Intermediate Bodybuilding Program (by Eric Helms)
The Intermediate Bodybuilding Program is a five-day a week program based on the principles from the Muscle and Strength Pyramid: Training book by Dr. Eric Helms, Andy Morgan, and Andrea Valdez.
We highly recommend reading the book to learn science-based training and nutrition knowledge.
Day 1 - Lower Body
Day 2 - Upper Body
Day 3 - Lower Body
Day 4 - Push
Day 5 - Pull
Read below for general program programs and progression guidelines.
Warm up before you train so that your core temperature is raised.
Rest for ~2-4 minutes for the main exercises; ~90-120 seconds for others.
There is an optional deload week every fourth week. Follow the deload checklist to determine whether to deload.
% of 1RM and RPE intensity
Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is based on reps you can do before failure. RPE 10 is max effort, meaining you can't do another rep before failure. RPE 9 is you can do 1 more rep before failure. RPE 8 is you can do 2 more reps, etc.
Percentage of 1 Rep Max % is to help guide your loading in this program to estimate an RPE 8 for your first set. Use the same weight for your subsequent sets.
Wave Loading Progression (Compound Exercises)
Use 'wave loading' model for compound exercises in the target rep ranges of 3-5, 4-6, 6-8, and 8-12 reps.
Start with a weight where you can complete the target sets at the top end of the rep range, without needing a spot and rarely hitting failure on the last set.
For each successive week, increase the load by 5 lb (2.5 kg) and reduce the number of reps for each set by one. For rep ranges in 8-12, reduce reps by 2.
Deload every fourth week if necessary by reducing sets by 1/3 and using the lowest weight and reps used over the previous 3 weeks.
Example - 3 sets of 3-5 reps:
Week 1: 180 lbs, reps 5,5,5
Week 2: 185 lbs, reps 4,4,4
Week 3: 190 lbs, reps 3,3,3
Week 4: 180 lbs, reps 3,3 (deload)
Week 5: 185 lbs, reps 5,5,5
Week 6: 190 lbs, reps 4,4,4
Week 7: 195 lbs, reps 3,3,3
Week 8: 190 lbs, reps 3,3 (deload)
Example - 3 sets of 6-8 reps:
Week 1: 110 lbs, reps 8,8,8
Week 2: 115 lbs, reps 7,7,7
Week 3: 120 lbs, reps 6,6,6
Week 4: 110 lbs, reps 6,6 (deload)
Week 5: 115 lbs, reps 8,8,8
Example - 3 sets of 8-12 reps:
Week 1: 50 lbs, reps 12,12,12
Week 2: 55 lbs, reps 10,10,10
Week 3: 60 lbs, reps 8,8,8
Week 4: 50 lbs, reps 8,8 (deload)
Week 5: 55 lbs, reps 12,12,12
Double Progression (Isolation Movements)
Use 'double progression' model for your isolation exercises in the target 12-15 rep ranges.
Start with a load where you feel you can get pretty close to 15 reps for 3 sets (but not quite).
Then add reps each week, trying to get to the goal of 3×15. Take as many sessions as you need to achieve this.
Once you can do the top end of the rep range for all sets, increase weight and restart at the lower rep range,
Example - 3 sets of 12-15 reps:
Week 1: 40 lbs, reps 14,13,12
Week 2: 40 lbs, reps 14,14,12
Week 3: 40 lbs, reps 14,14,13
Week 4: 40 lbs, reps 12,12 (deload)
Week 5: 40 lbs, reps 15,15,14
Week 6: 40 lbs, reps 15,15,15
Week 7: 45 lbs, reps 13,12,12
Week 8: 45 lbs, reps 12,12 (deload)