Beginners bodybuilding guide

Hey guys, as I've just joined The Student Room I thought I'd try start by making a somewhat decent contribution. Over the past two years I've discovered and made weight training a big part of my life. I originally started with the intention of shedding a bit of body fat but that immediately changed after watching Rocky for the first time. I was astounded by the shape Stallone managed to get into for the series and made it a goal of mine to one day obtain a similar physique. Two years on now 16, I still haven't reached that goal, but I've come a long way and have gained the knowledge which will allow me to embody the perfect physique (my opinion of it).

Solely based on research and learning the hard way, I would like provide you guys around my age just starting at the gym, with a short guide to ensure a safe, effective start to weight lifting regardless of your goals within the discipline be it just gaining a bit of mass or going the whole nine yards and completely transforming your body this guide will be helpful.

Quickly I'll give you a brief summary of the progress I've made with weight lifting and my current goals. Although I've been going to the gym for two years I can only say I've been serious with my routine for a bit more than a year. At the start of that year I weighed 68 kilos with 24% body fat at 5'11, I'm now at 78 kilos with 8% body fat at 6 foot. My current goal is reaching 85-88 kilos with 5-6% body fat to ensure a large yet extremely cut physique.

Okay, to ensure that you obtain the results that you want, you have to train efficiently and supplement your training effectively. I will go over the basics for training first and then if you find this article useful part two on nutrition will be out soon as well.

So you're just starting at the gym and you want to pump some iron, but where to begin? What to train? How much? How often? How heavy? And the list goes on. Well lets break it down, and make it less confusing. Well first and foremost, regardless of your goals, you might want bigger arms, some tone in your legs, wider shoulders, if you want to work out you must not leave a muscle group out. A routine that hits all the muscles in the body has to be established, It keeps you in proportion and also ensures a safer, healthier workout experience. Whether you workout all these muscles in one, two or even five sessions depends on how much time you wish to spend at the gym.

The muscle groups








Above are the muscle groups that we target with the appropriate exercises with weights. Muscle groups should be trained one by one, even if you're doing a full body workout, muscle groups should be treated individually. How to train the muscle groups of the body will be covered later. As I said earlier a workout regimen must cover all the muscle groups because the body uses combinations of multiple groups every day with every action we make. Also training other muscle groups significantly more than others will result in the weaker muscles setting yourself back with other exercises. For example a deadlift, predominantly a back exercise also uses the legs in order to complete the motion. If the said individual slacked off with the leg training, it could very easily be the case that he/she would not be able to complete the movement. So basically you would not only be limiting the potential of your leg muscles, but your back ones too.

Below are muscle group pairings that have worked well for me based on the number of days spent working out a week. There are countless pairings/combinations online but below are some of the effective ones that I have used in the past.

3 Day Spread (one day rest in between days)

3 exercises for each group

Day one- Back, biceps

Day two- Legs, abs

Day three- Chest, triceps, shoulders

4 Day Spread (two days on, one day rest, two days on)

4-6 exercises for each group

Day one-Chest, triceps

Day two-Biceps, shoulders

Day three-Legs, abs Day four- back


5 Day Spread (five days on, two days off) 4-8 exercises for each group


Day one-Back

Day two-Chest

Day three-Shoulders

Day four-Legs

Day five-Biceps, Triceps

An essential rule to remember is not to work the same muscle groups on consecutive days like so many people I see do, I did the same when I started and it was probably why I only made minimal gains! Muscles need time to recover and repair after a work out because with weight lifting what we are effectively doing is tearing muscle fibers, when are muscles grow bigger it's when the torn fibers repair larger and stronger than they were before. As you can see, with the different day spreads different exercise amounts have been recommended. With routines with lesser workout days and multiple muscle groups combined into single workouts, a lesser amount of exercises is recommendable to prevent overtraining. With the routines with more workout days there is more time to spend specializing workouts to one/two muscle groups. More advanced bodybuilders tend to workout four to six times a week to ensure optimum muscle gains all round however it is your choice how you proceed if your just starting. By all means start with a five day routine if you can make the commitment, you will definitely see results but it doesn't mean that a three day routine won't work either. I started with a simple three day routine and made incredible gains.

In this article I wont explain to you the form for each exercise, there are several resources online which will show you the form perfectly. A site that I use frequently is where they have video tutorials for every single weight lifting move under the sun. Instead I'm going to point you in the right direction with your workouts and suggest you the moves which will get you the best results and also how many repetitions and sets to do.

Muscle groups are simply sets of muscles grouped in areas of the body which can be worked out together in order to gain size. This is done with compound moves (exercises which hit multiple muscles) and isolation moves which target muscles in a more specialized fashion.

Firstly I'm going to talk to you about the power of three. These are the three moves which should be part of every workout routine they are the deadlift, the bench press and the squat. With these moves effectively all of the muscles in the body are worked out. These moves also hit the muscles unlike any other exercises do. The deadlift hits the back,legs,shoulders and abs. The bench press hits the chest, biceps, triceps, back and shoulders. And finally the squat hits the legs and abs. Sets and repetitions will all be covered shortly.

Now a topic questioned infinitely by the beginners and the veterans of bodybuilding. There are literally hundreds of ways that people arrange their sets and repetitions but I'm going to suggest a way of doing it that is simple but used by the most advanced in the sport. As you get more into weightlifting/bodybuilding you will yourself discover other ways of arranging repetitions and sets from peers or other resources.


Above are the number of repetitions I suggest for each set of weights you do. The majority of the exercises I recommend in this article will use this format but if otherwise I will tell you. Basically you increase the amount of weight you lift every set you do. To begin with you choose a weight you can lift with good form, 12 times but no more, you then increase the weight and lift what you can with good form but this time 10 times. You repeat this until you get to 6 reps. This method of repetition is very effective because it pushes your body to its threshold with different amounts of weights shocking your muscles and causing fibers to tear (which is a good thing as I said earlier!).

I cannot stress to you anymore, once you learn the form to the exercises I suggest, always do them with perfect form. If you can't lift the weight with good form, don't alter it so you can do so. It will only cause you injury and wont promote muscle gains. If you stick to your routine you will eventually be able to lift that weight you want to lift (given that you supplement your training correctly too! Covered later).

For each muscle group I will recommend four to six exercises, the first three will be the essential ones that should be done every work out. The way that I've set this out is so that it works with the workout routine schedules i listed earlier. The first three exercises should be done regardless of the day spread, but the additional exercises should be done according to the amount of exercises I've suggested that increase the more days there are in the spread.


1. Flat bench press - 12-10-8-6

2. Incline bench press - 12-10-8-6

3. Dumbbell/cable flyes - 12-10-8-6

4. Incline dumbbell/cable flyes - 12-10-8-6

5. Nautilus Press 12-10-8-6

6.Pushups - 3 sets til failure (meaning do the exercise until you can't do it with form any longer)


1. Exercise ball crunches -20-20-20-20

2. Hanging leg raises - 15-15-15 (do knee raises instead to get strength up if leg raises are too difficult)

3. Jacknife on excercise ball - 10-10-10

4. Decline crunches -15-15-15

5. Oblique cable twists - 15-15-15

6. The plank - 60 seconds


1. Dumbbell curls (on each arm) -12-10-8-6

2. Hammer curls - 12-10-8-6

3. Preacher curls -12-10-8-6

4. Barbell curls - 12-12-12-12 (high reps to wear down the muscle)

5. EZ-bar curls, suicide grip - 12-10-8-6

6. Pullups - 3 sets til failure


1. Triceps rope pulldowns - 12-10-10-8-followed by 3 drop sets til failure (after the 8 rep set, lower the weight and do the exercise til failure. Repeat this 3 times in total lowering the weight each time).

2. Triceps bar pulldowns - 12-10-10-8

3. Triceps dips - 3 sets til failure

4. Triceps shuttles - 12-10-8-6

5. Overhead triceps pulls - 12-10-10-8

Legs 1. Squats (barbell or dumbbell) - 15-12-10-8-6 (i recommend a set of 15 to warm up before the strain a squat can put on your legs at heavier weights)

2. Leg press - 12-12-10-10-8-6

3. Leg extension machine - 15-12-10-10-8

4. Dumbbell lunges - 12-10-10-8

I recommend high repetitions and sets for leg workouts as they respond best to them and have brought me great results.


1. Dumbbell shoulder press -12-10-8-6

2. Front shoulder raises - 12-10-10-8

3. Side shoulder raises - 12-10-10-8

4. Rotator cuff cable movement - 10-10-10-10

5. Military press with barbell - 12-10-8-6

6. Arnold press - 12-10-8-6


1. Barbell Deadlift - 12-10-10-8

2. Lat pulldown - 12-10-8-6

3. One armed bent over rows - 12-10-8-6

4. Lat pullups - 12-12-12-12-12

5. Bent over rows with barbell - 12-10-8-6

6. Back hyperextensions - 12-12-12-12

As you can see for some exercises i've changed the repetitions and sets but basically higher reps mean lower weight and vice versa with low reps. I've suggested that some exercises be done with sets til failure. The benefit of doing sets til failure is that it exhausts your muscle deeply. With sets til failure the definition in your muscles will increase dramatically, however it is only effective on some muscles within muscle groups.

If you follow these moves with form and incorporate them into your workouts then it's guaranteed you'll see results. By no means however follow them as if words from the Bible, with your experiences at the gym you'll discover other moves that will help you achieve your goals just as well.

Hopefully somebody will benefit from this article, if your somebody more experienced than me feel free to leave me constructive criticism as I am still new to the sport. Soon to come also will be the nutrition article where I will talk about the most important part when it comes to obtaining results!