Getting Started – Bodybuilding for Beginners


In this article you will learn the correct way to start working towards your bodybuilding and fitness endeavors. By following these steps you will guarantee yourself quick results and save yourself from excessive soreness and injury.

1) Consult Your Doctor And Get A Physical

It is always a good idea for a beginner to get a physical before you embark on a bodybuilding program. While this may sound like a cliche, there is a good reason for this:

You ensure that all your systems are in working order. If for instance a test indicates that your kidney function is abnormal, this not only will impair your progress but it may also make it dangerous to consume the amount of protein needed to make gains. For bodybuilding success, one needs a healthy heart, healthy kidneys and a healthy liver. If any of these systems is not working, then not only does this represent a health hazard, but also you won’t be able to make the gains that you could. So having said that, good blood work to get done to check these systems is the following:

To check cardiovascular function you need the following tests: Total cholesterol, LDL/HDL, Triglycerides, C-reactive protein, Homocysteine levels.

To check liver function you need: alkaline phosphatase, GGT, SGOT, SGPT

To check kidney function you need: creatinine, BUN, and the creatinine/BUN ratio.

For males, a PSA test is also wise to ensure adequate prostate function.

2) Ask Your Doctor To Check Your Hormonal Levels

At the end of the day, a hormonal imbalance will prevent you from achieving your bodybuilding goals. Therefore having the major hormones checked will ensure that you are in perfect working order and ready to get started.

Hormones of interest are: Testosterone, Free testosterone, IGF-1, Estradiol, DHEA/DHEA-s, and a Full thyroid panel to ensure that your metabolism is operating efficiently.

3) Once You Get Your Doctor’s Clearance You Need To Select A Gym

There are a couple of options that a beginning bodybuilder has:

a) Go to a health club. If this option is chosen, then select a club that is closest to your home. In this manner, you do not have to spend alot of time driving prior to your workout. A second choice would be to select a club closest to your workplace. This would work well only if you do not plan to ever go on weekends and if you do not plan to workout with your significant other. Other things to look for before choosing a health club are monthly fees, how well kept is the equipment, hours of operation, how clean is it, and whether or not you feel comfortable in the environment.

b) Make your own home gym. In talking to thousands of trainees, it seems like the majority is better served by attending a health club as most people do not have the motivation to workout at home.

However, if you are like me and like to workout in total solitude, this may be the best option for you. The advantages are obvious: no fees, no crowds, you can superset alot (move from one exercise to the next with no rest), and workout anytime. Disadvantages are that you have no one to spot you so you need to be very careful with what you are doing.

Absolute beginners can get by with very little equipment and make awesome gains. A sturdy bench with a good leg extension/leg curl attachement and a set of adjustable dumbbells such as an Ironmaster set or a Powerblocks set will get you started.

4) Start Out With A Beginner’s Bodybuilding Workout Routine

Many times beginning bodybuilders make the mistake of using the routines of professional bodybuilders featured on magazines, when instead they should be using a routine that is geared towards their level. A good beginning routine that uses minimum equipment (namely a pair of dumbbells and a bench) is the following:

NOTE: In order to get the most out of your routine you need to start easing at this time into a bodybuilding diet as well. Please take a look at my article Easing Into a Bodybuilding Diet in order to learn how to do that.

3 Days A Week Full Body Routine:
(Perform on 3 non-consecutive days such as Mon/Wed/Fri)

75 Degree Incline DB Bench Press
DB Bench Press
One Arm Rows
DB Pullovers
Bent Over Lateral Raises
DB Upright Rows
Dumbbell Curls
Overhead Triceps Extensions
Leg Extensions
DB Squats
DB Lunges (Press with heels)
Lying Leg Curls
Calf Raises

NOTE: DB = Dumbbell

How to Progress:
Perform 2 sets of each exercise for 10-12 reps and rest 1 minute in between sets.

Move up to 3 sets after 4 weeks. At 2 sets per exercise the routine lasts 45 minutes if you rest 1 minute in between sets. At 3 sets it lasts 60 minutes. Do cardiovascular exercise on the days off (20-30 minutes) and also do abs (4 sets of Leg Raises and swiss ball crunches for 15-40 reps).

5) Graduate To An Intermediate Routine

After 12 weeks in the Beginning Bodybuilding Schedule, it is time to graduate to an Intermediate Routine in order to keep progresing. In this routine, the body is split in two separate days; chest, back and arms on day 1, and shoulders, legs and abs on day 2. Also, a leg extension/leg curl attachment will be required for those working out at home.

Day 1-Chest, Back, and Arms
75 Degree Incline Press
Flat Dumbbell Press
Incline Flyes
One Arm Rows
Two Arm Rows
Dumbell Curl
Incline Curls
Overhead Triceps Extensions
Lying Tri Ext

Day 2-Shoulders, Legs, and Abs
Military Press
Barbell Upright Rows
Bent Over Lateral Raises On Incline Bench
Lunges (press with toes)
Leg Extensions
Stiff Legged Deadlifts
Leg Curls
Calf Raises
Sit Ups (Go up to a 30 degree angle only)
Leg Raises
Swiss Ball Crunch
Knee Ins

This routine can be performed either 4 days a week by doing Day 1 on Mon/Thur and Day 2 on Tue/Fri with cardio on Wed/Sat or alternatively 3 non-consecutive days a week like Mon/Wed/Fri alternating between Day 1 and 2, with cardio in the days off.

Perform 2 sets of each exercise for 10-12 reps and rest 1 minute in between sets.

Move up to 3 sets after 4 weeks. At 2 sets per exercise the routine lasts 45 minutes if you rest 1 minute in between sets. At 3 sets it lasts 60 minutes.

6) Graduate To An Advanced Program

After 12-16 weeks on an Intermediate Program, it is time to graduate into more Advanced Routines. This does not necessarily mean more time in the gym, though for those few of you whose ultimate goal is bodybuilding competition, then more time in the gym will be the case.

The main difference between Advanced Training and Intermediate Training is that in Advanced Training, youll need to change your program every 3 weeks to keep the gains coming. Therefore, you will need to incorporate periodization (as specified in my Mass Training Tactics articles), which is the manipulation of sets, repetitions and rest in between sets. If competition is your goal, then you may need to increase your weight training days to 6 in order to accomodate a larger number of exercises. While we will cover periodization more in depth in other articles, for now we’ll present some options on what can be done in terms of a more advanced routine:

Day 1 -Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Day 2 -Thighs, Hamstrings, and Calves
Day 3 -Chest, Back, Abs

You may do Day 1 on Mon/Thur, Day 2 on Tue/Fri and Day 3 on Wed/Sat for maximum results with 20-30 minutes of cardio either first thing in the morning or right after the workout on Mon/Wed/Fri.

Otherwise, you can also benefit from doing Day 1 on Mon, Day 2 on Wed and Day 3 on Fri with cardio on the days off. Choose 2 exercises for each muscle and perform 5 sets/exercise. Keep reps between 10-15 for 3 weeks and 6-8 for the next 3 using different exercises. Rest 1 min between sets.


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  1. hey hugo u r awesum man
    i m doin the intermediate routine n it really works my shoulders hav bcum big now
    thnx for the advices;)

    • Thanks so much for the comments! Best! Hugo

    • Awesome to hear about your results my friend! Keep up the great work!

  2. This is without doubt the best bodybuilding guide online !!!!!

    • Thanks!

  3. this guide is great, im at the end of the beginners routine and it is doing wonders there’s already great changes in my body. you’re the best dude!

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