Beginner to Advanced in 12 weeks

Apr 13, 2011
Beginner to Advanced in 12 weeks

Get a How to From the one and Only Jim Stoppani on how to go from a Beginner to an advanced lifter in 12 weeks

Whether you’re a true beginner who has never had the pleasure of heaving a loaded barbell, or you’re starting on the road to fitness again after a long layoff, this is the perfect plan to take you from beginner bodybuilder to advanced bodybuilder in just 12 weeks. Now that’s not to say that at the end of the 12 weeks you’ll be ready to compete with the likes of Jay Cutler, but you will add considerable muscle mass and strength and be ready to take on some seriously advanced training techniques to build even more muscle size and strength – such as supersets, trisets, 100’s, and the numerous others I use here at JimStoppani.com

 

This beginner to advanced bodybuilder program is grounded in the progression – progression of the exercises you use, progression in the number of sets you completed per workout, progression in the amount of weight you use, and most importantly, progression in your training split. A training split involves how you split up muscle groups each workout. For example, some pro bodybuilders train only one major muscle group each workout. So Monday they may train chest, on Tuesday they may train back, on Wednesday they may train legs, on Thursday they may train Shoulders and on Friday they may train their arms (biceps and triceps), with abs thrown in on one or two of those days for good measure. Since this training split splits the body into five different workouts, it would be considered a five-day training split.

 

There are an infinite number of splits that a bodybuilder can use, but there are specific splits that would be more beneficial than others based on your training experience. The pro bodybuilder’s example above would be to advanced for your current training and would not offer you the best benefits in gaining muscle size and strength.

 

So what is the best training split for a beginner bodybuilder? One of the best training splits for a rank beginner is what is known as a whole-body training split. We’ll get into the details of what that is in just a minute. The real key to training splits is using the proper split as you make proper progression. And that’s the key to advancing from beginner to advanced bodybuilder – advancing to more advanced splits along the way.

 

Phase 1: weeks 1-3 (Whole-Body Training Split)

As the name implies, a whole-body training split involves training your entire body in every workout. The major benefit of this split for beginners is that it allows you to train each muscle group more frequently each week. With a whole-body training split you can train each muscle group three times per week, such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This repetition is important for training your body’s nervous system. Before you can focus on building serious muscle, you first need to train your muscles how to contract properly. Learning how to bench press or squat is like learning to ride a bike, just with less falling. Your muscle fibers need to learn how to contract synchronously, so that you can perform the exercise correctly and apply the most strength when you do it. And the best way to learn how to do something is through repetition.

 

So the first three weeks you will be following a whole-body training split done three times per week. We suggest you train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but any three days of the week will do, as long as you allow one day of rest away from the weights between workouts. That’s because your body needs time to recover from the previous workout. And recovery is critical for making gains in muscle size and strength.

 

 

Phase 1 Rundown:

Exercises: The exercises you will be using are the tried and true mass builders that have been done for decades, if not centuries. These include exercises like the bench press, squat, and barbell curl to name a few. You will do one exercise per muscle group during this phase. Any more than that and the workout becomes prohibitively long and may be too much for your unaccustomed muscles.

Reps: Rep is the abbreviated term for repetition, which involves doing the exercise through one time through its full range of motion. For example, when you lie down on the bench press and lower the bar to your chest and press it back up, that is one rep.  In this phase you will want to do about 10-12 reps per set. That is a good range to learn the exercise, build muscles size and muscle strength for a beginner. One exception is calves and abs. On calves you are better off doing higher reps to stimulate more muscle growth in this stubborn muscle group. And when doing body weight ab exercises, such as crunches, you’ll want to do as many reps as you can per set until reaching muscle failure.

Weight: The amount of weight you will use is determined by the rep range you are using. Since you will be doing 10-12 reps per set, you should choose a weight that prevents you from doing any more than 12 reps, but allows you to complete at least 10 reps. You should expect top get stronger over these three weeks, so once you can do more than 12 reps with the weight you are using it’s time to increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds.

Sets: A set is the term that refers to doing all reps for an exercise. That is, when you pick up the bar and perform as many repetitions as you can before putting the bar down. That completes one set. Typically you do several sets per exercise, with rest taken between those sets. In this phase you will do three sets per exercise, which is just enough repetition to learn the exercise, yet not too much to make the workout last too long.

Rest: During this phase you will rest about 2-3 minutes between sets. The goal is to allow enough rest to allow you to stick fairly close to the rep range using the same weight on all three sets. This will help you gain more size and strength. In fact, research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has reported that beginner lifters resting 2.5 minutes between sets gained more than twice as much muscle size on their arms as those resting just one minute between sets. The exception here is claves and abs which tend to recover faster between sets. For these exercises rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

 

 

Phase 1: Weeks 1-3 Workouts (Whole-Body Training Split) 

Do this workout three times per week with at least one full day of rest between workouts (such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

 

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                      Sets/Reps            Rest

Chest                                    Barbell Bench Press                     3/10-12              2-3 min.

Back                                     Bent-Over Barbell Row               3/10-12              2-3 min.

Legs                                     Squat                                             3/10-12              2-3 min.

Shoulders                             Barbell Shoulder Press                 3/10-12              2-3 min.

Triceps                                 Triceps Pressdown                        3/10-12              2-3 min.

Biceps                                  Barbell Curl                                  3/10-12             2-3 min.

Calves                                  Standing Calf Raise                      3/12-15             1-2 min.

Abs                                      Crunch                                           3/to failure         1-2 min.

 

 

 

Phase 2: Weeks 4-6 (Two-Day Training Split)

After three weeks of following a whole-body workout done three times a week, it’s time to provide your muscles a new challenge. For the next three weeks you will move to a Two-day training split repeated twice a week for a total of 4 workouts per week. A Two-day training split means that you will split up your entire body into two separate workouts, training half the body in one workout and the other half in the second workout. In this particular two-day training split you will train all your torso muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders and abs) in workout 1 and all your limb muscles (biceps, triceps, legs and calves) in workout 2.

 

One major benefit of moving up to a Two-day training split is that it allows you to do more exercises per muscle group and it allows you to train each muscle group with more intensity. Those are two critical components to making continued progress in the gym. To keep growing bigger and stronger, muscles need to gradually do more work. You also need to train them with more intensity. Training fewer muscle groups per workout allows you to put more effort into the muscle groups you are training, by going heavier and really making sure that you take each set to muscle failure.

 

Phase 2 Rundown:

Exercises: The exercises you will be using will be the major mass builders you started in Phase 1, along with an added exercise or two (for legs) for that same muscle group. For most muscle groups this will allow you to do one multijoint mass builder and one single joint or isolation exercise to build both overall size and shape to each muscle group. You will also add an exercise to work a new muscle group in this phase, the trapezius or traps.

Sets: You will still be doing 3 sets per exercise. However, since you are now doing two (or three for legs) exercises per muscle group, that’s a jump in total sets from 3 sets per muscle group, to 6 sets (or 9 sets for legs) per muscle group. This increase in the amount of work you do for each muscle group is important for continued progress.

Reps: In Phase 2 you will drop reps down to 8-10 reps per set on the first exercise for each muscle group. This allows you to train a bit heavier than the previous phase, which will not only help to build more strength, but also aid the addition of more muscle mass.  On the second (and third) exercise you will keep the reps higher at 10-12. Since these exercises will likely be new to you, the higher reps will help you to perfect them better. For calves, you will increase the reps to 15-20.

Weight: You’ll be going heavier this phase, at least on the first exercise for each muscle group. So find a weight that limits you to 8-10 reps on the first exercise and a weight that allows you to complete 10-12 reps on the second (and third) exercise. Again, once you can do more than the rep range listed for each exercise add 5-10 pounds, or whatever weight brings your reps into the listed rep range.

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Rest: During this phase you will also rest about 2-3 minutes between sets to allow you to stick with heavier weight and compete more reps for maximizing strength and size gains.

 

 

 

Phase 2: Weeks 4-6 Workouts (Two-Day Training Split)

Do each of the following workouts twice per week. For example, do workout 1 on Monday and then again on Thursday and do workout 2 on Tuesday and then again on Friday.

 

Workout 1

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                   Sets/Reps            Rest

Chest                                    Bench Press                               3/8-10                 2-3 min.

        Incline Dumbbell Flye                3/10-12                2-3 min.

 

Back                                    Barbell Row                               3/8-10                 2-3 min.

       Lat Pulldown                               3/10-12               2-3 min.

 

Shoulders                           Barbell Shoulder Press                 3/8-10                 2-3 min.

      Dumbbell Lateral Raise                3/10-12               2-3 min.

 

Traps                                 Barbell Shrug                                3/8-10                 2-3 min.

 

Abdominals                       Reverse Crunch                            3/to failure          1-2 min.

      Crunch                                          3/to failure          1-2 min.

 

 

 

Workout 2

 

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                  Sets/Reps            Rest

Biceps                                    Barbell Curl                            3/8-10                  2-3 min.

          Incline Dumbbell Curl            3/10-12                2-3 min.

 

Triceps                                  Close-Grip Bench Press          3/8-10                  2-3 min.

          Triceps Pressdown                  3/10-12                2-3 min.

 

Legs                                      Squat                                       3/8-10                  2-3 min.

         Leg Extension                          3/10-12               2-3 min.

         Lying Leg Curl                        3/10-12               2-3 min.

 

Calves                                 Standing Calf Raise                  2/15-20               1-2 min.

        Seated Calf Raise                     2/15-20                1-2 min.

 


 


Phase 3: Weeks 7-9 (Three-Day Training Split)

After 6 weeks of consistent training you should be coming very comfortable with your form on the exercises you have been doing. That’s because your nervous system and muscle fibers are getting properly trained through the constant repetition. In week nine, it’s time to step up the amount of work you’re doing for each muscle group and the intensity, yet again. Remember, the goal here is to keep progressing and the only way to do that is to keep raising the bar with more work and higher intensity. 

 

Phase 3 progresses you to a Three-Day Training Split. So instead of dividing the body up into two different workouts, you will now be dividing it up into three different workouts. This means that you will train fewer muscle groups each workout, which allows you to do more exercises per muscle group and train each muscle group with even greater intensity.

 

Although there are numerous ways to pair muscle groups to work with a three-day split, one of the most effective is also known as a push/pull/legs split. That means the body is broken down into a push day, where you train all the pushing muscles of the upper body (chest, shoulders and triceps), a pull day, where you train all the pulling muscles of the upper body (back, trap, biceps and forearms) and a leg day (legs and calves)

 

Phase 3 Rundown:

Exercises: The exercises you use in this phase are the ones you have been using in the previous phases with yet again another additional exercise added to most muscle groups. Again, the point of this is to increase the amount of work you do for each muscle group. Although you could increase the amount of work for each muscle group simply by doing more sets per exercise, you are better off adding more exercises. That’s because different exercises target different areas of the muscles. To build well-developed muscles that are balanced and have good shape, you need to target different areas of the muscle. You will also add an exercise for a new muscle group to target – the forearms.

Sets: You will still be doing 3 sets per exercise. However, since you are now adding another exercise for most muscle groups, you will be doing an extra 3 sets per muscle group.

Reps: In this phase, the exercise that you do first for each major muscle group (excluding calves, abs and forearms) you will drop reps down to 6-8 per set. The second exercise will drop down to 8-10 reps per set, yet the last exercise will increase to 12-15 reps per set. This will help you to develop muscle strength, muscle size and muscle definition. 

Weight: As you have been doing in phases 1 and 2, choose the proper weight that allows you to hit the listed rep range for each exercise. And continue to add weight as you can compete more reps than the listed rep range.

Rest: During this phase you will also rest about 2-3 minutes between sets to allow you to stick with heavier weight and compete more reps for maximizing strength and size gains.

 

 

Phase 3: Weeks 7-9 Workouts (Three-Day Training Split)

Do each workout once per week allowing at least one day of rest between workouts

 

 

Workout 1 (Push Day)

 

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                                Sets/Reps            Rest

Chest                                    Bench Press                                            3/6-8                    2-3 min.           

         Incline Dumbbell Bench Press               3/8-10                  2-3 min.

         Incline Dumbbell Flye                           3/12-15                2-3 min.

 

Shoulders                             Barbell Shoulder Press                           3/6-8                    2-3 min.

        Smith Machine Upright Row                  3/8-10                  2-3 min.

        Dumbbell Lateral Raise                          3/12-15                2-3 min.

 

 

Triceps                                Close-Grip Bench Press                          3/6-8                    2-3 min.

      Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension    3/8-10                 2-3 min.

      Triceps Pressdown                                    3/12-15               2-3 min.

 

 

Workout 2 (Legs Day)

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                                Sets/Reps            Rest

Legs                                      Squat                                                      3/6-8                    2-3 min.

         Leg Press                                                3/8-10                   2-3 min.

         Leg Extension                                         3/12-15                2-3 min.

         Lying Leg Curl                                       3/12-15                2-3 min.

 

Calves                                  Standing Calf Raise                                3/20-25               1-2 min.

        Seated Calf Raise                                    3/20-25                1-2 min.

 

Abdominals                        Reverse Crunch                                      3/to failure            1-2 min.

                                           Crunch                                                     3/to failure            1-2 min.

                                           Oblique Cable Crunch                             3/to failure            1-2 min.

 

 

Workout 3 (Pull Day)

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                                Sets/Reps            Rest

Back                                    Barbell Row                                            3/6-8                    2-3 min.

        Lat Pulldown                                           3/8-10                  2-3 min.

       Seated Cable Row                                    3/12-15                2-3 min.

 

Traps                                   Barbell Shrug                                           3/6-8                    2-3 min.

 

Biceps                                 Barbell Curl                                              3/6-8                    2-3 min.

                                           Incline Dumbbell Curl                              3/8-10                   2-3 min.

        Preacher Curl                                            3/12-15                2-3 min.

 

Forearms                             Wrist Curl                                                3/10-12                 1-2 min.

 

 

 


Phase 4: Weeks 10-12 (Four-Day Training Split)

After 9 weeks of consistent training with gradual progression in your exercises, total sets, weight and your training split, you are in the home stretch to becoming an advanced bodybuilding, or at least your ability to train like one. By now you should be realizing incredible gains in your muscle strength, as well as your muscle mass and muscle definition. This phase completes your transition and will ready you to train with the best of them.

 

Now you will be training your entire body over the course of four workouts. This will help you to further increase the amount of work you can do for each muscle group and the intensity you can put into training each muscle group. This four-day training split will split up your body into a chest, triceps and abs workout, back, biceps and forearms workout, legs and calves workout, and shoulders, traps and abs workout. Yes, you will be training abs twice per week now. Since the abs are postural muscles that help with maintaining your upright posture all day, they can withstand more frequent training and respond well to it.

 

Once you’ve completed this final phase, you will be ready to take on advanced high intensity training techniques such as – supersets, drop sets, rest-pause, and extended sets to name a few. You can find more info on these techniques right here at jimstoppani.com. 

 

Phase 4 Rundown:

Exercises: The exercises you use in phase 4 are again the ones you have been using in the previous phases with yet again another additional exercise added to most muscle groups. Triceps and biceps will not need an additional exercise added. These smaller muscle groups generally require less total work than the larger muscle groups like chest, back, shoulders and legs. The progress in the biceps and triceps will come from the weight and rep ranges used.

Sets: You will still be doing 3 sets per exercise. However, since you are now adding yet another exercise for most many groups, you will be doing an extra 3 sets for these muscle group.

Reps: In this phase, the exercise that you do first for each major muscle group (excluding calves, abs and forearms) you will drop reps down to 4-6 per set to maximize strength gains. The second exercise will drop down to 6-8 reps per set for building strength and muscle mass. The exercise, or two last exercises will jump up in reps to 15-20 per set. Research from Japan has shown that combining heavy weight and lower reps with lighter weight sets for higher reps enhances both strength and muscle mass gains.

Weight: As you have been doing in the previous 3 phases, choose the proper weight for each exercise that allows you to hit the listed rep range. Continue to increase the weight as you can compete more reps than the listed rep range.

Rest: During this phase you will also rest about 2-3 minutes between sets where you are using heavier weight and fewer reps. However, you will now drop rest periods between sets down to just one minute on the lighter weight sets where higher reps are performed. Doing higher reps with shorter rest periods will help to maximize growth hormone levels, which will lead to further gains in muscle size and strength, as well an encourage fat loss for greater definition.

 

Phase 4: Week 10-12 (Four-Day Training Split)

Due each workout below once per week, such as Workout 1 on Monday, Workout 2 on Tuesday, Workout 3 on Thursday and Workout 4 on Friday.

 

Workout 1

Muscle Group                        Exercise                                       Sets/Reps        Rest

Chest                           Bench Press                                       3/4-6                   2-3 min.

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press         3/6-8                    2-3 min.

Incline Dumbbell Flye                      3/15-20                1 min.

Cable Cross-over                                 3/15-20             1 min.

 

Triceps                        Close-Grip Bench Press                      3/4-6                2-3 min.

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension  3/6-8            2-3 min.

Triceps Pressdown                                    3/15-20        1 min.

 

Abdominals                Hanging Leg Raise                           3/to failure            1 min.

Bicycle Crunch                                3/to failure            1 min.

                                    Plank                                                   3/1 min.            1 min.

 

Workout 2

Muscle Group            Exercise                                           Sets/Reps            Rest

Back                           Barbell Row                                        3/4-6                 2-3 min

Lat Pulldown                                      3/6-8                2-3 min.

Seated Cable Row                              3/15-20            1 min.

 

Biceps                         Barbell Curl                                      3/4-6                 2-3 min.

                                    Incline Dumbbell Curl                     3/6-8                 2-3 min.

Preacher Curl                                  3/15-20            1 min.

 

Forearms                    Wrist Curl                                       3/12-15       &n

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