Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout Program Overview

Workout Program Section Links
12 Weeks of Workouts
Workout Program Overview
Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the Strength Foundation 12-week workout program, created by Devin Wicks (ACSM-HFI, USAW Club Coach), fitness operations director and premium strength coach at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Strength Foundation 12-week workout program kicks off on February 22 with the first two weeks of the program. Every week we will add another week of the program, for a total of 12 weeks of workouts designed to help you get up to full fitness. You can start with us in February, or, if you get a late start, just begin with week one.

This 12-week workout program is designed to provide you with a base level of strength and fitness that you can then build on with other programs, heavier lifting, or intense sports. Like the Strong and Lean 12-Week and Muscle-Building 12-Week workout programs, the Strength Foundation program focuses on the development of functional strength you can use in sports, athletics, and everyday living. It is, however, intended for those who have little to no experience in the gym; who haven’t worked out in a while; or who have never attempted a comprehensive fitness regimen. This program will get you started safely, and teach you everything you need to know to progress to more challenging workouts.

Of course, the program is designed to get you looking good—by encouraging intensive cardiovascular exercise to burn maximum fat, and by targeting all of the major muscle groups for size and definition. By the end of this program, you will be able to see new bulk in your muscles—and will have the skills to put on even more muscle going forward.

Learn Weightlifting Essentials: If you’ve never been a gym rat, or haven’t had anyone coach you in the gym, this program will take you through the basic strength exercises essential to any weightlifting program. Lunges, squats, curls, bench press—you will learn how to do all of these properly, and how to build strength within these exercises. You’ll be able to see progress as you work up to heavier weights, while you practice good form and weightlifting safety.

Improve Cardiovascular Health: Cardiovascular exercise is crucial to strength training—and far too often neglected by workout neophytes. Part of any fitness program is increasing your body’s efficiency and ability to sustain work over time. Your cardiovascular training is key to this—and to your long-term health. The Strength Foundation 12-Week workout program includes six days per week of cardio exercise. As part of your cardio, you’ll train sprints and work at your anaerobic threshold, where your body is forced to metabolically adapt to an intense workload. Your heart will get stronger, your resting heart rate will drop, your calorie burning will go through the roof, and your ability to sustain a difficult lifting program will improve as your body achieves greater efficiency.

Go Like Hell: The hardest part isn’t getting started—it’s keeping going. The Strength Foundation 12-week workout program provides you with structured workouts, manageable exercises, and clear goals. But it will also challenge you to push yourself hard and work through your plateaus. You’ll know what you’ve accomplished, and be able to see yourself progress toward more challenging exercises and heavier weight.

The Strength Foundation 12-week workout program is broken into three month-long segments, each with very clear objectives:
  1. Month 1: Base This month you focus on building a foundation—identifying major muscle groups, finding their limits, and learning how to test those limits without overdoing it; learning the basics of good form; and increasing cardiac efficiency through sustained cardiovascular exercise. The three days per week of strength training and six days per week of cardio will push you hard, but also leave you plenty of recovery time to rebuild new, stronger muscle.
  2. Month 2: Skill In the second month of the program you will work on improving your stability so that you can sustain a heavier weightlifting program. The Skill month introduces functional training—working the smaller stabilizing muscles in addition to large muscle groups, and asking the entire body to function as a unit. You’ll begin to use closed kinetic chain exercises, in which you use multiple muscle groups to lift and stabilize your body’s own weight. You’ll also increase the amount you’re lifting to stay on an upward strength trajectory.
  3. Month 3: Strength Now that you’ve laid a base and given it stability, you can start putting on some bulk. In this month you’ll start lifting every day, with one set of muscles recovering on the days the other muscles are lifting (so-called “splits”). You’ll add weight and lower the number of repetitions per set, so that you are asking your muscles to produce short, extreme bursts of power. For many exercises you’ll add an additional set to take yourself to the limits of your strength.
Wicks developed the Strength Foundation 12-Week workout program specifically for men who are new to working out, or who haven’t worked out in a while. You don’t need any expert knowledge, experience of the gym, or history of athleticism to start this program. The program is designed to be manageable—both in terms of exercises that you can easily learn to do correctly, and in terms of presenting a workload that, while challenging, won’t make you too sore to function. But the program is plenty tough, and it’s progressive, so that you take the strength gains of one month directly into the next, and then push yourself farther. While the program is designed for people starting out from scratch, it is also great for experienced gym-goers who want to focus on full-body muscle development.

Beginners: You should begin the program slowly and consider extending it beyond 12 weeks by repeating challenging weeks multiple times until you feel ready to move on to the next week. While some muscle soreness is a necessary part of any workout program, you shouldn’t increase your workload to the point of injury. There is no hard rule saying this program must be completed in 12 weeks. Listen to your body!

Intermediate and advanced users: The Strength Foundation workout program will help you fill in the gaps. Many people end up over or under-working certain muscle groups in self-designed lifting programs. And it’s easy to fall into a rut with your cardio, such that it no longer pushes your heart rate into a target range. This program is an opportunity to start over, making sure you develop all of your muscles evenly, and that you establish the strong core and cardiac efficiency necessary to support a heavy lifting regimen. Think of it as a cleansing program.

Athletes: Your sport may be particularly reliant on strength and speed in specific muscle groups. But this can lead you to over-train those muscles, and under-train the muscles you need to support them. The Strength Foundation workout program will ensure full body strength—and the stability and elasticity needed to prevent injury.

Remembering how and when to do each exercise in a new training program can stop you before you even start. We've included the following printable pages on each day of strength training so you can easily follow the Strength Foundation 12-week workout program.

The workout: Print the tabular workout plan including the name of the exercise, the muscles worked, your goal reps, weight target, and blank columns so you can bring it to the gym and fill in your actual reps and weight for future reference.

Exercise descriptions in brief: This table briefly describes each exercise so that you don't have to print out entire exercise descriptions before you head to the gym. For a more detailed description with photo demonstrations, click on the exercise name.

Exercise thumbnail photos: Since we know a picture is worth a thousand words, we included exercise thumbnail photos to help you remember how to do each exercise.

Always consult your doctor before you embark on any new exercise regimen. Your doctor can help you determine if you are healthy enough to take on a program like the RealJock Strength Foundation 12-week workout program.

About Devin Wicks: Devin Wicks (ACSM-HFI, USAW Club Coach) is the director of fitness operations for UC Berkeley, where he develops health and fitness programs for the campus community. Wicks also works as a conditioning specialist for Cal Athletics, where he has developed targeted training programs for several Olympic Gold Medal athletes. A Bay Area favorite, Wicks has been a mainstay in the local fitness industry teaching, training and consulting for several years. Currently, you can find him at Crunch Fitness. He has also presented and toured nationally, providing cutting-edge education for fitness industry professionals and enthusiasts alike.