A Novice Hypertrophy Program

1325011474_2456-e1338499207767I’ve been getting a fair amount of questions about programs for a novices that will put some weight on them. First thing first, you need to eat. I talk about this in nearly everyone of my blog posts lately, but that can’t be understated.

If you are eating the same food day in and day out then get on  a new program, not much will change. You are placing a stressor on your body when you go into the gym. In order for it to adapt metabolically, you will need to fuel your body to put on muscle. This means whatever you are eating now, isn’t enough.

Use a calorie tracker. Google calorie tracker and you’ll have numerous choices. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as it can track your calories. You will need to start tracking, at least for the first few months, until you develop a routine.

Let’s get into training. When you are new, putting on muscle is incredibly easy. However, with no direction it can get pretty confusing. Here is something nice and simple that a novice trainer can do for their first month of training. This will be a 3 day program.


The Program

Day 1
Romanian Deadlift
A1. Split Squats
A2. Curl (I know you want to do these, so pick one kind and hammer at it)

Day 2
A1. Bench Press
A2. Chin-up (Or assisted chin-up/band assisted chin-up)
B1. Low Incline Dumbbell Press
B2. Barbell Row

Day 3
A1. Military Press
A2. Dumbbell Row
Front Squats **

The letters followed by numbers denote paired sets. For instance on day 3, you start with doing just deadlifts. Do only deadlifts until you finished all sets. Then you will move on to military press, rest for 60 seconds, then do dumbbell row. Then rest up and do this exercise pair again.

**Perform 3 sets of 6, but shouldn’t be close to failure.  You should have 2 reps in the tank for each set.

Reps and Sets

The four main exercise of pretty much any of my programs are squats (high-bar or low-bar), deadlifts (sumo or conventional), bench press, and military press.  You will notice all four of these are in the program.  For these four exercises, I want you to do 4 sets of 6 reps.  I want you to ramp up on each set to a heavy set of 6.

Let’s go over ramping.

Example: Deadlift: 135×6, 165×6, 195×6, 225×6.

I chose 30lb increments as an arbitrary number.  It doesn’t have to be that much.  It might be 10lb increments or whatever.  You will experiment and figure it out.  Just make sure that your third set isn’t going to fatigue the hell out of your for your fourth set.  For your fourth set, you can also go for AMRAP (as many reps as possible).  So maybe you do 225×8 instead of 6.  If you are feeling good on your ramp up sets, then you might consider this a possibility.

For every other exercise  do 3 sets of 10-15.  This will make it so you are getting a good amount of reps in with a decent load.  This will improve your ability to perform the lift correctly as well as give you the desired training effect of hypertrophy (muscle growth).  You can use the ramping strategy I talked about above, or use straight sets.

Straight sets example: Barbell Rows.  135×15,13,10.  Obviously you are just using the same amount of weight for all three sets.  Since I have a rep range, you may find you are freshest on the first set, then as fatigue sets in you will no longer be able to keep up at a high level.  That’s why in the example the reps decrease.  If you are having a shitty day, you can just choose a weight that you know you will be able to get three sets of the same reps for.  So it would look like 135×10,10,10.

Simple right?

Rest Periods

I’ve never been a stickler for rest periods.  They matter far less than you think.  For the main exercises, take as much as you need.  As you are new, you won’t need too long.  So let’s say 120 seconds max, between sets.

For the paired sets, you can use 60-90 seconds between sets.  It depends on your conditioning.  If you are better conditioned, use the lower number.  If you’re not very conditioned, use the upper number.


Other Shit

  • Try and keep 48 hours between all sessions.
  • Eat more food than you are eating right now.
  • Try and increase the weight each week.  You will probably be able to do this for the first few months.
  • Take your training seriously and get shit done.
  • Get sleep.
  • Eat more food than you are eating right now.
  • Be consistent.  3x/week isn’t asking too much.  You should be able to do this easily in under an hour.

Try that for a month and gain some muscle.




Q&A: Plateaus and Squat Help

I’ve been answering a lot of Q&A’s on e-mail but I want to start putting more on my blog.  This will cover a couple option for smashing through a fat loss plateau.  Then I’ll go over what you can do to help increase your squat (programming considerations, exercise selection and all that fun stuff)

Q: I’ve lost 66 pounds in the last 6 months.  For the last two week I have been stuck at 223 and I’m getting discouraged.  I run daily for ~30 minutes and do some core work.  What do I do to get out of this plateau?

A:  This can be a complicated question and I get something along these lines pretty often.  I’m talking complicated like solving a rubiks cube, drunk, while running away from a rabid attack dog.  Well, maybe not.

There are a few things to look at here.  If you have been on the same diet as when you first began your weight loss journey, you will reach a point where your dietary intake and energy expenditure begin to comes closer and closer to the same number.  Once you are eating as many calories as you are expending, you will no longer lose any weight and/or fat.

So the question is, how do I either increase my energy expenditure, or decrease my caloric intake to give this fat loss plateau a punch to the mug.  I’m not a fan of increasing energy expenditure, because there is only so much you can do for that.  You could begin by increasing your cardio from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  You could begin lifting weights (if you aren’t doing that already).  Those are the only two that I’d really worry about implementing.

The more effective way however, would be to decrease your energy intake.  You do this by consuming less calories.  If you aren’t counting calories, then it would mean decreasing meal sizes, decreasing meal portions, adding in some fasting, or replacing calorie dense food with nutrient dense food.  If you are counting calories, then you simply need to decrease the amount of calories you are taking in on a daily basis.

The key to sustained weight loss is keeping consistent.  If you are eating on track 50% of the time, you probably won’t note much of a difference in body composition.  If you can follow the play 80-90% you will attain your goals.


Q: My squat has been stuck around 350 for the past few months and I can’t get it to increase.  I’m currently doing 5×5 training.  Deadlift is increasing as well, but I’m at a loss for the back squats.  I do a powerlifting style squat, and usually wear knee wraps and a belt for my heavier sets.

A: Anyone who has read my articles on training knows that I’m a man of simple tastes.  If you want to get better at something, do it more.  Now, I’m not saying you need to squat everyday to break out of your plateau.  Since you are doing some sort of 5×5, you could start by reprogramming your numbers.  Try starting with a lower “max” number.

Changing to a different program could also help.  Some programs will only last so long until you have to try something new to create a better training stimulus.  There are numerous programs out there: Cube Method, 5/3/1, Lift-Run-Bang, Juggernaut Method are just a few tried and proven programs that have gotten good results.

You might also think about ditching the gear, you gear whore.  Just fucking with you.  Try a training cycle with no wraps or a belt though.  You will be surprised at what that can do for you.  Or, don’t use a belt for the beginning of a cycle and add it as needed.  Then add the wraps closer to the end of the cycle when you are lifting weight closer to your RM.

Then comes supplementary exercises.  You didn’t say if you are doing any, so I will assume that you aren’t.  I have noticed that strengthening the quads, seems to help a ton with the low-bar back squat.  I never really did this before, but I am now, and my back squat is going up.  The best exercises for building the quads are high-bar squats and front squats.  You can mix in paused reps in the hole for these as well.

Another thing a lot of super strong guys such as Ed Coan used to do was use primarily high bar squats for a full cycle, or part of a cycle.  If your high bar squat goes up, your low-bar squat also should increase.

Front squats are great for building your quads as well as identifying weakness in your anterior core.  If the bar begins to roll forward as you come back up, your torso is bent too far forward and you need to work on some dedicated core work or lighten the load up.

For both high-bar squats and front squats you want to make sure to load the quads.  Dan Green has some great vids already on this subject.

You will notice one of his cues is to sit straight down, and not sit back (which you do in low-bar squats).  This will load the quads more.  In the high-bar squat you also want to sit down and allow the quads to get wasted (loaded, lol).


In this video Dan talks about where to position the knees.  This is very important, and can definitely add pounds immediately to your squat.  I was of the “knees out” school for quite a while.  Yet I noticed that pretty much all Oly lifters with a decent squat and pretty much all powerlifter with good squats allowed their knees to come in somewhat during max attempts.


This is a good vid of a squat session from Dan Green.  The guys has incredible form, and has perfected over many years of trial and error.  So take notes.


I didn’t mention that you could also increase your squat frequency.  I have already wrote about this at length here.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to e-mail me at kyle@kylegrieve.com.



Actions and Outcomes

The spark of this article comes from a friend of mine Bojan Kostevski who wrote an excellent article on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s site called “Why You Need To Stop Setting Goals”. The part of the article that reverberated with me was this: What specific actions can I take to maximize the chances of ever reaching the body of my dream? This week? Today?

This did a great job of linking the action goal to the outcome goal.  The outcome goal is the end result “lose 10 pounds” or “put 100 pounds on my squat.” The action goal is what you need to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis in order to achieve that goal.

So I started thinking about some of my clients, and some of my friends who train religiously.  I started examining the differences and similarities between us all.  I was looking for actions that some of took to reach our goals.  Actions that maybe we weren’t consciously aware of, but helped us achieve our desired outcome anyways.

Consuming this too often probably won't take you anywhere you want to go... I think you know that.
Consuming this too often probably won’t take you anywhere you want to go… I think you know that. 

The way I looked at you always have actions leading to a consequence.  Even if the consequence is unintended, your body will adapt to your actions.  If you are currently goal-less and are stuffing your face with pizza on a daily basis your actions will lead to a undesired outcome (most likely).

Fat gain.

Obviously we don’t have a conscious outcome goal of getting fat, but it can and does happen never the less. So I wanted to have a quick look-see at some of the actions that people take to reach their desired goal as well as look at actions that people do as part of their lifestyle to lead them to undesired goals.

Since I surround myself with people who like looking good while also being strong, and well muscled, I will go over some of these actions first (in no particular order).

1. They take protein supplements.

If you read my stuff, you know I don’t push supplements, I don’t make a dime from suggesting supps to anyone.  However, everyone I know who looks good as a product of hitting the gym uses protein supps.  I don’t really care much about what kind of protein it is, but they all use it. This shows you that protein intake is important.

If you can get your couple of hundred grams of protein in on a daily basis, then maybe you don’t need a protein supplement.  However, I have some friends who are some big-ass eaters, and they still take protein powder because it simplifies things: it’s quick, easy, and highly portable.

2. They aren’t weaklings.

Since I’ve coached clients and influenced many others I have seen how they’ve progressed.  I’m not going to pretend to say that I know how much their lifts have increased, but I will tell you that they have.

Their strength has not gone down, and it hasn’t stayed neutral. Sure, over the years I’ve seen some people who are maybe a little weaker than before (because of injuries) who are as big, if not bigger than when they were before.  This is because they’ve figured out how to push themselves in different ways and already have a good base of muscle to build from. I can guarantee you, at one point, these guys and gals were pushing themselves hard to approach their desired outcome.

3. They don’t eat foods with a low nutrient density on a regular basis.

I didn't eat the whole thing....
I didn’t eat the whole thing….

This is just a fancy way of saying that the bulk of their food, the majority of the time is coming from unprocessed food.  You know what these are, I’m not going to list them.  Check this out to learn more about how food quality can effect the amount of ‘work’ the body has to do to actually digest these foods based on how processed they are.

These people have discipline to stay the course and are able to look straight at their goal and knock that bitch out the park.  They find ways to limit negative situations where they know they will be put in conditions that aren’t conducive to their goal. What might some of these situations be you ask?

– Drinking heavily on a regular basis.

– Eating out on a regular basis.

– Associating with people who do not give a shit about their bodies.

That’s just a few to wet your appetite.

4. They have a dedicated cheat day.

This is simply a day where they eat whatever the hell they damn well please.  This helps in many ways.  It can cause changes in hormones which can kickstart fat loss.  It gives the person immense amount of pleasure to eat delicious foods.  It prevents fucking up nutritional adherence, by allowing you to know that you can eat something you really want rather than food that might be considered boring.

Now let’s take a look at some of the actions that people take that incur unintended consequences.  The consequences we would like to stay away from, such as knowing that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman.

1. They aren’t consistent in the gym.

If you do some other form of exercising, that could be put in there as well.  However, I think most of the people that read this here blog are slagging iron, not running marathons. Anyways, people who have come to for help usually aren’t in the gym consistently.  Sure they try their hand at training hard for a bit, maybe even getting some results, but then something happens in their motivation, or whatever it might be that gives them the right (in their heads) to stop training.

Once you stop, it can be a bitch to get back into it. The trick is not to stop training.  Do not find an excuse not to train.  The minute the thought enters your mind, get your ass to the gym and train anyways. Tweet that

You need to transform yourself into someone who makes the gym a part of your lifestyle.  It will take work, and it won’t happen overnight.  You might never really enjoy going to the gym, but you realize that it’s an integral part of what you want to achieve, and nothing will stop you from getting that goal.

2. They eat out a lot.

There really isn’t anything wrong with eating out on a regular basis… If you’re eating greens and lean meat whenever you do in fact eat out.  Which for the majority of people just doesn’t happen.  I have clients who go out probably 10+ times per week.  Many of those are work related.  So when they go out, they aren’t having the meal mentioned above.  They’re having alcohol, starters, dessert.

It adds up.

Some people who eat out a lot, who are in tune with how much they can eat, can get away with this.  The majority of people can’t.  If you are eating dessert on a daily basis, you probably aren’t very lean.  Sorry to say it, but it’s true.  Perhaps if you fast all day and go warrior style at night, you can afford to have small amounts of dessert on a daily basis.

3. They have poor social networks in relation to their goals.

Cheat day with my best bud, while watching football.  I only eat these kinds of food once a week, but on a regular basis.
Cheat day with my best bud, while watching football. I only eat these kinds of food once a week, but on a regular basis.

Let me ask you a question.  Lets say George is here on Earth.  His 5 best buds drink beer everyday, eat chips, and order pizza a couple times a week.  George wants to get ripped for the summer, so he decides to spend his spring leaning out.  The only thing is, George and his friends are huge hockey fans.  They watch hockey together 3-4 times per week.  When they do, they consume the above beverages and foods.

Now, in a parallel universe, George has the same goals.  His best buds are also huge hockey fans.  They have a tradition though, they go to Georges house and train in his awesome home gym as a group before every game.  Then they cook up ribs, or wings, or other meats using only herbs for flavour, also they only drink water or other kinds of zero calorie beverages.  They’re all into keeping their bodies in good shape.  George just allowed himself to gain a few but he’s trying to get back to Ripped City for the summer.

Which George has the best chance to succeed?  If you guessed the first one, congrats, you probably have an IQ equal to your body fat percentage.  Obviously, if you were  betting man, you’d put your money on George-two to reach his goal over George one. He would succeed because his social network would be much more in tune with his goals.

Your social network isn’t only your friends, it includes your family as well.  If your significant other is healthy as fuck, and you are trying to get into shape, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding than if he/she isn’t living the healthiest lifestyle.


There are obviously many, many actions that one can take that will lead them a positive or negative outcome.  The ones above are just a few of them that I have found are pretty prevalent.

So, what actions are you taking on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to help you reach your goal?  Which actions are you doing that are sabotaging you from reaching your goal?

24 Things You Don’t Know About Me

1. I used to piss my bed.  Don’t make fun of me, my mom said it’s normal to stop at 25.

2. I’m good friends with WWE wrestler Nick Rodgers.

The Mayor!
The Mayor!

3. I was originally a huge fan of Spider-man.  As I matured I’ve realized he’s just such a pussy compared to Bruce Wayne tho.

4. Predator and Terminator 2 are two my favourite movies. Ever.

5. I played hockey for 15 years, but haven’t played in the past 10 :(.

6. I love Starcraft.  I watch the shit out of it and play it more than I’d care to admit.

7. When I used to give a shit, I built my own computer.  It was an IBM.  After the operating system crashed literally 7 straight times I threw it in the garbage and bought a mac.  Haven’t looked back since.

8. I have an incredibly well trained dog named Hades.  He’s a Belgian Malinois and he’s a boss.  He’s a little ball of pure energy at only 2 years old.

9. I love me some Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola.

For those of you who don't know geography
For those of you who don’t know geography

10.  I’m half Burmese.

11.  I secretly enjoy watching golf… As long as it’s with my Dad or Uncle.

12.  I’ve never had a serious injury in my life. No broken bones, no serious hospital visits or extended stays in hospital. **Knocks on wood**

13. I’m a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan.  Pretty random considering I’ve never been there, don’t have any relatives from there, and don’t know anyone from there.  As a matter of fact, I’ve talked to 1 person in my entire life who was from Natti’. Corey Dhillon!

14. I used to despise Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.  It was fun to hate on them because it made watching basketball fun. Now I got mad respect for them.

15. I had gigantic ears when I was a kid.  They are the same size now as when I was 4 or 5.

16. If I had to go with one ethnic cuisine for the rest of my life, I’d choose Thai.

17. I fucking Love Denzel Washington.  Training Day anyone?

18. I find neuroscience fascinating.

19. I’m a pretty decent cook.  Right now my go-to meal has to be thai curry soup (with ridiculous amounts of chicken thighs).  Easy to make, has tons of vegetables, and a ridonculous amount of protein.  I probably get 1500-2000 calories out of it by adding rice.

20. I got family on the sunshine coast and I love it there.

21. Small dogs piss me off.  A co-worker from a while back had her stupid little dog at work to visit one day.  I go up to pet it and it tries to tear my hand off.  If my dog did that the police would probably get called and he’d get a warning or be put down.  Double standards…

22. I despise this whole “nerd” movement going on.  Girls wearing floppy-ass toques, and fitted caps that literally say “Nerd” or “Geek” on them, along with coke bottle glasses. Listen, I have no problem with people who are nerds, or geeks, if you are one, you don’t need to advertise it to the world.  If you are advertising, you’re doing it because you didn’t get enough attention when you were a child.  Go live on a deserted island.  Thanks.


24. Favourite athletes of all-time: Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Kobe Bryant, Chad Johnson (Ocho Cinco… LOL), AJ Green, Dan Green, and Ed Coan.