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There are two types of people dedicated to their gym routine – those who create their own bodybuilding workouts and those who don’t.
Neither is better nor worse and comes down to personal preference. If you’d rather have someone create muscle building workout plans suited to your goals, this article is for you.
Bodybuilding is typically done for aesthetic reasons, and not all bodybuilders are strong. It takes dedication and consistency to build both power and size. Enter today’s edition of best bodybuilding workouts to bring you the best of both worlds.
Finding the best training method tailored to your body goals can be daunting. There are so many options out there to choose from. How can you decide? We’ve found some of the best bodybuilding workouts to try, in no particular order.
1. German Volume Training
German Volume Training, or GVT, has been around since the Golden Era of bodybuilding. This method is not for beginners and should only be used by intermediate or advanced lifters.
The basic premise of German Volume Training is completing compound exercises in 10 reps for 10 sets. Yes, 10 sets per exercise, or 100 reps total for each lift. Of course, you’re lifting at around 60 percent of your 1RM, but that’s still a lot of reps.
This bodybuilding program is a short-term way to exhaust yourself and gain some muscle mass and strength.
Some will do this cycle for three weeks or as a 30-day program, but you shouldn’t push it further than that. You’ll spend three days a week in the gym lifting, recruiting different muscle groups each day.
It’s recommended to take off at least six months before you even attempt GVT again. This bodybuilding workout plan could be right for someone looking for short-term gains.
However, there are some things to keep in mind:
- This program does not offer nutrition tips, and you must increase your food intake to compensate for the massive amount of lifts.
- With this many lifts, you’ll also need to get more sleep and rest to allow your muscles time to recover.
- If you’re not careful, this amount of lifting increases the chance of injury, especially strains and stress fractures.
Overall, German Volume Training can provide muscle pump and help surpass training plateaus. It can be a solid temporary workout program for the right lifter.
Stay tuned for our in-depth breakdown and review of German Volume Training.
2. Stronglifts 5×5 Program
The Stronglifts 5×5 is a 12-week bodybuilding program created to promote muscle hypertrophy and strength. This bodybuilding program requires minimal equipment (bench, barbell, weight plates) so you can do these workouts at home.
Workouts are divided up into workout A and workout B:
- Workout A: Barbell Row, Bench Press, Squat
- Workout B: Deadlift, Overhead Press, Squat
Each workout is done on alternating days, three times per week, with a day of rest in between. This could mean you do workout A on Monday, workout B on Wednesday, and workout A again on Friday. Two days for rest, then back at it on Monday with workout B.
Just like with German Volume Training, you have to lift heavy to build muscle. But this time, you’re only lifting five reps for five sets, with just one set for deadlifts. There’s an app you can download to follow along with, or you can use a spreadsheet to track your lifts.
This one is also not recommended for beginners, you should have at least six months of lifting experience. The Stronglifts program gives you a full-body workout with each gym session. Doing the same lifts over and over can be boring so this program may not be for everyone.
You also need to have your nutrition on point and get lots of sleep and rest to aid in recovery. We are working on a review and in-depth analysis of this lifting program too, so watch out for that, coming soon.
3. Upper/Lower Split Training
The upper/lower split training method divides your body into two sections: upper body and lower body. The traditional program is split between four days per week, working each section twice with rest days in between.
However, this method is customizable, so you can work out as few as two or as many as six days a week. Unlike the other bodybuilding workout plans listed so far, this one can be done at any fitness level. Advanced lifters can increase sets, reps and weight as needed to build muscle mass.
If you’re looking for a well laid out plan, this isn’t it.
The exercise possibilities are vast for the upper and lower body, so you can tailor it to meet your needs. Including isolation exercises to target smaller muscle groups to help build your physique.
This bodybuilding workout plan is great for someone who wants a lifting framework they can fill in themselves. Figure out what moves you want for the upper body and lower body, and build out your gym routine. We recommend one compound exercise per muscle group each day combined with smaller isolation moves.
4. Lee Hayward’s 12-Week Program
Lee Hayward started competing in bodybuilding competitions in the 90s. He’s won several comps, served as a judge and was on the executive board of NLABBA. He is now a trainer and coach, building customized workout programs for his clients, especially men over 40.
His 12-week bodybuilding program is made up of four 3-week workout cycles. It’s set up so you workout four days per week, ideally Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Rest days are Wednesday and the weekend.
The exercises change each day and consist of 10 or more reps for three to five sets per exercise. This program can help you build strength gains, push through plateaus and hit the muscles from all angles.
Given the volume of sets, this program may not be ideal for a true lifting beginner. However, you could use the exercises and format with fewer reps and sets until you can build up your stamina.
You can download a pdf and chart of his bodybuilding workout program for free here (name and email required). You can also find the workout routine listed here, including some of the most common questions he’s been asked.
5. 5/3/1 BBB Training Program
Jim Wendler designed the 5/3/1 Training Program. Jim is a football player turned elite lifter, who coaches others who want not just size, but strength. Oh, and the BBB stands for Boring But Big, so you know what you’re getting into before you start.
He designed the program to improve your core lifts:
- Bench press
- Standing shoulder press
By the end of the program, you should be lifting heavier and beating your personal lifting records. This requires you to start out with light weights and progress slowly with heavier lifts.
Each training cycle lasts for four weeks, working out for three or four days each week. For each major lift (one exercise per day), you’ll use these sets and reps:
- Week 1: 3 x 5
- Week 2: 3 x 3
- Week 3: 3 x 5, 3, 1
- Week 4: Deload
With each week, you’ll progress to a heavier lift. There are some calculations required, as each set weight is determined by a specific percentage of your 1RM. The program also includes supplemental accessory exercises to balance the physique and prevent injury.
Lifters at all levels should be able to see gains after finishing the 5/3/1 program. If you’re experiencing a strength plateau when lifting, this program could help you demolish it.
6. PHAT Program
The PHAT program is designed to help bodybuilders improve their size and lifters better their aesthetics. PHAT stands for Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training, and was developed by Dr. Layne Norton, Pro Natural Bodybuilder (IFPA, NGA).
This program lasts four weeks with five days of training spread throughout the week. There are two power sessions and three hypertrophy sessions weekly, divided up:
- Day 1: Upper Body Power
- Day 2: Lower Body Power
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
- Day 7: Rest
Power training days consist of three to five reps for three sets per exercise. Lifting weight is determined as a percentage of your 1RM for that particular exercise.
Hypertrophy training days use the same exercises but with higher sets and reps and slightly lower weights. Combining power and hypertrophy is not new, some Golden Era bodybuilders used these methods, including:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Franco Columbu
- Ronnie Coleman
Layne recommends deloading every six to twelve weeks, taking up to three weeks for the deload cycle. A sample workout can be found at that link, including frequently asked questions. He also provides bodybuilding tips to use with the exercises to get even better results.
7. PHUL Training Program
PHUL is a four-day split training protocol focusing on power and hypertrophy. It stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower. While it is similar to the PHAT program, it’s less intense with lower volume reps.
Beginners would find the PHUL program to be a better starting point than PHAT. You could always use the PHUL method first and then move onto one of the more advanced lifting programs afterward.
A typical week would be split:
- Day 1: Upper Body Power
- Day 2: Lower Body Power
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Upper Body Hypertrophy
- Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Rest
The program runs for 12 weeks and then you’ll spend a week or two deloading. You can download a free pdf of this bodybuilding workout plan or use the app to track your workouts.
Improving muscle hypertrophy starts with progressively overloading the muscles and prolonging time under tension. This program is no different. The twice-per-week protocol in this program is ideal for building muscle mass, as this meta-analysis suggests.
Want even more bodybuilding workout routines? Check out Arnold’s crazy intense routine and the Old School bodybuilding workout.
Tips from the Coach
After a lifter gets past the beginning stages, training for both power and size are the most productive ways to make gains. Training with higher reps (10-12) for just hypertrophy will initially produce more gains in muscle size but will not do anything for strength in the long run.
Having more strength is also beneficial for bodybuilding purposes because it allows for the use of more resistance which leads to more muscle mass. I think the programs where both strength and size are emphasized work the best for building more muscle mass for this reason.
It’s also important to include recuperation in any training program. Intense, hard training also requires a number of days off each week in order to recover from the workouts. The concept of deload is also in an important part of any short-term training cycle.
It’s impossible to keep ramping up training intensity and resistance so each cycle should be short-term in nature (10-12 weeks) so including a week or two of deloading the resistance helps the body to recuperate and grow in preparation for the next training cycle.
Some of the best bodybuilding workouts include building both power and size. Aspiring bodybuilders and powerlifters can benefit from trying out some of these programs.
Regardless of which program you choose, be sure to get adequate sleep to allow for rest and recovery. Eating right is another key to building muscle mass, so your diet will also have to be on point for best results.
If you struggle with falling asleep or staying in a deep sleep, Vintage Bliss™ can improve your sleep habits. This supplement promotes muscle rebuilding and recovery, so you’re primed for your next gym session.
What is your favorite bodybuilding workout? If it’s not one we featured today, be sure to let us know what it is and why it works for you in the comments below.
Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.