Earlier in the month I wrote up A Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle
As a brief recap, the program consisted of squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, pull downs and rows, for 2x10 each, with about 1min rest between sets, all performed in one workout, three days a week.
Now, let's say you've been doing this routine for a few months now. You're a bit stronger and you're either bigger or leaner or both. Congratulations. If the program's still working for you, keep on doing what you're doing. However, sooner or later you'll need to change your program to keep driving progress. Sooner or later, you'll also have more specific goals. So, here's are a couple split programs, building on the program above. The first is for someone whose goals are mostly to do with their muscles/what they see in the mirror, and the second is for someone whose goals are mostly to do with the amount of weight they can move. In both programs, you will be performing a 2-day split. The split will still be full-body in each session, and you'll still be training 2-4 days per week, with 3/wk being about ideal. Refer back to the Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle for more details on the weekly schedule. The only difference is that now you're performing two alternating workouts (workout A and workout B), and alternating which one you do every time you enter the gym (so if you did workout A last time you trained, you'll be doing workout B today).
Basic Novice Program 2.0 for Muscle
Bench Press 4x8-12
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down 4x8-12
Calf Raise 3x15-20
Bicep Curl 3x15-20
Triceps Extension 3x15-20
For each compound exercise, do a couple warm up sets, then choose your working weight and do your first set of 12. Rest 1min and do another set. Aim to get 12 reps again in each working set, but if fatigue causes you to stop before you reach 12 reps, that's okay. As the sets go on, it's expected that the number of reps you can do will decrease -- if it doesn't, then you probably chose a weight that's too light. So long as you hit all 12 reps on the first set, and the 4th set is 8 reps or higher, increase the weight slightly next time. However, if you don't make it to 12 reps on the first set, or if you don't get at least 8 reps on the final set, keep the same weight next time.
For each isolation exercise, use the same method, but with the corresponding range of 3x15-20 instead of 4x8-12.
Basic Novice Program 2.0 for Strength
Squats 3 sets
Bench Press 3 sets
Pull Ups 3x5-10
Calf Raise 2x15-20
Press 3 sets
Deadlift 3 sets
Bicep Curl 2x15-20
Triceps Extension 2x15-20
Where the rep range is stated above, perform 3 sets across for the lowest number in the rep range. If you get all the reps, then add 1 rep per set next time. So, if you got 3x5 pull ups last time, next time you'll be targeting 3x6. Once you get to the top end of the rep range, add about 10% to the weight being used and repeat the process.
Where no rep range is stated, you will be performing a basic periodisation designed to get you overall stronger and drive up your top-end lifts. For four weeks, you will be doing sets of 10. For the next four weeks, sets of 8. For the next four weeks, sets of 5. Then test your 1RM, or keep progressing at 3x5 if you feel you've got it in you.
That's 12 weeks, as follows:
Begin in week 1 with weights that seem a bit too light, and attempt to add weight to each lift in every session (you'll have more success at consistently adding weight with the squat and deadlift than with the press and bench press, unless you can micro-load and increase in increments that are less than 2.5kg, but try anyway). If you miss any reps, use the same weight again next time.
Warm up thoroughly for each exercise, and rest as long as you need to between sets. It normally takes roughly 3-5 min to recover enough to do the next set once the working weights get heavy (relative to the number of reps being performed), and towards the end of the 12 week cycle you might need even longer than that, especially on squats and deadlifts. Long rest periods allow you to get the most performance out of each set, which will help you drive up your strength as the weeks go by.
Training in different rep ranges provides different stimuli. 3x5 seems to be a good balance of volume and intensity for improving 1RMs, with the intenstiy being close enough to your 1RM to help prepare you directly for it, but far enough away from your 1RM to allow you to get in a lot of practice. Meanwhile, the high rep ranges help to lock in form and build up the muscles, giving a greater base on which to use the low rep training. That's all part of the beauty of periodisation.