Bodybuilding for Beginners - Stepping Stones: Part 2

By Micky McKay Dip PT, MuscleTalk Moderator and Personal Trainer

This article follows on from: Weight Training 0-12 Months Stepping Stones

You have now hopefully completed your first 6-12 months of training. You are feeling on top of the world; feeling stronger, leaner and ready to progress further. But, your gains have slowed down considerably; your strength seems to have dipped completely. Why, you may ask, when I'm putting all this effort in and more?

Well, again this is a about adaptation; the body adapts very quickly to new stresses put upon it. You have to train harder for the same gains, and this is where most beginners to bodybuilding give up. How do we keep the gains going? This now is where training starts to get more interesting; it is how to make sure the body is put under new stresses for more growth and thus, better results.

By now your nutrition should be a whole lot better, with correct ratios of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to help the body train, rest and grow. Nutrition is, in my eyes, 80% of how you will look! Yes, 80%: it's not a typing error! If your nutrition isn't up to scratch, then ensure that it is by contacting a professional person who will help you. Without a good solid diet in place things won't get a whole lot better no matter what type of training you do, period!

You have now only trained the whole body. With a good solid programme, now is the time to progress to split routines. Split routines are designed to fatigue a body-part to exhaustion, in order to break down as many muscle fibres as possible so they grow back stronger for the next training session. This means doing multiple sets on one body part; the bigger the muscle the more sets it can endure. This is generally done once a week, but can be repeated depending on how experienced you are to training. For the routine below, I would say to train a particular body part every seven days to start with. Remember, this is not set in stone but, even after all my 30+ years of weight training it is still how I exercise to this present day.

I have given you the basics of what split routines are, now here is how a basic split routine would look like:

Monday – chest and biceps
Incline flyes – 4 sets; 10 reps
Incline bench press – 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Cable crossovers – 4 sets; 15 reps
EZ curls – 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Hammer curls – 4 sets; 10 reps

Tuesday – quadriceps and calves
Leg extensions – 4 sets; 12 reps
Squats – 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Hack squats – 4 sets; 10 reps
Standing calf raises – 4 sets; 15 reps
Seated calf raises – 4 sets; 15 reps

Wednesday – rest day from weights

Thursday – back and triceps
Lat pulldowns to front – 4 sets 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Barbell bent over rows – 4 sets 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Long pulley seated rows - 4 sets 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Dumbbell pullovers – 3 sets; 15 reps
Pushdowns – 4 sets; 12 reps
French press – 4 sets; 12,10, 8, 6 reps

Friday – shoulders and hamstrings
Seated lateral raises – 4 sets; 12 reps
Front barbell press – 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Front barbell raises – 3 sets; 12 reps
Bent over dumbbell raises – 3 sets; 12 reps
Seated leg curls – 4 sets; 15 reps
Lying leg curls – 4 sets; 12, 10, 8, 6 reps

Abs can be worked at the end of each session, if desired. Never train abdominals at the start of a weight training session as they are stabilizing muscles and, if fatigued, it will detract from your session.

So, there you have a four day split session to be followed for 8 weeks, then to be upgraded. As you can see, bigger body parts get more sets, e.g. chest 12 sets, biceps 8 sets. What you have to remember is biceps will also be also be worked during a back session and triceps on chest days, so there's no need to overload them with big workloads at this stage in your training life!

This type of split routine is a pre-exhaust, which means an isolation exercise is done before a compound movement, so flyes (isolation) are performed before bench press (compound); this allows blood to enter the muscle and allow more nutrients in before your heavy compound movement. I like to give clients who are fairly new to split routines these as it tends to help them avoid injuries from attempting too heavy a weight on their compounds when the muscles are still cold.

To be clear about sets and reps: 4 sets of 12 means doing four sets of twelve repetitions with the same weight; try to increase the weight when possible. 4 sets 12, 10, 8, 6 means do one set of twelve reps, put on more weight for a set of ten reps, put on more weight and do a set of eight reps, and more weight for a finish with six reps. This is called hypertrophy training, one of the best ways to increase muscle growth.

As with any form of training, please ensure you warm up well; before your working sets do 2-3 warm up sets then proceed with your working sets as per the plan.

There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say, for me this is the best way for people with around 6-12 months of training to proceed. I could go on forever over the pros and cons off different routines and formats but that's for a different article further down the line.

In Stepping Stones Part 3 I will go into a bit more depth about split routines, drop sets, bulk sets, negatives, etc and try, in layman's terms, to explain what they are and when they can be used in your next routine. Keep training hard, eating well and resting when you can, most of all be consistent with all of this and the physique you desire will be one step closer.

If you're seeking professional help with training contact or