Last Updated 12th August 2016: We’ve done a lot of posts over the past couple of months on training programmes and routines for beginner and intermediate lifters, but over the last week I’ve received a couple of questions along the lines of how “much” or “often” should I be working out. Although we’ve covered this briefly in the 5 day gym split post, I wanted to write an article going through 3 schedule options for beginners.
Option 1: The Absolute Beginner
The most common reason people fail at their fitness goals, is they try to do too much in a short period of time and end up burning out and quitting. You see this for 80% of the people who say they are going to “get fit this year.” The common misconception is that if you do loads today, doing a bit tomorrow won’t seem so bad….But it doesn’t work like that. So what I recommend to the absolute beginner – This is the personal that doesn’t do any exercise at all and lives a highly sedentary life is option 1.
As you know for absolute beginners you want a mix of cardio and weight lifting but I am a big advocate of burning fat through doing what you enjoy. For me I like lifting heavy, so I’d rather do an extra few sets of heavy compound movements than go on the treadmill and burn the same amount of calories. Regardless of your preference, for the absolute beginner I would recommend going to the gym (or working out) 3 times per week. And commit to a 12 week period. This will give you enough time to see and feel the results. Below is the split I would recommend.
- Monday – Full body weight lifting session + Light cardio.
- Wednesday – Lower body weight lifting session + Light cardio.
- Friday – Upper body weight lifting session + High intensity Interval training.
The reason why I recommend this type of split is it gives you enough time to recover in-between workouts and you also get 2 days (the weekend) as rest days after your interval and weight training day (as you will be extremely tired after this session!)
Option 2: The “Average” Beginner
So I say the average beginner as I didn’t know what to call this but it seems to be the level most people are at when they are looking to start going to the gym. If you are generally sedentary in your job (office work / at a desk all day) but you do try to make an effort to exercise once or twice a week, whether this be walking, jogging, playing a sport, whatever the case may be, you are what I’d personally class as the average beginner.
These are generally the people who start and quit fitness routines multiple times, looking for easiest way to get fit, going 100% at this for a short amount of time and then burning out. The split I recommend for the average beginner is as follows. It’s a 4 day split, with 2 days “in the gym” and 2 days where you can do either an activity of choice or a home workout. For example the below split:
- Monday: Full body weightlifting session.
- Wednesday: High intensity interval training OR Sporting activity.
- Friday: Full body weightlifting session.
- Saturday: Secondary physical activity (sports with friends / jogging / Swimming)
This programme is more intensive, but is split into a 2/2 break. 2 of the routines must be done at the gym (aka the full body weightlifting routines) but the other 2 sessions can be almost anything. The key is to look for something that is around 30 mins to 2 hours in length, that you enjoy, or at least don’t mind doing. For example for me I like playing baseball, so on a Saturday if I can get a few friends together that would be my activity of choice, if not then swimming, the decision is up to you but make sure the Wednesday and Saturday session is something you genuinely enjoy doing. If you can’t manage to get both days, focus on the Saturday workout for the enjoyable element.
Option 3: “Advanced” Beginner
This routine is for the individual who has experience training, whether this be through their sport, school or simply an active job. Although technically still a beginner, the advanced beginner should be able to go straight into a 4/5 day per week programme without too many negative impacts. Below is the split I would recommend, the 3rd day (the Saturday is optional.)
- Monday: Lower body weightlifting session + Light cardio.
- Tuesday: Upper Body weightlifting session + High intensity interval training.
- Thursday: Lower body weightlifting session.
- Friday: Upper body weightlifting session + light cardio.
- Saturday: Interval training and/or secondary weight training session (lightweight)
If you have any questions on any of the specifics of the programme, feel free to get in touch via twitter, or in the comments section below.