Beginner Routines

These were my first programs and they worked well, even though I just threw them together in 10 minutes.

Since most people are at the level of a beginner when it comes to strength training, I decided to please the crowds by uploading this novice program.

Very simply put, here’s how it works:

1. You start with a low weight on every exercise, but you don’t do many reps with that weight. Never do more than 12 reps, except maybe on warmup sets.

2. You keep increasing the weight with every set (“ramping up”). You wanna be able to do at least 3, ideally 5 reps in all sets, so don’t go excessively heavy.

3. In total, you might do 4-5 sets for compound exercises, of which 3 are work sets taken to failure. All sets are done with a different weight, if possible. If your second work set ends up being your maximal weight, just do another set with that weight, or even a little less.

4. Rest as long between sets as you need. If you’re not ready for a heavy deadlift mentally, take another minute. It’s never a good idea to lift near-maximal weights to complete failure while you still can’t think straight from your last set.

5. Take as many rest days as required. After the first workout, it might take a week until the same bodypart can be trained again. If your lats are sore as hell and you can’t raise your arms, there’s no point in benching. As you adapt to the program, you won’t get as sore.

6. If an isolation exercise is done before a compound exercise that uses the same muscle, then that’s “pre-activation”.

7. Repeat each workout 4-6 times before changing your program, 4 if your progress stops or your joints feel off, 6 if it just keeps working nicely and you don´t feel bored.

Day A

I. Machine Leg Curl 

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

II. Deadlift     

2 Warmup Sets (60 kg / 135 lbs or more only, never less on deadlifts, it changes range of motion)

3 Work Sets

III. Bench Press     

2 Warmup Sets

3 Work Sets

IV. Triceps Cable Pushdown 

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

V. Trunk Extension Machine

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

VI. Trunk Flexion Machine

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

Day B

I. Supinated Lat Pulldown

2 Warmup Sets

3 Work Sets

II. Seated Cable Row   

2 Warmup Sets

3 Work Sets

III. Dumbbell Shrugs

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

IV. Cable Scapula Depression

1 Warmup Set

2 Work Sets

V. Cheat Hammer Curls

2 Work Sets

VI. Machine Calf Raise 

2 Warmup Sets

3 Work Sets

Download The Program:

Note that your form won’t be smooth the first time you’re executing barbell movements. When I first benched, the bar was shaking all over the place and I couldn’t keep the bar straight on deadlifts for some reason. That will improve rapidly, so don´t go to heavy on the Bench Press at first.

So, what does this look like in practice? I found my old training logs, here’s an  example of what they say:

2nd time doing Routine A:

Leg Curls:

Warmup: 20 kg x2

40 kg x12


Warmup: 60 kg x3

100 kg x5

110 kg x5

Up from 100 kg x3 ugly reps last time

Barbell Bench Press:

Warmup: 20 kg x3

Warmup: 40 kg x5

60 kg x5

70 kg x3

Up from 60 kg x2 last time, of which I’d’ve managed 0 without a spotter.

Triceps Cable Pushdown:

Warmup: 25 kg x3

Warmup: 45 kg x12

60 kg x8

70 kg x7

Trunk Extension Machine:

Warmup: 20kg x 10

40kg x 8

30kg x 20

Trunk Flexion Machine:

Warmup: 25kg x 3

40kg x 16

35kg x 20

Side notes:

1. This program is based on linear progression, so just focus on adding weight and reps from workout to workout. Stay in the recommended rep range of 3-12 and lift with better form than the last time. As you can see, it’s not rocket science.

2. If you have long limbs (your wingspan is over 2 inches / 5 cm longer than your height), deadlifting is a good choice. For the short-limbed among us, consider a back squat instead. If your mobility doesn´t allow either of those, fix your mobility, usually stretching (perhaps strengthening as well) adductors, calves and maybe even hip flexors solves the problem. 

3. If you’re worried about your shoulders, switch the bench to a dumbbell or machine variation. If the front of your elbow is hurting, do an overhand grip on pulldowns and do not perform heavy curls. If the back of your elbow (olecranon / triceps tendon) is hurting, do Cable Crossovers instead of benching and go easy on the Triceps Cable Pushdown. Always use proper technique on deadlifts and don´t lift for your ego, at least on movements that heavily involve the spine.

5. Lastly, note that some individuals (like me) will gain strength, but no muscle mass for the first weeks or months. The size will come if you just stick to it.

The Next Programs:

After completing the first program, you should have a decent idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Ideally, you used the time to increase your lower body mobility and strengthen the muscles of your spine, so that you are ready to perform all major exercises.

If you´ve noticed that e.g. your bench press always feels at the bottom of the rep, incorporate movements to strengthen that position or the muscle that fails. In this case, I´d recommend pausing at the bottom of the bench press on most or all reps and including a dumbbell bench press.

If you can´t increase the weight you´re deadlifting, because your legs don´t have the strength or you´re worried about your back, then include paused deadlifts, squats for your quads and maybe pendlay rows, which train your back in a similar position. Also make sure to do your trunk extension exercises and to “brace” properly before every rep of deadlifts.

These accessory exercises aren´t extremely complex and specific, as they don´t need to be. As a novice, you want to build general strength while beating all the problems that occur, e.g. always failing off the chest or the floor. This teaches you the basics of fixing weaknesses and will allow for faster progression.

You want to take a break from some exercises while incorporating new ones. The following routine would be a good follow-up if you fail off the chest on bench press and off the floor on deadlifts, the most common points:

Download Links:

Alternatively, try the following routine:

62 thoughts on “Beginner Routines

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