If you are reading this, chances are that you either exercise regularly or are considering adding exercise to your weekly routine. With this being said, the guys here at Limitless have created a unique workout specifically tailored to those who are just taking their first step into the life of weightlifting.
Subsequently, the following workout is directed toward individuals who either have access to a gym, or have adequate equipment at home.
The easiest workout program for the beginner to coordinate is your standard 5 day split. This split is not required to be completed within any specific amount of time. The best practice is to rotate between muscle groups. For example, make sure to stay consistent by working different muscle groups on consecutive workout days. Do not workout your arms 3 days in a row, as this can be detrimental to muscle development (another entirely different topic for another day).
The number one rule when lifting is to warm up. Active stretching is the best way to prepare your body for any type of lifting exercise. Here is a great video from Six Pack Factory which demonstrates a great pre workout stretch:
Day 1: Chest day
Generally every lifter’s favorite day, Monday is considered national chest day in almost every gym in the United States. (Pro tip: workout chest on any day other than Monday if you want a good workout.)
Following your stretch, always remember to begin your workout using compound exercises rather than isolation exercises. Essentially, compound exercises use multiple muscles and muscle groups, where isolation exercises only target one muscle. For this reason, we naturally need more energy for compound exercises. Therefore, for the time being we will begin with compound movements, followed with isolation movements.
- Flat Barbell Bench Press: This is vital for pectoral development. If this is your first time lifting. Start out with pressing only the bar. Add weight in 5-10 pound increments. Move slowly, adjusting your grip width to suit your body and ergonomics. Generally, a shoulder width grip is perfect for maximum effectiveness. Make sure not to flare your elbows out too wide or tuck your elbows too narrow starting out. Both of these can cause joint pain as well as physical injuries. ALWAYS USE A SPOTTER ON COMPOUND MOVEMENTS. We at Limitless cannot stress this enough. The last thing you want is to be stuck under a weighted barbell or injuring yourself. The best rep scheme for beginners is 3x10 or 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Incline Barbell Bench Press: Another exercise which is vital for pectoral development. Alternatively, this helps target your upper chest. Once again, start light with 5-10 pound increments. A common beginning rep scheme is 3x10 or three sets of 10. 95% of people are weaker on incline bench than flat bench, so a good approximation is to use 60-75% of your flat bench weight on incline. Just adjust the weight as necessary and ALWAYS USE A SPOTTER.
- Flat Dumbbell Flys: After compound movements, we like to focus on isolation exercises. These take less physical energy in comparison to compound movements like the bench press. The best single isolation movement for someone who is new at lifting is surely the Flat Dumbbell Fly. This not only engages stabilization muscles with the implementation of free weights, but also is relatively tame in regards to isolation movements. A spotter is usually not required on fly movements, as you will be using much lighter weights. Begin with 5lb dumbbells to gauge your strength for the exercise. Finding the proper weight is vital to recruiting the muscle fibers effectively. We recommend a rep scheme of 3x10-15. Try to achieve at least 10 reps per set, but no more than 20 reps to prevent a significant buildup of lactic acid within the muscle, which will ultimately diminish your strength temporarily.
- (Optional) Machine Fly: We find for beginners, one isolation exercise is plenty to engage and fatigue the muscle group. However if you are feeling especially energetic, go ahead and hop on the Pectoral Fly Machine, or most commonly called the Pec Deck. The video instructional will show you how to use the machine. No spotter is required on most machines, so go ahead and rep away. Select a weight that is moderately heavy. Once again, the 3x10 rep scheme is best for beginner lifters.
***Helpful tools: Check out our Bench Press Max Calculator we built just for you all! This can also be used for squat to estimate your one rep max.
Day 2: Back Day
- Pull ups/ Lat Pulldown: These exercises are fantastic for developing width to one’s back. Most pulldowns and pullups target the muscle group latissimus dorsi or lats for short. Many beginners cannot achieve a traditional pull up, therefore the lat pulldown is a great way to start. Start light, and get a gauge of what is comfortable for your strength level. The overhand grip should be just outside of shoulder width. Too narrow of a grip/ too wide of a grip both limit mobility and place excessive stress on your shoulders. We recommend 3x8-12 as a good starting rep scheme.
- Conventional Deadlift: Many powerlifters’ most favorite exercise. This is also my favorite compound movement. Nothing shows strength like the deadlift, because 90% of the time, this will be your heaviest compound exercise. The conventional deadlift demands a stance just outside of shoulder width. We recommend starting light with just the bar. Your grip will be right on the outside of your stance. Your dominant hand will generally be over grip, where the non dominant hand will generally be under grip. The main muscle group targeted are the erector spinae or the spinal erectors. A good rep scheme is 3x6-8 repetitions.
- Dumbbell Row: This is a perfect way to develop most muscle groups of the upper back. The Dumbbell Row should be done on a freestanding weight bench. Do not use the weight rack as you will be in everyone’s way who is trying to return their weight. Also the angle of retraction for your shoulder blade is best utilized with one knee and one hand on the weight bench. The other hand should grasp a dumbbell of a selected weight. Pull swiftly, almost similar to starting a lawnmower. Make sure to pause momentarily at the top of the repetition and the bottom of the repetition in order to recruit the muscle fibers most effectively. 3x10-12 reps is best.
- (Optional) Seated Row: If you have access to a machine with a low pulley attachment, grab a handle and have at it. I personally prefer the v bar handle on the seated row. The video instructional will show how to properly get set up. Main points of notice are to not swing your torso, and make sure to retract your shoulder blades at the apex of the movement. 3x10-12 reps is most effective initially.
Day 3: Shoulder Day
- Overhead Press Although the overhead press is a complex movement, it can easily be learned with some trial and error. This exercise is pivotal to shoulder development. Compound movements are so vital for training, especially in the early years of lifting weights. Start with just the bar. Your grip should be once again be just outside shoulder width. Too wide will place excess stress on your shoulders. Too narrow will limit your range of motion when your elbows strike your torso. When pressing, choose a shoulder split stance, press vertically, and make sure to move your head forward at the apex of each movement. 3x8-10 reps is adequate.
- Lateral Raises These are the bees knees when it comes to medial deltoid development. This is considered an isolation movement as well. For beginners, grab a 5lb dumbbell in each hand. Bend your arm at the elbow just slightly. Make sure to move your shoulder only. Try not to swing the weight aggressively or flex your traps while going through the movement. Raise the weight until your arm is parallel to the ground. 3x10-15 reps is a great rep scheme for the medial delts.
- Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly This is a hard one to figure out completely for many individuals. There are two main rear fly patterns, one targets the lower trapezius, called the Back Fly. The other, which we will be focusing on today, targets the rear deltoids. A neutral grip is necessary. Make sure to try to pull with your shoulders and not your back. This tutorial by Scott Herman will set you straight. Once again, we recommend 3x10-15 reps.
- (Optional) Face Pulls Ah, face pulls, the finisher of every great shoulder workout. In case your shoulders didn’t burn enough today. Set your cable attachment at chest height. Adjust your weight stack as necessary. The rope attachment is best for Face Pulls most definitely. Do not sway your body, try to focus on pulling with the rear portion of your shoulder. 3x10-15 reps will finish you off nicely.
Day 4: Arm Day
- Close Grip Bench Press: Compound movements first! Amen. Live by those words religiously. The close grip bench press is very similar to the standard flat barbell benchpress. The only alteration is that your grip will be narrow, directly in the plane of your shoulder blades. Your elbows must stay tucked nice and tight to your body to prevent the risk of injury. This exercise predominantly targets your triceps. However, the chest and other complementary muscle groups are worked as well. 3x8-12 reps will suffice with these.
- Barbell, or EZ Bar curl: Welcome to the world of biceps, my friend. The curl is what every gym bro focuses on. Some even hit arms everyday! Big biceps make your arm look huge, although this muscle comprises generally only 2/5 of your arm’s mass. The concept of curling is simple. Keep your elbows tight to your side. Focus on having the only movement through your elbow with no excessive swinging of the arms or torso. Choose a light weight to begin with and work up. Do not sway your body! This will negate the whole process of the exercise. 3x8-12 reps works very nicely.
- Dumbbell Hammer Curl: This is my personal favorite curl, as I can generally use much higher weight than the concentration curl. This doesn’t mean go grab the 50 pound dumbbells and go swinging. This means you should be able to naturally hammer curl a few more pounds. This targets the brachialis, the muscle between your biceps and triceps. It also targets the biceps and the forearm, just a bit less so. Don’t leave these out of your routine. They will aid in overall arm development and will help you look more “filled out.” Get ya 3x10-12 reps to be all set.
- Tricep Pushdown: Cable machines really get you pumped. Wait till you see how big your triceps feel after this. Some people prefer the rope attachment. Some prefer the straight bar attachment. I personally prefer the v shaped tricep handle. Play around and see what best fits your style. A bit more volume will help break the triceps down. 3x12-15 reps will treat you nicely.
- Concentration Curl: The concentration curl is the way to finish off your biceps every arm day. Keep those elbows tight. Your grip should be supinated (palm facing upward.) The most common mistake in the exercise is losing the supination. MAKE SURE TO KEEP YOUR PALM FACING UPWARD. This ensures maximum contraction of your biceps in particular. 3x10-12 will set you straight.
- Overhead Tricep Extension: 10-12 This is great for tricep development. I prefer the dumbbell method. Make sure to go as deep as comfortably possible. You will really feel this one in the long head of your triceps. Be careful not to rotate your shoulder or rotator cuff while doing this exercise to prevent injury. 3x10-12 reps is ideal.
- Forearm rope: This is an amazing forearm exercise. However, many gyms do not have a good forearm rope in their inventory. Many people end up buying their own when they become serious about lifting. Start out with a 2.5 pound plate on the rope. For the first portion, twist the rope backward until the rope is all the way wrapped around the handle. For the second portion you will twist the rope forward until the rope is completely wrapped around the handle again. Plan on doing 1-5 reps depending on difficulty. However, you will feel the burn for sure on this one!
Day 5: Leg Day
- Squats: Essentially the most dreaded of all beginner workouts. Squats are a complex workout not to be toyed with. If this is your first squat workout, stay light. You may barely be able to walk in the morning. Seriously… Focus on your form. Shoulder width stance, especially focus on your depth being parallel, this is the key to building and maintaining great squat strength. 3 sets of 8-10 reps raising the weight slightly each set is a great way to begin your squat routine.
- Leg Extensions: Quads for the broads? Just kidding….Maybe. Once again, start light and work your way up. This is technically an isolation movement, focus on slowly letting the weight down. The slow repetitions will help recruit the muscle fibers in your legs. 3 sets of 10-15 reps is the way to go for sure.
- Hamstring Curls: Hams for the ma’ams! Haha but for real…. Unfortunately, many people neglect this portion of the leg, as it is not in plain sight. However, the hamstring is vital to having functional leg strength. This muscle needs attention always. Sadly, for many individuals it takes a lot to break this muscle down. Start with 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions and go from there. If it burns, you’re doing something right.
- Lunges: This is a great way to finish your legs off overall on leg day! These can be done both forward and backward. Initially, we will focus on forward lunges only. When you feel up to the challenge you can try the reverse lunges. 3 sets of 10-12 per leg will treat your right.I would recommend weightless initially. As you progress in your training, you can use dumbbells in each hand for greater resistance.
- Calf Raises: Don’t be discouraged if your calves are the last things to grow while weight training. Small calves don’t mean small strength. It takes a whole lot to break these bad boys down. Focus on controlling the weight. Especially be sure to go up and down as far as comfortably possible. Initially 3 sets of 10-15 reps should be enough. However, many people eventually get into rep schemes of 60 or more repetitions. Push yourself, but don’t hurt yourself.
Core Routine (A)
- Sit ups: Arguably the most basic of all core exercises. However, this is still a great way to build abdominal definition, especially the top portion. 3 sets of 10-15 reps is great. If you feel extra energetic, you can even grab a weight plate to have resisted sit ups.
2. Leg Raises: This exercise is such a pain if you have never trained core, your lower abs will physically hurt the next day. It’s a good pain though. The pain of the gain. Just wait for the abs to come in. You will be pleased you did this one. 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions is all you need. Trust us.
Core Routine (B)
- Oblique Crunches: Obliques are desired by many and had by few. The little known key to oblique crunches is to recruit the muscle fibers. The best way to achieve this is through slow, controlled repetitions. If you can effectively recruit the muscle fibers, you will have the burn of your life. 3x10-15 reps will treat you right.
- Dumbbell Side Bends: Another great core and oblique targeting movement, the dumbbell side bends will sculpt your center. I personally prefer to use a weight plate instead of a dumbbell. However, using a weight plate limits the range of available weights to choose from significantly. This exercise is generally a bit harder to perfect. Try to concentrate on keeping the core tight. Slow, methodical movements are a must. Getcha 3x10-15 reps to keep you nice and tone.
Whether you are an avid lifter who makes gains everyday or are a beginner at lifting, this guide can set you straight. Use this routine for up to a month initially, then transition into a new split for further progression. If you have any questions regarding this routine, feel free to shoot us an email at email@example.com.
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