The Intermediate Bodybuilding Sample Program

Andy MorganPrograms91 Comments

This is a sample bodybuilding program from The Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid book. The explanation section in the book is fairly detailed, so I have cut it down to give just the overview, relevant notation and exercise selection explanations. It is my goal that this, the Intermediate Powerlifting Program, and the Detailed Guide to Training Progression articles bring the site up to speed with the level of training programming that I typically find myself using with coaching clients nowadays. I hope you find them useful.

The Intermediate Bodybuilding Program Overview 

The Intermediate Bodybuilding Program builds on the novice program by increasing volume globally. Additionally, the progression is changed to be more suitable to an intermediate level lifter and follows a linear-periodized, wave-loading pattern in the same manner as the Intermediate Powerlifting Program.

The framework is similar to that of the Novice Bodybuilding Program in that the week starts off with strength focused training on Day 1 and 2 in a lower and upper body format. However, for the rest of the week, muscle groups are organized in a three-day split. Lower body, push, and pull are performed in that order, after the upper and lower body training sessions on Day 1 and 2. Thus, this is a five-day program; however the frequency per body part remains at two times per week like the novice program. The change from four days of training in the novice program to five days in the intermediate program allows for more volume to be performed per muscle group, while also spreading the additional workload over more days in the week to allow for recovery.

Roughly 2/3rds of the volume in the Intermediate Bodybuilding Program is accumulated using moderate loads in the moderate repetition ranges, while the remaining volume is accumulated using heavier loads paired with lower rep ranges and lighter loads paired with higher rep ranges.

The breakdown for the Intermediate Bodybuilding Program is summarized in the table below. The left side shows the average reps per week for each muscle group. The right side shows the how much of the total training volume is from sets performed in the 6-12 rep range vs. other rep ranges.

Intermediate Progression

RPE Based On RIR Is Primarily Used To Set Load

Now with some weight training experience under your belt, RPE based on RIR can be more accurately used; you should be able to tell with reasonable accuracy how many reps you have in the tank. For this reason, load progression will be based more on RIR than it is %1RM. The %1RM is more used as a reference.

Progression Rules

Primarily you will be following the intermediate, “Wave Loading Progression” model for all lifts except for the isolation exercises, where you will use the “Double Progression” model and deload it as outlined every fourth week along with the other lifts. Intensity will go up over the course of a four-week cycle, while volume will come down. Like the novice program, each day of each week is progressed independently, meaning, you will not compare Day 1 to Day 2 or Day 2 to Day 3, but each exercise progression continues from the same day the previous week.

I’ve published a detailed set of progression rules for you here and that is where you will find both the Wave Loading Progression and Double Progression models explained fully.

Intermediate Bodybuilding Sample Program

Exercise Selection Guidelines

Vertical & Horizontal Pulls

Vertical and horizontal pulls simply refer to back work in the vertical and horizontal planes, i.e. a pulldown and a row, respectively. Choose whichever movements you enjoy, that you can feel the target muscles working during, and that you have access to.

For the horizontal row, choose an exercise that doesn’t fatigue your lumbar (this is more critical to the powerlifting routines where the performance of the deadlift should not be compromised). I would advise a cable, single arm dumbbell, chest supported dumbbell, seal/bench, or machine row.

For vertical pulls feel free to select what you would like, however, if you do choose to do chin ups or pull ups, make sure you can perform it at the appropriate RPE and rep range. If you are very strong at these, you might need to do weighted chins or pull ups, and if you aren’t strong enough to fall in the appropriate RPE and rep range, choose a lat pulldown or machine pulldown instead. If you don’t have access to either, a band-assisted pull up can work as well.

Vertical & Horizontal Pushes

Vertical and horizontal pushes simply refer to pressing work in the vertical and horizontal planes. For example, an overhead press and a chest press, respectively.

Preferably choose barbell based movements when using a %1RM based progression as these allow smaller increases in load, micro loading, and more accurate estimations of 1RM from AMRAPs. If you have an injury-related issue that prevents the use of a barbell for pressing, dumbbells or machines can be used, and the dumbbell load can be added together to estimate 1RM (just be aware of the limitations I mentioned), or simply use RPE.

For horizontal pressing, you can use a decline or incline press, just don’t use a very severe angle in either direction. For vertical pressing, feel free to do either standing or seated presses.

Squat Variants

When given the choice of performing a squat variant, any variation of a barbell free weight squat can be performed. This could be a high-bar, low-bar, front, or even Zercher or safety-bar barbell squats.

Select the variant that is pain-free, a low injury risk, one that you enjoy, that you are confident that you can master, and that suits your biomechanics. For example, if you find that you are very bent over when you perform a low-bar squat to full depth, you may wish to choose one of the other variations that allow a more upright body position to ensure more even lower-body development. You may decide to perform the same variation of squats on all days or to perform different variations. Just be aware, that if you always use different variations it may increase the time to master both movements.

If an injury prevents you from performing a barbell based squat of any type, a leg press variant can be used in the place of a squat variant.

Leg Press Variants

Leg press variants include any form of hack squat or leg press machine or even Smith machine squat if the legs are placed out in front of you while you lean back into the bar to maintain an upright torso. Essentially, the goal is to perform a squat-like movement without having to support the load with your upper body as much as you do when performing a squat variant.

Leg press variants are placed in the bodybuilding programs strategically to reduce lower-back and hip fatigue and stress while still allowing a squat-like movement to be performed to train the legs.

Choose whichever variation you prefer that you can perform for a full range of motion pain-free. These can be replaced with squat variants, just be aware of the potential for increased lumbar and hip fatigue and stress.

Hip Hinge Variants

Like the leg press variants, hip hinge variants are used in the bodybuilding programs to strategically train a deadlift-like movement without having to support the load with your upper body as much as you do when you perform a deadlift variant. These exercises are slotted in to reduce lumbar and hip fatigue in the bodybuilding programs.

Hip hinge variants include movements such as a barbell hip thrusts or glute bridges. Cable or machine hinges can also be used just be aware of the limitation that AMRAP 1RM estimations will be less accurate when using them. A deadlift variant can be used in place of a hinge variant, just be aware of the potential risk of increased lumbar and hip fatigue and soreness.

Deadlift Variants

Deadlift variants in the bodybuilding programs refer to conventional, sumo, or Romanian deadlifts, or good mornings.

When selecting a deadlift variant, choose one with a low risk of injury, and make sure you perform it with proper, safe form, and don’t neglect the eccentric portion of the lift (it can be fast, but not completely uncontrolled how a powerlifter might perform it).

If you select a sumo stance deadlift, do not perform it ultra-wide if you only compete in bodybuilding, rather use a stance just slightly wider than your hand position. This can be a great position for a bodybuilder to perform a deadlift as it allows a straighter back, more upright torso, thereby reducing injury risk, while also mimicking the biomechanics of a conventional deadlift.

The advantage of selecting a Romanian deadlift or a good morning is that the eccentric will be automatically controlled, however, these movements take more kinesthetic awareness and time to master and perform properly with heavy loads.

If an injury prevents you from performing a barbell deadlift variant of any type, a hip hinge variant can be used in its place.

Single-Leg Squat Variants

Single-leg squat variants are primarily in place to ensure equal development across legs, and to ensure adequate coordination and even contribution of force when performing bipedal exercises such as squats or leg press to reduce the risk of injury.

Preferably, select a free weight (or bodyweight or assisted with bands version if you are not strong enough to add external load yet) movement such as Bulgarian split squats, lunges, or single-leg squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell on the floor or off a plyo box (also known as pistol squats).

You can select a machine based movement such as a single leg leg-press, but this will only help you ensure equal force production between legs, and not necessarily coordination and balance. Thus, the injury prevention effect will be reduced.

Isolation Exercises

Bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg extensions, leg curls and other single joint movements should be performed with a full range of motion and in a safe manner that is pain-free. Whether you use free weights, machines, cables or some other variation you would like to employ is entirely your choice, just ensure that you are able to perform it pain-free and with a full range of motion.

Flys can be performed with cables or dumbbells or machines and can be performed at incline or decline angles if preferred.

Standing calf raises don’t necessarily need to be standing, they just need to be straight legged (for example a calf raise on a leg press).

Face pulls, while not technically an isolation movement, should not be performed near to failure or with heavy loads and an emphasis should be placed on proper form and scapular retraction and external rotation of the shoulder.

Why There Are No Shrugs or Direct Abdominal Work In The Bodybuilding Programs

To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never actually seen a bodybuilder improve their abs or their upper traps by adding in these exercises to an already well-balanced routine that includes deadlift and squat variants, overhead pressing, rowing, other compound free weight exercises.

I’ve seen bodybuilders who don’t have a well-balanced routine that includes these compounds exercises benefit from performing shrugs and direct ab work, but that is already starting with would be a suboptimal approach in the first place in my opinion.

I’ve also met many bodybuilders who claim that these exercises are critical to the development of their traps and abs, but invariably these bodybuilders are already performing forty-odd exercises, so how would they know what was doing what?

Most convincingly, I’ve seen bodybuilders remove shrugs and direct abdominal work from well-balanced plans that include a lot of compound exercises without any detriment to their traps or abs.

Now, all that said, when I work with bodybuilders who specifically have weak traps or abs, I do prescribe direct ab work and shrugs. That’s just common sense and even if it’s not successful, it’s worth the attempt. So, if you do happen to be someone with weak abdominal muscles (and not just someone who holds fat in their midsection) or upper- trap development, feel free to add a few sets of these exercises per week.


Swapping out accessory movements is also an option in any of these plans. To do so, just make sure that you have a rationale for your choices, and also make sure the substitutions are of similar movement patterns and train similar muscle groups. This is important in order to maintain the integrity of the programs as they are designed to take overlap into account.

An Important Note On Sample Training Programs

It’s important to note that the primary purpose of this program is actually not for you just to take it and use it exactly as written.

By definition, a sample program cannot be optimal for you, because it is not specific to you and your needs. The programs in our book can get close, as they allow you to match up your goal (powerlifting or bodybuilding) and your experience level (novice, intermediate, or advanced) to the program, and in some spots they allow you freedom to choose a variation on an exercise or the schedule to fit your needs, but they still aren’t truly individualized programs.

Individuality is key to long-term success, and just like it’s not a good idea to use someone else’s diet regardless of whether your maintenance calorie intake or initial body-fat percentage is similar to theirs or not, it’s also not a good idea to jump into a program regardless of how the volume, intensity, or frequency of the program compares to what you are currently adapted to.

The idea behind presenting multiple sample programs in the book is that instead of readers seeing them as “the be all end all” that they just jump right into, they use them primarily as learning tools. The programs are the synthesis of the entire Training Pyramid, combining the concepts presented throughout the book into usable systems. By examining the sample programs they are looking at only a few of the possible iterations of the concepts embodied in the text. Trainers will be able to use the sample programs to help them learn how to create customized programs for their clients, and athletes will use the programs to help them design a more individualized plan for themselves.

Questions welcomed in the comments. – Andy

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About the Author

Andy Morgan

I am the founder of, this is my sincere effort to build the best nutrition and training guides on the internet. Some readers hire me to coach them, which I've been doing online, via email, for the last six years. If you're interested in individualized, one-on-one nutrition and training coaching to help you crush your physique goals, let's start the conversation.

91 Comments on “The Intermediate Bodybuilding Sample Program”

  1. Really awesome work!

    I am unable to perform deadlifts or RDLs due to a medical condition. Could you suggest some other deadlift/hip hinge/ hip extension exercises I can perform instead?

  2. Hi Andy,
    Some trainers recommend starting a upper body workout with Incline instead of flat pressing movement since many people lag in upper chest development. What do you think about that?

    I was thinking of switching incline with flat bench on day 2, including switching the rep ranges (5×5 for incline, then 3×8 for flat bench).

    Looking forward to your opinion!

  3. Hi Andy,
    Can’t thank you enough for all the content you put out! 🙂
    Would you say it is important to deload all exercises at the same time? I.e. Having a heavy lower day deload and the moderate lower deload 1 or 2 weeks later, depending on the progress. I ask because I haven’t started all exercises at the same rep range (some on the higher end, some on the lower)

    1. Most welcome Markus.

      To answer your question: It can be done independently. Some exercises may be running different progression schemes to others requiring deloading every few weeks, like the intermediate progression you’ll see here. However, if the purpose of the deload is to reduce overall cumulative fatigue, you’ll want to deload all exercises at the same time.

  4. Does it matter if I use a neutral or parallel grip for a majority of their back work? I feel my lats, upper back, and just progress much better with this grip. I’ll do db rows with neutral grip pulldowns on one upper day then parallel grip pull ups with neutral grip seated cable rows on my pull day. I know by not using overhand grip for some exercises that I might be missing out on some upper back development, but I also do face pulls and seated rear delt flies. Is this OK?

    Also, would barbell rows be fine on either the upper or pull days? I didnt see it listed under the exercise list.


    1. Does it matter if I use a neutral or parallel grip for a majority of their back work?

      – In general, not really. Sure, the activation will be slightly different but you want to go with a grip that is comfortable and allows a full range of motion. But if you progress better with the one grip you’d be a fool to not stick with that for now.

      Also, would barbell rows be fine on either the upper or pull days?
      – Swapping them out for another form of row, sure. Seal rows would be the recommendation as they remove the lower back fatigue, otherwise, they may be a counter-productive addition as the fatigue may be too great on the lower back to get effective work in, or you may compromise other exercises. You would have to test it and see.

      Thanks for the questions, Alex.

  5. Hi,
    I was wondering why you didnt include side lateral raises at all?
    Is it possible to swap OHP on Push day for Side Laterals if im already doing Incline Bench on given day?

    1. The OHP is a better overall shoulder builder, the side laterals will be more focused on the mid-shoulder (medial deltoids). If you’re specifically looking to bring up those you could do that instead of, or in addition to, the OHP.

  6. Pingback: The Intermediate Powerlifting Sample Program |

  7. Pingback: How to Choose the Most Effective Strength Training Program for YOU

  8. Andy,

    Great post!

    Would you recommend the Novice Bodybuilding Program (or similar) from the Muscle and Strength Pyramid book or your A/B full body split on this website, for a novice that can still linearly progress and is more interested in muscle growth/bodybuilding than strength/powerlifting.

    Thanks in advance, keep up the good work!

      1. Thanks for your quick response. I was just interested to know as a lot of advice out there says to use a full body 3x a week, but I’m looking forward to starting the novice bodybuilding routine with an appropriate calorie surplus.

        Thanks again!

  9. Thanks if I find myself in an energy surplus could increase the volume in the isolation exercises?

    Or work explosiveness in compound exercises?

    6setx3rep with 60% of the 3-5RM?

    1. Hi Jesus, if you find yourself in an unintended energy surplus, adjust your diet, not your training. If by “energy surplus” you mean that you feel that you have more energy to train at the end of any given workout – don’t add something in, just walk out the door. The goal of training is to get a training effect, not to leave the gym feeling fucked. Do that and you’ll spoil the recovery balance. Make sense?

      Don’t add random things into your programming, make a choice to do so, track things, then adjust based on how you get on.

  10. Thank you for sharing valuable information for free.

    On days 1 and 2 of torso and leg could make a mixture of both?

    Maintaining the volume but performing two days Full Body?

    Would it affect recovery even if it kept the volume?

    1. Yes, yes, and yes. What we have above is just one way of organizing the training volume. If you’d like to learn how to set up a program for yourself, consider getting the book and it will teach you all the necessary theory, or watch the video lectures which you will find on the site for free.

      1. Thank you very much indeed it is magnificent what you do for the people. Quality of information.

        With the routine Big 3 for my brother who is starting, it seems good that you give him the same volume in 5 days?

        Less volume per session.

        To perform external rotation strengthening exercises, scapular retraction, knees.

        And practice the main movements based on tutorials that you recommend.

  11. Hi Andy,

    In the program you gave, you have leg extensions as an exercise. Does that mean you consider them relatively safe to perform frequently? The fitness community, in my observation, cannot seem to come to a consensus on their safety.

  12. Hi Andy,

    you have become my favorite place to get no BS information, thank you for that!

    I had a question for you,

    I am in an Olympic Weightlifting club and training for competition 3x/week (traditional split – Day 1 Snatch + Assistance/variations; Day 2 – Clean + Assistance/variations; Day 3 Jerk + Assistance/variation).

    My objective #1 is performance in the Oly lifts.

    But as fun as Oly lifts are, they are not enough to make you jacked (Expect maybe Glutes, Quads, traps & mid-section)

    So lately I have been thinking of having a secondary objective, that is to build some mass in a more “power-lifting/Power Building” style by adding some more “traditional” compound lifts like BS, DL, BP, OHP, Dips & Pull Ups.

    I currently run the Wendler – 531 2day template in addition to the 3 day Oly lift routine. I have been able to handle the volume and it has not interfered with my Oly lifts.

    I wanted to ask you if you had a better suggestion on how to to build muscle mass & improve my physique while on an Oly lift routine?


    1. My objective #1 is performance in the Oly lifts.
      You’re best off getting the advice of an Olympic lifting coach, Adrien. I appreciate you asking though.

  13. Hi Andy,

    Is it okay to do Day 5 and Day 1 on back-to-back days? Or is it better to rest between the pulls on Day 5 and the DL on Day 1?


  14. I don’t see, but do we every 4th session progress on every exercise? I think that’s too much so I want to hear your opinion.

    Thank you

  15. Hi Andy,
    Thanks for the great content, love the program!
    I’ve started a cut recently and discovered the reps decline quite a bit (i.e. From 3×5 to 3,3,2 on squats). The general advice is to not lower the weight on the bar during a cut. Should I try to keep the weight the same even if the reps drop below 3 (for the compounds) or try doing a deload and work my way back up?
    Thanks in advance, really appreciate your work!

      1. Thanks for the answer. I have read that already but you don’t go into progression while cutting (or am I too dumb to recognize?).
        Is the deload scheme the same?
        Again, since the general conseus is to not lower the weight on the bar that seems a little odd.
        Greetings from Germany!

  16. Hi Andy,
    Have been following this template for 3 months now and have thoroughly enjoyed it – thank you. For the next 2 months, I will struggle to get in the gym 5 times a week due to university exams. I am planning on modifying this template into a 3 day routine as follows:
    Day 1 – full body, low rep, heavy work
    Day 2 – upper body, high reps, more volume
    Day 3 – lower body, high reps, more volume

    My question is, would you suggest keeping the volume the same, by keeping the average reps/muscle group per week the same, despite the reduced frequency?

    Thanks in advance.


    1. Hi Omar, thanks for the question. If you were training hard in your previous 5 days at the guy, you won’t be able to get in the same level of workout quality if you try and do all of that work in just three days. Taper back the volume. Enjoy the period of a lesser total workload, crush your exams, and then bring things back up.

      1. Thanks for the reply. That makes perfect sense – will be interesting to see if/how much progression falters when I reduce frequency. Thanks again, your website and books have become my go-to guides for training.

  17. Hi Andy, brilliant information on this site. I’ve a question on the reps and rep total, take the squat for example 3-5 sets, rep total 12. Would you not exceed the rep total? So the reps per set would be for example 5,4,3 or 4,4,4, is it literally as simple as this.
    Cheers Dan.

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for the question. This depends on which progression model you are using, one where you are at the stage where you can make increases each session (linear progression) or one where you need some linear periodization. Check out my article on progression, I’ve got you covered there.

  18. should I do the same reps and sets when dieting? or to increase something? especially since some workout lasts 45 minutes sometimes, push or pull day for example 🙂

    1. If anything, less when dieting. Your ability to recover from workouts is hampered. Dietary control should be the primary means used when taking fat off, not an increase in activity expenditure through strength training workouts. Keep them separate.

      Related articles:
      Stress: In The Gym, Out of The Gym, and How it Affects Your Program and Progress
      On Cardio for the Physique-Focused Trainee (I’m adding this in here pre-empting your question asking about cardio.)

      1. I think I got it all… 🙂 My brain still hurts me 😀
        Never thought of that to be honest, but I will keep doing this program with linear progression. I don’t feel stressed (yet) 🙂
        About cardio, I’m doing now 5x350kcal a week of liss.
        I’m 7 weeks into dieting, incresed cardio from 4×300 to 5×350.
        Lost 10lbs for now, from 263.4 do 253.4 and this is the first week a lowered carbs by 25g or 100kcal. Started at 2600kcal.
        Did I go too fast with cardio?

          1. no no, I’m ok with it. So If I read it correctly on other articles, you should stay on same macros for 3-4 weeks until you make change? (if you aren’t losing fat).

            1. I did your “Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet” I noticed that on rest days carbs are pretty low and fats are much higher, I always kept the fats the same as training days and lower my carbs for about 100g, can you elaborate why are you increasing the fats that much on rest day?

            2. Zoran, please put this comment on the appropriate page. I want to keep comment threads on topic. You’ll see a link in the set up guide.

  19. Can I switch Chest Press for OHP and keep the Incline on push day if I wanted to add more shoulder development?

  20. Hi Andy,
    I can’t thank you enough for alle the work you put into this as well as the books. It has helped me tremendously and I absolutely love the program! Also answering all the questions here, you are the man!
    One question, since we’re talking already 😉
    I was the program without OHP so far and am now trying to find the best place to incorporate it. I was doing Bench / Incline Bench on Upper day and Incline / Chest Press on push day. I’ve ended up with changing the Push day to OHP / Incline while throwing out the chest press, since my lower chest is a bit overpowering the upper anyway.
    Would that be the right way to do it?

    All the best from germany!

    1. Hi Markus, thank you for the question.
      Would that be the right way to do it?
      – Think less in terms of what is “right or wrong” and more in terms of whether, 1) something is working or not, and 2) whether switching it up works better or not, without compromising other exercises. If it’s working, don’t change it.

  21. If you were to add Incline Bench on Upper Strength, how would you go about it? I’m thinking 5-7 rep range. Unsure on how many sets and what to take away from (flat bench or shoulder press).

    1. Hi Marc, thanks for the question. The incline won’t be a steep one, so it will be hitting the chest. I’d take away from your flat bench, subbing sets 1 for 1.

      1. Cheers! How’s this?
        Bench – 4 x 3-5
        Pendlay – 4 x 4-6
        Shoulder Press – 3 x 5-7
        Incline – 2 x 5-7
        CG Pulldown – 3 x 6-8
        Triceps – 3 x 8-12
        Biceps – 3 x 8-12

  22. Hi andy. Been a follower of you and 3dmj for a while now. I bought the books and was wondering if you think this program would be to much volume when in a caloric deficit. I figure the begginer bodybuilding program would work since it has a little less volume so you can be fully recovered. Or would it just depends on the person? Thanks in advance. Keep putting out top quality content and you will be able to change the average bros and cardiovascular bunnies and make the fitness world a better more scientifically and experienced based place without the gimicks.

  23. Hi Andy,

    I am a little bit confused about RPE and progression. Let’s say I have heavy squats 3×5 with RPE 8-9. I was able to do it for 95kg starting with RPE 8 and ending on 9. Then I increased load to 100kg and did all 3 sets with RPE 9-10. Should I now increase load again (I did all reps) or should I repeat squats using 100kg again until I will be able to do it with RPE 8-9 for all 3 sets? I hope my problem is clear enough.


      1. Ok so let me ask it another way. During the set should I do reps regarding of current RPE or should I stop as soon as I feel I hit target RPE?

        Thanks for your time!

          1. One more question. Let’s say I have a worse day and on the first set I was supposed to do 5 reps but I hit the upper range of the RPE guidelines after 4 reps. What should I do next? Should I decrease load for the rest of the sets or should I push myself and do as many reps as possible with the load for this week within given RPE range?

            Thanks for your time!

  24. Hey Andy! I really hope you have the chance to answer this for me. Firstly, I have already purchased the pyramid booklets and have designed my current program based off the beginner program contained within. While I have been “in the gym” for over 10 years, I felt that after reading the books I should start back at the beginner stage as to be honest, a lot of that time has been wasted time, and i’m really no bigger/stronger now than I was years ago. So i’ll be following the “novice progression rules” outlines in MSP (increasing weight weekly, reps stay the same).

    I’ve just finished week 2 of my program (trying to gain strength/size at the rate of 1-1.5% per month). My first week I ate at 2300 cals daily (calcualted using both the MSP books and your own e-book guide) and did not gain weight, felt crap in the gym at the start of week 2. So I increased this to 2440 cals daily and now at the end of week 2, I still haven’t gained weight.

    >My question: Should I continue to add 100-150 cals every week until I finally see an upward trend in weight which will result in an upward trend in strength?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    1. Hi Travis, thank you for the question and for getting the books.

      To answer your question: Yes, but no need to do things in such small increments. A few things:

      1. You need a longer time span to truly gauge a set of macros.
      2. If you felt like “crap” on 2300kcal (alluding the idea that your energy intake is too low) a 140kcal jump won’t do shit for you, it’s too small a difference. I’d note though that if your weight hasn’t decreased, then it’s unlikely that you are in much of a calorie deficit, if at all. Thus, “feeling like crap” is likely unrelated. A week is too soon to really gauge such things though.
      3. Recall from the Nutrition pyramid, it takes approximately a 500 kcal surplus daily to gain a pound of body weight in a week. So, if you have increased your calorie intake by 140 kcal you aren’t going to really be able to measure any bodyweight change difference.

      When did you buy them? Around a week after purchase I have set things up to send an email inviting you to join something I am pompously calling, The Diet Adjustments Mastery Mini Course. It may have gone to your spam folder. Anyway, you can sign up for free here.

      1. Thanks for your reply Andy. I’ll clarify my experience.
        -Prior to starting my lifts for the year, I took two weeks and tracked maintenance at ~2100 (neither gained nor lost weight).
        -For my first week I took the 1/2 way point between your ebook and the recommendations in MSP and went with ~2300. Lost weight.
        -Second week bumped up to ~2400 – lost weight.
        -Now for my third week i’m up to ~2550, and while only a couple of days into the week, I woke up this morning the lightest i’ve been since high school.
        Signed up for your course and read your articles over the last day, I think I might be a “NEAT FREAK” as I could sit at 2100 and weight didn’t change, yet now after making 3x caloric increases my weight is dropping.

        I’m in no rush and have no plans to compete, so I am happy to take weeks/months to find the “sweet” spot for my lifestyle and gaining, but my concerns is I am wanting to try and follow the “Novice Progression” outlined in MSP and feel that without consuming the extra calories I will hit the point of non-progression and deloading sooner than I wanted. I guess my other concern, on the flip side, is that due to growing up quite overweight, I am VERY cautious about consuming too much over my numbers as I have a fear of gaining unwanted weight.

  25. Maybe it’s still too early for me, but I don’t understand the numbers on the right side of “The breakdown for the Intermediate Bodybuilding Program” table. What do the 448, 240 & 688 numbers mean and how do they relate to the left side?

    1. Hi Tim, most appreciate the question because it wasn’t clear from the way I have written it and I will fix that now.

      The left side shows the average reps per week for each muscle group. The right side shows the how much of the total training volume is from sets performed in the 6-12 rep range. “Other” means sets with less than 6 reps or more than 12 reps.

  26. Thanks Andy, to clarify tho, is there a per session volume threshold I must reach (via sets and reps) to elicit a hypertrophic response since the volume for each session will be lower than the 5 day version? I know 40-70 reps per session but what if I’m doing say 20-30 3x a week Thanks a lot Andy, means a lot for real!

    1. Hi Jacob, thanks for the question.

      Training tolerance/response will be different for different people, which is why we have such a broad range (80 reps per body part to 270 reps per body part) in the recommendations (40 reps, 2x/week ~ 70 reps, 3x/week). You need to experiment to find your optimal training volume, which needs to factor in not only what you can recover from but what you can consistently do (which comes down to your schedule and enjoyment).

      More training volume is good up to a point (graph 1), but with diminishing returns (graph 1 vs 2) and eventually negative returns (graph 3). The maximal recoverable training volume (which you are alluding to wanting to find, shown in graph 2, where the graph intersects the x-axis) is actually something we can only guess at.

      1. Minimum training input leading to maximal growth per unit of effort but missing out a lot of growth opportunity.
      Minimum training input leading to maximal growth per unit of effort but missing out a lot of growth opportunity.

      2. Maximal growth, maximal effort without it being detrimental.
      Maximal growth, maximal effort without it being detrimental.

      3. Overtraining leading to less than maximal response despite greater efforts.
      Overtraining leading to less than maximal response despite greater efforts.

      More on this if it interests you in this article:
      Stress: In The Gym, Out of The Gym, and How it Affects Your Program and Progress

      Hope this helps!

  27. I’m confused about how wave loading works with RPE. Over time, wouldn’t wave loading progression naturally drive up the RPE? Also, just to be clear, are the recommended RPEs for the 1st set or for all of the sets? Because weight that starts out as a 7 often becomes a 9 after 5 sets.

    Thanks for the sample programs!
    I’ve never thought about replacing deadlifts with BB hip thrusts on a volume day to reduce the injury risk before. I love the idea, I’ve always hated doing high rep sets of deadlifts

    1. Hi Drew, thanks for the questions.

      Over time, wouldn’t wave loading progression naturally drive up the RPE?
      – The idea is that your body will adapt to the new load and the RPE will remain the same.

      …are the recommended RPEs for the 1st set or for all of the sets?
      – All sets, start at the bottom of the range. Here’s a free email course that Eric Helms and I put together that you may find useful.

  28. Hey Andy, I turned this into an upper/lower split 6 days a week by splitting up the volume a bit more and working it ululul. If the volume is reduced per session, do you think this is a doable routine given the frequency is quite high but per session volume is lowered to accommodate? Thanks!

  29. Hi Andy

    More of a comment than a question, but it’s interesting how low the ‘intensity’ is for the medium rep range work (by which I mean intensity of effort as measured on the RPE RIR scale).

    I’m probably not alone, but I’ve always erred on the side of going a lot closer to failure than that, even without failing, in an effort to progress.

    Good to see ‘intensity of effort’ managed in this way as so many programs and coaches out there miss this and just give volume/intensity recommendations.

    Look forward to giving this a whirl, hopefully not every workout will feel so brutal it wears me down after a few weeks!



    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. It’s a purposeful choice to keep the RPE lower. You may find the free RPE email course that Eric Helms and I put together useful, but here is a the relevant section:

      “Some of you might be a little confused right now if you were under the impression that training to failure was a good idea to do on every set or the majority of sets if your goal is hypertrophy.

      Volume is a key component of hypertrophy training. So let’s take a hypothetical situation where you decide to take 3 sets with your 10 rep max (10RM) to failure on all sets and see what your volume is if you don’t change the load.

      If you go all the way to failure on set 1, doing 10 reps and then maintain the same load, you will more than likely drop to ~7 reps on set 2, and then down to ~5 reps on set 3. That means a total of ~22 reps performed with a 10RM load.

      Let’s say instead, you stayed 1 rep shy of failure on your first set and did 9 reps. More than likely you’d be able to maintain 9 reps on set 2 but be pretty damn close to failure, and then on set 3 only be able to get 8. In this case, you got 26 reps with a 10RM load, which is four more reps. Can you honestly say that the former is better for hypertrophy given the importance of volume?

      Well, we don’t have to speculate, because we actually have data to show that training to failure results in similar adaptations to not training to failure…”

  30. Andy,

    I’m no stranger to counting calories and IF/IIFYM, however, I’ve fallen off the band wagon this past year.

    As I uitilized the Macro Cycle calculator to shred this 17% BF, I found it odd to be given as much as 2500kcal on training days and 2000 on rest days. Seems as if those are tailored more towards a maintenance?

  31. Andy, I do not see any lateral raises. Also with 3 sets for triceps would you suggest doing one for each head of the tricep or just pick one tricep movement and swap it for another tricep head the next week?

    1. Hi Jon, thanks for the question. Though there are differences in activation between exercises, we can’t really isolate any individual head of the triceps. If you use a full range of motion with the triceps exercises you will hit all three heads, and with the rest of the pressing work in the program, balance won’t be an issue. You can rotate triceps exercises every 4-8 weeks as per your preference, but I certainly wouldn’t swap exercises over week-to-week as it is too hard to gauge progression and act accordingly that way. Here is my guide to progression:

      A Detailed Guide to Training Progression

      Hope that helps.

  32. Hi Andy,

    I purchased both books and pored through your site and the entire FAQ. Of course, the FAQ closed right when I planned to ask two questions that have been burning me ever since. I’d really appreciate your insight.

    1) I think Eric said in the FAQ that switching up exercise selection is low priority and should happen every 8 weeks or so. Is it okay to NEVER change exercises if I have reasonable variety in the program already?

    2) I’ve gone through your how to bulk page multiple times. On a controlled bulk, does it make sense to do mini 1-2 week cuts to keep the BF% in check? I find occasional 1-2 week cuts much easier than a big 2 month diet at the end of a bulking cycle.

    Thanks, and keep up the great and very thorough work!

    1. Hi Tim, thank you for getting the books, glad you are taking a lot away from them.

      1) Let’s avoid putting never or always labels on things, as there are always exceptions. If you are progressing and staying healthy, then it is not a problem to stick with the exercises you have. It may be beneficial to occasionally swap movements out as a) variety could stimulate faster progress, and b) it can help keep your joints healthy. I believe the latter was mentioned in the training book. Just search “joint” or “joint health.”

      2. I would say a one week cut is fairly worthless as the time frame too short to make any meaningful progress. A lot of water and glycogen would be lost and regained causing large swings in weight and the fat loss differences very hard to measure. If doing a mini-cut during a bulk I would make it four weeks minimum. Whether you have one or not is up to you. In coaching, some people want one, some people don’t; some people can handle having one, some people can’t. There are no blanket rules (which comes back to my never/always comment above).

      Hope that is helpful!

  33. Hi Andy,

    I’ve purchased the books on nutrition and training. Congratulations on the great work that you and Eric are doing!

    I have a question regarding the Frequency. How can I make this in a 4-day program?
    Is it okay if I just combine Day 4 and 5 in one day? Or should I have one day of full-body?

    Thanks in advance!


    Kristiyan Atanasov

    1. Hi Kriss, thanks for the question and getting the books. Very glad you liked them. While there is no single way to do it, it’s quite simple really, just reorganize the lifts across four days in a way that balances recovery. You may find that you can’t do the same amount of volume in four days, so just reduce, either by eliminating the lifts of the sets.

      Did you see the support page that Eric and I put together? We’ve answered over 800 questions there. Hope you find it useful.

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