The Best Muscle Building Workout for Natural Bodybuilders

Josh England
Written By: Josh England
May 16th, 2019
Updated: June 13th, 2020
248.9K Reads
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
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration18 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout60-90 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Exercise Ball, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

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.

Editor's Note: Make sure you’re doing all the right things you need to be doing to build lean muscle mass. For those looking for a more in-depth resource to teach them how to build muscle, we’ve created a FREE 5 day Muscle Building Email Course.

The course will teach you how your body builds muscle, how to utilize workout plans on our website to maximize muscle growth, how to eat to build muscle, how to supplement to build muscle and how to track your progress.

Sign up below today to learn and ensure you get the most out of this workout program.

Need help building muscle? Take our FREE 5-part email Muscle Building Course!

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!

Saad Ali Khan
Posted on: Sat, 06/22/2024 - 05:31

Can i skip phase one and start directly with phase two in this best workout for natural bodybuilders?
I have been lifting weights for about 2 years and i want to change my workout so phase one will not satisfy me so can i skip it ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/24/2024 - 06:09

Sure, Saad. Let us know how it goes. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 04:36

Is there ever a time when cheat sets are beneficial?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 09:51

What's good, Jeff? I like to do a cheat set occasionally as the final set of an exercise like curls. It can be a great way to overload the muscles because they are stronger with negatives. Cheat the weight up and control the negative. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Thu, 01/11/2024 - 14:02

Thank you Roger. I am always so focused on doing the sets with proper form I never do a cheat set. I will try this for my last set.

Posted on: Thu, 12/29/2022 - 07:09

Hi Josh! I have found several programs for building muscle. Do you have a program for cutting as well?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/29/2022 - 10:30

Hi, Jeff. Josh wrote this fat loss program that I think you would like.

Thanks for reading M&S!

Martin Quinn
Posted on: Tue, 12/27/2022 - 16:03

Sorry, but I dont agree with your phase 2. For a beginner natural, 6 days a week training is much to high fequency, and will lead fast to overtraining...

Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2022 - 06:45

Thank you for putting this program out there! It has been one of the best for me. I originally did the full body portion three days in a row and it seemed odd to rest so long. My mistake. Overall I am making a lot of progress and I am 60 years old! Thanks again! Jeff

Posted on: Wed, 04/27/2022 - 07:44

Is the hyper extension exercise you call out in phase two is for the back and glutes?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 04/27/2022 - 21:37

It is for the lower back, Jeff. You could squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement as well.

Big papi
Posted on: Mon, 04/25/2022 - 07:01

Seems 3 back exercises with rest pause and 1 day rest seems a bit much ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 04/27/2022 - 21:37

Give it a try for yourself and see. You can always back off if you feel it is too intense.

Posted on: Fri, 03/25/2022 - 19:18

Hello! I am a little confused about this program. Is the full body Workout supposed to be trained three days in a row and the rest of the week of or is it designed to be trained monday, wednesday and friday?

Push/pull program: Am I really supposed to train this six days in a row and with only one day off. Won`t that be to little rest?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 03/30/2022 - 20:38

Hi, Arve. Do the full body workouts on alternating days. M,W,F, or T, Th, Sa.

As for the push/pull program, you can do three days in a row, then take a day off before doing the other three. This could help with the rest if you feel six in a row would be too much for you.

Posted on: Thu, 01/06/2022 - 15:38

In phase 1 you have Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3. What do you do the other for days of the week?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2022 - 11:29

You rest, Jeff. You could do cardio with moderate effort, but the main focus should be on rest and recovery.

Posted on: Sat, 08/13/2022 - 12:46

You can’t underestimate how effective rest can be for us Natties. It feels strange if you’ve come from a low rest program but trust me, if you hit it hard on your work days, the rest days are vital.

Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2022 - 17:01

Thank you Roger. I guess I was confused by all of the rest! Maybe that is why I am not making progress.

Fernando L
Posted on: Tue, 12/14/2021 - 09:08

Hello, If I want to change an exercise to include the barbell glute extension, which one could be?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/17/2021 - 15:22

Hey Fernando, either add it in as an extra exercise, or replace a lower body movement with the one you want.

Posted on: Thu, 06/17/2021 - 21:42

For a set with only 6 reps what is the ideal TUT we should be aiming for ?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/21/2021 - 10:06

Hey Jason - reps should be controlled and not rushed. These are not paused reps so you should do the movements at a regular speed.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:05

Jason - it's best to follow the program as written.

Posted on: Wed, 07/14/2021 - 15:56

Can I do 3 sets of 12 instead of 3 sets of 6?

Andrew Copeland
Posted on: Wed, 05/19/2021 - 17:03

This program looks great. I’d like to know about the weight we should be using. Do we increase the weight each week? Should I be starting mid range and building? This is new to me so I appreciate your help.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 05/20/2021 - 09:44

Hey Andrew - you should use a weight that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps. You don't want to reach failure on each set. You should have 1-2 reps left in the tank.

Posted on: Mon, 04/19/2021 - 23:24

This is by far the best program I have ever done. Chest day, back day, arm day, leg day . . . is for chumps and juice heads. I've tried a lot of workout programs and this is the one I always come back to and always works for me. Thanks for posting this program, I was lost in the wilderness before I figured out this is the way to train instead of bodybuilding splits.

Posted on: Wed, 04/07/2021 - 10:11

Seriously where do you train the long head of triceps in PPL and 3 day fullbody except in OHP (secondary muscle activation) ...????

Posted on: Sat, 07/18/2020 - 11:48


i'm 48 years old, can i do this workout or it's better for me to do fullbody 3x time a week?

Excuse my english, i'm french.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 15:30

Hey Michel

You can definitely perform this workout. However, make sure your diet is on point and you're fueling your body what it needs to expel all of this energy. If you think any of these exercises could be an injury risk, it's best to check with your doctor to make sure you're cleared for them.

Posted on: Sun, 03/08/2020 - 15:37

Hello, I have been doing the 3-day Workout Routine( for 2 months and I am thinking of changing my program to this one- Workout for Natural body builders. I have a few questions regarding this program:
1. I am a beginner, i.e., I have experience of less than 1 year working out regularly in gym. Can I start this program right now or should I continue with a beginner program till I complete 1 year of my workout.
2. I go to gym 3 times in a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Is this program suitable for this frequency. I see that Phase-2 is a 6-Day program.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful content. I have enjoyed doing the 3-day beginner workout program and can't wait to follow the amazing content that M&S creates.

michel møller
Posted on: Tue, 03/03/2020 - 04:03

Hi Josh :)

Love the program, im on phase two now and its awesome. Just wondering, when im done with the 18weeks, can i start the program all over again? and just keep doing this forever? ;)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/03/2020 - 12:09

Hi Michel,

Absolutely - keep running it until you get bored or it quits being effective.

Posted on: Thu, 01/30/2020 - 19:10

Hi Josh,

Can you explain the weight progression in phase 1. Typically on a 5 rep set I would be going for heavier weight (and increasing this weight each week, so increasing on weeks 2 and 3). When exercising with an 8 or 12 rep set I would be decreasing weight (compared to the 5 rep set). Should we be decreasing weight when hitting the transition on weeks 4 and weeks 7, while simultaneously increasing within each 3 week phase?

Patrick Meehan
Posted on: Thu, 01/16/2020 - 10:14

Hi Josh in phase 2 could it be done as 4 day per week instead of 6

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/16/2020 - 15:46

Hi Patrick,

Yep! That would be fine.

Posted on: Wed, 01/08/2020 - 10:48

Hi, I’m on Phase 2 of the plan. As it is 6 days a week, am I okay to take a day other than Sunday as a rest day and continue through the plan for the remainder of the week, starting the next weeks plan as normal on the following Monday?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/08/2020 - 14:30

Hi Jack,

Yes, that is how the program is written.

Posted on: Wed, 01/01/2020 - 13:33

For the 1St. Phase
Training 3 days / week
Monday Wednesday and Friday, the other days rest day. ?
And what’s with cardio ,?

Thank you

Posted on: Sun, 12/15/2019 - 09:16


The first phase is only three times a week? feks mon-wed-fri? or do i train all three days twice a week? :)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 12/16/2019 - 09:53

Hi Michel,

3 full body training sessions per week,

Posted on: Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:47

Can I alternate phase 1 and phase 2 weekly? Ex: week 1 (phase 1), week 2 (phase 2), week 3 (phase 1), week 4 (phase 2), etc.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 12/03/2019 - 16:16

Hi David,

I wouldn't recommend this. But you could.

Alexander Darcy...
Posted on: Sun, 11/24/2019 - 20:35

How should i go about choosing weights? with 5x5 id normally choose heavy but the next step with the higher reps low sets make me think i would't be progressing in weight? I am also 6ft 5 and building muscle that is aesthetic is quite a struggle.

Dave Keeton
Posted on: Sun, 12/29/2019 - 20:53

I second this question. starting weight in %1RM would be useful. sets go down, reps go up. you mention rest period going down progressively. but is there a recommended progression or just hit what you can for the programming?

Auston Oleksiw
Posted on: Fri, 11/15/2019 - 14:21

So the total program duration is 18 weeks, what routine should I follow after this, and I want to continue with natural bodybuilding?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2019 - 16:04

Hi Auston,

It depends on your goals. Honestly, I would give this a read and aim to create a training system individualized to your body type.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2019 - 16:04

Hi Auston,

It depends on your goals. Honestly, I would give this a read and aim to create a training system individualized to your body type.

Posted on: Mon, 11/04/2019 - 10:04

I'm used to 4x8 & 3x12 type of routines. This one is mainly 3x8 & 2x12. Does the difference have any practical effect?