Last Updated 11th August 2016: Over the last few months we’ve been posting a lot about strength training and workout routines. In this article we’re going to go over what you should be looking for in a beginner workout routine. This is generally suited to male athletes, but can also be extracted for female lifters, although we have a specific women’s workout routine already.
What to Look for In a Workout Programme?
Emphasis on heavy, compound movements. I don’t know the amount of time I’ve written this on the Ghost Fitness blog, but the science doesn’t lie. Heavy compound movements build muscle on major muscle groups. For example performing the squat, deadlift, overhead press and bench press will give you enough activation of large muscle groups (that if you did this exercises exclusively you would build a great base for training.
Another element is the volume of a specific training programme. Volume refers to the number of sets performed. For example a training program with a higher volume will generally be more suited to individuals looking to build muscle. This is why bodybuilding programmes generally have a higher number of reps and sets that powerlifting or strength training routines. Although I advocate a strength training programme for beginners I also recommend adding element of bodybuilding training, usually at the end of the session.
For example a program should start with a heavy compound movement for between 3-7 working sets. Of these sets the rep ranges should be between 1-10, this is why a 5×5 programme works so well as it incorporates both elements, for intensity and volume. The second exercise should usually be a variation of the first but using a higher rep range, for example if the bench press was the primary exercise, the secondary should be an incline dumbbell press. This uses slightly different muscles, whilst keeping the emphasis on the chest.
The next element to a perfect training program is the mix of barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight and resistance exercises. Generally compound movements use a barbell, the only exception being pull ups (that I can think of.) A workout routine, especially one focused on male beginners should include elements of all types. For example on our chest day, we would begin with the bench press, the secondary exercise would be incline dumbbell press, the third might be cable chest flies and the fourth exercise would be dips. This takes into account all 4 training styles and utilises slightly different muscles in each and hence has slightly different benefits. All of which promotes muscle growth across the board for the athlete.
The final element I’d recommend isn’t an element in itself, its simply a note on nutrition. You will not build muscle effectively if your recovery isn’t on point. Getting enough protein in your body is the primary goal, but overall calorie consumption is equally important. If you are looking to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit, if you are looking to put on weight (muscle) you must be in a caloric surplus. When creating a training programme, don’t forget that most of your work is done outside of the gym. Eating correctly and getting enough sleep are essential to muscle growth. Never forget that especially when starting out.
Beginner Workout Routine Options
Now that you know exactly what you should be looking for in a program, I’ll give you a few examples of the programme I personally recommend.
1.) Wendler 5-3-1 – This is Jim Wendler’s program for overall strength. As well as strength it has a volume element named “boring but big”. The program itself focuses on the compound movements but you can accessories into this program if you require even more volume.
2.) Nerd Training – The concepts of their weight lifting 101 program revolve around exactly what we talked about above.
3.) Strong Lifts 5×5 – Based on the 3 primary compound movements, Stronglifts is designed to build overall strength and promote muscle growth in the largest muscles in the body. Building these muscles before focusing on smaller, isolation exercises. This will improve your overall strength earlier and hence keep your lifting progress on the right track.