Writing a Bodybuilding Training Programme

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					              Writing a Bodybuilding Training Programme

      When you finally come down to writing yourself a training programme there’s a

lot you need to take into consideration. Specifically you need to bear in mind both

your individual goals/targets and the science and methodology involved in writing a

programme that will actually work.

      Assuming this is your first training programme then for now you will probably

be served perfectly well by a simple yet effective full body routine. By full body is

meant a single workout that will target every major muscle group of the body in one

go. You will vary this workout slightly for each session, but every time you will train

each and every muscle group. You want to keep your workouts at about forty minutes

to an hour at this point to give yourself a soft introduction so that means you’ll be

doing only one or two exercises for each area; to do anymore would tax your body and

take hours.

      So an example of a full body routine might include: bicep curls, lat pull down,

bench press, sit ups, leg press, calf raises and dips, probably with a ten minute run on

either end as a warm up and cool down respectively. This should take forty minutes to

an hour and will work the whole body.

      At this stage you can probably afford to train three to five times a week

depending on how dedicated you are. While this means you’ll be training the same
muscles consecutively in some cases (which many sources will tell you not to do) it

shouldn’t matter too much at this point as your muscles will only be getting a quick

workout each session. If you feel capable of training that day and you want to, then

go ahead. However, don’t train more than five days to start with, remember your

muscles actually grow while you’re resting, so if you don’t give them time to recover

you’ll end up hurting yourself and they won’t be able to grow.

      Many bodybuilders will not advise a full body routine however (certainly not on

consecutive days). Instead they’ll tell you to do a split routine and to only train each

body part once a week etc etc as that’s what they’re doing. What they’ve

unfortunately forgotten is that there was a time that they did not train like that. If

you attempt to go straight into a split routine with long resting periods it will

probably result in you getting overly tired and giving up early on, or becoming over-

trained, or even not progressing at all. Starting with a full body routine on the other

hand and training regularly will shock the muscles into action and is something that’s

simple and easy to stick to. It will also be a good opportunity to learn the ropes in the

gym and develop good technique when weightlifting before you start using ridiculous

amounts and training to failure (a recipe for injury if you’re inexperienced).

      If after a couple of months you feel you’re ready to move on from the basic full

body routine, or if you’re already fairly experienced at the gym, then you may be

ready for a great compromise that I personally love as a training programme. The

‘push/pull routine’ basically is a split where you alternate between just two
workouts, one of which involves only pulling movements and one of which involves

only pushing movements. The reason this works is that pushing movements tend to

collectively use the same selection of muscles, as do pulling movements. For example

the bench press; a very popular pushing movement as you’re aware, uses the pecs,

triceps, deltoids and traps in roughly that order. Pullovers meanwhile use the triceps,

traps, pecs and deltoids in roughly that order. So it makes good sense to put these in

the same workout. Meanwhile chin ups use the biceps, lats and deltoids, as do rows.

The same is applicable for the legs though to a lesser degree, while it is up to you

where you put your ab work (you could technically consider sit ups a pulling motion I

guess…). I sometimes encourage a three day routine of push, pull, abs and legs

followed by a rest. This might consist of the following then:

Day 1 (Push)

Bench Press

Pec Flies

Cable Push Downs


Shoulder Presses

Press Ups

Day 2 (Pull)

Bicep Curls

Pull Ups
Lat Pull Downs

Seated Rows

Bent Over Rows

Hammer Curls

Day 3 (Abs and legs)

Sit Ups


Frog Kicks

Twisting Crunches


Leg Extensions

Hamstring Curls

Calf Raises

Day 4 (Rest)

And repeat…

         A friend of mine has recently found this routine very affective after years of

failing to achieve his goals. The great thing is that you feel your muscles working far

more than a full body routine but at the same time you’re involving a good range of

your muscles groups.
      The programmes most serious bodybuilders use however use ‘splits’. While the

above suggestion is technically a very basic split, generally most splits work by

working just one or two muscle groups in each session. This means that you can train

for longer on a single muscle, for example the biceps as you can spend the full hour

on them. It also means that they won’t be used again for a week, meaning you can go

as heavy as you like. Doing this for your whole body every day would be nigh on


      One thing to consider when designing your split however is that most exercises

use more than just the one body part they’re targeting. So if you do a day of biceps,

you’ll probably affect the other pulling muscles such as the lats. For this reason then

you’d be advised to try and organise your routine so that similar muscles groups are as

far away from each other as possible. For example:

Monday: Biceps

Tuesday: Triceps

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Shoulders and Back (Lats and Traps)

Friday: Pecs

Saturday: Abs

Sunday: Rest
      A training programme along these lines coupled with a high protein diet will

result in the largest physique. If you want to get really big however you can even do

two workouts a day – one in the morning and one in the evening, as many well known

bodybuilders (including Arnie) have done. So long as each muscle group gets a long

time to rest, you eat a lot, and your fairly advanced this will be okay.

      On the other hand if you’re not looking to become gigantic then you might

want to tone it down a little; you may want to be a little less extreme cluster slightly

more together, for example:

Monday: Biceps and Lats

Tuesday: Triceps and Pecs

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Abs

Friday: Shoulders and Back

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Off

      Or you may wish to swap one of your off days for a day of CV or another day of

a particularly stubborn muscle group (we all have our own specific strengths and

weaknesses when it comes to building muscle). Again which you choose will depend

on your goals as well as your capability.
      More advanced still are periodized training programmes. These vary from

ordinary splits in that you don’t just cycle the same split indefinitely, but plan in

advance how that’s going to change and increase as you improve and potentially get

closer to your competition date if that’s your reason for training. In general this will

involve getting more difficult and intense over time, and will include a period for

‘bulking’ up at the beginning where your aim is simply to gain muscle mass; and

‘cutting’ towards the end where you strip off all the extra fat you accumulated during

your bulking phase. Periodization training is useful as it keeps your muscles guessing

as you change the amounts of rest days and the times that you’ll be training, as an

‘overall action plan’ it should see you all the way from your scrawny beginnings to

your eventual competition winning top form. For a good periodized training

programme then starting from beginner and taking you all the way through to

advanced, you may want to progress through the routines discussed above in an

orderly manner. For example, start with a full body programme three times a week

then six weeks later up it to five times a week. Then after another six weeks take up

a push/pull routine five times a week and go on a protein shake. Eight weeks after

this one you might be ready to take on the full split advised above (six days) and then

if you’re serious about competing you might want to train twice a day in the couple of

weeks leading up to the contest with five days rest immediately prior. If all goes to

plan you should by now have gone from zero to hero!

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Description: When you finally come down to writing yourself a training programme there’s a lot you need to take into consideration. Specifically you need to bear in mind both your individual goals/targets and the science and methodology involved in writing a programme that will actually work.