T Nation

Your Imaginary Protégé


Right, so you have a dude completely under your guidance and he’s asked you to help him (or her, if you prefer) build a big, muscular physique. The goal is to look totally awesome - big, lean, balanced, awesome.

Let’s say the dude/dudette has average genetics, is not particularly fat nor skinny, just average. A completely blank slate in terms of development.

How would you set up his/her training and diet in the short, medium and long term?


You could be successful at giving him your roids that’s for sure.


This could be very useful to all the new people that post “rate my routine” or “tried everything got no where. were should I start” threads. This could be the king beef thread for newbs.

What time table do you consider short term, mid term and long term?


Is this someone wanting to compete at a high level or just a recreational “bodybuilder”.


I actually have this situation, dude I work with asked me about 6 months ago. Been training him and sorting his diet since then and he has gained around 25lb, was terribly skinny before and weak and ate like a baby bird. Most of the weight has been good quality muscle

push pull was my go to routine

push session:
squa0t 4x10reps
bench 4x10reps
Press 3x8reps
front leg kick 4x10reps
close hand press up 3 sets to failure

deadlift 5x5
chin up 4x as many as possible
bent over row 3x10reps
ham curl 3x10reps
bicep curl 4x10reps

alternate these two work outs, training 3 times a week
Run this for 3 months to learn movements and hone technique. 4 second negatives on all exercises except deads. Increase weight when full rep target is are achieved without sacrificing form or tempo.

After 3 months it’s good old 5x5 until a good level of strength is achieved.

In terms of diet I’m a firm believer in being reactive to results and building from the persons current diet. In most situations people are eating at a point of maintenence without trying, so they won’t be losing or gaining and there weight is pretty much settled. Rather than changing the whole diet it’s better to add a couple of easy things and assess results

for example, for the person above I added a shake in the morning with 40g of protein 80g of oats and a shot of olive oil, and a shake before and after training of plain whey. After a 3 weeks it was obvious it wasn’t enough as the scale had not moved. The addition of an extra meal in the day of rice, meat and veg and the scale started moving again.


absolutely. At first I’d let him have them for free, then once he was addicted I’d make him suck my dick.


Yup. This is what I would do:

I would just tell him to train with me and my friends. Then we’ll get him to do roids through peer pressure. Once he’s 225lbs @8% bodyfat withing 6 months, he’ll be hooked for life. That’s when I start pushing the real money maker - GH! I’ll sell him the cheap Chinese shit at normal market rates so he’ll have to buy loads of it to see gains. During all this, I would encourage him to compete at little local shows with 2 other competitors for a plastic trophy so he can say he made the Top 3 and post homoerotic pics on his instagram. I will use this logic to convince him he can make Top 3 on the Olympia stage. I’ll even sell him shit on credit so that when he runs out of cash to pay for his drugs after burning out from his male stripper job, I can get him to be my drug peddler for free by being open about his drug use on his social media accounts and intellectually challenged fans will be going, “What an honest and down to earth guy!”. Soon this will progress to G4P. When he finally succumbs to Palumboism, that’s when I finally leave him weeping in the alley where I found him while Mr Tambourine Man plays in the background…


If drugs aren’t involved and he has to train like a booooring little natty for years to meet his goals:

  1. Drill into him the importance of factors like progressive resistance(load/reps), technique, mmc, volume/fatigue methods in which emphasis will vary in order according to his level of experience and development but will all still remain part of his routine from the start.

  2. Give him a non-rigid template with a progression model for 1 or 2 fixed main lifts per bodypart, leaving the rest of the routine open for experimentation with volume, sets, reps exercises etc, so he is free to fuck around by including some stuff he reads online instead of feeling the need to program hop every time he reads something new.


good question, I guess the first 6 months, the second 6 months and then forever after, but people can use whatever timescale they want


no triceps isolation stuff? No shoulder isolation?


good question also. Let’s say a recreational bodybuilder but one who wants to be the best he can be and is willing to make all the sacrifices one would expect to do so.


no thought on diet?

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Close hand press ups to failure for the triceps mate, and to start with I think military press takes care of shoulder development.

There is time for isolation work further down the line, I firmly believe that for a natural person who hasn’t trained before and needs to put on muscle and gain strength the above workout is more than enough, too much fluff can really kill results for many people

Specialisation comes further down the line when your less of a twig


I’d bounce him back and forth between Starting Strength and some kind of mangled Westside program, GOMAD, instagram, then send him to the forums for a form check.


I think that diet should be modified using he’s used to eating as a base while following basic guidelines like minimal protein intake and staying away from certain foods since this has to be sustained for the long term.


ah yes, the idea that a few sets of isolation work is too much for natural lifters and can in some way hinder progress. I have to say I find it very strange.

Not trying to pick a fight with you or anything; I just don’t agree.


haha, you’re really not a nutrition guy at all, are you?


That’s fair enough, all I mean is, adding side laterals would be nice, plus some rear delt work, and some extra bicep works to work more on the peak, and some wrist and forearm work, oh and maybe some direct ab work, and maybe a few tricep exercises that hit all 3 heads. Then maybe we can all sit around and tell skinny newbs to not major in the minors and pick a proven program and stick too while eating at a surplus

I only specified natural, because I have no experience of working with anyone other that natural, not implying it’s different in anyway as I wouldn’t know

I know that a few sets here and there would be beneficial but for someone who has not trained before, has little mmc and does not know how to do isolation exercises properly, it’s a bit of a waste of time.

Basics first, isolation and specialisation later on in our imaginary world when it’s the right time

it’s good to here different opinions and I like the thread idea

personally I trained for a very long time in a bodybuilding pump work lots of isolation work, forced reps and such and made little to no progress, was still weak and skinny. The above program changed my whole approach to training and I made significant progress.


I ate 2 big macs with fries today. That’s 1 meal out of 6. What do you think lol?

Seriously though, given your criteria of average genetics, a caloric surplus with proper foods and adequete protein intake should suffice for the long term until he’s ready to cut.


seems a little reductio ad absurdum to me (yes, I had to google the latin). Here’s how I would incorporate a little isolation work into the routine you posted (which I do like, by the way):

Push day - superset triceps exercise with lateral raises
Pull day - superset rear delt flyes with curls

And that’d be it. It’s not like it’s going to drastically eat into recovery, and it certainly won’t add a huge amount of time on to the routine. It’s only adding 3 sets of one extra exercise each day. I just can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t.

Like I said though, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you or anything. The differences in opinions are the whole reason I started this thread.