Calling all overwhelmed newbies: you want real muscular development and real results? Well, you can stop watching infomercials—the latest high-tech machines are just pulleys, straps and broken promises you do not need.

You can get Marine Corps arms, MMA-champion legs and superhero abs from 50 basic exercises.



No, I'm not a quack, and I didn't say 500 exercises, just 50. If you combine them correctly and implement one top-secret weight-training strategy, these 50 classic lifts will transform your body. What's the secret weapon? Pyramid sets.

If you're just starting out, don't let the terminology turn you off. Pyramid sets work like this: start your first set with a weight that allows you to complete 12-to-15 repetitions of the movement. With your second set, choose a heavier weight that allows you to only complete 10 reps. Finally, on your third set, choose an even heavier weight with which you can only complete 8 reps.

Pyramid sets are instinctual. With every set you'll get more pumped and want to push yourself even further. So it makes sense that you'll reach for a slightly heavier weight.

By the time you get to your third set of deadlifts, you might only make it to 8 reps while still using the same weight as your second set. The whole point of pyramid sets is to force yourself into new territory and demolish your muscles. No matter what weights you use, complete the recommended number of reps per exercise.

I combined 50 basic exercises into 12 weeks of workouts which will change your life. It's the easiest program you'll ever follow AND it's the most effective, especially for beginners.

There are 6 simple rules to read first, and then 3 phases of workouts. You will follow each phase for 4 weeks. There's nothing much else to say about this program, except it works. And after 12 weeks, you might need a new wardrobe to fit your new muscles.

Rule 1: Warm up before you start lifting weights

Option 1: Choose 5-to-10 minutes of moderate cardio such as a light jog, stationary bike or classic calisthenics (jumping jacks, high knees, push-ups, dips, jump squats, etc.).



Option 2: Do one set of an exercise for each body part you work each day. Use a weight you can lift with light to moderate strain and do 15-to-20 reps. For example: on your chest/biceps/triceps day in the gym, perform one set of dumbbell bench press, one set of dumbbell biceps curls and one set of seated overhead dumbbell triceps extension. Complete these sets with little to no rest before you start your workout.

Rule 2: Focus on exercise form

It's not organic chemistry or a heart transplant, but in the world of fitness, form is just as critical to survival in the gym. The basics are: don't swing the weights, isolate the correct muscles for each exercise, and remember to breathe.

Rule 3: Work out with a partner or ask someone to spot you

Training with a partner is not only safer, but ten times as fun and one-hundred times as effective. You'll end up pushing yourself harder and breaking down the caution tape around your safety zone. Working harder = better results, instantaneously.

Rule 4: Rest up

You should lift heavy enough that you want to take a break, but don't abuse your rest periods between sets. You shouldn't need to rest longer than 90 seconds between sets, but try to keep it to 60 seconds.

Rest days are your other chance to recover. Use them wisely, eat well and let your muscles recover. Recovery is the foundation of muscle development.

Rule 5: Do cardio 3 times per week for 25-to-30 minutes

It's your choice of cardio, moderate or interval training. Try to separate cardio sessions from your weight training workouts, because you'll want to have max energy when you work with iron.

Cardio

 

Rule 6: Get your diet in the zone

Even as a beginner, you know deep down that diet is going to be a critical factor to get the results you want. So, get in the zone. Eat mostly natural foods. Have a meal or snack every 3 hours. Keep sugars low. Increase your clean protein intake from chicken, turkey, protein powder and fish. Balance each meal or snack with vegetables, fruits, whole grains/complex carbs, protein and healthy fats.



That is a traditional healthy diet. Calorie counting isn't as important with this workout plan because it's not a strict fat-loss program. When you eat clean, unprocessed foods, you can actually eat more and avoid fat gains.

Phase 1: Gentlemen (and Ladies), Start Your Engines

  • Duration: 28 days
  • Workout Split: 3 days per week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Repetitions: Pyramid sets, reps vary
  • Rest: 90-second maximum rest between sets
Monday: Chest/Triceps/Biceps/Abs
1
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 6 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Tuesday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Wednesday: Back/Shoulders/Abs
1
Bent Over Barbell Row
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 6 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Thursday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Friday: Quads/Hamstrings/Calves/Abdominals
1
Barbell Squat
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 5 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Saturday/Sunday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Phase 2: Switch into High Gear

  • Duration: 28 Days
  • Workout Split: 4 days per week—Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Repetitions: Pyramid sets, reps vary
  • Rest: 90 seconds maximum rest between sets
Monday: Back/Abs
1
Bent Over Barbell Row
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 5 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Tuesday: Shoulders/Triceps/Abs
1
Seated Barbell Military Press
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 7 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Wednesday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Thursday: Quads/Hamstrings/Calves/Abs
1
Barbell Squat
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 8 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Friday: Chest/Biceps/Abs
1
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
+ 7 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Saturday/Sunday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Phase 3: Fire-up the Nitro Jets

  • Duration: 28 Days
  • Workout Split: 4 days per week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Repetitions: Pyramid sets, reps vary
  • Rest: 90 seconds maximum rest between sets
Monday: Back/Abs
1
Barbell Deadlift
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
+ 7 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Tuesday: Shoulders/Triceps/Abs
1
Seated Barbell Military Press
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
+ 10 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Wednesday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)



Thursday: Quads/Hamstrings/Calves
1
Barbell Squat
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
+ 8 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Friday: Chest/Biceps/Abdominals
1
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
+ 9 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Saturday/Sunday: Rest or Optional Cardio (25-30 minutes)

Curveball

Spice up your scheduled training with this full-body circuit.

Perform 1 set of 10-to-12 repetitions for each exercise with no rest in between. Once you complete all 10 exercises, rest for 2-to-3 minutes and repeat the circuit 2 more times.

Full-Body Circuit
1
Circuit
3 rounds
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
3 sets, 10-12 reps
+ 1 more exercises

BodyFit Plus

$3.99/month
  • 2,500+ expert-created single workouts
  • 3,500+ how-to exercise videos
  • Detailed workout instruction
  • Step-by-step workout tips
  • Training at gym or at home

What comes with BodyFit Plus?

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don't risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you're doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Your Muscles Crave Evolution

An effective workout program doesn't have to be confusing or crammed with hundreds of different exercises. You can continue using the same 50 exercises for as long as you continue to lift weights. The key to results is changing your routine at the gym and creating a new challenge every day. That's why pyramid sets work so well to help you achieve your goals.

The fitness industry may have evolved over the years, but one thing doesn't change: Weight training is absolutely necessary for a knock-out physique.

About the Author

Contributing Writer

Bodybuilding.com

Bodybuilding.com's authors include many of the top coaches, nutritionists, and physique athletes in the world today.

View all articles by this author