20 Months to a Champion Physique – Month 1

Congratulations!

You are about to embark on a progressive weight training program which will take you from the Beginner to the Intermediate and on up to the Advanced level in the next 20 months. I have always been a great believer in incorporating a lot of variety into my training regimen. Consequently, in this 20-month program, we will change the exercises and the training routine every month, In addition, we will also vary the order in which the various body parts are trained.

One result of all this variety, I think you will find, is that your training will be much more interesting and your bodybuilding progress much greater. Why? Because you will be keeping your training fresh from month to month, and you will be hitting the muscles from so many angles. An additional benefit of all this, of course, is that by the end of the 20 months, you will be familiar with such a large number of weight training exercises, you will really be an expert on how to work any muscle from any angle to produce the desired results.

As you proceed through this program, you will have the option of doing the workouts as we’ve described them month to month — six months for the Beginner level, six for the Intermediate level, and eight for the Advanced level. If, however, you wish to take longer to go from one level to the next, you can stay on a particular routine longer — e.g., six weeks or two months — which would ultimately expand this into a 30- or 40-month program. Generally speaking, however, I recommend that you change your exercises at least every six weeks; otherwise, your muscles start adapting to the particular movement and your progress slows.

You also have the option of going to a certain level of difficulty in this program and electing not to train any harder. For example, you may want to work up to the intensity of Month 12, the end of the Intermediate level, and no further. It’s totally up to you. What we are giving you here is a tried and tested program which is guaranteed to give you exciting results if you follow it and really apply yourself. But you are the one doing the work, you know what you want, how far you seek to go with your bodybuilding, how much time, energy and dedication you have to apply to this, etc. So ultimately you are the one who has to decide exactly what you want to do and accomplish. My role is simply to provide you with some direction and whatever expertise I’ve been able to acquire in the 50 plus years I’ve been a bodybuilder.

Should any exercises in these routines be uncomfortable or dangerous to do because of some sort of physical impairment you have, please substitute another exercise for the same body part which will not aggravate the condition. There is a tremendous variety of exercises available for any body part, as you know if you have seen or read my book, Keys to the Inner Universe, so there’s absolutely no reason to be doing some particular exercise that aggravates a back problem, a weak knee or whatever condition you may have simply because you see it in a workout routine somebody put together.

If you are a fairly experienced or even advanced bodybuilder accustomed to much high training loads than we have prescribed in the initial workouts here, don’t worry! My suggestion would be: Take a break from the higher workload you’ve been doing, start back in at this lower level, and progressively build back up. Believe me, soon enough in this program the workload will increase to a level which you will find more than challenging — regardless of your training background.

One last note, in this initial routine and all the others during the first 10 months, you will train your entire body in each workout. But starting with Month 11, which will be the latter part of the Intermediate phase, we’ll switch to a split routine in which you will train half your body in one workout, the other half in the next one.

Medical Warning and Disclaimer

Please get a physical before starting any of the programs at billpearl.com, especially if you are overweight, have not exercised for a while, have had any health problems or if there is any history of health problems. We also recommend that you then visit your doctor on a regular basis while training and report any problems to your doctor.

Should any exercises in these routines be uncomfortable or dangerous to do because of some sort of physical impairment you have, please substitute another exercise for the same body part which will not aggravate the condition. There is a tremendous variety of exercises available for any body part, as you know if you have seen or read my book, Keys to the Inner Universe, so there’s absolutely no reason to be doing some particular exercise that aggravates a back problem, a weak knee or whatever condition you may have simply because you see it in a workout routine somebody put together.

billpearl.com and/or any associates are not prescribing any kind of treatments with these programs.

Exercise Sets/Reps
1. Thigh Extension on Leg Extension Machine 3 sets of 12 reps
2. Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press 3 sets of 12 reps
3. Standing Dumbbell Upright Rowing 3 sets of 12 reps
4. Close Grip Straight Arm Lat Pulldown 3 sets of 12 reps
5. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets of 12 reps
6. Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl 3 sets of 12 reps
7. Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl 3 sets of 12 reps
8. Heel High Sit-Up 3 sets of 10-30 reps
9. Flat Bench Leg Pull-In 3 sets of 10-30 reps
1. Thigh Extension on Leg Extension Machine
Muscle Group: Lower thighs
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Sit at the end of a leg extension machine placing the top part of your ankles and feet under the lower foot pads. Back up far enough on the seat to keep the end of the seat against the rear of your knees. Hold on to the seat with both hands just behind your buttocks. Point your toes slightly downward. Inhale and raise the weight stack until your legs are parallel with the floor. Return to starting position and exhale. Keep your upper body in a fixed position during the exercise.

Thigh Extension on Leg Extension Machine
Thigh Extension on Leg Extension Machine
2. Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press
Muscle Group: Outer pectorals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie in a supine position on a flat bench with your legs positioned at the sides of the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Using a hand grip that is about six inches wider than your shoulder width, bring the barbell to arm’s length above the chest but in line with the shoulders. Lower the barbell to a position on the chest that is about an inch below the nipples of the pectorals. Note from figure 1 that the elbows are back and the chest is held high. Inhale as the barbell is lowered to the chest and exhale as you push the barbell back to arm’s length. Do not relax and drop the weight on the chest but lower it with complete control making a definite pause at the chest before pressing it back to starting position. Keep the head on the bench and do not arch the back too sharply as to raise your hips off the bench.

Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press
Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press
3. Standing Dumbbell Upright Rowing
Muscle Group: Front deltoids and trapezius
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Use a dumbbell in each hand held at arm’s length against your upper thighs. You should keep the dumbbells about ten inches apart during the exercise and have your thumbs facing each other. Inhale and pull the dumbbells straight up until they are nearly even with your chin. You must keep the elbows out to the sides and in the top position the elbows will be nearly as high as your ears. Keep the weights in close to the body and pause momentarily at the top. Concentrate as you lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Inhale up and exhale down.

Standing Dumbbell Upright Rowing
Standing Dumbbell Upright Rowing
4. Close Grip Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
Muscle Group: Lats
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Place your hands on a lat machine bar about eight inches apart. Step back away from the lat machine until you are supporting the weight stack with your arms while they are extended in front of you about to the height of your head. Inhale and pull the bar straight down keeping your arms locked until the bar touches the top of your thighs. Return to starting position and exhale.

Close Grip Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
Close Grip Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
5. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullover
Muscle Group: Pectorals and rib cage
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie supine on a flat bench with your head as close to the end of the bench as possible. Place your hands flat against the inside plate of a dumbbell. With the dumbbell held at arm’s length above the chest, take a deep breath and lower the dumbbell in a semicircular motion over the chest and head to a position behind your head that brings no discomfort to the shoulder area. From this position, return the dumbbell to starting position, still keeping the elbows in a locked position. Exhale as you reach the starting position. Keep the head down, your chest held high, breathe deeply and do not raise your hips off the bench.

Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullover
Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullover
6. Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl
Muscle Group: Triceps
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Grasp one dumbbell with both hands and raise it overhead to arm’s length, vertical with the floor. As you are raising the dumbbell rotate your hands up and over until the top plates are resting in the palms of your hands while your thumbs remain around the handle. Stand erect with your back straight, head up and feet about sixteen inches apart. Keep your upper arms in close to the sides of your head during the exercise. Inhale and lower the dumbbell behind your head in a semicircular motion until your forearms and biceps touch. Return the weight to starting position using a similar path and exhale.

Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl
Standing Dumbbell Triceps Curl
7. Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
Muscle Group: Biceps
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Hold a barbell with both hands using a palms-up grip about eighteen inches apart. Stand erect with your feet about sixteen inches apart. With the barbell at arm’s length against your upper thighs, inhale and curl the bar up to the height of your shoulders keeping your back straight, legs and hips locked out. As you are lowering the bar back to starting position, do so in a controlled manner causing the biceps to resist the weight as much as possible. Exhale as you return to starting position.

Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
Standing Medium Grip Barbell Curl
8. Heel High Sit-Up
Muscle Group: Upper abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Lie on the floor and place your lower legs on top of a bench with your feet over the side. Position yourself close enough to the bench so your legs are at about a 45° angle. Put your hands behind your head and exhale as you pull your torso up as closely to your upper thighs as possible. Then you return to starting position and inhale. Do not swing your body up and down but concentrate on the abdominals and erectors to do the work.

Heel High Sit-Up
Heel High Sit-Up
9. Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
Muscle Group: Lower abdominals
Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate

Lie on a flat bench with your legs off the end of the bench. Place your hands under your buttocks with your palms facing down. With your legs held straight in front of you, inhale and bend your knees while pulling your upper thighs into your midsection. Return to starting position and exhale. Concentrate on your lower abdominals during the exercise. Note that your lower legs are parallel to the floor at the halfway point of the exercise.

Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
Training Suggestions for Month 1
  • For best results, do this routine three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Use the off days for rest and recuperation, which your body will need, particularly if you’re new to weight training.
  • Your weekly progression should be as follows:
    • Week 1: One set and minimum reps (i.e., the suggested number of reps unless there is a range).
    • Week 2: The suggested sets and medium reps (where a range is indicated).
    • Week 3 and 4: Full sets and reps.
  • In the case of the two abdominal exercises included in this routine, start each exercise with the minimum number of reps and add a few reps at each workout until you reach the maximum number.
  • How much weight should you use in these various exercises? Use as much weight as is comfortable for the reps indicated. The last rep should feel difficult, but should NOT be an all-out effort.
  • As you continue training and your strength improves, the poundages you’ve been using will feel easy. Whenever you reach that point, increase the poundage until the last rep is difficult again.
  • Always keep accurate records of your exercises, sets and reps from workout to workout, week to week, month to month. This will enable you, among other things, to keep track of your progress from one poundage to the next rather than making the whole process haphazard. Don’t get caught up in always trying to top yourself from workout to workout. Remember what we said earlier: The last rep should feel difficult but should not be an all-out effort.
  • Concentrate on correct form when doing each exercise.
  • Inhale as you lower the weight and exhale forcefully on the exertion phase of the movement.
  • Rest for 30 seconds to two minutes between sets. If you feel pain or need any kind of help during your workout, check with a trainer (if one is available).
  • Of course, you should always consult with a physician before undertaking a training program to ensure that you have no health problems which could make training dangerous for you.
Do Not Train to Failure

People ask me why I don’t believe in training to failure at a time when the popular notion in bodybuilding is that the only way to make maximum progress is to always go for that last impossible rep (in other words, train to failure). I tell them the answer is quite simple: If you do a workout of, say, nine exercises, three sets per exercise, and in each set you go to failure, which means you couldn’t complete the last rep, what you have done in these 27 sets is trained yourself to fail 27 times! That doesn’t sound like success in my book.
My approach to training has always been to push yourself in your workouts, but do not train to failure! The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible or unachievable. And I’ve always been a great believer that you should leave the gym each day feeling like you had a great workout but you’ve still got a little bit left in the gas tank, so to speak. Because if you don’t leave the gym with the feeling of having something in reserve, you will sooner or later reach a point where your training begins to seem so hellish and burdensome, you will either start missing workouts or stop training altogether. And then where is your progress?
So speaking from experience, I urge you: Train hard, yes, but not to failure. Complete what you start — and that means every rep. I believe that this approach will not only ensure that you’ll stay with your training program year after year (obviously training longevity is a very important aspect of all of this) but you’ll also make the greatest progress. Why? Because you’ll be training yourself for success in each and every rep, set and workout. Your training will be a positive rather than negative experience. And you’ll be much more likely to keep your enthusiasm high and to avoid injury, overtraining and mental burnout.

Terms of Usage

Bill Pearl grants individuals the right to print and use this program for their own personal use. All content and graphics are copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form other then outlined in the previous sentence.

Editor’s Note

Bill Pearl, 84, is a four-time Mr. Universe and author of the best-selling bodybuilding books, Legends of The Iron Game, Keys to the Inner Universe, Getting Stronger, and Getting in Shape. He has personally coached more major contest winners than anyone else in history. At his own peak as a bodybuilder when he last won the Universe in 1971 at age 41, he weighed 242 pounds at a height of 5’10” and his arms measured 21 inches!

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