Build muscle as quickly as possible using this 20-week program that features 3 unique stages: neuromuscular adaptation, conditioning, and maximization.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

If you're just starting out, the gym can be overwhelming. From choosing exercises to figuring out a schedule, you want to build muscle as quickly as possible all while not failing like so many other beginners do.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

This 20 week quick start program takes you from point A to point Z, providing you with specific workouts and training schedules that will help you make those gains and reach the level of success you are after. This workout program features 3 specific stages:

Stage 1 - Neuromuscular Adaptation 

The focus during this 4 week stage is on learning the exercises, practicing proper form, and developing the habit of actually getting to the gym and not missing workouts. You will be working out only twice a week but using the same workout each day.

Stage 2 - Conditioning and Building

Another 4 week stage. You will train 3 days per week and learn how to push yourself properly on each exercise. Sets will be maximized, and you will start to add strength and muscle.

Stage 3 - Maximizing Beginner Gains

This is a 12 week stage that will have your working out 4 days per week. The format will be an upper/lower style of training. You will get as strong as possible using conventional muscle building rep ranges.

20 Week Quick-Start Workout Program

Stage 1: Neuromuscular Adaptation

This stage is a feeling out stage. Start with a moderately light weight and only add weight to an exercise when the sets feel relatively easy. Don't rush into weight additions. First and foremost, you want to develop consistency and an understanding of exercise form. Once you hit a nice stride, then slowly add weight as you can. Below is a sample workout schedule:

  • Day 1 - Workout A
  • Day 2 - Rest
  • Day 3 - Rest
  • Day 4 - Workout A
  • Day 5 - Rest
  • Day 6 - Rest
  • Day 7 - Rest

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 2 10
Bench Press 2 10
Stiff Leg Deadlift 2 10
Barbell Row 2 10
Military Press 2 10
Skullcrushers 2 10
Dumbbell Curls 2 10
Seated Calf Raises 2 10
Sit Ups 2 10

Stage 2: Conditioning & Building

Using good form, start to focus on pushing sets for more and more reps. You do not want to train to failure or perform reps with sloppy form. Add weight when you reach the recommended number of reps for a set. Below is a sample workout schedule:

  • Day 1 - Workout A
  • Day 2 - Rest
  • Day 3 - Workout B
  • Day 4 - Rest
  • Day 5 - Workout C
  • Day 6 - Rest
  • Day 7 - Rest

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 10
Bench Press 3 10
Leg Curls 3 10
Barbell Rows 3 10
Military Press 3 10
Skullcrushers 3 10
EZ Bar Preacher Curls 3 10
Seated Calf Raise 3 10
Sit Ups 3 10-25

Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 10
Leg Press 3 10
Dumbbell Flys 3 10
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down 3 10
Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Fly 3 10
Dips 3 10
Hammer Curls 3 10
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 10
Dumbbell Side Bends 3 10

Workout C

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10
Leg Curls 3 10
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 10
Seated Arnold Press 3 10
Cable Tricep Extensions 3 10
Dumbbell Curls 3 10
Standing Calf Raises 3 10
Plank 3 60 sec

Shirtless man in black shorts doing pullups in gym.

Stage 3: Maximizing Beginner Gains

Push every set for as many reps as possible - no exceptions. Never waste a set. Stop each set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep or when you form starts to slip. Add weight when you reach the recommended number of reps per set. Below is a sample workout schedule:

  • Day 1 - Workout A
  • Day 2 - Workout B
  • Day 3 - Rest
  • Day 4 - Workout C
  • Day 5 - Workout D
  • Day 6 - Rest
  • Day 7 - Rest

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 10
Leg Extensions 3 10
Leg Curls 3 10
Seated Calf Raises 3 15
Decline Weighted Sit Up 3 15-25
Barbell Shrugs 3 10

Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 10
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 10
Military Press 3 10
Dips or Cable Extensions 3 10
Pull Ups 3 AMRAP
EZ Bar Curls 3 10

Related: Can't Do Pullups? Try These 3 Pull Up Progressions

Workout C

Exercise Sets Reps
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 10
Squats 2 15
Leg Press 3 15
Standing Calf Raises 3 15
Plank 3 60 sec
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 10

Workout D

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10
Barbell Rows 3 10
Seated Arnold Press 3 10
Close Grip Bench Press 3 10
Pull Ups  3 AMRAP
Seated Dumbbell Curls 3 10

What's Next?

Once you finish this 20-week program, you're probably wondering what to do next to keep making progress in the gym. A solid diet paired with consistency in the gym will keep you on track to reach your goals

For strength goals, check out the Muscle & Strength Full Body Workout Routine or our 4 Day Barbell Only Workout (No Rack Required). For muscle building goals, check out this 4 Day Power Muscle Burn Workout or the 4 Day Upper/Lower Dumbbell Workout. For fat loss goals, try out the 12 Week Fat Destroyer Workout & Diet Program.

Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2023 - 10:14

for workout c in 3rd phase is it 2 sets for squats or 3?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/16/2023 - 07:19

2 sets

Posted on: Wed, 12/14/2022 - 12:28


Should I add weight when I reach the number of reps on all 3 sets or just on the first set?

For example should I increase weight when I hit 10x10x10, or should I increase weight when I hit 10 on one of them?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/22/2022 - 06:27

If you're a beginner, then go up when you hit 10x10x10. As you progress, you can shift to adding weight when you hit the rep goal on one set.

Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Thu, 10/27/2022 - 17:37

On the last section of workouts, on day C, are we targeting glutes or quads?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 10/28/2022 - 18:50

Glutes, Wesley.

Posted on: Sat, 10/22/2022 - 15:18

Can you give me detail explanation about this which is mentioned in this plan in stage 03 "
Push every set for as many reps as possible. Stop each set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep or when
your form starts to slip. Add weight when you reach the recommended number of reps per set "

Asked because given rep range is 10. So do i need to work more than 10 reps till failure?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 10/23/2022 - 11:22

You should reach the point that you might fail on the next rep by the 10th rep. If you can do 12 or more before you reach that point, you went too light. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Wed, 10/19/2022 - 02:30


Im about to complete this workout plan in this week. So i need new sugguest of workout plan for follow next. Please help me and give me a workout plan for follow next.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/19/2022 - 08:18

This should help you determine your next program!

Divyansh chugh
Posted on: Wed, 04/13/2022 - 00:05

Hey sir I made really great progress on teenage bodybuilding program and now I have switched to this workout . My question is can I increase sets to 4 and 5 because I am not a total beginner I am a late beginner

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 04/20/2022 - 19:52

Four sets for each would be okay if you feel you can handle it, Divyansh. I don't think you need five though. Focus more on recovery than doing more work in the gym.

Divyansh chugh
Posted on: Sun, 04/10/2022 - 04:05

Can I do incline barbeel bench instead of incline db bench ? and can I add my favorite exercise I know it doesn't build muscle but at the end of workout can I add it ? Thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 04/20/2022 - 19:51

Incline barbell would work fine, Divyansh. Whatever that favorite exercise is, sure.

Divyansh chugh
Posted on: Sun, 03/27/2022 - 12:15

Hey sir can I replace dips and close grip bench.
I mean in stage 3 can I add dips in workout d and close grip bench in workout b

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 03/31/2022 - 09:25

Sure you can, Divyansh. Let us know how it works for you.

Posted on: Mon, 03/15/2021 - 09:57

Hello are on stage 2 workout b and c supposed to be the same or is that a mistake? Thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:30

Hey Ilfad - nice catch! Thanks for pointing that out. I'll have the correct version up shortly.

Posted on: Tue, 12/29/2020 - 05:37

I kind of starting out and am cutting first (approx 3 months); would you say this is a suitable program?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 12/29/2020 - 09:29

Hey John - yes, this program is a great one!

Posted on: Wed, 11/01/2017 - 16:04

Hi! Can I do this workout program just with a pair of dumbbells if I don't have a barbell?

Posted on: Mon, 11/02/2015 - 23:29

Hi I been like 3 or 4 month out of lifting weights because of a shoulder injury, you think this is a good routine to start over? and other question can I do the stage 1 3 days instead of 2?

Posted on: Wed, 03/18/2015 - 22:04

If I just completed your 8 week novice workout plan is it necessary to do stage 1 of this workout because of their similarities?

Posted on: Wed, 02/18/2015 - 22:39

Can I add more exercises to each workout? Also, I've been going for a month, so would you recommend going to stage 2?

james sherry
Posted on: Thu, 08/28/2014 - 18:32

I am just starting out with weight training. How much weight should I be starting with for each exercise.

Posted on: Tue, 12/29/2020 - 05:33

Just start with the barbell and add slow increments per session. For the compounds (Squats, Deadlifts etc.) add 5 kg per workout and for the accessory exercises add smaller increments (2,5 kg). It may not seem much but week to week it will increase over time!

Posted on: Sat, 07/26/2014 - 01:51

Steve how much time between sets should I rest?

Rishabh Sharma
Posted on: Thu, 04/24/2014 - 06:55

Hello, Im 18 years old and a complete beginner. Moreover im pretty damn skinny. Should the program work just fine for me? Anything you'd want to suggest?

Posted on: Fri, 03/21/2014 - 10:26

im 33 years im beginner this programs will help me to remove the belly fat

Posted on: Wed, 03/12/2014 - 22:39

How long should I rest in between sets?

Posted on: Thu, 02/06/2014 - 14:51

I have a weird problem, I've been following this workout routine for about 10 weeks but instead of my back getting bigger my cock has become massive! Any suggestions? could I be doing something wrong?

Posted on: Thu, 03/09/2017 - 01:28

I would thank the Lord!

Posted on: Mon, 01/27/2014 - 16:09

Cant seem to find any other articles for Ian Coleman anywhere else but here. Does anyone know where they can be found or how to ask him training questions? Does he have a website?

Posted on: Fri, 11/01/2013 - 05:54

may i knw the chart to play. .aftr the end of thz chart plz

Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2013 - 01:52

Umm rest periods between sets? Or no rest?

Posted on: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 20:17

I had a big gym break so need to get in shape suited for me thanks.

Posted on: Thu, 07/25/2013 - 13:36

So tell me, how long should I rest between sets?

Posted on: Fri, 07/19/2013 - 18:08

What amount of raw weight gain (in kg) would I be looking at in 20 weeks if I followed this routine precisely, combined with whey protein gold standard? Because to be honest my foremost goal from starting this programme would be pure size, and five months is a lot of time, so I'd expect real results.

Posted on: Sat, 07/06/2013 - 02:16

Could I switch the order of exercises around and do the back exercises before the chest exercises, or should I just do them in the order they are laid out? Am I right in assuming that the back muscle is bigger than the chest muscle?

Posted on: Thu, 07/04/2013 - 16:47

pls be in london

Posted on: Wed, 07/03/2013 - 10:20

@ Alyssa, not an expert but it looks like you can. I was doing it for my first month going to the gym times a week. I think the most important thing for stage 1 is making sure not to miss your workout schedule.

Posted on: Thu, 06/13/2013 - 19:31

Could I start stage 1 with three days per week, instead of two (as long as I have a rest day between each workout)?

Posted on: Sun, 06/02/2013 - 05:09

What's with the comment dislikes anyway?? that's weak!

Posted on: Fri, 05/24/2013 - 14:23

Can you please give me some guidelines to the amount of weight I should be starting out lifting for this plan? I'm completely new to working out with weights and would appreciate the advice. I'm female, 100lb, reasonably fit but looking to build muscle. Thanks.

Posted on: Tue, 05/21/2013 - 16:54

This workout sucks, im a real big boyyyyy

Posted on: Sun, 05/19/2013 - 20:25

I have been working out off and on for quite a while now and have made reasonable strength gains, but I am still yet to master perfect form with a couple of these exercises like the bent over row and stiff leg deadlift.
Do you suggest i begin this program at stage 1 and focus working on the form using lighter weight just because Im not confident with one or two of the exercises? or just jump into stage 2?


Posted on: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 00:03

what is the recommended diet plan for this??

Posted on: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 13:53

Hi Steve,
I'am working on the second stage and i want to know if the table with sets and reps is what i have to do or if it's just an indication ? Should i increase weight or reps or sets ?

Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 11:09

I also haven't gone to the gym in about 2 years but but was quite into it then and when to the gym a least 4 times a week. Would it be beneficial to start this program from scratch in order to get back into the gym routine and get my muscles growing again? Furthermore, if I do this program and complete it, should I and could I move on to an intermediate program such as "Steve's Density And Strength 4 Day Split" ?


Posted on: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 03:49

I used to have a great body before, but I stopped going to the gym for about 2 yrs and now my muscles have shrinked already. I am not that fat but I now have a big tummy. If I get back to the gym and use this program, can I have my body sculpted? I really wanna have a lean body and I'm hoping if this program can give it to me?