Pro Tips

Bodybuilding Basics for Beginners

Start sculpting your best physique with tips from legendary bodybuilder Ric Drasin

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Everything has a starting point in life, and lifting and bodybuilding are ground floor. There’s just no way you can start in the middle or at the top.  Progress is a gradual thing. I’ve seen so many people come into the gym and try to lift heavy right off the start only to tear a muscle and then be set back a few months.

If you’re just beginning with bodybuilding then you have to have a basic plan. Take a look at your body and focus on what you really need to do to it.  One of the biggest mistakes made is trying to bulk up right away.  Bulking up was a term used in the 60’s by some of the older bodybuilders who wanted to put on size fast.

This is usually done by experienced bodybuilders, and not to be used by beginners. Of course you want to gain size and weight, but it has to be the right type of weight with quality muscle.  It may come slower, but will look better and last much longer.

Workout and Exercise

In the 60’s most workouts were geared for 3 days a week. Upper body was done on one day and lower on the next. The gains came pretty good because there was enough rest time in-between the workouts and body parts. The sets and reps were 3 sets per exercise with 8 to 10 reps. This was very basic, but worked for most people, as it wasn’t over training.

One of the reasons 3 days a week was picked was because in the 60’s most gyms had certain days for men and certain days for women. Men’s days were Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Women’s of course the alternate days.  They didn’t train together, which meant you only had 3 days to train, unless you did it at home.

Many felt that if 3 days worked then 4 days should be better.  Actually this does work better. This way you can split the parts up so each one is worked twice a week.  On the 4-day program you can escalate the intensity a bit and add a few more sets.  Start with 4 sets of each exercise and 3 different exercises per body part.

This has always been one of my favorite routines as it allows 3 days off to rest and grow. This can also be a mental problem with many, because on rest days you have a tendency to feel that you’re doing nothing when in reality you’re growing.  Nothing sometimes amounts to something and in this case it's so true.

If you’re just starting out, it’s really going to depend on your work schedule and hours that you can train, but I would suggest to try and get in 3 days a week and split them every other day.

Start with basic exercises for each body part and do 2 exercises, 3 sets, 8 to 12 reps for each part. You can pretty much pick the exercises you want to do.

For example, when doing shoulders use one pressing movement and then one lateral raise movement. If you go to chest, use a flat bench press and dumbbell flies.  Some of the other body parts are worked while doing these, so even if you’re doing chest, it’s affecting some of the delt workout.  That’s why you’re not adding too many exercises at this point.

  • Working the Back: Back exercises would include a pull down movement and then a seated pull in movement. Same sort of sets and reps as before. This too works the other parts of the body indirectly.
  • Working the Arms: I like supersets such as cable curls supersetted with triceps pushdowns, 3 sets of 10 each. This is great for beginners and you don’t need much as you already have used your arms for the other body parts.
  • Working the Legs: Its simple working the legs by doing leg curls, leg extensions, and leg and calf presses. 3 sets each and 12 to 15 reps should be enough to exhaust you.
  • Working the Abs: One of the best exercises is hanging abs leg raises with the straps. It works the entire core and will really bring out definition.
  • Finisher: You can finish off with 20 minutes of cardio, your choice, treadmill or bike.

Now this is a real basic beginning bodybuilding workout and it will get you off to a good start. You’re body will adapt pretty easy and within 3 weeks you’ll want to change the exercises around to new ones. You can become stale and bored with the same thing, so don’t be afraid to substitute exercises in place of each other. Like instead of dumbbell flies, use cable crossovers.  It’s ok to step outside the box. That’s how the greats do it.

When you feel ready and have the time, you can escalate your workout to 4 days a week and add some more sets and reps as stated above. You’ll reach new levels in your training and some nice changes in the mirror.


The other thing about training is also what you put in your mouth. If you train hard like this and keep eating bad foods, the results won’t come near as fast, and you’ll become discouraged. It takes discipline and hard work both at the gym and in the kitchen.

Reduce your amount of carbs and cut out sugars, white flour products and fried foods. That alone will make a huge difference.  Then when you want to tighten it up more, increase your protein to at least 5 times a day and spread it out at 2 ½ hour intervals.  With your high protein meals, which should consist of chicken, tuna, egg whites, steak, and fish, you can add a salad, small portion of rice, oatmeal or baked potato

Diet will be a very important part of your training and getting in to shape. It accounts for about 80% of it, so be on the mark with it.  You can have one cheat day, which is usually a Sunday and have some things that you enjoy eating.  Diet in training isn’t really enjoyable, but you’re eating for results, not for pleasure. Remember, you are what you eat!

Finally, don't forget your supplements. Amino acid powder along with milk, egg and whey protein are ideal ways to assist with quality muscle growth.