I’m Dr. Kristy Appelhans, M.S., N.M.D., Sr. Director, Post-Market Medical Surveillance.

I’m also a professional competitive bodybuilder and currently training Denise for her first competition.

Everything I know about starting a bodybuilding journey I’ve shared with Denise, and now I’m sharing that knowledge with you.

Remember: Fitness is a lifestyle. Goals are achieved through a cumulative effort and they don’t happen overnight. Each day is important in bringing you that much closer to your goal.

Good luck!



Kristy Appelhans
Sr. Director, Global Post-Market Medical Surveillance



Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises
Compound exercises: the emphasis is on working multiple muscle groups at once: e.g., squats (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles); push-ups (triceps, chest, shoulders); wide-grip lat pulldowns (biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids).

Isolation exercises: the majority of emphasis is on one muscle group: e.g., bicep curls (biceps); tricep extensions (triceps); leg extensions (quadriceps); leg curls (hamstrings).

It’s All About Symmetry
In bodybuilding, it’s very important to fully develop each muscle group since one of the judging criteria is a symmetrical physique. This means that the sizes of the different muscle groups should be proportional to each other and symmetrically developed. Therefore, both compound and isolated movements are necessary to make sure that each muscle group is optimally challenged.

Gradually Increase the Weight
A good starting point for general muscle building and conditioning includes a weight that you can execute for 12–15 repetitions, where the last 3–5 repetitions are very challenging to complete. Once you can easily perform the entire rep range, gradually increase the weight by about 5 pounds. You can make weight increases in a single workout, but don’t be discouraged if it takes your body several workouts to move past a new weight.

Your Body Decides the Workload
To start, try to attempt to perform about 2–3 sets per exercise and at least 3–4 exercises per body part/group worked. Listen to your body. Increase or decrease the workload to a point where you feel you can execute each movement with proper form and you do not feel excessively fatigued or unwell – some signs of overtraining or overexertion during a workout include racing heart rate, shakiness, dizziness, excessive pain, or nausea.

Rest = Recovery and Growth
It’s OK and often encouraged to be physically active on a daily basis. However, for muscle growth, it’s typically recommended to have at least 1–2 days of rest per week that don’t include weight training, and at least 1 day of rest where intense cardiovascular work is also excluded. The reason is that each muscle needs about 24–48 hours of recovery time after being stressed by exercise. Remember, it’s during rest that muscles recover and grow, not during exercise.

Balance Your Time
Most bodybuilders have jobs, families, and/or go to school – and some actually like to sleep and have a social life! This is why time management is extremely important. Bodybuilders will need to balance their days to achieve proper training, adequate sleep, calorie intake, and time for meal preparation, while still attending to their other responsibilities. This can be very demanding, but the more prepared and mindful you are of balancing your time, the more likely you are to stay motivated, focused and committed to your bodybuilding goals.


PHASE I: Basic Bodybuilding Training Program

Here’s a 3-day training program you can try yourself – remember to listen to your body and always use caution when lifting without a training partner.


Bicep barbell curls: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Overhead tricep dumbbell extension: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Standing bicep cable curl: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Tricep cable pushdown: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Concentration curl: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Dips: 3–4 sets of max reps*

Leg raises: 4–5 sets of 24 reps
Crunches: 4–5 sets of 25 reps
Oblique twists: 4–5 sets of 25 reps

Legs and Glutes
Lunges: 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps
Squats: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Leg curls: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Leg extensions: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Stiff-legged dead lifts: 3–4 sets of 10-12 reps
Glute kickbacks: 3–4 sets of 10 reps

Leg raises: 4–5 sets of 24 reps
Crunches: 4–5 sets of 25 reps
Oblique twists: 4–5 sets of 25 reps

Chest and Shoulders
Seated military press: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Flat bench press: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Incline bench press: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Lateral dumbbell raise: 3–4 sets of 10–12 reps
Dumbbell chest fly: 3–4 sets of 10–12 reps

Bent over dumbbell row: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
High row: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Seated close-grip row: 3–4 sets of 10 reps
Wide-grip lat pulldowns: 3–4 sets of max reps*

Leg raises: 4–5 sets of 24 reps
Crunches: 4–5 sets of 25 reps
Oblique twists: 4–5 sets of 25 reps

*Max reps are the most reps you can perform with stable control and good form.

Please consult a doctor if you have medical conditions that would compromise your ability to exercise. If you feel any discomfort during exercise, stop immediately.