So, you rocked my beginner’s weightlifting program. You got your pump on. You even managed to find time to delve into the endless bro science debates on the gym floor. You’re primed and ready for the next step. Well, as always, I got your back. Here’s a free five-week hypertrophy training phase all ready to go. It’s an upper/lower body split that’s great for intermediate lifters. What are you waiting for? Get going!
This workout is suitable for intermediate lifters looking to build muscle.
You’ll train four days per week with a two on one off schedule (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday). The program is an upper/lower body split. You’ll work your upper body on day one and lower body on day two. Use it for five weeks before progressing.
You’ll use a weight that allows you to work in the 10-12 repetition maximum (RM) range. This means working with a weight that challenges you when lifted 10-12 times for each set.
You’ll perform 3 sets per exercise. Aim for 60 seconds’ rest. You can take up to 90 seconds if needed. Stick to this as strictly as possible.
Every week, you increase your level of effort. Use the below rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale to determine effort.
For week 1, you should be working at an RPE of 7. The lifts should be somewhat hard, but you shouldn’t be struggling with any. The aim is to focus on form, feeling the muscle work, and coordination. If you can do 3 or more reps over your 10-12 reps, the weight is too light.
For week 2, you should be working at an RPE of 8. The reps should be more challenging, but you shouldn’t be struggling on the last few reps. Focus on slow, controlled movements. If you can do 2 or more reps over your 10-12 reps, the weight is too light.
For week 3, you should be working at an RPE of 9. The reps should be very challenging, but you’re not training to absolute failure. You should only have 1 rep left at this RPE level.
For week 4, you should be working at an RPE of 9 for the first two sets. Take the last set to failure.
For week 5, you should be working at an RPE of 10. Take all sets to concentric failure. As in, I've got a gun to my head but can't squeeze out another rep to save myself. That's the failure we’re going for.
For week 6, you deload. This means that you reduce volume and intensity of weights lifted to give your body a break. You’ll train at an RPE of 6 for this week. You’ll only train two times with 72 hours rest in between workouts (e.g., train on Monday and Thursday). Use this full body beginner workout for your deload program but keep it light. If the last few reps are hard, reduce the weight.
Summary of Workout
- Repetitions – 10-12 RM
- Sets – 3 per exercise
- Rest interval – aim for 60 seconds, but can go up to 90 seconds
- Tempo – concentric (lifting of weight): explosive. Eccentric (lowering of weight): 2-3 seconds
- Frequency – 4 days per week
I like to chuck on sweatbands and tennis socks and do 1980s style aerobics to get warm. Jane Fonda VHS tapes work well. Here’s a routine for you. Okay, just screwing with you to make sure you’re still paying attention. Now on to the details.
Complete a 5-10 minute warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and light cardio or movement preparation. In addition, you need to do warm up sets on every exercise. You simply use about 50% of your working weight and do 8-12 reps at a normal tempo. Use this time to practice correct movement patterns.
Day 1 – Upper Body
- Dumbbell bench press (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Dumbbell incline fly (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Reverse-grip lat pulldown (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Cable prone-grip seated row (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Seated overhead dumbbell press (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Standing dumbbell lateral raise (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Straight-bar bicep curls (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Cable overhead triceps extension (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
Day 2 – Lower Body
- Barbell back squat (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Leg extension (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Romanian deadlift (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Seated hamstring leg curl (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Machine standing calf raise (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Cable crunch (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Side bridge (3 sets of 30-second static hold)
Day 3 – Upper Body
- Barbell bench press (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Pec deck fly (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Pull up (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Barbell prone-grip bent over rows (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Military press (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Seated rear delt flys (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Barbell drag curl (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Triceps kickback (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
Day 4 – Lower Body
- Leg press (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Dumbbell lunge (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Hyperextensions (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Lying machine hamstring curl (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Machine seated calf raises (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Stability ball ab crunch (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
- Cable wood chop (3 sets of 10-12 RM)
Never compromise form. You should be doing controlled reps every set. Think about the muscle you’re working to build a mind-muscle connection. The tempo is a very important variable. So be honest and stick to it. You’ll need to check your ego at the door and use light weights when using a controlled tempo.
It’s important to understand the muscle you’re targeting and how to perform the exercise correctly. I’m assuming you have some basic knowledge of gym workouts. If you don’t, do a little research and learn how to perform them safely. If you need more help, book a session with me. This is especially important for free weight exercises like the barbell back squat.
Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) commit to test driving this program. Pick a day and book yourself in to start it—it’s all laid out for you. So as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.
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You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know if you have any questions or if you tried the workout.
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