The Newbie Guide to Building Muscle

The first few months after you start lifting are the best you’ll have in your career. Here’s how to get the most from them.

Every experienced lifter will tell you that they wish that they were a newbie again. After all, it’s the best gains you’ll ever have in your life. That initial rush of physical improvement becomes your first dose of a drug, and you’ll chase that feeling again and again.

I remember when I first started training seriously. I ate to build muscle, and I trained hard in the gym. Over the course of three months, I added 70lb to my bench press, 80lb onto my squat, 100lb onto my deadlift, and I gained 27lb of muscle. I went from skinny-fat to jacked in a matter of 90 days. It was insane. Today I’m going to share with you exactly what you need to do if you’re new to training and want to build muscle, and it only involves four things.

A Simple Full Body Workout

If you’re a newbie, you don’t need to be following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6-Day Split routine. Instead, you need to train 3 times per week, using a full-body workout consisting of compound movements. Each major compound movement needs to be present in the workout. I recommend choosing one exercise from each movement category:

Horizontal Press

Horizontal Pull



  • Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Single-Leg Deadlift
  • Hip Thrust

Vertical Push

Vertical Pull

Choose one exercise from each category, and you’ve built a full body workout. As for sets and reps, use the following for every exercise:

  • Day 1: 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Day 2: 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Day 3: 4 sets of 8 reps

For example, your workout for day one could look like so:

  • 1A: 3×12 dumbbell bench press, rest 2min between
  • 1B: 3×12 seated cable row, rest 2min between
  • 2: 3×12 front squat, rest 3 min between
  • 3A: 3×12 lat pulldown, rest 2min between
  • 3B: 3×12 dumbbell military press, rest 2min between
  • 4: 3×12 hip thrust, rest 3min between

End Your Workouts With Isolation Work

I used to be totally against isolation work for beginners, but then it hit me: if your goal is to build muscle, then you need to know how to feel a muscle working, and learn how to contract that muscle as hard as you can. How do you teach this? Isolation work.

Do 2 sets of 8-12 reps on each exercise. The goal is to contract the working muscle as hard as possible.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

  • Calf raises
  • Hamstring curls
  • Side plank (3 x 30sec holds each side)

Aim For Overload

Every workout, your goal is to get stronger. This is how you progress. Exercises should never feel easy. If it feels easy, you’re not gaining. Each workout, you should aim to do one of the following on every exercise:

  • Add weight
  • Add reps
  • Match your weight and reps from last time

Your goal each and every workout is to beat or tie last workout’s results. So if last time, you bench pressed 100lb for 3 sets of 10 reps (30 total reps), then this time, you should do one of the following:

  • 105lb for 3 sets of 10 reps
  • 100lb for 3 sets of 11 reps
  • 100lb for 3 sets of 10 reps

Eat Enough Calories and Protein

When you’re a newbie, it seems like everything you eat goes towards building muscle. It’s amazing. This means you can get away with eating copious amounts of food, and you’ll build muscle fast. I recommend eating bodyweight x 18 in calories, so if you’re 150lb, you’ll need to eat 2700 calories per day in order to build muscle.

For protein, you want to get a minimum of 1g/lb, so if you’re 150lb, you need at least 150g of protein per day. There is no negotiation here. At first, it’ll seem like a lot. Get over it and just eat it.

With the advice above, you can harness your newbie gains and build an incredible body. All you have to do is use a full-body workout three times per week, end your workouts with isolation work to enhance the mind-muscle connection, always try to add more weight or more reps in order to progress, and eat enough calories and protein to sustain muscle growth. Dedicate yourself to this plan for the next three months, and I guarantee you’ll make some incredible newbie gains.

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