12 Week Muscle Building Program for Beginners - Greatest Physiques (2023)

This beginner’s muscle mass program is designed to take you from weak and skinny, to strong and jacked.

Everyone needs to start somewhere.

Even the best physiques in the world began with a dumbbell, a puzzled look on a face and probably a few errors here and there along the way.

In this muscle building workout plan we take you from the very start of the journey to a confident, stronger and more muscular body. If you’re a beginner to strength training, this is for you.

If you haven’t yet got to grips with dumbbells or the barbell still intimidates you, this program will teach you the basics.

Yeah okay, it’s tough in places. But it’ll need to be in order to force your body to lay down some new muscle cells.

But right of the heart of this program is you – an eager, motivated person who wants to find the right balance of progress and difficulty.

What does this program cover?

Goal:Muscle building, strength
Aimed at:Beginners
Program duration:12 weeks
Workout duration:45-60 minutes
Equipment needed:Barbell, dumbbell, resistance machines

Let’s Get Stronger, Better and More Muscular

You’re here because you want to make changes.

Whether you want to build bar-breaking strength or go up a couple of t-shirt sizes, you’ve made the right decision in hitting up this guide.

Many new lifters jump in at the deep end and try to follow the training program of their favorite pro physique athletes. Or they’ll jump in with their buddy who’s been hitting the iron room for the past year.

The programs are too hard. They get demotivated (and sore), and eventually give up.

Beginners need to follow an appropriate program

Admitting you’re a beginner is a big stride forward in crafting out a great physique. That way, you can follow a program that suits your exact needs, rather than trying to be something you’re not.

See this as a springboard program.

Complete these 12 weeks, build some decent muscle and then catapult yourself forward into one of our more advanced programs such as the 90 Day Muscle Building Workout Plan.

(Video) 12 Week Muscle Building Program... Written by A.I.

All good journey have a beginning.

Let’s take a look at the essentials…

12 Week Muscle Building Program for Beginners - Greatest Physiques (1)

The Basics – How to Build Muscle as a Beginner

The problem is that we want things now! When it comes to carving out a strong and muscular body we want it to happen straight away.

We’re just not very patient.

And that can lead to poor choices about what types of exercise plans are used.

It’s easy to over-complicate muscle building workouts – particularly as a beginner who’s bombarded with advanced strength programs and fancy lifting protocols used by the elite coaches.

As a beginner it’s important to know where you’re at.

Building a strong foundation now will put you in a prime position going forward. And when you do come around to the advanced stuff, your foundations won’t crumble under the pressure.

Rule #1: Stick to the plan and be consistent

This might sound straight forward , but it’s where so many people on abeginner strength workout plan go wrong.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best program in the world, if you don’t ‘turn up’ it’s useless.

As a beginner it’s important to build positive habits. One thing that all of the experienced, bigger guys have in common is that this have made the gym part of their life.

It’s not about ‘can I get to the gym tonight?‘.

It’s more ‘I’m off to the gym later, everything else can wait!’.

But that takes time.

(Video) The Best Way to Gain Muscle: Science Explained Simply

So right now, your main focus is to try and get to the gym for all of your planned sessions. Yes, there’ll be days when you just can’t make it – that’s just life.

But if you truly want to build some mass then it comes down to you, your habits and your motivaton.

Rule #2:Use full-body training to build muscle

When it comes to building muscle mass, some people choose to go for the ‘split training’ option. This is when you train one or two muscles per workout and train them only once per week.

It’s a much-loved, well-used way of training but doesn’t suit you as a beginner. Here’s why…

To build muscle you need to achieve a certain weekly volume. This is measured as weight lifted x reps x sets.

When you train chest (for example) on a Monday you might complete 3 sets of 4 different exercises – that’s 12 sets total. You’ll stimulate some muscle growth and your chest will get bigger over time.

Great.

But here’s the thing – if you split those 12 sets up over a week by doing 4 on Monday, 4 on Wednesday and then 4 on Friday you’ll build just as much muscle – often more if the research is anything to go by [1].

It get’s better too.

When you hammer a split session out you’re guaranteed to get sore a couple of days after your workout – what’s calleddelayed onset of muscle soreness. More so if you’re a beginner who’s body isn’t used to tough training.

But with a full body approach your workout volume is lower in each individual session, therefore you don’t suffer as much.

Bonus.

Note: Even some of the pro’s are switching to full body workouts these days, knowing that it’s less strenuous but still builds muscle.

Rule #3: Use more bang for your buck exercises

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the intricacies of program design. After all, top level strength coaches deliberate about the impact of exercise order for hours and hours on end.

As a beginner it really makes no difference whether you perform chest presses after curls or squats before pulldowns. Again, it all comes back to weekly volume.

(Video) The Only MUST DO Exercises for a COMPLETE Physique (Top 9)

One thing you do need to focus on though is maximizing the use of compound exercises over isolations.

Not sure what that means?

  • Compound exercises – these work multiple muscles at the same time. Examples are bench press, deadlift, seated row and squat.
  • Isolation – these typically target one individual muscle. Bicep curls, triceps extensions and leg extensions for example.

Focusing on compound exercises is a great way to boost weekly volume in less actual exercises.

There’s no point in performing endless isolation lifts when you can integrate everything into a program of just a few really effective exercises.

The result – less time in the gym; more time for you.

Note: Isolation exercises definitely build muscle as well, but focusing on compound lifts is a more time-efficient, optimal way to add mass as a beginner.

Rule #4: You’ll build muscle at any rep range… but keep progressing the weight

Back in the day, weight lifting was all about training in the hypertrophy range – 8-12 reps.

This specific window was said to be optimal for mechanical and biochemical overload needed to build muscle.

We’ve moved on though.

Science now tells us that you can build muscle at any rep range – as long as overall volume is high.

For example, one study found you can build as much muscle at 30% of your maximum than you can at a heavier 80% [3].

The key thing here is to achieve fatigue in each set. So whether you are aiming for 6 reps or 15, try to choose weights that are challenging.

You’ll only grow muscle if you challenge your body.

Note: Our advice is to choose a weight that allows you to squeeze out 8-10 reps. Stick with this weight each week until you can complete 15 reps. As soon as you can, increase it and start the process again.

Rule #5: Forget the stopwatch

Another traditional approach to muscle growth is to time your rest period between sets to trigger biochemical changes that led to higher levels of muscle mass.

(Video) 12 Weeks Out Beginner Comp Prep - Ep1 - Men's Physique Fitness - Trent Baynes

Short rest times were said to equal more mass.

The problem with this method though was that the weight you were lifting each set got lower and lower because you weren’t fully recovery. The side effect was that volume went down because the weights were lighter.

In this12 week muscle building plan though you’ll be using the most up to date method of programming…

Autoregulation.

This essentially means that you rest as long as YOU want to between sets.

If anything, longer rest times are better for you.

And as more and more research comes out saying that strictly regulating rest times aren’t important for building muscle, you’ll be happy in the knowledge that you can leave the stopwatch at home [3].

12 Week Muscle Building Program for Beginners - Greatest Physiques (2)

The Program: Beginner Muscle Building

Here’s your12 week muscle building program for beginners. All you have to do is follow the 3 different programs each week.

You’ve got 3 workouts per week. Do them when you can, but try and have a day off between sessions if you can.

There’s no need to keep switching your exercises around week by week as you’ve got plenty of variety in there.

Like we’ve already said though; as soon as you can hit 15 reps you need to up the weight to keep that muscle building stimulus going.

Strap in, chalk your hands up, grip the bar, and let’s get going…

Day 1

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest
1Dumbbell bench press8-1532 minutes
2Back squat8-1532 minutes
3Lat pulldown8-1532 minutes
4Lying leg curl8-1532 minutes
5Incline Flyes8-1532 minutes
6Leg press8-1532 minutes
7Low cable row8-1532 minutes
8Standing calf raise8-1532 minutes

Day 2

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest
1Overhead press8-1532 minutes
2Leg extension8-1532 minutes
3Neutral grip pulldown8-1532 minutes
4Seated leg curl8-1532 minutes
5Lateral raise8-1532 minutes
6Lunges8-1532 minutes
7Bent over row8-1532 minutes
8Seated calf raise8-1532 minutes

Day 3

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest
1Dips8-1532 minutes
2Front squat8-1532 minutes
3Reverse flyes8-1532 minutes
4Hyperextensions8-1532 minutes
5Triceps extension8-1532 minutes
6DB step-ups8-1532 minutes
7Bicep curl8-1532 minutes
8Ab curl 8-1532 minutes

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FAQs

Is 12 weeks enough to build muscle? ›

There's a general rule of thumb in bodybuilding: Stronger muscles allow for heavier lifting, and heavier lifting (with good form) builds bigger muscles. This mass-attack 12-week-long training routine will deliver you bigger muscles by way of stronger muscles. It's that simple.

What is the most effective 12 week mass building workout? ›

The Program:
  • 2 sets: Incline dumbbell press.
  • 2 sets: Deadlifts.
  • 2 sets: Incline Hammer Strength press.
  • 2 sets: Lat pulldowns.
  • 2 sets: Dips.
  • 2 sets: Barbell rows.
  • 2 sets: Dumbbell pullovers.
  • 2 sets: Machine rows.
Mar 22, 2019

Is 12 weeks enough for body transformation? ›

12 weeks is enough time to transform your body, but only if you're willing to go the extra mile. To build muscle and truly tone your body, you'll have to have a well-structured workout routine along with a calorie deficit.

Can you get ripped in 3 months? ›

Contrary to what you might see on social media or hear from your buddy at the gym, most people won't be able to get significantly ripped in three months. You can lose a few pounds of fat and/or gain a few pounds of muscle in that time, but three months is too short of a time frame to see drastic results.

Can you build a good physique in 3 months? ›

However, with consistency and dedication, it is possible to make significant muscle gain in 3 months. For example, if someone starts lifting weights three times a week and eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein, they could expect to see noticeable muscle growth within three months.

How much muscle can I gain in 3 months? ›

Research investigating lean muscle gain over the course of a month is limited,2 but experts suggest that most healthy individuals can gain 1 to 2 pounds of lean muscle mass per month. However, this rate varies based on age, sex, physical condition, genetics, diet quality, and of course, training program.

How many pounds of muscle can you gain in 12 weeks? ›

An average guy can hope to gain 4 to 7 pounds of muscle in 10 to 12 weeks of serious training, and that's only if he's either new to lifting or returning from a layoff.

Which routine is best for gaining muscle? ›

The best way to build muscle is to perform compound exercises which recruit multiple muscle groups. According to Zack George, personal trainer, gym owner, and the UK's fittest man, there are five main movements to focus on. These are deadlifts, squats, pull-ups, bench press, and shoulder press.

What is the best age for body transformation? ›

Late teens and early twenties are the perfect age to start bodybuilding. Puberty and bodybuilding are closely related because this is the fastest time for muscle growth. Between, 17-25, you will experience testosterone driven growth burst in your muscles.

Can I change my body shape in 10 weeks? ›

Yes, it can. An important distinction to make is that all workouts, be it through free weights, body weight or via gym equipment can help you lose weight and gain muscle. However, if you want to get super ripped, using weights will give you better results.

How long does it take to get abs? ›

The American Council on Exercise says a 1 percent body fat loss per month is safe and achievable. Given that math, it could take a woman with average body fat about 20 to 26 months to achieve the appropriate amount of fat loss for six-pack abs. The average man would need about 15 to 21 months.

How long does it take to get ripped realistically? ›

More realistically, losing a significant amount of body fat takes two to three years. Nevertheless, six to twelve months is a reasonable timeframe to achieve a ripped body. For more precise results, it's better to aim for a four-year timeframe.

How long does it take to get extremely ripped? ›

In general terms, a person at a reasonable level of fitness will start to see changes after two months of serious strength training, and results should be clearly visible after four. For a truly ripped physique, most people need a minimum of one year's hard work.

How can I get super ripped fast? ›

The Secrets to Getting Shredded Fast
  1. Plan your attack. Before you hit the gym for the first time, grab a journal and write down your workouts. ...
  2. Adjust your meal plan. ...
  3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, then stop. ...
  4. Stay in the fat-burning zone. ...
  5. Target big muscle groups. ...
  6. The last-minute pump.

Can you bulk and cut in 3 months? ›

Generally it doesn't matter a whole lot the frequency you choose what's important is to keep going until you achieve the desired results. However, for most I recommend bulking for 2-3 months, then cut down for however long you need to get rid of the unwanted amount of fat. Everyone will need a different amount of time.

Can you get jacked in 2 months? ›

While the process of getting ripped can take a long time depending on how you workout and what your diet looks like, intense training can certainly produce results in around 2 months. During this time you can expect to see weight loss or gain (depending on your goals) and a basic change in your figure.

How long does it take to build a physique? ›

How long it takes to build muscle and see results. Gaining muscle is a slow process. It can take about three to four weeks to see a visible change. You'll see some real results after 12 weeks, but it "all depends on your goals, and what type of strength training you are doing," says Haroldsdottir.

How long does it take to put on 10 pounds of muscle? ›

5 Pounds - It will take you about three months to build your first 5 pounds of muscle. That's not a long time at all, and will have a noticeable impact on your physique. 10 Pounds - After 7 months in the gym you will have built a approximately 10 total pounds of mass.

How long does it take to build noticeable muscle naturally? ›

Noticeable muscle growth takes a long time.

Expect it to take at least three months before you start looking bigger and more muscular.

Can you gain 5lbs of muscle in 3 months? ›

No, this is highly unlikely, as research has indicated that the most people could gain in one month, under ideal conditions, and from a very low base, is 4-5lbs of muscle per month.

How long does it take to put on 20 pounds of muscle? ›

Although it's easy to gain weight by eating more calories, gaining 20 pounds of muscle mass is a bit more challenging. A reasonable goal is to gain 0.5 to 1 pound of muscle mass each week, which should take you 20 to 40 weeks to complete.

How many pounds of muscle is noticeable? ›

Most people think that they need to gain way more muscle than they really do to make a noticeable visual difference. Particularly if you stay lean, even just 5lbs of muscle can be seen, especially if it's in the “right places” like the shoulders, forearms, chest, lats, etc. 15lbs is a LOT!

How long does it take to gain 15 pounds of muscle naturally? ›

Following the above approach, a person might gain an average of about 15 pounds (6.8 kg) over 6 months eating approximately 500 additional calories daily. This slower approach would help prioritize gaining muscle ( 4 ).

How jacked can you get naturally? ›

Key Takeaways. Most men can naturally gain 40 to 50 pounds of muscle in their lifetimes, and most women can naturally gain 20 to 25 pounds. Research shows that you can use the circumference of your wrists and ankles to predict how much muscle you can gain naturally.

How many pounds of muscle can a beginner gain in 3 months? ›

For example, a study conducted by scientists at Göteborg University found that beginner lifters gain around 4 to 7 pounds of muscle in their first three months of lifting.

How to gain 10 pounds of muscle in 3 months? ›

What (and How) to Eat to Gain Muscle Fast
  1. Eat More Than You Think. According to Ryan, the first step to building muscle and strength is being in a caloric surplus. ...
  2. Load up on Protein. ...
  3. Increase Your Meal Frequency. ...
  4. Carb Up After Your Workouts. ...
  5. Drink Your Calories if Necessary.
Dec 3, 2021

At what age is it harder to gain muscle? ›

Building muscle mass when you're over 50 can be difficult. It's a good idea to check with your doctor and a fitness trainer before you start any endurance training.

What age is peak muscle growth? ›

Typically, muscle mass and strength increase steadily from birth and reach their peak at around 30 to 35 years of age. After that, muscle power and performance decline slowly and linearly at first, and then faster after age 65 for women and 70 for men.

Can I start bodybuilding at 35? ›

Good strength training combined with the proper diet is the fountain of youth. The moral of the story is, it's never too late to start training but it is always too early to stop! The principles of good training and nutrition apply to everyone.

How do I get lean and toned? ›

Diet
  1. Cut Your Calories. The most important part of obtaining a lean physique is inducing a caloric deficit. ...
  2. Consume Plenty of Protein. ...
  3. Eat Plenty of Greens. ...
  4. Don't Be Afraid of Carbs. ...
  5. Don't Do Cheat Meals Right Away. ...
  6. Drink Lots of Water. ...
  7. Try Fasted Cardio. ...
  8. Lift Heavier.
May 27, 2020

Can you see results in 10 weeks? ›

Some people may see and feel results in less than eight to 12 weeks, and for others, it may take more time." And a big reminder — many of the important adaptations your body is making aren't visible.

How long does it take to build muscle? ›

Most beginners will see noticeable muscle growth within eight weeks, while more experienced lifters will see changes in three to four weeks. Most individuals gain one to two pounds of lean muscle per month with the right strength training and nutrition plan.

What are the first signs of abs? ›

Your pants and/or shorts are looser in the waistline.

It is the easiest and most effortless way to notice your progress on the journey to a washboard stomach. If your pants are fitting more loosely or if you have to tighten your belt, then you are losing fat around your stomach.

At what body fat percentage do veins show? ›

Getting Lean and Building Muscle

Your veins start to show when your body is at around 10 percent body fat. But, to maximize vein expulsion, your body fat should be below 8 percent.

What percentage of men have abs? ›

About 15% of the general population have 4-pack abs, while 2% can only ever achieve a 2-pack. Then, even rarer than the 2-pack is a total of 10 or even 12 abdominal muscles, meaning 5 or 6 bands of the connective fascia. These statistics are the same for men as for women, with the most common being 6-pack for everyone.

How many sets and reps should I do to get ripped? ›

Sets & Reps: Rules To Follow To Get Ripped

Ideally, you would train each muscle group with both lower and high rep training: Performing 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps per muscle group with heavier loads, per week, may be enough to help retain strength during the diet phase.

Can you do arms everyday? ›

You can train arms between 2-6 times per week. The more frequently you train arms, the less you should do per day. If you train arms twice per week, you'll do 2-3 exercises per session with 3-4 total sets. If you train arms 6 days per week, you'll do one exercise per muscle group per day, with only 2 sets per workout.

How jacked can you get in a month? ›

On average, though, most people can gain 0.5 to 2 pounds of muscle per month. The most important things you can do to amp up your muscle growth are focus on resistance training and eat a well-rounded diet.

Can you get jacked in 6 months? ›

A dedicated workout plan and strategic diet can get you ripped in six months. A six-month workout program gives you plenty of time to set and reach muscle building goals and major exercise milestones. With hard work and discipline, you can make significant muscle gains while getting ripped.

What diet to follow to get shredded? ›

To make it super easy, here's what you need to do:
  • Have a protein goal. For men, aim for 1.2g per pound of bodyweight. ...
  • Eat an abundance of green, leafy vegetables with each meal. Think broccoli, kale, spinach.
  • Add healthy fats to each meal* A good aim is 0.5g per pound of bodyweight. ...
  • Stay hydrated.
Oct 18, 2022

How do you get lean and ripped not bulky? ›

Do more with less – adopt a routine of more reps with lighter weights. You don't need to work with very heavy weights to develop lean, toned muscle. For example, two sets of bicep curls with a 5 or 8 pound weight will help you tone without bulking up.

Do I need to lift heavy to get ripped? ›

In fact, despite the widespread belief that muscles only grow after lifting heavy, you can and will build muscle just as effectively using lighter weights and higher reps.

How do Hollywood actors get ripped so fast? ›

Here are a few things you tend to see in common: Eating a lot more food. Taking protein shakes (here are three I recommend: Isopure, Beef Protein Isolate, Vega Chocolate Protein Powder ) Lifting weights (Here are 25 lb hex dumbbells I use, a 40lb adjustable dumbbell set, and a 16kg kettlebell to get started)

How do bodybuilders cut fat so fast? ›

To lose weight quickly for a show, bodybuilders lower their carbohydrate ratio while increasing their protein ratio. The increased protein helps maintain their muscle mass, and the lower carbohydrates help them to shed weight.

How much muscle can you gain in 12 weeks? ›

An average guy can hope to gain 4 to 7 pounds of muscle in 10 to 12 weeks of serious training, and that's only if he's either new to lifting or returning from a layoff.

How many weeks does it take to see muscle gains? ›

Most beginners will see noticeable muscle growth within eight weeks, while more experienced lifters will see changes in three to four weeks. Most individuals gain one to two pounds of lean muscle per month with the right strength training and nutrition plan.

Can you gain 12lbs of muscle in 3 months? ›

Factors Affecting Muscle Growth

Remember that you will likely gain more muscle during the initial one to three months of training, but gain less after that. Overall, around 8 to 15 pounds per year could be a good estimate, but again, some people may gain more (or less) than that.

At what age is it easiest to build muscle? ›

Late teens and early twenties are the perfect age to start bodybuilding. Puberty and bodybuilding are closely related because this is the fastest time for muscle growth. Between, 17-25, you will experience testosterone driven growth burst in your muscles.

How much muscle can you realistically gain in 3 months? ›

You can gain up to 12-15lbs (6.8kg) of muscle in 3-4 months when closely following a researched program. (Afterward, muscle gains slow drastically.) These results are achievable for every healthy man and woman.

What can 3 months of working out do? ›

After three months, you'll start to see more of a significant improvement in strength and endurance along with a noticeable improvement in resting heart rate, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and other health indicators.

What makes muscles grow faster? ›

Below are 10 of the best ways to build muscle quickly:
  • Eat Enough Calories. ...
  • Train With Weights Over Cardio. ...
  • Train with Heavy Weights. ...
  • Lift Light Weights, Too. ...
  • Train a Muscle to Near Failure (Most of the Time) ...
  • Don't Always Train to Failure With Very Heavy Weight. ...
  • Supplement with Creatine.

How much protein should I eat to gain muscle? ›

To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.

How do you maximize newbie gains? ›

How to Maximize Your Newbie Gains
  1. Eat Plenty of Protein. When it comes to supporting the muscle-building process, no nutrient is more important than protein. ...
  2. Consume Enough Calories Every Day. ...
  3. Make Sure You're Training Right. ...
  4. Taking Supplements Can Also Help.
Oct 2, 2020

How long does it take to gain 25 pounds of muscle? ›

For most gaining 1/2 pound of weight a week represents a fairly quick rate of healthy weight gain. And for some, especially women the rate of muscle gain may be even slower (1). At this rate, the average person can gain roughly 25 pounds of muscle in a year.

What muscles are hardest to build? ›

5 OF THE HARDEST TO TRAIN BODY AREAS
  • Obliques. Pretty much everyone does the standard ab crunches, but crunches aren't going to develop your obliques. ...
  • Calves. ...
  • Forearms. ...
  • Triceps. ...
  • Lower stomach.

Is 35 too old to build muscle? ›

Older Guys Can Still Make Gains

They found that guys between 35 and 50 years old built just as much muscle as those between 18 and 22 years old. DEXA (duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry) scans showed that the college-aged men gained around two pounds of muscle, while the middle-aged men put on 2.5 pounds of muscle.

What age is too late to start bodybuilding? ›

Is Bodybuilding Safe Over 50? Even if you've never done it before, you can start bodybuilding now. “You can get in shape at any age if you live an active lifestyle and are in good health,” says personal trainer Warren Gendel, winner of the Mr.

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