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Start from Scratch: Phase 2 of the Complete Beginner's Program

Start from Scratch: Phase 2 of the Complete Beginner's Program
New to the gym scene? This second part of the Start from Scratch program can be used as a road map to help you learn how to build muscle the right way.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
4 weeks
30-45 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
Male & Female

Workout Description

Now that you’ve finished up with the breaking in portion of beginner’s bodybuilding, it’s time you got aboard the gain train.

The break-in routine was about setting a basic foundation on which to build your new physique, so now it’s time to start building.

Now that you’ve got your foundation set and are familiar with all the basics, you can prepare to see and feel some more noticeable results.

Always remember, however, that bodybuilding – or any physique goals – require time, patience, and dedication.

Results may come slow at times, but persistence is the key to keeping up with your momentum and seeing your goals all the way through.

Now, let’s get to work.

Beginner’s Bodybuilding – Phase 2 Routine

Unlike the first phase of this beginner’s bodybuilding program, you don’t need to start with a full-body break-in routine. When switching to a new routine, it’s sometimes a good idea to start in medium-intensity mode for a week, though.

Related: Full Muscle &Strength Database of Begginer Workouts

This not only builds in some active “recovery” between intense training routines, it also gives you a chance to get a good feel for any new exercises and a good handle on what sort of poundage you’ll need to be using.

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For Phase 2, we’re going to stick with the less-is-more theme. That doesn’t mean to use less weight or less intensity, obviously. It just means you don’t need to spend hours upon hours in the gym, as that would be self-defeating.

As for the weights and intensity, you should be putting 100% effort into your work sets, so if you reach your target rep range easily or without much struggle, it’s time to increase the weights.

Oh, and if you do find it easy to get your reps on any given set, especially if it’s the last set on a particular exercise, don’t rack the weight! Keep going until you can’t get any more reps, then increase the weight next time.

Your first phase was based on a two-day split, with just one to two sets per exercise, so Phase 2 will bump that up to a three-day training split. This will allow you to concentrate more on specific muscle groups at each workout, and it will increase the volume per body part slightly without adding significant time to the workout.

Workout 1
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Bench Press 3 10-12
2. Dumbbell Fly 2 10-12
3. Incline Dumbbell Press 3 10-12
4. Lying Extensions 3 10-12
5. Overhead Extensions 2 10-12
6. Pushdowns 2 12-15
7. Knee Ups 2 10-12
8. Full Range Crunches 2 12-15
9. Plank 1 60 sec
Workout 2
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squats 3 10-12
2. Sissy Squats 2 10-12
3. Leg Extensions 2 10-12
4. Stiff-legged Deadlifts 3 10-12
5. Leg Curls 2 10-12
6. Leg Press Calf Raise 3 12-15
7. Standing Calf Raise 2 12-15
8. Seated Calf Raise 2 12-15
Workout 3
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Pull Downs 3 10-12
2. Pullovers 2 10-12
3. Bent-over Rows (or Machine) 2 10-12
4. Bent-Arm Bent-Over Laterals 2 10-12
5. Dumbbell Shrugs 2 12-15
6. Upright Rows 3 12-15
7. Incline One-Arm Laterals 2 10-12
8. Lateral Raises 2 10-12
9. Barbell Curls 3 10-12
10. Incline Curls 2 10-12
11. Concentration Curls 2 12-15

Phase 2 routine notes

This one is still a fairly basic routine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Basics are still what you want at this point, but the volume is increasing a bit, and there’s obviously more variety than in the first phase.

The rep ranges listed are suggested based on optimizing a balance between power and time under tension – remember to stick with the same two seconds up/down cadence; you still want to feel the reps.

Also, note that certain exercises have a slightly higher number of reps listed. Those exercises have a shorter range of motion, so the higher rep count should allow you to still maximize a decent amount of time under tension.

This three-day routine is designed to be used as a Monday-Wednesday-Friday training split, so you get a recovery day in between each workout followed by the weekend off.

Obviously, some people may feel motivated to push that a little further, or you may find that you don’t need as much recovery time. There are few ways you can break this routine down as listed below:

M&S Female Athlete Recovering with Protein

Standard Split – Maximum Recovery

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 3
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off

Every-other-day Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 3
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Workout 1
(Continue with Workout 2 on Tuesday, off Wednesday, Workout 3 on Thursday, etc.)

3-on/1-off Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Workout 3
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 1
Saturday: Workout 2
Sunday: Workout 3
(Continue with Monday off then restarting the 3-day sequence on Tuesday)

2-on/1-off Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Workout 3
Friday: Workout 1
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Workout 1
(Continue with Workout 2 and 3 on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday off, etc.)

Beginning Bodybuilding – Phase 2 Summary

Now that you’re fully underway with your new muscle-building lifestyle, remember that bodyweight isn’t necessarily a good way to measure anything when it comes to physique-shaping goals. You could be gaining muscle at the same rate that you’re burning fat, or you could be gaining mostly fat if you’re not careful with your nutrition.

Taking progress pictures now and at the end of the 4-6 weeks on this routine will give you an idea of what changes you’ve made, and you’re better off using a tape measure rather than watching a scale all the time.

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If you decide to take photos, be sure to take them in the same lighting, location, and poses. It’s hard to gauge changes to your own body in the mirror, so photos taken every couple of weeks will give you a more accurate story.

For body measurements, keeping track of your waist, chest, and upper/lower legs and arms tell more truth than the scale, but you can certainly track your weight along with these since that combination can tell you a bit more about where weight gains/losses are coming from.

Related: Building The Beginner - Foundation For Muscle & Strength

Stick with this routine for the next 4-6 weeks. Nothing is set in stone, and there’s no single workout that’s perfect for everyone. If you have an exercise you prefer, feel free to swap those out where needed. Three things you should always focus on are:

  • Dedication
  • Motivation
  • Intensity

Whatever routine you use, stick with it and see it all the way through. That doesn’t mean you can’t make minor changes, but don’t stop because it doesn’t seem to be working yet and be patient and realistic with your expectations. Keep short-term goals in mind and work hard toward those. Don’t just go through the motions without focus and intensity.

If you want it, you have to work hard for it.

Now go prove to yourself you can do it.

9 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 07/23/2017 - 01:56

What workout do you recommend after someone has finished this on?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 07/24/2017 - 09:41

Hi Chris,

Specifically - this workout would be a good next step:


But you're more than welcome to checkout our other beginner based workouts here:


I'd hold off on moving to anything with intermediate volume until you've been lifting for ~1yr.

Hope this helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 07/24/2017 - 10:55

Yes it does Josh as I was thinking about intermediate but I've not been lifting long enough it seems. Thanks a million!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 03/27/2017 - 09:51
Mike Blane

This is Phase 2 of what workout?

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Mon, 03/27/2017 - 09:58

Hi Mike,

It's phase 2 of a start from scratch beginner's series. Check out the first edition below:


No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 03/28/2017 - 15:09
Mike Blane

Thank you, JoshEngland, for the quick reply!

I hadn't seen this workout when I started four weeks ago and began with "12 Week Beginners Training Routine" (from https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/12-week-beginners-training-ro...). The Phase 2 workout would be a good next step for me after the 12 week routine is complete if I had access to the barbells.

My current training right now is the beginning workout Mo-We-Fr to build muscle. I have also added cardio (treadmill) Tu-Th-Sa because I want to lose body fat. I have also changed my diet so that I am getting much more protein than before (~200g per day) and much less fat (fitbit diet tracker says that I am getting approximately 21% from carbs, 26% from fat and 53% from protein), and I have upped my water in-take to the recommended 64oz per day. I am beginning to see some results but have no expectation that this will be a fast process. I also do not have access to a gym with all the advanced machines, cables, and barbell equipment yet, so my workouts are currently only with a "Life Fitness Fit 3 Multi-Gym" and dumbbells.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 03/28/2017 - 16:10

Hi Mike,

You're welcome! Glad I could be of some help!

You can modify this program to fit your needs and the equipment you have available to you. For any exercises you don't have the equipment for, check our database for suitable replacements that target the same muscle group but can be done with the equipment you have:


Also from the sound of things, you may either not be taking in enough calories still and/or are taking in a lot of protein for your bodyweight.

To get the calories you need, check here:


After you have your maintenance calories, subtract ~250-500 calories from that to get your daily goal calories.

Protein intake should be kept at ~0.8-1.2g per lb of body weight, fat at 0.4-0.45g per lb of body weight, and then carbs should fill in the rest of your calorie allowance. This ensures a balance diet.

Hope this helps!

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 04/11/2017 - 13:50
Mike Blane

JoshEngland, again, thank you for the information. The protein intake helps a lot, because I haven't had a way to actually tell if I'm close. I'd eventually like to get down to around 12% body fat as a good first long-term goal.

My current weight is 271.4 as of this morning. My food diary indicates that I am taking in approximately 1800 calories a day. I have upped that because of the protein shakes between meals and have really changed the diet, as I said, to get fewer carbs, fewer fats, etc. The BMR calculator inputs I used were: 271.4 pounds, 72 inches, 52 year old male. Since I am working out 6 days a week (three for the workout, three for the cardio) I put that I am very active. Those inputs tell me that I should be taking in 4006 calories per day. Even at "moderately active", that's still 3600 calories per day. My biggest problem right now is how to get to that calorie goal. I am eating a lot for what I used to eat. I am typically full most of the time and don't really want to eat. My stomach gets full much faster than it used to since I have cut down on the portion sizes and upped my water intake. How do I add in the other almost half of the calories that this says that I need and still maintain a healthy balance, or do I even need to, given that my weight is going in the correct direction and that I am really beginning to see muscular gains?

Again, thank you for any advice/information that you can pass on to me.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Tue, 04/11/2017 - 14:01

Hi Mike,

I'd say you'd probably be better off going with the moderately active or even lightly active depending on how strenuous your workouts get. Very active is more reserved for those who compete in competitive sport.

Also, make sure to subtract the 250-500 calories from what the BMR calculator tells you your maintenance level is. This is what will put you in a calorie deficit.

You can always be in a greater deficit than that, however 250-500 cals in generally recommended. It's not drastic and very maintainable over the long term. Also, dramatically cutting your calories and having drastic weight loss can have negative repercussions (like gall-stones). A slow and steady approach always wins out.

If you are having trouble getting enough calories through your current diet, try eating slightly more caloric dense foods. Some healthier options include nuts, butters, and oils. Just make sure to regulate the amount you're taking in. They can easily be over-consumed and put you in a surplus leading to weight gain.

Hope this helps!