The Best Muscle Building Workout for Natural Bodybuilders

Don't fall victim to workouts that have way too much unnecessary training volume. This workout program was written with natural bodybuilders in mind.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
18 weeks
60-90 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Exercise Ball, Machines
Male & Female
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Workout Description

If you’re a natural lifter, you’re probably training the wrong way.

Most workouts written today aren’t optimized for those of us who aren’t enhanced.

As workout mediums have developed over time, workout routines have included more volume than necessary for the natural bodybuilder to see results.

Even I’m guilty of having created some of these unnecessarily high volume workout routines. And I’m not ashamed to admit it – there’s a time and a place for this sort of training. Even if you aren’t taking steroids (more on that in a minute).

However, if you truly want to maximize your muscle growth potential, then you want to ensure you are performing workouts that get you closer to your goals.

Designing Workouts for Natural Bodybuilders

Most of us who try to build our bodies through weight and resistance training do so without any actual goal to step on stage.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Body recomposition as a goal in of itself is a way to make going to the gym a very motivational experience.

But, it brings me back to the point above. There’s a time and a place for any kind of training. Being highly motivated by the routine you are performing in the moment is the best long term strategy to developing muscle size and achieving recomp goals.

Adherence to individualized programs isn’t something science actually measures when they’re experimenting to find the optimal training frequency for unenhanced lifters – that’s why someone who enjoys body part splits and performs them for years is going to be more successful than someone who hates full body splits and only does them for a short period of time hoping to maximize muscle growth.

And speaking of individualized, most programs you’ll find online aren’t individualized for your specific needs. They won’t take into account your injury history, the amount of time you actually have to make it to the gym, your strengths/weaknesses, or the volume and intensity balance necessary to make YOU grow.

So, before reading on you should know you can find ways to manipulate the program below to better fit your individual needs and goals. Whether that be through exercise selection, reps & sets, or actual training days, you can alter this program in any way you fancy to better fit your needs.

What I will do is start off by outlining guidelines you’ll want to adhere to if you are natural and want to maximize your training outcome. I’ll then provide a two phase sample routine you can follow to build lean muscle.

Workouts for Natural Lifters

Rule #1: Workout Frequency for the Natural Lifter

Your training frequency will dictate your ability to maximize muscle growth as a natural bodybuilder.

With every training session you hit as a natural, you induce muscle protein synthesis. The caveat though, is you’ll also need to take your time to actually recover from the training session. Working out multiple times per day likely won’t benefit you as a natural, unless you’re in your early 20’s with nothing else in life to focus on outside of training, eating, and sleeping.

The best types of split to optimize training frequency? Full body workouts, upper/lower workouts, and push/pull workouts. A case can also be made for push/pull/legs workouts.

With this program, however, we will focus on a full body primer phase and pair it with a push/pull growth phase. The goal is to hit each muscle group either directly or indirectly 3 times per week.

Rule #2: Workout Volume for the Natural Lifter

This is where things begin to get somewhat dicey. As mentioned, most workout routines on the web have way too much volume for your average, natural lifter.

Too much volume can lead to too much muscle breakdown, leading you to spin your wheels and questioning why you can’t ever seem to get the physique you desire.

Too little volume, and we don’t even get the muscle growth stimulus needed to make your wheels spin.

Volume can be highly individualized depending on your individual muscle composition (the ratio of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers you have) too. There’s special tests out there you can take to help determine the make-up of your muscles.

Realistically though, you’re just going to have to experiment to find what works best for you. OR, periodically go through many different phases that utilize a number of different rep schemes.

The program outlined below will help you do just that.

Rule #3: Exercise Selection for the Natural Lifter

Exercise selection is going to be dependent on the number of days and the amount of time you have available to allocate to the gym.

For the full body phase, the exercise selection is going to be predominately compound movements. Of course, the ones listed can be substituted for other variations of the lift. During this phase, you won’t have much in way of isolation work. But, all of your muscles will see plenty of work to stimulate growth – even if it’s indirect volume.

Each session will include 5 lifts. 4 will be foundational functional lifts. The 5th will be a core stability exercise.

As we transition into the push/pull phase, we’ll begin to incorporate a little more isolation work. We’ll do so for a couple of reasons. The push/pull phase will have a high training frequency, so we want to lessen some of the fatigue during each session. It’ll also give you a chance to build up muscle size which will prove to be beneficial should you try to cycle through this program again in the future.

For this phase, we will utilize 3 compound movements, 2 isolation movements, and a core movement for 6 total exercises per day.

Muscle Building Workout for Natural Bodybuilders

Now that we’ve covered some of the things you will need to consider as a natural lifter, let’s talk about an actual workout routine that will help you accomplish your bodybuilding related goals.

The following workout is broken up into two phases. Each phase will have different rules when it comes to rest periods, exercise selection, total volume, training frequency, etc.

Both however, were designed to take you from someone who has performed more enhanced-friendly workouts their whole life to someone who is maximizing their gainz naturally.

Phase 1: Foundation for Natural Bodybuilding

Phase 1 of the best workout routine for natural bodybuilders features three full body workouts. This phase lasts for 9 weeks.

These workouts consist of the best exercise someone can do to maximize their time in the gym. As a result, they tend to be foundational movement patterns by nature.

You’ll notice for each of the exercises, the scheme will look like 3-5 x 5-12. Every 3 weeks, you’ll be changing the amount of reps and sets you are doing.

The first 3 weeks you’ll perform 5 sets of 5 reps. The following 3 weeks you’ll perform 4 sets of 8 reps. And the final 3 weeks, you’ll perform 3 sets of 12 reps.

The rest periods for the first 3 weeks will be 3 mins. The following 3 weeks, you’ll lower rest to 90 seconds. And the last 3 weeks, you’ll rest for 45 seconds.

Day 1: Full Body Workout for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Front Squat 3-5 5-12
Barbell Row 3-5 5-12
Barbell Shoulder Press 3-5 5-12
Chin Up 3-5 5-12
Dead Bugs 3 12 Each

*Week 1-3 perform 5 x 5 with 3 min rest periods.
*Week 4-6 perform 4 x 8 with 90 sec rest periods.
*Week 7-9 perform 3 x 12 with 45 sec rest periods.

Day 2: Full Body Workout for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 3-5 5-12
Barbell Bench Press 3-5 5-12
T-Bar Landmine Row 3-5 5-12
Dumbbell Reverse Lunge 3-5 5-12
Loaded Carry 3-5 30-60 Secs

*Week 1-3 perform 5 x 5 with 3 min rest periods.
*Week 4-6 perform 4 x 8 with 90 sec rest periods.
*Week 7-9 perform 3 x 12 with 45 sec rest periods.

Day 3: Full Body Workout for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Back Squat 3-5 5-12
Pull Up 3-5 5-12
Dumbbell Press 3-5 5-12
Dumbbell Bench Press 3-5 5-12
Suitcase Carries 3-5 30-60 Secs

*Week 1-3 perform 5 x 5 with 3 min rest periods.
*Week 4-6 perform 4 x 8 with 90 sec rest periods.
*Week 7-9 perform 3 x 12 with 45 sec rest periods.

Phase 2: Push/Pull Workout for Natural Bodybuilding

After you’ve finished the full body primer phase, you’ll move onto the Push/Pull phase. This phase will have slightly more volume per workout, while also providing some isolation work for the muscle groups that were somewhat neglected in the previous phase.

This phase will also last for 9 weeks. Unlike phase 1, the rep and set scheme won’t change throughout the phase. Instead, you’ll change the intensity technique used on the final set of each exercise.

During the first 3 weeks, simply perform straight sets to get used to the increased volume and training frequency. The next 3 weeks, you’ll perform a rest-pause set on the very last set of each compound exercise (the first 3 exercises each training day). And the final 3 weeks, you’ll perform a drop set on each of the exercises (except core exercises).

For rest periods, rest for 90 seconds on all of your compound lifts, 60 seconds on your isolation lifts, and 30 seconds on any core work.

Day 1: Push Workout A for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Squat 3 8
Overhead Press 3 8
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 8
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 2 12
Overhead Barbell Tricep Ext 2 12
Ab Crunch 2 20
Day 2: Pull Workout A for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 3 8
Bent Over Row 3 8
Lat Pull Down 3 8
Seated Leg Curl 2 12
EZ Bar Curl 2 12
Lying Leg Raise 2 20
Day 3: Push Workout B for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 3 7
Barbell Bench Press 3 7
Dumbbell Overhead Press 3 7
Leg Extension 2 15
Machine Fly 2 15
Exercise Ball Crunch 2 20
Day 4: Pull Workout B for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlift 3 7
T Bar Row 3 7
Pull Up 3 7
Hyperextension 2 15
Incline Hammer Curls 2 15
Hanging Leg Raise 2 12
Day 5: Push Workout C for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Hack Squat 3 6
Decline Bench Press 3 6
Seated Military Press 3 6
Push Up 2 20
Seated Lateral Raise 2 20
Bicycle Crunch 2 20 Each
Day 6: Pull Workout C for Naturals
Exercise Sets Reps
Landmine Romanian Deadlift 3 6
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 6 Each
Underhand Lat Pull Down 3 6
Cable Face Pull 2 20
Cable Curl 2 20
Planks 2 60 Secs


Everyone’s needs will be different. However, when it comes to natural bodybuilding – you’ll benefit from cutting down on the volume and focusing on the big compound lifts.

To ensure you’re entertained in the gym and are maximizing your results, it would be beneficial to cycle through different set and rep schemes as well as frequency.

Most natural lifters will benefit from hitting each muscle group 3 times per week if able to do so. The best way to accomplish this is though full body workouts and push/pull splits.

If you have any questions regarding any of the information outlined in the workout routine or simply have a request for a workout routine you’d like to see in the future, please leave a comment below!

4 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 06/11/2019 - 23:57

Hi Josh,

Could an Upper/Lower split work similar to a Push/Pull (6 days total, 3 each)? Maybe add some HIIT at the end of the Lower days?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 06/12/2019 - 15:01

Hi Ron,

Yes, for sure! It's all about maximizing training frequency and optimizing recovery. Upper/Lowers will accomplish that too.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 05/30/2019 - 10:12


JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 05/31/2019 - 16:49

Hi Josue,

That is correct, phase 1 is just 3 times per week. I wouldn't recommend upping the workload to 6 times per week. Focus on building strength and getting into the routine during phase 1.