8 Week Novice Quick Start Workout Plan

New to lifting? Start here. This is a novice quick start guide that will move you from day 1 to day 60, providing you with specific advice and workouts.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Full Body
Beginner
3
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
Male

Workout Description

Quick Jump to the Workouts:

If you never really lifted seriously a day in your life, then start here. This is a novice quick start guide that will move you from day 1 to day 60, providing you with specific advice and workouts. A novice is a "rank beginner". Novice lifters are unfamiliar with the basic muscle building exercises and will not know their way around a weight room very well.

Getting Started - The Fundamentals

As a novice the first thing you need to understand is this: muscle building is not a sprint. Do not rush into things, trying to force growth by adding volume, or by switching to some complex workout system. Right now you need one thing: to get strong on the basic, compound exercises. When you learn a new sport you must master the fundamentals. Weight training is no different. You must take time to study and practice proper form on the major exercises.

Understand that no one ever masters exercise form. Adding weight to the bar will always make keeping proper form more challenging. The point in all this is simple - never stop trying to improve your exercise form. This will minimize injuries and help you reach your goals more quickly.

Before You Try to Get Stronger and Build Muscle

We have stressed the importance of learning good exercise form, but there are 2 more things that are requirements before you start tearing it up in the gym:

  1. Improved Conditioning
  2. Muscle Stability

Conditioning. Improving your conditioning simply means getting used to the basic demands of a specific type of exercise. Instead of hitting the gym today "guns blazing", trying to destroy your muscles, it's best to take the next two months and build up your conditioning, or ability to handle hard workouts. This is not something you will have to worry about. This article presents you with specific workouts designed to walk you step by step through the conditioning process. So, simply follow the listed workouts below and you're all set.

Stability. The first time you bench press or squat you're going to notice something funny - you feel shaky and unbalanced. There are several reasons for this:

  1. You are weak and out of shape.
  2. Your small muscles, or stabilizer muscles, are also very weak.
  3. When you haven't lifted weights you are only capable of activating a certain amount of muscle fibers.

Point 3 here is key. You need a period of time to allow for neuromuscular adaptation. Your central nervous system, or CNS, is like your hard wiring. When you lift weights it sends signals from the brain to a muscle, telling it to activate. When you first start lifting your body will not be maximally efficient at calling into play as many muscle fibers as possible. Why? For the same reason you don't get 20 inch arms after your first bicep workout. The human body requires a consistent and taxing outside force for it to have a reason to make substantial adaptations. The point in all this is:

Don't rush into trying to add weight to the bar before you understand the basics of form, build up your conditioning, and allow for a period of neuromuscular adaptation.

Now, on to the workouts...

Novice Workout, Weeks 1-2

For the first 2 weeks you will be lifting twice a week. No more and no less. If you can't make it to the gym for these workouts, you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself if muscle building is something you really want. Do not miss workouts. If you want to be successful find a way to get it done. These are going to be "play workouts". Your goals during the first 2 weeks are:

  1. Find an appropriate amount of weight to use for each exercise.
  2. Practice form without the burden of heavy weight.
  3. Develop the routine of going to the gym and following a plan.
  4. Build up a small amount of conditioning.

Weight. Take time with each exercise and find a weight you would consider light. This amount of weight should not feel challenging, and you should be able to complete each set without feeling like the last few reps are impossible.

Form. Get the feel for each exercise, trying to make it as natural and comfortable as possible. If anything feels too awkward or even slightly painful, do some research to see if you're performing the exercise incorrectly.

Habit. Don't worry about moving mountains. Get to the gym on time, do the work and don't pressure yourself to be superhuman. Dedication is half the battle. Take pride in being consistent.

Conditioning. These workouts will start slow and build. Don't feel like they are ineffective or a waste of time. They are a necessary part of the process. You will be going hardcore soon enough. Remain patient.

Workout Schedule, Weeks 1-2

  • Monday - Workout
  • Tuesday - Rest
  • Wednesday - Rest
  • Thursday - Workout
  • Friday - Rest
  • Saturday - Rest
  • Sunday - Rest

Exercise List, Weeks 1-2

Perform the follow exercises in the order listed. Make sure to use a non-taxing weight. If you go too heavy for a set, back off the weight and try another set. Practice your form and take your time.

Weeks 1-2
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 2 12
Bench Press 2 12
Deadlift 2 12
Military Press 2 12
Barbell Row 2 12
Cable Tricep Extension 2 12
Lat Pull Down To Chest 2 12
Barbell Curl 2 12
Seated Calf Raise 2 12
Sit Ups 2 12

Cable tricep extensions and lat pulldowns might look out of place in this structure. They will be used during the first 4 weeks to build up some basic arm conditioning. During Weeks 5-8 you will be attempting dips and pullups.

Novice Workout, Weeks 3-4

During weeks 3 and 4 you will be increasing your training frequency to 3 times per week. Workouts will remain the same. Continue to use an appropriate, moderately-light weight; not challenging to the point where you are struggling to complete a set. Remain patient. You will begin to add weight during weeks 5-8.

Workout Schedule Week 3-4

  • Monday – Workout
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Workout
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Workout
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Rest

Exercise List, Weeks 3-4

Perform the follow exercises in the order listed. Continue to practice your form. Take time each week to study videos and articles that address good form, especially for the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Weeks 3-4
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 2 12
Bench Press 2 12
Deadlift 2 12
Military Press 2 12
Barbell Row 2 12
Cable Tricep Extension 2 12
Lat Pull Down To Chest 2 12
Barbell Curl 2 12
Seated Calf Raise 2 12
Sit Ups 2 12

Novice Workout, Weeks 5-8

During weeks 5 through 8 you are going to slowly add weight to each exercise until you feel like you could barely complete a set. When you do reach this point, continue to use this weight through the end of week 8. The point isn't to train to failure, but rather to learn about what you can handle for each movement for the given set and rep scheme. You will be learning more about your body and capabilities.

Squats and Deadlifts. For squats and deadlifts add 10 pounds each workout and perform the stated number of sets and reps. When the second set becomes challenging to complete, you have found your current limit weight. Use this weight for the given exercise until the end of week 8.

Other Exercises. For the other exercises, add 5 pounds each workout and perform the stated number of sets and reps. When the second set becomes challenging to complete, you have found your current limit weight. Use this weight for the given exercise until the end of week 8.

Examples. The following are examples of finding your limit weight for squat and barbell curls.

Squat Example For the previous 4 weeks you have been using 95 pounds for squats. This has felt hard, but not exceptionally challenging. You are currently working out 3 days a week, and will add 10 pounds to the squat each training day until you feel you've reached your limit weight. This will be a 30 pound addition per week, or up to a 120 pound addition by the end of week 8.

  • Week 5, Monday Workout - 105 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 5, Wednesday Workout - 115 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 5, Friday Workout - 125 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 6, Monday Workout - 135 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 6, Wednesday Workout - 145 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 6, Friday Workout - 155 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 7, Monday Workout - 165 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps

During week 7 you find that you are barely able to complete the second set of 12 reps. This means you have reached your limit weight for squats. Continue to use 165 pounds through the end of week 8.

Barbell Curl Example For the previous 4 weeks you have been using 45 pounds for barbell curls. This has felt hard, but not exceptionally challenging. You are currently working out 3 days a week, and will add 5 pounds to the squat each training day until you feel you've reached your limit weight. This will be a 15 pound addition per week, or up to a 60 pound addition by the end of week 8.

  • Week 5, Monday Workout - 50 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 5, Wednesday Workout - 55 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Week 5, Friday Workout - 60 pounds x 2 sets x 12 reps

After your third workout of week 5 you find that you are barely able to complete the second set of 12 reps. This means you have reached your limit weight for barbell curls. Continue to use 60 pounds through the end of week 8.

Workout Schedule, Weeks 5-8

  • Monday – Workout
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Workout
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Workout
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Rest

Exercise List, Weeks 5-8

Perform the follow exercises in the order listed. Dips and pull ups are 2 new additions. If you can't perform any dips or pullups, continue to use cable tricep extensions and lat pull downs. If you can only perform a few dips or pull ups, see the note below.

Weeks 5-8
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 2 12
Bench Press 2 12
Deadlift 2 12
Military Press 2 12
Barbell Row 2 12
Dips 2 12
Pull Ups 2 12
Barbell Curl 2 12
Seated Calf Raise 2 12
Sit Ups 2 12

Note on Dips and Pullups

If you are only able to do several dips and/or pullups, continue to use the exercise. Attempt to do as many as possible for both sets, limiting your max reps to 12 per set.

Notes on Weeks 5-8

At some point during these 4 weeks your workouts will start to feel very challenging. You will start to experience muscle soreness, and may not feel like working out. Continue to train, even if you are fatigue or sore. This is part of the conditioning process. Make sure you are eating plenty of food, drinking plenty of water and sleeping as much as possible. For more information on muscle building nutrition, please check out some of the sample eating plans on Muscle & Strength.

What's Next?

After week 8 do the following:

  1. Rest. Take a week completely off from training, rest and relax.
  2. Pick a Workout. Pick a new beginner workout from Muscle & Strength and make sure you understand how and when to add weight.
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272 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 05/01/2015 - 15:36
Payam

Hi. Thanks for article. I'm 29 years old, 189 cm and 155 lbs (70 kg). I'm novice. I confused between this workout and others. please help me.
what is difference between full body workout and split workout?

thanks

JohnnyG's picture
Posted Fri, 05/01/2015 - 16:11
JohnnyG

Hey Payam,

A full body workout means that you'll be working out your entire body every training session, versus only working out a specific part of your body (chest, legs, arms, etc.) per training session.

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Posted Sat, 04/25/2015 - 22:27
Isai

Hello.
I've been following this routine for 8 weeks. What do you guys recommend moving on to? Or when is a good time to move on from this routine?

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Posted Wed, 01/28/2015 - 15:06
Owen

Should I be taking supplements while doing this routine? if so what do you recommend?

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Posted Sat, 12/27/2014 - 04:33
Sean

Hi Steve. I'm just wondering if i can replace barbell with dumbell.

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Posted Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:07
Tim

Hi Steve I'm a 40 year old fat guy motivated to get into shape as I look at my 15 year old football loving son who works out contenuesly and can out lift me no problem. Want to start a weight program just wondering about stretching before workouts if needed and also whey protein not only for appetite suppressant but muscle food. Just wondering what your thoughts are on these two items. Thanks for your time

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Posted Fri, 10/24/2014 - 12:29
Isai

How do I determine a good amount of weight to start with? and when do I add more weight?

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Posted Sun, 09/21/2014 - 14:25
Juie

Hello, is this program suitable for women?

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Posted Sun, 09/21/2014 - 14:20
Juie

Hi there Steve..
I'm just wondering if this plan is also suitable for women? I've been searching for some sort of plan and can't really find what I'm looking for until I seen this.
Thank you for your time

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Posted Fri, 07/11/2014 - 01:30
sukhraj

i was working out for two months but after that i was not able to exercise for 6 months.so should i perform the same exercises

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Posted Fri, 06/20/2014 - 11:45
Akeed Manuideen

Is this routine suitable for a skinny guy?Will I lose any more weight?Might I hopefully gain some weight?...I'm 6'1 tall but only 60 kg heavy,
Thanks a lot,
Akeed.

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Posted Mon, 03/31/2014 - 14:54
Mitch

I'm 1 week into this workout so far. I've been doing a 1km jog as a warm up and 10 lengths in swimming pool at the end. Is it a good idea to do with this work out and why?

Also, another big question (no one seems to have the same answer)... is a 10 minute session in the sauna/steam room put to good use for muscle building - e.g. does it actually relax your body or is this a myth (so i've heard).

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Posted Wed, 03/26/2014 - 17:27
Shock O'Clock

Hey there,
I am going to start this workout routine to build muscle mass for Roller Derby. I practice 2 hours and sometimes 3 hours 2-3 times a week. Would this workout be too taxing? I am starting it to gain strength as a Jammer (basically movements much like a linebacker but on skates). Also, can I start the 2 days a week on Wednesday and Saturday instead of Monday and Thursday? Thanks for the great article!

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Posted Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:27
Robert

Hi.. I am new to working out and this sounded like a good program to start with.. I am also looking to burn fat as well as build muscle. Can I still do cardio on my non building days....

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Posted Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:16
Robert

Hi.. I am new to working out and this sounded like a good program to start with.. I am also looking to burn fat as well as build muscle. Can I still do cardio on my non building days....

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Posted Thu, 03/06/2014 - 19:40
Daniela

Hi Steve!

I'm 24 years old and I'm slightly underweight, but I'm not happy with being so small and would like to get back to my original weight of 110-115 pounds and gain some muscle..I'm also not so strong and probably get out of break by walking up a few flights of stairs lol.. Is this 8-week workout program ideal for me?

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Posted Sun, 03/02/2014 - 13:16
Pankaj

Hi Steve, I,m from India, please suggest me required supplements for beginners to gain strength and power. thank you.

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Posted Sun, 03/02/2014 - 07:44
Ravin

Hi,
Just starting to do exercise ,I want to lose a weight and build a six pack abs , please help me to made the daily work out schedule..
Please suggest can I do daily abs exercise ?
I am very thankful to you

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Posted Mon, 02/24/2014 - 14:58
Juli

Hey Steve! Thanks for these informative articles. I just wanted to ask, I am a beginner and I have trained for 2 months with a program from my local gym but honestly I don't think I am doing much progress. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week, each day doing different muscle groups. But I don't see results like the ones I had 7 months ago, before the big break. I trained back then for the same exact amount of time and the progress was significantly more visible.I still consider myself a beginner and I was wondering, would you recommend starting this program all the way from week 1, or would you recommend starting from week 5? Thanks in advance.

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 02:25
Sebastian

Can I sub dumbbell press for the Military press? I have been following this as close as I can but sometimes the equipment is being used.

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Posted Tue, 01/21/2014 - 23:57
Harvey

I am overweight and looking to lose weight and build muscle. What's the best way to lose weight?

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Posted Sun, 12/29/2013 - 01:08
Prince

Hey
I am 22yrs old. Weigh 220 pounds. Height 5'9.
I want to lose weight/fat and build muscle. What should I do. I read so many articles, I am so confused. Thanks

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Posted Fri, 12/13/2013 - 14:21
Shortie

Hey Steve, I go a really small gym and they dont have the machine for cable tricep and Lat pull, is there another way to do those? I know I need to find a new gym! ha

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Posted Mon, 12/02/2013 - 01:23
Charlie

I'm 13 and was wondering where to start a in a work out so would this be good for someone my age or not?

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Posted Tue, 11/26/2013 - 10:39
Bobby

Hi I literally started the gym yesterday I'm feeling good about this already the only problem is I smoke is this going to mess the whole point of going to the gym??

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Posted Mon, 11/18/2013 - 03:29
Craig

Hi Steve, I have access to all the required equipment for 4 weeks out of every 5 (working in the mines so stay in camp for the month then home for a week). Any tips on how I can keep up with the program on my week off?

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Posted Fri, 11/15/2013 - 19:35
behrad

hi... i am a skinny boy ... 23 years old and my weight is 54KG ..... guidance me plz..... what can i do ???

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Posted Thu, 11/14/2013 - 11:46
andy winands

hi,

I used to workout aprox. 4 days a week for a good hour a day, but the last 4/5 months i haven't been as dedicated as I used to be... in other words, i got lazy.
now I want to try and regain that dedication by starting of with a light-scheduled base.

do you think this is a proper schedule for me to start again with?

cheers

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Posted Wed, 11/06/2013 - 12:33
Sergio

Hi,
Thanks for the workout. I am really happy with it and so far I am in week 4. I have a question regarding the order of the workout. Usually I do the workout in the same order as presented here, but sometimes people is using some space I need so I switch it around a bit. Today I had to drastically change the order of my workout and I notice that my body responded differently. I felt weaker by the end, and suddenly I could not finish the last sets of the last exercises.
Would you recommend to always follow the workout in the same order? or should I switch it up every time on purpose? is there any difference?

Thanks

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Posted Tue, 11/05/2013 - 11:44
Jennifer

I'm female. Looking to tone and strengthen but not bulk or look muscly. I lift already, but as of now have no program or path to get to those goals. looking to be able to run and jump better and faster and to improve my overall fitness level and endurance. Is this good for reaching those goals?

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Posted Sun, 10/13/2013 - 05:53
Oliver

I've just finished the season of two high intensity contact sports, so I feel like my conditioning is at a good level. I've also done some sporadic gym sessions. With this could I skip the first two conditioning weeks and start with the muscle gain portion of the workout?

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Posted Mon, 10/07/2013 - 16:14
Major

Hi Steve ... First off, I would be way too embarrassed to go to a gym as I just turned 65 and have never been in a gym in my life! I picked up a Weider Home Gym and a weight bench w/weights recently and have been trying out everything and also doing a little walking. I'm not obese or anything but I DO have "love handles". I just want to get in better shape, build up my muscles a little and try to look better in swim trunks by next summer. I haven't seen anyone quite my age commenting here and I guess what I want to ask is this: Is it too late for a guy like me to try something like this or should I just be content with walking around the mall and lake and riding my bike? And if you do recommend that I attempt these exercises, is there anything special I should do ... like maybe prolonged warm ups or reduced weight and reps? Your response would greatly be appreciated as I've read some of your foregoing comments. Thanking you in advance. Major

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Posted Wed, 09/18/2013 - 21:16
Soj

Great routine, but have a question, is it possible to fit a forearm exercise routine in this workout? and if so where?

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Posted Wed, 09/04/2013 - 00:56
Josh

Hey Steve I am going to start the 8 week program and was just wondering if having pre-workout supps is ok/needed when doing the program. Or wait till after I have finished it?

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Posted Fri, 08/30/2013 - 16:01
Daz

steve

I have started working out for the first time in my life and started off by using your 8 week novice workout plan, I am about 5 weeks into it, do you reckon I should start taking protein shakes?

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Posted Mon, 08/26/2013 - 12:05
Daz

steve

I have started on your 8 week novice quick start workout plan and am just wondering should I start taking protein shakes?

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Posted Sat, 07/27/2013 - 22:21
Yusuf

Hi Steve,
I'm in the middle of doing research for which program to start on Monday. I'm going back and forth between this program and various strength training ones (rippetoes and strengh and bulk linear progression). Not sure which one I should go for. I've been working out for a while but not much gain in strength and I'm pretty skinny so I figured I would benefit from either a strength training program or a muscle building...what's your advice?

Thanks!

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Posted Wed, 07/24/2013 - 09:33
Julian

yesterday I started this plan. i have one question. should I do cardio? if so it would be better a pre-workout cardio or pos-workout?
also in the " rest day" is it OK to run or swim ? i am used to those exercises daily.
I am 23 yr old , 130lbs and 5'8

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Posted Mon, 07/15/2013 - 14:46
Steph

What weights should I start with? I am a woman at 5'2, 140lbs. Never trained before, had only been doing cardio, but think I need to focus on overall fitness.

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Posted Wed, 07/10/2013 - 19:04
Jatin Garg

Hey Steve,
I'm 14 years old, 5'9 and my weight is 123lbs. I was going to start using this routine but need a good meal plan. I looked at this website https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-... but can;t figure out what how many calories I should eat per day, so can you tell me how many to eat?

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Posted Sun, 07/07/2013 - 13:57
Alex

Hey Steve, been looking over your beginning work out and it looks pretty simple and effective and like something i got started with many years ago. I am 46, 5'10" and my weight seems to fluctuate between 186- 183. I am looking to get a little lean and definition in my muscles. I haven't been to the gym in probably 20yrs, so my question is will this work for what i would like to do? and also how much cardio should i do and is cardio okay to do on the days you have to rest?? Would also like a good meal plan to help with the lean that you can refer me to. Thanks for your advice

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Posted Sun, 06/30/2013 - 13:21
Ali

I have been going to the gym for the last 2 years but working out without any proper plan and feel like there's not been much improvement in the last two years so I wanted to start over again. Will this plan be a good way to start to improve on my strength and build some muscle? Also can anyone recommend me some sort of diet plan too if possible? Thanks!

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Posted Thu, 06/27/2013 - 11:14
Justin

Can a skinny 14 year old follow this plan but change a few things

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Posted Fri, 06/21/2013 - 21:32
Greg Riggs

Steve I am a 6'3 279 lbs 35 yr old man . I am only able to get there 4 times a week currently mon-thurs. I wish to lose weight and get muscle definition and become healthier and more active overall. I am wondering if when its time to during weeks 3-4 to workout 3 days a week if it will hinder me to continue to workout 2 days also on the off days is swimming and basketball ok activities or should I run. I will also implement a healthy diet in to my daily living.

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Posted Sun, 06/16/2013 - 23:35
mo

Hey Steve,

Im pretty over weight, id like to start this workout along with 3 days of cardio, is this workout ok to mix with cardio or should i go to a diff workout plan.

Thanks,

Mo

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Posted Sat, 06/01/2013 - 23:42
gabby tallan

hello steve im new to this and im 18, i did these workouts and have seen results in 2 weeks thankyou so much

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Posted Thu, 05/30/2013 - 13:51
Ankit

I am 178 cm and earlier I used to have 202 lbs of weight, in an year I have lost 22 lbs. Now from the past 6 months i am trying to build my body by weight training but still not got good results what should i do?? Please let me know that what kind of diet should I follow so that I do not get fatty again and also be able to gain for building my muscles...Please Help!!!

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Posted Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:16
Israel

Hello, I'm 22, 179lbs 6'2'', I'm pretty slender,I have a really fast metabolism I've tried various supplements and routines,eating a lot of chicken,eggs, veggies etc,some friends told me to just do whatever at the gym that as long as I did something over time it would pay off. but haven't had any noticeable results( did gain some strength though) I wasn't very consistent to be honest because every time I would get discouraged, but I'm tired of feeling/looking like a twig, I want to be fit. is this plan something I should do? or what should i do? thanks in advance! :)

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Posted Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:08
Anthony

Hi there, I'm 14 year old who wants to start lifting. I'm 5"10,130lbs and quite skinny. I want to get stronger for Rugby and also build muscle so I look good. Is this the right workout for me?

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Posted Fri, 05/24/2013 - 07:36
gabby tallan

hey steve im 18.. and doing this beginner workout?
can i do cardio also? if not? how many times can i least do cardio?