One of the most disheartening things that you see in gyms now-a-days is a beginner following a routine of a champion bodybuilder. There are few reasons for this fact:
They want results fast, and foolishly adopt the “more is better” philosophy. Two main sources condition their thinking—Popular fitness and muscle magazines ( or websites ) or gym trainers.
If you pick up any fitness or muscle magazine, you’ll see what I mean right away. They promote program that are useless to the masses. these program require you to be in the gym almost everyday, do lot of isolated training and spilt routines and rely on boatloads of supplements and thats what ultimately these magazines wants to sell.
Now, lets briefly talk about the trainers.
Can they be counted as experts?
First of all, simply passing a certification exam doesn’t make them a safe trainers. One needs to continually update their knowledge, which is a time-consuming and expensive ordeal and the fact is that there are very few who sincerely care for their clients and work hard to keep abreast of the latest developments in exercise and nutrition science.
I applaud their commitment for doing so. I also like to applaud you for reading this guide and taking matters into your own hands. In todays day and age, self education is the best form of education. It shows that you take your fitness seriously and want results.
Now, before we get started you need to ask this: Are you a beginner?
Are you a beginner ?
Beginners are of two types: One who haven’t weight trained before, and other type who is an eternal one ( they are never consistent with their workouts ).
With the latter one I highly recommend to start with beginner routines especially when you have been off weights for more than few months time. Of course you don’t need 3 to 6 months to get back in the groove, just 2 to 4 weeks of beginner workout should suffice.
Characteristics of a gym workout routine for beginners
1) Beginners should focus on learning the movement before anything else: Don’t worry about anything else, just make sure you completely concentrate on learning the exercises. Contrary to conventional wisdom I only recommend working out either using your body as a weight ( like pull-ups/dips ) and/or with free weights and barbells BUT never machines ( except for performing lat-pulldown ).
You see, our muscular system is divided into prime movers (thigh, pecs, lats, etc.) and stabilizers (erector spinae, transverse abdominis). Prime movers create movement, whereas stabilizers, as the name implies, stablizes your body so that the prime movers can do their job properly. With the machines, your stabilizers are not worked, which then increases the chances of you being injured.
Weight training is a skill and like any other sports, you need to train your neuromuscular system so that your muscles fire in correct sequence. Proper technique is the foundation of any workout program and will almost guarantee that you never ever injure yourself with weights.
2) Full body routines 2 to 3 times a week: Working out with full body routines 2 to 3 times a week will prevent overtraining, this way you don’t overtax both your muscular and nervous system which then accelerates your body’s recovery abilities that allows you to build a good foundation. The FBX workout routines are about working out maximum 3 times a week. Know more.
3) Sets, reps, tempo, total volume and exercises:
For first three months, you start with 1 set of each exercise with a weight that you can handle 12 reps in perfect form. You will then slowly progress by increasing weights until you are performing 10 reps in a set (and never going below 10 reps ). The tempo of the reps needs to be controlled and it should take about 4 to 5 sec to complete. Remember for beginners the focus should be on the muscles being worked and to learn the movement, don’t worry about the weight too much.
Most of the movement will be compound in nature i.e. squats, parallel-grip deadlifts, military press, dips and pull-ups. These movements require a tad bit more neuromotor control than what is required with machines but definitely less than what you require with any sport!
Now, most of you will probably not agree with the 1 set per exercise protocol. Well, how about an excerpt from Steve Reeves—the most admired bodybuilder of the century:
In Steve’s own words:
“ I recall that I used as much as I could handle for each exercise in perfect form (a practice I continued all through my championship years right up until present day) and this initial training program included only one set of each exercise.
It was a great beginners workout and served to prepare my body for the more demanding training I would later engage in. I always took my workouts in stride and never tried to overload my body with too much exercise at a time when my system needed most of its energy for growing and for normal development.
As soon as I was able to complete 12 repetitions in perfect form, I would increase the resistance I was using five pounds and would drop back to 10 repititions once more. I followed this program for the first three months of my bodybuilding career after which I used the same exercises, the same system of increasing poundages and the same number of reps, but I did two sets of each exercise instead of one. Soon my bodyweight was 163lbs (up from 153lbs) —it felt incredible.”
Overall, the main benefits from this type of training are:
1) You establish a solid foundation for more years to come.
2) You prevent over-training
3) Understand and learn the important skill of how to perform key compound exercises properly
4) Don’t overtax your nervous system
5) Accelerate your body recovery abilities that allows you to build good amount of lean mass
Training with 1 set (maximum 2 sets) per exercise was pretty much a norm in the golden age of bodybuilding and once steroids were introduced in the 1960’s there was no looking back. Multiple sets, isolated training, high volume spilt routines gained popularity and now, in every gyms around the world they are pretty much a norm—sad but true.
With FBX I strongly recommend a multi-faceted approach towards one’s fitness and that means on your off workout days you are not sitting ideal but will perform other functional movements like Yoga or even a swim. Know more about FBX here.
Gym workout routine for Beginners where
Phase 1 is from 0—3 months and
Phase 2 is from 3—6 months.
Once you have built enough skill to perform the compound movements I have mentioned in the following workout routine, and you have gained around 10lbs—15lbs of muscles you are ready for the intermediate workouts. I have listed 16 FBX workouts for intermediate and advanced levels, you can find it in my book.
Don’t be surprised by the volume prescribed here. For a beginner it’s ample.
The entire Phase 1 workout should take no more than 30 to 35 minutes including warmup and cool down. In Phase 2, it should take 10-15 minutes more to perform the added set in each exercise.
In every exercise, use a weight which is light enough for you to perform 12 reps and heavy enough to do 10 reps.
Focus on learning the movement properly. The above movements are compound and functional in nature and will require more concentration than when someone uses a machine. There is ample information on the internet for anyone who wants to teach themselves how to perform every movement in a correct manner.
For your lower body, I prescribe either squats or parallel grip deadlifts (or both ) depending upon your structural build up. You can read about my definitive guides on how to squat and parallel grip deadlifts here and here respectively.
What do you think about this beginner guide? Have any questions. Let me know in the comments below!