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Bodybuilding 101

Getting started on a solid weight-training program will speed up your metabolism and firm up your body.

Q: I’ve been reading your columns in IRON MAN since it started, and I love your honesty and straightforward approach. I’m on a quest for a better body and have lost 170 pounds in three years. I’m new to the iron game, and there’s so much information out there for us newbies that it can become quite confusing. I normally don’t like to bother people; I’m usually a figure-it-out-myself guy. In this case, however, I’m turning to you. What training split would you recommend for a newer lifter? I have no medical issues other than being 270 pounds at 28 percent bodyfat, but I have my nutrition in order, I believe.

A: First of all, congratulations on your weight loss—170 pounds—that’s amazing. Hearing stuff like that inspires me. And thanks for reading IRON MAN

Getting started on a solid weight-training program will speed up your metabolism and firm up your body. You’re right: Trying to figure out what to do can be quite baffling. My philosophy of weight training is simple: Keep it simple. I like to stick with the basic bodybuilding exercises. In my opinion, nothing beats the basics. 

I’m going to outline three programs. If you’ve done no weight training at all, start with the full-body program. I usually have beginners do only one or two sets of each exercise during their first workout. Then I increase the number of sets over the course of the first three to five workouts so that by the fifth workout they’re performing the full routine. If you’ve been doing a full-body workout for two to three months, you can go into the two-day split. You can either work out two days in a row, followed by a day of rest and then repeat, or perform the routines every other day and just keep alternating between A and B. If you’ve already been working out on a split routine, you may be able to move into the three-day split. That’s my off-season training program—pretty intense, so you’ll probably want to cut down on the number of sets initially and build up to the full routine over the course of a few weeks.

I highly recommend purchasing a couple of sessions with a qualified personal trainer to make sure your exercise technique is correct. Look for someone who trains clients with weights—without making them balance on anything. Also, before hiring someone, watch the trainer work out. You want someone who performs exercises smoothly, not jerking or slinging weights around. Show the trainer the program you want to follow and tell him you want to learn to do the exercises properly. If he tries to talk you into switching to rubber bands or performing the exercises while balancing on anything other than the floor, look for a different trainer. If he tries to get you to do anything that feels like doing yoga with weights in your hands—run! You should be looking for a trainer who teaches the basic weight-training exercises with both feet planted solidly on the floor.

Now to the programs…

Full-Body Program

Crunches 4 x failure

   Flex your abs hard on each rep

Back extensions 4 x failure

   Perform smoothly, no swinging

Bench presses 4 x 10-12 

Seated cable rows 4 x 10-12

Overhead dumbbell 

   presses (seated or 

   standing) 3 x 10-12 

EZ-curl-bar curls 3 x 10-12

Pushdowns 3 x 10-12 

Leg presses 4 x 10-12 

Squats 4 x 10-12

   (squat until the tops of your

   thighs are parallel to the floor)

Leg curls 3 x 10-12

Standing calf raises 3 x 10-12

Two-Day Split
Workout A: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Abs

Bench presses 4 x 8-10

Incline presses 4 x 8-10

Bent-over barbell rows 4 x 8-10

Lat pulldowns 4 x 8-10

Overhead barbell presses 3 x 8-10

Lateral raises 3 x 8-10

Machine rear-delt flyes 3 x 8-10

Hanging knee raises 3 x failure

Crunches 3 x failure

Back extensions 3 x failure

Two-Day Split
Workout B: Legs, Biceps, Triceps

Squats 4 x 10-12

Leg presses 4 x 10-12

Leg curls 3 x 10-12

Leg extensions 3 x 10-12

Standing calf raises 4 x 12-15

Donkey calf raises 3 x 12-15

Seated dumbbell curls 4 x 8-10

Hammer curls 3 x 8-10

Skull crushers 4 x 8-10

Pressdowns 3 x 8-10


Three-Day Split
Monday: Legs, Abs

Squats 4 x 8-10

Leg presses 4 x 20

Leg curls 4 x 10-12

Leg extensions 4 x 10-12

Standing calf raises 4 x 12-15

Donkey calf raises 4 x 12-15

Hanging leg raises 4 x failure

Crunches 4 x failure

Three-Day Split
Wednesday: Chest, Front and Middle Delts, Biceps

Bench presses 4 x 8-10

Incline presses 4 x 8-10

Machine flyes 3 x 12-15

Seated dumbbell presses 4 x 8-10

Lateral raises 4 x 10-12

Seated dumbbell curls 4 x 8-10

Straight-bar cable curls 4 x 12-15

Hammer curls 3 x 10-12

Three-Day Split
Friday: Back, Rear Delts, Triceps

Partial deadlifts (in the 

   power rack working from 

   the knees up) 4 x 10-12

Lat pulldowns 4 x 8-10

One-arm dumbbell rows 4 x 8-10

Machine rear-delt flyes 4 x 10-12

Seated extensions 4 x 10-12

Bench dips 3 x failure

Pressdowns 3 x 8-10


Remember, technique is very important. Always perform the movement smoothly and with control in both directions. When starting a new routine, don’t kill yourself the first time. If you’re having trouble completing all of the sets and reps, cut back and then gradually work your way up to doing the full workout. When you can handle it, work on pushing yourself harder without sacrificing technique. Focus on the working muscles; feel the burn and make friends with it. Enjoy the pump today and the muscle soreness tomorrow. Yes, it’s an acquired taste, but we’re able to acquire a taste for a lot of things that we didn’t enjoy at first.

When you learn to enjoy the pump and the burn—and the soreness—you’ll keep coming back for more. When you get to that point, maintaining the all-important consistency will no longer be a problem. Train hard, train smart, eat clean, and keep doing it day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. That’s my secret to success.


Editor’s note: See Dave Goodin’s new blog at Click on the blog selection in the top menu bar. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected]IM

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