Up until now I’ve talked about all sorts of training and nutrition tips, assuming that everyone who’s reading this stuff is into fitness already, and wants to learn new tricks to take their physique to the next level. However, you have to start somewhere, and I’m well aware that plenty of people hate the gym, or enjoy it but have no idea what they are doing.
For every fit bro out there, there’s probably at least ten more who hate the gym, and don’t make it a regular part of life. It’s unfair to assume that everyone who reads these articles is into fitness, so this is for all the beginners out there.
If you bros out there who don’t enjoy sharing a sweaty bench press with three other dudes in the gym, or for those who haven’t worked out much before and want to start, I’m here to help.
It can be confusing with endless resources and conflicting opinions on how you should be training, so we’re going to sort through and break it all down to the basics (rule of thumb: you probably shouldn’t be following muscle magazine workouts designed for 260lb, juiced up professionals).
If you are already in pretty good shape and have some training knowledge, then you might learn a few things here, but this isn’t really meant for you. This is for those of you who have recently decided to pursue an aesthetic and stronger physique, who have never worked regularly before, or have tried and given up.
As a beginner, you should be focusing on getting stronger at compound, multi-joint movements. These recruit the most muscle, get you strong everywhere, and will give you the quickest results.
We are going to be using a full-body, compound movement-based workout, 3 times per week. This gets you in and out without spending hours in the gym, you to repeat the same workout so you don’t have to overthink anything, and you’ll hit all the major muscle groups.
No need to worry about body part splits and isolation training until you have a solid foundation of strength to build on, otherwise you’re just isolating muscles that are too small and weak to even be seen. What do you think will result in a more impressive physique, increasing your chest flies from 20lbs to 40lbs, or increasing your bench press from 135lbs to 275lbs?
Okay, now onto the exercises. We want a horizontal push and pull, a vertical push and pull, a core exercise, a knee-dominant leg exercise, and a hip-dominant leg exercise. That’s it to cover the basic movements, everything else you may decide to add later on is just icing on the cake.
The following workout should be completed three times per week, with at least 48 hours in between for recovery. If you are busy, or really hate the gym, you can start by doing this twice a week, no problem. I would highly, highly recommend having a qualified professional teach you the movements if they are new to you. Get a session with a trainer, or grab one off the gym floor to spot you a few minutes at a time.
Start by doing the recommended repetitions; once you can hit the upper number, add 5-10lbs to your weight the next session. Aim for 5lb increases minimum each week if you are just starting out.
Begin each session with a good 5-10 minute warm-up, which should include lots of movement of all your joints, and something to elevate your heart rate. Rest 1 minute or so between sets, you don’t want to be in there all day.
Squat (Back, front, or goblet) 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Sumo Deadlift (OR barbell hip thrust) 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Chin-Ups (Or lat pulldowns if you can’t) 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions per side
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Cable Chops or Medicine Ball Chops 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions per side
Now, there are several ways you can break it up, but you really should focus on training full body movements and getting stronger at them. If you are really pressed for time, you can pair two exercises together, as long as they are opposite actions (push/pull), and do them without resting. Something like chin-ups, bench, rest, repeat.
If this is too much for one day, you can split this into upper body days, and lower body days. I would just add in two more lower body exercises, so you have four on each day – lunges and leg curls for example. Train your core both days.
Splitting it that way would look something like this.
Upper Body Day – Chin-Ups, Bench Press, Rows, Shoulder Press, Cable Chops
Lower Body Day – Squats, Sumo Deadlifts, Lunges, Leg Curls, Plank
I still like only three days a week for a beginner, so I’d alternate each week. One week do Upper, Lower, Upper, the next week Lower, Upper, Lower. If you really want to push it, you can do four days a week and just alternate workouts, but I wouldn’t recommend that until you are a few months in.
[Image via ShutterStock]