If you’re an absolute novice in the weight room, don’t panic. All of the hulking, sweating bodies you see before you were, too, at some point or another. If you’re searching for a primer that covers all the basics you need to know—like lifting and eating for muscle vs strength, how to incorporate cardio to build muscle and torch fat, and an overall plan to get you the desired result you’re looking for, read How to Build Muscle: The Basic Guide for Beginners.
We’ve also got a beginner’s workout to ease you into a training program without shocking your body as this can cause stretch marks and increase your risk for injury. This routine is based on compound lifts, meaning the movement requires multiple joints to move the weight. “By using more muscles, compound movements create a more pronounced response from the muscle and a greater secretion of muscle-building hormones,” says Josh Bryant, MS. “In a nutshell, your body has to work harder to do these movements, which expedites strength gains, muscle building, and fat loss,” he adds.
Note: If you’ve never lifted before, start entirely with bodyweight first to perfect your form and technique. Some of these moves are bodyweight only, but for those that aren’t, grab super-light weights (we’re talking 5lb) and practice. Some of these moves will require a barbell, or at least you’ll progress to using one with the squat and pressing movements; grab a broomstick or PVC pipe to test the moves first.
Once you’re comfortable with this, move on to just the bar. Don’t be afraid to ask a trainer in your gym for a spot, some pointers, and an eye to make sure you’re doing everything correctly from the get-go. Watching tutorials and reading up on training mistakes and how-tos will also be tremendously helpful. Lucky for you our site is dedicated to helping you along the way.
The grouped exercises should be performed consecutively. The indicated rest should be taken after the superset or tri-set is completed. (So, for the first superset, you do five reps of squats and immediately do five reps of pullups then back to five reps of squats until you’ve done five sets of five reps of both. THEN, rest two minutes.) Do this workout 2 to 3 days a week on non-consecutive days for 2-3 months, increasing the weight as you get stronger. Rest and do light exercise on your days off.
1A. Squats 5×5 reps (Perform a full bodyweight squat to start, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the ground. You can add dumbbells or a kettlebell, and these variations as you progress.)
1B. Pullups 5×5 reps (Do assisted pullups with resistance bands or lat pulldowns if you can’t lift your bodyweight. Remove the bands as you progress, then add weight.)
-rest 2 minutes-
2A. Bench Press 3×6-8 reps (Start with dumbbells. Lie on the bench and hold the weights just above your shoulders, palms facing out. Press the weights up in an arc so they meet and nearly touch overhead. As you progress, move up to the bar. Lie on the bench with your eyes looking directly at the bar. Using a shoulder-width grip, pull your shoulder blades together and arch your back. Squeeze tightly and pull the bar out of the rack, then hold it in position above your chest. Use a spotter to help guide you! Inhale, lower the bar (just below your pecs), keeping your elbows tucked in at your sides, and when the bar touches your body, drive your feet into the floor to press the weight back up.)
2B. Bent-Over Rear Delt Dumbbell Flye 3×12 reps (Using light dumbbells, bend your knees a bit and hinge at the hips so you’re bent over. Hold the weights by your shins, palms facing one another, then raise your arms out to the side. Squeeze your shoulder blades and hold this contracted position for one second.)
-Rest 2 minutes-
3A. Overhead Press Standing 2×5 reps (Grab a pair of dumbbells and position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With your palms facing out, holding the dumbbells by your chest, exhale and press the weights overhead. Inhale as you lower. Work up to using a barbell.)
3B. Lying leg Curl 2×5 reps (Adjust the machine to your height and lie facing down so the pad is resting on the backs of your calves. Grab the handles of the machine, exhale, and curl your legs up as far as you can. Hold the contracted position for a second, then inhale and release your legs.)
-Rest 2 minutes-
4A. Dumbbell Bicep Curls 2×10-12 (Stand straight with a dumbbell in either hand, arms relaxed and fully extended. With your elbows tucked in to your sides, rotate your hands so the palms face forward/up. Exhale and curl the weights up, keeping your upper arms still. Keep your reps strict and only lift with your biceps.)
4B. Skull Crushers 2×10-12 (Grasp an EZ curl bar with a close grip. Lie down on a bench and hold the bar with your elbows tucked in and arms extended. Inhale, then lower the bar by flexing your elbows and bringing the bar just above your forehead. Exhale as you bring it back to the start.)
4C. Planks 2×20 seconds (Come into a pushup position either on your hands or down on your forearms. Keep your core and glutes as tight as possible as you hold.)