Novice Bodybuilding Program

Free4.17 (18 reviews)
4-day a week program based on the principles from the book Muscle & Strength Pyramid: Training
Program Description

The Novice Bodybuilding Program is a four-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 evidence-based training and nutrition.

This beginner bodybuilding program has exercises to ensure all muscle groups are adequately trained to help you build a well rounded physique.

There are two ‘strength’ days and two ‘volume’ days. Strength development complements the accumulation of training volume and aids hypertrophy (muscle growth) by allowing heavier loads to be used over time.

General guidelines

Spread your workouts out across the week and try to have no more than two sessions back to back. This is better for recovery.

Rest for ~2-3 minutes for the main exercises; ~90 seconds for others.

Spread your workouts out across the week and try to have no more than two sessions back to back.

%1RM = % of 1-rep maximum. It is a guideline for how much you should load the bar the first time you start the program (only). If you don’t know this, just use an RPE of 8.

1st Set RPE = a guideline for how many reps you should stop short of failure for your first set. 8 means to stop when you could do 2 more reps before failing. This determines how much load you should put on the bar.

So, as you get stronger, the same load will feel lighter (a lower RPE) and you can increase the weight. The purpose of this is to help you manage fatigue.

Progression guidlines

After the first session, just add weight in steady increments each time. (This is where ‘linear’ in linear progression comes from.)

For the heavy full and lower body compound movements (e.g., squats and deadlifts) increase 10 lbs (~5 kg) from last week, assuming you can do so with good form. For other exercises that work less overall musculature, (e.g., the bench press, overhead presses, rows, and any isolation exercises) you’ll want to progress in 5 lb (~2.5 kg) or 2.5 lb increments.

Example Novice Progression using 5x5:

  • Week 1: Load 135 lbs, reps 5,5,5,5,5 (25) => add load next time

  • Week 2: Load 145 lbs, reps 5,5,5,5,5 (25) => add load next time

  • Week 3: Load 155 lbs, reps 5,5,5,5,3 (23) => same load next time

  • Week 4: Load 155 lbs, reps 5,5,5,5,5 (25) => add load next time

  • Week 5: Load 165 lbs, reps 5,5,5,5,5 (25) => add load next time

What if you stall?

Reduce the load by 10% if you fail to achieve your target reps in two consecutive workouts. The next workout, return to the weight you were unable to complete the target repetitions with and you will more than likely succeed. This is a very simple method of “deloading.” This is a strategy that allows built-up fatigue from weeks of training to dissipate, which in turn lets us continue progressing. There is no need to set this at specific time intervals for novice progression, but it will become necessary for intermediate progression.

Program Overview
Coach
Level
Equipment
Time Per Workout
Days Per Week
Program Length
Beginner, Novice
Full Gym
60 minutes
4 days
12 weeks
What People Are Saying
Jessie K. Woman, 28
3 weeks complete
10 years of prior experience
As expected strength gains
As expected muscle gains
Marginal modifications
Great workout to follow for 20-30 minutes. Can add extra sets or other workouts but great starting point for those who are tired of constantly coming up with their own programs
3 days ago
Jessica C. Woman, 24
5 weeks complete
2 years of prior experience
Less than expected strength gains
As expected muscle gains
Marginal modifications
4 days ago
D L. Man, 40
4 weeks complete
No modifications
5 days ago
Anonymous
3 weeks complete
No modifications
6 days ago
Matevz Z. Man, 45
2 weeks complete
As expected strength gains
As expected muscle gains
Marginal modifications
8 days ago
Lena H.
3 weeks complete
No modifications
12 days ago
Cooper A. Man, 38
4 weeks complete
13 years of prior experience
As expected strength gains
Less than expected muscle gains
None modifications
Not enough time in the program to judge results. But, it’s been a good way for me to jump back into lifting. I like the heavy/volume split. Gives a good variation to the week. Weighted chin ups got me gasping for air. This is a solid program for novices. Wouldn’t expect to win any shows after this though. It’s missing the shoulders emphasis gained by a four way muscle group split.
13 days ago
Zsolt D. Man, 18
3 weeks complete
No modifications
14 days ago
ofri L. Man, 25
5 weeks complete
No modifications
Not much results
15 days ago
Aidan H. Man, 24
3 weeks complete
0.5 years of prior experience
As expected strength gains
As expected muscle gains
Marginal modifications
20 days ago
Mon
Press ••• for exercise alternatives. Rest ~2-3 min for main exercises; ~90 secs for others. RPE 8 = Find a weight where you can only do 2 more reps before failing. Use same weight for other sets.
1. Squat (Barbell)
Low or high bar. Squat Variant
Alternative Exercise 1: Front Squat (Barbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Safety Bar Squat
SetsTargetIntensity
1
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
2
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
3
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
2. Deadlift (Barbell)
Deadlift Variant. Can also do sumo
Alternative Exercise 1: Trap Bar Deadlift
Alternative Exercise 2: Romanian Deadlift (Barbell)
Alternative Exercise 3: Good Morning
SetsTargetIntensity
1
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
2
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
3
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
3. Bulgarian Split Squat (Dumbbell)
Single-Leg Variant
Alternative Exercise 1: Lunge (Barbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Split Squat (Dumbbell)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
8 RPE
2
8 reps
-
3
8 reps
-
4. Standing Calf Raise
Alternative Exercise 1: Seated Calf Raise
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
8 RPE
2
8 reps
-
3
8 reps
-
4
8 reps
-
Wed
Press ••• for exercise alternatives. Rest ~2-3 min for main exercises; ~90 secs for others. RPE 8 = Find a weight where you can only do 2 more reps before failing. Use same weight for other sets.
1. Bench Press (Barbell)
Horizontal Push
Alternative Exercise 1: Bench Press (Dumbbell)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
2
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
3
5 reps
82.5% of 1RM
2. Seated Row (Cable)
Horizontal Pull
Alternative Exercise 1: Bent Over Row (Dumbbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Seal Row
Alternative Exercise 3: Seated Row (Machine)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
5 reps
8 RPE
2
5 reps
-
3
5 reps
-
3. Overhead Press (Barbell)
Vertical Push
Alternative Exercise 1: Seated Shoulder Press (Dumbbell)Notes: Or standing
Alternative Exercise 2: Landmine Press
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
72.5% of 1RM
2
8 reps
72.5% of 1RM
4. Chin-Up (Weighted)
Use bands if too hard. Add weight if too easy.
Alternative Exercise 1: Pull-Up (Weighted)
Alternative Exercise 2: Lat Pulldown
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
8 RPE
2
8 reps
-
5. Chest Fly (Cable)
Alternative Exercise 1: Chest Fly (Dumbbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Chest Fly (Machine)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
15 reps
8 RPE
2
15 reps
-
Fri
Press ••• for exercise alternatives. Rest ~2-3 min for main exercises; ~90 secs for others. RPE 8 = Find a weight where you can only do 2 more reps before failing. Use same weight for other sets.
1. Hip Thrust (Barbell)
Hip Hinge Variant
Alternative Exercise 1: Glute Bridge (Barbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Pull Through (Cable)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
8 RPE
2
8 reps
-
3
8 reps
-
2. Leg Press
Leg Press Variant
Alternative Exercise 1: Hack Squat
SetsTargetIntensity
1
8 reps
8 RPE
2
8 reps
-
3
8 reps
-
3. Leg Extension
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-
3
12 reps
-
4. Leg Curl
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-
3
12 reps
-
5. Seated Calf Raise
SetsTargetIntensity
1
15 reps
8 RPE
2
15 reps
-
3
15 reps
-
4
15 reps
-
Sat
Press ••• for exercise alternatives. Rest ~2-3 min for main exercises; ~90 secs for others. RPE 8 = Find a weight where you can only do 2 more reps before failing. Use same weight for other sets.
1. Bench Press (Barbell)
Horizontal Push
Alternative Exercise 1: Bench Press (Dumbbell)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
10 reps
67.5% of 1RM
2
10 reps
67.5% of 1RM
3
10 reps
67.5% of 1RM
2. Seated Row (Cable)
Horizontal Pull
Alternative Exercise 1: Bent Over Row (Dumbbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Seal Row
Alternative Exercise 3: Seated Row (Machine)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
10 reps
8 RPE
2
10 reps
-
3
10 reps
-
3. Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
Incline Push
Alternative Exercise 1: Incline Bench Press (Barbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Incline Chest Press (Machine)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-
4. Chin-Up (Weighted)
Use bands if too hard. Add weight if too easy.
Alternative Exercise 1: Pull-Up (Weighted)
Alternative Exercise 2: Lat Pulldown
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-
5. Tricep Pushdown (Cable)
Tricep Isolation
Alternative Exercise 1: Tricep Extension (Dumbbell)
Alternative Exercise 2: Tricep Extension (Machine)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-
6. Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)
Bicep Isolation
Alternative Exercise 1: Bicep Curl (Machine)
Alternative Exercise 2: Bicep Curl (Cable)
SetsTargetIntensity
1
12 reps
8 RPE
2
12 reps
-