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Muscle Growth, Hardgainers, Resistance Training

Best Muscle Growth Plan for Beginner Lifters

By Joe Talarico on Dec 3, 2020 2:00:00 PM
6 Minutes Reading Time

Anyone new to lifting can easily get overwhelmed with the wealth of knowledge online. There’s strength workouts, volume based workouts, HIIT, you name it. I’d like to help simplify it and focus on the core guidelines you should be following if you want to optimize your growth as a beginner lifter. 

Quick Background

I just want to quickly go over the rationale behind frequency, exercise recommendations, sets and reps. It’s important especially as a beginner for you to understand this, because as you continue your fitness journey, it’ll only benefit you to learn the logic behind proper programming.

Frequency - 2-3x a week - A beginner lifter doesn’t need to be going to the gym 5 days a week. You are new to lifting. Thus, even the slightest stimulus will give you the biggest response. More intermediate and advanced lifters go more often, because they need more stimulation to get the same effect a beginner can achieve in 2-3 sessions (think of how someone with a high tolerance for alcohol needs more and more to get them drunk). This also gives you enough time to properly recover and be ready for the next workout.

Exercises - As a beginner (and any level really) you should always have staple exercises. These are compound movements like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press which involve using more muscles to accomplish the movement (think about how a biceps curl only stimulates biceps where as a bench press uses your chest, back, triceps and shoulders). By stimulating more muscles you are getting more bang for your buck.

Sets & Reps - A beginner lifter only needs 8-10 sets per muscle per week to get the effective dose. Doing more work doesn’t mean more gains. You need just enough to maximize the muscle building signal. Again, extra sets are only needed when that minimum dose no longer results in growth.

The Workout

This is just a sample workout. There are many ways you can construct this, and if you want a full workout plan I suggest checking out the Mind Pump MAPS Anabolic program. It’s the perfect workout for beginners.

Frequency: 2-3x a week (keep 1-2 days of rest in between to recover)

Length: 4 week cycle with one week deload

Sets & Reps: 2-5 sets with 3-6 reps per exercise (rest up to 3 minutes between sets)


Day 1 -

Barbell Squats 4x5

Bench Press 4x5

Weight/Assisted Pull-ups 3x5

Shrugs 3x3-6

Barbell Curls 2x6-8

EZ Bar Skullcrushers 2x6-8

Day 2 -

Deadlifts 4x5

Overhead Press 4x5

Seated Row 3x5

Dumbbell Shrugs 3x3-6

Dumbbell Hammer Curls 2x6-8

Dips 2x6-8

Day 3 (only if you aren’t sore and are recovering from Day 2)-

Romanian Deadlifts 4x5

Lunges 4x6-8

Incline Bench 4x5

One Arm Dumbbell Row 3x5

Lateral Raises 3x6-8

Preacher Curls 2x6-8

Tricep Pushdowns 2x6-8


Ideally you want to be phasing your workouts. That is, you’d focus on a rep range of 6-8 (like above) for 4-6 weeks and then deload. Then the next 4-6 weeks maybe you’ll try similar exercises in the 10-12 rep range and deload again. Different rep ranges stimulate the muscles differently, allowing for a stimulus that causes growth in all forms. Also, make sure to be choosing a weight that allows you to hit whatever rep range you choose leaving 2-3 reps shy of technical failure.


Make sure you are deloading at the end of those 4-6 weeks. As you try to add more weight, or do more reps week to week, your body should start to accumulate more and more fatigue to where you hit a point that you can’t beat last week's performance. That’s when you know you need a deload. The deload week is when you do half as many sets, and half as many reps but with the same weight you used on your final week. It allows your body to catch up recovering to the accumulated volume you’ve placed on it for 4-6 weeks. This is very important if you want to grow.

Final Notes

If you follow the tips above I have no doubt you will see your strength and size go up. Keep in mind building muscle takes time. Any program you choose to follow you must follow for at least 6-12 weeks to let your body respond to the stimulus being placed. Just make sure as mentioned above you are changing the rep ranges every 4-6 weeks to allow for the muscle to respond to SLIGHTLY new stimulus. If you do change the exercises, make sure they are a similar movement to the ones listed (for example, switch out a back squat for a front squat, not a leg extension).

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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