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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.
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
“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.
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