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If you follow me on social media, than you probably know that one of my big passions is weight lifting. I’ve been weight lifting for over 8 years now, but I would say I’ve gotten even more serious over the last 4 years. When I first started exercising all I cared about was “looking good”, and I truly thought that cardio was the key. But if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really see the results I was looking for until I started added strength training into my routine. If you’re completely new to weight lifting, it can be totally overwhelming. I mean first of all, there are millions of different exercises, so how are you supposed to know which ones to choose? And how do you know what weight to lift or how many reps or sets to do? And how many days a week should you lift in order to see results? So I’m here to sort all of this out for you! I can going to provide you with a basic beginner’s weight lifting program, as well as provide you with my tips for getting started!

Exercise Selection

There are millions of different exercises to work each muscle. There really is no rule that you have to do certain exercises in order to see results. However there are definitely some exercises that are more effective than others. I love using the database to search for exercises. You can see what muscle they work, a descriptions AND video on how to perform it, and they also include a user rating for each exercise (higher is better). You can also sort the database by muscle group, by equipment, or even by rating.

Sets & Reps Selection

Believe it or not, there are scientific reasons behind your sets and rep selection. I wrote an entire blog post about it HERE. For beginners, I typically recommend doing sets of 8-12 reps and anywhere from 2-4 sets of each movement.

Weight Lifting Frequency

You first need to ask yourself how many days a week you can commit to weight lifting. Some people choose to weight train 6x a week, but others do 2x a week. It truly comes down to your preference and what you can realistically stick with. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend training 3x a week.

Muscle Group Splits

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who focus on just one muscle group each time they lift (hence the dreaded “leg day” you see everywhere!). But this isn’t the only way to do it. A lot of people also like to group a few muscle groups together. Here are some examples that I recommend based on how many days you will be lifting:

  • Two day split – Upper Body day and Lower Body day
  • Three day split – Push day, Pull day, and Total Body day
  • Four day split – Chest & Tricep day, Back & Bicep Day, Shoulders & Abs day, Leg day
  • Five day split – Chest day, Back day, Leg day, Biceps & Tricep day, Shoulders & Abs day
  • Six day split –  Chest day, Back day, Legs & Abs Day, Bicep day, Tricep day, and Shoulder day

I never recommend doing seven days in a row, as your body needs a chance to recover. It’s also crucial that you never work the same muscle group two days in a row. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover in between lifts in order to avoid overtraining injuries.

I really love the “push/pull” split that I listed in the three day a week split above. This plan focusing on separating the pushing movements and the pulling movements. Push/Pull avoids overtraining by grouping all the muscles involved in pulling (back, biceps, rear delts, traps, forearms, hamstrings) and all the muscles involved in pushing (chest, triceps, quads, lateral and medial delts) together. I also love this split because it allows you to work muscles throughout your entire body, and not just upper body one day and then lower the next. This is the style of program that I am going to lay out for you below…

Sample Beginner Weight Lifting Routine

Day One – “Push”

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest Exercise Substitutions
Barbell Back Squat 3×12 60-90 seconds Smith Machine Squat or Leg Press
Dumbbell Chest Press 3×12 60-90 seconds Chest Press Machine
Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press 3×12 60-90 seconds Shoulder Press Machine
Cable Rope Tricep Pulldown 3×12 60-90 seconds Skullcrushers (DB or barbell)
Dumbbell Lunges 3×12 (each leg) 60-90 seconds Barbell Lunges

Day Two- “Pull”

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest Exercise Substitutions
Lat Pulldown 3×12 60-90 seconds Pull-up (can be assisted)
Stiff-Leg Deadlift 3×12 60-90 seconds Leg curl machine
Barbell Bicep Curls 3×12 60-90 seconds Dumbbell bicep curls
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3×12 60-90 seconds Seated Lateral Raise Machine
Decline Sit-ups 3×12 60-90 seconds Sit-ups or Plank

Day Three- “Push/Pull Combo”

Exercise Sets x Reps Rest Exercise Substitutions
Leg Press 3×12 60-90 seconds Leg Extension Machine
Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 3×12 60-90 seconds Incline Chest Press Machine
Barbell Bent-Over Row 3×12 60-90 seconds Seated Row Machine
Lying Leg Curl Machine 3×12 60-90 seconds Seated Leg Curl Machine
Hanging Knee Raises 3×12 60-90 seconds Roman Chair Knee Raises

How to Progress – Weeks 2 & 3 

In order to progress and get stronger, I recommend doing three sets of 12 reps (3×12) for week one. Then for week two do 3 sets of 10 reps, and then week three do 3 sets of 8 reps. This means that each week you should be trying to increase your weight (when safe & appropriate) for each exercise. After three weeks, start over and go back to 3 sets of 12 reps and hopefully you’ll be using a heavier weight than you were the first week.

Want help keeping yourself organized? Download my Beginner’s Weight Lifting program log below!

Ready for More?

Once you’ve completed my free beginner’s weight lifting routine, don’t quit and let all of your hard work go to waste! If you’re ready for more check out my Lean Strength 8 Week Workout Guide that is designed to help you burn fat, build lean muscle and increase strength in just 8 weeks!

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