Workout Routines

The 2017 Starter's Guide workout plan for beginners

Get back on track with this simple, yet highly effective, four-week program.

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2017 Starter's Guide workout plan for beginners
Men's Fitness
Men's Fitness
Duration 30-60
Exercises 6-14
Equipment Yes

The 2017 Starter’s Guide is a five-day program which involves three days a week of lifting—an upper-body focus, lower-body focus, and full-body workout—with two forms of cardio sandwiched in between lifting days. If you can get the program done during the week, take the weekends off. If not, you have to do the work whenever duty calls.

As a beginner, you’re still trying to find out what works and what doesn’t. Anything less than three days per week doesn’t give you enough reps and volume to learn the movements and stay consistent. And anything more than three days per week can hinder your recovery. Three weekly lifting workouts is also doable for most people when first starting out—it’s enough days that you can fit the sessions in your schedule, but not too much to be overwhelming. 

How it works

HIIT cardio burns more fat quicker and helps you adjust to higher-intensity training that you may not be used to while making you a better-conditioned lifter. Steady-state cardio will enhance your recovery and increase your work capacity, better translating to your overall fitness and health. 

On paper, the volume in workouts on Day 1 and Day 3 may look like a lot to get started. But this works because many of your sets will be at a lower, submaximal weight. This acts as practice for your neuromuscular system, which will adapt to the movements. Though you’ll have a fair amount of muscle tissue breakdown, it won’t be so much that you’re overtrained, since you won’t be using a ton of weight. Beginners are still trying to find their groove and see what they can handle as far as weights for certain exercises and rep schemes are concerned. 

Directions

Say you’re performing three working sets for 10 reps each, the first set should be about 50 to 60% of your 10-rep max (10RM)—the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 10 reps, and no more, with good form—just to get a feel for the movement while warming you up. Bump it up to about 70 to 75% of your 10RM after that for a little more intensity. The last set should be close to your 10RM. At this point, you’re still finding out what works, what doesn’t, and how to execute the movement. For most movements, save the hard set for last.

The Friday workout in this program employs some old-school bodybuilding supersets to bump up intensity. Doing this one day a week will help prep you for harder training down the road while building some muscle in the process. 

This program should be followed for at least four weeks to see progress. Any more than around eight weeks is too long. After four to eight weeks, sit back and analyze your training log and make adjustments.

TRAINING NOTE: In the below lifting workouts, for each A and B exercise pairing (i.e., 1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, etc.), alternate between the two exercises one set at a time—similar to supersets, except follow the dedicated rest periods between exercises.

On Day 2, use the Concept2 rower or a stationary bike and perform one of the following HIIT cardio routines.

Concept2 rower

Week 1: 10 x 100 meters at 90% intensity; rest 60 sec. between intervals
Week 2: 6 x 300 meters at 80% intensity; rest 90 sec. between intervals
Week 3: 8 x 200 meters at 90% intensity; rest 75 sec. between intervals
Week 4:  8 x 200 meters at 100% intensity; rest 75 sec. between intervals

Stationary bike

Week 1: 10 x 10-calorie sprints at 90% intensity; rest 60 sec. between intervals
Week 2: 6 x 30-calorie sprints at 80% intensity; rest 90 sec. between intervals
Week 3: 8 x 20- calorie sprints at 90% intensity; rest 75 sec. between intervals
Week 4: 8 x 25- calorie sprints at 100% intensity; rest 75 sec. between intervals

Warmup Perform before starting Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5 workouts

Exercise 1.

Inchworm You'll need: No Equipment How to
How To Do An Inchworm/Walkout thumbnail
2 sets
5 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Bodyweight Squat You'll need: No Equipment How to
Bodyweight Squat thumbnail
2 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3.

Plank You'll need: No Equipment How to
Plank thumbnail
2 sets
30 sec. reps
-- rest

Exercise 4.

Walking Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Walking Lunge  thumbnail
2 sets
5 (per leg) reps
-- rest

Exercise 5.

Jumping Jack You'll need: No Equipment How to
Jumping Jack thumbnail
2 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Day 1 Upper-body workout

Exercise 1A.

Incline Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 1B.

T-Bar Row
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 2A.

Barbell Overhead Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Overhead Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 2B.

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 3A.

Dip You'll need: Dip Station How to
Dips thumbnail
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 3B.

Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl thumbnail
3 sets
8-12 reps
1-2 min. rest

Day 2 HIIT Cardio (see instructions above)

Day 3 Lower-body lift

Exercise 1A.

Front Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Front Squat thumbnail
4 sets
6 reps
2-3 min. rest

Exercise 1B.

Hanging Knee Raise You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
2-3 min. rest

Exercise 2A.

Trap-Bar Deadlift You'll need: Trap Bar How to
Trap-Bar Deadlift thumbnail
4 sets
6 reps
2-3 min. rest

Exercise 2B.

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
4 sets
15-20 reps
2-3 min. rest

Exercise 3A.

Dumbbell Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lunge thumbnail
3 sets
10 (per leg) reps
2-3 min. rest

Exercise 3B.

Lying cable curl You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine How to
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10-12 reps
2-3 min. rest

Day 4 Steady-state cardio

Exercise 1.

Run How to
Run thumbnail
-- sets
Perform 15-45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio on the equipment of your choice (bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc.) or outdoors (running/ jogging). reps
-- rest

Day 5 High-intensity full-body lift

Exercise 1A.

Leg Extension How to
Leg Extension thumbnail
2 sets
20, 10 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 1B.

Back Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man does back squat exercise thumbnail
2 sets
20, 8-10 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 2.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
2 sets
8-10 reps
1-2 min. rest
Perform this exercise keeping your legs straight.

Exercise 3A.

Dummbbell Flye You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
2 sets
10, 8-10 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 3B.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 4A.

Pullover/Triceps Extension You'll need: Barbell How to
Pullover/Triceps Extension  thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
0 sec. rest
Perform this exercise using a dumbbell.

Exercise 4B.

Seated Cable Row You'll need: Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Seated Cable Row thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 5A.

Bentover cable lateral raise You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine How to
Bentover cable lateral raise thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 5B.

Rear-Delt Flye How to
Rear Delt Flye  thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 6.

Farmer's Walk You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Farmer's Walk  thumbnail
1 sets
100 yds. reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 7A.

Rope Pushdown You'll need: Cable Machine How to
Rope Pushdown thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 7B.

Lying Triceps Extension You'll need: Dumbbells How to
 Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
1-2 min. rest

Exercise 8A.

Biceps Curl (suspension trainer) How to
Biceps Curl  thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 8B.

Hammer Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Hammer Curl thumbnail
2 sets
10, 6-8 reps
1-2 min. rest

Day 6 Active rest (take a walk, hike, etc.)

Day 7 Active rest (take a walk, hike, etc.)

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