12 Week Back-to-Basics Mass Building Plan

In a recent article we discussed the importance of compound movements; by systemically overloading your muscles you’re setting your body up for tremendous growth. Too often, we, as experienced trainees, tend to get away from principle movements and spend too much time on isolation exercises in an effort to refine certain body parts.

The following training plan is a “back to basics” plan focused on just this concept – big, heavy, compound movements.


  • Rest no more than 90 seconds between sets.
  • Incorporate linear periodization whereby reps are decreased in line with steady weight increases. The key here is to become continuously stronger in the 8-12 rep range.
  • One warm up set and three working sets are to be completed for all movements.
  • Take all working sets to maximal muscular failure – if needed, utilize rest pause at the end of each set to promote complete muscle failure.
  • Change no program variables other than the weight lifted for each movement (which should become progressively heavier to program completion).
  • Given this program’s emphasis on compound lifts, no direct abs/lower back work will be done.
  • Cardio is to be done HIIT style for 30 minutes three times per week before breakfast on an empty stomach

Free weights are to be employed almost exclusively. Quite simply, barbells and dumbbells require more effort to control and encourage a greater range of motion; thus using them to execute compound movements is a superior means to fully stimulate a larger number of muscle fibers. By contrast, machines, while often employed for varieties sake and useful when working around an injury, tend to lock the body into a fixed plane of resistance, which limits systemic stress and multiple muscle activation.

s/w = superset with

Download Mass Building Program

Monday – Cardio (AM) & Legs (PM)

  • Barbell (Back) Squats: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Walking Dumbbell Lunges: 4 sets of 25 reps
  • Leg Press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Lying Leg Curls: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Single Leg Extensions: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Seated Calf Raise: 4 sets of 15-20
  • Standing Calf Raise: 4 sets of 15-20

Tuesday – Chest & Triceps

  • Flat Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Dips: 4 sets of 8-12 (two sets of chest dips and two sets of triceps dips).
  • Cable Crossovers: 4 sets of 15-20
  • Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Rope Pressdowns: 4 sets of 8-12

Wednesday – Cardio

Thursday – Back & Biceps

  • Chins Ups: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Reverse Grip Bent-Over Barbell Rows: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Barbell Curls: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Spider Curls: 4 sets of 8-12

Friday – Cardio

Saturday – Shoulders

  • Standing Straight Bar Military Press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Behind the Neck Barbell Press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Side Laterals: 4 sets of 8-12 s/w Dumbbell Shrugs
  • Upright Barbell Rows: 4 sets of 8-12

Sunday – Rest


David Robson

A respected health and fitness writer, David has been published in industry publications such as Status Fitness Magazine, Muscle & Fitness and Bodybuilding.com. With 20 years in the personal training trenches, the insights he has gained through practical experience, alongside degrees in psychology and sports science, have enabled him to go beyond the surface to provide educational articles that have informed thousands of health and fitness devotees the world over. Contact David at: davidrobson19@hotmail.co.nz and at davidrobsonelite.com

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