Start working toward the body you’ve always wanted with this comprehensive six week program. Training, nutrition, supplements—everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Whether you’re a true beginner to lifting weights or a former gym rat finally getting back to business, your needs are fairly straight forward: Find a program that’s easy to follow, demanding enough to produce some size and strength gains to get you hooked for the long term, but not so intense that it burns you out. These early stages are also a time for establishing good habits in terms of how to perform foundational exercises, how to properly warm up, what to do for cardio, and whatto feed your body to enhance performance and recovery.
All of these critical elements are covered in the following six-week program, designed by Justin Grinnell, C.S.C.S., owner and head trainer at State of Fitness in East Lansing, MI. Grinnell’s program is everything the starter needs it to be: easy to follow, with tried-and true principles that will produce gains in muscle size and strength that you’ll likely begin to notice within a month. The program also addresses functional fitness, mobility, cardio, nutrition, and supplements. Most important, this plan will lay the groundwork for more impressive results down the road. After all, this is just the beginning.
The M&F Starter’s Guide is built around basic, foundational exercises because, well, that’s what works. Multijoint (compound) movements performed with free weights are what the biggest, strongest men in the world rely upon in their training, and these are the staples that any beginner should learn as well. In fact, there’s not a machine to be found in this program— not because machines are worthless (they aren’t), but because fundamental movements are best taught with body weight, barbells, and dumbbells, and results will come quicker with these tools.
As you progress, you can introduce machines to further isolate and overload the muscles and even to work around any nagging injuries you may have. But for now, stick with what’s written here.
“When starting a new workout program, focusing on the fundamentals is key,” says Grinnell. “Pushing, pulling, and squatting heavy weight is what it’s all about. Throw in some arms, calves, and abdominal work with the right amount of cardio and you have a solid workout plan.
” Grinnell implements a four-days-a-week lifting schedule that utilizes an upper-body/lower-body split— upper body on Days 1 and 3 (Monday and Thursday) and lower body and abs on Days 2 and 4 (Tuesday and Friday). This design, he says, provides the perfect dose of training stress to promote muscle growth and strength without hindering recovery. Training volume (total number of sets) is somewhat modest in this program to keep the beginner from overdoing it. To promote cardiovascular conditioning and fat burning, cardio workouts are prescribed three days a week. (See cardio section on page 120.)
As just mentioned, the exercise selection is supremely straightforward on purpose. Likewise, the set and rep schemes Grinnell prescribes are equally tried and true. You’ll get a heavy dose of strength training via the classic 5×5 protocol (five sets of five reps) balanced out with sets in the hypertrophy sweet spot of eight to 12 reps (and up to 20-plus reps on certain movements). This approach will have you experiencing noticeable gains in both muscle size and strength, provided proper nutrition is adhered to.
STARTER’S GUIDE PROGRAM:
Begin every workout with this quick, simple warmup to prime the body for the ensuing lifting session. “For starters and veterans alike, a warmup is essential,” says Grinnell. “It prepares your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments, increases core temperature, improves joint mobility, and activates the nervous system.” Perform these exercises in circuit fashion for a total of two rounds:
|Spiderman with Rotation||5 per side|
|Lateral Lunge||5 per leg|
|Jump Rope||1 min.|
From a standing position with your hands in front of you, take one long stride to the right, keeping your left leg straight (pictured at top). Drop your hips so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and then switch sides (pictured at bottom).
Spiderman with Rotation From a pushup position, bend your right knee to bring your foot forward and plant it just outside your right hand. Lift your right hand off the floor and keep your left hand down. Open up your chest and reach to the ceiling until you feel a stretch. Repeat all reps to that side, then switch.
For each A and B exercise pairing, go back and forth between the two moves one set at a time—similar to a superset, only with full rest between exercises.
1. Day 1: Upper Body
|1A Barbell Bench Press||5||5||2-3 min.|
|1B Barbell Bentover Row||5||5||2-3 min.|
|2A Dumbbell Overhead Press||3||5||1-2 min.|
|2B Pullup||3||5||1-2 min.|
|3A Bench Dip||3||5||1-2 min.|
|3B Barbell Curl||3||5||1-2 min.|
Face away from a bench and set your hands on it with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, then push back up. You can increase the difficulty by elevating your feet on another bench.
STANDING BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
Stand holding a loaded barbell across your front delts with a shoulder-width grip. Keeping your core tight and chest facing forward (don’t let it tilt upward), press the bar overhead until your arms are fully extended. PERFORMED ON DAY 3, PAGE 117.
Stand holding a bar with your arms fully extended and palms facing forward. Bend your elbows to curl the weights up, keeping your elbows in tight to your sides throughout. Squeeze your biceps in the top position. Reverse the motion to return to the arms extended position.
2. Day 2: Lower Body, Abs
|1A Goblet Squat||3||8*||2-3 min.|
|1B Hanging Leg Raise||3||10||1-2 min.|
|2A Romanian Deadlift||3||12, 10, 8||2-3 min.|
|2B Standing Calf Raise||3||20, 15, 10||2-3 min.|
|3A Walking Lunge||3||10 per leg||1-2 min.|
|3B Lying Leg Curl||3||10-12||1-2 min.|
*Perform each set as a dropset. For example, do eight reps for the first set of goblet squats with your estimated eight-rep max. Then, immediately drop the weight about 20–30% and do eight more reps. Repeat one more time—that’s one set. Do this two more times with two to three minutes’ rest between each.
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell just below your chin in a standing position. Bend your knees to squat straight down until your thighs go past parallel with the floor. Extend your hips and knees to return to the standing position, keeping your core tight and torso upright throughout.
3. Day 3: Upper Body
|1A Standing Barbell Overhead
|1B One-arm Dumbbell Row||4||8-12||1-2 min.|
|2A Lat Pulldown||4||8-12||1-2 min.|
|2B Incline Dumbbell Press||4||8-12||1-2 min.|
|3A Dumbbell Hammer Curl||4||8-12||1-2 min.|
|3B Lying Dumbbell Triceps
NOTE: On the last set of each exercise, perform two rest pauses. For example, on barbell overhead presses, rack the weight after your fourth set and rest 15 to 20 seconds, then
perform as many reps as possible with that same weight. Repeat this one more time for a total of two rest-pause sets.
One-arm Dumbbell Row
With one knee and the same-side hand on a bench, hold a dumbbell in the other hand with
that arm extended straight down, torso parallel to the floor. Contract your back muscles to pull the dumbbell up to your side. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
Incline Dumbbell Press
Grab two dumbbells and lie back on an incline bench set to 30 to 45 degrees. Start with the
weights just outside your shoulders, then push them straight up until your elbows are just shy of lockout. Lower them back down under control.
4. Day 4: Lower Body, Abs
|1A Barbell Squat*||5||5||2-3 min.|
|1B Stiff-leg Deadlift*||5||5||2-3 min.|
|2A Seated Calf Raise||3||10-15||1-2 min.|
|2B Reverse Crunch||3||10||1-2 min.|
|3A Farmer’s Walk||3||40-50 yards||1-2 min.|
Find an open stretch of flfloor space. Grab a relatively heavy pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides, arms fully extended. Walk with short, choppy steps, making sure not to lock out your knees at any point, for the prescribed distance (40 to 50 yards).
These sibling variations of deadlift are distinguished by some key technique cues: “With Romanian deadlifts, there’s a bigger bend in the legs, and the bar just passes the knees [shown],” says Grinnell. “With stiff-leg deadlifts, the legs stay almost fully straight, and the plates touch the floor.”