Start from Scratch Series: 6 Week Complete Beginner Program

Team SAN
Written By: Team SAN
February 3rd, 2017
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Workouts Beginner
558.5K Reads
Start from Scratch: 6 Week Complete Beginner Program
New to the gym scene? This first part of the Start from Scratch program can be used as a road map to help you learn how to build muscle the right way.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Split
  • Training Level
    Beginner
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    4
  • Time Per Workout30-45 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

You’ve looked through old magazines, seen photos online, and read tons of info on weight training and nutrition, but you’re not entirely sure where to start with your beginner’s bodybuilding routine.

Don’t worry, with the vast amount of information available online, that’s a common stumbling block.

There’s no shortage of training and nutrition articles, but sometimes you just need to be told where to begin. We’re here to help!

The most important thing to remember is not to wait around thinking about it too much and simply get started.

Today is better than tomorrow – since “tomorrow” may never happen, but we’ve got a few tips to get you going, as well as a full beginner’s bodybuilding routine you can follow.

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Beginner’s Bodybuilding – Break-In Routine

This routine is based on the assumption that you know the basic exercises but you’ve either never taken to working out seriously or it’s been a long layoff since the last time you lifted a weight.

Also, if you’ve read all the old articles about Arnold or any of your favorite bodybuilders and you’re thinking that you have to spend six hours a day at the gym, get that out of your head. We’re going with a less-is-more approach which is much more beneficial to your health, your body, and your mind.

Related: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Bodybuilding Supplements

As anxious as you may be to go full-tilt right from the beginning, there’s no sense in being so sore after your first workout that you can’t even move. If you’ve been training and are simply looking for a good beginner’s routine, you can skip this break-in routine.

But if this is your first time going for it or you’ve been away from the gym for months on end, use this basic break-in for at least one week (two weeks is recommended). Listen to your body, but don’t listen to your inner couch-potato voice.

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squats 2 10-12
2. Leg Curls 1 12
3. Calf Raises 2 12-15
4. Bench Press 2 10-12
5. Pulldowns 2 10-12
6. Cable or Machine Rows 2 10-12
7. Overhead Press 2 10-12

Perform this workout three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Before you ask, direct arm work is left off on purpose. Remember, this is a break-in routine you’ll be using to go through the basic movements to learn good form, develop better mind-muscle connection (feeling the working muscles), and developing a base for strength. Your arms get enough indirect work for this 1-2 week.

Yes, we also know you’ve got a deep desire for a huge chest, so you want to do your bench presses first. Again, this is a break-in routine designed to set the stage for the next phase.

Note: For the first couple of workouts, use enough weight to get the upper end of your rep counts easily. Once you’ve gotten through any initial soreness, increase the weights slightly, but do not sacrifice your form and make sure you can still get the specified reps.

Don’t rush your rep speed either. Concentrating on two seconds up and two seconds down (positive and negative) will keep things slow enough to feel the exercises and ensure that you’re not throwing the weights around.

M&S Female Athlete Performing Squats

Beginner’s Bodybuilding – The Routine

If you were patient enough to use the break-in routine for the recommended two weeks, great! You should be all set to start building some muscle now. If you got impatient and only used that routine for one week, keep in mind that you may still have some soreness issues to deal with.

The break-in routine was very basic, and that approach will continue for this routine but with a bit more volume and a different training split based on two separate workouts. You’ll still want to stick with a rep speed that’s two seconds for both the negative and positive strokes of each exercise.

You can work on power movements later, but the goal right now is building muscle and strengthening connective tissue, so the longer tension times will be much more beneficial. Plus, it will simply allow you to feel the target muscles more directly and potentially trigger more muscle growth.

workout 1
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squats* 2 10-12
2. Leg Extensions 1 12
3. Leg Curls 1 12
4. Standing Calf Raises 2 12-15
5. Bench Press* 2 10-12
6. Flyes 1 12
7. Pushdowns* 1 12
workout 2
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Overhead Press* 2 10-12
2. Upright Rows 1 12
3. Lateral Raises 1 12
4. Pulldowns* 2 10-12
5. Under-grip Pulldowns 1 12
6. Pullovers 1 12
7. Cable or Machine Rows 2 10-12
8. Concentration Curls 1 12
9. Crunches 2 12-15

*These exercises require one light warmup set prior to the work sets listed.

As you can see, this routine isn’t overly complicated and you can hit your entire body over two workouts. Your goal during this routine is to use enough weight that you can just get the full number of reps. If you get to the rep total easily, continue the set until you can’t get any more and then increase the weight the next workout.

Keep in mind the recommended two seconds up/down cadence, and don’t throw the weights around. Focus on feeling every rep.

The split is designed so that you do Workout 1 on Monday and Thursday and Workout 2 on Tuesday and Friday with weekends off from training for full recovery:

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Workout 1
Friday: Workout 2
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off

The routine can be adapted if you prefer not to have two workout days in a row and if you want to work out one day during the weekend:

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 1
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Workout 2

M&S Athlete Performing Pulldowns

Beginner’s Bodybuilding – Nutrition

This is a topic for another day, but nutrition obviously plays a huge role in your fitness or muscle-building program. In these early stages of getting started, the key thing to remember is balance.

You’ll obviously want to avoid any type of junk food if you’re taking this new bodybuilding venture seriously, and your overall goal should be to develop healthy eating habits so you’re not shortchanging your nutritional needs or going over the top with too many calories. And stay away from fad diets.

Related: How To Plan Your Muscle Building Diet

A very basic way to look at your nutrition program is to aim for around 30 percent of your calories to come from high-quality protein sources, 45 percent from complex fibrous carbohydrates, and around 25 percent from healthy fat sources.

The total calorie count and exact percentage breakdown will vary from one individual to another, so this is just a basic guideline to get you going.

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Remember that fast food isn’t considered a good source for quality nutrition, although you can get by in a pinch when needed, especially if you can order off-menu. It’s better to eat something than it is to go hungry, but do your best to eat smart.

In reality, your best bet is to get in the habit of preparing your own food, and while you don’t need supplements to get started, a quality protein makes it much easier to get what you need immediately after your workouts as well as adding additional protein to meals that may not be adequate otherwise.

Beginning Bodybuilding Summary

Once you’ve made up your mind to get into a bodybuilding program, start working at it right away. It’s too easy to continuously say that you’ll start tomorrow, and you know as well as anyone else that it probably won’t happen.

Start today! The break-in routine and 4-week routine are great starting blocks to get you going down the right path for a healthy, happy, and muscular future.

110 Comments
Mo Frankos
Posted on: Fri, 11/18/2022 - 17:54

hi i’m 16 and trans(ftm). i would like to gain muscle, would this still work for me? and what do i eat?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 11/19/2022 - 09:11
John
Posted on: Thu, 09/22/2022 - 09:00

I'm 5'9", 325lbs. How much weight percentage should I start out with? Also, how often should I be increasing that weight percentage as I progress and by how much?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 09/24/2022 - 09:54

The weight you start with is up to you, John. If you feel strong enough, try to increase the weight each week. If you need two weeks to do it, it will be okay. You should definitely be stronger on week 6 than on week 1.

Jerry
Posted on: Wed, 05/11/2022 - 12:16

Quick question. About how many pounds of muscle gain should I expect from completing this 6 week program? (47yrs old male and long time since weight training)

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 05/19/2022 - 20:27

Very much based on the individual, what you're eating, how you're recovering, and how much activity you're doing outside the gym. Hard to give you a solid answer for general estimates.

GSH
Posted on: Sat, 09/03/2022 - 10:01

Based on data, marginal muscle fiber gains to none. The first six weeks of training for an untrained individual provide mainly neural adaptations (e.g., coordination) and fluid/glycogen storage. Your gains will start quite slow around 4-6 weeks into a training routine and will grow after that if you're providing adequate intensity, volume, nutrients, and rest.

AKASH MANDAVIYA
Posted on: Sun, 01/16/2022 - 15:39

Hello, I am just starting this workout plan as a beginner, I want to ask is there any program for warm-up before a workout?
and after this 6 weeks program should I continue this level or change to an upgraded level?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 01/17/2022 - 17:59

Glad you chose this program, Akash! Give this article to read to help you learn more about warming up.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies

If you feel like you can take on another challenge after six weeks, come on back to M&S and choose another one. Always here to help you reach your goals!

Mattia
Posted on: Sun, 01/02/2022 - 18:57

Hello, I’m 14 years old. I’m new to the gym. I am skinny with a small chest (ectomorph body) and looking for a muscle building program. My goal is to gain the more muscle I can. I only have dumbbells and a barbell to use and my body weight of course. Can you suggest me something.

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 01/04/2022 - 16:34

Hi, Mattia. I identify with you because I was in that same situation as a teenager. Give this one a go, and hopefully you'll see some quality gains from it.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/dumbbar-supersets

Hasib
Posted on: Mon, 10/18/2021 - 14:08

Great workout for beginners and easy to follow!

Neil Marshall
Posted on: Sun, 10/17/2021 - 13:27

What amount of cardio should i be doing when following this programme?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 10/18/2021 - 20:39

Hi, Neil. Perform 20 minutes of moderate level cardio three or four days a week, either after training or in the morning.

Luca
Posted on: Wed, 08/18/2021 - 19:40

Hello I am new to the gym. I started a 5x5 program and am looking for a new workout since I think it might be too much. I 5’4 90 lbs. As of now I can’t do many reps on the bench press and cannot do a overhead press. Is there any workout that could be recommended?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 09/07/2021 - 09:35

Hi, Luca. This program can still help you, even if you're not as strong as you would like to be. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can't. Use the weight that you are able to lift with and your strength will increase. You can do front raises instead of overhead presses until your strength improves.

Brooke
Posted on: Wed, 07/28/2021 - 09:18

Hey, how are the sets structured? Do you do back to back sets of the squats for eg then move on to the next for x sets and so on? Or is it a circuit style?

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Marina
Posted on: Thu, 07/29/2021 - 15:09

Hey Brooke -

You'll want to complete the number of sets listed for a given exercise before moving onto the next exercise. Please let me know if you have anymore questions!

Sauny
Posted on: Tue, 05/11/2021 - 20:19

I have been working out about 9 months, I love running on the treadmill however there is no muscle gain with this. I am a 48 yr old femaie with no natural muscle tone with a few cellulite spots on on thigh and buttocks. I am small-medium frame 5.5, and looking to gain muscle. I I loved how define body builders legs looks. I want to gain muscle should I stop using the weight machines and use free weights? Also, do I need to quit running, I normally only run when working on arms. Leg day I do machine and squats with no running.

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 05/13/2021 - 09:42
Sauny
Posted on: Sat, 05/15/2021 - 11:47

Thank you....appreciate!

Jared
Posted on: Mon, 05/03/2021 - 06:23

I am 6ft 5 291lbs and just starting in the gym after many years of not working out. I want to lose weight and build mass. I’m doing intermittent fasting. Is this workout suitable for losing weight as well as building muscle, with IF?
Also after this I’m looking to workout 4 days a week what other programme would you suggest I use to follow this?

Mohamed
Posted on: Fri, 04/23/2021 - 19:57

If I've completed this 6-week program, what plan shall I move to next? any suggestions? wanna keep progress

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:57
Chris Bradley
Posted on: Sun, 03/28/2021 - 18:49

What if I don’t have cables/pulls but have everything else? Any substitute?

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 03/29/2021 - 09:43

Hey Chris - do you have resistance bands?

Rahul Kheraliya
Posted on: Sun, 03/28/2021 - 00:20

Previousely i work some exercises at home with dumbells. So can i skip this and start with phase 2..??

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 03/29/2021 - 09:41

Hey Rahul - yes, you can start with phase 2

Rahul Kheraliya
Posted on: Fri, 03/26/2021 - 07:06

Can we do 3 sets per exercise.

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Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 03/26/2021 - 10:41

Hey Rahul - yes you can.

Oril
Posted on: Mon, 03/22/2021 - 07:58

I'm 30 years old how can I build My muscle? Would you give me training and Diet plan

Rishabh Ghaghat
Posted on: Mon, 03/15/2021 - 03:27

I want to build lean muscles. Which program to follow, this one or your ulitimate 8 weeks program for beginner. Which one is better?

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 10:40

Hey Rishabh - both are great options! You'll be good with either.

Rishabh
Posted on: Fri, 03/19/2021 - 08:42

Ok. Thanx for responding but which one do you recommend out of these two and what's the follow up program after 8 week ultimate beginner program?

Alex
Posted on: Fri, 02/05/2021 - 06:16

For the particular sports that I'm trying to buold strength for (Rock climbing, Caving, etc) I'm keen to work in pull ups to this as soon as I can. Which exercise sets /what phase would be good to do this in?

Alex
Posted on: Tue, 02/16/2021 - 05:33

Thanks for these Abigail, but I was wanting to do this beginner plan to work on overall strength as well so was thinking more adding/subbing in some pull-up sets I to this?

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 02/16/2021 - 09:18

Gotcha! You can substitute the lat pulldowns in workout 2 for pullups.

Alex
Posted on: Tue, 02/16/2021 - 11:27

Great, thanks! :-)

Amani
Posted on: Wed, 01/20/2021 - 17:43

Should I incorporate a cardio workout with that? Do I need a warm up?

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 01/21/2021 - 08:52

Hey Amani - a warm-up before your workout is important in preventing injury. Check out this article on warming up: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/warming-up-for-dummies. You can also include cardio after your workouts if you would like.

Brendan Mezo
Posted on: Tue, 01/19/2021 - 00:01

Hello! I am on my 4th week and haven’t been satisfied with the workouts that are done on Tuesday and Friday. Even though there is technically more volume, I tend to take only half the time that it would take for the Monday and Thursday workout. Am I going too fast? Not resting long enough? Advice appreciated. Thanks.

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 01/19/2021 - 09:09

Hey Brendan - you can try increasing your weights to give you more of a challenge.

AG
Posted on: Mon, 01/11/2021 - 18:28

I just started this program after my gym reopened after being closed for 2 months.
My question is, would it be OK to add more reps to this program or should I keep it as is? Also what are the recommendations for after the 6 weeks are done, any follow up programs you recommend?

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 01/12/2021 - 11:01

Hey AG - it's best to follow the program as written. For your next workout, what're your goals?

Yaniv
Posted on: Sun, 12/06/2020 - 13:15

I workout for a year and 2 months , I'm not eating more than 2300 calories per days . I'm 1.95m , 94 kg and 23 years old.
And I dont secessed to get muscle
My target is to get more muscle
What should I do I have 8 months to get the best that I can

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 12/07/2020 - 08:44

Hey Yaniv - to gain muscle, you have to be eating in a caloric surplus. Use our BMR calculator (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator) to determine your caloric intake and then add 500 calories to that number. That will give you your caloric intake to gain muscle.

Gary
Posted on: Wed, 10/28/2020 - 18:08

I haven' worked out in a long time &I just started this routine last week, so will be starting Workout 1 & 2 next week. I'm really wanting to shred some goo (fat), and build up some muscle. Is this a good plan for these goals? Also, when should I do cardio?

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 10/29/2020 - 09:01

Hey Gary - this program is a great place to start. You can do 30-45 minutes of cardio after your lifting sessions.