Let's face it - you don't want the term beginner to apply to you for very long. Either you've never lifted weights before, or you once did but are coming off an extended absence from the gym and are looking for a program to ease you back into training. Whatever the case, you don't mind a gradual approach, but at the same time you want to graduate to advanced status sooner rather than later. Not to mention you'd like to see your body getting bigger, leaner and stronger as soon as possible. Fine with us. We would hate to stunt your growth.
That's why this training program is all about progression. Sure, the first few weeks are pretty elementary (to let your body acclimate to the new stress without risking injury), but within a month the program will reach an intermediate level, and by the end it will be what you can consider advanced.
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Indeed, it's all about progress. Every three weeks marks an upgrade in exercises, the amount of weight used and, best of all, the condition of your physique. Not only will you see a significant change in your body by the end of three months, but you should also see results in the mirror within just a few weeks. There's a method to our madness.
Weeks 1-3: Rise Of The Machines:
The first of four three-week phases consists of all machine exercises to introduce the muscles to resistance training without throwing them into the advanced stuff right away. On machine movements, the path of motion is predetermined, and stabilizing muscles that help balance the weight aren't called on as much as they will be in subsequent phases. As a result, you'll learn the correct path of motion for each muscle group while still getting a great workout to set the stage for the free-weight training that's right around corner.
Each workout trains the entire body (whereas workouts will be split up to train different body parts in the subsequent three phases) three times a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or any other three days, so long as you rest at least one day between each workout. Because frequency is relatively high, perform only one exercise per muscle group in each workout. However, your total volume for the week (the total number of sets you do) is still substantial enough to elicit gains in muscular size and strength.
Rep ranges are relatively high, at 12-15 reps for all sets, with the exception of abs and calves (two body parts that usually respond better to slightly higher rep counts). Beginning your program with higher reps conditions your muscles and builds a base of endurance that'll help you in the weeks to follow.
For the rest of our annual beginner's guide, pick up the February issue of M&F, on newsstands January 7!
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DARTER
For more M&F, visit their website: www.muscleandfitness.com.