An Intermediate/Advanced Bodybuilding Routine

By Alan Frost, updated August, 2014
bodybuilder with barbell

Size is certainly one of the most common goals, particularly among guys. Sometimes they want to look more buff at the beach, other times they want some serious gains. Below I will present an intermediate/advanced bodybuilding routine. I will therefore assume that you have been training for a couple of years and that your core muscles and rotator cuffs are properly conditioned.

The routine runs for 5 weeks plus 1 active rest week, for a total of 6 weeks. It focuses primarily on muscle growth (hypertrophy), but incorporates a significant amount of strength training – since training for strength can be a useful tool when training for size.

The 2 Day Split Bodybuilding Routine

Warmup each day using dynamic movements (e.g. arm swings, walking lunges, jump squats, pushups, hip rotations, etc.) followed by two light sets of 3-5 of your first exercise. Doing many warmup sets is not so important since the rep range in the program is generally quite high.

Day 1: Upper Body

  • Incline DB bench press: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Cable crossovers: 2 x 10-15
  • Military press: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • DB lateral raises: 2 x 10 – 15
  • DB row: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Cable pulldown/pull-ups: 2 x 10-15
  • Hammer curls: 4 x 10-15
  • Skullcrushers: 4 x 10-15

Day 2: Lower Body & abs

  • Deadlift: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Front squat: 2 x 10-15
  • Leg press: 2 x 10-15
  • Goodmornings: 3 x 10-15
  • Hamstring curls: 3 x 10-15
  • Standing calf raises: 3 x 15
  • Bicycle crunches: 3 x near failure
  • Reverse crunches: 3 x near failure
woman bodybuilder

1-2 rest days

Day 3: Upper Body

  • Bench press: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Decline DB bench press: 2 x 10- 15
  • Seated DB shoulder press: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Barbell shrugs: 3 x 10-15
  • Cable pulldown/pull-ups: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Barbell row: 2 x 10-15
  • Standing EZ bar curl: 4 x 10-15
  • Cable triceps extensions: 4 x 10-15

Day 4: Lower Body & abs

  • Back squat: 4 x 15, 12, 8, 6
  • Leg extensions: 2 x 10-15
  • Lunges: 2 x 10-15
  • Romanian deadlifts: 3x10-15
  • Hamstring curls: 3 x 10-15
  • Seated calf raises: 3 x 15
  • Crunches (possibly weighted): 3 x near failure
  • Lying leg raises: 3 x near failure

Run the bodybuilding routine for 4 weeks. Cardios are always a good idea for your general health, but you need to keep the duration and frequency low so as to focus on muscle gains. E.g. 3 light cardios of 25-30 minutes duration per week should be fine.

After the 4 week cycle, add 1 strength training week and then 1 week active rest (see below).

Strength Week

Warmups are very important when training with low reps and high weights. At the start of each day combine dynamic movements with 4 warm up sets of the primary exercise (bench press, deadlift, military press, or squat). The warmup sets should be 3 reps each and they should start light, at about 30-40% of your 1 rep max, and work up to about 70%.

Bench & ab day

  • Bench press: 3 x 3 at 85% (of your 1 rep max)
  • Incline DB press: 4 x 8-10
  • Plank (possibly using medicine ball) 3 x 30 seconds

Back day:

soccer player
  • Deadlift: 3 x 3 at 85%
  • DB rows: 4 x 8-10
  • Biceps exercise of choice: 3 x 8-10

1 or 2 days off

Shoulder & triceps day

  • Military press: 3 x 3 at 85%
  • Lateral DB raises: 4 x 8-10
  • Triceps exercise of choice: 3 x 8-10

Leg day:

  • Back squat: 3 x 3 at 85%
  • Leg press: 2 x 8-10
  • Romanian deadlift 3 x 8-10
  • Standing calf raise: 3 x 15

Active Rest Week

The objective here is to rest the body in preparation for the next cycle. During this time you should do some core training and/or sports (on a recreational level). In particular sports that involve running with a lot of direction changing, like soccer and basketball, are great because they naturally train your core very effectively, while also improving your explosiveness. Do not overdo the intensity and duration however, this is still a rest week and you will need to recover from the high volumes of the advanced bodybuilding routine as well as the stress of the strength week. E.g. you could do core training on one or two of the days and some light sports on one or two of the other days. You can also throw in a couple of cardios, keeping the duration to max 30 minutes.


Nutritional concepts are covered elsewhere on the site. However, I do want to remind the reader that proper gains cannot be made unless you are eating a calorie surplus, i.e. you must eat more than you burn. This does not mean that you should eat garbage calories; instead eat balanced meals rich with nutritious, non-processed foods, while consuming a about 500 calories more than you are burning. This means that you will inevitably put on a bit of fat as you are gaining muscle. This fat can then be trimmed off during a cutting (dieting) cycle.

Final Thoughts

Please keep in mind that different people respond differently to intensity levels, volumes, exercises, etc. Since this routine is meant for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders/lifters who have a certain level of understanding of their own bodies, please feel free to experiment and customize the routine to match your needs. You can also change up the exercises with equivalents (particularly after a couple of cycles), but for the most part try to keep the focus on free weights or bodyweight exercises.

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