For someone who is starting out and seeking a huge, powerful physique without using illegal drugs, you’ve found the right place. What I’m about to cover isn’t any secret and it isn’t new. The workout in this first article is known as linear progression. This is meant for the beginning lifter who hasn’t trained using this style (if you haven’t trained based on something like this, you’re basically untrained) or has never trained at all before. In later articles, I’ll get into linear periodization for intermediate lifters. I think it’s okay to stop at that point because those of you who are advanced lifters are surely on the right path and know where you’re going.

Most people claim in the muscle magazines to have a program that will “get you to the next level!!” I’m sure you’ve tried those programs, ate their diets, and tried their supplements. I’m also sure you didn’t get the results you were looking for at all. And if you’re a beginner, you don’t need to get to the next level—you need to get started. This is the way to start training correctly if you aren’t drugged to the gills. This program put 100 pounds on all of my lifts over a three-month period when I started it, and it will do the same for you if you follow it. Don't add any other workouts or exercises and eat, eat, eat. Please don’t think you need curls, calf raises, or other similar movements. You won't need those at the beginner level, and they’ll just sap the energy you need for the big lifts that pack on the mass.

Without a doubt, the best way to pack on the mass is to train with intensity in a repetition/set rage to stimulate musculature and neurological pathways simultaneously using the three main compound lifts. There are several programs written to get you training correctly, and they include the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift. These exercises have the largest range of movement and activate more muscle tissue than any of the isolation exercises (e.g. curls, triceps extensions, calf raises). You should focus on the big three—the squat, bench, and deadlift (period).

The following program is a starting point for those who aren’t familiar with the correct way to train for muscle mass. If you’re following Arnold’s fitness program, stop now. It isn’t going to work. This is a base program that has been around for a very long time. It gets you strong and very big. If you don’t want to put on muscle mass at a very rapid pace, don't even think about using this program.

Now, let's be realistic. You aren’t doing steroids, and you aren’t a super human, so it takes time to add mass. To get disgustingly huge, it will take years if you train correctly. So if you’re hell bent on getting a silverback gorilla’s physique like me, keep reading. The big key is you need to eat. Eat a lot of carbs, eat a lot of protein, and eat a moderate amount of fat. If you train hard, that food isn’t going to turn to fat. It will turn to muscle and very quickly—kind of amazing how well this program works. Don’t eat Ho Ho's, fudge rounds, Twinkies, beer, and ice cream. A little is fine on the weekends, but there isn’t any reason to base your diet on that. Don't be an alcoholic and keep your damn hands out of the cookie jar. You want to get big? Eat big and lift big. It’s that simple.

Here’s the beginner’s program:

Workout A

  • Barbell squat (full squat below parallel, shins perpendicular to the floor), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Barbell bench press (pinkie on the power ring, pinch shoulders together, keep the elbows close, abs tight), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Barbell bent over rows (shoulder width grip, dynamic motion, back as close to 90 degrees to the floor as possible), 3 sets of 5 reps

Workout B

  • Barbell squat (full squat below parallel, shins perpendicular to the floor), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Military press/push press (pinkie on the power ring, pinch shoulders together, keep the elbows close, abs tight), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Deadlift (should feel like you’re coming out of the squat—lift the bar off the floor, back straight, stand up with the weight), 3 sets of 5 reps

Week 1
Monday: Workout A
Wednesday: Workout B
Friday: Workout A

Week 2
Monday: Workout B
Wednesday: Workout A
Friday: Workout B

For the following weeks, repeat the cycle. Think of it like this—A, B, A, B, A, B, A, B. Simple.

Because this is a beginner's program, you'll need to start light. If you start heavy, you're going to screw the program up and it isn’t going to work. Before you start this program, go to your gym and slowly work up to the heaviest five reps you can do on each exercise with good form. For example, on Wednesday, hit the exercises in workout A. On Friday, hit the exercises in workout B (you don't need to hit the squat again unless you’re feeling ambitious). Don’t use any machines. No machines, no machines, no machines. Barbells only. Don’t use any dumbbells or Superflex crap and definitely don’t do any body weight exercises as substitutions. Don’t use any substitutions. Period.

Now take the maximum weight of your five rep bench and subtract 40 pounds. Do the same for your rows and the military press. Subtract 80 pounds from the weight you pulled on the deadlift and do the same with your squat. Those are your starting points.

For example:

Bench: 5 rep max = 200 - 40 = 160 lbs
Squat: 5 rep max = 300 - 80 = 220 lbs
Deadlift: 5 rep max = 400 - 80 = 320 lbs
Bent over row: 5 rep max = 140 - 40 = 100 lbs
Military press: 5 rep max = 120 - 40 = 80 lbs

These are the weights I use in my workouts:

Workout A

  • Squat, 3 sets X 5 reps at 220 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)
    Bench, 3 sets X 5 reps at 160 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)
    Bent over row, 3 sets X 5 reps at 100 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)

Workout B:

  • Squat, 3 sets X 5 reps at 220 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)
  • Military, 3 sets X 5 reps at 80 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)
  • Deadlift, 3 sets X 5 reps at 320 lbs (5-minute rest between each set)

The reason why we set the weights lower is because you do not lift to failure! That’s right. Lifting to failure will ruin your body’s ability to adapt to stress fast enough for the next workout, so it isn’t necessary in this program. When you get several weeks along in the program, you’ll eventually end up failing (not getting all five reps). For a majority of the program, you aren’t going to fail every workout. If for some reason you’re stuck in the beginning, it’s because you started too high or you aren’t eating enough. If you’re eating and you had a good 6–8 week run or longer (let’s hope longer), you’re doing the right thing. If you lift to failure every single session, the weights on your lifts won’t go up systematically, and you won’t make the gains you want.

You should be able to add five pounds to the bench, military press, and bent over row and ten pounds to the squat and deadlift every time you lift in the beginning. As the weeks progress, the weights will get very heavy. Over time, you will get stale or stall on the lifts and not make any more progress. A complete stall is when you aren’t able to add any weight on all the lifts over a period of two weeks. If you stall for two weeks, it’s time to reset the weights on the bench, bent over row and military press by 40 pounds. That's right—drop the weight by 40 pounds and start lifting back to your max. You’ll eventually pass your five rep max on your lifts.

Because the scaling of the weights is in increments of ten pounds per workout, we’ll drop the weight by 80 pounds for the squat and deadlift, start working back toward our five rep max, and pass them. If you stall on only one lift, reset that one lift using the same methodology above. When you have completely reset this workout three times (which should be over a period of 6–8 months), you’ll be a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and ready to advance to the next level—linear periodization. I will cover this in the next article.

As a general rule, don’t read bodybuilding magazines. It’ll save you years or maybe a lifetime of training. Quit screwing around with silly programs written by God knows who and pick up some articles written by Dave Tate. Check out his site at He’ll set you straight if anyone will. Listen to powerlifters. If you’re into bodybuilding, perfect. Look at Dave—powerlifter to a bodybuilder physique that stops silverbacks in their tracks. Pick up some stuff from Jim Wendler, too. They’re both hilarious, nice guys. Don’t be afraid. I may be an Ohio native, but that's not the reason I favor world elite lifters. Ask them questions and get involved in lifting. Don't just think, “Oh, this is some guy with hard core lifting advice who doesn’t show what’s going on.” If you follow these rules, you’ll be large and in charge. When everyone else is standing in the squat rack curling with ten-inch biceps after ten years of “training,” you’ll be sitting up off of your bench covered in sweat and reeking of testosterone with a yoke that could be mistaken for a male gorilla.

To be continued...