This is a novice program designed for first year lifters. If you cannot bench 225×5, squat 315×5, and deadlift 405×5, then you are a novice lifter. NO QUESTIONS ASKED! I don’t care if you’ve been training for 1, 2, 3, 4, or even 5 years. If you don’t have these numbers, you don’t have a foundation, and following a program that is more advanced than this is only going to hinder results. So leave your ego out the door, and prepare to make the best gains of your entire life. The good news is that it will only take you 6-12 months at the absolute max.
Box Squat 3/5×4-6
Floor Press or Pause Bench 3/5×4-6
Pendlay Row 3/5×4-6
Overhead Barbell Extension 3×6-10
Barbell/Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3×6-10
Stiff-Legged Deadlift/Good Morning 2-3×6-10
Weighted Plank 3×30-60s
Box Squat 3/5×4-6
Paused Overhead Press 3/5×4-6
Trap-Bar Deadlift 2×4-6
Close-Grip Bench Press 3×6-8
Weighted Chin-up 3×3-5
Weighted Plank 3×30-60s
The Alpha Destiny Novice Program Q&A
How often do I follow this program?
You train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You take weekends off.
Each time you train, you alternate between the two workouts. So for week 1 you would do A,B,A, and week 2 would be B,A,B. This process would continue forever.
How long should I rest between sets?
The lower the better, but as a general rule it should be 2-5 minutes for the major compound movements, and 1-2 minutes for the accessory work.
Can I add some extra accessory work or change some of the exercises?
DO NOT MODIFY ANYTHING IN THE PROGRAM UNLESS SPECIFIED!
Is this a powerlifting program?
This program is NOT A RAW POWERLIFTING PROGRAM. It is a general strength and conditioning program DESIGNED FOR RECREATIONAL LIFTERS. However, your strength will still be very similar to a powerlifter, and if, after competing the program you decide to transition to powerlifting, making the switch will be extremely easy for you.
As a general guideline, you can move onto an intermediate program once you can box squat 315×5, bench press 225×5, and deadlift 405×5 (will have to test that on your own time). Depending on anthropometry and genetics, these standards will either be slightly lower, or slightly higher. Either way, since this is a linear progression program, you want to milk it for all it’s worth. That also means your linear progress can tap out before hitting these numbers, so keep that in mind. If you don’t like low exercise selection and basic linear progression, you may need something else.
How do I make progress?
For the major compound exercises, you’re either doing sets of 3 or 5. You never do sets of 4, for reasons that are much too complicated for this section. It’s one or the other, no questions asked.
If doing 3 sets, the total amount of reps should add up to 15-18. The manner in which the reps add up to 15-18 does not matter as long as you are still within the rep range. If doing 5 sets, the reps should add up to 25-30. Still, the method in which you achieve 25-30 reps is irrelevant as long as you stick within the rep range. Once you hit the desired total amount of reps (15-18 or 25-30) you will increase weight. For squats, this will be 5-10lbs per progression, deadlifts 10-20lbs per progression, and bench press 5-10lbs per progression. Obviously, the stronger you become, the smaller the jumps in weight. Nonetheless, if you reach the desired sets/reps, make sure to add weight the next workout. Never repeat the same weights if you’ve already mastered them. You’re looking for constant linear progression.
By the way, if you can handle performing all sets, go with it. However, if it is impeding your ability to recover or is causing you to stall, only perform the minimum amount of sets needed for all exercises. Ex: 3 sets vs. 5 sets is not a big deal. (In the end, it will only make a small difference)
What do I do when I stall?
Very simple. First, identify which exercise you are stalling in. Then, you subtract 10% of that weight and build back up from there. You are more likely to experience stalls if you are under-recovered (not eating and sleeping enough) or if you are nearing the intermediate phase. Another option is to use microplates (1-2.5lbs), which allows for very small progression.
What if I’m an intermediate on my upper body but not the lower and vice versa?
Do I go to failure?
You should not be failing reps on this program. If you are, it’s because you’re not eating or sleeping enough. This is a properly designed program that when followed, should prevent most stalls.
Also, leave one rep in the tank, unless it’s your absolute last set.
Should I bulk or cut?
It really depends on where you stand. The further away you are from my standards, the more loose your nutrition can be. The truth is that novice lifters can recomposition their bodies fairly easily, particularly at a higher bodyfat percentage. However, if you notice that you’re having difficulties recovering from a workout, it might be a good idea to eat at maintenance or slight caloric surplus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, your nutrition will hold back how much muscle you can gain and how much fat you can lose in the future. You may need to learn about basic dieting and nutrition if this is a problem.
If I’m cutting can I change anything in the program?
If cutting, use the lowest amount of sets listed for all exercises. Possibly consider removing the accessories as well (depends on your recovery).
What equipment do you recommend?
All movements are to be done beltless, without wrist straps or knee sleeves. The only item I will accept are wrist wraps for benching but even at that they are not necessary one bit.
Can I do one rep maxes on this program?
Can I do exercises with bands and/or chains?
No, everything must be straight weight.
Can I free-squat instead of box squat?
If you don’t have a box/bench/platform/object to sit on, then you really don’t have any other options. Otherwise, squat off a box. It will allow you to recover better than a free-squat, give you less knee pain, develop explosiveness, provide immediate deadlift carryover, and strengthen the posterior chain like you’ve never seen before. Plus, your depth will be below parallel 100% of the time.
How do I box squat?
Do I squat with a low bar or high bar style, and how close should my foot stance be?
Use a high bar style, ensuring that the scapula is fully retracted, the elbows are down, and the bar is NOT resting on your neck.
For your foot stance, it should be on the wider side. Not only does this give you far better leverages than a close stance squat, but it will also strengthen your hips and have direct performance carryover to all forms of leg athleticism.
Can I do front squats?
You may only front squat if you choose to once you can back squat 275×5. At that point, you can replace back squats for front squats ONLY on Wednesdays (ideally on the B day).
Can I squat in the smith machine?
NEVER under any circumstances squat in the smith machine. I’d rather you quit squats completely than to resort to that style.
Why floor press? Shouldn’t beginners bench press instead?
Why should they bench press if they are already doing overhead press, close-grip bench press, and overhead extensions? All these exercises are harder than a bench press, and will build it automatically. Therefore, it’s smart to include floor pressing to train what these exercises cannot do as well, which is the ability to develop complete dead-stop strength. Not even pause pressing can achieve the benefits that floor pressing gives you (It has to do with physics).
But Alex, I literally cannot floor press! What now?
You mean you don’t have access to a power rack? Well, you should consider switching gyms, but if you really can’t here’s some other options. As a novice, anything under 225lbs should be easy to hip thrust, so if you can use that to unrack the weight there shouldn’t be a problem. Another option is to stack boxes and use them as an unracking tool. Finally, you can have a spotter deadlift the bar thus setting it in the correct starting position. If none of these options appeal to you due to safety or psychology, then just do flat bench press instead (paused). Do what is most convenient for you.
What about the upper chest? Won’t it lag if there aren’t any incline presses?
There is no need for upper chest work. The overhead presses done with a pause (off the chest) will do more than enough to hypertrophy those upper pecs. As a matter of fact, once you reach the intermediate stage your incline press will automatically be very strong.
Besides, a novice lifter does not have lagging body parts, because their ENTIRE body is weak. Therefore, they need not perform incline presses if they’ve not even developed a basic foundation of mass and strength. Worry about lagging body parts once you reach the intermediate stage.
Do I have to do overhead extensions?
You should, because it’s the best way to hit the long head of your triceps, which is the meatiest part and gives the most mass to your arm. Why do flat extensions or standard skullcrushers which emphasize medial and lateral head? Overhead is much better.
Can I do my extensions with dumbbells?
Sure, but I’d prefer you use a bar if you don’t experience elbow pain.
Can I replace extensions for weighted dips?
Can I add extra trap exercises to the program?
No, your traps will grow just fine from heavy deadlifts and rows. Once you have a foundation then you should start isolating. Doing heavy shrugs and overload training will negatively impact your recovery, especially since the workload is already high enough.
What if I can’t do weighted chin-ups?
If not strong enough to do weighted chin-ups, either perform slow negatives on bodyweight chin-ups, or lat pulldown/assisted chin-ups. You can also do pullups with bands.
I don’t have a trap bar. Now what?
You can do 1×5 Conventional, I have no problem with you doing it.
Trap Bar Low or High Handle?
Whatever you prefer. If using high handle, you will lift about 40-60lbs more than your conventional. Therefore, the strength standard increases to about 455-475×5. If using low-handle, you’re probably intermediate if you can do anymore between 385-425×5. At any rate, once your linear progress ceases that means you’re no longer a novice, and this can occur in both styles.
What about the Behind the Back Deadlift (hack deadlift)?
I thought about it, and yes I would approve of you doing this exercise. The benefits are similar to the trap-bar deadlift and it is very much like a conventional pull. If doing hack style, make sure it’s 1×5.
What about sumo deadlift? Is that fine?
Not my #1 choice because the wide box squats already take care of these muscles. In general strength programs like this one, we always want contrast in exercises. But if you really want to do it, be my guest.
What about Jefferson deadlifts?
No problem. Do the standard 2×4-6 reps. One set left leg, the other right.
What about snatch grip deadlifts?
Too taxing on recovery, so no.
What about pulling off 2-4 inch blocks?
I’d consider that a last resort for people with lower back issues. If you do that, follow 2×4-6
Can I do rack pulls instead of deadlifts (or add them)?
No, do deadlifts. You’ll have more than enough time to rack pull when you’re intermediate.
Should I do good mornings or stiff-legged deadlifts?
Both will work fine. Choose the one that you personally prefer in terms of strength development and safety.
What about reverse hypers, can I do them in this program?
Sure thing, if your gym has one then make use of it. Either add it at the end of both workouts, or simply replace the good mornings/stiff-legged deadlifts. Your choice.
If my shoulders hurt, can I do extra work for them?
Rotator Cuff and/or Rear Delt work can be added.
Where’s the ab exercises?
There’s weighted planks to assist in intra-abdominal pressure, and you may also do extra ab work if you feel that it is necessary for whatever reason. Plus, because everything in this program is done beltless on heavy compound movements while using the valsalva maneuver you should be fine.
Do I have to do weighted planks, or is there another substitute?
If you really don’t want to do them for whatever reason, such as not having a person that could put plates on your back safely or possessing a timer, then yes there are some substitutes.
Your best bet would be hanging leg raises off a bar, as this will traction the spine while developing the abs. Another option would be to do standing cable/band crunches, as this will help you with your squats and deadlifts. 3×10-20 works best for both. Weighted crunches (not situps) are another choice.
Should I do anything on my off days, like GPP?
No GPP, because the volume of this program is high enough. Mobility work, and low intensity cardio is fine though.
I am extremely busy, can I do this program twice a week and still make gains?
Yes, you won’t see much of a difference by training 2 or 3 times a week. You might only lose 10-15% of gains.
I don’t want chicken calves or a pencil neck. Can I train them at the end of the program?
Can I add additional forearm work?
Absolutely not. That’s overkill seeing as you’re doing tons of indirect forearm and grip work.
Does this program really work?
Of course. Thousands of people have had great success with it, just read some of the testimonials in this comment section.