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True Muscle Trainer: Phase 1 Overview

For the first three weeks of the True Muscle 9-week trainer, you'll build up your muscular base with some tried-and-true movements and a couple you probably haven't tried. Set your feet and push yourself!

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Phase one of the True Muscle nine-week trainer will probably be the most familiar to you in terms of the bodybuilding exercises, sets, and reps you'll be using. This is bodybuilding training, after all. However, some of the exercises have been tweaked to be a little different than you're accustomed to, and you're going to see some unconventional exercises as well.

To be clear, you can get stronger without making a muscle bigger. You do this by basically training your nervous system to bring more muscle into the game each time you, say, do a curl. But all things being equal, a bigger muscle is a stronger one. That's why many strength coaches call a hypertrophy phase like this one a "base phase." You're building a base of muscle. But we're calling it the hypertrophy phase because I want you to already have a foundation of training coming into True Muscle, and we're going to take that to the next level, so it's going to be purely hypertrophy oriented.

You're going to get stronger each week if you follow the sets and reps that are built into the program. That's mostly going to be neuromuscular gains. You'll find that you have better "mind muscle coordination," as some people call it. You'll improve your form and technique and be able to recruit more muscle when you work.

After three weeks, you can expect to be stronger, you'll have added some muscle, and you'll have great pumps and tough workouts throughout. Sure, there's only so much muscle you can build in a three-week time frame, but research has shown that you can build some—particularly if you already have a foundation to work from.

Ready? Let's build.

True Muscle Trainer Phase 1 Overview
Watch the video - 7:39

Phase 1 The Plan

For the next three weeks, you're going to follow a four-day-a-week, A/B/C/D split. There are a number of different ways you can set this up, and I'm going to leave it largely up to you. Here's my personal favorite option:

  • Mon: Workout A, shoulders and abs
  • Tue: Workout B, back and biceps
  • Wed: Rest
  • Thu: Workout C, chest and triceps
  • Friday: Workout D, quads, hamstrings, calves
  • Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Alternately, you can craft it around your personal schedule. My only demand is that you give yourself adequate rest between workouts. What does this mean? First and foremost, don't train more than two days consecutively. These are intense routines that will have you performing some new movements—and some old favorites in new ways—so you will be challenged. I want you to be improving and feeling like you're getting stronger as we build up to Phase 2, not getting worn down.

"These are intense routines that will have you performing some new movements—and some old favorites in new ways—so you will be challenged."

However, rest doesn't have to be, you know, rest. I'm a big fan of active rest days, which for me can include a wide range of activities like:

  • Low-impact cardio
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Yoga

I insist that you have at least one full rest day a week, but feel free to enjoy activities such as these on your other two days. And if you feel like you simply must hit the gym on one of your rest days, keep it light and easy. Have a "bro day" of some arms, abs, and a little cardio. Then drink your shake and go home.

Day One: Shoulders and Abs

Day One: Shoulders and Abs

Want a taste of True Muscle? Watch Coach Nick Tumminello put Steve Weatherford through a dynamic shoulders and abs workout, and then see if you can survive the challenge yourself!

Phase 1 Unique Movements

Most of the new movements you'll encounter in this phase are gathered together in the first of the four workouts: the shoulder and ab routine. Not coincidentally, this is also the workout that Steve Weatherford and I filmed, and which you need to watch, before your first training day on this program.

Some of what you'll see there includes:

  • Angled barbell press from a landmine
  • Kettlebell shoulder-to-shoulder press
  • Dumbbell 45-degree raises (I also explained how to do these in the article "Combine These Exercises for Insane Gains")
  • Animal-crawl variations
Landmine Angled Barbell Press

I've made videos for each of these, and you can see them demonstrated by clicking on the exercise table on the trainer's daily workout pages. But you should also watch Steve and perform them in action with me as his guide, so you can see the challenges he has and how we fix them.

Just a warning: You may feel like you're back in gym class—in a bad way—the first time you try the animal crawls, but give them a shot. Once you've got the basic patterns down, you'll find they're a workout finisher with an incredible payoff in terms of movement quality, mobility, and overall athleticism.

Phase 1 Nutrition and Supplementation

I've got good news for: You're not going to see the nutrition portion of the program change over the next nine weeks. Why not? Because it's all working toward the same goal. I know a lot of programs say they've got the magic formula in four or five meals a day, but when we look at the overall research, what it shows is that the most important aspect is hitting your numbers in regard to nutrients throughout the day, and fitting them into your lifestyle. In other words, it's adherence.

We want this diet to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. So just make sure you've boned up on the nutrition plan in the program overview—and be realistic about it. My only personal recommendation would be to get a good protein-filled meal before your workout. How long before your workout is up to you and your schedule, but my preferred timeframe is about an hour or so before training.

Supplementation is important within the hypertrophy phase because it ensures you're not missing out on any vital nutrients, especially things such as protein, that might be difficult to get enough of during the day from general foods. Getting in enough protein in particular is crucial for building muscle.

There are three supplements I definitely want you to include in this phase. Those are creatine, protein, and BCAAs. The reasons are simple: Creatine has been demonstrated to help training and performance in everything from endurance athletes to power and strength athletes—like what you're doing here.

"Creatine has been demonstrated to help training and performance in everything from endurance athletes to power and strength athletes—like what you're doing here."

If you can perform your workouts better, you're going to get better results from them, because you're able to bring a little more intensity. Think of this way: Creatine isn't giving you more muscle, it's giving you a better platform to build muscle. For me, it's a no-brainer.

Protein is also a no-brainer, given how it can help you recover and turn your hard work into results—i.e., muscle. You don't need me to sell you on it. But it's tough to get enough of it during the course of the day, and not everybody likes the feeling of training with a lot of protein in their stomach. This is where BCAAs come in. Consider them a failsafe for your protein plan, in case you're not getting as much as you should or struggle to meet your numbers.

Dumbbell 45-degree raises

It's Time to Build Your Base

Your success in this plan isn't going to happen by accident. Like anything else important, you need to do the prep work, so you know how to do the hard work.

Your next step should be to watch the workout video I made with Steve Weatherford, where he performs the entirety of the first workout of this phase. You'll get plenty of cool form tips, but more importantly, you'll get a feeling for what the True Muscle style of training feels like so you can prepare yourself mentally for what's to come. Then, you'll be ready to set foot in the weight room and making this happen!

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