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8-Week Beginner Workout

Wondering where to start? Start
with these 3 rules, 3 workouts, and
an 8-week full-body training plan!

Start Here, Start Now: The 8-Week Beginner Workout Plan

Man or woman, mass-builder or fat-cutter, this plan will put you closer to where you want to be. Stop program hopping and get serious with these 3 rules and this 8-week plan!

More than ever before, this whole "getting in shape" thing can seem like some kind of advanced algorithm. This is especially true if you're standing at the front end of the journey trying to find a way through all the information online.

One scary-sounding study says your health depends on x, but another says it depends on not doing x. One writer says CrossFit kills people, but the people in those pictures all seem ripped and happy. But so does that woman in yoga class. And, let's be honest, so does the Shake Weight guy! So does that online writer guy shouting at you about intermittent fasting, high reps, low reps, high-carb, low-carb, no-carb, steady-state, or HIIT.

Sigh. It's no wonder that so many people can't figure out how to get from where they are now to the promised land of their New Year's resolutions. There's too much mental clutter.

You want simple? Here it is: 3 rules, 3 workouts, and an 8-week program that will build full-body strength, set fire to calories, and introduce you to all the tools you need to be fit from now on. Thank me later; for now, just do this.

"One writer says CrossFit kills people, but the people in those pictures all seem ripped and happy. But so does that woman in yoga class."

Rule 1: Make the Gym Your Habit

In his phenomenal book "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business," Charles Duhigg dedicates an entire chapter to what he labels the "habit loop." Without giving away any spoilers—I'm not kidding, it's a book that will melt your brain, and you should read it—Duhigg explains that one of the most fail-proof ways to create a habit is to preface the behavior you want to reinforce with a cue.

As an example, let's say someone's goal is to go to the gym three days per week before work. A basic cue would be to place their gym clothes, post-training shake, and shoes next to their bed the night prior so those items are the first thing the person sees—or maybe trips over—when they wake up. The theory is that the cues will create a routine, and eventually, the person won't need the cue.

The takeaway: Don't just say you're going to start going to the gym. It doesn't work. Make things more concrete by setting up as many nudges and reminders as possible to help keep you from backing out. Your reward will be better health, feeling like a million bucks, and no longer fearing taking your clothes off with the lights on.

Rule 2: Be Consistent in Your Training

I don't marry myself to particular weightlifting modalities or principles. Massive numbers of people out there have different goals, needs, injury histories, experience, and equipment access. What works for one person won't always work the same way for the next.

Does this mean that everything is as good as everything else? Of course not. I'm a strength coach, and I believe that a full-body strength program built around compound lifts is the best place for almost everybody to start, no matter what they end up doing months or years later. It's better than so-called fat-loss programs, hypertrophy programs, programs that help add inches to your vertical jump, or ones that promise to turn you into a superhero in eight weeks.

"The only program that will work is one you'll actually follow consistently."

Regardless, I also recognize that the only program that will work is one you'll actually follow consistently. So take that as your rule, but if you want a suggestion, well, follow the program below.

Rule 3: Build on the Fundamentals

Listen up: If you're a guy who just started training and can't do at least five clean, dead-hang, sternum-to-bar pull-ups, then you have no business going to the gym to perform set after set of biceps curls—period! For women, the same rule applies, but I'd say the number is between 1-3 pull-ups.

Don't get caught up in which exercise works which muscle. Master a small lineup of proven exercises in the following categories first, and worry about splits and fine-tuning somewhere down the road, if you worry about them at all.

Fundamental Exercises

Master at least one from each category

Squats: Front squat, back squat, box squat, and goblet squats. If you go with back squats, check out my article about common squat mistakes.

Hip hinge: Trap-bar deadlift, conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift, and Romanian deadlift. Need a guide? I just so happen to have one handy

Single-leg work: Reverse lunges, forward lunges, lateral lunges, Bulgarian split squats, single-leg RDL, single-leg hip thrust, and step-ups

Pushing exercises: Bench press variations, dumbbell press variations, military press, push press, landmine press, and push-ups

Pulling exercises: Seated cable row variations, chest-supported rows, barbell rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, single-arm standing cable rows, chin-ups, and pull-ups

Carries: Farmer's carry (bilateral), suitcase carries (unilateral), waiter carries, and cross-body carries

Core lifts: Pallof press, chops, half-kneeling lifts, tall-kneeling lifts, overhead lifts, split-stance exercises, plank variations, and roll-outs

If you follow a full-body program built around these seven categories, you'll be amazed at how well your body responds. If your goal is to add mass, these are the movements that will allow you to use the most weight and provide the training stimulus the body will need to grow. If your goal is fat loss, these are the movements that will allow you to burn the most calories and continue working harder in the gym. If your goal is just to get stronger and more athletic for whatever you decide to do later, these movements are the perfect tools.

8 Weeks to Full-Body Strength

Alternate between workouts A, B, and C for eight weeks and don't deviate from the plan. If you feel inclined to add a fourth training day, do it, but stick to the same order: ABCA/BCAB/CABC/ABCA. Make consistency your mantra for the next two months!

Workout A

Pallof Press
Workout B


Workout C


Related Articles

About The Author

Tony Gentilcore is a strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA and is the co-founder/co-owner of Cressey Performance.

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vkartikv

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vkartikv

Consistency is key - I see so many college kids in my gym try one program after another without ever giving them time to work. Any program has the capacity to work - if you persist. I've reverted to doing just 5 exercises (squat, deadlift, weighted pullups, incline bench and farmers walk) over the last year and its brought me nothing but big strength gains. Bottomline - Don't worry about what someone else is doing!

Feb 12, 2014 7:57am | report
 
mexicanalinda18

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mexicanalinda18

I agree with you. I have people from the gym who been going for years and they still look the same. I have been going for maybe 1 1/2 and I have completely changed.

They get in big groups and take turns. My fav is supersets!

Feb 13, 2014 1:07pm | report
kohner54

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kohner54

If doing this program 4 days a week...what days would you do for rest days?

Feb 12, 2014 5:34pm | report
 
BigAdz88

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BigAdz88

How bout training - Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri.
Rest - Weds, Sat, Sun

Feb 13, 2014 11:28am | report
BigAdz88

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BigAdz88

How bout training - Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri.
Rest - Weds, Sat, Sun

Feb 13, 2014 11:28am | report
100PercentHuman

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100PercentHuman

Saturday Sunday would be my rest days
and Friday would be a good day to stretch and do some yoga but I work out 5 times a week and only have saturday and sunday off

Feb 16, 2014 11:59am | report
pfcbarrett

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pfcbarrett

the rest days for beginners should be what is called "active rest" days which simple means what it says. Say for the ex: that BigAdz88 gave wed and sat will be active rest which you can do 20-30 min of hiit running 1 min walk 1 min run alternating then Sunday rest since most gyms are closed on Sundays anyhow you can use this time to plan your nutrition for the up coming week and just rest your muscles. Hope this helps !!!

Mar 6, 2014 11:21am | report
mbuat

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mbuat

The full body workouts are excellent for beginners and people who only workout 3 days a week, but if I'm a beginner and I look at these workouts and just try to jump into them as seen on the page, I am setting myself up for injury and over fatigue. As an absolute beginner I would recommend 1 set of each exercise and progress to 2 sets in the 2nd or even 3rd week, then eventually the beginner can do 3 sets. My point being that the amount of volume seems to high for most beginners and should be progressed over weeks to increase their adherence to exercise.

Feb 13, 2014 1:32pm | report
 
deepkick

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deepkick

I disagree, the volume is fine and a beginner can just tailor the rest times between sets if they find themselves burning out before they finish.

Feb 14, 2014 1:25am | report
vlcommo

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vlcommo

I agree mbuat.

Jul 31, 2014 11:19pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'10"
  • wt: 183.87 lbs
  • bf: 23.4%
DIDDY13

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DIDDY13

Im starting this today, rest days im doing jim stoppani's HIIT training, day 7 will be a rest day but still MMA training. looking forward to getting back to simplicity.

Feb 18, 2014 5:40am | report
 
michaelsammler

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michaelsammler

Looks like a good starter workout. But is there any substitutes for the walking exercises?
Walter walks, farmer carry, suitcase carry.
I am doing these at home and don't have a lot of room.
I can always walk down the street I guess, but the weather is pretty drastic right now.

Feb 23, 2014 7:42pm | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'10"
  • wt: 176.37 lbs
  • bf: 17.5%
ToxicTofu

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ToxicTofu

Totally agree, fundamentals and consistency are the basics needed for success. I think this workout series is great for building muscle and toning. I personally think it would not work for me, having a ridiculously slow metabolism implementing HIIT or what I call "CardioPylos" is more beneficial.

But in the end, doing something is better then nothing. You don't know what works for your body until you ask, learn and get in the gym and do it! :D

Mar 1, 2014 2:38pm | report
 
kingarthur627

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kingarthur627

how do i add this to my bodyspace to track through the app?!?

Mar 2, 2014 1:57pm | report
 
billgreen

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billgreen

Very good stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Mar 3, 2014 9:47am | report
 
laceybullock

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laceybullock

I have been doing this plan for 3 weeks with zero weight loss.. any tips

Mar 19, 2014 9:34am | report
 
TeenBBFantasy

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TeenBBFantasy

Im far from being an expert and if anything i am exactly like you , but from the male point of view trying to put on weight and build muscle , but i think you should take a look at your diet and start counting calories and go on a high protein diet :) only a suggestion though !!

May 19, 2014 1:50pm | report
littlesleeper

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littlesleeper

laceybullock, I would suggest decreasing your rest time in an attempt to keep your heart rate up for the duration of the workout. If your main goal is to lose weight there are better programs out there for you. This is a good basic workout to begin building full body strength and muscle mass. It isn't specifically designed for you to lose weight.

Mar 28, 2014 8:01am | report
 
Rued

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Rued

I agree with most things in this post - however it can be explained way more simple, in my opinion.

I have written a 15-pager called Beginners Bodybuilding Exercise Guide, which tells you what you need to now - and nothing more.

Let me know what you guys think :)

Apr 7, 2014 12:21pm | report
 
littlguy

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littlguy

This has been a great 8 week course. It introduced me to some supersets and all body workouts. Highly suggest for anyone wanting a great workout routine.

Apr 17, 2014 7:40pm | report
 
UglyMan

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UglyMan

I have follow this work out routine for 9 weeks now and it has been great. I love to see my body slowly transforming into shape that I did not have 3 months ago.

I have tried to rest 2 days on the row like Saturday and Sunday. Monday get back and feel like I have no energy to do any lifting. If I rest just one day after the 2 days work out, I feel like just have a full recharge.

May 9, 2014 6:44pm | report
 
murt112

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murt112

Are we supposed to increase weight as we progress through the weeks?

May 20, 2014 6:13am | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'10"
  • wt: 149.91 lbs
  • bf: 17.0%
elsarocks9

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elsarocks9

i was trying out another "beginer program" and no...i felt way too weak. i think this program is perfect for me. im gonna start it officially on monday and just stay active till monday. i really need to burn all the extra weight ive gained.

Aug 1, 2014 10:21pm | report
 
darrenlandry94

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darrenlandry94

Love this workout! I'm on my 4th week but I weaned myself in slowly into the full amount of sets. I do have one question about the Pallof Press. Are we supposed to hold it for 10 seconds or push out and hold it for a few seconds and come back to the starting position 10 times? I've been doing the latter.

Oct 28, 2014 11:03pm | report
 
tlcofomaha

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tlcofomaha

This will be my next routine starting in January 2015. I'm going to finish what I have already started. I can't wait!

Dec 9, 2014 3:26pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 25 Comments

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