Woman Working Out with Dumbbells

The Ultimate Beginner’s Workout

I remember my first workouts at my local gym. Just walking in the door was the hardest part back then. On top of that, trying to navigate “what to do at the gym as a beginner” made things even more overwhelming.

To be honest, I had spent hours and days on a treadmill before I even made it over to the weights.

See, doing something is definitely better than doing nothing.

Heck, I still prioritize daily movement, which sometimes involves simply walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.

However, there are a few simple things that can help you earn results and maintain that progress even better.

Eventually I learned about the importance of resistance training and made the leap.

How Many Calories Do You Burn From Walking?

Looking back, my only regret is not realizing earlier how important lifting was for my results.

In addition, since my original goal was fat loss, I learned that the more muscle I could build/preserve, the more calories I could burn on a daily basis.

With that, more calories burned means more fat loss, if we are doing the right things with our nutrition.

This left me with a lot of questions, like “what’s a good gym workout for beginners?” and “how much should a beginner work out?”

In this blog, I am going to explain some things that helped me, and also give you some simple and effective workouts to get you started.

Getting Started

One thing that I’ve seen in my years of helping others with their fitness goals is that they come out of the gate too hot, which can cause them to get burned out and fall off track quickly.

More specifically, someone who wasn’t working out at all will start going to the gym six or seven days per week. Let me be clear, I have absolutely no issue with that at all ... but my goal is to create sustainable change that someone can stick to consistently. Hitting it hard for 3 to 4 weeks and then falling off does no one any good.

For someone who is a beginner, 3 to 4 days of resistance training per week is a phenomenal place to start!

But that doesn’t just mean you sit around and do nothing on the "rest days" each week.

Like I mentioned earlier, I still incorporate additional daily movement each and every day. I realize that, as a society, we are more sedentary now than ever before.

So, if we can increase our daily movement by getting in some additional steps, that can help us progress toward our goals.

“Rest days” don't have to just be days that you go for a walk by yourself or with the family. Sometimes that may be a good day to go for a hike or a light bike ride. Remember, we are trying to instill healthy habits on a daily basis.

Typically, I recommend that my clients either do this by going on a 30 to 45-minute walk each day, or splitting that 45 minutes into smaller walks.

For example, going on three 15-minute walks after each meal or on a break at work, or taking a phone call while getting some steps in can be great options.

Resistance Training

Before I get into the beginners workouts, I want to explain a few of the major benefits of resistance training. The goal is to work out the muscles ... and in doing so, you will create microscopic tears in the muscle cell. With proper nutrition and recovery, your body can repair this damage, and ultimately develop them to be the bigger, leaner, and more toned muscles we're looking for!

5 Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

Now for the ladies, this doesn’t mean you will get bulky. You will still be able to hold your feminine look while gaining lean muscle. The way I like to put it is that you will look more “fit”!

Additional benefits include:
· Improved Insulin Sensitivity
· Cardiovascular Health
· Increase in calories burned from the repair of muscle

So, these are the main reasons to incorporate resistance training into your plan, but before you jump straight into your workouts, it is important to start each training session with a proper warmup.

A good warm up is important to literally warm up the muscle tissue, and prime them for activity to lower the risk of injury during the workout.

When injuries happen in the gym, many of them can be attributed to a lack of properly warming up ... so while you might be eager to get started, it is still an important part of your workout that should not be skipped!

I recommend getting about 5 minutes of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise on a treadmill, exercise bike, rower, jumping jacks, running, etc. before your workout really begins.

Then, once the muscle are properly warmed up and primed for movement, it is important to do a little light dynamic stretching through a full range of motion ... with some simple bodyweight exercises to stretch, and get the muscles ready to handle the external forces of the upcoming workout. These could be air squats, lunges, push ups, lateral squats, glutes/hip bridges, etc.

Once the aerobic warm up and dynamic stretching are both done, your body is ready for physical activity ... and now it's time to get into the workouts!


Push, Pull, Legs

This is a very popular “training split” because it allows you to use complimentary muscles during the same workout, and only requires 3 days per week of training.

Then, once you become more advanced, you can repeat each workout once every week with one rest day on the 7th day.

"Push" refers to all the muscles you use to push things; triceps, chest, front and side delt (shoulder)

"Pull" refers to all the muscles you pull with; back, biceps, traps, and rear delt (shoulder)

"Legs" is fairly self-explanatory, but refers to your leg muscles; quads, hamstrings, calves

10 Dumbbell Exercises For Better Results

Example Split
Monday – Push
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday – Pull
Thursday – Rest
Friday - Legs
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - Rest

Note: When looking at each exercise, there will be a series of numbers and letters displayed after the exercise name. (ex: Cable fly, 3 x 15). This refers to how many sets and reps to perform each movement. In this example, you would perform 3 sets of 15 reps of the cable fly.

So, for the first set, you would cable fly 15 times in a row before resting between sets. In addition to that, you should look to rest between 45-90 seconds between each set.

With this pattern in mind, your first exercise of the workout will proceed like this: 15 reps ... pause for 45-90 seconds ... 15 reps ... pause for 45-90 seconds ... 15 reps ... switch to the next exercise.


Cable Fly (Warmup)
3 x 15
Incline Dumbbell Press
3 x 8-10
Chest Press Machine
3 x 10-12
Flat Dumbbell Fly
3 x 10-12
Push Up
3 x 15
Dumbbell Front Raise
3 x 10-12
EZ Bar Upright Row
3 x 10-12
Cable Tricep Extensions
3 x 10-12
Dumbbell Kickbacks
3 x 10-12

9 Great Upper Body Exercises

Pull Day

3 x 6-8
Lat Pulldown
3 x 8-10
Seated Cable Row
3 x 8-10
Reverse Fly
3 x 10-12
Dumbbell Bicep Curl
3 x 10-12
Hammer Curls
3 x 10-12
Smith Machine Shrugs
3 x 10-12

Leg Day

Leg Extension (Warm-Up)
3 x 15
Leg Press
3 x 10-12
Alternating Front Lunges
3 x 12 (each leg)
Goblet Squats
3 x 12
Leg Curls
3 x 10
Standing Calf Raise
3 x 12

Upper, Lower Split

Combining all upper body and all lower body into separate workouts is a great way to keep things simple and effective.

Basically, you will alternate doing an upper body workout one day, and lower body workout the next. You could incorporate rest days and active rest days throughout the week as needed.

To start, I typically have someone do two days of upper body and two days of lower body per week. In the future, whenever you are more advanced, you could add in a third upper body day and a third lower body day, if you wanted.

Example Split
Monday – Upper
Tuesday - Lower
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Upper
Friday - Lower
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - Rest

10 Effective Exercises For Better Arm Workouts

Upper (Day 1)

Bench Press
3 x 8-12
Barbell Row
3 x 8-12
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press
3 x 8-12
Cable Flyes
2 x 10-12
Wide-Grip Lat Pull-Down
2 x 10-12
Side Lateral Raise
2 x 10-12
Cable Tricep Extensions
3 x 10-12
EZ Bar Curl
3 x 10-12

Lower (Day 1)

3 x 8-12
Romanian Deadlifts
3 x 8-12
Walking Lunges
2 x 10-12
Leg Curls
2 x 10-12
Leg Extensions
2 x 10-12
Standing Calf Raises
3 x 10-15
3 x 30 second holds

Upper (Day 2)

Incline Dumbbell Bench
3 x 8-12
One Arm Dumbbell Row
3 x 8-12
Military Press
3 x 8-12
Incline Machine Press
2 x 10-12
Cable Rows
2 x 10-12
Upright Row
2 x 10-12
Dumbbell Curls
3 x 10-12
Skull Crushers
3 x 10-12

Lower (Day 2)

Hack Squat
3 x 8-12
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
3 x 8-12
Leg Press
3 x 8-12
Alternating Reverse Lunge
2 x 10-12
Seated leg Curl
2 x 10-12
Seated Calf Raise
2 x 10-12
Cable Crunches
3 x 10-15

Adding In Cardio

Cardio is any activity that elevates your heart rate and improves your cardiovascular system.

A well-rounded beginners workout routine will include some form of cardio, especially because it boosts your endurance and metabolic rate.

So if you’re focused on lifting and building muscle mass, cardio helps by increasing your stamina and delivering oxygen to your entire body.

If your primary goal is weight loss, regular cardio helps burn calories and kick-starts your metabolism.

For beginners, you don’t have to jump into a super-intensive cardio workout…depending on your current fitness level, even a brisk walk may be enough to elevate your heart rate.

One of the best ways to see results is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week.

From there, it’s all about choosing an activity that you enjoy—a lot of beginners start with one of the following:

• Walking. Start with a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes a few times per week. Try to add this to your daily routine when possible, like walking during your lunch break or going for an evening stroll.

• Running. Begin with a walk/run approach, alternating between walking and jogging for short intervals.

• Hiking. Choose beginner-friendly trails with varying terrain to get your heart pumping. Start with shorter hikes and gradually progress to more challenging routes.

• Swimming. Start with simple strokes, like freestyle or breaststroke, for 15-20 minutes. You can do this by joining a beginner swim class or swimming laps at a local pool a few times per week.

• Cycling. Find flat terrain and short rides to begin, then gradually increase the distance you cycle.

Beginners Workout Advice

Embarking on a fitness journey can be both exciting and challenging, especially for beginners.

There’s a lot of advice out there about what to do for your health, but let’s break down the basic best practices to help you start on the right foot.

Set Realistic Goals

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful fitness journey is setting clear and achievable goals.

Start by defining your goals so that they are specific, measurable, and realistic.

Instead of aiming for drastic changes, consider small, incremental milestones.

Whether it's increasing the duration of your cardio sessions or lifting slightly heavier weights, hitting realistic goals is a much better motivator and helps you reach bigger milestones.

Listen to Your Body

Even though you will be pushing your boundaries and it won’t always be easy, it’s still important to listen to the needs of your body.

Pay close attention to how your body responds to different exercises.

If you experience pain beyond normal muscle soreness, you may need to pull back a bit to avoid injury.

This might involve adjusting your beginners workout routine, incorporating rest days, or seeking professional advice.

The last thing you want to do is burn yourself out before you really get started!

Prioritize Proper Form

Proper form is not only important for maximizing the effectiveness of your workout but also for preventing injuries.

Before focusing on intensity or heavy weights, prioritize learning and maintaining proper form in each exercise.

This foundation ensures that you target the intended muscle groups and reduces the risk of strains or sprains.

If you're unsure about your form, consider consulting a fitness professional or using instructional resources to guide you through the correct techniques.

Warm-Up and Cool Down

Another way to prevent injuries or major pain as a beginner is to properly warm up and cool down.

A dynamic warm-up increases blood flow, flexibility, and overall performance.

Then, a cool down at the end of your workout aids in muscle recovery and flexibility, reducing the likelihood of soreness and stiffness.

Adding these practices not only enhances your physical performance but also makes your fitness routine all the more sustainable.

Stay Hydrated

You want to drink water before, during, and after your workout to stay adequately hydrated.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, cramps, and diminished exercise performance, which can be painful and discouraging.

By maintaining proper fluid balance, you support your body's functions and optimize your performance during each workout.

Consistency is Key

When you're just starting, consistency holds more value than intensity.

Establishing a regular beginners workout routine, even if it's moderate in intensity, creates a habit that can be sustained over the long term.

Consistency allows your body to adapt gradually, reducing the risk of burnout or injuries associated with sudden or extreme workouts.

Focus on building a rock-solid foundation—then you can turn the heat up.

Meet Us Halfway

We have a saying here at 1st Phorm “We need you to meet us halfway”. Following any of these workouts with a well-balanced nutrition plan that fits your goals will definitely get you moving in the right direction.

One tool that I highly recommend for anyone who is trying to live a healthier lifestyle is the 1st Phorm App. With the app, you gain access to seven different training programs, along with videos and explanations of each exercise and movement. Plus, you will have an advisor who will give you one-on-one coaching inside of the app.

Our goal is to make sure that you understand how to earn the results you want. If you have additional questions, please reach out to our customer service team full of NASM Certified Personal Trainers & Fitness Nutrition Specialists. They will be more than happy to help you navigate the best workout for you as well as a good foundation for nutrition ... for FREE!

If you provide the effort, and we can provide the proper education, there is no reason that you cannot succeed!

Customer Service - 1st Phorm