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Boost Confidence And Improve Performance With This Beginner Workout Plan

Updated: Mar 16

A woman completing a beginner workout plan.

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This beginner workout plan will teach you how to exercise safely and effectively. You will learn important training principles that, if implemented, can help you achieve your fitness goals.


The plan also outlines the main phases of a workout. Following these phases, every time you train can reduce injury risk while improving the exercise experience.


Throughout this beginner workout plan, you’ll get access to loads of resources and training tools. These have been included to support you create a plan that will take you to the next level on your training journey.


Table of contents


 

Beginner workout plan

The training cycle typically encompasses a year. A well-organised cycle will transition through multiple phases. These phases consist of different training methods which are interspersed with reduced intensity periods. The purpose of this is to support the athlete or exerciser achieve their fitness goals.


Beginners will likely find all this quite daunting. However, irrespective of how complicated the training cycle is, they are all comprised of individual workouts. These are the structural units of the cycle that enable us to target specific goals and objectives. For the beginner, this is the best place to start their exercise journey.


Once you learn the fundamentals of crafting a workout, you will be able to start building a programme that delivers results. A workout is like a micro cycle as it is comprised of distinct phases.


Below, I have outlined each phase including a justification for why it should not be omitted. Furthermore, I have produced an overview of training suggestions that you can use when creating your own workouts.


Beginner workout plan phase #1: Warm up

The warm-up is arguably the most crucial phase of the workout. A 5- to 10-minute progressive intensity warm-up of an appropriate nature prepares the body for the demands of exercise.


Studies have shown that as well as improving training performance, a good warm-up ‘helps protect against injury by improving the flexibility of the muscles,’ (NSCA’s Essentials of Strength & Conditioning).


Flexible muscles can transition through a greater range of movement (ROM) which decreases their susceptibility to strains and pulls. Other reasons to warm up include:


  • Increase in joint mobility

  • Increase in blood flow throughout the body

  • Increase in aerobic metabolism

  • Decrease in lactic acid production

  • Increases maximum power output

  • Orientates the trainer’s psychology to exercise


(List adapted from Watson’s Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance pp. 79/80)


How to warm up

The example below was designed as a warm-up to be completed before a run. Although it has been designed specifically for running, the same underlying principles can be applied to circuits, cycling, rowing and general gym sessions – in short, any form of physical exercise.

 

10-minute progressive warm-up

  • Walk for 2 minutes

  • Break into a slow jog

  • Jog for 3 minutes

  • Stop and complete 5 to 10 reps of squats, burpees, and squat thrusts

  • Carry on jogging for a further 2 minutes but increase the tempo

  • Stop and complete 10 to 15 reps of squats, burpees, and squat thrusts

  • Carry on jogging for the remaining time. Progressively raise the pace to that of the run

  • This warm-up will integrate into the main session, which is what a good warm-up should do.


Best types of warm-up activities

  • Rowing: because it activates the two major muscle groups as well as many smaller muscles.

  • Cross-trainer: much for the same reason as the rower.

  • Airdyne cycling interspersed with bodyweight and light resistance exercises.

  • Skipping: similar to rowing, skipping involves many muscles. But, unlike rowing, you must remain cognitively ‘switched on’ when skipping. Thus, as well as warming up the body and actively engaging multiple fitness components, skipping can enhance focus. (Try this skipping HIIT workout >)


Beginner workout plan phase #2: Main session

The main session is the part of our workout where we advance our physicality. Each main session, in the context of a training programme, serves as a stepping stone to our fitness goal. And while no single workout will yield measurable progression, they will do when completed consistently.


However, the main session can be used for a multitude of purposes other than pursuing a goal. For example, we can participate in less specific forms of exercise. This can include ‘total body workouts’ which involve ‘all major muscle groups’ and are especially effective at ‘targeting functional performance,’ (NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength & Conditioning).


We also have the option of focusing on the quality of our lifting form. Nick Grantham calls this ‘movement quality training.’ Also referred to as MQT, this is a method of ‘training that reinforces correct posture and positioning of the body to allow effective athletic movement,’ (The Strength & Conditioning Bible).


Are there any rules or stipulations that we should apply to our main session?


No rules, just guidelines. And the guidelines aren’t set in stone either. They can provide a framework for beginners and help those who are lost in their training by bringing structure to a disordered routine. Below I’ve outlined a range of tips that you can use to organise your workouts.


Workout guidelines

Guideline 1: Get in the habit of creating a session plan before your workout. Like a to-do list or shopping list, a session plan can improve your productivity at the gym and help keep you on track. Crafting a plan can take minutes (once you get the hang of it) yet save hours of wasted training time.


Guideline 2: Position technical exercises (such as compound multi-joint movements – squats, deadlifts, snatches) at the start of your workout. This advice can be found in most strength training manuals. The reason behind it is that, while our muscles are fresh, we are better able to maintain proper exercise technique during a lift. Again, this tip is not set in stone; I break it all the time (because I prefer workouts that are more reflective of the demands of my sport (boxing) which often requires that complex techniques are delivered when you’re most tired). However, for safety reasons, beginners should stick to tip 2.


Guideline 3: Set aside between 30- to 45 minutes for your main session. These durations may seem short, but then we must remember to leave time for the warm-up, cool-down, and stretch, which together take 20 minutes. In total, a workout will last for around an hour. So, using the timings above will ensure that you can complete your training tasks without having to rush or (often the case) omit the import pre- and post-workout phases.

 

Beginner workout plan phase #3: Cool down

Grantham describes the cool-down as a ‘group of exercises performed immediately after training to provide a period of adjustment between exercise and rest,’ (The Strength & Conditioning Bible). He goes on to say that it’s probably the ‘most neglected’ phase of the workout process and ‘you omit it at your peril.’


But why should we cool down?


One justification for cooling down is that it helps to remove waste products (metabolites) that accumulate in the muscles during exercise. By removing metabolites, a cool-down can facilitate post-training recovery. Another benefit of this is the reduction in the severity of the ‘DOMS’ (delayed onset of muscle soreness).


Other outcomes of cooling down include muscle relaxation. As well as preparing muscles for the final phase of the workout, relaxed muscles are less prone to injury.


A final reason to conclude your session with a cool-down involves the normalisation of the cardiovascular system. Arguably more important for elderly exercisers or those with hypertension, gradually bringing your heart rate to rest reduces the risk of dizziness or fainting.

 

How to cool down

A cool-down doesn’t have to be as complicated as the warm-up. To simplify the process, most exercise manuals recommend performing the warm-up in reverse. You would begin cooling down at an intensity close to the conclusion of your main session.


From there, for around 5 to 10 minutes, you would gradually reduce the training intensity. The final couple of minutes should resemble a walk.


Related: More reasons to Cool Down >

Beginner workout plan phase #4: Stretch

Stretching is in direct competition with the cool-down for first place on the ‘most neglected part of a training session’ podium. In addition to being generally neglected by most exercisers, the importance of stretching is vastly underestimated. This might account for why few people stretch at the end of their workouts.


According to Grantham, increasing ‘flexibility and mobility will allow you to move your limbs smoothly and easily through an unrestricted, pain-free range of motion,’ (The Strength & Conditioning Bible). As well as making everyday activities more enjoyable, increased flexibility around a joint can also enhance exercise performance. Of course, greater mobility at a joint enables us to explore the full range of movement of an exercise.


Another reason never to skip the stretch is brought to our attention by flexibility expert John Shepherd. One of the chief reasons to stretch has to do with injury reduction. Shepherd illustrates this point when he outlines a study that investigated the benefits of stretching on athletes. To summarise the study in a single sentence, athletes who participated in a flexibility routine after training suffered fewer injuries.


How to stretch

To make life a little easier, I have created a comprehensive 10 Minute Stretching Routine for you to try. The routine provides instruction on how to stretch safely and effectively. These instructions are distilled into a simplified list of dos and don’ts.


In addition, the routine features images of each stretch position including a list of the target muscles and methods of application. And because all the major muscle group is targeted, you can use the routine after every workout.


Gym plan for beginners

Beginner workout plan process layout.

Ready to start building a Beginner Workout Program?

 

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beginner workout plan concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of workouts.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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