Choosing a good workout program to start your bodybuilding journey is hard.
It’s hard to know which programs to trust- and which programs are real. It’s also kind of hard to find good bodybuilding programs, it seems that the best ones are hidden. In this aritcle, we’re revealing them.
In this article:
- 500+ Hours of research was done.
- All programs have been tested by our trainers, bodybuilders, and Tommy (the guy writing this lovely article!)
- All programs are proven to build muscle.
- All programs are bodybuilding oriented- meaning the workouts are around giving you the best looking physique and body possible.
There isn’t really a particular order to any of these programs just because of the variety of bodybuilding programs. I wanted to ensure every type of bodybuilder could find a program that works for them- whether that’s machine based, free weight based, high volume, more strength, old-school, new-school, beginner, intermediate, advanced, et cetera.
I tried to help out a bit by placing things like, Hey, this is a great beginners program! in the headings- but not all of the workout programs worked out like that.
So, let’s get into it!
Here are the Top 20 Bodybuilding Programs.
#1 – The Arnold Blueprint to Mass (Best Bodybuilding Program Hands Down)
- Try it! Program here: Arnold Blueprint to Mass PDF
When you think of bodybuilding- you probably think of Arnold Schwarzenegger. What most people don’t know is that he has a publicly available workout plan that he used to become the famous poster child of bodybuilding.
In fact, head to toe, his program makes the most sense as a bodybuilder. It is completely centered around bringing out every strand and strain in your muscle and making your physique look perfect.
(If you want your chest to look like Arnold’s- you need to get on this program! It has his secrets on how he grew such a 3D chest- including his famous bench press hack that included doing all 5 sets of your bench at once- that’s right, non stop with a spotter. Did I mention you do that AFTER you completed your bench sets? Yep, you do those 5 sets TWICE. It’s no surprise Arnold’s chest was 3D!)
This was singlehandedly the program that brought me from “DYEL status” to “Wow, he’s jacked”.
I’ve always said, “There’s no way you can do the Arnold Blueprint to Mass and NOT grow muscle. I mean, you will feel so sore the first day. Heck, the first day you’ll wonder if your body can even do that many sets, you’ll feel like giving up you’re so tired”.
That’s the truth. If you’re someone who has been on just simple beginner bodybuilding programs not seeing results or feeling sore, you need to try the Arnold Blueprint to Mass.
I think this is the program that really turns people from zero to hero.
My favorite part about the program is that it is split into two 60-day splits. You do 60 days of bulking, then 60 days of cutting on the ‘Arnold Blueprint to Cut’. So, you never end up putting on too much fat and you always have a structured workout calendar set up for you.
That was my favorite part- especially when I was busy with school. It sets up all of your bulk, cut, and exercises for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
- Workout program used by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.
- Super high volume and workload, meaning it is easy to gain muscle.
- A very reliable program that tons of people use, and it is made by the most famous person in bodybuilding.
- The program has a 6-day split with Arms, Chest/Back, and Legs.
- This is a good split as you never really hit two muscles back to back allowing them to recover and not interfere with your workout.
Program is 6 days a week.
- This can be difficult to do for many people in school, work, et cetera. If you still want to do the program, don’t be scared to skip a day if you have to.
Program can take hours to finish.
- It is a huge program with a heavy workload. Oftentimes you’re looking at doing 60+ sets throughout your workout. With rest time, rep time, et cetera all included this can take around 2 hours to finish. (I recommend supersetting on this program)
#2 – PHAT (Push Hypertrophy Adaptive Training) [Best Modern Program]
- Try it! Program here: PHAT Program PDF
PHAT stands for Push Hypertrophy Adaptive Training and it has taken the world by storm.
What’s most interesting about this program is that it has 2 days of intense strength training every week, and 3 days of intense ‘hypertrophy’ training- the exercises that make your muscles look better and more aesthetic.
This has never really been seen in any bodybuilding program before. Usually, it’s a mix-up, or like 1 month of strength, 1 week of hypertrophy, et cetera.
This program sets a dedicated 2 days every week where your body focuses on putting on raw strength and power, growing actual big amounts of muscle. And the other 3 days you focus on making that muscle look ripped.
This is a great program for the bodybuilder trying to put on raw size and aesthetic- which is honestly, most bodybuilders. This is a program that makes you look beach body ready and also big in size.
So far, people have seen incredible results from this program- and it makes sense.
On one hand, you have two specific days just for building pure muscle. On the other hand, three specific days are based on making your muscles chiseled.
It makes sense. Furthermore, this program is interesting! So many programs are just boring and repetitive, but in this program, you switch from raw strength training to intense hypertrophy training- keeping you interested in the program and avoiding frequent workout burnout.
Many people swear by this program, and I think you’ll like it too. While some argue that the strength and hypertrophy mix will make it so your muscles aren’t stimulated enough for growth- but many online have posted pictures of their experience with the program with proof that it works.
This is an intermediate-advanced level program. Meaning, if you are newer to bodybuilding it may be better if you start with a more beginner-friendly program due to the high volume. However, if you’re up for it and can handle the heat- go for it.
- The program targets both muscle mass and muscle shape/tone, which is great for that beach body with size that most people want.
- The program is very interesting and keeps you entertained.
- You really get the best of both worlds with this program.
- It is only a 5 day split, with 2 days strength, rest, and then 3 days again. This program is great for people with kind of confusing schedules or one where they may need a rest day in the middle.
- It is still a newer program. While many people have said it has promising results, it is still early to confirm if this is a great program.
- While it’s great at building strength and muscle aesthetic, it’s not great for a specific one. If you want to be a powerlifter and want just big muscle, or if you want to just shred this program maybe isn’t for you.
#3 – PHUL from Brandon Campbell
- Try it! Program here: PHUL Program PDF
So, this program is similar to the program above- PHAT. However, this uses the program structure of ‘upper body’ then ‘lower body’ instead of arms, chest/back, and legs.
The reason for this is that some people prefer doing a split where they work the upper body one day, then the lower body the next. INSTEAD of doing say arms, chest/back, legs.
There isn’t much to say about this one as everything was kind of said above in the PHAT Program heading.
On one hand, it is fewer days than the ‘PHAT’ program, but it is a lot more work and you’re a lot sorer on those days you’re working.
Some people argue that the program isn’t as intensive, but to be honest- it really just is up to personal preference. I know a lot of guys that stick with the upper/body splits, I even used to do it for the first few years.
I ended up preferring doing the arms, chest/back, legs split just because it kept me in the gym more often than not and I just feel better and more energetic after a workout.
So, this program might be better for you if you have a busier schedule, as you’re in the gym less- but doing more.
- Very intense and popular new bodybuilding program that uses the same style as ‘PHAT’.
- Less days are spent in the gym, so this is better for people with more intense schedules.
- Good mix of strength and hypertrophy training.
- Does an Upper/Lower body split, meaning you will basically never deal with soreness interfering with a workout.
- PHAT/PHUL is still a newer bodybuilding program, and while results so far are promising, it hasn’t been seen long-term yet.
- Some people say doing Upper/Lower body splits aren’t enough for muscle growth- but truthfully, it seems that it really just is preference and it doesn’t affect much.
#4 – Wendler 5/3/1 Bodybuilding (Old Reliable)
- Try it! Program here: Normal 5/3/1 Program
Wendler 5/3/1 is one of the most classic bodybuilding programs out there. I’d say most bodybuilders have been on it at one point in their career.
It’s a great program that has proven itself time and time again. If you’re looking for a reliable program and aren’t sure if you trust some of the newer ‘flashier’ programs- Wendler 5/3/1 is for you.
Some people have criticized the program for being so ‘bare-bone’, and that is true. It is designed to increase strength and muscle. Because of this, it is not suitable for bodybuilding without additional accessory work.
Due to this, some variations have come out online- but really, all you need to do is just add some additional exercises such as bicep curls, arnold presses, et cetera.
The Wendler 5/3/1 Bodybuilding variation is great for bodybuilding as it has a huge emphasis on actual strength and raw muscle growth. Because of this, it is the ‘old reliable’ of bodybuilding, meaning no matter what your goals are- you will see a lot of muscle come on from this program.
If you’re looking for something solid, reliable, and just good no matter what stage of bodybuilding you’re in- Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Bodybuilding program is for you.
- Very reliable program that has been used for a long time.
- Great for growing lots of muscle and strength.
- Very barebones, simple-to-follow program.
- At its core, it lacks many accessory exercises needed for bodybuilding muscle growth. But, with those extra exercises added to the program should be fine.
- Some people just feel the program is too barebones.
#5 – Joe Delaney Ibiza Shreds (Best For Cutting Down Weight)
- Try it! Program information here: Joe Delaney Ibiza Shreds Playlist
While a ton of the programs on here focus on actually gaining muscle, this is one of the BEST programs for actually losing fat and KEEPING muscle.
Obviously, I love to talk about dirty bulking and gaining weight, but there always is a time we have to lose that fat and get real shredded.
Now, most shredding programs just are boring and lame. But, a new one popped up a few years ago from a guy named Joe Delaney on YouTube.
What made this unique was this guy was no super big Mr.Olympia bodybuilder trying to make a quick buck off of a rushed workout program- he was a genuine guy experimenting and trying to help his fans.
It picked up pretty quickly, because his program is actually really well designed and really gets you working out hard. As he explains in the video, you get a phenomenal pump with this program.
Notice how I mentioned video? He has a whole video series of him explaining the program, exercising, and showing his diet. You can even follow him on MyFitnessPal to watch his diet. All of this is free- that’s right, free.
I mean? What else could you want. This guy, who is just like us and actually cares about his fans, makes an awesome program and video series where he experiments and adjusts as needed.
The program works well too, and tons of people swear by it when they are cutting down for bodybuilding competitions.
I mean, this program has exploded in popularity and is one of the most famous programs out there.
If you’re like me (at the time of writing this I am cutting down, I definitely have way too much fat on me) and need to lose some weight, try Joe Delaney’s Ibiza Shred. (That is a cool name too…)
The best part of this all is the program gets you a super crazy pump. When we are cutting down, we naturally look smaller and feel smaller. Getting that big pump again reminds us of what we are working for, and also reminds us that we aren’t small.
- Made by a genuine guy who cares about his fans and interacts with them frequently.
- All free diet, exercise, workout plan, etc you can follow along with on a YouTube series.
- Workout plan gets you a crazy pump which is great during a long cut where we naturally look smaller.
- No science backing if the program works. (Although, the YouTube series of him doing it could definitely be argued as proof it works)
#6 – German Volume Training (Intense Volume)
- Try it! Program here: German Volume Training PDF
German Volume Training is one of the more controversial bodybuilding programs there are.
The best way to explain it is like this: It either works for you, or it doesn’t.
There seems to be about a 50/50 split of people that have used it all the way to big bodybuilding competitions like Mr.Olympia and Mr.Universe. And there are also some that have used it all the way back to ‘DYEL status’.
What is interesting about this workout program is:
- You only do 10 sets of 10 reps for every exercise.
That’s right…so, you would do 10 sets of 10 reps of the bench press, and curls, et cetera.
This workout plan is genius and horrible at the same time.
It works great for bodybuilding. Bodybuilders need workout programs that focus on higher reps in the 8-12 reps range so they can build more defined and aesthetic muscle. German Volume Training accomplishes just that.
On the contrary, however, most people will tell you it is very hard to actually go up in strength by only doing 10 reps. And while strength doesn’t matter in bodybuilding, you do need to be increasing your strength as you grow to keep lifting heavier weights- which in turn builds bigger muscle.
I think this program also requires a lot of discipline. You cannot just do 10 reps mindlessly. You have to have a constant mind-muscle connection, and you need to always be squeezing your muscles during the rep.
That’s what makes this program very difficult, it’s really tough to always have a solid mind-muscle connection. And likewise, doing 10 sets of 10 reps is very exhausting.
While many argue that those 10 sets of 10 reps is enough to grow bigger muscle. On the flip side, many people argue that the program won’t grow bigger muscle because it only has you do 10 reps.
Some people argue that this program is more suited for bodybuilders aiming for the ‘Men’s Physique’ contest. Bascially, the contest where you look at how good someone’s body looks without being 300 pounds of pure muscle.
Truthfully, I think most people wanting to be bodybuilders fit in that category too. They want to look really good at the beach, and kind of look like old-school bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger- not look like 300-pound mass monsters on stage with shoulders the size of statues.
And again, that’s not saying that you don’t gain any strength on this program- but it takes serious discipline to always be moving the weight up whenever possible to ensure you are getting those strength gains.
- Tons of volume training which is great for bodybuilders.
- The 10 rep range is great for both muscle growth with the most emphasis on muscle shape and tone.
- It is an older program that many people swear by.
- It seems like a hit or miss program for some. It works really great for some, and really bad for others.
- Some argue it doesn’t get the same muscle mass that bodybuilders need, meaning this program may be more suited for Men’s physique bodybuilding competitions than Mr.Olympia.
#7 – The Rich Piana Workout Routine
- Try it! Program information here: Bigger By The Day | Shredded By The Day
Rich Piana was an absolute mass monster. You may have seen his famous serious on YouTube called ‘Bigger By The Day’ where he taught new bodybuilders exactly how to diet and work out like a bodybuilder- all for free.
In fact, I think many of us reading this article have been taught by Rich Piana. I remember how small I was until I discovered him and Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass at the same time. Let’s just say my transformation was crazy… (If you haven’t checked Rich Piana’s videos that mentor new bodybuilders, watch them! Rich is HILARIOUS and provides great life advice in the videos too- there’s a good reason he’s at millions of subscribers).
Back to our point- Rich Piana’s videos provided intense pro-bodybuilder-only exercises. He emphasizes the importance of squeezing the muscle and getting a full range of motion.
Furthermore, he has his own special style of training called Feeder Workouts which can even put an inch on your arms in a month.
If you want to become like the legend himself, you can follow the Rich Piana workout routine.
Personally, I would just follow his YouTube series Bigger By The Day and Shredded By The Day. Where he does 60 days of bulking, and 60 days of cutting. He has a whole diet and workout plan in each video.
You can also just follow PDFs or online websites- but Rich Piana’s videos really motivate you and hype you up, so I definitely recommend the video method.
- Easy to follow as there are videos for each one.
- Reliable results with the videos, from a reputable bodybuilder.
- Very interesting workout program with lots of variety and different exercises compared to other workouts.
- It can be a very difficult workout program for new bodybuilders as it uses a lot of mind-muscle connection, but again- the videos should help explain that.
#8 – Lee Hayward’s 12-Week Workout Program
- Try it! Free program here: Lee Hayward’s Website FAQ and Download
Lee Hayward is one of the more famous bodybuilders out there. He has competed in many bodybuilding competitions and really knows his stuff.
What makes him unique is he’s not one of the golden age bodybuilders, but he’s actually still kind of new to the industry. He’s been in the industry for about 20 years, so he still has a good mix of old school information and new school information.
He actually made one of the more famous and most used workout programs when preparing for a bodybuilding competition. It’s honestly just all around the board solid, and you really feel like you’re building muscle on it.
There’s nothing too complicated on it. It’s not a weird variation of hypertrophy, strength, or new bodybuilding technology. It follows the basics of bodybuilding that all bodybuilders have to do to build muscle.
And well, it works.
Sometimes simple is best, and this program follows the ‘core’ exercises of bodybuilding.
That’s not to say it is an easy program though. Especially when you’re doing 4 sets of 15 reps for hack squats- you’ll be begging to quit.
But, sometimes a simple program that makes you feel super sore after a workout is what you need. That way you know you’re building muscle after.
What’s nice about this workout program is that not only is it free, but there is a big FAQ on the website about it.
Lee Hayward is kind of similar to me in the sense that he blogs quite a bit about bodybuilding. It’s always a good idea to check out his blog and learn from him.
- Created by a trusted bodybuilder that has competed in many competitions.
- A simplistic program that follows core concepts of bodybuilding.
- 4 day program, so if you’re on a tight schedule this is good for you.
- There isn’t much accessory work (like extra bicep curls, etc) and you may have to add a few more exercises as you see fit for additional muscle growth.
#9 – nSuns 5/3/1 (Very Popular and Modern Program)
- Try it! Free program here: nSuns 5/3/1 RoflWafflez Bodybuilding Variant
nSuns is one of the popular custom 5/3/1 workout plans that popped up on Reddit a few years ago.
This redditor, nSuns- created one of the best programs in bodybuilding history. That’s not to mention that thousands of people swear by it and many people have even used it to WIN bodybuilding competitions.
I actually LOVE this program. This volume stresses one thing the most: VOLUME.
As we’ve discussed countless times throughout this article. What separates a bodybuilder and powerlifter is hypertrophy and strength respectively.
If you lift super heavy for a few reps, you gain a lot of actual strength and muscle. But, if you lift a little lighter with more reps you gain more ‘chiseled and defined’ muscle. This is commonly referred to as ‘hypertrophy training’ in bodybuilding.
nSuns 5/3/1 has some of the most volume of any bodybuilding program out there.
Many bodybuilders agree with me- it’s kind of hard when you do programs with 4-5 sets because sometimes you don’t actually feel sore after you leave the gym.
But, when you have programs that are super in high in volume- you basically always feel sore and you always feel like you’re growing muscle.
To me, it’s super important I leave the gym feeling sore, or else I feel like I didn’t do enough to grow the muscle.
High volume programs are also favorites of mine because I kind of have that ADHD mind almost where I always need to be occupied doing something in the gym. I can’t just do 5 sets then sit around for a minute.
nSuns 5/3/1 focuses on the cores of bodybuilding and muscle building- with the familiar squat, bench, deadlift, et cetera. The difference is that instead of doing the typical 5 sets of 5 reps, or some slight variation of that- we are instead doing crazy volume. Here’s what I mean:
On one day, you do 9 SETS of Bench Press. Varying from 80% of your 1 rep max of weight, to 85% to 70%. It changes the rep ranges, weight, and really emphasizes both strength and hypertrophy training. But again, you are doing so much actual work on this program that it’s hard for you to NOT grow muscle or feel sore.
I think that’s why so many people love this program. You always feel like you’ve accomplished something in the gym.
Plus, it has a very simple template to follow where you enter in your personal lifting information and it designs the program for the next few weeks ahead of you.
The only downside is that the core nSuns 5/3/1 program doesn’t have much accessory or warm-up work. Some other redditors have come up with plans such as the u/RoflWafflez variant where he adds a ton of resistance band warm-up work and other additional accessory stuff.
- Tons of volume, you will feel sore and feel it working.
- Tons of different variations and modifications as it is a program made for the community.
- Easy to follow spreadsheets.
- Doesn’t come with much accessory work itself, you may need to add some yourself.
- The incredibly high volume means you need to take rest and diet seriously or you may get injured. If you think you are about to be injured- stop lifting and go home, then rest a few days- trust me.
#10 – 5×5 Stronglifts With Accessories
- Try it! Program here: Stronglifts Website
You’ve probably heard 5×5 Stronglifts a MILLION times by now.
And, typically, it is mentioned in more of a ‘muscle building’ sense and not exactly a ‘bodybuilding’ sense.
You see, the program is great for actually just growing some muscle itself, but it does a poor job of actually getting you muscle that looks ‘good’- as in, ‘bodybuilding good’ where you look super shredded and ripped.
So, what’s the solution? We add accessory work (things like bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc) to 5×5 Stronglifts, and boom- it becomes a really good bodybuilding program.
Many newer bodybuilders are doing 5×5 Stronglifts with accessories and seeing great results with it.
But why? Here’s the thing, 5×5 is a great program because 5 reps is a very good number for actual strength and muscle growth.
If you’re doing 10 reps, you’re more seeing the ‘appearance’ of the muscle look better (hypertrophy), when you’re doing 1 rep- you’re not really even seeing muscle growth. But 5-8 reps is a good range for both strength and muscle growth.
That’s why so many people swear by this program. You get a good amount of muscle growth and you get tons of strength. (Which, a lot of people also want to become strong when they grow muscle too!)
- Read: Are Bodybuilders Strong?
The problem is again, the muscle isn’t as shredded as bodybuilders or people looking for a beach body really want. Sure, it’s great for making you look buff and actually put on muscle- but it lacks a lot of the shred.
So, many people add ‘accessory’ work- which is a really confusing and complicated term in the gym world for just saying, “hey, i’m adding in extra sets of curls, triceps, shoulders, et cetera”.
Does that make sense? Basically, we’re taking a program that is already good for general muscle growth, and we’re adding a bodybuilding flair to it to bring out that aesthetic muscle growth to it. That way we have a good-looking beach body and look shredded.
This program is already good enough for muscle growth, and it is used by tons of people every day. In fact, it might be one of the most popular muscle-building programs out there just by the amount of people that use it.
Basically, with the bodybuilding accessories, the program will look something like this:
- Standard 5×5 Compound Lift (Bench, Squat, Etc)
- The other standard 5×5 Compound Lift (Deadlift, Rows, Overhead Press, Etc)
- Bicep Curls 5×8
- Hammer Curls 5×8
- Tricep Extensions 5×8
- Skullcrushers 5×8
There are tons of positive reviews of the program already with tons of testimonials about it. So, enjoy the program- but add that bodybuilding flair to it and you’ll see even better results.
- Very popular workout program with lots of true results.
- Very simple workout program to follow.
- Program focuses on the core concepts of muscle building.
- Beginner-friendly program.
- Without accessory work, some say the program isn’t enough.
- The program focuses on muscle building and not really bodybuilding until you add the accessory work.
#11 – Gamma Bomb by John Meadows (Advanced Bodybuilding)
Gamma Bomb by John Meadows is one of the toughest but best bodybuilding programs out there.
I think the thing people like about this program is that: John Meadows explains every exercise and how to do it, plus he has tons of isolation exercises for important muscles that aren’t public knowledge.
Basically what I’m saying is: this guy is a reputable bodybuilder, and he puts a ton of secret exercises in that program that make you much bigger.
And honestly, some of the exercises are ones you just never forget. Some of the bicep isolation exercises just make you wonder why nobody else really does them- as you just feel your whole bicep head being stretched to its’ maximum potential. I mean, there’s no way you do these exercises without feeling your muscles working hard.
The program is also unique to others, with its own way of working out including:
- Activation period/warm up.
- ‘Training explosively’ period.
- ‘Supramax pump’ where you basically do no rest at all.
- Training the muscle at its’ maximum stretch position- basically overloading it at its’ weakest point.
This is much different than the workouts we are used too. And a lot of people actually really like it- I’m a big fan of it too.
Many people, including Arnold- firmly believe you cannot just go in the gym, and lift weights at a consistent pace and weight to see muscle growth. You need to ‘shock’ them.
You need to overload them so hard by just doing whatever you can, whether it’s that ‘Supramax pump’ period where you don’t rest and do a ton of sets- or you train the muscle at its’ weakest position and just force muscle growth.
When you see videos of bodybuilders, you don’t see them just doing simple curls with the same amount of time on each rep. You see them squeezing the muscle, pushing themselves to absolute muscle failure, training with super high intensity, having people spot them on bicep curls forcing them to even hit failed reps!
If you’re someone who is sick of ‘normal’ bodybuilding where you get some muscle, and you want something that pushes you to that ‘advanced bodybuilder’ level- Gamma Bomb by John Meadows is the program for you.
- Made by a reputable and legendary bodybuilder, John Meadows.
- Really brings out that ‘advanced-pro bodybuilder’ training methods that aren’t seen in most programs.
- This is a program you really feel accomplished with after you’re done with it.
- It can be a bit pricey.
- It’s probably not the best program for new bodybuilders.
#12 – Ice Cream Fitness (Best Intermediate Program)
- Try it! Program here: Ice Cream Fitness Information and Program
Ice Cream Fitness is one of the best bodybuilding programs out there. It is usually seen as a ‘beginner-intermediate’ program, meaning, once you’re done with a beginner program you move onto a program like this.
It’s a very good ‘middle of the road’ program for the bodybuilder who now understands the basics of lifting, and wants to expand their workload and muscle growth in the gym.
Overall, it’s a very solid program. It has the ‘cores’ of weight lifting, like squatting, benching, et cetera. Yet, it adds a ton of accessory work like bicep curls, preacher curls, calf raises, et cetera.
This really is a good program for someone in their first 6 months-1 year of bodybuilding. This will really push you to that point where you start to look ‘buff’- and then you’ll probably have to start moving onto more advanced bodybuilding programs.
This is a great bodybuilding program for someone also just trying to look good, and maybe they don’t have a huge focus on bodybuilding itself. It’s a great program for anybody in the beginning-intermediate stages of bodybuilding. Check it out!
- Great program for those still getting the ropes of the gym.
- Has familiar core concepts of bodybuilding- nothing in the program is confusing.
- Not great for advanced lifters.
- Some people argue that the volume is kind of lower compared to other programs.
#13 – Greyskull LP (BEST Beginners Program)
- Try it! Program here: Greyskull LP Program Information
You may have heard of this program a few times- it’s probably the BEST program there is for beginners to the weight room hands down.
Me and tons of others have stepped into the gym with NO prior experience and have started their muscle-building journey on Greyskull LP. I mean literally, I never had been in a weight room in my life and started Greyskull LP as my first program.
It’s a very good program for beginners. It’s simple, it focuses on the basics of weight lifting- no matter what program you choose, Greyskull LP will always be at the ‘core’ of it. Greyskull focuses on the ‘core’ exercises in lifting, like squatting, overhead press, bench press, rows, et cetera.
This program is very good for muscle building as well at the beginner stage. While I think its’ efficacy fades away after you’ve put on some serious muscle, it’s very good for turning someone from ‘zero’ to ‘hero’.
If you’ve been looking up good bodybuilding programs for beginners, you will certainly come across this one at some point. You can rest assured that it is good for you to start. I don’t recommend it after 3-4 months, and even most people say that, but it is a super program for beginners to start on.
It doesn’t ‘overwhelm’ you, it gives you a nice and easy introduction to weight lifting and you can then switch to another program and build off of it.
And, you’ll see some pretty decent muscle growth in the first few months. It’s not as good as you would have if you were on some super advanced program- but the muscle growth is still very noticeable and will have people asking you, “Hey, have you been working out?”.
- Probably the most beginner-friendly program out there.
- Focuses on a lot of the core concepts of bodybuilding that are in every program.
- Smaller volume than other programs letting your body adapt to the increased workload.
- Beginner program, this will not be enough to make it to Mr.Olympia, you will have to change it after a few months.
- Not enough volume for huge muscle growth, but great for the first few months of working out.
#14 – Creeping Death 2 by John Meadows
Creeping Death 2 is one of those programs that already sounds brutal- and it is.
It’s similar to Gamma Bomb, and is the second version of- you guessed it- Creeping Death. This program is nice because it has high volume, high sets, and focuses on more advanced things in bodybuilding like the ‘Supramax Pump’.
In my eyes, I wish it had more volume. I think many people prefer Gamma Bomb just for the higher volume and such.
But, if you were a fan of Creeping Death 1, you may like this also.
If you’re also just a fan of old school bodybuilding programs that are tough and keep you in the gym, Creeping Death 2 is a good place to start.
A lot of people love this program, personally, I can’t get behind it quite yet because I don’t think there’s enough volume and I think Gamma Bomb is just better all around. But, this workout does fit a certain niche of lifter and it does a great job at that.
- Created by a very reliable and famous bodybuilder who knows his stuff.
- Is very intense and focuses on higher-level bodybuilding concepts that maximize muscle growth.
- Creeping Death is a very popular bodybuilding program and has had many people test its’ results and see it work.
- Can be pretty pricey.
- I wish the volume was more.
- Some people (including myself) think Gamma Bomb by John Meadows may just be a better all-around fit.
#15 – Jeff Nippard’s Upper/Lower (Most Scientifically Backed Program)
- Try it! Program information here: Jeff Nippard’s Upper/Lower Body Program Information Video
Jeff Nippard is a guy who does all of his bodybuilding by direct science and research.
In fact, if you’re one of those guys that really likes to use science and research for lifting to maximize efficiency and time in the gym- I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel. All he does is really compare new science and educate his fans how to lift more efficiently to gain more muscle.
I tried this program a year or two ago and really enjoyed it. I think the best part is knowing that scientifically speaking, it is the best program for you.
I mean, it’s hard to speak bad about this program considering it quite literally is based on science. You can’t go wrong. The program is also pretty fun- it’s not a boring one, yet it still has a lot of the core concepts of muscle building.
Again, it’s a scientifically backed program, so you just cannot go wrong with it. I highly recommend it.
- Literally science-backed. There’s just not another way to put it, you will get great results with this program.
- Made by a very reputable bodybuilder.
- Sometimes the volume can feel low- I added more sets in to fix that.
#16 – Dorian Yates’ Blood & Guts
- Try it! Program here: Dorian Yates’ Blood & Guts Information
The name already tells you what type of bodybuilding program this is- a tough one.
This program is more suited for advanced bodybuilders and relies more on mind-muscle connection and pushing your muscles to failure than normal sets.
When I first was introduced to this program, I was confused. It says you have three sets, 2 sets of warm up and one ‘working set’. At first- I was like, how does this make any sense, you’re doing 1 real set and you’re supposed to gain muscle?
That’s when I reread the plan details. The ‘warm up sets’ are actually just normal sets you work your hardest on. And the ‘working set’ is where you absolutely try your hardest and push your muscle to failure every time.
When you see that on every single compound exercise every day you’re going to need a spotter as you push yourself to your absolute muscular limit- you start to realize why this program often has so much success behind it.
This program is one of the hardest to complete out there, and is created by one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time, Dorian Yates.
I really don’t recommend this program if you’re a new bodybuilder. This is a program that really takes a few years of experience and understanding of the gym to fully complete and reap the benefits from this program. However, if you reach that phase- by all means go ahead.
- Made by a very reputable bodybuilder.
- Uses very advanced bodybuilding techniques to maximize muscle growth.
- Follows core concepts of bodybuilding, isn’t a confusing program.
- Very, very difficult. It’s absolutely mentally and physically exhausting.
#17 – Flex Wheeler’s Workout Routine (Simple But Tough)
- Try it! Program here: Flex Wheeler’s Workout Routine
Flex Wheeler is one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time- and for good reason, he looked phenomenal and had great work ethic.
Unfortunately, he was forced to retire after the recent leg amputation due to an underlying medical condition.
Flex Wheeler ended up performing in the most competitive and famous bodybuilding competition of all time, Mr.Olympia. In fact, he didn’t just end up performing- he placed 2nd place MULTIPLE times. That is an incredible feat and really shows you how incredible he is.
Because of that, we already know his workout plan is stellar. I’m actually a big fan of it, because his workout plan is actually simple for anyone to follow. While it’s simple to follow, it’s very hard to perform.
That’s what I like about it. Simple instructions- but it requires hard work to actually perform. I don’t like confusing bodybuilding programs as they just make things way too complicated in the gym.
This is one of those workout plans you can just pick up and go to the gym and perform- and that’s why I think many people looking for a good solid program should try Flex Wheeler’s workout routine.
- Made by someone who placed in 2nd at Mr.Olympia multiple times (meaning he quite literally is one of the best ranked bodybuilders to ever live)
- Very simple to follow, but requires intense hard work.
- Not a confusing program at all.
- Obviously we see how well Flex Wheeler looked- it is proven to work.
- I actually can’t say I have any cons for this program. It’s solid all around. It’s just still ‘old-school’ and doesn’t really have any modern bodybuilding exercises if that matters to you.
#18 – Big Ramy’s Workout Routine
- Try it! Program here: Big Ramy’s Workout Routine
If you’ve been following the news, Big Ramy was the recent Mr.Olympia winner. Big Ramy never really had any bodybuilding history and kind of came out of nowhere winning the #1 spot at the biggest and most famous bodybuilding competition in the world.
It should be no surprise that his workout routine is crazy.
The big takeaway about Big Ramy’s workout routine is that he goes with crazy high intensity. If you want to get as big as him, you should be doing that too.
His workout plan is kind of simple, as in it has no complicated or crazy exercises. It does however, feature quite a few more ‘modern’ exercises. For instance, there are some machines listed in his workout routine.
I, for one, like the modernness of it. Machines are great at increasing muscle growth and hypertrophy- we should be using them. And as Big Ramy showed us, those machines got him to #1.
- Literally the #1 at Mr.Olympia last year. He’s definitely reputable.
- Program has quite a few ‘modern’ exercises in it, while still maintaining some core concepts of bodybuilding.
- Simple to understand program.
- Super high intensity.
- As the workout is so high intensity, it may be best to seriously get a good sleep schedule and diet.
#19 – Franco Columbu’s Workout Routine (Similar to Arnold’s- Has Its Own Modifications)
- Try it! Program here: Franco Columbu’s Workout Routine
You’ve seen Franco Columbu before- actually, all the time. Franco Columbu was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend in the bodybuilding world.
In almost any picture of Arnold, you’ll find a picture of Franco with him.
With that in mind, Franco was literally training and being trained by one of the best bodybuilders EVER in the industry. He definitely has a workout routine worth doing.
What I love most about Arnold’s and Franco’s training style was the idea of ‘shocking’ the muscles. I mean, the way they trained to make your muscles absolutely spasm at the end of the workout says it all. There’s not a way you complete their workout plan for the day without feeling sore.
I mean, you start your leg day off by doing 8 sets of squats like this: 20 reps, 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps, 2 reps. I mean, that is incredible.
Plus, your arm day has you constantly supersetting exercises, meaning your arms never get a break. This program is very similar to Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass and you’ll both see great results from it.
- Very similar to Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass. Has lots of great ‘shock the muscle’ exercises yet retains its own variations in programming.
- Will always make your muscles sore after a workout.
- Great, tried and tested program used by many.
- Not any ‘modern’ bodybuilding stuff included like much machine work- they really didn’t have the machines we do today back then!
#20 – Your Own Workout Program
Yes, that’s right. Your OWN workout program can be one of the best bodybuilding programs out there.
As you go to the gym, you’ll discover what works for you and what doesn’t.
You may find that your arms grow more when you do higher reps, and your legs grow more when you do lower reps for instance.
You’ll find out what makes your muscles sore- what exercises feel right and which ones don’t.
It’s important in any bodybuilding program to make adjustments for what works best for your body.
Some exercises won’t grow muscle that people can really see on you due to genetics- it’s up to you to change that and find a good replacement that brings out an even better physique.
As you can see, every bodybuilder on this list has different variations in their workout program, and honestly it’s just because it worked well for them. And I, years into the industry, still make adjustments as I see my physique change.
For example, I found out that ab rollers work phenomenally well on my abs for some reason. While most bodybuilders ignore them as they think they don’t grow muscle as well. We are all slightly different, and our bodies respond to different things.
Find what works best for you, and make those modifications.
Currently, I run my own workout program. It’s honestly a slight combination of basically everything on this list. We have those intense sets in Arnold’s + Franco’s programs that leave your chest spasming for the rest of the day. I have that high volume and intensity we see in Big Ramy’s program. We work our muscles at its farthest stretch point as we see in Gamma Bomb. We have a combination of 5/3/1 and hypertrophy across everything. And I squeeze every inch of muscle like Rich Piana taught me too.
I’ve tried all of these programs and I find out what works in each one for me and combine it to my own- and that’s how you maximize your bodybuilding journey.
Good luck my friends.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Hours a Day Do Bodybuilders Train
Most bodybuilders train for about 2-3 hours a day. Most of the programs here will take a bodybuilder about 2 hours to complete.
How Do I Start Bodybuilding?
Simply take a program from this page, perform the exercises, sleep a lot, and eat a lot of food high in protein. Most of these programs come with diet plans already- making it easy! Starting bodybuilding is easy, it’s sticking with it that’s hard.
How Many Reps Should I Do For Bodybuilding?
8-12 reps is the amount of reps you should do for bodybuilding. Higher reps is the KEY for bodybuilders to develop that ‘aesthetic’ and shredded muscle. All of the programs listed here will have you doing 8-12 reps frequently.
How Long Should a Full Body Workout Be?
A full body workout should be around 1.5-2 hours in length. It can be shorter depending on your rest times and if you’re supersetting or not.
We’ve made it.
That was a lot to take in. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment below and I will answer it.
Hopefully these programs help you on your journey. See you in the gym!