The following is a guide to the exercises referenced in FLEX’s “In the Beginning,” a 12-week beginner’s bodybuilding program. Exercise descriptions are listed in the order in which they appear in the charts on page 90 of the January 2008 issue of FLEX (“Weeks 1-6: Total-Body Circuit Workout” and “Weeks 7-12: Increased-Intensity Split Workout”).

For more exercise descriptions, workout suggestions, and bodybuilding and nutrition tips, purchase a copy of 101 Workouts, a bodybuilding manual by Michael Berg and the MUSCLE & FITNESS editors, available in January at Barnes & Noble.

Leg Presses

START: Place your feet on a leg press machine platform in a shoulder-width stance. Extend your knees (but do not lock them out) to lift the platform slightly, then disengage the safety handles.
MOVE: Lower the platform, bringing your knees toward your chest. At the bottom, press forcefully through your heels to raise the weight back up. Make sure your lower back stays firmly on the pad throughout the exercise.

Lying Leg Curls

START: Lie face-down on a leg-curl machine and position your Achilles tendons below the padded lever with your knees just off the edge of the bench. Grasp the bench or the handles for stability. Make sure your knees are slightly bent to protect them from overextension.
MOVE: Raise your feet toward your glutes in a strong and deliberate motion, squeezing the muscles at the top, then lower to the start position. Keep your hips down on the bench; letting them rise to get more leverage will take emphasis off the hams. A good mental trick for hamstrings is to think of them like biceps; for each rep, you want to flex them into a tight ball, then release.

Seated Cable Rows

START: Using a narrow-grip handle, keep your knees slightly bent with your feet flat on the platform in front of you for stabilization.
MOVE: With your torso perpendicular to the floor and your eyes straight ahead, pull the handle toward your midsection, focusing on driving your elbows back until the handle touches your navel. After squeezing your shoulder blades together at the peak of contraction, slowly return to the starting position, leaning forward slightly with your arms extended at the end of each rep to stretch your lats completely.

Machine Chest Presses

START: Load the appropriate weight on a chest press machine, lie back on the bench and grasp the handles at slightly beyond shoulder width.
MOVE: Keep your elbows pointing outward as you press the weight straight up. Pause at the top, then lower the weight slowly.

Machine Shoulder Presses

START: Position a bench under the barbell within the machine. Using an overhand grip that’s beyond shoulder width, unlatch the bar from the safety supports.
MOVE: Lower the bar down behind your head, then flex through your shoulders and forcefully press it up. Keep your back straight and your elbows under the bar during each rep.

Dumbbell Shrugs

START: Grasp two heavy dumbbells and stand in a comfortable, shoulder-width stance.
MOVE: Hold the dumbbells at your sides and let them extend as far downward as you can. Pull your shoulders straight up and hold for two counts before slowly lowering the weights. No rolling is necessary.


START: With a slight bend in your knees, stand erect facing a high-cable pulley. Grasp a short, straight bar with your hands placed six to eight inches apart, palms down, and bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
MOVE: Keeping your elbows stationary near your sides, slowly straighten your arms, bringing your elbows down by your body. Pause at full extension and squeeze your triceps, then slowly return to the starting position.

Machine Preacher Curls

START: Position the seat so your armpits are flush against the pad. Place your feet forward to help stabilize your body, and grasp the handle with an underhand grip so your little fingers are higher than your thumbs (your palms supinate outward). This helps keep your elbows in and better isolates the lower biceps.
MOVE: Slowly raise the handle, pause and squeeze your biceps, then lower the handle to just short of elbow lockout.

Back Extensions

START: Lie face-down on a back-extension bench with your heels under the footpads.
MOVE: With your body straight, head neither flexed forward nor extended backward, and your arms crossed over your chest, lower your torso so your body forms an angle that approaches 90 degrees. Use a smooth motion to rise back up to the starting position.

Standing Calf Raises

START: Stand squarely beneath the shoulder pads of a calf-raise machine, with the balls of your feet at the edge of the footrest. MOVE: With your legs straight, lower yourself to stretch your calves, then rise as high as you can, squeezing the muscles.

Barbell Wrist Curls

START: Grasp a straight bar with an overhand grip, hands about 10 inches apart. Kneel on the floor along one side of a flat bench. With your forearms on the bench, let your hands and wrists hang over the edge.
MOVE: Curl your hands up as high as possible, then lower the weight to the starting position. To maximize your range of motion, keep your thumbs on the underside of the bar. Repeat for reps, then switch to an underhand grip with your hands about four inches apart (thumbs under the bar) and perform the same movement.


START: Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet and lower back flat.
MOVE: With your hands cupped loosely behind your neck, contract through your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor. Hold for one count before slowly lowering back to the start, making the negative portion of the rep as slow and deliberate as the positive portion.

Incline Dumbbell Presses

START: Lie squarely on an incline bench, which should be set at a fairly low angle. Hold the dumbbells just outside your shoulders.
MOVE: Forcefully press the weights up in an arc until your arms are fully extended above your chest. Reverse the motion, being sure not to overstretch your shoulders by lowering the weights below chest level.

Pec-Deck Flyes

START: Sit in a pec-deck station, placing your elbows and upper arms on the pads. Position your arms so that your elbows fall just below your shoulders, and limit the stretch to just behind your chest.
MOVE: Squeeze your pecs to bring the pads together in front of your chest. Flex your chest hard when your elbows are together, and always lower the weight in a controlled manner. Don’t bounce.

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

START: Grasp a dumbbell in one hand and rest your free hand on a bench, keeping your chest slightly lifted as you bend forward from the hips, one foot just in front of the other for balance.
MOVE: Keeping your torso stable, pull the dumbbell all the way up to touch your chest, moving your shoulder backward as your elbow comes toward the ceiling. Lower the dumbbell straight down to the starting position.

Wide-Grip Pulldowns

START: Take a wide grip on the bar in a pulldown machine. Position yourself on the seat with your chest up. Lean back slightly.
MOVE: Squeeze your lats to initiate the movement, pulling the bar down in a smooth motion to nearly touch your upper chest. Hold the peak contraction for a moment, then slowly return the bar all the way up to get a good stretch through the working muscles. Don’t rock back and forth — stay almost upright throughout.

Seated Dumbbell Presses

START: Sit erect on an adjustable bench, feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated (palms facing forward) grip. Your elbows should be just slightly below the level of your shoulders, wrists directly in line with your elbows.
MOVE: Keeping your shoulders back, press the weights overhead in an arc, but don’t let them touch at the top. Slowly lower to the starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

START: Sit or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your hips, palms facing inward.
MOVE: Maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you lift your arms out to your sides. Lead with your elbows and, when they reach shoulder height, pause before slowly lowering to the starting position.

Lying Triceps Extensions

START: Lie on a flat bench and hold an EZ-curl bar in one hand with an overhand grip. Extend your arms straight up.
MOVE: Without letting your upper arms move (they should remain pointing straight up), bend at the elbows to bring the bar down toward the top of your head. Don’t let your elbows drift outward. Stop your downward motion when the bar is just beyond your forehead, and reverse to bring your arms back up to the starting position.

Standing Barbell Curls

START: With your knees slightly bent and your feet about hip-width apart, grasp a barbell with a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Let the bar hang to your thighs. Keep your abs pulled in and your elbows stationary.
MOVE: Without swaying, slowly curl the bar in an arc toward your shoulders as you exhale. Pause at the top of the movement, squeeze your biceps and slowly lower the bar almost to the start. Don’t lift the bar all the way to your shoulders, and don’t let it touch your thighs at the bottom, in order to keep continuous tension on the biceps.

Smith Machine Squats

START: Stand with the bar across your shoulders and traps, grasping it just beyond your shoulders. Twist the bar to unrack it.
MOVE: With your chest high, head up and back slightly arched, bend your knees and hips as if you’re sitting back in a chair until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Reverse the motion by driving through your heels and pressing your hips forward to return to the starting position.

Leg Extensions

START: Sit in a leg extension machine so your knees are at the edge of the bench and your ankles are just below the footpad/rollers. Sit back against the back pad, if applicable.
MOVE: Grasp the handles or the bench edges behind your hips and keep your upper body stable as you straighten your legs in a smooth movement until your legs are fully extended. Contract your quads at the top and lower under control. For full benefits, don’t let the weight touch down between repetitions. Keep the motion fluid and concentrate on feeling the muscle work.

Reverse Crunches

START: Lie face-up on a bench or the floor with your hands extended at your sides, feet up and thighs perpendicular to the bench or floor.
MOVE: Slowly bring your knees toward your chest, lifting up your hips and glutes, and try to maintain the bend in your knees throughout the movement. Return to the starting position, using a controlled motion.