Articles  >  Weightlifting Program Design
Sample Bodybuilding Work for Weightlifters
Greg Everett
August 8 2016

I posted an article about if, when, why and how to incorporate bodybuilding work into a weightlifting program recently, and we got a number of questions about what exercises for what body parts and how exactly to put it all together, so here we go.
First, have a plan—by that I mean at least a loose outline of what you want to achieve, the schedule, and exercise groups. You don’t need to know beforehand exactly what you’re doing each day in terms of sets and reps, and even exact exercises—in fact, it’s almost preferable not to. This keeps it a bit fresher and more engaging, and variation is an important element of beach work.
Create collections of exercises organized according to the basic movement type rather than thinking in terms of body parts as would normally be done in bodybuilding. This was some of the best advice I ever got with regard to training as a young lad from a powerlifter named Chuck in southern California, and then it was reinforced a few years later by Joe Kenn in his book The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook.
The simplest organization is upper body push, upper body pull, and legs. We can break it down further by separating each upper body group into vertical and horizontal. For example, pull-ups and presses would be vertical pulling and pushing, and bent rows and bench presses would be horizontal pulling and pushing, respectively. It’s a good idea to get a balance of horizontal and vertical movements.
Legs can be split into pushing and pulling as well—pushing would be squatting-type movements, or ones that emphasize the quads (squats, lunges, split squats, step ups, leg extensions, etc.), while pulling would be pulling-type movements, or ones that emphasize the hamstrings and glutes (stiff-legged deadlifts, RDLs, good mornings, GHRs, leg curls, etc). Obviously with legs there is some crossover, and depending on how exactly they’re performed, many “pushing” leg exercises may emphasize the posterior chain more than the quads—just figure out what you need and want and do them accordingly). Of course, by its nature, weightlifting is already going to supply a lot of leg work, so generally there is much less of a need for additional beach work for the legs than for the upper body—usually doing a unilateral leg exercise once weekly is enough along with some SLDLs or good mornings.
Once weekly for each movement group for a weightlifter is plenty—one day each for upper body push, upper body pull, and legs. You might throw in another day that’s more arm and shoulder focused in addition to your basic upper body push/pull days, or you can add some related arm work on the appropriate day—for example, on your upper body push day, you can do some more anterior/lateral delt work like upright rows or flyes and some tricep work like DB extensions; on your upper body pull day, you can throw in some curls, wrist curls, etc.
Following are my favorite exercises for each movement group. There are plenty more out there, so have a look around and experiment, and remember to choose the exercises that work best for you, not for anyone else. For example, skullcrushers are a great exercise, but they give me instant tendinitis, so I don’t do them no matter how huge they make other peoples’ triceps.
Upper Body Push
  • Press
  • Incline bench press
  • Push-up
  • Dip
  • Upright row
  • Dumbbell lateral flye
  • Dumbbell front raise
Upper Body Pull
  • Pull-up
  • Chin-up
  • Bent row
  • T-Bar row
  • Low cable row
  • Dumbbell row
Arms Pull
  • Barbell/EZ Curl
  • Dumbbell curl (regular, supinating, hammer)
  • Barbell wrist curls/extensions
Arms Push
  • Close-grip bench press
  • Skullcrusher
  • Dumbbell tricep extension (supine or standing overhead)
Leg Push
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Lunge
  • Step-up
  • Split squat
  • Calf raise
Leg Pull
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • RDL
  • Good morning
  • Glute-ham raise
Sample Week
Following are two sample weeks—one with 3 days and one with 4 days of beach work covering all movement groups. These also assume that the program has plenty of pulls and probably at least one day with SLDL, RDL or good morning in it.
3 Days/Week
Day 1
  • Press – 5x8-12
  • Incline bench press – 3x10-15
  • Upright row – 3x10-15
Day 2
  • Pull-ups – 5x8-12 (or 50 total reps)
  • Dumbbell row – 3x10-15
  • Curls – 3x10-15
Day 3
  • Step-up – 3x8-12
  • Calf raise – 3x15-30
4 Days/Week
Day 1
  • Bench press – 5x8-12
  • DB press – 3x10-15
Day 2
  • T-bar row – 5x8-12
  • Lat pulldown – 3x10-15
Day 3
  • Close-grip bench press
  • EZ curl
  • Barbell wrist curl/extension
Day 4
  • Bulgarian split squat – 4x8-12
  • Calf raise – 3x15-30
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August 9 2016

I am on a 4 day/week olympic lifting cycle that focuses on the classic lifts with plenty of squatting also, but since I have limited time to train I wanted to try and incorporate 2 days of BB exercises as accessory work. If you only had 2 days to do these exercises what would be the most important exercise to fit into those days?
Those from the first two categories (upper body push and pull).

Greg Everett
Aaron Schwendiman
August 9 2016
Greg - I meant to say "what exercises (multiple) would be the most important to fit into those days" from my comment below.
October 10 2020
I am a 5 day a week master athlete, but my strength lacks from my younger years. What resource can i go to on your site to help me build strength through accessory work?