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Phase 1 Full Body Training Split (Weeks 1-3)

You don't need Einstein's IQ to guess that a whole-body training split involves training the entire body in every workout. It's ideal for beginners, allowing them to train each muscle group multiple times each week. With a whole-body training split, you can train each muscle group three times per week—say, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The 12-Week Beginner Bodybuilding Plan - Phase 1

"Your muscle fibers must learn how to contract in concert, allowing you to perform exercises correctly."

That sort of repetition helps train train the body's nervous system. See, before you can focus on muscle building, those muscles must first learn to contract properly. Learning how to bench press or squat is like learning to ride a bike, and just as painful if you don't know what the heck you're doing. Your muscle fibers must learn how to contract in concert, allowing you to perform exercises correctly, and apply the most strength when you do it.

We suggest training Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but any three days of the week will do, as long as training days are separated by rest days. Your body needs time to recover from the previous workout. Recovery is critical for becoming bigger and stronger.

Weeks 1-3 Workouts

Note: Complete this workout three times per week with at least one full day of rest between workouts (e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

Phase 1 Workout
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 10-12 reps (2-3 minutes rest)
+ 8 more exercises


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Phase 1 Rundown


The exercises you'll be using are the tried-and-true mass builders, such as the bench press, squat and barbell curl to name a few. The kind of stuff Arnold did. You'll be performing only one exercise per muscle group during this phase. More than that, and the workout would become prohibitively long and excessive for muscles not yet accustomed to such stimulus.


Rep is the abbreviated term for repetition, which involves doing an exercise one time through its full range of motion. In this phase, aim for 10-12 reps per set. That is a good range in which to learn the exercise and build size and strength in the beginner's body. Exception: calves and abs. For those stubborn muscle groups, higher reps will stimulate more muscle growth. And when doing body weight ab exercises, such as the crunch, do as many reps as you can until reaching muscle failure.

The 12-Week Beginner Bodybuilding Plan - Phase 1


"Since you'll be doing 10-12 reps per set, choose a weight that prevents you from doing any more than 12 reps, but allows you to complete at least 10 reps."


The amount of weight you use is determined by the rep range. Since you'll be doing 10-12 reps per set, choose a weight that prevents you from doing any more than 12 reps, but allows you to complete at least 10 reps. You should grow stronger over these three weeks, so once you can exceed 12 reps with the weight you're using, increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds.


A "set" refers to doing all reps for an exercise. Picking up the bar and performing as many reps as you can before putting down the bar completes one set. Typically you do several sets per exercise, resting in between those sets. In this phase you'll do three sets per exercise, just enough repetition to learn the exercise, yet not too much to over-extend the workout.


During this phase, you'll rest 2-3 minutes between sets. The goal is to allow enough rest for you to stick fairly close to the rep range using the same weight on all three sets. This will help you gain more size and strength. In fact, research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that beginning lifters resting 2.5 minutes between sets gained more than twice as much muscle size on their arms as those taking one minute between sets. The exception here is calves and abs, which tend to recover faster between sets. For these exercises, rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

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About the Author

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani holds a doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Connecticut and has been the personal nutrition and health consultant to numerous celebrity clients, including...

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