Strength Training Routine for Beginners

For those looking to start ripping out the bicep curls… sorry. This program isn’t for you. In fact, this whole website probably isn’t for you. Let me explain.

Ever wonder why so many people promise themselves year after year usually around Jan 1 “This is the year I’m going to achieve my fitness goals!” Come February you’re tank is on E and your motivation is floundering. You think “I’ve worked so hard this whole month and what have I got to show for it? Screw this… it’s too hard”

What went wrong here? I blame misguided intentions. Where do these misguided intentions stem from? Well, from many places. One notable place is those damn muscle magazines. You know the one with that big shiny guy on the front cover straining incredibly hard just to do a bicep curl. He is about half a second away from giving himself a hernia. They give you a ridiculous workout and tell you “hey, do this and you too can look like this guy!”

Let’s take a step back. Before we even pick up our first weight we need to understand that some muscles are more important than others. Take your glutes versus your biceps for example. Functionally (and practically) speaking which one do you think is more important. If you answer glutes then you would be correct. By exercising these more important muscles before going anywhere near a curl, you will see better results faster.

I know you may be thinking “But you can’t work your arms without doing curls!” and I’m here to tell you that is completely false. You may not be isolating them, but the bent-over row will certainly hit the biceps. Just like the pushup will hit the triceps. Once you’ve had a good “break-in period” you can then start incorporating more single-joint exercises. For now let’s not put the cart before the horse.

It is just like building a house. You may be really excited about building the bathroom, and the bathroom is an important part of every house, but without a solid foundation it’s not going to turn out like you hoped. Yes, you can spend an entire month doing nothing but arms and yes you will see some results but do you honestly think it will get you to your fitness goals? Probably not.

This routine, geared towards beginners, is designed to give you a solid foundation upon which you can later move on to movements like the bicep curl. As a beginner during the first two weeks of training, you will primarily be improving your motor neuron connections. In other words when you first start out your body will be creating new pathways and improving the neural connections to your muscles. You won’t be fully utilizing your muscles until your body learns how to do so.

We will start out by focusing on big movements and high reps. You’ll be sore and you’ll cringe every time you have to sit on the toilet, but it will pay off in the end. So let’s get started.


Alternate workout A and B for two weeks two days per week. Be sure to rest at least 48 hours after each workout. You can incorporate 20-30 mins of cardio on your off days. After two weeks, you can move up to three days per week with at least 48 hours of rest after each workout. You can also start doing three sets for each exercise and drop the number of repetitions from 15 to 8 or 10. If you do this be sure to increase your rest time 15 seconds and use a heavier weight.

When first starting out if an exercise is too easy you can add more weight or use a modification to up the intensity. Such as with the push-up, you can place your feet on a bench or place a medicine ball under one hand and switch after each rep. I recommend reading Choosing The Right Amount Of Weight for more guidance on how to pick the right weight. Get a small notebook and keep track of your progress. If you need help with an exercise click on the name to be taken to a page with the exercise description.

Workout A

Straight set

Alternating Sets

Alternating Sets

Straight Set

  • Plank: 3 sets/Hold 30-60 seconds/rest 30 sec


Workout B

Straight set

Alternating Sets

Alternating Sets

Straight Set

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12 thoughts on “Strength Training Routine for Beginners

  1. Crowmads Reply

    Very well done! I certainly appreciate the specifics included. Too many generic health & fitness resources out there that simply fill dead air. This is a helpful, relevant article. I look forward to more!

    • Jeff Smith Post authorReply

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you like it! I really try to guide people in the right direction when it comes to health and fitness. To many magazines and articles just tell people what they want to hear. It takes a lot of work and dedication but anyone can do it!

  2. Nigel Reply

    This looks like good advice. It’s true that we all seem to make promises about eating less and getting more exercise and then our motivation fades and we are tempted to eat and sit. I am into walking, I’ve never been into lifting weights except for one time when i managed to hurt myself (nothing serious, but it set me back a bit).

    • Jeff Smith Post authorReply

      Hi Nigel, Thanks for commenting. Yes, it is very easy to make excuses to not exercise, but we have to remember it’s an investment in our health and it’s time well spent. It’s also shown to not only improve our physical health but our mental health as well. I highly recommend reading Health Benefits of Lifting Weights to see what weight lifting can do for you. I’ve also added a new section on exercises and proper form to help prevent injury. Have a look at that as well should you decide to give it another go! Thanks again and have a good one!

  3. Dave Sweney Reply

    Thanks for the excellent suggested program. I once was in great shape (while in the Army) but have let it slide over the past 10 years or so…

    Because in 25 years I was keeping iin really good shape I really have not gained a lot of weight like many others my age have, but what has happened is my weight has gone from muscle to fat..

    So in reality I have done harm to myself, because of course too much fat is not good…My stamina is down from years ago, and it cannot all be attributed to my age, which is one year shy of 60…

    Would this program work well for me, or should I adjust it due to my age? I would be interested in getting your take/advice on this, and likely there are a bunch of folks my age looking over your page at one time or another!

    Thanks for running a top notch site with lots of really good advice! I have bookmarked the site so i can come back here to read more! Keep it up!

    • Jeff Smith Post authorReply

      Hi Dave, As we age our bodies start to replace muscle with fat even if we maintain a healthy weight past the age of 40. Without lifting weights we are likely to replace 3 pounds of muscle for 3 pounds of fat every decade. This is according to research conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So, you should certainly be lifting weights! As for the beginner’s routine it is designed to give your body a break-in period before going for heavier weights. You can certainly do this routine and should see good results if done correctly. To help answer any questions in regards to how much weight to use check out my Beginner’s Guide to help you get started. If you can’t find an answer to your question you can leave another comment or email me at Thanks and have a good one!

  4. Aaron Reply

    I love to see an honest website on fitness/strength. All too often I get disgusted at the complete CRAP that I see on MSN Health. It is so pathetic. What ever happened to progressive overload? What happened to patience? It’s all pilates and hot yoga now…

    Awesome post, keep up the good work!

    • Jeff Smith Post authorReply

      Hey Aaron, Thanks for the great comment. Yes, It’s true it does take time. Unfortunatly, We live in a world of instant gratification. People don’t typically like to hear it takes time to build lasting muscle and get in shape, But if you put in the time and effort the rewards are so much better!

      I’m glad you liked the post. Have a good one!


  5. Will Reply

    Hi Jeff, great page well done. I frequent the gym and can attest to having not done the “right” things for YEARS, so great to see you’ve put it all down in an easy-to-understand format. You touched on the rest/recovery aspect often and how to do it right which took me a real long time to get right, so you definitely know what you’re talking about. Have you ever tried an organic protein supplement?

    • Jeff Smith Post authorReply

      Hi Will, thanks for the nice comment! I’m glad you can appreciate the ins & outs of a proper workout routine. I try my best to show people what science is prroving to be the best way to work out. Without getting into too much detail upper/lower splits are the best way to pack on muscle. Bigger movements more often = results!

      I don’t use organic protein powders but the brand i usually purchase is Kosher and Halal. Not that it really makes a diffrence for me but I think the less and more naturla the ingredients the better.

  6. lilywong Reply

    After reading so much about HIIT and all that, I am really interested in strength training. Your article offers just the info I need. The workouts also look doable. I may mix up some from A and some from B. Roughly how long would each workout take if I go mid-speed? Thanks for sharing this!

    • Jeff Smith, EP-C Post authorReply

      The workouts shouldn’t take any longer than 1 hour. Just monitor your rest times and you should be good!

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