The best athletes and bodybuilders in the world weren’t born with superhuman strength and chiseled abs. At one point, they were just like you: a true newbie, a beginner, and not altogether certain of what to do first. In times like these, you need a blueprint to tell you exactly what to do and what not to do in the gym, when to do it, and what kinds of foods and supplements to put in your body. That’s what you have here: A starter’s guide to get you going so that two months from now you’ll be ready to graduate from beginner status—with a bigger, stronger, leaner physique to show for it.

As the name implies, a whole-body training split involves training your entire body in every workout. The major benefit of this for a beginner is that it allows you to train each muscle group more frequently—up to three times per week. This repetition is also important for training the body’s nervous system. Before you can focus on building serious muscle, you first need to train your muscles to contract properly. Learning how to bench press or squat is like learning to ride a bike, just with less falling. Your muscle fibers need to learn how to contract synchronously so that you can perform the exercise correctly and apply the most strength when you do it. And the best way to learn how to do something is through repetition. That said, the first two weeks of this program will have you following a whole-body training split three times per week.

We suggest training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but any three days of the week will do, as long as you allow one day of rest from weight-training between workouts. Your body needs time to recover from the previous workout to make gains in muscle size and strength.

Start building a solid base of muscle, or unstick your progress, with this eight-week progressive workout program:

Whether you’re a true beginner who’s never had the pleasure of hoisting a loaded barbell overhead or you’re simply getting back on the road to fitness after a long layoff, this is the perfect training plan to take you from novice to experienced lifter in just eight weeks. That’s not to say that after two months you’ll be ready to stand onstage competiting for Mr. Olympia, but you will add considerable muscle mass and strength to your frame and set the table for more advanced training techniques you can try down the road.

This starter’s program is grounded in progression of the exercises you use, of the number of sets you complete per workout, in the amount of weight you use, and most important, in your training split. A training split is a system by which we divide up workouts according to muscle groups and days.

For example, some pro bodybuilders train only one major muscle group each workout. On Monday they may train chest, on Tuesday back, Wednesday legs, Thursday shoulders, and Friday arms (biceps and triceps), with abs thrown in one or two of those days for good measure. Since this splits up the body into five different workouts, it would be considered a five-day training split.

There’s an infinite number of splits that can be devised, but specific splits exist that are more beneficial than others for developing a solid muscle base for the beginner. The example above would be too advanced for the newbie and would result in overtraining. So what is the best training split for a beginner? One of the most effective is the whole-body split. (We’ll get into the details of what that is in a minute.) The key is to continue using the proper split as you progress from beginner to advanced.

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