4-Week Beginner Workout Routine (Works For Anyone!)

The Goal of this Beginner Workout Routine

To teach you how you should train if you’re a beginner who wants to see muscle growth and fat loss (yes it’s possible since you’re a beginner). This routine works well for men and women, however, it will work best when your diet is in check as well.

Before You Begin…

You Need Some Context For This Beginner Workout Routine

Right now, as a beginner, if you looked up any workout routine online or from Instagram, you would probably find a workout that includes:

  • Supersets
  • Drop Sets
  • Low Weights
  • High-Rep Schemes
  • Short Rest Periods
  • Etc.

And you know what…

You’d probably see a lot of good results following a routine like that as a beginner.

Any type of lifting, especially as a beginner, will produce results.

For beginners, lifting weights, in any fashion, will give you some definition (especially size, if you lift light weights for high reps).

However, how long will you continue to progress with a routine like that?

How long until your super-sets and drop sets produce results?

Not long unfortunately…

You see, a workout routine that involves all of the above is not optimal for beginners.

Editor’s Note

I’m not saying that there is no place in the gym for super-sets, drop-sets, high-rep schemes, etc. There is. It’s especially useful if your goal is to get huge and a good pump.

What I am saying is this: It is not optimal for a beginner, man or woman, if their goal is to get stronger. Period.

What is Optimal Then, For Beginners?

Heavy lifting with compound lifts, with an emphasis in the 4-8 rep range is. [1]

​Compound lifts are your deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead shoulder press, pull-ups and variations of these lifts.

And yes, there is a reason why.

study from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) said the following about how to structure workout programs:

“It is recommended that strength programs sequence exercises to optimize the preservation of exercise intensity (large before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises, and higher-intensity before lower-intensity exercises)”

Compound Lifts > Isolation Lifts For Beginners

The highlighted section is saying that a workout program should focus on compound exercises (“multiple-joint exercises”) instead of focusing on isolation exercises (“single-joint exercises”).

It also says “higher-intensity before lower-intensity exercises” which essentially means the same thing. Compound lifts such as the Squat are always going to take more intensity and focus to perform than a leg extension.

This is why each workout will start and focus on compound exercises and then adds isolation exercises near the end of the workout. Strength Training is your motto from now on. [2]

4-6 Heavy Reps and 3-5 Minutes of Rest is Optimal

The next quote shows why the rep range and rest times are what they are.

“… it is recommended that individuals use a wider loading range from 1 to 12 RM in a periodized fashion with eventual emphasis on heavy loading (1-6 RM) using 3-to 5-min rest periods between sets performed at a moderate contraction velocity (1-2s CON; 1-2 s ECC).”

This is why each compound exercise is in the 4-6 rep range and why the rest of the exercises don’t go over 12 reps.

Let’s look at some other research about “newbie” training.

Some More Research:

Regardless if you believe in the above statements from the ACSM, I think everyone agrees with one universal principle:

Progressive Overload is the most important aspect in training. [1]

Progressive overload is simply increasing the level of weight and/or tension put on a given muscle over time.

The easiest way to do this is to keep increasing the weight you use, safely, week after week.

Because you’re a beginner, this should happen pretty easily as the weeks progress, given that you’re diet isn’t complete crap.

Seriously, “newbie gains” are real and they’re great. Just about anything will produce results in your first year of training.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS TIME.

After that first year, it’s MUCH harder to see results.

Take advantage by progressing in the main compound lifts.

Remember, compound lifts are your deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead shoulder press, pull-ups and variations of these lifts.

Don’t Train To Failure (at least not yet)

While a lot of people will argue against this, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t train to failure, in some aspects.

Training to failure usually comes from drop-sets, and light-weight, high-rep workout schemes.

Here’s why training a muscle to failure isn’t the best:

  • Training to failure can lead to overtraining and injury [3]
  • Training to failure makes the workout feel harder than it actually is, thus making it harder to progress in the main lifts. [4]
  • Training to failure decreases the amount of reps you can do overall. [5]
  • checkTraining to failure usually involves isolation lifts and studies have been shown that isolation lifts (DB curls, leg extensions, etc.) have no additional benefit for newbies! [6]

I believe that if you do train to failure (or want to) that you should keep it at the end of the workout after you’ve already done your heavy lifting.

I hope this clarifies a lot of what is set out in the workouts below:

The 3-Day Workout Routine For Men

Monday: Upper Body

  • Incline Bench Press: 4 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Seated/Standing Military Press: 3 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Chin-Ups: 3 Sets x 8 Reps
  • DB Flat Bench Press: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • Barbell Curls: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Wednesday: Lower Body

  • Barbell Squats: 4 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Barbell/DB Lunges: 3 Sets x 8 Reps
  • Standing Calf Raises: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Friday: Upper Body

  • Seated/Standing Military Press: 4 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Chin-ups: 3 Sets x 4-6 Reps
  • Incline Bench Press: 3 Sets x 8 Reps
  • DB Flat Bench Press: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • Barbell Curls: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Monday: Upper Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Incline Bench Press

4

4-6

3min

Seated/Standing Military Press

3

4-6

2-3min

Chin-Ups

3

8

1-2min

DB Flat Bench Press

3

10

1-2min

Barbell Curls

3

10

1-2min

Wednesday: Lower Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Barbell Squats

4

4-6

3min

Romanian Deadlifts

3

4-6

2-3min

Barbell/DB Lunges

3

8

1-2min

Standing Calf Raises

3

10

1-2min

Seated Calf Raises

3

10

1-2min

Friday: Upper Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Seated/Standing Military Press

4

4-6

3min

Incline Bench Press

3

4-6

2-3min

Barbell Rows

3

8

1-2min

DB Flat Bench Press

3

10

1-2min

Skullcrushers

3

10

1-2min

Notes for This Workout Routine For Men:

  • Feel free to substitute any exercise if you can’t perform a certain exercise
  • Everywhere it says “4-6 reps,” use 80% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM) for the weight you work with. This should be a weight that you cannot do more than 6 reps without going to failure and no less than 4 reps. If you can’t get 4 reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can get 7 reps easily, the weight is too light.
  • checkRest 2-3 minutes after each set for the 4-6 rep range. Rest for 1-2 minutes for every other rep range.

Since you’re a beginner, you’re probably not going to be lifting a whole lot of weight.

4-6 reps of a “light-weight,” even if it’s 80% of your 1RM may make you feel like you’re not working hard enough due to the low amount of reps.

If this is the case for you, feel free to try the 8-10 rep range in place of the 4-6 rep range.

That is, everywhere it says “4-6 “reps, replace it with”8-10” reps using 70% of your 1RM instead of 80%. After a couple of weeks or months, depending on how you’re progressing with this rep range, switch back to the normal 4-6 rep range.

Make sure to check out this exercise video library if you have any questions on how to perform an exercise.

The 3-Day Workout Routine For Women

Monday: Upper Body

  • Incline DB Bench Press: 4 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • Seated/Standing DB Shoulder Press: 3 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • Lat Pull-Down: 3 Sets x 8-12 Reps
  • DB Flat Bench Press: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • DB Curls: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Wednesday: Lower Body

  • Barbell Squats: 4 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • DB Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 Sets x 8-12 Reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • Seated Calf Raises: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Friday: Upper Body

  • Seated/Standing DB Shoulder Press: 4 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • Incline DB Bench Press: 3 Sets x 8-10 Reps
  • Lat Pull-Down: 3 Sets x 8-12 Reps
  • DB Flat Bench Press: 3 Sets x 10 Reps
  • DB Overhead Tricep Extensions: 3 Sets x 10 Reps

Monday: Upper Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Incline DB Bench Press

4

8-10

2-3min

Seated/Standing DB Shoulder Press

3

8-10

2-3min

Lat Pull-Down

3

8-12

1-2min

DB Flat Bench Press

3

10

1-2min

DB Curls

3

10

1-2min

Wednesday: Lower Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Barbell Squats

4

8-10

2-3min

Romanian Deadlifts

3

8-10

2-3min

DB Bulgarian Split Squats

3

8-12

1-2min

Barbell Hip Thrusts

3

8-12

1-2min

Seated Calf Raises

3

10

1-2min

Friday: Upper Body

Sets

Reps

Rest Time

Seated/Standing DB Shoulder Press

4

8-10

3min

Incline DB Bench Press

3

8-10

2-3min

Lat Pull-Down

3

8-12

1-2min

DB Flat Bench Press

3

10

1-2min

DB Overhead Tricep Extensions

3

10

1-2min

Notes for This Workout Routine For Women:

  • Feel free to substitute any exercise if you can’t perform a certain exercise
  • Everywhere it says “8-10 reps,” use 70% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM) for the weight you work with. This should be a weight that you cannot do more than 10 reps without going to failure and no less than 8 reps. If you can’t get 8 good reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can get 10 reps easily, the weight is too light.
  • checkRest for 1-2 minutes for every rep range.

Since you’re a beginner, you’re probably not going to be lifting a whole lot of weight.

That is okay. The key word here is PROGRESSION.

I was a beginner once too.

So was every “fit” person you’ve seen.

Just keep your head down and keep pushing.

Eventually your body will transform.

Make sure to check out this exercise video library if you have any questions on how to perform an exercise.

Now, Before You Go Run Off to the Gym…

funny beginner athleteThis is for those of you looking to lose weight while packing on muscle.

From the workouts above, you’ll notice a couple things.

1st: it’s a 3-day training split.

2nd: There are notes for the workouts.

Please read through them as they will most likely explain most of the questions you have about the workouts.

The Schedule

If you start on a Monday, the regime looks like this:

Monday – Upper Body

Tuesday – Cardio (Preferably HIIT)

Wednesday – Legs

Thursday – Cardio

Friday – Upper Body

Saturday – Cardio

Sunday – Rest, do yoga, or go for a walk.

Of course, you don’t have to start on a Monday, but the order of workouts and arrangement of rest days should stay consistent.

What I mean by this is that if you start on a Tuesday, simply push everything back accordingly (e.g., Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday).

Beginner Workout Model

man with barbell

Each workout is laid out with an exercise, followed by a number of sets and reps and how long to rest in between each set.

For each compound movement (Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, and Overhead Press), you should be using a weight that is 80% (70% for women) of your 1 Rep Max (1RM).

Since you’re a beginner, take a week or two to find your starting weight for each exercise.

For example, let’s look at the bench press.

You want to safely pick a weight that you think you can do no more than 6 good reps with.

This should be around 80-85% of your 1RM.

If you have some experience, then you can use this 1RM calculator to see what weight you should be using (just type your weight and amount of reps lifted).

Also, by “good reps” I mean using a Full Range of Motion (ROM).

This means, for the bench press, you would lower the bar all the way down to your chest, and fully extend back to the starting position.

For the squat, that means you would lower your ass to parallel or beyond if possible.

That is a full ROM.

How To Warm-Up Correctly

man in gym

Warming up for each exercise is extremely important.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

You can’t just slap 315 pounds on the bar the moment you get in the gym and try to go all out. This can cause serious injury.

Therefore, I want you to warm up for 2-3 sets for each compound lift.

You don’t necessarily have to warm-up for each exercise if, for example, you have 3 chest exercises in a row, but that is up to you.

Also, for isolation exercises (bicep curls, triceps push-downs, etc.), you can warm-up how you like.

Let’s go over how to do these warm-up sets.

  • You should rest 1-2 minutes in between warm-up sets.
  • Your 1st warm-up set should be 50% of your working set weight.(Your working set weight is the weight you’re going to use for the sets laid out in the workout plan.)
  • The 2nd warm-up set should be 70% of your working set weight.
  • The 3rd and final warm-up set should be 90% of your working set weight.

Each compound exercise should be structured like this:

Compound Exercise 1:

3 warm-up sets -> working sets -> 2-3 min Rest…

And so on.

How To Progress On Your Lifts

beach strength training image

Your goal each week is to get more reps than the previous week, increase the weight, or both.

It won’t always happen but strive to do this each and every week, safely of course.

The Progression Model:

For the first week, let’s take the bench press for this example, we would choose a weight that we can do 6 good reps with.

Let’s say 225 lbs for example.

Each workout, you want to aim to try to hit the top of the rep range for every set.

Once you can, increase the weight.

For example:

  • Set 1: 225/6 reps
  • Set 2: 225/6 reps
  • Set 3: 225/6 reps

Since you hit the top of the rep range (4-6)for all 3 sets, you can increase the weight.

If you DON’T hit the top of the rep range, then you would stay at that weight (225 in this example) and try and hit it again the next workout.

Pretty simple.

Here’s another example for the 8-10 rep range.

If you had DB lateral raises for 10 reps for 3 sets:

Week 1:

  • Set 1) 25 lbs/10 reps
  • Set 2) 25 lbs/10 reps
  • Set 3) 25 lbs/10 reps

Week 2:

  • Set 1) 27.5 lbs/9 reps
  • Set 2) 27.5 lbs/9 reps
  • Set 3) 27.5 lbs/8 reps

In this case, you would stay at 27.5 lbs until you hit 10 reps for all 3 sets.

Then you would increase the weight again and repeat the process.

Make sure to reread this if you need to.

There are more advanced progression models that you can use, there’s one in Shredsmart that uses periodization, however, I believe that you can start out with this progression model and see amazing results for now.

A Complete Solution For Beginners

I wanted to explain this part because, when I initially lost 50 lbs, I was NOT using this rep scheme or lifting heavy… at all.

In fact, I was doing a lot of drop sets, supersets, etc.

Yes, I lost a lot of weight…

However, I was using a different workout than the one I am currently giving to you in this program.

It wasn’t until I started to implement these workouts with the proper rep schemes and rest times that I started to see my body transform even more.

There is a place in the gym for supersets, drop sets, bodybuilding-focused exercises, etc.

However, in order to create a great looking physique, especially as a beginner, you must create the foundation, which compounds movements allow you to do.

I hope this helps you on your fitness journey.

Just know that you can’t ONLY have a workout program.

Your nutrition must be on point as well.

Chris

P.S.

Email me at chris[at]leanwithstyle[dot]com if you have any questions about the workout or leave a comment below!

Thanks again and get to the gym!

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