Beginner Workouts Bodybuilding Articles

Weight Training For Beginners

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Before I begin, let me define the following:

Beginner: a lifter who has experienced little in strength and/or muscle mass gains, or a lifter who has been out of the iron game for an extended period of time.

Intermediate: a lifter who has packed on some muscle and strength, and is still making regular progress.

: a lifter who has just about peaked regarding natural muscle development and/or strength.

So, you’ve played around with the iron, watched others at the gym pack on strength and muscle, but you’ve made little to no progress at all. What can be done? Should you pack it in and accept the fact that you don’t have the proper genetics for lifting? No. Don’t give up. Even if you have horrible genetics you can still become muscular, and as strong pound for pound as any one in the gym.

Don’t believe me?

I first seriously picked up weights in 1986. I was in college – New Mexico Tech – and had too much time on my hands. So, I decided to check out the weight room.

The weight room at New Mexico Tech was all I could have hoped for. It was small, but had all the necessary equipment. And, there was rarely more than one person training at a time. It was the perfect place for a lifting newb to experiment. And experiment I did.

One day, after hitting the universal machines hard and heavy (like every newb does), I decided to be bold and try to bench press. I loaded up the bar with 25 pounds on each side, confidant that 95 pounds would be easy. Heck, the guys on my high school football team could knock out 200 pounds. If they could heft that heavy weight, 95 pounds should be easy, right?


The first 2 reps came easy. But on the third rep my scrawny arms collapsed like a house of cards, and the bar crashed to my chest. There I was, wriggling and writhing, thinking I was going to die. It was official: I was a weakling; a genetic inferior.

The truth be told, I have always loved sports but have never been much of an athlete. But that day in the gym changed my life.

I soon began digesting and studying the iron game. Tom Platz became my hero, and I started hammering out squats twice a week. I kept to a strict lifting program, and was in the gym three out of every four days. I squatted and benched and pressed and curled hard and heavy for 5 months.

Do you know what happened?

In 5 months I went from a beginner who couldn’t bench 100 pounds, and who had never squatted, to being accused of taking steroids. I was benching 200 pounds for reps, and squatting 315 for reps. That’s 3 45-pounders on each side! I couldn’t believe it.

When I finally flew back home to Wisconsin in the Spring of 1987, my legs and arms were so big that my youngest sister thought I looked disgusting.

The point of my story? A beginner can make tremendous progress if they stick to a quality program, and if they eat correctly. This article will teach you how to do both.


Before we dive into training, we must talk food. Why? If you don’t eat correctly, you will be severely short-changing yourself. The following eating program works wonders for those under the age of 32 (ish). For the older lifters reading this, your metabolism isn’t as strong so you will have to be much more calorie conscious.

But for lifters under 32 (ish), follow these rules:

1) Eat at least 5 meals per day. Eat when you get up, and then eat a meal every 2.5 to 3 hours throughout the day. Do NOT wait more than 3 hours in between meals.

2) Eat at least 30 grams of protein per meal. For those of you who hate to cook, canned tuna, canned chicken, protein bars, protein shakes, eggs, and McDonald’s double cheeseburgers from the $1 menu have just become your best friend.

3) Eat some quality carbs at each meal. Quality means avoiding gorging yourself on crap foods. Eat oatmeal, quinoa, rice, pasta, and veggies. We are not necessarily talking massive quantities with each meal, but you must fuel your body regularly. Ramen Noodles, Mac and Cheese, health food store quinoa, bulk oatmeal and frozen peas and broccoli have just become your inexpensive and welcomed friend.

4) Drink milk. Drink at least 3 glasses of milk each day, and not the low-fat kind. Your body needs fat to function. If you don’t have time for chicken and rice, nothing works better than 2 cups of milk blended with protein powder and a couple of bananas.

5) Don’t worry about becoming a health nut. Yes, you heard me right. I want you to eat good 75% of the time, but by all means, don’t become anal. You are young, and eating half a Pizza Hut pizza or 3 McDonald’s double cheeseburgers for a meal is quite acceptable. Don’t live on chicken and broccoli alone; you’ll never make gains. Yes, you need healthy foods in your diet, but don’t go all The Biggest Loser on yourself.

6) Eat at least 4000 calories a day. While I don’t recommend counting calories, I do recommend making sure you get at least 4,000 calories per day. Is there an exact amount you should eat every day? No. Just make sure that, A) you are getting at least 4,000 calories each day and, B) you are not gorging yourself so much at any given meal that you cannot eat again in 3 hours. Eat to your satisfaction and pleasure, but make sure you can eat again in 3 hours.

7) Always make sure you eat one hour before training. Don’t eat like a slob. Eat just enough so you don’t notice the meal during your workout.

8) Eat like a slob after your workout. Eat everything in sight after your workout.

If you get up at 7:00 am, your eating schedule should look something like this:

7:30 am – Oatmeal with 2 bananas, 2 cups of milk with 2 scoops protein powder. Or, eggs with a ton of cheese, a bagel, and a bunch of grapes.

10:00 am – Can of chicken w/Ramen noodles (or quinoa, or mac and cheese, or a packaged rice dish), and some veggies if they are around. Or, take that can of chicken and mix it with ranch dressing and make a couple of chicken salad sandwiches. Slap that goo on wheat bread, and add a couple slices of cheese.

12:30 pm – Lunch time! Eat whatever your cafeteria has that sounds good to you, or bring in lunch: tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, quinoa with chicken and salsa (you can eat a ton of this), or mac and cheese with broccoli and tuna mixed in. By all means, if you are eating out, go for the pizza, Mexican food, Chinese food, etc. Chase this lunch with a glass or two of milk.

3:00 pm – (pre-workout meal – if you lift @ 4 pm) Protein bar (or drink) and 2 bananas, OJ and string cheese with a sandwich, Ramen noodles with tuna, etc.

6:00 pm – (post workout) This should be your biggest meal of the day. Eat whatever you want, making sure you get some complex carbs (rice, pasta, quinoa, etc) and veggies in. Go to a Chinese buffet, hog down a whole box of mac and cheese with a pound of hamburger and salsa, or eat a whole pizza.

9:30 pm – A light meal. Munch a can of chicken mixed with ranch dressing, down milk with protein powder, or nibble on string cheese and chase it with a couple of apples.

Understand, the above sample eating plan is JUST A GUIDELINE. It is not a carved in stone meal plan you must follow. The above plan follows the 8 eating rules that I provided you with. You can workout whenever you want, and eat whatever you want, as long as it follows the rules.

Get creative. Small meals don’t have to require cooking. Keep a lot of food on hand that is grab and go.

Do you want to know my eating plan in college? Here goes:

7:00 am – box of mac and cheese with a can of tuna mixed in

9:30 am – (pre-workout) Cup of Ramen soup with 4 hard boiled eggs

Noon -(post-workout) Cafeteria time! Lots ‘o milk, lots ‘o food, followed by 1-2 pieces of cheesecake

3:00 pm – Cup of Ramen noodles with a can of tuna

5:30 pm – Cafeteria time! Lots ‘o milk, lots ‘o food, followed by 1-2 pieces of cheesecake

8:30 pm – can of tuna or 4 hard boiled eggs with a banana

Enough about food. Let’s move on to training.


For those of you who have never lifted before, I recommend a break in period of a month. A break in period allows you to ease into weightlifting without over-doing it. A break in period allows you to develop a routine of warm-ups and stretching, and lifting. A break in period allows you to practice and hone good exercise form.

Too many trainees hit the gym like a tornado, get so sore they can’t move, and quit. The object of the break in period is not to kill yourself. The break in period allows you to develop a routine, and prepares your body for the shock that is soon to come.

Perform the following routine on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 4 weeks.

Break In Routine

Push-ups, 3 sets of up to 10 reps. If you can’t do a push-up, perform then on your knees. The point is to break in your muscles, not to act like Rocky Balboa.

Bench Press, 2 sets of 6-8 reps. You want to use a relatively light weight here, but not so light that you get no resistance at all. Get your form down.

Squats, 3 sets of twenty using no weight. That’s right – no weight. Practice form and proper depth.

Sit-ups, 3 sets of 10-25 reps. Get your midsection prepared for the chaos that is to come.

Stiff Leg Deadlifts, 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Use the 45 pound barbell with no weight. Bend you knees slightly (20 degrees) when you perform this exercise. This prepares your back for some heavier weights.

All right, you are tired of push-ups and sit-ups and want to get to the gym so you can start packing on mass and strength.

The next two routines will take you through the first year of training. If you eat correctly, and stick to these routines, you WILL gain mass and a TON of strength.

What results can you expect? You can expect to gain up to 20 pounds of muscle, to be benching for reps over 200 pounds, to be squatting 275 or more for reps, and to be deadlifting 300 plus for reps. After my first full year and a half of training using these methods I was squatting 330 for reps and bench 275 for reps. Happy lifting!

During phase 1 training, you must always, ALWAYS, be focused on adding more weight to the bar. When you can do 4 sets of 6 reps at any given weight, add 10 pounds to the bar for the next workout.

Also, try not to train to failure. It will take a while for you to know when the next rep might fail. So, if you’ve just hit 135 pounds on the bench press for 4 reps, and don’t think you can do a fifth…stop. Next time in the gym make it a goal to do a fifth, or a sixth rep.

ALWAYS BE PUSHING FOR MORE REPS and/or MORE WEIGHT. If you don’t follow this rule, there is no point in lifting. The first year of training is your golden year. Push!

PHASE 1: The first 90 days

Phase 1 training involves 3 weeks of pushing yourself, followed by a week of de-loading. De-loading will involve using the same weight as you performed on your last workout prior to de-loading, but performing less sets and reps.

Perform this 4 week cycle of load/de-loading 3 times, which will equal 84 days of training. Proceed to take the next 6 days off prior to Phase 2. Eat and rest during this time.


Squat, 4 sets x 5 reps

Bench Press, 4 sets x 6 reps

DB Rows, 4 sets x 6 reps


Front Squat, 4 sets x 5 reps

Military Press, 4 sets x 6 reps

Deadlifts, 4 sets x 5 reps


Squat, 4 sets x 5 reps

Bench Press, 4 sets x 6 reps

DB Rows, 4 sets x 6 reps


Squat, 3 sets x 3 reps

Bench Press, 3 sets x 4 reps

DB Rows, 3 sets x 4 reps


Front Squat, 3 sets x 3 reps

Military Press, 3 sets x 4 reps

Deadlift, 3 sets x 3 reps


Squat, 3 sets x 3 reps

Bench Press, 3 sets x 4 reps

DB Rows, 3 sets x 4 reps

PHASE 2: 282 days

You will use the same loading/de-loading pattern as you did in Phase 1. The workout in Phase 2 is an 8 day cycle in which you work out 3 days, take a day off, work out 3 days, and take another day off. After 3 of these cycles, which is 24 days, you will perform an 8 day de-loading cycle which will be explained in detail below. 9 of these 32-day loading/de-loading cycles will run 282 days.


Bench Press, 4 sets x 6-8 reps

DB Bench Press, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

Barbell Military Press, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

Close Grip Bench Press, 3 sets x 6-8 reps


Deadlift, 4 sets x 5-8 reps

DB Rows, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

DB Curls, 3 sets x 6-12 reps

Ab work, 2 sets, 10-25 reps


Squat, 4 sets x 5-8 reps

Front Squats, 2 sets x 5-8 reps

Romanian Deadlifts, 3 sets x 6-10 reps

Calf Exercise, 3 sets x 8-20 reps



Bench Press, 4 sets x 6-8 reps

Incline Bench Press, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

Dumbbell Military Press, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

Seated Overhead DB Triceps Extensions, 3 sets x 6-8 reps


Pendlay BB Rows, 3 sets x 5-8 reps

T-bar Rows/Low Pulley Rows, 3 sets x 6-8 reps

DB Curls, 2 sets x 6-12 reps

Power Shrugs, 2 sets x 6-10 reps

Ab work, 2 sets, 10-25 reps


Squat, 4 sets x 5-8 reps

Front Squats, 2 sets x 5-8 reps

Stiff Leg Deadlifts, 3 sets x 6-10 reps

Calf Exercise, 3 sets x 8-20 reps




Bench Press, 3 sets x 5 reps

DB Bench Press, 2 sets x 4 reps

Barbell Military Press, 2 sets x 4 reps



Deadlift, 3 sets x 3 reps

DB Rows, 2 sets x 5 reps

DB Curls, 2 sets x 5 reps

Ab work, 1 sets, 10-25 reps



Squat, 3 sets x 4 reps

Front Squats, 1 sets x 4 reps

Romanian Deadlifts, 2 sets x 5 reps

Calf Exercise, 1 sets x 8 reps




1) Don’t mess with the exercises. You can replace seated overhead DB extensions with dips, but that’s it. This program is designed to get you as big as possible using heavy compound exercises.

2) Forget isolation exercises. You DO NOT need to perform flyes, cable cross-overs, dumbbell pullovers, side or front laterals, etc. These exercises might give you a good pump, but they are absolutely useless for mass and strength. Arnold/Dorian/Lee/Jay did not build mass by doing flyes ad nauseum.

3) Warm-up. ‘Nuff said. You MUST do several warm-up sets for bench, squat, deadlift, etc, before your working sets. You need not necessarily do more than one warm-up sets for other exercises. For example, I do several warm-up sets for bench press, but only one for incline bench press, and none for DB bench press. Use your own judgment. Once your body is warmed up, you don’t have to kill it with warm-up sets unless the exercise is brutally heavy.

4) Follow the one hour rule. Including warm-ups, the workout in Phase 1 should not take more than 1 hour. Your training should not, under any circumstances, take longer than an hour. Watch your rest times. It is OK to take 3-5 minutes between heavy, heart-pounding sets, but it is not OK to rest 5 minutes between each set of DB Rows. Watch yourself.

5) Progress. You MUST, MUST, MUST push yourself for more reps and/or more weight from workout to workout, excluding your de-load weeks. No excuses.

6) Rep ceilings. When the workout calls for 4 sets x 6 reps, you TRY to perform this with a given weight. And when you CAN perform 4 sets x 6 sets, move up in weight. ALWAYS! For example, let’s say on Monday you performed bench presses with 200 pounds. For the first two sets you hit 6 reps, but on the third set you could only hit 5 reps, and on the last set you dropped to 4 reps. No problem! The goal is not necessarily to hit 6 reps for all 4 sets each workout. BUT, when you DO hit 4 sets of 6 reps with 200 pounds, move up to 205 or 210 pounds on your next bench press workout. NO EXCEPTIONS! When you hit the rep ceiling, move up in weight.

7) Bodybuilding Magazines and Websites. Ignore this crap. You can buy the magazines for entertainment, but don’t fall into their traps. Most of them exist to peddle supplements, or promote their drug-gorged superstars.

8) Supplements. Stick to protein powders, multi-vitamin/minerals, and cycling creatine. Glutamine is also good, but if you have a life outside of weight lifting, save your money for other earthly pleasures. There are a billion supplements in the market, all claiming to have the capability to pack on 25 pounds of mass in 90 days. They even have studies to prove their claims. Most of these claims and studies are bunk! If they weren’t, any Joe Blow would be able to lay down $200 a month and look like the Incredible Hulk in 6 months.

9) Injuries. Injuries happen. But they happen less when you DO NOT sacrifice form for weight. Always try to lift the most weight with the BEST form. No exceptions. If you do get injured, heal before you hit the weights hard and heavy again.

10) Stick to a program. Listen, there are a billion programs on the Internet. Pick one, and stick to it. But remember, lifting newbies DO NOT need to rest a huge amount of days between workouts. And complex programs and NOT better. Simple and heavy works best.

Steve Shaw
Steve Shaw is the primary content manager for Muscle and Brawn. Questions? Please visit the forum.
  • Cocky Boxer Feb 17,2014 at 2:47 pm

    McDonald’s?? Milk?? Ramen?? This guy’s eating plan looks like it was written by a five yr old on his birthday. Awful!

  • wesley Sep 3,2013 at 10:55 am

    when do Is good time for gym.
    1; before I eat or after
    2; which are the right times for gym(in the morning or in the afternoon)

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