Backcycle to Build Muscle

Q: Just picked up a copy of Neo-Classical Bodybuilding, but it is definitely not geared to beginners. Any advice or routines for a beginner?



My Answer: Make no mistake: most of my programs and books are meant for intermediate to advance trainees.  I don’t dumb down my material for anybody.  I don’t make the workouts and exercises easy.  They are hard.  They are hard to perform, and they are hard to follow.

The Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph chapter found in Neo-Classical Bodybuilding is meant for beginners, so go with that.


Q: Hey, I just did 12 weeks of your Building On routine from a few articles ago. I achieved very good results and enjoyed the lifts. A lot different than a standard bodybuilder’s routine. 

I’m looking for something new now. I want to lift 4 days. Are you familiar with with Doug’s mass building routine?  I value your opinion as what you have said has worked for me. If you are not a fan of this can you suggest something else? I appreciate it. 



My Answer: Doug’s program looks like a good one to follow after the Building On routine.  The reason is that the Building On program is an abbreviated workout with very low volume.  In contrast Doug’s program is a high volume program, which will build more muscle.  Alternating between high volume and low volume programs is called “backcycling,” and it is an effective way to build muscle over time.  I cover this muscle building strategy in my book Strength and Physique: High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth.


Q: Hello, I was just reading an article you have on about strength training and would like to ask your advice. I am 43 and am on a diet through a hospital, because I gained quite a bit of weight. I am down 40 pounds (from 262 to 222) and am starting to work out. I have had 3 back surgeries and have a fusion in my spine. 

I want to do some strength training, because at this point I have virtually no upper body strength. I was wondering if you could tell me a good routine to get my strength built up and help progress the weight loss, since I have a fused back. I would imagine there are some things I can not do anymore like squats. 

Thanks for your time. 
-Rob Z.


My Answer: Your best bet is to do a mix of machine exercises and calisthenics: push-ups, inverted rows, hip bridges, body weight squats, etc. You don’t want to do any weight bearing exercises with barbells or dumbbells, as these exercises will stress your back more.  Just choose body weight and machine exercises that don’t cause you any pain.  Listen to your body and if you feel any pain, then nix that exercise from your program.

If you want to continue losing the weight, then focus on higher reps (10+) and short rest periods (30-60 seconds).


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