by Jason Stallworth

March 17, 2019

Welcome to your complete guide of bodybuilding for beginners!

This is going to be an exciting journey and this post has everything you need to start building muscle. 

Here’s what you will learn…

  • The basics of building muscle mass
  • Full beginner’s workout plan
  • Simple nutrition guide
  • Basic supplement guide (there’s only 3 supplements I recommend starting with)


Basics of Bodybuilding
Weight Training Newbie Section
Bodybuilding Workout Plan for Beginners

Nutrition Guide
Supplement Guide
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Basics of Bodybuilding

There’s an art to building muscle. Your goal isn’t just gain weight or get big. Likewise, you don’t want to look thin and skinny. 

Bodybuilding is a balancing act of carrying quality muscle mass with the least amount of body fat. The concept is simple, but it’s far from easy. 

I’ll go over some of the basic principles below that you’ll want to know before you start bodybuilding. This will help you focus on the right things when you get to the gym. 

Building Muscle Size vs Strength

bodybuilding plan for beginners

In bodybuilding, you’re training for muscle size. So your workouts and the way you perform each rep will be different than if your goal was solely for strength gains.

When you’re training for strength, your goal is to lift the maximum weight. So everything you do will be to support that goal. This means you won’t be doing many of the bodybuilding exercises. 

You will indeed get stronger from bodybuilding workouts, but lifting maximum weights is not your primary goal. So strength gains will be a ‘side-effect’ of bodybuilding workouts. 

Your goal is to build and shape your muscles. This requires pumping more blood into your muscles during your workouts. 

The 2 most common ways to build muscle mass are:

  1. More training volume (more overall sets and reps)
  2. Forcing your muscles to do the work as opposed to just moving the weight from point A to B

This doesn’t mean you should not lift heavyweights. You’ll indeed do that at the beginning of your workouts, as you’ll see in the workouts section. But you’ll follow that main compound exercise with exercises that target that specific muscle.

Weight Training Newbie Section

If you’re brand new to weight training in general, this section will help you understand the preliminary elements of lifting. I also include another resource below that goes even deeper.  

Sets and Reps Explained

Sets and reps are the heart of weight training and bodybuilding. Here’s an explanation of both: 

  • Reps: Reps are simply how many times you lift the weight from the starting to the finishing position. For example, if you perform lat pulldowns 12 times from start to finish, that’s 12 reps.
  • Sets: A set is the time you spend performing that exercise from the first rep to the final rep.  In other words, if you are performing the bench press and do 10 reps and stop, that’s 1 set.

The purpose of sets and reps is to keep track of how much volume you’re doing, and it also helps you set goals.

For example, if you did 3 sets of 10 reps for bench press last week, you may want to do 3 sets of 12 reps this week. Or you may stick to the same number of reps and increase the amount of weight.

Building Your Foundation

There are 5 basic compound exercises responsible for building your foundation of muscle. These exercises use the most effort and will build the most muscle because they’re multi-joint exercises. 

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Rows
  • Overhead Barbell Press

So if you’re new to all of this, I encourage you to read my post Fundamentals of Weight Training first, and then come back and read this one. 

Bodybuilding Workout Plan for Beginners

bodybuilding workout for beginners

Below is your simple bodybuilding workout for beginners. This is a great way to get started. 

  • This will be a 5-day workout plan
  • You’ll be training each muscle group once a week
  • Your goal is to focus on one muscle group each workout

Typically, I would recommend either 5 days on, 2 days off (Monday through Friday with weekends off). Or you could also do 3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off. 

Example 1 – 5 on, 2 off:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Workout 3
  • Thursday: Workout 4
  • Friday: Workout 5
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Example 2 – 3 on, 1, off, 2 on, 1 off

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Workout 3
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday: Workout 5
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Chest

You’ll start out with heavy bench press. These exercises will build the foundation for a big chest.

The next 2 exercises target your chest muscles even more. Make sure you contract your muscles and squeeze (flex) your chest at the peak of each rep. 

You can add another exercise after 2-3 weeks if you want (preferably another pressing exercise, like Hammer Strength Press).

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Incline Dumbbell Press3 x 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell Flyes3 x 12

Workout 2: Back

It’s almost impossible not to build back width and thickness with barbell rows. And this is also a heavy compound exercise.

You’re going to do a little more for back than you did for chest. Why? Because back is your largest upper muscle and demands more attention.

The key to building a big and ripped back is to contract those muscles when you pull the weight all the way towards you. And when you release, take your time and force that extra tension on your back muscles. 

After a few weeks, you can add another set of each exercise after rows. 

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Rows3 x 8
Seated Rows3 x 12, 10, 8
Lat Pulldowns3 x 12

Workout 3: Legs

Your volume is increasing with legs. Many neglect their legs, or at best they don’t train them as hard as their upper body. Don’t make that mistake.

You’ll start with heavy squats but after that, it’s all about volume. Legs tend to respond better (and grow faster) from higher rep ranges. This is due to the types of muscle fibers in your quads. 

Make sure you’re forcing your leg muscles to do the work on every rep. Don’t just go through the motions. 

You can later add more sets to this workout. And feel free to up the reps to 15 on everything after squats. 

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats4 x 8-10
Leg Press3 x 10
Leg Extensions3 x 12
Leg Curls3 x 12
Seated or Standing Calve Raises3 x 12

Workout 4: Shoulders

Your shoulder workout will be similar to your chest workout. 

Building big shoulders requires focusing on those specific muscles through each exercise. Don’t sacrifice good form for heavier weight, especially with shoulders.

You can also add more sets, or another exercise later (dumbbells shrugs is something you’ll eventually want to add). 

ExerciseSets x Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Lateral Raises3 x 12
Bent-Over Raises3 x 12

Workout 5: Arms

The final workout of the week is biceps and triceps. And what better way to the week!

If you want to build huge and ripped arms, it’s going to be crucial for you to focus on contracting those muscles throughout each rep. 

Feel free to add some drop sets or rest-pause sets to your arm workout once you get started. 

ExerciseSets x Reps
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10
Barbell Curls3 x 10
Single Cable Pressdowns3 x 12
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 12

How to Increase Intensity

After going through this beginner’s bodybuilding workout plan for 2-3 weeks, you can start adding more exercises and more techniques.

Once you get the movements down, the next step is to increase the intensity of your workouts. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Drop sets
  • Supersets or giant sets
  • Rest-pause sets

Learn how these techniques and more can help you make gains faster in this post: 7 Weight Training Techniques to Increase Intensity

Bodybuilding Nutrition Guide for Beginners

Bodybuilding Nutrition Guide for Beginners

A huge (no pun intended) part of weight training for beginners is nutrition. Most of us start lifting weights to get bigger, aka to gain more muscle. Personally, I was a hardgainer, meaning I had an extremely tough time gaining mass.

Bodybuilding Meal Plan for Beginner’s

Here’s a sample bodybuilding meal plan for beginners. This caters to gaining mass and is considered a sensible, balanced meal plan for a day. Use this meal plan as a guide to create your own bodybuilding meal plan:

Meal 1:

  • 3-4 whole eggs (cage-free)
  • 2 turkey sausage links
  • 1 serving of oatmeal

Meal 2:

  • 1-2 scoops of protein powder
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 serving of natural peanut butter
  • 1 serving of dark berries
  • 6 ounces of water or almond milk (*regular milk if you’re a hardgainer)

Meal 3:

  • 6-8 ounces of ground beef (grass-fed), turkey, or chicken
  • 1 serving of whole wheat pasta
  • 1 serving of fruit or green vegetables

Meal 4:

  • 6-8 ounces of steak, chicken, or fish
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 serving of brown or Jasmine rice

Meal 5:

  • 2 servings of cottage cheese
  • 1 serving of fruit (this is optional if you’re ok with some carbs before bed)

**You have access to an entire page of meal plans to help you pac on muscle here: Meal Plans for Mass and Strength Gains

Again, this is just an example of a one-day bodybuilding meal plan for beginners. You can substitute foods in this plan, and you can also add another meal if you’re looking to gain more mass.

Remember, no matter how hard you work out, if you don’t replenish your body with the proper nutrition it needs, you will not grow. Nutrition is all about recovery and optimizing energy.

Rules for Quality Mass Gains

In addition, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. However, there are a few rules that apply to most. And these are probably the most important of them:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and healthy sources of carbs
  • Stick to natural, organic foods (minimize processed foods)
  • Minimize sugar
  • Don’t undereat
  • If you tend to be on the heavy side, don’t overindulge

Bodybuilding Supplement Guide for Beginners

Bodybuilding Supplement Guide for Beginners

It’s easy to get lost in the world of bodybuilding supplements. There are so many products, brands, and types of supplements. It can be overwhelming even to us that have been in this game for a while.

But no need to fear (because TheMuscleProgram is here)! I’m going to give you a basic supplement plan for beginners.

The truth is you don’t need to be taking a ton of supplements, especially if you’re just starting out. Here’s the basic 3 I recommend starting with for beginners…

1 – Whey Protein

  • What is it for? – Protein is important for building muscle. You need it to recover and grow.
  • Why do you need it? – Specifically taking whey protein after your workout is a great way to kick-start the recovery process since it digests quickly. You can mix it with things like Almond or Coconut milk, fruits, yogurt, and other goodies for your protein shakes. These protein shakes also be used for between meals to increase your overall protein intake.
  • Best times to take – Post-workout and between meals (or can be used as a meal replacement).

2 – Multi-Vitamin

  • What is it for? – To ensure you’re getting the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to recover, function, and grow new muscle.
  • Why do you need it? – Chances are you’re not getting the adequate dose of vitamins and minerals in your diet. And when you’re training hard, you need more than the average couch potato. So it’s crucial to add a multi-vitamin to the top of your list of supplements.
  • Best times to take – With any meal (I take mine with my post-workout meal).

3 – BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

  • What is it for?– BCAAs consist of 3 amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Along with being the building blocks of protein, BCAAs are also necessary for muscle growth and recovery.
  • Why do you need it? – Sipping on BCAA powder mixed with water during your workouts helps increase protein synthesis and prevents the breakdown of protein. It also great muscle energy during your workouts.
  • Best times to take – Pre, intra, and post-workout.

As I stated earlier, there’s an influx of supplement brands and types of supplements. These are my bodybuilding for beginners basics, and in my opinion, it’s all you need for now. Build your foundation first before jumping into the fancy supplements.

It’s Gains O’ Clock! Are You Ready?

workout for beginners

Now it’s time to get excited about your bodybuilding journey! You’ve made the decision to jump into the gym and start getting stronger and building more muscle.

You can even bookmark this page in your favorites in case you need to revert back to it. And I think the bodybuilding for beginners workouts will especially come in handy for you.

There’s no feeling like being in the gym and building muscle, and trust me, you will do this for the rest of your life!

12-Week Mass Building Program

If you feel that you’re ready to take things to the next level, try my 12-week mass and strength training program.

This will take you through the entire process of packing on more muscle mass. And the program is detailed, taking you through every step.

Get started now: 12-Week Hardcore Muscle Building Program

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