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Get Started In The Gym With These Workouts For Beginners

Do these three workouts each week and you’ll build functional strength as well as confidence in the gym

When you’re new to the gym it can be a daunting place. Not only are you going somewhere to deliberately make yourself physically uncomfortable, there’s the worry of being judged by other, apparently more capable gym-goers for somehow doing the gym wrong.

Having a proper plan for what you’re going to do can help give you the confidence to walk through that gym door for the first time. It’ll not only ensure you’re not wasting your time or pushing yourself too hard, but also provide purpose to your workout.

We asked PureGym personal trainer Peter Williams to put together a simple set of workouts beginners can turn to when they first start going to the gym. There are three workouts below which you can combine to form a handy weekly training plan.

“The below workouts should really help get your fitness up and give you a platform to go on and achieve your future fitness goals,” says Williams.

“You should focus initially on developing your movement patterns as well as the ‘big muscles’ such as your legs, back and shoulders by concentrating primarily on compound movements.

“Your workouts should be a combination of bodyweight, cardiovascular, resistance and functional training. This is the best way to build all-round fitness as well as keep your workouts interesting.”

Each workout will take 30 to 45 minutes and starts with five minutes on a cardio machine, but it’s also worth doing some dynamic stretches to warm up before you start. Once you finish, make sure to stretch and cool down to avoid soreness – commonly known as DOMS – the next day.

For exercises that require weights, whether that’s a weights machine or free weights like dumbbells, aim to select a weight which will make the last few reps of the final set difficult to complete. Obviously, you’ll have to use trial and error at first, but start light and increase the weight gradually over subsequent sessions until you find that sweet spot.

Lower Body Workout

1 Exercise bike

Time 5min

2 Unweighted squat

Sets 5 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive back up to standing through your heels. Keep your knees over your toes and your back straight throughout.

3 Walking lunge

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 each leg Rest 1min

From standing, take a big step forwards and lower until both knees are bent at 90°. Try to stay as low as possible as you bring your back leg through and step forwards into another lunge.

4 Back extension

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Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

You can do this on the floor or on a back extension bench. For the former, lie on the floor and lift your shoulders and chest up off the floor. For the latter, set up the bench at a 45° angle and position it so you can bend at the waist when lying on it. Bend forwards until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, then raise your torso back to the start.

5 Leg extension

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

You’ll need to use the leg extension machine for this quad-focused move. Set it up so the pad sits on the top of your shins. Holding the side bars, lift the weights using your quads rather than your feet.

6 Leg curl

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

This complements the leg extension by targeting your hamstrings. Once again you’ll be using a machine. Set up the machine so the padded lever sits just below your calves and the lap pad is just above your knees. Pull the padded lever down towards you using your legs, then control the weight back up slowly.

7 Leg press

Sets 5 Reps 15 Rest 1min

Sit in the leg press machine and position your feet on the platform so they’re hip-width apart. Straighten your legs until they’re almost locked out (never lock your knees out completely), keeping your back firmly against the seat, then release the weight using the lever and bring your knees back down towards your chest slowly. Push the weight back up.

Upper-Body Workout

1 Rowing machine

Time 5min

2 Assisted pull-up

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Set up the pull-up machine so you can rest your knees on the pads and the counterweight will help you up; if not using a machine, loop a heavy resistance band over the pull-up bar and thread one end through the other so it’s attached to the bar. Put one foot in the other end. Using an overhand grip, pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar.

3 Push-up

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Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Facing the floor, support yourself on the balls of your feet and your hands, with your palms directly under your shoulders and your arms extended. Lower your chest towards the floor, then push back up. You can drop to your knees or put your hands on an elevated platform like a bench to make the move easier if needed.

4 Lat pull-down

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Set up the pull-down machine so the pad is tight against your thighs. Grasp the bar in an overhand grip and pull it down until it’s in front of your upper chest.

5 Overhead press

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Stand holding a barbell in front of your chest using an overhand grip (palms facing forwards) with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Press the weight directly above your head, then lower it slowly.

6 Barbell bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Hold a barbell by your thighs with an overhand grip, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your back straight, lean forwards from your hips, letting your arms hang down. Lift the weight, keeping your elbows tight to your body, until the bar touches your chest, then lower it slowly.

7 Assisted dip

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Rest your knees on the pad of an assisted dip machine, then lower your body until your elbows are bent at 90º before straightening your arms to lift yourself back up.

Full-Body Workout

Cross-trainer

Time 5min

Weight plate thruster

Sets 5 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a weight plate in front of your chest in both hands. Drop into a squat, then push through your heels to drive back up and press the plate directly overhead.

3 Walking lunge

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 each leg Rest 1min

From standing, take a big step forwards and lower until both knees are bent at 90°. Try to stay as low as possible as you bring your back leg through and step forwards into another lunge.

4 Seated row

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Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Set up at the low-pulley cable bench so your feet are flat on the floor and your torso is against the pad (if there is one). Pull the handles towards you to lift the weight, keeping your elbows tight to your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together when the handle reaches your stomach, then slowly lower the weight.

5 Overhead press

Sets 3 Reps 8-12 Rest 1min

Stand holding a barbell in front of your chest using an overhand grip (palms facing forwards) with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Press the weight directly above your head, then lower it slowly.

Rowing machine

Sets 5 Distance 150m

Row 150m as quickly as you can. Try to keep your time consistent through the sets.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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