Bodybuilding Advanced vs Bodybuilding Intermediate

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Advanced versus Intermediate

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I recently received this email from a Natural Physique Systems reader.

Dear Steve,

You have an extremely impressive physique. I respect anyone who is able to obtain such a great combination of size, symmetry, and definition, while avoiding the temptation to use anabolic steroids. I have two questions for you. You may answer these questions directly to me, or even better, they would be interesting ideas for future articles on your website.

First off, though I am aware of how you train now, i.e., your training frequency, sets, reps, etc., I would like to know more about how you obtained your size in your earlier days of lifting. Did you train more frequently then? Did you do more or less sets and reps then than you do now? The answers to these questions would interest me as I am an intermediate level natural bodybuilder, and I am looking for the most effective routine for someone of my level.

Secondly, I would like to know what percentage of bodyfat that you think is most effective to maintain in the off-season. As a bodybuilder, I want to be maximizing my training results at all times, but as an egotistical male who began training to improve my appearance in the first place, I also want to look good more than one month out of the entire year. So how do you strike the balance between these two extremes?

With much respect,


Midwest Guru response: These are really good questions. Recognizing the difference between a beginner, advanced, and intermediate training level and classifying yourself in the appropriate category can mean all the difference in the world for making optimal gains.

When I was at an intermediate level, what I consider 3-5 years of lifting consitently, I *was* doing more volume work. My programs were hitting each body part more frequently than once per week. My sets would go as high as 16 for arms, 21 for back, and 13 for chest. I would train on a 3 on, 1 off program or a 4 on, 1 off program, where I divided my body parts over the on days. For example, on 3 on one off, I might do Day 1: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs. Day 2: Back, biceps, calves. Day 3: Legs. It really isn't crucial how you combine body parts. What is crucial is that you give each one the needed rest. For example, you wouldn't want to do chest on day one, and then shoulders or triceps on day two. The shoulders and triceps would have been secondarily hit during the chest workout and then directly trained again the following day. This will lead to overtraining very quickly.

As I advanced in my years of bodybuilding, my 4 on, 1 off program became 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off. This time I was dividing it up with a rest day in between my entire body cycle. This program eventually evolved to where I am today at 2 on 1 off, 2 on, 2 off. At this time, I am hitting each body part once per week except abs and calves which I do twice.

Monday: Chest, Triceps, abs. Tuesday: Back, calves. Wednesday: Off Thursday: Shoulders, Biceps, abs. Friday: Legs, (Quads, Hamstrins, calves) Saturday: rest Sunday: rest

I don't think I could have made gains on this program during my earlier stages. Especially not during the first two years of serious training. Beginners just need to hit the body parts more than once per week to stimulate them. As you learn how to more efficiently train your body and overload it as an advanced lifter, you need more recuperation time.

The body fat question is also a good one. I have always felt that the optimal percentage for gaining muscle is between 8-12%. If you want to be leaner in the off-season, then stay toward the lower end of that scale. You will look pretty darn good at 8%. If you are concerned with gaining as much weight as possible, then you will probably have to get near the top of that range. In my opinion, anything below 8% will hamper your muscle gains. You can easily go catabolic the leaner you get. Also, anything above 12% is just wasted blubber. You really don't need to get that high of a percentage to make optimal gains. It can actually hamper you by not allowing you to recuperate between sets as effectively and wasting extra energy carrying all of the extra fat around.

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