Your First Muscle Building Workout

Your First Muscle Building Workout

Recently I was asked to put together a program for a young man ready to attack the iron. He was looking to maximize muscle and build a better body.. While I've put together hundreds of programs over the years, I wanted this one to be different.

This muscle building workout uses a unique form or progressive overload that is sure to get you big and strong - AND QUICK. Toss in the magic of frequency training, and you have a perfect storm.

Related - The Huge Gainer Workout Program

Early on this program won't feel "balls to the wall" challenging, but the intensity will escalate quickly. Be patience, stay the course, and watch yourself pack on 15-16 pounds of quality muscle mass the first year of lifting.

Your First 4 Weeks

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Your goals during your first four weeks in the gym are to get used to the exercises, and to develop a consistent habit of actually making it to the gym. Make sure to study exercise form for the big lifts. Here are some tutorial videos to get you started: (Click to view)
Try to lift three times per week. If you miss a scheduled day, don't beat yourself up. Simply return back to the gym and perform the next workout day in the sequence. Here is a sample schedule:

Week 1
  • Monday - Workout A
  • Wednesday - Workout B
  • Friday - Workout A
Week 2
  • Monday - Workout B
  • Wednesday - Workout A
  • Friday - Workout B
A few things to consider. There is no need to live in the gym. Quality work will produce more than quantity. Resist the urge to train more than three times per week. You don't need to. More is not better. Better is better.

Also, don't hit the gym trying to smash out heavy weight right out of the gate. Use a moderately light weight for each exercise. Learn proper form using this weight. After the first four weeks we will start to focus on progressive overload - we WILL get you bigger and stronger very quickly.

You can add weight slowly during this break-in period, but only when your form is solid.

Far too many trainees rush off to the gym and perform 5-6 workouts their first week. This typically includes a high volume of sets, and results in very painful muscle soreness.

While we are not trying to avoid soreness, we do want to help you develop the actual habit of making it to the gym. Don't try to kill your body during this stage. Just get your butt to the gym and work on your form.

Bet it? Got it? Good.
Workout A
Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Squats  3  10
 Dumbbell Bench Press  3  10
 Dumbbell Rows  2  15
 Upright Rows  3  10
 Leg Curls  3  10
 Lying Triceps Extensions  3  10
 EZ Bar Cable Curls  3  10
 Ab Wheel Roll Outs  2  10-15

Workout B
Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts  3  10
 Bench Press  3  10
 Lat Pull Downs  3  10
 Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  3  10
 Leg Press  3  10
 Cable Triceps Extensions  3  10
 Dumbbell Curls  3  10
 Planks  2  120 sec

Beginner Workout - Progressive Overload

Now that you survived the first four weeks and actually managed to make it to the gym, it's time to push the pedal to the metal and get big and strong. During this period, exercises are broken up into two categories:
  • Primary Exercises - Squats, Bench Press, Deadlifts, Military Press.
  • Secondary Exercises - Everything else.
For the primary exercises, you will begin with 3 sets of 8 reps. Pick a weight that is moderately challenging, but not too heavy. During your next workout, perform 3 sets of 9 reps. Continue to add a rep to each set until you reach 12 rep set. At this point add weight, and start back over again with 8 reps per set.

For squats and deadlifts you will add 10 pounds to the bar. For bench press and military press, add 5 pounds to the bar.

If you feel you started too light or too heavy, simply adjust the weight a bit.

Here is the progression scheme:
  • Workout 1 - Weight for 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Workout 2 - Weight for 3 sets x 9 reps
  • Workout 3 - Weight for 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Workout 4 - Weight for 3 sets x 11 reps
  • Workout 5 - Weight for 3 sets x 12 reps
Now, let's look at an example. You start with 95 pounds on the bench press. Your first 5 bench press workouts will look like this:
  • Workout 1 - 95lbs for 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Workout 2 - 95lbs for 3 sets x 9 reps
  • Workout 3 - 95lbs for 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Workout 4 - 95lbs for 3 sets x 11 reps
  • Workout 5 - 95lbs for 3 sets x 12 reps
At this point add 5 pounds to the bar, and start the sequence over.

I know this seems like slow progress, but is it? You are bench pressing twice a week. That's 104 bench press workouts a year. You will be adding weight 20 times per year. If you started with 95 pounds, by the end of the coming year you could potentially be bench pressing 195 pounds for 3 sets of 12 reps.

How strong is this? Is this a huge one rep max? Yes!

If you can bench 195 for 12 reps (which you can), your approximate one rep max would be 280 pounds. If you are able to bench press 195 for three sets of 12 reps, your max is easily 300 to 325 pounds.

What about squats? With 104 squat session per year, you have the potential to add 200 pounds to your initial weight. So, let's say, you start with 135 pounds. After a year you could potentially land at 335 pounds for 3 sets of 12 reps. This would be a monster squat.


Will you add this much weight to your big lifts during the coming year? Probably not, but that's not the point. The point is simple: This program has the potential to turn you into a beast during your first year of lifting. Don't discount its potency.

Stalls. But what happens if you stall? If you are unable to reach the required reps for a workout, brush it off and try again. If you go three workouts without being able to hit the target for a lift, it's time to backtrack a bit.

What does this mean? Drop the weight by 20 pounds on bench and military press, or 40 pounds on squats and deadlifts, and start climbing the ladder again. Either that, to you've reached the intermediate stage - are pretty darn strong - and may need a new approach.

At some point all gains slow. This isn't anything to worry about. It's a normal part of the process.

For Women. Women will generally progress slower than men. Generally. They should still try to add the required 5 and 10 pounds to a lift when possible. If adding 10 pounds feels like an impossible task, simply add 5.

Training for men and women isn't generally different. The major difference is that women will plateau faster. No big deal, good progress is good progress.

Secondary Exercises. For these movements, progress is rather simple. When you can perform the stated reps for each of the sets, add weight to the bar.

You will be training three times per week. Here is the split:
  • Day 1 - Workout A
  • Day 2 - Off
  • Day 3 - Workout B
  • Day 4 - Off
  • Day 5 - Workout B
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off
Workout A
Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Squats  3  8-12 progression
 Bench Press  3  8-12 progression
 Seated Cable Rows  3  10
 Upright Rows  3  10
 Leg Curls  2  15
 EZ Bar Curls  3  10
 Cable Triceps Extensions  3  10
 Planks  2  120 sec

Workout B
Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Deadlift  2  8-12 progression
 Military Press  3  8-12 progression
 Lat Pull Downs  3  10
 Push Ups  3  As Many As Possible
 Leg Extensions  3  15
 Dumbbell Shrugs  3  10
 Face Pulls  3  12
 Seated Calf Raise  2  15

Workout C
Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
 Squats  3  8-12 progression
 Bench Press  3  8-12 progression
 Dumbbell Rows  3  10
 Machine Shoulder Press  3  10
 Leg Curls  2  15
 Dumbbell Curls  3  10
 Lying Triceps Extensions  3  10
 Ab Wheel Roll Outs  2  10-20
Previous article 10 Bicep Exercises You Have to Try


richard newfield - January 11, 2019

Great program

Chelsea Crews - January 11, 2019

My boyfriend and I started this program this week. It’s perfect for both him, a beginner and me, an intermediate lifter who needs to get back on the wagon.

kelton pisano - January 11, 2019

Another good simple program allowing a 3 day split with whole body rather than “push, pull, legs”.

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