A New Age Foundation for Life-Long Bodybuilding

Justin Grinnell


East Lansing, Michigan, United States

Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit, Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting


Bodybuilding Foundation: Strength Training Progressions

The following is a list of progressions that will prepare your body for more traditional bodybuilding exercises. These movements will ensure that you have the foundational strength and baseline movement ability to train safely and effectively. 


  • Turkish get up progressions: Unloaded, loaded, half, and full get up. Make sure that form is sufficient with the half Turkish get up and the full get up before you add weight. Strive for 3-5 reps per side for each progression.
  • Pull up progressions: Hangs, holds, and full reps. For hangs and holds, do 3 sets of 10-20 seconds to build positional strength. Perform straight-arm hangs first and then move to holds at the top of the rep. Once you have developed enough upper-body strength, the 5-3-2 method works well to train full pull ups. Inverted rows are a good substitute if your overhead mobility is not sufficient.



  • Squats: Goblet squat, front squat, single leg, or pistol: Once a proper goblet squat can be performed with 16-24kg for 5 reps, the double kettlebell front squat and barbell front squat can be introduced. For the single leg squat, use a bench or medicine ball for a tactile cue to manage the depth of you squat. Once you can perform 3-5 reps above parallel, progress to a full pistol squat. Start with 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Pushing exercises: If you can hold a push up plank for at least 30 seconds, move to full push ups. Once you can perform 15 push ups, progress to dumbbell bench press or kettlebell floor press for 3-5 sets of 5 reps. If your overhead mobility is not a concern, utilize the kettlebell overhead press for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Hinge progressions: Once you can perform a correct kettlebell deadlift, move on to the kettlebell swing. Progress to barbell deadlifts only after you are comfortable with the hip hinge movement pattern. The single-leg kettlebell deadlift is an effective exercise to reduce asymmetries and help strengthen the hinge pattern.
  • Loaded carries: Farmers carries, suitcase carries, single-arm rack carries, and if overhead mobility is sufficient, the single-arm overhead carry should be utilized in your program.


For efficiency, pair the following exercises: 


  • Get up progressions and loaded carries
  • Hinge and upper-body pushing exercises
  • Squats and pull up progressions


A New Age Foundation for Life-Long Bodybuilding - Fitness, bodybuilding, hypertrophy
If you can't do pull ups right away, start with hangs and holds until you develop positional strength and stability.


Bodybuilding Foundation: Performance Standards for Beginners

Most athletes want to jump right into the highest standard possible and forget about establishing a sound base. This can lead to burnout or injury. The standards below will help guide you toward the choosing the proper progression:


  • Farmers Carry: 75% of bodyweight (combined weight in each hand) for 60-90 seconds.
  • Kettlebell Swings: 100 two-handed swings in less than 5 minutes. Women should use a 16kg bell while men should use a 24kg bell.
  • Turkish get ups: 5 reps on each side with the same size bells used for the swing.
  • Push ups: 3 sets of 10+ for women, 15+ for men.
  • Chin up/pull up holds: 30 seconds for women and 45 seconds for men. Once this is established, women should shoot for 2 sets of 1 rep and men should aim for 2 sets of 5 reps.
  • Squats: Once 5 perfect reps can be done with a 16kg bell for women and a 24kg bell for men, progress to the double-kettlebell front squat and eventually the barbell front squat. Progress slowly.


Once you meet these standards, you can start to add traditional bodybuilding exercises, such as bicep curls, triceps extensions, and dumbbell lateral raises to round out your program.


Bodybuilding Foundation: Conditioning

Having a solid conditioning base is important for a beginning bodybuilder to promote general physical preparedness, work capacity, and fat loss. Your conditioning program should focus on improving ballistic movement patterns (e.g., the kettlebell swing) and utilize movements that stimulate a metabolic effect without beating you up. Keep in mind that conditioning should not be done haphazardly or to excess. Below are three conditioning workouts that are hard enough to produce results, but approachable for a beginner. 


  • 100 kettlebell swings done in sets of 10-20 reps. Record your time to track progression.
  • 2,000 meter row. You can cut the distance in half if 2,000 meters is too much. Alternatively, feel free to add distance, but cap it at 3,000 meters. Record your time to track progression.
  • Assault/Airdyne bike intervals: 6 sets of 30-seconds on, 30-seconds off.



Bodybuilding Foundation: Foam Rolling for Recovery

Foam rolling is a technique that is often utilized incorrectly. Most people assume that it helps enhance increased mobility before workouts. However, it is best performed after workouts as a recovery method for these reasons:


  • Your body experiences a significant level of local inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a tough workout. Targeting soft tissue helps reduce this soreness and improve recovery.
  • Foam rolling post workout helps clear out inflammation and lymphatic pooling, aiding in recovery by reducing local tone of the tissues.
  • It helps drive blood into local areas, helping to clear out waste.


After each workout, foam roll the following areas for at least 5 minutes: 


  • Posterior chain: calves, hamstrings, glutes, thoracic spine, lats
  • Anterior chain: thighs, hips, inner thighs, pecs


A Base for Bodybuilding Longevity

Don’t be afraid to go against the norm in the sport of bodybuilding. Without a proper foundation of movement and a roadmap of progression to follow, you may find yourself hitting a plateau, or even worse, dealing with an injury. Bulking up your traditional bodybuilding workouts with corrective exercises, warm ups, body resets, strength training progressions, conditioning, and recovery will provide your body with a better base to keep building muscle for the long-haul.


More on the Why and How of Bodybuilding:


Photos 1, 5 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photos 2, 3, 4 courtesy of Justin Grinnell.

Photo 6 courtesy of Craig Marker.

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