The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine

Below you will find 2 versions of my own beginner workout routine that I most often recommend to beginners with any weight training goal (building muscle, losing fat, increasing strength, etc.).

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read my intro into beginner workouts and routines to confirm that you ARE indeed a beginner and to learn what the main guidelines and goals of a beginner workout routine truly are.

With that out of the way, let’s get to what you came here for. Here are the full details of the program I simply refer to as The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine.

The Schedule

The first thing you need to know about this program is what weight training split and weekly schedule it will use.

If you’ve ever read any article I’ve ever written about weight training frequency, splits/schedules or just beginners in general, then you definitely know what split we’re going to be using.

I’m of course talking about the 3 day full body split, which is by far the most highly proven and often recommended workout schedule for beginners with any goal.

The specific type of full body split that this workout routine will use is commonly referred to as an alternating “ABA BAB” format.

You probably have no idea what that means, but you will when you see it written out…

Week 1

  1. Monday: Workout A
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout B
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout A
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Workout B
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

See, even though there are 3 workout days per week, there’s just 2 actual workouts.

The first is the “A” workout and the second is the “B” workout. Then you just alternate between them each workout. Meaning, you end up doing ABA one week, and then BAB the next, and so on.

Makes sense now, right? Good.

I will also mention that the exact days of the week you choose really doesn’t matter at all as long as the same every-other-day format is kept intact with 2 consecutive days off at the end.

That’s pretty much all there is to say about the split and schedule itself. Now let’s get to the workouts…

The Workouts: Version 1

Before you see the workouts, let me prepare you in advance by saying that they are probably going to seem a little strange looking to many people. You’ll probably think it’s WAY too little, or WAY too simple and basic.

Well, if you think any of those things, then it’s pretty obvious that any beginner workout routine you’ve seen before this was likely pretty damn horrible.

How do I know? Because some variation of the workouts you are about to see is what’s proven to be most ideal (and most often recommended) for beginners with virtually any goal.

Even if you might not think it is, and even if what you’ve seen before is very different. Trust me. This is what works best for beginners. All research, real world experience and expert recommendations support some form of what you’re about to see.

Having said that, here are the workouts…

Workout A

  1. Squats
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Bench Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Rows
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.

Workout B

  1. Deadlifts
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Pull-Ups (or Lat Pull-Downs)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Overhead Shoulder Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.

As you can see, it’s the most basic and important compound exercises put together in a way that ensures perfect balance, sufficient frequency and recovery, and low volume.

This is all PERFECTLY ideal for beginners, and this is what will allow for the fastest progression and the best overall weight training results.

Now to answer any questions you may have about this workout routine…

Details and clarifications for Workout A:

  • The “A” workout is a quad dominant leg exercise (squats), a horizontal push (bench press), and a horizontal pull (rows).
  • Squats are definitely recommended, but leg presses could be used in their place if necessary.
  • For the bench press, a flat barbell bench press is recommended, but a flat dumbbell bench press can work too. Use a spotter whenever possible/necessary.
  • For the row, pick any one you want. Bent over barbell or dumbbell rows, seated cable rows, chest supported machine rows. It’s all fine.

Details and clarifications for Workout B:

  • The “B” workout is a hip/ham dominant leg exercise (deadlifts), a vertical pull (pull-ups/pull-downs), and a vertical push (overhead press).
  • For the deadlift, a conventional deadlift would probably be most often recommended for beginners, but a Romanian deadlift (or straight legged deadlift) could be used instead if necessary.
  • Pull-ups are recommended for the vertical pull, but if you can’t do them yet, lat pull-downs or some form of assisted pull-up would be a suitable replacement.
  • For the overhead press, any type of seated overhead shoulder press is fine (seated barbell press, seated dumbbell press, whatever).

Now here’s how to make it all work.

Focus on proper form first.

It is typically recommended that all beginners spend their first few weeks on a weight training workout routine focusing primarily on learning proper form. I recommend you do the same with this program.

Don’t worry about anything else during those first couple of weeks. Just pick a weight for each exercise that is definitely a little too light and easy for you (more here: How Much Weight Should You Lift?), and focus on learning and using perfect form.

Getting exercise technique right at this beginner stage is extremely important, so make sure you do.

Once those few weeks are up and you feel like your form is what it needs to be on every exercise, it’s then time to focus on consistent progression while keeping that perfect form intact. Let me explain…

Sets, reps, weight and progression.

For each exercise, you should now use the same weight each set.

So, for example, let’s say you’ve been learning proper form on the bench press those last few weeks and found 50lbs to be pretty close to the right weight for you at this point (that’s just a completely made up example amount, by the way). You should now be doing 3 sets of bench presses using that same 50lbs on all 3 of your sets.

Then, when you are capable of doing 3 sets with 50lbs (again, just an example) for the prescribed 8-10 reps each set with perfect form, you’d then increase the weight by the smallest possible increment (usually 5lbs) the next time you bench press.

You’d then aim to do 3 sets of 8-10 reps again with this new slightly heavier weight (55lbs in this example). And when you are capable of doing that, you’d increase the weight again by about 5lbs (60lbs in this example) the next time you bench press and then keep repeating this process over and over.

All of the above applies to each exercise just the same. You use the same weight for all 3 sets of each exercise, meet the prescribed set/rep goal with perfect form, and then increase the weight in the smallest possible increment the next time you do that exercise.

As a beginner, you should be able to progress like this consistently for quite a while, partly because you are starting a little lighter to master proper form, and partly because beginners are just more capable of progressing at a more consistent rate than anyone else.

So, make sure you do. The more advanced you get, the slower the progression will be. Take advantage of it while you can.

Once again I’d like to remind you to make sure the weight you start off using leans a lot more towards being a little too light/easy for you rather than a little too heavy/hard.

To ensure the fastest and most consistent rate of progression, the weight you start off using for each exercise needs to be a bit lighter than you are truly capable of lifting.

Don’t screw with it!

When looking at this beginner workout routine, the thing you need to remember is that the goal of a beginner is NOT to try to blast every muscle with all kinds of exercises and do various advanced things with a bunch of isolation movements and a high amount of volume and other things a beginner has no business doing.

Like I was saying before, the primary goal of a beginner (besides learning perfect form on all of their exercises) is to take advantage of a borderline super power that all beginners have for a short period of time that allows them to progress and improve FASTER at all things weight training related than any intermediate or advanced trainee ever could.

That’s right beginners, you can build muscle faster, get stronger faster, get “toned” faster, lose fat faster, and generally get better in every way FASTER than anyone else.

However, the key to using this beginner “super power” of yours is using a workout routine that follows the guidelines that best allow it to be taken advantage of. That typically means higher frequency, lower volume, small and basic exercise selection, nothing fancy.

Hey, what a coincidence… this sample beginner program fits that description perfectly. And any other intelligently designed beginner program will too.

So please, beginners, I beg of you. Don’t try to do something more advanced, and don’t try to add additional advanced stuff to the program laid out above. If you want the best results possible, do it exactly as is and focus on perfect form and consistent progression.

The Workouts: Version 2

The sample weight training program laid out above is a pretty damn perfect beginner workout routine.

But, you see, I know that no matter how many times I explain that this routine is totally ideal for beginners as is, many people are just going to ignore me and add more to it as they please.

You were already thinking about doing it, weren’t you? Don’t lie. Admit it.

Well, if you are one of these people (shame on you, silly beginner!), this second version of the program is my attempt at helping you not listen to me in a way that doesn’t completely screw things up.

So, using the same 3 day full body split from before (in the same “ABA BAB” format), here is another extremely similar version of the original workout routine with a few very small additions made to it.

Workout A

  1. Squats
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Bench Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Rows
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Triceps Press Downs
    1 set of 10-12 reps.
  5. Calf Raises
    1-2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

Workout B

  1. Deadlifts
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Pull-Ups (or Lat Pull-Downs)
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  3. Overhead Shoulder Press
    3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    2 minutes rest between sets.
  4. Biceps Curls
    1 set of 10-12 reps.
  5. Abs
    1-2 sets of 10-12 reps.
    1 minute rest between sets.

Everything else remains just like before (see the notes from earlier if you need additional details/clarifications), except now we’ve added some direct biceps and triceps work along with a little bit of calves and abs as well. (For abs, do 1 or 2 sets of whatever ab exercise you want.)

So, the program is still ideal for beginners, AND you got some extra stuff added to it. Are you happy now?

I hope so, because the more you try to add on top of Version 1, the more it starts to become an intermediate program. And the more that happens, the less and less effective it’s going to be for beginners.

Now Put It To Use

So, there’s 2 versions of what I’ve simply named The Beginner Weight Training Workout Routine.

Start light, focus on proper form first, focus on gradual progression second, make sure your diet plan supports your goals, and do it all consistently.

Enjoy your results.

The FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Just in case you still have any additional questions about any aspect of this routine, here are a few additional answers.

When will I be ready to switch from this beginner routine to an intermediate routine?

I’ve answered this one right here: When Should A Beginner Move To An Intermediate Workout Routine?

Why do you recommend 8-10 reps for an exercise like deadlifts? Many people seem to recommend less.

Under most circumstances, I fully agree that the conventional deadlift is best suited for lower reps. Romanian deadlifts however, which are an option if preferred over conventional DLs, are fine in both low and moderate rep ranges like this.

But the reason my program uses the 8-10 rep range by default is because it’s designed for beginners, and most beginners don’t have a clue what they’re doing… especially when it comes to an exercise like the deadlift. No offense of course.

And, sending a clueless beginner (who’s first learning to deadlift) into the gym to do heavy sets of 5 is a pretty scary idea. It’s even scarier if you’ve actually seen it in action.

On top of that, I have no way of knowing who is going to be using this program. Will it be an athletic 18 year old or an out of shape 50 year old? Taking all of that into account, going with a slightly higher rep range by default just seems like the best choice here.

However, if the person (in this case, you) feels comfortable with the lift and their form is solid, then by all means feel free to do 3×6-8 or 3×5 or something similar. That’s perfectly fine. I actually recommend it that way when I know the person is capable of it.

But when I don’t, 8-10 is just safer in my opinion.

What’s Next?

Well, if you’ve ended up here as a result of following my guide to creating The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine, then the only remaining step is to bring this guide to its conclusion and pass along some final important information. Let’s do that…

The End Of The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine

(This article is part of a completely free and awesome guide to creating the absolute best workout routine possible for your exact goal. Check it out: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)

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