Start from Scratch Series: Phase 3 of the Complete Beginner’s Program

Team SAN
Written By: Team SAN
September 20th, 2017
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Phase 3 of the Complete Beginner’s Program
New to the gym scene? This third 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
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration6 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

You’ve gone through Phase 1 and Phase 2 of our Start from Scratch Series, so it’s time you graduate to Phase 3.

After this phase of the Complete Beginner’s Program, you’ll no longer be able to consider yourself a beginner.

You already set your foundation with Phase 1 and started the serious muscle building with Phase 2. Now it’s time to take your efforts to the next level.

You should be fully in tune with the mind-muscle connection at this point, and you’ve probably noticed impressive gains in muscle and strength.

Persistence is the key, but you also want to avoid hitting a plateau by staying on the same routine for too long. Now’s the time for change…

Beginner’s Bodybuilding – Phase 3 Routine Prep

Even if you’re amped up to attack this next phase with everything you’ve got, it’s a good idea to tone down the intensity for a week between phase-training routines. Your nervous system will thank you.

This doesn’t mean to take the week off, but rather you should use the medium-intensity week as a way to familiarize yourself with the new routine. Do the full routine as listed, and just cut yourself short by a rep or two when you feel you’re about to reach failure.

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Doing this will give you some active recovery time from the last phase, and it will allow you to get accustomed to the new work load and sort out how much weight you’ll need on any new exercises. As with Phase 2, this will be a 3-day training split but with a different combination of body parts and with more volume and intensity.

Workout 1
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Incline Bench Press 3 15, 12, 10
2. Dumbbell Bench Press 3 15, 12, 10
3. Dumbbell Fly 3 15, 12, 10
4. Dips 3 10-12
5. Pull Downs 3 15, 12, 10
6. Pullovers 3 10-12
7. Bent Over Rows 3 15, 12, 10
8. Rear Delt Lateral Raise 3 10-12
9. Dumbbell Shrugs 2 12-15
10. Hanging Leg Raises 3 15, 12, 10
11. Ab Crunch 3 15, 12, 10
12. Plank 2 60 seconds
Workout 2
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Squats 3 15, 12, 10
2. Sissy Squats 3 10-12
3. Leg Extensions 3 10-12
4. Reverse Lunges 3 10-12 (per leg)
5. Stiff-Legged Deadlift 3 15, 12, 10
6. Leg Curls 3 10-12
7. Leg Press Calf Raise 3 15
8. Standing Calf Raise 3 12-15
9. Seated Calf Raise 3 12-15
Workout 3
Exercise Sets Reps
1. Shoulder Presses 3 15, 12, 10
2. Upright Row 3 12-15
3. Lateral Raises 3 12-15
4. Bent Over Lateral Raise 3 10-12
5. Close Grip Bench Press 3 15, 12, 10
6. Overhead Extensions 3 10-12
7. Rope Pushdown 3 10-12
8. EZ Bar Curls 3 15, 12, 10
9. Incline Curls 3 10-12
10. Spider Curls 3 10-12
11. Hammer Curls 10-12
12. Wrist Curls 2 10-12
13. Reverse Wrist Curls 2 10-12

Phase 3 Routine Notes

If you went through Phase 1 and 2, you’re likely used to a bit less volume, and you may notice there’s no notes about warmups. You can still warm up if desired, but the higher reps on the first exercises should suffice.

You’ve probably been brainwashed to believe that heavy weights and low reps are the way to gain muscle. That is one way, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the most efficient way. This routine is set to give you a balance of longer tension times and heavy-ish weights to get more muscle fiber types in on the action.

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NOTE: As with any routine, the rep range listed is a guide. If you reach the intended reps and can do more, do more! Increase weight as needed so that you can just barely get the goal rep count with all-out effort.

Below are optional ways to utilize the three-day training split:

Standard M-W-F Split – Maximum Recovery

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 3
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off

Every-other-day Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Workout 2
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 3
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Workout 1
(Continue with Workout 2 on Tuesday, off Wednesday, Workout 3 on Thursday, etc.)

3-on/1-off Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Workout 3
Thursday: Off
Friday: Workout 1
Saturday: Workout 2
Sunday: Workout 3
(Continue with Monday off then restarting the 3-day sequence on Tuesday)

2-on/1-off Split

Monday: Workout 1
Tuesday: Workout 2
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Workout 3
Friday: Workout 1
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Workout 1
(Continue with Workout 2 on Monday and take Tuesday off, then Workouts 3 and 1 on Wednesday and Thursday, etc.)

Beginning Bodybuilding – Phase 3 Summary

The longer you’ve been training, the less you can trust mirrors and scales, so remember to take photos or video and use a tape measure to track your progress. There are some tips in Phase 2 to help with planning your progress photos.

There is no one-size-fits all training routine, so don’t be afraid to use substitute exercises or vary the rep ranges as needed, but try to stick to the listed recommendations as closely as possible. You might be surprised at the results you see from extended tension times.

Good luck, and let us know about your results.

Posted on: Thu, 03/30/2023 - 14:03

Gidday Roger, great program, thanks very much. Worked through phases 1 & 2 over the last 5 months and have made some great size and strength gains already. Just about to start Phase 3 and I’d like to know the difference between the Rear Delt Lateral Raise in Workout 1 of Phase 3 and the Bent Over Lateral Raise in Workout 3 please. The linked videos show the same exercise for each. cheers - Jared.

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Posted on: Tue, 04/04/2023 - 11:19

Thanks for the question, Jared. The intention there was for you to do the exercise on Day 1 with the palms facing each other and on Day 3 with the palms facing away from you. You're also supposed to be seated on Day 1 and standing on Day 3. I guess they didn't have videos for that. Sorry about that, but I hope this helps. Thanks for reading M&S!

Sai kumar
Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:50

Hi Roger I just wish to restart my bodybuilding programm I need your help how to start it?

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Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2022 - 21:15

Hi, Sai. Parts 1 and 2 are linked at the beginning of the article. Start there and then go to Part 2 before doing Part 3. The info in those sections are pretty much the same that I would share.

rohit choudhary
Posted on: Mon, 07/11/2022 - 08:25


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Posted on: Fri, 07/22/2022 - 14:40

As long as your diet is focused on fat loss, and you're doing cardio, then you can take this program on, Rohit.

Posted on: Wed, 07/06/2022 - 07:47

Hi, so I just finished phase 2 of the start from scratch series and I am starting phase 3 today. When I finish phase 3 of this series which workout series should I start next? My goal is to gain weight and build muscle.

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Posted on: Thu, 07/14/2022 - 08:29
Sai kumar
Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2022 - 09:23

Hi am sai kumar I am interested in bodybuilding so which phace should i do I want to build muscle so please I need your help

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Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 09:38

Hi, Sai! Roger Lockridge here. Go with this workout, and for more info about nutrition and other aspects of muscle building, check out this guide.

Posted on: Tue, 06/21/2022 - 22:15

Are the 9 sets of calf exercises really necessary in workout 2? I'm finding them very monotonous and not getting much out of them.

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Posted on: Sat, 06/25/2022 - 10:11

If you're wanting better calves, then yes, they are necessary. Have you tried doing them as a triset. Perform all three in a row as a circuit. You will need less weight for all three, but the burn and pump will be serious. It could help.

Posted on: Mon, 06/20/2022 - 04:25

Could I viably just cycle through the 3 phases permanently, or am I going to have to find a completely new routine after phase 3?

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Posted on: Fri, 06/24/2022 - 10:01

Either way would be ok, Bob. I personally would choose a new program based on what my goals are after finishing phase 3.

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Posted on: Mon, 07/11/2022 - 22:51

That is actually a solid option, Bob. I think you should go with it. If you do, let us know how you progress. Thanks for reading M&S!

Posted on: Mon, 07/04/2022 - 03:10

So then, as someone who is working to gain muscle(hypertrophy i suppose?) What would be a good next step? Would be good, or is that still considered too intense directly after completing this program?

Vishal Vaswani
Posted on: Sat, 06/11/2022 - 19:47

What program should I follow after phase 3? My main focus is body building.

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Posted on: Tue, 06/14/2022 - 12:42

Hi, Vishal. Need a little more info before I can answer. Which is more important, getting leaner or building muscle? Yes, everyone wants to do both, but picking one for now will help you reach more goals than trying to do both at the same time. Also, how much experience do you have training?

Jeramy Card
Posted on: Fri, 10/01/2021 - 11:39

Hi! Loving this program and about to move to Phase 3. Is there a no machine version of this? I work out primarily at home and don’t have access to machine. I have a flimsy leg extension attachment, adjustable DBs, full bench with Olympic bar, curl bar, and lay pull down cable. Any similar workouts that would follow this Phase 3 routine? Thanks!

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Posted on: Thu, 10/14/2021 - 20:17

Hey Jeramy. Check out the Exercises section here on M&S to find exercises that you feel you can do and replace the machine movements with the exercises of your choice.

Manik Chavan
Posted on: Mon, 08/16/2021 - 12:47

Are there any alternatives for dips?

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Posted on: Thu, 09/02/2021 - 18:00

Hi, Manik. The easiest alternative would be pushups. If you want to focus on the lower chest specifically, then cable crossovers or decline presses would be suitable. Check out our chest exercise section, and choose an alternative that you feel would be suitable for the way you train.

Posted on: Fri, 09/03/2021 - 11:32

Thanks, also is there an intermediate plan to follow up after this?

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Posted on: Thu, 09/16/2021 - 15:48
Posted on: Sat, 12/26/2020 - 15:30

Hello, after following this beginner program since the beginning of October and hopefully in the end January I will be done also with the third fase of the beginner program. What is next?
Thank you.

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Posted on: Mon, 12/28/2020 - 09:46

Hey Hamit - the next program you choose will depend a lot on your goals. Are you looking to gain muscle, lose fat, etc?

Posted on: Mon, 12/28/2020 - 12:17

My main reason that I work out is to keep my self motivated on something and of course I want to build endurance, so I can make it through my job. I work ling shifts and I get tired very easily. But after I started workingout I see that every day I'm better in my work.
So that's my goal.
Merry Christmas to all.

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Posted on: Tue, 12/29/2020 - 09:10
Posted on: Wed, 10/28/2020 - 20:03

I just wanted to drop in and chime in on this. After running phase 1, phase 2 (3 on/1 off), I am halfway through phase 3 (3 on/1 off).

This is a FREAKING FANTASTIC program if you don't mind spending 12-14 hours a week in the gym and obsessing about diet and sleep.

I couldn't really see a lot of my results in phase 2 because my clothes were too big. So I fixed that and I am a lot happier with what I am seeing in the mirror - I have a much more athletic build than I did at the beginning of phase 1. Still going to be cutting for the next few months to get the abs, but that is more diet than training.

When are the newbie gains over? A year or two of solid, consistent training?

Thank you so much for posing this series! Looking forward to the intermediate program already.

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Posted on: Thu, 10/29/2020 - 08:59

Hey Ryan - newbie gains typically last between 6 months to a year

Posted on: Fri, 07/31/2020 - 03:47

Should I use the same weight for all sets of the same exercise, and should each set be completed to failure?

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Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 14:47

Hey Emanuele

For the exercises that call for a rep range (12-15), you'll use the same weight for all of those sets. The exercises that call for different reps on each set (15, 12, 10), you'll add weight on each set. You should have 1-2 reps left in the tank after each set.

Adam Lucht
Posted on: Sun, 09/01/2019 - 00:06

Is there a phase 4 to this? What do you recommend once we do the 6 weeks?

Posted on: Wed, 10/07/2020 - 10:24
Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2019 - 04:43

Thanks for the workout, folks. How long do you recommend we rest between sets please?

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Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2019 - 09:20

Hi Zehef,

60-90 Secs ought to do the trick.

Posted on: Mon, 09/03/2018 - 04:10


Why is it that when I reach the mid of every workout I am so drained that I cant even do all 3 sets?

- The weight isnt heavy
- I just have no energy even with a cup of coffee
- I'm thinking its my sleep deprivation or I'm not eating enough carbs

Posted on: Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:59

Try get BCAA that will help your energy level and get rid of muscle soreness ,better have one scoop before workout and one during workout trust me you will feel way much better and can do more exercise such as ABS training add 15 minutes on that .

Posted on: Sat, 09/01/2018 - 21:45

What should I do after Phase 3?

Erik Olin
Posted on: Mon, 08/06/2018 - 20:53


What does 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps mean?

Option 1: First set 15 reps, second set 12 reps and third set 10 reps.
Option 2: First set 15 reps, 12 reps and 10 reps, second set 15 reps, 12 reps,10 reps and third set 15, reps, 12 reps, 10 reps

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Posted on: Tue, 08/07/2018 - 08:40

Hi Erik,

Option 1 is correct.

Hope this helps!