Your First Workout Routine – A Beginners Workout

This article builds upon the basic training principles explained in “How To Design Your Own Workout Routine – Part 1 ” and goes more into depth regarding the Beginners Workout Routine at the end of the article.

In this article I will explain why I designed the beginners routine the way I did in more detail and how to go about following this routine in order to maximize your results.

The Routine

Day 1

  • Squats 5 x 12 (either weighted or using your bodyweight*)
  • Machine Row or Chin-Up* 5 x 12
  • Flat Barbell Bench Press or Wide-Handed Push-Up* 5 x 12

Day 2

  • Deadlifts or One Legged Romanian Deadlifts* 5 x 8
  • Lat-Pull Down or Pull-Up* 5 x 8
  • Incline Bench Press or Decline Push-Ups* 5 x 8

*Please note that with the bodyweight exercises recommendations for repetitions are only a very rough outline of what you will have to do in order for you to see results. As mentioned before putting in the effort is essential. So whilst you’ll probably be able to perform more than 12 Bodyweight Squats, doing 12 Chin-Ups on the other hand will exceed most beginners abilities. The key is, as always, to push yourself as far as you can without risking injury.


Some might critize that the overall amount of volume in this routine is not sufficient and for an intermediate or advanced athlete I would certainly say this is true.

However, studies have shown that 10 sets per muscle group per week is a good place to start, especially for beginners, according to hypertrophy and volume experts like Dr. Eric Helms, Dr. Mike Israetel and Jeff Nippard.

When jumping into a new routine it’s always advised to start with a smaller number of sets per week, so there’s still room to progress by increasing the total amount of work being done over time rather than running into overreaching or even overtraining straight away and not being able to progress further.

If you happen to find yourself not making any progress within the first 2-3 weeks following this program you can increase the volume slightly, for example by adding two sets of isolation work per day per bodypart.

On the other hand, if volume happens to be too much for you to recover from – which is more unlikely – I would recommened dropping two sets per day per bodypart.

Exercise Selection

Quite obivously there is only a very limited number of exercises utilised in this programm, all of which are compounds lifts.

This is due to their greater effect on overall muscle and strength development compared to isolation movements. This is not to say however, that isoltions don’t have a place in a well balanced workout routine.

Despite this fact I believe, that most of a beginner’s time spent in the gym should be focused on learning how to perform these big staples of strength training most effectively. This then will enable them to build a foundation for further strength and size gains in the future as quickly as possible.

Per day you are going to be performing three different exercises with 5 sets each, one for each major muscle group (legs, back and chest) similar to a 5×5 or a modified German Volume Training program.

Please note that not all of these sets should be taken to failure. Especially the first 2-3 sets are meant to give you the chance to nail your technique, tempo and get yourself in the zone. Only sets number 4 and 5 should be taken close to failure.

Rest Times Between Sets

For the rest time between sets I would advise to rest for at least 90 seconds and up to pretty much as long as you need to.

Studies have shown that longer rest times have a positive effect on gains in muscle size and strength and there’s no indication that shorter rest times are beneficial in that matter at all, especially when we’re talking about compund lifts.

So my advice is to take as long as you need between your sets and just focus on recovering so you can give it your absolute best every single time you step under that bar.

Rest days

Ideally you should rest for 2 days after every session for your first couple of weeks of training. Once you’ve become more advanced, you won’t require just as much recovery time anymore and you will be able to progress into the next phase of this program (briefly mentioned in the previous blog article which you can find here.)

In the beginning of your lifting career your body is not acclimatised to resistance training so it will have a greater impact on your muscles, meaning that the DOMs (“Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”, the pain that you experience after a tough session at the gym) will be worse than what a more experienced trainee might experience. Because of this reason longer rest times between sessions will help you to ease yourself into this lifestyle wihtout “suffering” too much.

As a consequence of this 1 day on – 2 days off schedule, which should be roughly in line with the laws of supercompensation, you would not be training on the exact same days every week if you want to maximize muscle hypertrophy, so it requires more flexibility than a “classic” approach where on Monday you would be hitting chest, on Tuesday Back etc., week after week, on the same days every week.

The Difference between Weight/Machine Training and Bodyweight Training

With this training plan it was of great importance for me that you could perform the workouts anytime, anywhere, whether you’re in or outside of the gym.

What you will have to keep in mind however is the following: Progressive Overload.

I’ve mentioned this in the post before and I’m going to mention it here again: Progressive Overload or “doing more over a certain period of time” is one of the key driving factors of muscle hypertrophy.

This means that in some way you will have to make the workout harder, typically by increasing the amount of weight used to perform a certain type of exercise for a given amount of sets and repetitions or by increasing sets and repetitions themselves without necessarily increasing the weight.

Now with the machine/weight based workouts it’s quite self explanatory what to do: You go heavier.

With the bodyweight workouts you will have to increase the amount of repetitions per set in order for you to make significant progress. And while for some, 12 Push-Ups might be a lot, for others it won’t be enough to provide a significant stimulus for growth, in which case said individual will have to perform more Push-Ups in a given set.

So please keep in mind that for the bodyweight exercises the number of repetitions is just a very rough guideline and you will have to find out for yourself what’s challenging for your body in order for you to make progress.

And I think this pretty much wraps it up for this one!

Thanks so much for reading!

In one of the following articles I will explain how to progress once you’ve followed this routine for your first couple of weeks of lifting.

If you have any constructive criticism for these articles or if you liked them please let me know.


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