The key to any beginner routine is to build a base of strength and to learn good training technique.

To maximize your results, I highly recommend that you pick up one or all of the Official WorldFitnessNetwork lifting programs.  They go into great detail about routines for full-body results, strength, fat loss, hypertrophy (gaining muscle size) and cover every ability level short of competition-level.  They include subtle issues that are really important.

But in case you still don’t have those, I’ve decided to give you a brief outline of a sample beginner program.  Just to get you started.  This routine was designed to use the best exercises available to produce maximal results in the shortest time.

The beginner routine is meant to be adjusted progressively so that it helps you to smoothly transition into an intermediate routine. If you have prior experience and are already working out, you might be able to jump past this chapter.

This routine will help you to do the following:

  • Build a base of muscle and strength as quickly as possible
  • Lose fat through an increased metabolism
  • See results by training 3 times per week
  • Avoid overtraining
  • Learn proper technique on the most important exercises
  • Transition smoothly into an intermediate routine
  • Customize the routine as necessary

The beginner routine is tailored for individuals who are coming into the gym for the very first time and have never touched a dumbbell before. The program is fairly light with 5 exercises per day, and the workout should take about 30 minutes to complete. That’s assuming that each set takes about 1 minute and you rest for a minute or so between each set.

Cardio:

Before we get to the weight training, I am not one of those guys who says you can skip cardio.  The WorldFitnessNetwork approach definitely includes cardio.  You might already be a runner or cyclist.  If so, keep it up.  But read http://www.worldfitnessnetwork.com for extra tips about how to work that into your weight training.

For those of you who’ve not been doing any cardio, work up to 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week. The beginner weight lifting routine plus cardio will require 3 hours per week. You can do your cardio on rest days or right after your workout.  As a beginner, the timing isn’t as important because you are going to see gains pretty much no matter what you do.

Weights (Full Body):

For each exercise below, do 3 sets of 8-12 reps. (Do 15+ reps for your calves, and work up to at least 60 seconds on the planks. ) Your first set should use a lighter weight and do the maximum reps. Each set after that should be progressively heavier and the number of reps should generally decrease with each set.

Try to increase the number of reps you can do on your last set, and once you hit 10-12 reps, increase the weight and drop the reps back down to 8 on your next workout. You may choose to go as low as 6 reps on the heavy exercises like squats and pressing movements, depending on the results you get from it.

You should begin with these exercises on the first week and progressively continue to add more reps, then more weight:

Workout A

  1. Squats*
  2. Chin-Ups*
  3. Bench Press
  4. Standing Calf Raises
  5. Side Laterals

Workout B

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Bent-Over Barbell Rows*
  3. Standing Military Press*
  4. Dips*
  5. Planks (side and straight)

* Acceptable Substitutions:  For A.1. you can do front or back squats but not Smith and not Leg Press machines.  For A.2. I chose chin-ups rather than pull-ups because you’ll learn why you don’t need to do biceps curls!  But if you can’t do at least 5 chin-ups, then use the lat-pull down but make sure your grip is that of a chin-up.  For B.2. you can use Seated Cable Rows.  For B.3. you can use dumbbells if the bare barbell is too heavy.  For B.4. if you can’t do at least 5 dips, then do close-grip bench press until you are strong enough to do dips.

This routine starts by alternating between Workout A and Workout B. For example, you would work A on Monday, B on Wednesday, and then A on Friday. On the next week, however, you alternate and do B on Monday and Friday, and A on Wednesday. This means you’ll do each workout 3 times in two weeks in the following pattern: A/B/A followed by B/A/B on the next week, then back to A/B/A…  Of course, you don’t have to do it M-W-F.  But you DO have to take a day off in between each workout and once a week you’ll end up taking two days off.

So how do you do these exercises?  Well, you can purchase Solid Performance, from WorldFitnessNetwork, which includes these, plus variations, plus a ton more.  There are also several free online sources.  And searching this site will help.

Continue to add weight to your exercises using the method described above. You should feel tired at the end of your workout, and your squats and deadlifts should leave you especially drained once you’ve worked up to heavy weights.  Because of their importance, I have you doing them first.  But it’s ok to take a longer rest after you do those sets before moving to the other exercises.

Be very careful with squats and deadlifts, however. Start with a light weight and be sure to squat properly and do your deadlifts with perfect form. If you’re not careful with these two exercises, you can hurt your back and suffer other injuries. Remember that these exercises are very safe if you do them correctly.

After about 6 weeks, add exercises to your routine as soon as you feel like you have the energy and strength to do so.  But even better is to move on to a more complete program, like Full Body Attack.  It’s just too hard for a beginner (someone lifting seriously for less than a year) to understand all the implications of designing your own routine.  Really, even if you don’t purchase any of the WorldFitnessNetwork routines, spend a little money and get a good routine somewhere.  And stick to it.

If you still insist on customizing yourself, just be sure to keep the core of your workout centered around the big lifts and their variations- squat, deadlift, bench press, pull-ups/chin-ups, military press, rows, dips.

Here are some tips as you reach the point of customizing your routine:

  • Emphasize large muscle groups: Your legs and back are your largest muscle groups and should be given more sets than other muscle groups.
  • Compound movements: Keep compound movements as the basis of your routine. Use isolation movements rarely.
  • Keep your focus: Avoid the temptation to focus too much on your biceps. Your biceps are the 2nd smallest muscle group on your body after your forearms. Biceps get a good workout as you train your back muscles, and the triceps get trained while you work your chest and shoulders.
  • More sets for larger muscles: As a general rule of thumb, larger muscle groups can handle 6-9 sets, and smaller muscle groups can handle 3-5 sets of training for an intermediate level trainee.
  • Squat: Don’t drop the squat for the leg press machines. The squat is a superior exercise if done correctly. Get your form down right, and then put more weight on.
  • Avoid machines: Use machines minimally. Free weights work best in most (maybe even all) cases.

Once you get the proper technique down, you should begin pushing hard with each lift. Put a full effort into every set, and you’ll get the full benefit from your workout.

Weights (Splits):

If you are adamant about starting out with a split routine instead, then see 3 Months To A New You – you can download it for free from here:  http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/free-ebook-build-muscle-lose-weight-lifting/ .

Whether you do this free full body routine or the beginner’s Split Program in 3 Months To A New You, it should last you about 6 to 12 weeks.

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7 Responses to “WFN Beginner to Intermediate Training Program”

  1. Fantastic post!

    One thing I might pull you up on though is that I’m not sure about doing more than 4-6 reps for the dead lifts. I think high reps as well as high weight put a lot of stress on the spine and for beginners it probably isn’t a good idea.

    I’ve been doing dead lifts for 10 years and I still find my technique gets sloppy after high reps; perhaps more so than heavy weight.

    What do you reckon?

    RT from RMO

  2. RT- Great input on the dead lifts. Thanks for leaving some great advice that could help alot of people along the way.

    The deadlift could certainly qualify as one of the lifts that you do 6 reps on (or even as low as 4 in your case). Most beginners shouldn’t be going too heavy on the deadlift early on as they learn the technique and build strength, but the point will be reached eventually that this lift gets very stressful with a heavy weight.

    And you’re right that you should listen to what you’re body is telling you and customize the routine based on your needs. That’s a very key point that you make.

  3. Thanks for explaining each exercise. When doing cardio, you should learn how to monitor your intensity to make sure you’re working effectively. Always be aware of how you feel when you exercise. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop immediately and rest or call your doctor. If you’re not breaking a sweat, speed it up.

  4. Brooklyn- Yeah, I imagine it would be pretty painful if you were to pass out on the treadmill… Good advice.

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