meal plan for weight training would look like, using many of the foods that are listed above. Obviously the amount of food eaten will vary from person to person, and some may decide to eat six smaller meals as opposed to three main meals and a snack, but the purpose of this plan is to give you some inspiration! 

You can switch things up depending on the ingredients that you have in each week, but this is pretty varied yet simple for those who haven’t tried to follow a meal plan in the past, let alone vegan meals for weight training. 


  • Breakfast: Porridge with soy milk, vegan protein powder, blueberries, and flaked almonds
  • Lunch: Vegan burrito bowl with rice, kidney beans, and vegan mince 
  • Snack: Apple slices and peanut butter 
  • Dinner: Rice, tofu, and asparagus (with your choice of sauce and seasoning)


  • Breakfast: Vegan yoghurt, oats, strawberries, banana slices, and honey
  • Lunch: Tofu sandwich with wholemeal bread, avocado, onion, tomato, and rocket 
  • Snack: Peanut butter and oatmeal snack bars 
  • Dinner: Seitan beef burger, jacket sweet potato, and salad (leafy greens)


  • Breakfast: Smoothie made with almond milk, frozen banana, mango, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and vegan protein powder 
  • Lunch: Lentil and black bean soup 
  • Snack: Watermelon slices, and cashew nuts 
  • Dinner: Vegan yellow curry with tempeh 


  • Breakfast: Tofu scramble on sourdough or wholemeal bread
  • Lunch: Chickpea and butternut squash salad 
  • Snack: Vegan chocolate and peanut butter protein shake 
  • Dinner: Vegan protein chilli with mixed beans 


  • Breakfast: Granola with soy milk and vegan protein powder 
  • Lunch: Coconut and tofu stir-fry with noodles 
  • Snack: Vegan cheese slices with oatcakes 
  • Dinner: Butternut lentil curry and brown rice 


  • Breakfast: Vegan protein pancakes, strawberries, blueberries, and syrup 
  • Lunch: Vegan tempeh BLT 
  • Snack: Strawberries, blueberries, and dark chocolate 
  • Dinner: Salt and pepper tofu with stir-fry veg 


  • Breakfast: Breakfast burrito with tofu, beans, brown rice, and veggies 
  • Lunch: Lentil veggie stew 
  • Snack: Apple slices with almond butter 
  • Dinner: Sweet potato skins (vegan cheese, pumpkin seeds), avocado, and beetroot 

Remember to adjust your portions accordingly depending on how many calories you should be consuming, and ensure that you calculate your macronutrients and micronutrients each week to fully optimise your vegan weight training diet plan alongside your workouts. 

Follow this advice, and you can’t go far wrong!

Vegan Weight Training Supplements 

If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough of the micronutrients that are less present within plant-based foods as they are in animal products, such as the amino acids that can be found in animal protein, you should consider taking supplements to make up for any losses.

weight training on vegan diet

They’re a healthy and viable option alongside vegan meals for weight training, as long as you stick to the correct dosage and pay close attention to the nutritional information, as it can vary from brand to brand. 

It’s also a good idea to check out any customer reviews, as they can be a good indication of whether a product works well or not!

Protein powders 

While it’s entirely possible to consume and absorb enough protein from the plant-based sources that we listed above, you may find it difficult to hit those protein goals for a number of other reasons. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to incorporate enough protein as part of your work lunch, for example, if you haven’t got the time to have three cooked vegan weight training meals per day. Or, you might even struggle to eat a large enough portion of this food if you’re still adapting to eating extra calories. 

If this is the case, then protein powder is a great supplement to add to your diet. You can consume it in the form of a milkshake, a smoothie, or even add it to your morning porridge! 

There are a variety of different vegan protein for weightlifting products available on the market, which means that you’re likely to find one that suits you and your individual needs. They include soy protein, plant protein, and even pumpkin seed protein, so there really is something for everyone! 

Vegan weight loss training

One of the latest vegan protein for weightlifting powders to be released on the market is the Clear Vegan Protein from MyProtein. It is formulated with pea protein isolate, infused with real fruit, and contains added B vitamins to aid your vegan weightlifting nutrition. It also packs 10g of plant-powered protein, which isn’t bad at all for one serving! 


While it’s not an essential nutrient (as it is produced by your liver), vegans tend to have lower levels of creatine within their muscles when compared to meat eaters. 

Unfortunately for them, creatine can only be found in animal tissue (unless it is produced by their own liver). This makes it impossible for them to consume it as part of their regular diet. 

Since countless studies have shown that creatine can boost muscle mass in those that consume it as part of their diet, it’s become a popular supplement to take within the vegan community! 

Thomas W Buford (PhD) et al in ‘International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise’ state:

It is the position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that the use of creatine as a nutritional supplement within established guidelines is safe, effective, and ethical. 

Despite lingering myths concerning creatine supplementation in conjunction with exercise, CM remains one of the most extensively studied, as well as effective, nutritional aids available to athletes. 

Hundreds of studies have shown the effectiveness of CM supplementation in improving anaerobic capacity, strength, and lean body mass in conjunction with training.

It’s clear here that many nutrition experts are in agreement that creatine supplements are not only safe, which is something that you should always look into before taking any supplementation, but that they’re also effective for building muscle mass alongside a proper weight training routine. 

Luckily, there are a range of supplements available on the market that allow vegans to experience the benefits of creatine, and therefore build more muscle mass than they would have been able to otherwise! 

Vegan weight training meals

The Protein Works are known for their vegan creatine, their Vegan Creatine Extreme product packing an impressive 7g per serving. 


BCAAs, also known as ‘branched-chain amino acids’, are the three essential amino acids; leicine, isoleucine, and valine. 

They are classed as essential amino acids as they cannot be produced by our bodies, and are most often found within animal products. Ever heard people criticizing vegan diets when it comes to protein, and suggesting that they’re lacking in essential amino acids? If so, they were talking about BCAAs.

Those looking to learn more about vegan weight training should definitely check out BCAA supplements, especially if they’re concerned about missing the benefits of animal protein. There really is no need to worry without proper diet planning and supplementation! 

Vegan weight training female

Bulk Powders sell one of the most popular BCAA products within the vegan community. It uses 100% pure fermented Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, and is often praised for its easy mixing capabilities. It also comes in Apple & Lime, Mixed Berry, and Watermelon flavours, alongside the unflavoured version (which is handy if you want to add it to food). 

How Often Should I Eat?

There’s a lot of debate surrounding this question, and numerous studies that report different findings, which causes a great deal of confusion. This isn’t ideal for those just starting out, or those who are looking to switch up their vegan weight training diet plan. 

Louise M Burke (PhD, Chief of Australian Institute of Sport Nutrition Strategy) et al conducted a survey in 2003 that was targeted at 167 Australian Olympic athletes, and focused on their daily eating habits. As part of their conclusion, they found that:

On average, athletes reported eating on approximately 5 separate occasions each day, with a moderate relationship between the number of daily eating occasions and total energy intake.

You can’t get data that is much more accurate than that which comes from the daily lives of Olympic athletes (especially since weightlifting is an Olympic sport!). 

Plus, here at OriGym we happen to be qualified in sports nutrition ourselves, and we have extensive experience in working with clients who want to optimise their nutrition to gain muscle mass. 

All in all, it can be incredibly beneficial to eat smaller portions at regular intervals throughout the day, as opposed to larger portions at set meal times. 

vegan weight training meals image

Various studies have suggested that eating five to six smaller meals per day can actually speed up your metabolism, as your body has to work harder to digest the food (and therefore burns more calories). 

This may be a good option for those who enjoy snacking, or find that eating three larger meals leaves them feeling hungry at certain times, and more likely to binge on foods that they shouldn’t be eating. 

However, this way of eating isn’t sustainable for everyone, especially for those who work full-time or have other commitments. 

If this is the case for you, you’ll be glad to know that eating larger portions on three separate occasions throughout the day shouldn’t hinder your progress, and definitely shouldn’t cause you to lose the muscle mass that you’ve worked for. 

If you opt to eat three larger meals per day, then the biggest thing that you should watch out for in binge eating; if you can sway yourself away from this then you shouldn’t run into many issues.  You could try leaving some calories free for snacks to tide you over until your next meal. 

Vegan Weight Training Plan: Workouts

vegan weight training meals

We couldn’t write an entire guide to vegan weightlifting without listing some of the staple exercises for those who haven’t tried them before. 

After all, you won’t build muscle mass through your diet alone, and you’ll only get the best results if you pair it with the right exercises. 

The first thing to establish before you start a vegan weight training plan is how often you’re going to be exercising, how long you’re going to be exercising for, and what body part you’re going to be exercising in each session. 

Weight training is made up of compound exercises, which in turn work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Bodybuilders tend to divide their workouts into days, such as ‘arm day’ or ‘leg day’, and this is why! 

To give you an example of what your workout plan should look like, here’s one way that we would look at dividing up our week of workouts for weight training: 

  • Monday: Shoulders & Traps
  • Tuesday: Chest & Triceps 
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Legs & Abs
  • Friday: Back & Biceps 
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest 

Four days on and three days off will allow enough time for your muscles to recover and repair themselves, so that you can give it your all in each workout. 

It will also allow them enough time to grow in-between workouts, as working out each day can actually hinder your progress in gaining muscle mass for this reason. We have a full guide on the importance of rest days, so be sure to check this out if you want to learn more! 

NOTE: Before you try any of the following, be sure to get a good warm up - you don’t want to sustain any injuries, as this could really set you back. 

Single Arm Landmine Press 

If you’re looking to target your shoulders within your vegan weight training plan, then the landmine press should be one of your go-to exercises. 

While it’s difficult to train muscles in isolation, the single arm version of this exercise is one of the best exercises that you can perform for building muscle mass.

If you want to know more about this exercise and it’s variations, take a look at OriGym’s guide to the landmine press + variations

Main muscles worked: deltoids, scapular stabilisers 


  • Lift the barbell using one hand, and hold it just in front of your shoulder 
  • Have your feet around shoulder-width apart, your body tilted slightly forwards, and ensure that your core is engaged 
  • Slowly press the barbell upwards by extending at your elbow, and ensure that it stays in line with your shoulder 
  • Pause at the top of the movement (your elbow should be as straight as it can go without hyperextending)
  • Bring the barbell back towards your shoulder in a controlled manner 

Barbell Shrug 

Want to include an exercise that predominantly targets your traps? If you’re looking at getting into vegan bodybuilding, then this is a must. In case you didn’t know, the trapezius (trapeziuses) are the pair of triangular muscles that span the back of the neck and shoulders. 

The barbell shrug is as close as you can get to an exercise that trains the trapezius in isolation, especially if you use the correct grip/hand position. If you’re interested in learning more about this exercise and its variations, take a look at our guide on how to do the barbell shrug.  

Main muscles worked: trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboids 


  • Start with your feet just over shoulder-width apart, and pointed out at a 15-degree angle 
  • Grip the barbell with an overhand grip, and with your hands placed shoulder-with apart 
  • Pull the bar upwards, placing the weight on your legs rather than on your back (it should feel and look like a literal ‘shrug’)
  • Lift your shoulders vertically and inwards, as high as you can possibly get them, and squeeze them at the top of the movement 
  • Slowly release your shoulders back into the starting position 

Bench Press

Chest and triceps day would be nothing without the bench press. Considering that it works these muscles in unison, it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked… 

The one thing you should be wary of with this exercise if you haven’t used it as part of your regular routine in the past is that there are a few beginner mistakes to avoid. These are starting with a weight that is too heavy for you, not setting your shoulder blades, bouncing the bar off your chest, and moving your feet. 

If you’re looking for another exercise that predominantly targets the chest, you should also check out the cable chest press and its variations

Main muscles worked: pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps 


  • Lie with your back flat on the weight bench, ensuring that it isn’t set to an incline
  • Grip the barbell with your hands placed just over shoulder-width apart with an underhand grip, and ensure that your hands are directly above your elbows 
  • Slowly bring the bar down towards your chest, inhaling as you do so
  • Exhale as you drive the bar upwards, and take extra care to ensure that it remains stable throughout the entire movement - you might find it useful to keep your eye on an imaginary spot on the ceiling, rather than on the bar itself 

Skull Crushers 

Don’t worry; this one doesn’t involve any serious head injuries (as the name suggests), but it is an insane workout for your triceps! 

The main thing to note about skull crushers is that you should always use a weight that is significantly lighter than those that you use for other major weight training exercises, especially whilst you’re still getting used to the exercise. 

In truth, there aren’t many exercises that could rival skull crushers. While diamond push-ups and tricep dips are great for training the triceps, skull crushers allow you to bring weights into the equation, and you can’t beat that!

Main muscles worked: triceps, shoulder stabilizers 


  • Lie with your back flat on the weight bench, with your elbows locked out as you support the barbell in the top position. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your wrists should be about shoulder-width apart (gripping the barbell in the overhead position) 
  • Keep your back neutral and your core engaged, and bring your arms down so that the barbell is juve above your head (ensure that you’re extremely cautious)
  • By utilising most of your power at the beginning of the movement, drive the barbell back upwards, being careful not to lock your elbows out too quickly at the end of the movement 

Barbell Squats 

Leg day is definitely something that you definitely don’t want to skip. Not only does it cover this area, but the exercises that you would typically perform on leg day also target the glutes. 

Barbell squats are perfect for targeting your glutes and quadriceps, as well as a good portion of the rest of your lower body. They can help you to build mass in the area alongside a good vegan weight training diet, and can also help you to boost the explosive power in your legs. 

You can also try hack squats if you’re looking to target your quadriceps even further, as a hack squat machine places more of the strain on this area rather than sharing it with the glutes. 

Main muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back muscles 


  • Start off with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Grip the barbell in an underhand grip, and have it resting on your rear shoulder muscles
  • By keeping your back straight and your chest up, lower yourself into a squat position in a controlled movement 
  • Drive the barbell back upwards into the starting position - you should really feel the burn in your quads after a few reps! 


You can’t begin a new routine for weight training on a vegan diet without including the deadlift. It is one of the more prominent exercises used within Olympic weightlifting, after all! 

It’s fantastic for working the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings in particular, making it one of the best choices for targeting your lower body. 

When you’ve mastered the standard deadlift, you can then go onto variations. You can learn everything you need to know about the trap bar deadlift here, or take a look at our full guide to the sumo deadlift to find out more about targeting specific areas within the lower body through these variations. 

Main muscles worked: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, erector spinae 


  • Start with your feet flat on the floor, and at around shoulder-width apart. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip, and have your hands placed in level with your shoulders
  • Ensure that your head says in a neutral position, facing forwards (you may find it helpful to fix your eyes on an imaginary sport on the ground, around three metres in front of you) 
  • Keeping your back straight, pull the bar upwards and drive your hips forward in an explosive motion
  • Once you reach the top position, pause for a second, and then reverse the movement until the barbell is back on the ground (pay extra attention to the position of your back) 

Crunches (Medicine Ball)

The abdominal muscles are a difficult muscle group to target, and there are only a few exercises out there that can work them effectively. 

Crunches should be your go-to exercise if you’re looking to build and tone your abs, and it’s definitely worth looking into their variations for ideas on how you can add extra pressure to the area. 

Medicine ball crunches are great for those following a weight training program, as they add extra resistance for the abdominal muscles to work against, and therefore give them a better workout! 

Main muscles worked: rectus abdominis, obliques 


  • Lie on an exercise mat with your back flat on the floor, and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle 
  • Grab the medicine ball and hold it just over your chest 
  • Ensuring that your spine is neutral and your abdominal muscles are engaged, slowly bring your torso towards your knees
  • Pause for a second at the top of the movement, and then carefully return to the starting position 

Barbell Lunge

Barbell lunges are another staple exercise in the world of vegan weight training, and they should certainly be a part of every leg day routine. 

One of the most common mistakes involves stepping with one foot in front of the other. You might find it helpful to imagine that your feet are fixed to two separate rails, to remind you that you should keep them at hip-width apart. 

Main muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings


  • Begin with the barbell resting across your rear shoulder muscles (you should be squeezing your shoulders), and hold it with an underhand grip. You should have a wide grip, as shown in the instructional video, and your feet should be at hip-width apart
  • Keeping your abs engaged and your spine neutral, carefully lunge forward with one of your legs, until your rear knee is almost touching the floor 
  • Reverse the movement by driving your weight up from your front foot, and then shift to the opposite leg before repeating

Bent Over Barbell Row 

When it comes to back and biceps day, it’s pretty impossible to put together a routine that doesn’t involve the bent over row. There’s nothing quite like it when it comes to building a strong back, and maximizing the growth of muscle mass in the area. 

We actually have a full guide on how to do the pendlay row, which is a slight variation of this signature weight training move. 

Main muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, posterior shoulder, rhomboids, scapular stabilizers


  • Start off by holding the loaded barbell in an overhand grip, with your hands placed a little further that shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be at around shoulder-width apart 
  • Lean your torso forwards at 45-degrees (by bending at the waist), bend your knees slightly, and keep your spine neutral 
  • Pull the barbell towards your abs, ensuring that your shoulders are squeezed together throughout the movement, and that your elbows are at around a 45-degree in relation to your body 
  • Pause for a second at the top of the movement 
  • Carefully lower the barbell back to the starting position 

Zottman Curl 

The Zottman Curl is a staple bodybuilding exercise created by George Zottman, who was a strongman himself in the 19th-century. It's fantastic for those wanting to learn how to get bigger arms, and is said to be more effective for building mass in the area when compared to standard bicep curls.

Main muscles worked: biceps, wrist extensors, deltoids, brachialis, brachioradialis 


  • Begin by standing in an upright position with your feet at around hip-width apart, and your elbows tucked in closely to your sides. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in an underhand grip (this exercise requires two of the same weight) 
  • With your chest out and your core engaged, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders, ensuring that you squeeze your biceps throughout the movement
  • As soon as the dumbbells are level with your shoulders, rotate them so that you’re then holding them in an overhand grip 
  • Move them back down into the starting position in a controlled movement 
  • Rotate the dumbbells back into an underhand grip before you move into the next rep! 

Rack Pull

Rack pulls are great for targeting the muscles of your lower back, particularly the erector spinae. They also recruit the upper back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and the traps. 

One thing to bear in mind before trying them out is that the height that you have the barbell at during the beginning of the movement will greatly affect the muscles that it targets. 

If you want to target your lower back, then be sure to keep it above the knee and adjust the weight that you’re lifting accordingly, rather than altering the height.  

Main muscles worked: lower back muscles (the erector spinae), upper back muscles, glutes, hamstrings 


  • Start out by bending your knees slightly, and have your feet at around hip-width apart 
  • With your hips pushed back, lean forwards at the hip so that your torso is just above the barbell. Ensure that your core is braced, your feet are shoulder-width apart, and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • By driving your hips forwards, extending your legs, and ensuring that your shoulders are back, pull the bar upwards
  • Hold the barbell in the top position for a second 
  • Reverse the movement carefully, and place the barbell back onto the rack 

Sets & Reps

vegan weight training meals

If you’re serious about building muscle mass (which we’re guessing you are since you’re reading a guide to vegan weight training), then you should definitely take it upon yourself to learn about the sets and rep ranges that you should be using. 

You may not already know this, but it’s true that rep ranges can drastically affect the end result of your training. 

If you were to perform high rep ranges, for example, then you would be building up your endurance rather than your hypertrophy (muscle mass). It’s a common misconception that high rep ranges equal a more effective workout for those looking to bulk up, so make sure that you’re aware of this before heading to the gym! 

The formula for building muscle mass involves sticking to a low rep range. You should ensure that you stay between 8-12 reps for 3-5 sets per gym session, and ensure that you’re lifting a weight that is heavy enough to give you a challenge. 

If you stray away from this advice and train for anything less that 8 reps, or more than 12 reps, then you’ll either be training for strength or muscular tone, which defeats the object of trying to bulk up. 


Now that you've got all of the information that you need to start an effective vegan weight training plan for your workouts and nutrition, it's time to take action. Don't let your motivation fade; start putting together a plan that is realistic for you, and will enable you to reach your goals. 

If you happen to be interested in pursuing a career in fitness, or simply learning everything that you need to know about structuring your own diet and workout plans, take a look at our range of REPs accredited Personal Trainer Courses or download our latest course prospectus for more information! 


  1. The Vegan Society (2020). Statistics . Available:,-In%202018%2C%20the&text=The%20number%20of%20vegans%20in,150%2C000%20(0.25%25)%20in%202014.. Last accessed 16th June 2020.
  2. Rogerson, D., 2017. Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), p.36.
  3. Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. and Fitschen, P.J., 2014. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), pp.1-20.
  4. Buford, T.W., Kreider, R.B., Stout, J.R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J. and Antonio, J., 2007. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), pp.1-8.
  5. Burke, L. M., Slater, G., Broad, E. M., Haukka, J., Modulon, S., & Hopkins, W. G. (2003). Eating patterns and meal frequency of elite Australian athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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