This program isn’t just for the true beginner who has never touched a weight before; it’s also suitable for anyone who has taken an extended leave of absence from training. How long has it been since you went to the gym regularly? Six months? A year? Five years? No worries: The following routines will get you back on track in—you guessed it—just four short weeks. Let’s get to work.
BEGINNER'S WORKOUT AT A GLANCE
Week 1: Full-body split
Week 2: Two-day split: Upper body/Lower body
Week 3: Three-day split: Push/Pull/Legs
Week 4: Four-day split: Full body
WEEK 1: WHOLE IN ONE
You’ll begin the program with a full-body training Opens a New Window. split, meaning you’ll train all major bodyparts in each workout (as opposed to “splitting up” your training). Train three days this first week, performing just one exercise per bodypart in each session. It’s important that you have a day of rest between each workout to allow your body to recover; this makes training Monday, Wednesday and Friday—with Saturday and Sunday being rest days—a good approach.
WEEK 2: SPLIT DECISION
You’re only a week into the program, yet you’ll begin to train different bodyparts on different days with a two-day training split Opens a New Window. (meaning the entire body is trained over the course of two days, rather than one as in the first week). You’ll train a total of four days this week; the split includes two upper-body days (Monday and Thursday) and two lower-body days (Tuesday and Friday), and each bodypart is trained twice. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday will be your recovery days.
Several exercises from Week 1 are carried over to Week 2, but one move is added to each bodypart routine—with the exception of abs—so you can train all muscle groups more completely from multiple angles. Chest, for example, includes two exercises: One is a compound movement Opens a New Window. (dumbbell bench press) that involves multiple joints (both the shoulder and elbow) to work the largest amount of muscle possible, and the other is an isolation exercise (dumbbell flye) that involves only one joint (shoulder) and targets the pecs to a greater extent. (When doing presses for chest, the deltoids and triceps are involved to a degree, meaning presses don’t isolate the pecs as much as flyes do.)
You’ll again employ a reverse pyramid scheme of reps, though in Week 2 you’ll go slightly higher in reps (15) on your third set of each exercise. Fifteen reps may be just outside the ideal muscle-building range, but these sets will help you increase muscular endurance to provide a solid foundation on which to build size and strength going forward.
WEEK 3: THREE ON THREE
In the third week of the program we step it up to a three-day training split: Train all “pushing” bodyparts (chest, shoulders, triceps) on Day 1; hit the “pulling” bodyparts (back, biceps) and abs on Day 2; and work your lower body (quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves) on Day 3. As in Week 2, you train each bodypart twice a week, so you’ll hit the gym six days this week.
WEEK 4: TURNING UP THE VOLUME
In the fourth and final week of the program, you’ll train four days in a four-way split that hits each bodypart just once (except for calves and abs, which are each trained twice). Four-day splits are common among experienced lifters because they involve training fewer bodyparts (typically 2–3) per workout, which gives each muscle group ample attention and allows you to train with higher volume. As you’ll see, chest and triceps are paired up, as are back with biceps and quads with hamstrings, each a very common pairing among novice and advanced bodybuilders. Shoulders are trained more or less on their own, and you’ll alternate hitting calves and abs—which respond well to being trained multiple times per week—every other workout. No new exercises are introduced in Week 4 so that you can focus on intensity in your workouts instead of learning new movements.