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The Novice Bodybuilding Program

If looking like The Hulk, Wolverine, or Batman is your primary goal, then a training program with a bodybuilding focus is what you need.

If you have been struggling to grow, this program may help by giving some balance to your routine. Don’t make the mistake of training your chest, arms, and abs each day, neglecting the majority of the musculature in your body. To have a thick chest, you need to have a well developed back. To have big legs, you need to train your hamstrings. To have shredded abs, you need to have enough muscle mass to make getting lean worth it.

In this article, I introduce the sample Novice Bodybuilding Program from our book, though with abbreviated instructions so as not to overwhelm. I’ll show you how to choose exercises and adjust things for the areas where you are more advanced.

My advice is to resist the urge to skip straight to the Intermediate Bodybuilding Program just because you have been training for a while. Read through to consider whether this is more appropriate first. The less training experience you have, the faster gains you will make. You don’t need nearly as much work to make gains when you are a novice so enjoy this while it lasts.

Lastly, despite the name, this training program isn’t for those who are new to lifting (or new lifting properly). Rank beginners will probably find their time best spent learning the big compound lifts first, which is the purpose of this Big 3 Routine. When you’re competent with the bench press, squat and deadlift, come back to this.


The Novice Bodybuilding Sample Program Overview

The Novice Bodybuilding Program, unlike the Novice Powerlifting Program, is a four-day program. It has more exercises to ensure all muscle groups are adequately trained and has a higher total volume.

We have 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.

Because skill development is not as important to a bodybuilder as it is to a powerlifter, and because greater volumes are performed on each day, a lower/upper split is used to balance out fatigue and recovery across the week.

Exercise preferences, limitations, and equipment availability differs from person to person. I’ve written more details on how to choose below.

Spread your workouts out across the week and try to have no more than two sessions back to back. This is better for recovery. Examples: Train-train-rest-train-train-rest-rest, or, Train-train-rest-train-rest-train-rest.

Rest ~2–3 minutes between sets.

Have a look at the program below and then I’ll explain the meaning of the ‘%1RM’ and ‘1st Set RPE’ notation and how to use it.

The Novice Bodybuilding Sample Program

Day 1 – Lower Body (Strength)
ExerciseSets x Reps%1RM1st Set RPE
Squat Variant

variations»Barbell Back Squats (either low or high bar position), Front Squats, or Safety-bar Barbell Squatsclose

3 x 582.5%NA
Deadlift Variant

variations»Conventional Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Good Morningsclose

3 x 582.5%NA
Single Leg Variant

variations»Bulgarian Split Squats, Lunges, or Single-leg Squats with a Kettlebell or Dumbbell (also known as Pistol Squats)close

3 x 8NA8
Standing Calf Raises

variations»Smith machine, Leg Pressclose

4 x 8NA8
Day 2 – Upper Body (Strength)
ExerciseSets x Reps%1RM1st Set RPE
Horizontal Push

variations»Bench Press, Dumbbell Pressclose

3 x 582.5%NA
Horizontal Pull

variations»Seated Cable Rows, Dumbbell Rows, Seal Rows, Machine Rows, TRX Rowsclose

3 x 5NA8
Vertical Push

variations»Overhead Barbell Press or Dumbbell Press (standing or seated), Landmine Pressclose

2 x 872.5%NA
Vertical Pull

variations»Chin-ups or Pull-ups (Use bands to assist you if too hard to reach the required number of reps, add weight if they are too easy), Lat-pull Downclose

2 x 8NA8
Flys

variations»Cable or Dumbbellclose

2 x 15NA8
Day 3 – Lower Body (Volume)
ExerciseSets x Reps%1RM1st Set RPE
Hip Hinge Variant

variations»Barbell Hip Thrusts, Barbell Glute Bridges, Cable Pull Throughsclose

3 x 8NA8
Leg Press Variant

variations»Seated Leg Press, 45° Leg Press, Hack Squatclose

3 x 8NA8
Leg Extension3 x 12NA8
Leg Curl3 x 12NA8
Seated Calf Raise4 x 15NA8
Day 4 – Upper Body (Volume)
ExerciseSets x Reps%1RM1st Set RPE
Horizontal Push3 x 1067.5%NA
Horizontal Pull3 x 10NA8
Incline Push

variations»Can be dumbbell, barbell, or machineclose

2 x 12NA8
Vertical Pull2 x 12NA8
Triceps Isolation

variations»Cable, machine or free weightclose

2 x 12NA8
Biceps Isolation

variations»Cable, machine or dumbbellclose

2 x 12NA8

If you have considerably more experience with the one lift than the others, you might consider adding an additional set to that exercise from the start. So, let’s say you’re fairly new to the squat and deadlift for example, but have a lot of experience bench pressing, (pretty much describes every dude on the planet when they start lifting seriously) perhaps start with four bench press sets for your horizontal push exercises instead of three.

Savvy readers may notice that this program has changed a little since the program in the first edition of the book. This is because newer meta-analyses have been released about training volume, and there were instances where we decided to reduce it as the first edition programs had volume that was too high based on current evidence. More on this in the first training FAQ item, here.

For convenience, I made this to save to your phone:

Follow me on Instagram for more useful graphics like this.


How To Choose Exercises

Choose an exercise option that you can perform confidently with good form, pain-free, with a full range of motion. My bigger guide to exercise selection is here, but below are the crib notes relevant to this program.

Squat Variants

This could be a high-bar, low-bar, front, 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 for a more upright body position to ensure more even lower-body development.

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.

Hip Hinge Variants

Hip hinge variants include movements such as a barbell hip thrusts or glute bridges. Cable or machine hinges can also be used.

Single-Leg Squat Variants

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). These 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. 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.

Deadlift Variants

Conventional, sumo, or Romanian deadlifts, or good mornings. 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.

Vertical & Horizontal Pulls

For the horizontal row, choose an exercise that doesn’t fatigue your lower back. 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 them with the right range of motion for the required number of reps. If not, try band-assisted pull ups until you are strong enough. Then add weight when you need.

Vertical & Horizontal Pushes

For horizontal pressing, you can use the bench press, 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. Barbells or dumbbells can be used.

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).

Shrugs and direct abdominal work are not included for reasons covered here.


How to Progress with the Novice Bodybuilding Program

Choosing an Initial Weight to Lift With

The %1RM notation stands for percentage of 1-rep maximum. It is a guideline for how much you should load the bar the first time you start the program (only) and we will use this with our main compound barbell competition lifts.

So, where you see Squat 3*5 (82.5%), this means you should put 82.5% of the weight of your maximum single-rep squat on the bar, and then perform 3 sets of 5 reps.

So, let’s say that your current 1RM in the squat is 200 lbs (~90 kg). You’ll load the bar so that the total weight is 82.5% of that, 165 lb (~75 kg) and then perform 3 sets of 5. This might feel relatively easy, but resist the temptation to do more. Some people can get substantially more than 8 reps at this percentage, but our goal is to be submaximal as you’ll be making linear increases in load every time you repeat this session. Subsequent sets you will more than likely find to be a harder than the first due to cumulative fatigue. If you don’t know your 1RM you can use this calculator I created for our book readers which will show you how to calculate your 1RM.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with the lift, you are new to it, or you are coming back after time off, just warm up adding weight to the point where you can comfortably squat 3 sets of 8. Then for each successive session add a little weight each time while maintaining good form.

The 1st Set RPE notation is there to tell us the intensity of effort with which we should lift. It is a guideline for how much you should load the bar every time you train.

‘RPE’ stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion based on Reps in Reserve. It is a means of managing fatigue which can help recovery and growth, telling you how many reps, ideally, you will stay short of failure.

While you will aim to add load each session, on a scale of 1–10, a 7 means to stop the set when you could perform 3 more reps, an 8 means to stop when you have 2 more reps in reserve.

You’ll notice the RPE values for the novice programs are always “1st set RPE 8”. Meaning, you should be able to do all the prescribed sets for the day by sticking with your initial set’s load if it matched up correctly with the target RPE (close to an 8 RPE). If you “miss reps” on subsequent sets at the same load as the RPE climbs past 10, you either started too heavy, didn’t rest long enough, or perhaps made a technical fault; all of which are learning experiences for your next session.

RPE NumberMeaning
10Could not do more reps or load without form failure
9.5Could not do more reps, could do slightly more load
9Could do 1 more rep
8.5Could definitely do 1 more reps, chance at 2
8Could do 2 more reps
7.5Could definitely do 2 more reps, chance at 3
7Could do 3 more reps
5-6Could do 4-6 more reps
1-4Very light to light effort

Progression Rules

Add a little weight to each exercise every session whenever you are able to do so. I have given detailed examples in the linear progression section here. Do this for as long as you can and then move on to the intermediate progression rules. Do this independently for each exercise.

Note that if you choose to perform the same exercise on the strength and volume days (the bench press on both, for example), the load on the bar will be different. This is because the number of reps performed on each day is different. (You can bench more for 5 reps than you can for 10 reps, right?) So progress each day independently.

Though you will get stronger over time, your strength will fluctuate from session to session. This can happen if you didn’t sleep well, you are stressed, your diet wasn’t on point, you had 10 pints the night before, or it could just be some cumulative fatigue build up. So, keep in mind that you will be stronger on some days than others.

  1. Do not get frustrated with yourself and add weight to the bar when you shouldn’t.
  2. Don’t be afraid to lift a little less if you need to.
  3. Always lift with good form so that you stay safe.
  4. Do not go to form failure so that you don’t get injured.

An Important Concluding Note

This is just one example of many programs that will work for a novice bodybuilder. 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 Muscle and Strength Pyramid: Training v2.0

If you have found this helpful, you might be pleased to know it is just a small section taken from my Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid book, written with my co-authors Eric Helms and Andrea Valdez. The second edition, along with the Nutrition companion book, was released this January 3rd, 2019.

Join 16,000+ other readers, get your copies here.

Thank you for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments.

– Andy, Eric, and Andrea


Novice Bodybuilding Program FAQ

Can I add (exercises/sets) to the program?

If you have good reason to believe (past lifting data, for example) that doing so will benefit you, you can add anything you wish. The key is that you recover sufficiently and progress better than you otherwise would.

It can be a mistake to add more training volume than necessary too early in a training career. So, if you don’t have this data, I’d leave things as they are at this novice stage and see how you go first.

Do as much as you need to progress, not as much as possible. More detailed thoughts on this at the end of the intermediate program article below.

Progress has stalled, what should I do?

Assuming that you’re following the progression rules diligently, meaning that you’re also keeping to the first set RPEs to manage fatigue, then your answer lies somewhere in the following three articles:

  1. How to Break Training Plateaus
  2. How to Address Weak Points in Your Lifts
  3. What is Realistic Progress When Cutting?

325
Comments

Please keep questions on topic, write clearly, concisely, and don't post diet calculations.

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cameron
cameron

is it ok to drop the chest flys and do more sets for chest presses as i train at home and only have a power rack and a barbell and currenty dont have any dumbbells

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Sure.

Steve
Steve

Is it okay to do this program Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs or should there be a rest day between workouts 2 and 3 in the program?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Ideally you’ll have a rest day.

Jiman Mircea
Jiman Mircea

The 1st Set RPE notation It is a guideline for how much you should load the bar the first time you start the program (only) ? or is there to tell us the intensity of effort with which we should lift every single workout ?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Every workout.

Jiman Mircea
Jiman Mircea

So, every workout after I increase the weight, I need to stop at RPE 8 on first set ? Thank you very much Andy 🙂

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Yes. Most welcome!

George
George

Hi Andy, quick question for you regarding counting volume for body parts. I’ve read the updated Pyramid over and over yet can’t quite get volume count. For example, in the book it says to count volume on a one to one basis for all muscles involved. So do we count an RDL as 1 set for hamstrings and 1 set for glutes? 10 sets for pressing/pulling movements = 10 sets for tri’s/delts/bi’s? You also mention however not to get all volume for secondary movers from other movements. Therefore adding saying 2 sets of direct arm work would place us right in the 10-12 set per week recommendations? Sorry if this is a simple question I just want to make sure. Cheers!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi George! You’ll see we’ve answered this on the book’s support page. I can’t remember specifically which of the comments but you’ll find it if you search.

Keeb
Keeb

Hey Andy,
I got stuck in this workout routine and was making little gains. So I increased Day 2 volume now 4 sets of bench and 3 sets of vert push. I think increased one or two sets in my heavy leg days also and i think im starting to see platues break and move up

My question is when should I just stop adding sets and move on to a intermediate program?

Keeb
Keeb

My stats are 175/4 bench, 215/4 squat, 225/5, deadlifts (i can do these numbers for 3 sets in a regular workout manner)

These sound too low to be intermediate. what could be my problem?

(I usually hear ppl switch to a intermediate prgm with 315 squat, 405 deadlift and 225 bench)

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

(Your strength is irrelevant to the question of whether you’re a novice or intermediate lifter. Reason here.)

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Keeb, thanks for the question.

The difference between the novice and intermediate lifting sample programs is basically just more volume (via sets and exercise variety). So, while people reading see two distinct programs, I see a continuum.

Now, could you switch to the intermediate training sample program? If the volume there is similar to the volume you are now using and progressing from, yes. However, you could also just keep iterating on this novice sample program, because then it’s an intermediate program.

This guide to training plateaus may be helpful.

Joseph
Joseph

What is the recommended timing you would recommend to do this 4 day programme for before trying out other programmes

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Instead of looking for a new program, I’d suggest you learn how to tweak it to keep yourself progressing. See my answer to Ero.

Erik Johansson
Erik Johansson

Hi man!

Can I move the Horizontal Pulls to the lower body days with the vertical pulls remaining on the upper days?

I have noticed many powerlifting programs doing this. My own train of thought is that this gives my lower back some additional recovery.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

You can, but I think the balance will likely be better as is.

Emile
Emile

Hey Andy,
I have two questions:
1. Can I do antagonist supersets? I am used to training like that.
2. Is there a limit of sets I can add? Seems low volume for me.

Many thanks, your work is amazing.
Emile

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Emile, thank you for your patience over the weekend.

1. Yes.
2. The limit is what you can recover and grow from. But what you should do isn’t necessary the limit of what you can, it’s by what is required to progress. More on this in the last FAQ item.

Emile
Emile

Thank you very much !

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome.

Andy
Andy

Hey Andy, thank you for the free training program. I apologize if the question has been answered already but I scrolled through the comments and couldn’t find something similar.

Some people say that leg extensions are bad for the knees. What do you think about this? Your program includes leg extensions in one of the days. Thank you.

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Well, I disagree. A lot of the research uses leg extensions. If they were injurious, you can bet that wouldn’t be the case.

Now, if someone has an existing issue or they can’t adjust the machine to fit them, that’s a different matter. But that applies to everything.

Marco
Marco

Hi Andy,

1) How long should I try to progress with novice rules before moving to intermediate rules?

2) When should I move from novice bb program to intermediate BB program and what could be a good indication for the move?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Marco, thanks for the questions.

1. Always. You’ll see this explained in the progression guide.

2. When you’ve been implementing those progression rules, have troubleshooted using the (as per the How to Break Training Plateaus guide) and aren’t just stuck due to the fact you’re in a caloric deficit (What is Realistic Progress While Cutting?). I realize this isn’t the one-line answer people are typically looking for but it’s not possible to give a black and white answer.

Lastly, I don’t see a distinction between the Novice and Intermediate sample programs. I just see the Intermediate program as a modification of the Novice one, more volume, more exercise variety, something that will happen naturally when tweaking a program over time.

L.P.
L.P.

Andy, just found your site and the content is amazing! Quick question: does the same “type” of work have to be done on the same day? For example could the 3/5 DL variant be done on Day 3 and the the 3/8 HH Variant be done on Day 1? Would the same be true for upper body as well? After heavy squats, the last thing I’m up for is pulling a heavy DL. More broadly, does DUP require the same type of lifting (hypertrophy, strength, power) to be done on the same day. Or could you switch it up, where one lift is focused on strength and the following lifts are focused on power or hypertrophy?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Louis, thank you for the question(s).

1. You could switch it if you feel you really need. Most novices though just need to take a fuller rest period and lighten their deadlift a little from what they’ve been doing previously. The ego gets in the way of letting them do this which leads them to believe they can’t handle it.

2. You could but it’s probably better to not do so from a recovery standpoint so that some days are easier than others. This is more relevant for the powerlifters. As a novice you don’t need to plan out blocks of training, carefully manipulating the variables. If you’re just thinking of mixing up your sets and reps and training hard. That’s fine.

Train hard, eat well, sleep sufficiently. You’ll do well.

Ero
Ero

Andy hi! I apologize for asking something that has probably been answered already but I have been scrolling through the answers for some time without much luck. Here goes: For how many mesocycles do you recommend we use this program before we switch things up? I am referring to exercise swamps etc, not progression schemes only. Thanks!!!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Ero!

For as long as it continues to produce results when following the progression guidelines. When it no longer does, follow the guides on breaking training plateaus, addressing weak points, and always be mindful of what can be achieved while cutting, if you’re in a deficit.

Daniel Lete
Daniel Lete

Hi Andy! I’ve been doing this program for a month now and I’m really satisfied with it. However I have two questions:

First, I‘ve noticed that there’s only really one excersise working the shoulders every week. Is that enough for growth?

Also I’m really struggling with the first day. Deadlifts and Squats on the same day are too fatiguing for me when paired with Bulgarian Split Squats; which is weird considering I didn’t have this issue while doing the Big 3 routine. Is this normal?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Daniel, thanks for the questions.

1. Yes. There are multiple exercises that work the shoulders every week; all the pressing work to various degrees plus the deadlifts.
2. You’ll get used to it. Just lighten the load.

Mike
Mike

Hi Andy,i read the book but i have one question: is there a reason why we can only use Linear Periodization (wave loading) for isolation movements for novices and Double Progression for isolation movements for intermediates?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Mike,

The wave loading would be unrealistic for the isolation movements. Recall the example we have in the book of DB bicep curls. It’s just not realistic to increase the weight with those month to month. We’d all be curling the 100 lb dumbbells by year 2.

Christopher Gravito
Christopher Gravito

1) are the second upper and lower body days the same routine with more reps to keep progression with added poundage in total over the week?

2) if so, how often should you rotate the movement? So if barbell benching , maybe swap to incline bb after a month ? When progress stalls?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Christopher, thanks for the questions.

1) See the second paragraph in the overview section.
2) I don’t have fixed guidelines for when to rotate movements, but it shouldn’t be so frequent that it compromises progression. (Think months rather than week to week).

Chris G
Chris G

Andy,

Thanks for the reply. Not quite the answer I wanted , so let me clarify my question as it’s likely it came off wrong. Is it Ok given the reasoning for program structure to simply do the same movements on strength or hypertrophy days for reps to make continuous progress ? Or is it suggested to swap the movements and make your continual progress?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

If, in any given movement pattern, you’re new all those exercises, choose just the one exercise for both days. This will help speed up the rate you get proficient at the lift, which means a shortened path to training effectively.

(It’s best to not try to learn many new movements at once.)

So for example, if you are new (or fairly new) to all of the horizontal pressing options, just choose the one (dumbbell bench, for example) for both days. Don’t rotate between the dumbbell bench and the bench press, as you’ll be learning two movement patterns at once.

This is kinda like languages, you wouldn’t want to try to learn two similar ones at once (think Spanish and Portuguese), or for the martial arts, you wouldn’t want to try learning kickboxing and karate at the same time. Focusing on one at a time leads to faster progression.

Make sense?

More on this in my article on exercise selection.

Trev
Trev

Excited to try this. What are some good home-gym (ie, barbell and dumbells) replacements for leg press, leg extension, and leg curls?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Trevor! Front squats; reverse lunges or Bulgarian split squats; RDLs, respectively.

I have an article on how to choose exercises which might be useful for you here.

Trev
Trev

Many thanks!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome, Trev.

Terry
Terry

Hi Andy,

I’ve been following this program for a while and my measurements are showing that my legs are growing a lot more than my upper body, proportionally. I’m happy with my leg size and strength but unsatisfied with my upper body. What do you think about doing lower/upper/push/pull to target my upper body and back off on the legs a bit?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Terry,

Whenever someone tells me their legs are growing too quickly it’s usually down to these things:

1. They’ve started training their legs right for the first time, they’ve got that initial muscle swelling which has caused their jeans to become tight in the first week and they’re like, “Oh shit! I’m growing 2 cm a week on this program! I wish that were the case, I’d be rich selling this.

2. Because it’s the first time training the legs properly, they’re growing faster because of it. So, it’s not because the upper body hasn’t enough volume and the whole training program needs rejigging, it’s that your upper body is more adapted to training stimuli and has had that initial bout of faster growth we all get.

3. Our legs carry a significant amount more muscle mass than our arms. Their total circumference will increase faster for the same proportional rate of growth.

If you are cutting, there’s a high chance that you’re going to lose enough fat on your legs that your jeans will still fit. If you’re bulking, you’re going to need to buy new ones.

If you genuinely do not want your legs to grow, reduce the total training volume for the legs. This doesn’t suddenly mean that you should increase the upper body workload, however.

Unless of course, you’ve determined by looking at your past programming and rate of progress that the total volume (sets per week per body part) you have here is likely not enough. In which case, consider increasing it. I’m guessing that this isn’t likely applicable though given that you’re asking this about the novice program and so don’t have enough data to gauge this yet.

Even so, I’d caution you against jumping to conclusions that you need more for the reasons we have in this article.

Hope this helps.

Terry
Terry

Thank you for this incredibly thorough response!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Most welcome, Terry. 💪

Arturo
Arturo

Hi Andy, thanks for the useful information. Ive been doing this routine with good results for many months but now I want to change the structure to break the routine. Are there more sample novice programs for bodybuilding in the training book?

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

The book will teach you how to build your own training programs, but it’s not a book full of training program samples. This is the only one we have for bodybuilding focussed novice trainees, our example of how to apply the principles in the book.

This other excerpt from the book will help you to see if this is for you: A 6-Step Guide to Building Training Programs.

Adam Malpass
Adam Malpass

Hi Andy, thanks for the great info. I really like the idea of splitting up the strength/volume days like this. Two questions if I may:

1) I’ve been doing full-body routines (like your Big-3), and 3-days a week works well for my schedule. Would you have any concerns about doing this program over 3-days (i.e. Mon: lower-strength, Wed: upper-strength, Fri: lower-volume, next Mon: upper-volume, etc), and if so would you change anything else?

2) I’m curious about the squat volume being just once-a-week – why is this? Having been doing heavy squats 3-time a week it seems a big drop. Could it make sense to do ligher-weight, higher-rep squats on the lower-body volume days?

Thanks!
Adam

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Hi Adam,
1) Sure, you can try that.
2) Two reasons:
First, when you’re a novice, you need more practice with the lifts, hence greater frequency of The Big 3 Routine.
Second, this is a bodybuilding program, not a powerlifting one, so we’ve included more exercise variety. You’ll see on the powerlifting routine these is twice a week frequency. This isn’t the only way it has to be though. For programming theory, see here.

Adam
Adam

Hi Andy, thanks very much for the quick response. A couple of quick follow-up noob questions:

1) For 3×8 for single-leg exercises, does it mean 8 reps per leg (i.e. total 16 reps per set) or 8 total reps (i.e. 4 reps per leg)?
2) Please could you give an example(s) of which ‘incline push’ exercises you mean for day 4? At first I thought it meant something like incline bench press, but then in the description about the horizontal pushes it says you can use bench press, incline or decline, so I got confused…

Thanks again!

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

1) 8 reps per leg.
2) Yes, the incline bench press is one option but it means any pressing movement at an angle that’s inclined, i.e. between horizontal or vertical. This could be machine, dumbbell, barbell, or cable.

Bob
Bob

Do you think I should add 1 more set in some of the very slow progressing areas? (especially bench) or should I skip to an intermediate routine?

The only reason I don’t think I am an intermediate is bc my stats. I mean 235/5 deadlift is kinda ridiculous to be considered an ‘intermediate’ (especially considering that I am healthy and young male).

Andy Morgan
Andy Morgan

Read this: here.

As a bit of background, also consider reading this: How to Choose the Right Training Program. In it, I argue that training program choice should depend on our level of training advancement, but that it is foolish to try to gauge this by how much we can lift.

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