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Beginners Guide to Building Muscle

How to get big!

Beginner Training Routine

The Oak - Arnold Schwarzenegger Remember that the goal of your weight training is to trigger your body into growing your muscles as quickly and as massively as possible. That simple. To maximise your growth you need to be able to identify as exactly as you can just how much and how hard you have to train to trigger maximum growth. Too little effort in the gym and you won't grow as quickly as you could; too much training and you'll tire your body out too much and you also won't grow as quickly as you could. It's a fine line between too little and too much training and as each one of us responds to training and diet differently this is something you'll have to work out for yourself. Don't under estimate just how important this is!

Beginners need to do a lot less training compared to a seasoned professional. Many people don't realise this when they begin bodybuilding and just straight into a workout designed for an advanced bodybuilder, doing 50 or more sets per workout for instance, and all manner of advanced training techniques. These people end up quiting bodybuilding or train for years with little to show for their efforts. They've trained too hard, too soon and not listened to their bodies.

As an example, a famous bodybuilder called Dorian Yates (who won the sport's most prestigious competition, the Mr. Olympia, six times) used a very basic training routine right up until he won his country's national heavyweight category. His workouts would have made any other professional laugh but Dorian understood that his training was exactly what he needed to do in order to grow as quickly as possible.

It sounds funny but you can compare weight training to washing dishes. Do too little washing and all your dishes will still have dirt on them. Wash each dish up just until it's properly clean and you'll wash the dishes up as efficiently as possible and you'll be out of the kitchen quickly but with all your dishes spotless. Do too much washing and all you'll do is waste time and you won't have your dishes any cleaner than if you'd done the correct amount of washing up. In fact, you increase the risk of dropping a dish and smashing it, just like you run the risk of over-training and not growing as quickly as you could. Don't do it. Work out how much you need to train and stick with it. You might be amazed how little this is initially, and don't let your enthusiasm get the better of you - more definitely isn't better in this case. Try and remember - are you weight training just to spend time in the gym or are you weight training to get muscular? Once you can understand this you'll get in the gym, do the absolute minimum to get the maximum growth possible and be out the gym before some of the other wasters will have even finished chatting with their friends, let alone actually done any weight training.

Below is a decent routine for a beginner bodybuilder. This MUST be on the basis for your own workout routine - you alone can decide if the workload of this routine is too much or too little. If you try this routine please keep a journal of your routines, and note down each set for each workout - how much weight, how many reps etc. so that you can monitor your results over time. This is the best way to check that you are making progress, that you are getting bigger and stronger.

Beginner Workout Plan

This workout plan is known as a double-split workout. There are two different workouts, each covering half your body. You alternate between each workout each time you go to the gym. This allows each set of muscles you train in each workout to get a lot of rest in between workouts, and allows for maximum recovery and growth. We do not recommend a whole body workout even for absolute beginners as we believe it leads quickly to over-training. Remember to do one or two warm-up sets before your main (hard!) sets for EACH workout - you won't grow at all if you get injured!

Workout 1: Back, biceps and Quads (thighs)

Warm-up (10 - 15 mins of aerobic exercise, ab work, and light stretching / weights) - see our Warming up article.

Barbell bent-over rows 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Chin-ups or machine pull-downs 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
One arm dumbell rows 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Standing barbell or dumbell curls 2 main sets 8 - 12 reps per set
Seated Leg Extensions 2 main sets, 8 - 20 reps per set
Incline Leg Press machine or Barbell squats 2 main sets, 8 - 20 reps per set

Workout 2: Chest, Delts (shoulders), triceps, hamstrings, calves

Warm-up (10 - 15 mins of aerobic exercise, ab work, and light stretching / weights) - see our Warming up article.

Machine or barbell bench press 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Incline barbell or dumbell bench press 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Seat barbell or dumbell press 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Standing dumbell side-raises 2 main sets, 8 - 12 reps per set
Standing cable triceps push-downs 1 or 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set
Lying leg curls 2 main sets, 8 - 20 reps per set
Standing machine calf raises 2 main sets, 8 - 15 reps per set

You should end each workout wiped out and with a good pump in the worked muscles. A pump?! Yep, the pump is the feeling you get in your muscles when you've worked them out hard - they get filled with blood ('pumped up') and feel tight. They should look bigger and fuller you skin should be more taunt than before your workout. This is a good feeling and is one most bodybuilders aim to achieve during a workout - it lets them know they're working their muscles hard!

Training Frequency

For most people I recommend performing these workouts once a week each, say workout 1 on Tuesday and workout 2 on Friday or Saturday. It is down to you though - you may feel that this isn't enough and so you might train more often, three or four times a week, say:

Sunday: Rest
Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Workout 1
Friday: Workout 2
Saturday: Rest

It really all depends on how well you recover, how hard you train and how good your rest, diet, supplementation and water intake is. Just try and remember exactly why you're weight training (to gain muscle as fast and as safely as possible) and try not to let your enthusiasm get the better of you and over-train. You'll limit how quickly you can grow and increase your risk of injury if you train too hard and too often.

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