Last Updated 11th August 2016: As you probably already know if you’ve been on the Ghost Fitness blog for any length of time, we highly advocate overall strength training exercise programs. When it comes to building muscle, losing weight or to improve performing, the correct strength training program for your level of fitness will help you achieve all of these goals. In this article we are going to be looking at 3 exercise programs for beginners, all based around a strength training pillar. If you’ve been lifting weights for more than 2-3 years, these programs will not be for you, but if you are looking for a guide to follow and improve your strength, fitness and performance in the process, any 3 of the below programs would be perfect. All the programs below can be found free online, simply search the names or follow the links.
In addition to these programs you can add cardio, sporting specific movements and any additional exercise outside of the gym. We recommend sticking to the programming that the routine outlines, but if you’re main goal is to lose weight for example, adding an extra 20-40 mins of cardio at the end of your session will help you reach this goal faster and more effectively.
Exercise Program 1 – Stronglifts 5×5
The first program we are going to look at is the stronglifts 5×5 strength training program. This also goes by a number of other names and there have been hundreds of workout routines taken from the basic principle, but the original program is still extremely effective as a beginner exercise routine. Below is a quote from the stronglifts site itself about the program.
StrongLifts 5×5 consists of two full body-workouts: Workout A: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row Workout B: Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift, You train three times a week, alternating workout A and B, and resting at least one day between two workouts. You never train two days in a row because your body needs days off to get stronger. Most guys train Monday, Wednesday, Friday. But you can lift Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. As long as you train three times a week, and take at least one day off between two workouts for your body to recover, you’ll get stronger. The first time you do StrongLifts 5×5 you start with workout A. Two days later you do workout B. So first week is A/B/A, second week B/A/B, third week A/B/A, and so on.
Why it’s for beginners
Stronglifts is a beginner program for 2 reasons, the first is the program assumes you are able to make linear strength gains (increasing the weight of each exercise in each workout.) For beginners this is usually the case, but for more advanced lifters you will need to implement periodisation as many have reached a plateau and hence cannot increase the weight on each movement week after week.
The second reason we recommend this to beginner lifters, is it’s a 3 day per week program. This means you can also exercise throughout the week (cardio, sport specific ect) without overdoing it. Many people fail because they go from nothing or no exercise, to going to the gym everyday. This is a huge mistake as 95% of people burn-out and hence don’t stick with whatever workout program they have decided. This was the number 1 mistake people make when starting dieting (according to our experts.)
On this program you can also add accessory movements to the end of the workout, but these are always optional. For example adding pull ups, bicep curls or lunges to the workouts to get some extra volume work in. The programme is very flexible and best of all you will see great results from only going to the gym 3 times per week.
Exercise Program 2 – Wendler 531
Wendler 531 is a powerlifting / strength training routine created by Jim Wendler. The tagline of the program itself is “build pure strength” and the primary aim of the routine is to improve the 4 compound lifts (squat, bench press, overhead press and deadlift) as much as possible. Unlike 5×5 it is recommended you don’t customise this program at all.
The program itself can be found here, but the basic principles are as follows:
- Train 4 times per week in the gym.
- Train 1 compound movement per gym session.
- Only 3 working sets based on a percentage of your one rep max.
- With a rep range of between 5 and 1 reps (5 reps in week 1, 3 in week 2 and 5/3/1 in week 3.)
- Add assistance movements as required.
Below are a couple of tips when performing the program from Jim himself.
- Progress slowly – Increase the weights each cycle but ensure you never reach failure.
- Don’t do too much assistance work – As the name suggests its “assisting” the primary exercises.
- Start with correct numbers – Start with the correct weight you can achieve (accurate one rep maxes.)
- Give the last set everything – In each week you will have a x/x/x+ number of reps to achieve. On the “plus” set, which is always the last set, you should aim to do as many reps as possible, but never fail a rep.
- Add weight in each new cycle – When you complete a 4 week cycle add 5lbs to bench and shoulder press and 10lbs to squat and deadlifts.
Below is a screenshot of how the results are output, as you can see its a very easy to read excel doc, you can also tailor this for 12, 24 or 36 week chunks.
Why it’s for beginners
It’s based off a percentage of your one rep max, so whether you squat 300kg or 30kg the percentages still stay true, as long as you keep the one rep max figure accurate, you can build your strength very quickly on this program. You can also get all this information and the excel for free, but first I would recommend reading the full 531 guide here, if you want to purchase the entire excel and ebook you can do so here, although you can take enough from the above article to create the program for yourself.
Exercise Program 3 – Candito 6 Week Strength Training Program
I won’t go too in-depth on this program as we’ve done a full review which you can find here. But the basis of the program as the name suggest is a 6 week training program starting with lighter weights and “lower intensity” and working up to a heavy more intensive working weight in the latter weeks of the program, with week 6 being a deload week. The routine is based on compound movements as the previous exercise programs are, but unlike the 2 above this is based on cycling. After the 6 week cycle is completed you increase your 1 rep max weight to give you the working weights for your exercises in the next cycle.
Why It’s for beginners
Similar to Stronglifts, this is a linear strength program, although in the program itself there are peaking elements, the routine is a linear one with no periodisation. I personally love this program as the accessory movements also aid the main compound lifts. For example close grip bench pressing helps to improve your max bench press, the same elements are throughout the programme for squatting and deadlifting. Which drastically increases your overall strength gains for the 4 compound movements.
If you are looking for an exercise program for beginners I would recommend one of the 3 outlined above. They can be worked to your everyday needs and are very easy to implement. All programmes can be mixed with cardio, although this is not necessary. Let me know in the comments below which one you decided to try and your opinions and results. Also remember to share and subscribe! Thanks for reading.