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Best Program for an Early-Intermediate Bodybuilder?

Hi guys. I’m a 21-years old early intermediate bodybuilder and I’m looking for a good program to run for a long time?

Should I run a simple linear periodization?
Should I run a high volume (like Isratel’s ones or Thibadeaus’ best damn high volume plan for natties, GVT)? The research has been pointed towards that recently
Should I run a low volume approach, which, research-wise is sub-optimal but has produced thousands of great physiques (HST, DC training, the best damn from thibs)?

Help me… I was gravitating around running HST for a couple of cycles (16 weeks) before moving to a metabolite-high volume work (GVT) for 4 weeks, and than running a 3-4 weeks minicut with lower volumes and high intensity (like waterbury’s (10x3 for fat loss).

Please critique my approach. Tell me what program do you think is best, what kind of periodization etc etc? Thank you very much

I wrote the following post on this board in 2010.

“Frequency: 1 to 2 times per week per muscle group.
Body split up over 4 to 6 sessions, depending on frequency and number of muscles trained per session.
2 to 3 muscles trained at each session.
2 to 4 exercises per muscle group, including both compound and isolation exercises. Large muscles usually get 2 compound and 1 or 2 isolation exercises and small ones usually get 1 or 2 compound exercises and 1 or 2 isolation exercises.”

There, that’s the best program all amazing bodybuilders do. There has recently been much talk about a best program. I wonder why people don’t just look at what bodybuilders do.

Anyone can visit The East Coast Mecca, Bev Francis’s Powerhouse Gym, and ask several pros about HST, Mike Israetel, CT, linear periodization, and the likely won’t know who or what you are talking about!

I am NOT saying such people and programs aren’t good. I have learned a lot from CT and Bryan Haycock, and I even used HST many years ago. However, this is all coming to a point in which people are confused and frozen. @The_Mighty_Stu


So, if I apply this to myself my split could be like:

Day 1 chest, shoulder and triceps
Bench press 4x6-8
Incline dB press 4x8-12
Db fly 3x10
Db incline fly 3x10
Skullcrusher 3x10
Triceps dips 3x failure
Side laterals 3x10-15
Poliquin side laterals 3x10-15

Day 2
4x8 one arm bb row
4x8 meadows row
3x10 rack chins
3x10 pullover
3x10 bent over laterals
4x15 shrugs
3x10 preacher curl
3x10 hammer curl

Day 3 off

Day 4
4x8 squats
4x8 RDL
4x8 hip thrusts
4x12 lunges
4x20 calves
4xmax hanging leg raise

Day 5 off


Too many exercises crammed into first two workouts, I believe.


Lmao ok ok , sorry, I know you’re asking for help but despite the articles by a few authors I’m still looking for the thousands of greAt physiques that they keep referencing.

Volume is a relative concept, but like I always point out, if your nutrition and recovery are garbage you’re not going to be able to grow from a high volume approach let alone a low volume one (beyond the most basic newb response)

Reread what Brad wrote. You pop into Bev’s on any day and you won’t find the pros or impressive amateurs training like a few authors would have you believe (trust me, Brad and I frequent the place quite a bit -lol)

Again, reread what brad wrote and then ask questions. There are a lot of people on here willing to help who have had amazing results without any of the things you mentioned :slight_smile:

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I second your view point and add in allot of overlap in selection.


I have no idea what this means.

What’s your current size (height, weight, fat) and actual goal?

Younger guys generally do better in the long run when they get out of the “couple weeks of this, couple weeks of that”-mindset.

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It’s so funny because I’ve come to this conclusion as well. There is just TOO much information now. But I realized whether it’s strength, aesthetics, mass, etc (On a non pro level), keeping it simple and logical as possible is the way to go.

I truly believe for anyone out there you ONLY need to spend 1 day on the internet to read about training, splits, techniques, nutrition, and then after that you can go figure it out yourself for the rest of your life.

Some of the older guys at the gym I use to go to use to tell me all the time every-time you simplify your approach, the results become complex lol. They use to say if you want to look like a bodybuilder then train like a bodybuilder, if you want to look like a powerlifter, go train like a powerlifter, etc.


Lots of great pieces of advices here. Thank you. I mean, I am 5’10" tall, 160lbs (still small, yet I have been training for 3 years, only 2 of them training decently) and still gained about 40lbs of muscle. I’m about 8-10% bf. I can barely bench 2 plates, squat 3 plates and deadlift 4 plates, maybe a little bit less but I’m quite there.

My goal is to get as big as I can. I know there is no perfect routine… I do still understand that there is Waaay too much information ou there I’m “paralyzed” and don’t know where to go… How would you set up a good routine? (btw I get that you should be in a caloric surplus, get 1g/lbs of protein, that you need to sleep enough etc etc)

Moreover, I don’t think I can progress for an entire year on a given routine, so, how can I still progress without hitting plateaus?

You need to gain weight. Based on those numbers you have NOT added 40lbs of muscle to your frame. You are 5’10 you shouldn’t be 160lbs unless you are a fighter or doing american ninja warrior.

You need to eat and workout hard and stick to some higher rep ranges (8-12). This is the basic layout I’ll give you from a non-bodybuilder perspective.

If you want to lift 3x a week pick any full body routine.
If you want to life 4x a week pick any upper/lower, push/pull routine.
If you want to lift 6x a week pick any push pull legs, upper/lower routine.

You won’t know that until you do that. Eventually you will hit a plateau. We all do. At that point you have to look at your:

Weak links (this is where assistance exercises help)

You could possible stay on the same program for 1-5 years before you REALLY need to change anything.

The program at your stage is the LEAST important factor. I have basically done 52 programs in 52 weeks and all that happened was I got bigger and stronger.

Now IF you want to be a bodybuilder ignore all my advice because I have no idea how to do that lol.


Lol someone humble enough to offer advice but with an honest to goodness caveat. How many online authors are always going on with their how to be a better bodybuilder programs and articles and yet will never show you pics of themselves in a contest lineup? :thinking:

Again, it’s not rocket science, success leaves clues, and just because you read it in an article doesn’t mean it’s true.


These stats are not indicative of an ‘intermediate bodybuilder’. Sorry bud. And I don’t believe you have any years of ‘training decently’. Or, perhaps your training was alright, but your eating sucks. In any event, your results from 3 years of lifting, 2 seriously, are well below where they should be.

You gotta eat, man. Particularly given what you said your goal is. The particular routine you pick has far less to do with your success than your diet will. That’s fantastic that you’ve put on 40 lbs. I came from a similar place when I was young. I started out at 125 lbs when I was 18 years old, and I’m about 200, very lean, today. So I can tell you that I’m speaking from experience. Eating enough has ALWAYS been my biggest hurdle, and it will likely be yours too. Pretty much any program you run will give you results if you eat enough to make the most of your work in the gym.

by eating more. lol. Eating also happens to be a great plateau buster. If I’m struggling to get any bigger and stronger, it is likely the case that my bodyweight is also stagnant, which means it’s time to up the calories again.

Plateaus will happen, for everyone. The key is to continue to work hard through these plateaus until your body adapts and eventually progresses again. Changing programs isn’t necessarily going to be the answer.


I remember your comment a little while back about double progression in the major lifts being pretty much all you need to reach a “healthy” standard of size and strength. And I can’t help be agree. And how much time do you need to figure that out? If you keep getting stronger in the 8-12 rep range than you will get bigger. I mean its not the be all and end all. But if your press goes from 45lb for 8 reps to 135 for 12 then I bet your shoulders got bigger.


For sure man! I honestly think the average person could get to a 200 ohp, 300 bench, 400 squat, and 500 deadlift following some basic double progression. There are some “laws of lifting” that you have to follow such as eating, busting ass, condition, mix up the rep ranges, recover, etc. But the key is to go in do hard work, eat, recover, and then do it again a day or two later and do that for few years lol.

Trust me I wasted 3 years of lifting just overthinking all this shit. Everyone on the site knows the story and then once I just put my head down and worked I “unlocked” my potential and finally got strong and big. And that was STILL with changing programs every day basically lol.

8-12, 3-5, 4-6, 6-8, 15-20, doesn’t matter. Just add reps, add weight, and recycle, easiest most stress free way to lift. I think the hardest things for beginners to understand is there is no secret 30 day fix. It will take months to just start to look like you lift a lil and years to get the body most people are probably after.

Thank you all guys for you help. Anyway diet is not my real problem, at least I spent my last year with the goal of gaining at least 1 lbs of bw per week (sometimes even 2). I was just underweight. Btw Recapping: I am gonna train
3xweek. Full body, training Most of the time big compound lifts applying double progression in the 8-12 rep range, going, if possible, every week for new rep PRs and eating a shitload of food.
Thank you!

If you spent a year adding 1-2lb a week you started the year at less than 110lb. That’s not small , that’s ill. I’m not poking holes I’m just asking if you’re sure about that. Eating for mass is not hard. It’s a chore. Even to would be obese twit like me. I used to think 3000cals a day was easy or fun. But by lunch I’d be full. By dinner I was bored of food. I used to wake up full. And have to eat 6 eggs and 4 slices of toast for breakfast.
Nutrition is so important. Don’t just assume its gonna be okay. Plan it - spend as much time on this as you do training.

Otherwise your plan works i think (but the likes if flip stu brick and nutty are the ones with the experience).

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I read how much you gained. You said you went from 120 lbs to 160 in 3 years, correct? So, first of all that is definitely not 1-2 lbs per week over the course of 3 years. Even if you had just been working out for 1 year, it doesn’t add up to that. AND correct me if I’m wrong, but you weren’t 120 just 1 year ago, were you?

Look. You can think what you want. It doesn’t affect my life. But I’ve walked the walk, and I know what good progress looks like. If it took you 3 years to gain that initial 40 lbs, AND you still barely bench 200, then your progress isn’t all that good. Take it for what it’s worth. I made my suggestion based on what is most common. So you say your diet isn’t the problem? Fine. Your training sucks then. Has to be one or the other.

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I’ve never assumed that I spent 3 whole years bulking, and btw I had accumulated at least 25lbs of fat which I cut down. I spent a whole year of those 3 not gaining weight at all (I had not understood yet how important was a caloric surplus.). Moreover I was really about 110lbs or so before starting to lift I was really underweight. Btw on the one - year bulk I weighted myself every day as soon as I woke up, counting my cals with myfitnesspal and ate up to 4.000 kcal. I repeat: diet is not my issue… So pls don’t talk shit about my bw and so… As far as training is concerned thank you btw

Behave yourself before you are put on a list :smiling_imp:


Lol - you know you agree with everything I wrote :wink: