This is one of the most common questions that floods my e-mail inbox on a daily basis. For people who are just getting started with a bodybuilding workout program the whole process can be a mind boggling experience. There is so much conflicting advice out there about weight training and exercise that you really don't know who or what to believe anymore.
I understand what you are going through because I went through the same thing when I began bodybuilding over 17 years ago. People always have a tendency to make things more complicated then they really are. But when you put aside all of the hype and get down to the basics you can see that building muscle and getting in shape is not very complex.
Don't get hung up on having the perfect training routine, with the precise number of sets and reps, or following the perfect eating plan, etc. Just get started and do it. You can figure out the details and find ways to improve as you go.
I am going to outline a good beginners bodybuilding weight training program that you can follow. You do not need to have any fancy exercise equipment. In fact you could follow this routine with a basic home gym set up. But if you have the option, I would recommend that you join a commercial gym. In addition to having higher quality exercise equipment to choose from, there is a lot more energy in a commercial gym. And this will help motivate you to stick to your workouts and make improvements.
Start off by working out every second day. This will give your body plenty of time for recuperation and muscle growth. Lifting weights will cause minor damage to the muscles and then the body reacts by building the muscles bigger and stronger in order to handle the demands that are being placed upon them. Muscles do not grow while you are working out; they grow while you are resting. Once you workout you have to give your body time to repair and build the muscles. Then you repeat the process of working out and rest.
A common mistake that a lot of novice bodybuilders make is thinking that the more they workout, the better results they will get. This is not true because what happens is the muscles get broken down, but they never get a chance to build back up. This is what is referred to in bodybuilding as "over training". When you over train your body can't build new muscle and you may even lose some of the muscle mass that you have now.
Here is a good solid workout routine that you can follow. With this routine you split up your workouts by exercising your upper body during the first workout, and then exercising your lower body during the second workout.
WORKOUT 1: (upper body)
Bench Press 3 sets of 10 reps (for the chest)
Lat Pull Downs 3 sets of 10 reps (for the back)
Seated Shoulder Press 3 sets of 10 reps (for the shoulders)
Bicep Barbell Curls 3 sets of 10 reps (for the biceps)
Triceps Push Downs 3 sets of 10 reps (for the triceps)
WORKOUT 2: (lower body)
Leg Press 3 sets of 10 reps (for the quadriceps)
Leg Curls 3 sets of 10 reps (for the hamstrings)
Leg Extensions 3 sets of 10 reps (for the quadriceps)
Standing Calve Raises 3 sets of 15 reps (for the calves)
Abdominal Crunches 3 sets of 25-50 reps (for the abdominals)
With this routine you workout every-other-day and alternate the two workout routines. So for example: Perform Workout 1, Take a day of rest, Perform Workout 2, Take a day of rest, and then repeat the cycle with Workout 1.
Prior to each exercise do 1 or 2 light warm up sets using about half of the weight that you would normally use for your working sets. The weight that you lift for the first couple of weeks should be light enough so you can complete the repetitions with ease. Then gradually, over time increase the amount of weight that you are lifting.
A good goal would be to add 5 lbs. to each exercise each week. For bigger exercises like bench presses, pull downs, leg presses, etc. this will be fairly easy to do, but for smaller exercises like bicep curls and tricep push downs you may not always be able to make those 5 lb. jumps in weight. There is a big difference between adding 5 lbs. to a 250 lb. leg press compared to adding 5 lbs. to a 25 lb. bicep curl. So just keep that in mind and do your best to increase your strength whenever possible.
At the beginning stages of your bodybuilding training it is best not to complicate things. Keep your workout routine simple and just focus on being consistent. The biggest factor with success in bodybuilding is to just stick with it and focus on making small frequent improvements overtime.
"inch by inch life is a synch... yard by yard life is hard"