A beginner workout based around linear progression for someone with a good grasp of exercise form. Stop wasting time in the gym and get results.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

This is a beginner workout perfect for someone who feels they have a good grasp of squat and deadlift form. By following the progression (addition of weight) guidelines detailed below, you will rapidly add bench press, squat and deadlift strength while building muscle. This workout is a great choice for someone who is tired of wasting time in the gym and wants results.

You may add in one exercise of your choice per training day, above and beyond what is listed. This lift can be anything you prefer, from barbell curls to calf raises.

Once you have run this workout to the point where it is hard to add weight on most of the lifts, it may be time to move on to an intermediate workout. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with proper exercise form for the big compound lifts before attempting this program.

Workout Schedule

  • Monday - Workout
  • Wednesday - Workout
  • Friday - Workout
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat (Straight Sets) 5 5
Bench Press or Military Press (Alternate) 5 5
Barbell Row (5x5) or Dumbbell Row (3x6-10) 5 5
Weighted Sit Ups or Side Bends (Alternate) 3 10-25
Exercise of your choice    

Barbell row reps are a 5x5, dumbbell row reps are 3 sets x 6-10 reps.

Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 3 5
Bench Press or Military Press (Alternate) 5 5
Pull Ups 3 Max
Weighted Sit Ups or Side Bends (Alternate) 3 10-25
Exercise of your choice    
Full Body
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat (Ramped Sets) 5 5
Bench Press or Military Press (Alternate) 5 5
Barbell Row (5x5) or Dumbbell Row (3x6-10) 5 5
Weighted Sit Ups or Side Bends (Alternate) 3 10-25
Exercise of your choice    

Notes: As mentioned, there is room in this program to add one exercise per day if you so desire. Just use common sense. The following 2 lifts are worthy of consideration:

Squats - 5x5 - Straight Sets

  • Set 1 – 60% of last set x 5 reps
  • Set 2 – 80% of last set x 5 reps
  • Sets 3-5 - 100% of last set x 5 reps

Squats – 5×5 – Ramped (Example)

  • Set 1 – Monday’s 100% set -115 pounds
  • Set 2 – Monday’s 100% set -85 pounds
  • Set 3 – Monday’s 100% set -55 pounds
  • Set 4 – Monday’s 100% set -25 pounds
  • Set 5 – Monday’s 100% set + 5 pounds

This is merely an example, and uses 30 pound intervals. If your squat max is under 200 pounds, it may be best to use 15-20 pound intervals. If your squat max is between 200-300 pounds, 20-25 pound intervals will be a better choice. Take a week and test out intervals to see what feels best for you.

Comparing straight sets to ramped sets, if Monday is:

  • 165 x 5
  • 220 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 275 x 5

Friday would be:

  • 165 x 5
  • 195 x 5
  • 225 x 5
  • 255 x 5
  • 280 x 5


  • Set 1 – 60% of last set x 5 reps
  • Set 2 – 80% of last set x 5 reps
  • Set 3 – 100% of last set x 5 reps

Each week add 5 pounds.

Bench Press and Overhead Press

Use the same approach as squats, alternating between the straight 5×5 workouts and 5×5 ramped workouts. It might be harder to add weight each week on these lifts. If you can’t hit 5 reps for your 5×5 ramped set, next week drop the weight by 10 pounds and start to work back up adding 5 pounds each week.


Add weight when you can. Early and often.


This system is designed to help beginners add muscle and strength, and it works. Do not try to tweak or change things. Trust the program. It is designed to add weight as fast as possible to the big lifts and get you to the point where you start having a hard time adding weight each week. When you start to reach the point where adding weight each week is difficult, you may need to either microload, or begin to periodize (cycle weight). This may require using a more advanced approach.

When you can’t complete the required reps on a given day, back off the weight on bench or overhead press by 10-15 pounds, or squats and deadlifts by 20-30 pounds and start working back up week by week.

You might want to start all lifts at 80% of your current 5 rep max and build up from there. This can be a challenging to use when starting full throttle with 100% of your 5 rep max.

Scott A Kaplan
Posted on: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 15:07

Thank you for the workout. I think this looks like something I am going to try. I do have one question, tho... For the "Straight Sets Squats" can you please explain what "of last set" means? Is that referring to my 5 RM?

Thanks so much!


Posted on: Sat, 12/16/2017 - 14:12

hey, id like to start doing this routine, trying to get active after being sedentary for a long time, so i think this baby steps aproach would be nice for me, however i havent seen any indication of the starting weights i should lift? Theres the ammount i should increase, but not what to start with? Can i get an answer on this please?

Alan Tolstyga
Posted on: Mon, 03/23/2015 - 09:39

I don't have a squat rack or way of supporting a barbell that high up. Is there another way to do squats that would be a good substitute? Dumbbell maybe?

Brett M
Posted on: Sat, 03/14/2015 - 11:41

Hi Steven; thank you very much for this workout. It's been several years since I exercised regularly so I just went through a 12 week build up/conditioning routine and have chosen to use this workout as my starting point for increasing strength. I'm about two weeks in to it but am unable to do unassisted wide grip pull ups. Is it preferable to work up to that with lat pull downs or would using an assisted pull up/dip machine be best?

Posted on: Mon, 10/27/2014 - 12:16

no.. pretty much stoping at 10 reps, should I be pushing as much as I can each set?

Posted on: Sun, 10/26/2014 - 00:23

steve!!! we got a problem.. I been hitting the gym about 2 months now and I believe I'm not seeing the results I should be I'm 160 pounds I believe I'm what they call a hard gainer i'm looking to bulk and gain strenght and was wondering is it possible to do to many sets ? sometimes il do like 3 sets at one weight then add 10 and doing like 4 sets then droping 5 pounds and doing 2 sets and so forth could this be effecting my progress? should I only be doing a certain amount of sets per workout

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/27/2014 - 09:05

Are you pushing each set for as many reps as possible, trying to add weight when you can? Also, how many calories and grams of protein are you eating per day?

Posted on: Sun, 04/27/2014 - 23:31

hi steve i'm 6'5 155 lbs and i need serious help on muscle and weight gain. my goal is to be about 200 lbs by late fall. what can i do to get there. P.S i really dont want to lose my flat stomach too.

Posted on: Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:52

How much cardio do you consider excessive? Is a mile a day, even on workout days, considered to much? Im trying to add a little bulk but still do moderate (no more than 1/2 marathon) races. I can get away with 4 runs of varying intensity and distance but running less than 20 total miles per week .I haven't started doing both running and weight training simultaneously but the goal here is to add bulk and be able to stay competitive on the race track.

Posted on: Sat, 03/15/2014 - 19:08

Hi Steve,
I really like this program and want to start this.
I'm just wondering could pull ups substitute for the rows?
And what are your thoughts on pull ups and rows in terms of strengthening the back?

Posted on: Fri, 03/07/2014 - 07:58

Hi Steve,

I'm a complete novice when it come's to putting on muscle and bulking. For the last few years I have been concentrating on cutting and removing bodyfat, and I now have a good physique from which to begin increasing muscle mass. The workout looks fantastic so thank you for that. I am unsure, however, on the straight and rampant sets. Would you mind clarifying what you mean by them? I can squat probably around 154lbs, and dead lift around 130lbs. Should I start from a lighter weight and then drop it by the percentages listed above for the straight sets, or is it the other way around? And the same goes for rampent sets. Do you start with a lighter weight and then progress by adding more?

Thanks very!


Posted on: Tue, 12/17/2013 - 14:07

My 11yr old son wants start lifting weights because he does not have a lot of upper body strength & he wrestles. He can't even do 1 pull up . Any recommended routine or suggeztions .

Troy Herron
Posted on: Mon, 11/23/2020 - 18:14

Banded pull-ups, jumping pull-ups, pull up negatives

bryce ehret
Posted on: Fri, 11/22/2013 - 11:02

I noticed that you only do sit ups and side rows is that enough to get a six pack

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 21:24

what is meant by "alternate" on the core work and presses?
Daily weekly?

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 21:22

What is meant by "alternate" with the presses and core wor
k? Daily, weekly?

Posted on: Thu, 10/24/2013 - 03:48

i finished the 12 week beginner conditioning program and want to begin this one but i don't have a spotter. is one needed or will i be okay without one?

Posted on: Thu, 10/03/2013 - 21:25

Would you suggest doing the military press & bench press in the same days? When you mean alternate, do you mean do bench straight sets to bench ramped sets in the same day or bench straight sets to military press straight sets in the same day & just go to the ramped set equivalent on the next training day. Also, about the squats, neither I nor my gym have a squat rack so I've been cleaning the weight and doing front squats instead of the back squat. Would you recommend this approach?

Robert M
Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2013 - 05:42


It looks like you've gone MIA from this forum but in case you do read this, thanks so much for posting this workout. I was a competitive athlete until 4yrs ago I injured my back and pretty much stopped doing any kind of physical activity. I'm just now getting back into lifting and I feel great.

I've been doing this workout for about 2 months now and am seeing positive improvements. I know you recommend sticking to this plan for 6 months but I'd like to get into the gym 4x a week. Would you recommend switching to another program at this point in time?


John Anderson
Posted on: Sun, 08/18/2013 - 15:40

Can you substitute the rows for power cleans? Would power cleans be an effective mass builder? I know they are great for power and I've done them in the past. Thoughts?

Sourabh Agarwal
Posted on: Sun, 08/11/2013 - 03:05

Hi Steve,

I have narrowed the workouts down to these choices, not in particular order. Kindly suggest which one I should choose.

1. 2 Day Simple A/B Split
2. 2 Day Intense Fat Loos and Muscle Tone
3. Strength and Bulk Beginner
4. The Ex-Hardgainer Workout
5. Dumbbell only Home or Gym Workout

I am having a tough time in choosing one of these workouts.


Posted on: Tue, 08/06/2013 - 13:38

hi steve.
i m a beginner
my body type is meso..
my bms percentage is 28% obesity
i dont have any strength in my forearms
what should i follow first?
muscle gaining?
weight loose?

Posted on: Sun, 07/28/2013 - 23:56

I know its not recommended but the gym (my apartment gym) only has a Smith machine and free weights (dumbbells). Could I use the Smith Machine temporarily till I join a gym?


Posted on: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 08:07

hi steve i have just started this workout and was wondering is there more i could add on to work my arms a bit more any info help would be great cheers davie

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 07/05/2013 - 17:48

You could potentially work arms twice a week if you'd like to focus there. Just make sure to get plenty of rest, as well as eat a clean diet.

aakesh singh tomar
Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2013 - 01:50

hey steve what is this alternate means

aakesh singh tomar
Posted on: Sat, 06/15/2013 - 16:12


Posted on: Thu, 06/13/2013 - 18:27

Hey Steve,

Recently started this workout and discovered I can't do more than 5 pull ups per set. Is this ok or is it not enough reps? If so should I exchange the pull ups with lat pull downs or just keep at it until I can do more?

Posted on: Thu, 06/13/2013 - 02:15

Hi Steve,

I'm going back to lifting again and I will be starting to use this training program, I'm just wondering if it's okay to replace military press with incline bench press because military press (standing and seated) gives me problems to my shoulders and lower back unlike the incline bench press. Thanks.

Posted on: Tue, 06/04/2013 - 12:06

Hi Steve you are my professor of exercise. I am looking for simple A/B fullbody 3 days workout. I had read ur few articles and able to devise following workout. Please let me know if it is ok or i sould stick with above mentioned routine. Age 26, Height 5 10, Weight 155lbs.
Workout A
Excersice Sets Reps
Deep Squats: 5x5
Bench Press: 5x5
Barbell Row: 5x5
Barbell Curl: 3, 5-10
Abs: 3, 10-15

Workout B
Excersice Sets Reps
Dead Lift: 4, 5x5
Seated Barbell Press: 5x5
Lat Pull Down: 5, 5-10
Closed Grip Bench Press: 3, 5-10
Abs: 3, 10-15

Posted on: Fri, 05/31/2013 - 03:35

Hey Steve, I was wondering, what the difference between a beginner workout and an intermediate workout is?
I've been working out for about 4 month I'm 23 and i did workout when i was younger (like when i was 16 but then I had this elbow surgery so i had to stop) witch one should i take? Right now I'm running with 1 of your programs (Steve's Density And Strength 4 Day Split).

Posted on: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 17:22

Hi Steve!
Im in 6"2 and weigh 154 pounds and Im ectomorphic and very skinny. i want to bulk to around 180. I also do alot of cardio sport.. Would this his work for me?

Posted on: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 16:34

Im 6"2 and weigh 154 pounds, im ectomorphic and very skinny.. looking to bulk up a lot! Looking to go to 180 i do alot of cardio with sports.. so would this work for me? im a rookie at this

Posted on: Wed, 05/15/2013 - 20:45


Posted on: Tue, 05/14/2013 - 10:10

How to you successfully measure your one rep Max on your own? I don't have a workout buddy or a spotter and I'm not social enough to ask random dudes at the gym to help me out.

Posted on: Tue, 05/14/2013 - 09:27


Does this workout still get the biceps and neck muscles pretty good? I see that it doesnt really have any particular curls or shrugs. Would these be good workouts to add in where specified?


Posted on: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 07:24

I have never trained consistently enough to find out my 1 rep max or 5 rep max how do i determine what weight to start with out knowing these or should i just start with a weight that is challenging that still allows me to complete the rep range? although i havent trained consistently in the past i am determined to stick to a solid strength routine like this.as i need to lose the beer gut and put on some good quality muscle mass. any help with the starting eight would be greatly appreciated thanks in advance!

Posted on: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 20:09

I don't understand ramped and straight sets for squats. I weigh about 150 and my 1 rep max is 270.

Posted on: Mon, 04/08/2013 - 16:44

Hi Steve, Ive never been a weight lifter and have only gone to the gym to do the odd cardio session (rowing, spinning ect.) And I was wandered due to my poor lifting capabilities is it bad if I stay on the same lifting weight for a few weeks and then step it up, would this affect the effectiveness of this working


Posted on: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 15:21

I've been doing this workout for about 8 months now. I've responded relatively well, but I'm starting to plateau in just about every lift. Even with dropping the weight as instructed and progressively working back up, I'm still hitting the wall in some of the lifts. I'm wondering if this means I should start moving on to another workout. Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 16:45

steve! got a few questions! i ve been doing this work out for a month kind of a trial and i like it alot but im curious with the military press, i do it on weds and my extra activity is dumbell flys and instead of using a bar for my military i use dumbells. my question is this a ok sub for the bar and a issue i find is i only really feel it in my anterior deltoid. is this because of bad form or what? also what should rest time look like in between sets?
thanks man!

Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 11:41

Thanks for the programme Steve, I was wondering would both dips and close grip bench in the same week as the optionals exercises be overexercising triceps?
Thanks again

khir ward
Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 04:01

hi how long would you recommend that we do this workout for till we start moving to more isolation exercises?

khir ward
Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 04:01

hi how long would you recommend that we do this workout for till we start moving to more isolation exercises?

khir ward
Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 04:00

hi how long would you recommend that we do this workout for till we start moving to more isolation exercises?

Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 20:03

I was doing your strength and density for awhile with no gains. I guess my hard headedness wouldn't let me believe that after years of training I was still a beginner. After doing this beginner workout, all my lifts are finally going up. I am 40 lbs. overweight and my pullups went from 3 to 8 clean form pull-ups. Thanks Steve!!!

Posted on: Sun, 03/24/2013 - 20:18

Thanks for this routine. I'm a skinny 155 lb guy, but I have already increased my bench press from 120 to 140 in a few months, and am also seeing some density starting to develop in my muscles. I have a few questions. For the deadlift, I use the inverted grip (one palm facing in and the other out) for my last set. Should I alternate which palm faces out? After the sets I feel more contraction one on lat than the other. I tried alternating but I'm more comfortable one way. Also, would you recommend using the power lifters' stance for exercises such as deadlift (legs wide), bench (tuck elbows in) etc. since the primary goal of this workout if power building.

Posted on: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 00:00

I'm having a hard time understanding how straight and ramped squats work. Could u explain it a little differently? Thank you!

Posted on: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 20:41

I've been doing this program for a couple of months now, and I'm concerned I've been doing it incorrectly. In an earlier comment, Steve put the order or the military press/bench press alternation like so, over 2 weeks:

Monday - Bench press (Straight)
Wednesday - Military press (Straight)
Friday - Bench press (Ramped)

Monday- Military press (Ramped)
Wednesday- Bench press (Straight)
Friday- Military press (Straight)

I took this to be a standard two weeks. Meaning I only do 1 ramped set per exercise per fortnight (as opposed to squats, where you ramp every week). Then the next fortnight, I repeat, with the same exercises on the same days.

Re-reading it now, i think weeks three and four should be like this:

Monday - Bench press (Ramped)
Wednesday - Military press (Ramped)
Friday - Bench press (Straight)

Monday- Military press (Straight)
Wednesday- Bench press (Ramped)
Friday- Military press (Ramped)

So for both exercises, you are ramping every second time you do it, instead of doing 2 times straight for every one time ramped.

Is this correct? If so It would resolve my only complaint with the program, which was that I was only allowed the bench & military press by 2.5kg per fortnight.

Posted on: Sun, 03/17/2013 - 09:42

I'm a boxer and I wanna get bigger and stronger will this exercise do me good or could you recommend me one please?