General workout routine for male beginners

General workout routine for male beginners

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This workout routine is to prepare beginners’ mind and body for working out with weights. It is about exercises that make joints and muscles get used to this kind of motion. It is also about learning to operate the muscles in an isolated way (as the aim of bodybuilders is not just moving the weights, but moving them by using one particular muscle or muscle-group in a concentrated way), about learning the appropriate movement patterns, the technique of proper breathing, and so on.

This phase is essential, and it has an important role in preventing injuries right at the beginning and later on, too.

  1. Bench presses
  2. Dumbbell shoulder presses
  3. Pull-downs to the chest
  4. Hyperextensions
  5. Standing bicep curls
  6. Standing dumbbell tricep extensions
  7. Leg extensions or squats with heels elevated
  8. Leg curls
  9. Standing calf raises 3x50
  10. Crunches / sit-ups with leg raises 3 x max rep

3 workouts per week; for example, Monday–Wednesday–Friday; 3 sets of each exercise with 10–12 reps each; rest break is about 1 minute.

The most important principle is to keep the movements controlled, especially in the negative phase, and never drop the weight! Do a 5–10 minute warm-up on a cardio machine, and do some gymnastics before workout in order to get your body ready.

1 Bench presses

The bench press is a basic strength training exercise. Later on, you will be able to use real heavy weights. But in this phase, this is not necessary yet. Warm up with 20-30 reps with the empty bar. Make sure the negative phase (lowering the weight) is done slowly. The first repetition begins by lifting the bar out of the forks and holding it above your chest with your arms straight. Never put the bar right on your chest after lifting it out of the forks! Make sure you are doing the press in a straight line. Lower the bar slowly in a straight line from the top position (when your arms are straight) to your chest, somewhere close to your nipples. It is crucial that you should feel your pectorals stretching! Then, press the bar with a crisp move. Take a deep breath when lowering, and exhale in a crisp manner when pressing. Don’t gasp like a fish; force the air out of your lungs. Later on, this will provide you more power, so you should learn it, no matter how stupid it may look. As a beginner, 10-15 repetitions will suffice with 30 kg (put a five-kilo weight plate on each side of the bar). You will feel it too light in no time. Never mind: you should not increase the load yet. Do 3 sets with about one-minute rest breaks.

2 Dumbbell shoulder presses

Do the shoulder presses with two light dumbbells, preferably on a bench with a backrest. Set the backrest to vertical or close to vertical. Take the dumbbells so that they are as low as possible in the starting position, while keeping your forearms vertical. Keep the handles of the dumbbells horizontal or tilting a little bit inwards. Take a breath and exhale while pressing the dumbbells upwards. The dumbbells should be moving in straight lines a little bit inwards. The end position is almost above your head, with your arms almost straight. Make sure you are feeling your delts! Inhale while lower slowly. Repeat. Again, you don’t need much weight in this phase. Don’t you mind if you feel the weights are too light; all that matters is feeling the target muscles.

3 Pull-downs to the chest

Many do this exercise wrongly. Sit in the machine and grab the bar with wide grip. You should arch your back all along. Never bend your back or neck forward! Pull the bar down to your chest while keeping the line of motion vertical all along. The key of this exercise is that you should uncouple your arms from the move completely. They should only function as hooks. Don’t hold the bar with your thumbs around it. Doing so, it will be easier to do this move without using your arms. But you can use lifting straps, too, if you wish. Monitor the movement of your scapulae: you should move them with your back muscles. You should exhale while pulling the bar down and feel your back muscles flexing. Hold it for a second. Then, stretch out slowly, inhale and feel your back muscles stretching on both sides. Never yank the weight or use swings; don’t let the weight plates knock.

4 Hyperextensions

This exercise works the lower back muscles and the spinal erectors. You will need a so-called hyperextension bench for this. Hook your feet and lower your trunk slowly, while inhaling. When your lower back muscles are already stretching, start the upward move while exhaling. Make sure you are not using any momentum, and arch your back as far as you can. Hold it for a second in this position, then lower again.

5 Standing bicep curls

Grab the bar with shoulder-wide grip, with your arms stretched only as far as your biceps allow it: no need to expand your elbows in a straight angle. Keep your lower back straight and avoid swinging. Pull the bar upwards by flexing your biceps completely. Plus, flex them even more in the top position. Your upper arms should not move from the vertical position more than 2 cm slightly forward. You shouldn’t lift your upper arms any further. Doing so, the bar will “fall in” your biceps (with zero load on your biceps). Hold it for a second in the top position, then lower the barbell in a slow and controlled manner while inhaling. After returning to the starting position, repeat without swinging.

6 Standing dumbbell tricep extensions

You may do dumbbell tricep extensions standing or sitting. All that matters is your arms and trunk should be vertical. Stretch one arm upwards, keeping the upper arm completely vertical, holding a dumbbell. From this position, lower the dumbbell while inhaling, so that it ends up behind the back of your neck. Lower it as far as you can without your upper arms moving from the vertical position. From this position, push the weight upwards using your triceps, while exhaling. If you are feeling your delts, that means the weight is too heavy. Stretch out your arm in the top position as much as you can. This will ensure your triceps are flexing. Repeat.

7 Leg extensions and/or squats

Leg extensions: for those who have problems with squats. Set the leg extension machine to your size and take a seat. Your knees should be at the machine’s center of motion. Hook your feet. Your feet should be behind the vertical position. Start the move from this point and extend your legs completely while exhaling, so that your quads are flexing in the top position. This will soon be accompanied by a burning feeling in your muscles. Hold it for a second. Then, lower slowly and inhale. Don’t let the weight plates knock on the machine.

Squats: this is a hard nut to crack; learning to squat is not easy. For most beginners, your own bodyweight will be enough. Stand in a narrow stance, with your toes pointing slightly outwards. You should squat “in between” your shanks and not “on” them, as you would do if your were standing with your feet close to each other. It’s crucial that you should keep your back straight all along: arch your lower back slightly backwards and keep your upper back close to vertical. Otherwise you may get a nasty back injury. So you better keep this recommendation in mind to protect your spine. However, many of us bend forward while squatting with the soles fully touching the ground; this is because of the stiffness of the Achilles tendons. The solution is to elevate your heels, so use heel lifts. However, this is quite a controversial issue. As for myself, I believe heel lifts are a must. If you got the move, all you need to remember is not to look down, as this will make you bend forward. You better fix your gaze on a spot above eye height. Don’t look at your feet. Doing so, both your back and the line of motion will remain straight. Start the exercise by lifting the bar out of the stand (or, if you are doing it with your own bodyweight, put your hands on your hips) and squat slowly as deep as you can (until your shanks are parallel to the ground or below), while looking upwards and taking a deep breath. You don’t need to watch, but your knees will be moving slightly outwards. Hold on for a second in the lowest position, but DON’T bounce. Then, start going back with a crisp exhalation, until your legs are almost straight. Never lock your knees out in the top position! Your knees will be moving slightly inwards during the upward move, but you shouldn’t let them go beyond the imaginary vertical line between your knees (like “X-legs”). The lowering move should be slow and the upward move should be dynamic.

8 Leg curls

Lay prone on the leg curl machine. Your knees should be at the machine’s center of motion. Lift the weight using your biceps femoris. Make sure your lower back is not shifted upwards, and exhale. Flex your biceps femoris in the top position and get back to the starting position slowly. Let your muscles stretch slowly in the lowest position; don’t let the weight plates knock. Repeat.

9 Standing calf raises

Calves: as a beginner, you don’t need to use the calf machine yet. Simply stand next to something you can hold on to, and rise using your calves, with your feet parallel to each other (tiptoe). Flex completely in the top position, then get back slowly. Remember: no pain, no gain!

10 Crunches / sit-ups with leg raises

It’s a good idea to start your workout with the abs, as this exercise will warm up your whole body. Forget about the traditional sit-ups. Focus on your abs. You will need a roman chair for crunches. The point of the crunching move is not moving your trunk forward: you should literally crunch your abs, and your spine will be curling forward. Hold it for a second in this crunched position. Then, lower your trunk back, but only to the point where your abdominals relax. Exhale when your are crunching your abs. Sit-ups with leg raises are performed similarly. In this exercise, you are lifting your legs and trunk from the ground at the same time, using your abdominals. Just like you did in P. E. classes back at school. Please let me highlight that ab training is not for removing abdominal fat. There is no absolutely no connection between your abs and the layer of fat under your skin.

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