TOPIC: What Is The Best Mass-Building Workout For Skinny Beginners?
As a respected member of the Bodybuilding.com message board and as a bodybuilder, you get a lot of questions from people that look up to you. Today, it's a skinny kid, who just hours earlier bought his first gym membership after seeing the latest Terminator movie. He is ready to pack on the beef, scare away the bullies, and get the ladies! He is motivated and excited... but has no idea what to do with all the dumbbells, barbells, and odd machines that he sees in front of him in the gym.
What workout program would you design for him so he can gain as much mass as possible in the shortest amount of time? We are not talking about nutrition or supplements right now, just the workout plan. Design a 12-week or longer program, list the exercises, reps, days to do the workout(s), and list some tips for getting the most out of it.
When you are done, he should be able to just print it out and take it to the gym and have all the information he needs to do his workout. (We will add the exercise descriptions and videos for you.)
Let's see what you come up with! Are you really the smart bodybuilder that this kid thinks you are?
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1st Place - ravadongon
The short answer to the question: what is the best mass-building workout for skinny beginners? Well... there isn't. Beginners will more than likely make progress irrespective of what they do, as long as they train consistently.
Beginning weight trainers exhibit around twice the improvement in about half the time compared with stronger experienced weight trainers. After a while though, the body's ability to recover from workouts is out paced by the trainer's ability to increase the intensity of their workouts.
Before I jump into the routine, I feel the need to discuss with you the key concept behind weight training and my training plan for you. Nutrition and rest aside, the key to all lean gains in the training department is progressive overload.
What Does Hypertrophy Mean?
An increase in the size of a tissue or organ due to the enlargement of existing cells.
Progressive overload is the principle of progressively increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system so that gains can continually be made in hypertrophy, strength and endurance. It can be achieved in 8 main ways:
- Increasing volume
- Increasing resistance
- Increasing repetitions
- Increasing sets
- Increasing time under tension (aka TUT)
- Increasing exercises
- Increasing frequency
- Increasing intensity
- Increasing efficiency
- Decreasing Rest
The following 6 month plan is one that I've had a couple of my mates, who were reasonably new to weight training, do.
All of them have had excellent results, in both overall strength and hypertrophy, with this routine, even without the best of diets (that's not to say diet isn't important, as it is more important than training, and they could've had even better results with improved diets).
Not being a bodybuilder myself I haven't tried it, but I realize the main principle, which I built it behind (progressive overload), and the results of my mates speak for themselves. So without further ado, here it is:
Hypertrophy Training 4 n0oBz!
6 Months (24 weeks) Worth Of Solid Muscle Gains!
Upper Body Day - (90-120s rest between sets)
Lower Body Day - (90-120s rest between sets)
This split should get you started out nicely. The idea of this format is to get you familiar with all the main exercises and weight training in general as well as giving you plenty of time to recover from your workouts, so you can start making gains straight away, instead of overtraining and making no progress.
All exercises are performed in the 8-12 repetition range, as it allows you to work with weights which you can develop good form with, as well as being in a range promoting hypertrophy.
So the idea is you start of with a weight you can use for 8 repetitions, work up to doing 12 repetitions with that weight and then increase the weight until you can only perform 8, continue this cycle.
This way you will be achieving progressive overload through increasing repetitions and increasing resistance.
Pull - (90-120s between sets)
Legs - (90-120s rest between sets)
Push - (90-120s rest between sets)
This split is an advancement on the previous split. It is a change that not only promotes progressive overload by making you work with heavier loads (increasing resistance), increasing efficiency by keeping the between set rest time the same with these heavier loads and increasing sets per muscle group, but also prevents you from getting bored with the previous split, in which you were only training twice a week.
Exercises are performed in varied repetition ranges; however they are all lowered from the previous split, forcing you to work with heavier weights for all exercises.
As with the previous split follow the same guideline of choosing the weight to use e.g. if the repetition range is 4-8, choose a weight you can perform 4 repetitions with.
When you can perform 8 repetitions with that weight, then increase the weight until you can only perform 4 and continue the cycle (same principle applies with other rep ranges). This promotes progressive overload by both increasing resistance and increasing repetitions.
Personally I have tried this particular split before, and made some great gains in both hypertrophy and strength using it, all while not spending as long in the weights room.
Upper Strength - (180-300s rest between sets)
Lower Hypertrophy - (90-120s rest between sets)
Upper Hypertrophy - (90-120s rest between sets)
Lower Strength - (180-300s rest between sets)
This split is a further progression on the previous split. It is based on the Dual Factor theory, which is about fitness (the positive effect after training) and fatigue (the negative effect after training) and striking the correct balance between the two.
It also works using conjugate periodization, by working more than one fitness abilities, strength and hypertrophy at the same time (bigger strength gains promote progressive overload which lead to bigger hypertrophy gains).
Again you are also achieving progressive overload in numerous ways, by increasing resistance, repetitions, sets, exercises and frequency. Rest periods are longer on strength days because you will be working with much heavier weights and therefore will need more time to recover between sets.
Many people have had excellent results using the dual factor system of training, and in fact many of the top athletes use that method of training, so there is no doubting that it works well.
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- When working with heavy weights on certain exercises it is important you have a spotter. You are your best judge here, if you feel uncomfortable working with a certain weight in a particular exercise on your own, get yourself a spotter.
- Keep track of your progress. This means keeping a log of all your workouts and your diet (optional) so you can keep improving, as well as taking measurements and/or pictures so you can compare before/after changes, to see if you are making progress in your body composition. Here is some more information on how you can track your progress: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/topicoftheweek43.htm.
- Be prepared for your workouts. Don't be in a last minute rush to organize what you need to take to the gym, have everything packed in advance so you don't need to worry and can prepare mentally for your workout, i.e. get yourself 'psyched up'. You'd be surprised how much your frame of mind can affect your workout.
- Once you finish the 6 months of training, you can either try a new routine, or start at the beginning again from my training plan.
Enjoy your workouts and your new muscle gains,
2nd Place - Squats
A Mass Building Workout For Beginners
When starting out being a skinny bodybuilder is a good base to start off on. The main focus of a skinny beginner is to always get bigger and gradually add mass to his frame.
One of the best ways to stimulate growth is to train with a serious mindset of what he/she is doing. One of the best basic workouts for building mass would be to start lifting heavy with low/moderate rep ranges using a lot of compound movements and little single joint (isolation) exercises.
Why Do You Get Bigger From Lifting Heavier?
One of the common myth's I hear a lot is lifting heavy will not do much for size, well this is true and false. People who train sh*t heavy for 3 lifts may not be as big as some bodybuilders. But some are, a lot of them eat a lot and lift heavy 24/7 and most have good genetics.
I see plenty of guys who do this. They diet down and enter bodybuilding shows and just crush their competitors. Rep ranges usually would be around 4-8 reps per set (aside from warm-up sets). Lifting more weights will tear the muscle fibers (what you want) instead of doing less weight and tearing less fibers.
Now to make sure growth will occur you have to have proper nutrition to fully recover the torn muscle to grow and get bigger and stronger than ever before. This is the #1 reason why nutrition is important with a solid workout to grow bigger in the beginning.
What Split Should You Use?
There are plenty of different ways to split your workouts and muscle groups in the week. Many people do basic 3-day splits (which is 3 workouts to work the entire body). Many like to do 6-day splits and working 1-2 muscles each workout. Many of these work well but don't for many people.
Recovery issues come into play when figuring the right training split. Many with good recovery time would use more workouts to work the muscles instead of less workouts to work the same muscles.
Many like to workout each body part twice a week (which should be used in advanced training later on) which I don't recommend for beginning.
Here is a list of muscle groups that you will want to work each workout day.
- Back (thickness, width)
- Thighs (hamstrings, quadriceps)
- Flat Bench Press
Many bodybuilders don't like this exercise due to how much they feel it doesn't work the chest. This is a compound exercise that works the chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids.
I have felt a beginner should always start with the basics. I used this exercise when I began and I had pretty good results with it. So I always add it because of personal experiences, but if someone feels they're not growing enough from it, I would switch it to dumbbells instead.
- Incline Press
This exercise stresses more of the upper pectorals of the chest. It is a good exercise to use in your training program and should always be used to your advantage.
Another good thing to use with this is dumbbells. Use them every now and then if you need to. Dumbbells will help you get a better range of motion (ROM), which are very useful in training.
- Decline Press
This is one of the exercises that has been lost in the past couple of years. No one seems to ever use it and that is one problem with today's average training. This is one of the greatest exercises to add more stress to the lower pectorals. Using dumbbells with the pecs is another option for variety and a better range of motion.
Another good exercise to add to your training is chest dips. This will really bring out your lower pectorals and making your chest look a lot fuller. Another good compound exercise to use every workout.
Although most people don't use this exercise much, I always suggest to beginners that they try them. It's a great exercise to pump up and tear the muscle fibers and is a good exercise to improve on.
One of the best back builders is the deadlift. This is an exercise that should always be used with lower rep ranges and heavy weights. This exercise is really good for developing the lower back as well. Deadlifts will also improve back thickness which is one of the factors that makes a good back.
- Barbell Rows
Another good back thickness exercise is basic barbell rows. This exercise is one of the best exercises used in back training and should always be used to develop the lats of the back.
One of the basic compound exercises should be added to your workout regime as well. This exercise should be the first exercise you do in a back workout. If you can do more then 12 reps with your body weight, add weight to it. Good in developing width in the lats.
- Lat Pulldowns
Another good exercise to develop and widen the lats is the lat pulldown. This exercise is a great beginning exercise to strengthen the lats and improve over development.
The best thigh developer is the basic squat. This stresses the quadriceps and is a great mass builder. If you can go real deep on squatting without sacrificing form do that.
If you can go to parallel, do that. It all depends on your abilities right now. When you get the hang of it, it will be easier to go deeper when squatting.
Another good exercise to use to develop the quadriceps and hamstrings are lunges. Great way to add mass and develop mass in the thighs.
- Leg Curls
To further develop the hamstrings is to use leg curls. Just a basic single joint movement to add more mass to the hamstrings.
- Barbell Curls
The overall mass builder for developing good biceps is the basic barbell curl. Use shoulder width for this exercise when gripping the barbell. You will most likely feel a pain in the forearms when using this exercise.
Make sure to set the bar down slower so you don't get as much pain. You can also use a EZ-Bar to take stress off the forearms.
- Incline Dumbbell Curls
This exercise is great for creating more peak to the biceps. Doing this exercise heavy will greatly develop the biceps than most other exercises. Great for adding mass.
Many don't understand how this exercise works the biceps. It works the biceps because it is a compound exercise. Underhand grip and pulling yourself up is a great way to add more mass to the biceps.
- Close-Grip Press
This exercise is one of the best mass builders for triceps. Develops all the heads with a heavy weight and stimulates the muscle into growth. Weird movements, but you'll get the hang of it a few weeks after doing them.
- French Press
Another good exercise is basically extending the triceps at a different angle. Great developing exercise for the three heads of the triceps.
Heavy dips are another good mass building exercise for the triceps. When training the triceps, heavy compounds are the only way to go.
- Barbell Shoulder Press
Some of the best movements to hit the deltoids are mainly heavy compound presses. You can go a lot heavier on presses then regular raises causing more stimulation to the deltoids.
- Push Press
Another over head press where you can add a lot more weight and stimulate the deltoids more than regular seated overhead presses. Good exercise to develop the deltoids.
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
For more variety and stabilizer muscles being used, try these. With dumbbells you get a lot better range of motion (ROM) which develops the deltoids better.
- Side laterals
The only raising movement I suggest for deltoids are side laterals. Most overhead presses don't hit the medial deltoid as much as anterior and posterior deltoids.
One of the basic exercises to work the abdominals is the crunch. Just a basic contraction to stimulate growth.
- Oblique Crunch
Side bends are one exercise that can ruin your v-taper. That is why I suggest you use a oblique crunch instead to keep your v-taper and still have obliques.
- Knee Raises
For lower abdominal work, just simple leg raises are enough to hit them. Crunches don't hit the lower abdominals as much as knee raises will.
- Wrist Curls
Just the basic wrist curl is enough to help stimulate growth in the forearm. Most the time it gets worked when doing back exercises. This exercise is good because it is safer then others.
- Reverse Wrist Curls
Another exercise to stimulate the other side of the forearm. Again another safe exercise and is also worked by other exercises performed with different muscle groups.
- Calf Raises
Whether it is standing, seated, or donkey calf raises, those are all you need to stimulate growth for the calves. Many people grow from high rep ranges and serious weights to make the calves pop out.
Chest, Triceps, Abs
Back, Biceps, Forearms
Now remember don't always expect that your training will make you grow. When you lift you stimulate your muscles and your nutrition recovers them making them grow and get stronger.
Proper nutrition is always your #1 key when starting bodybuilding. Especially when your skinny, your diet will determine 9/10 of whether your going to gain weight or not.
Information For Safety
- Always work on form before you add weight. Make sure to get all your lifts down and have good form before you start lifting.
- Make sure when you do this workout that you always have a spotter or a power rack with you to insure you don't get hurt.
List Of Exercises & How To Perform Them Here.
3rd Place - BigNorwegian
This is a bulking routine I've been using for a good time now. I received the original version from DL, however I have modified it to my personal liking.
I've gained a good 20 - 25 lbs with this routine and still am seeing steady results. This is by far the best routine I have tried. With a solid diet you are sure to see great results.
Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Military Press - 2 warm-ups, 1 work set like with incline bench getting your last set in the 6-8 range.
- Lateral Fly - 10-12 working sets in 10-12 range. Perform as a drop set (machine laterals are good for drop sets) starting as high as you can and still get 8-10 reps. Next week go up 5-10 lbs on first set but don't go up the next week unless you can get 10 reps on first set. Once in a while you can go up the ladder in weights using DB's.
- Rear Delt Machine - 1 warm-up, 1 work set
- Seated Row Rear Delt Exercise - Sit in seated row machine, and using a rope through the hook, pull each end of rope until your elbows are up and out to sides and your hands are by your cheeks on your face. You will feel this in your rear delts the next day. Do 2 warm-ups, one working set.
- Wide Grip BB Upright Rows - Grab the BB as far out as you can and slowly raise up along your body until the BB is over your chest and at lower neck level. Then slowly lower weight until arms are fully stretched. Slowly raise BB up your body until at neck level, then slowly lower and repeat. One set should destroy your rear delts if you did one of the other two exercises first.
Quads, Hams, Calves
Abs, Back, Bis
Your first exercise should be a warm-up; warm-ups play a very important factor with this routine. A warm-up per exercise allows your body to optimize the firing of the neuropathways.
If your max (a work set) for bench press is 3 plates, then you would do 2 warm-up sets with the bar, 2 warm-up sets of one plate, 1 warm-up set with 2 plates and then your work set with 3 plates.
Reps, Sets & Tempo:
The work set is a set where you want your body to fail during your push/pull motion, ideally at around 6 reps. Every workout you should be doing either more reps or increasing the weight in that work set (remember, the muscle has to do something that it has not done before).
So if in one work out you fail at 6 reps, the following should be nothing less than 7. When you reach around 8 reps for that exercise, the following workout for that exercise set should be an increased weight from the previous, you should note that you have to do a minimal of 4 reps after increasing the weight, if not you are not ready to increase the weight.
Each rep has a tempo of 2-1-1. That is 2 seconds in the negative, one second in the contraction and 1 second in the positive. Then, after you fail in the incline press, you move straight to flat fly. You do not need a warm-up now because your chest is more than warm after you failed on presses. And that's it for chest.
The basic routine stays the same. If you want variety, small changes as using DB's instead of BB or doing flat press and incline fly for example, is more than enough variety to keep the muscle 'confused'.
Keep in mind a muscle will not grow until it's recovered. A muscle will not begin to recover until the nervous system is recovered. It takes roughly 24hours for the nervous system to recover from a workout, after the nervous system has recovered the muscle will begin to recover as well and grow. This is the very reason why I do not train 2 days in a row.
The very reason why a muscle grows is for the fact that it must "adapt". In order to create a synthetic atmosphere for the muscle to "adapt" one must have the muscle give 100%. Not 90% nor 95%, but 100%. You must train intensely with 100% effort or else you may not grow and the muscle will not "adapt" to this new feeling.
Remember to stay focused and realize that you are here to complete a job not to waste your own time. Walk into that gym as if you own it. Rip the room apart if need be, just make sure you give everything for that hour.
You MUST give 100%. BB is a game of mind over matter, your body will tell you that you are tired and taxed but that is generally only at around 85%, step your game up and bust your ass. This is why you stepped foot into the gym isn't it? This is what you want, isn't it? So give it all you got!
3rd Place - sword chucks (Tie)
Size And Strength For Impatient Beginners
Getting started in bodybuilding is really exciting once you learn the possibilities and challenges that it gives you. When I started, it was really difficult to wait and I found myself checking the scale to see if I had gained any poundage.
I am still like that now. Even if I just get 1 or 2 more reps on an exercise compared to last week, I still get hungry for more.
I think the key to this is finding a training routine that is fun, simple and intense, such as the one I am going to present in this article. With this program I am going to address the two things that all bodybuilders, experienced or novice levels, want to add on; size and strength.
And we all have one thing in common - we are extremely impatient - we want to get bigger, now!
The program in this article is everything that a beginner needs - simplicity and effectiveness. It is based off of a few principles that have always worked for me, even when I was starting out, and even today.
The Keys To Success In This Program
- Learning to train heavy.
- Training each muscle at a higher frequency than most programs.
- Keeping strict form and a full range of motion on each exercise.
- Using both low rep and high rep sets to fully develop strength and size.
- Only including the safest possible exercises, because as a beginner the joints are very vulnerable to damage.
- Including fitness-improving cardiovascular activity to give you a good foundation of fitness.
The Training Arrangement
This is the training schedule I want anyone on this program to be on for each week.
This schedule is ideal for what I want you to accomplish, because it provides a good amount of rest between workouts, allowing the muscles to fully recover, and it minimizes overlap of muscle groups, so that each workout can be done with as much energy as possible.
This routine will only change on each fourth week.
- Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Back, Trapezius
- Day 2: Legs, Calves, Arms
- Day 3: Rest from weights*
- Day 4: Chest, Shoulders, Back, Trapezius
- Day 5: Legs, Calves, Arms
- Day 6: Rest from weights*
- Day 7: Rest from weights*
*On Days 3, 6 and 7, I recommend having no intense weight training. However, since you are just starting to body build, your fitness levels are probably not all that great. This can cause some serious problems.
- The first one is that the fatigue from this routine will accumulate very quickly if you aren't ready for it, so by doing cardio you can quickly improve fitness levels with a minimal impact on recovery.
- If your heart isn't very efficient at getting blood around to your muscles, then you will be huffing and puffing after just a set or two, and you won't have as much energy for the rest of your workout.
Sets, Reps, Exercises, Rest Periods & Exercise Tempo
Little Questions That Beginners Always Have.
Trying to explain most of these things to people just starting bodybuilding is difficult. You are going to want to pay close attention to how your body responds to things like more sets, more reps, more rest time, slower reps, and other things based on feel.
I mean, if you feel very winded or fatigued right after something, or nauseous, it probably isn't good to do too much of it, until you get used to it. So pay attention to those feelings when changing these things around.
I believe that is a good idea to keep the number of sets performed relatively low. I notice that after a workout with very many sets, I feel very fatigued and not good like you should after a workout. You should usually perform 2 or 3 sets per exercise, but that also depends on how many exercises you do.
The cornerstone of this program is using a big variety of rep ranges to add both strength and mass fast. I recommend the 3-6 rep range for some days and the 6-10 range for others, because both are very good for gaining strength and mass.
When anyone talks about a simple routine, they probably are talking about that it has few exercises, and the few exercises that it has are basic movements like deadlifts, pullups, and presses. In this program, you should really stick to exercises like this.
Rest Periods (Between Sets)
Going by feel, I have learned that a 2 to 3 minute rest period is generally all that you need. Some muscles will recover faster or slower though. Just go by instinct on this one, you can easily find out on your own because your breathing will steady and your muscles will feel ready to do another strong set.
It has been proven that the old theories of super slow reps really are incorrect. You should try pushing as hard as you can on the up phase of a rep, and then lower the weight under control, without purposely pausing at any time.
For Impatient Beginners
Chest, Shoulders, Back, Traps - Strength Workout
Legs, Calves, Arms - Strength Workout
15 to 30 minutes of activity at least, but don't kill yourself if you don't have to over this. Make sure it is something that gets you breathing hard though, like a game of flag football or something
Chest, Shoulders, Back, Traps - Size Workout
Legs, Calves, Arms - Size Workout
- Barbell Front Squat: 3 sets of 6-10
- Stiff-leg deadlift (barbell or dumbbell): 3 sets of 6-10
- Seated calf raise (machine) 2 sets of 6-10
- Preacher curl (free weight) 3 sets of 6-10
- Lying tricep extension (barbell) 3 sets of 6-10
Day 6 & 7:
Every 4th Week
Every fourth week, I want you to do me a favor and train a little bit less. I am going to cut back the workouts to only two this week, with the other days for rest or cardio.
This program is a pretty heavy work load, so taking one week every now and then to ensure that your body is fully recovered is smart. I don't include low rep workouts this week because they are extremely taxing on the joints, so this week will also clear out any joint pains that you may be feeling.
Here is the program for every fourth week:
Chest, Shoulders, Back, Traps
Legs, Calves, Arms
Days 2,3,5,6 & 7
Now Bring It To The Gym!
Okay, to all of you impatient beginners out there, I know this was a bit long, but sometimes patience is a good thing. Luckily, with this program I think that you will be satisfied with your results, and patience won't be an issue. You will get bigger and stronger with this simple plan.
As you go on, be sure to use experience to figure out what you should and shouldn't do in the weight room, try out new exercises, don't be afraid of machines now and then eat like there won't be any food tomorrow and have fun getting big.
Review Of Other Articles
Or "Why Wasn't Mine Picked?"
- Good information.
- Provided an interesting workout.
- Not in-depth. The article lacked some ideas that could have been explained, such as explaining how long the rest period should be between each set or exercise, and an emphasis on how the exercise should be performed (such as negatives, etc.)
- Limited ideas. The writer could have provided more strategies or techniques on lifting weights, such as supersets, pyramids, drop sets, etc. Explaining why these different techniques would be beneficial or not.
The writer has good information, but didn't hit all aspects of creating a routine. More detail or ideas would have created a better article. With some of the suggestions above, the writer would have a very good chance of placing in the top 3.
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