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A Great Beginner’s Workout Routine

dumbbell incline bench press

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for a good workout routine geared towards beginners. There are so many types of workouts online that it can be difficult to know where to get started.

Let me tell you, it’s very easy to get lost in the tremendous sea of information out there about lifting. One of the biggest mistakes I see beginners making all the time is to jump around from one routine to another, often thinking that the next hyped up workout they read about in a bodybuilding mag or a fitness forum is “the one”. This leads to doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of wasted opportunity at a time when you could be maximizing your muscle gains.

You want to pick a program, an effective program, and stick to it for several weeks to gauge your results. A good workout will have you seeing increases in strength every single week without exception (as long as you have your diet in check).

This is a beginner’s workout that I designed for guys who are new to weight training and want to build muscle. It’s simple, effective, and won’t have you spending a lot of time in the gym. Your workouts should be short, focused, and purposeful.

Workout Highlights

– It is built around some of the most effective exercises you can do to build muscle.

– You’re only going to work out 4 times per week to see results.

– Your workouts will last 30 minutes to an hour.

– You’ll see quick results, meaning that you’ll get stronger every single week, and you’ll start seeing visible changes in your body as you build muscle.

Workout Schedule

Monday: Chest and Triceps
Tuesday: Back and Biceps
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Legs
Friday: Shoulders, Calves, and Abs
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off

Feel free to rework this schedule however you like to make it fit your lifestyle. The only rule is that you don’t work out more than 2 days in a row.

General Rules

– Do 5 minutes of light cardio on a treadmill or elliptical machine to get a light sweat going before you do anything else.

– Before the first exercise of each workout, follow the warmup routine described below.

– Rest for about 2-3 minutes in between your sets. This will give you time to recover so you’re ready for the next set.

– 3 sets of 8-10 reps means do the exercise 3 times for 8-10 repetitions each.

– Your last rep of each set should be difficult, but you don’t need to go to failure (the point where you literally cannot move the weight anymore and have to put it down). If you can’t reach the required number of reps, decrease the weight. If you think you have a few more reps in the tank after your last one, increase the weight for your next set.

– Try to make progress every single week, whether that means doing one more rep or increasing weight by a small amount.

– Keep a record of all your sets and reps in a journal. You can do this using pen and paper or a mobile app. I actually just use Notes on the iPhone. You want a record of your workouts because you should always be trying to beat your performance from the previous week.

A log of 3 sets of the dumbbell bench press, for example, might look like this:


The first number is how much weight you lifted, and the second number is how many reps you did.

How To Warm Up

In addition to warming up with light cardio as mentioned in the rules, you’re going to do a light weightlifting warmup before your first set. Your warmup will be 3 light sets of the first exercise in your routine.

So if dumbbell bench press is the first exercise you’re supposed to do, then do the following to warm up:

– 1 set with a very light weight dumbbells, say 5-10 lbs. 12 reps.
– 1 set with 50% of the weight you plan to use for your real set. 10 reps.
– 1 set with 70% of the weight you plan to use for your real set. 4 reps.

After you do the warmup sets, you can proceed to doing the actual workout.

The Program

Chest and Triceps:

Dumbbell bench press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Dumbbell incline bench press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Rope pushdowns – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions

Back and Biceps:

Pull-ups or cable pulldowns – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Cable seated rows – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Standing bicep curls – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions

* If you can do any pull-ups at all, stick with doing pull-ups instead of pushdowns while you can. You’ll see progress faster this way, even if you can only do 1 pull-up. Then just switch to cable pushdowns for the remaining sets when you think you don’t have any more pull-ups in the tank. Your journal may look like this:

2 pull-ups
1 pull-up
50×8 pulldowns


Squats – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Dumbbell lunges – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Leg curls – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions

Shoulders, Calves, and Abs:

Dumbbell overhead press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Dumbbell shrugs – 2 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Standing calf raises – 2 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Seated calf raises – 2 sets of 8-10 reps – see instructions
Swiss ball crunches – 3 sets of 20 reps (no added weight on this one) – see instructions

Performing The Exercises

Doing these exercises with proper form is extremely important for both success and injury prevention. I included a link to a description of each exercise in the routine above. Regularly review the instructions for the exercises and make sure you’re doing them correctly. If you have any questions about a particular exercise, just ask me in the comments below.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this workout routine will help you get started with weight training without overcomplicating things. Even though you’re only doing a few sets per workout, you’re working out with a goal in mind: to get stronger every week. You just don’t need to do that many sets in order to stimulate muscle growth. Like I said earlier, the workout should be short, focused, and purposeful.

This is certainly not the final routine you’re ever going to need, but it’s a great way to start. Once you’ve done this routine for 8 weeks, it’s time to make some changes. Feel free to ask me for advice in the comments below on what to do next. You also might want to consider Caliber’s online personal training service to maximize your results with customized workouts and nutrition plans.

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