“How many different exercises is optimal for each muscle group per workout for beginners vs. veterans?” – Edvinas Milašius

Great question. First, let’s change our mindset a little bit. Beginners should shift their approach away from “training muscles” and more towards developing better movement. Their goal should be to develop better form with the fundamental movement patterns – push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, lunge, and rotation – which will help them gain more control and stability of their body.

Also, the main upper and lower body compound exercises should form the foundation of their full body workouts.  In my experience, full body workouts – where you train both upper and lower body exercises in the same workout – are best for beginners because they need this variety and “full body focus” to develop and overcome their weaknesses globally. 

A beginner full body workout should include 2-3 upper body exercises and 2-3 lower body exercises. They should start the workout with a good warm-up and finish with a core exercise and a metabolic finisher. 

Sample Beginner Full Body Workout

1A) Squats, 3 sets x 10 reps

1B) Pull-ups, 3 sets x 8 reps

2A)  Push-ups, 4 sets x 20 reps

2B)  Dumbbell RDL’s, 4 sets x 8 reps

3A)  Lunge, 3 sets x 6 reps each leg

3B)  Face Pulls, 3 sets x 20 reps

4)  Planks, 3 sets x ALAP

Deadlift 1

“Veterans” or a lifter with a greater training age, requires more focused training.  This is when the upper and lower body splits come into play.  An upper / lower training split means they will focus on only upper body exercises or only lower body exercises for an entire workout. 

Experienced lifters require fewer exercises because they’ll be lifting heavier weights and they’ll be working at higher percentages of their true max strength.  This will not only be more taxing to their CNS, but also create more of a muscle building effect. 

An advanced lifter will focus on upper / lower body split workouts and should include 3-4 body exercises and 3-4 lower body exercises. The same as beginners, they should also start the workout with a good warm-up and finish with a core exercise and a metabolic finisher. 

Sample Advanced Lower Body Workout

1) Deadlifts, 5 sets x 5 reps

2A) Goblet Squats, 4 sets x 8 reps

2B)  DB Lunges, 4 sets x 6 reps each leg

3)  Leg Extensions, 3 sets x 30 reps

4)  Standing Cable Crunches, 4 sets x 20 reps