Beginner Weightlifting Workout Plan plus Nutrition and Cardio
Diet and exercise is a proven method of getting in shape. It’s simple, as long are you know what to do and you actually do it. The hard part is separating the wheat from the chaff and moving forward with something that will be effective. If you can’t do that you will waste time and effort, get demotivated, and quit. Nothing motivates like results. Results make it easier to stick to it and put forth the effort. Oh yes, you will need to put forth effort.
I’ve been lifting weights for 16 years now and can precisely modify my body to look the way I want it. I got to that point through a lot of study and application of diet and exercise principles. I’m going to give you an excellent starting plan for getting started in at weightlifting. Bodybuilding aka weightlifting is popular because it definitely works to build muscle.
I am not a doctor or health professional. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan.
I’m assuming your goal is to have big muscles and low body-fat. This plan will allow that to happen. Some people worry that their muscles will get too big. Trust me, it doesn’t happen unless you make it happen; you won’t wake up one day and find out you accidentally look like a Mr. Olympia. Women are typically afraid to lift weights for this very reason and they cheat themselves out of the most effective way of getting strong and lean. Another worry is the loss of flexibility. If anything, you’ll get more flexible because of the muscle tension that goes along with lifting and stretching. Muscle elasticity determines flexibility; it has nothing to do with tendons.
Everybody starts somewhere. The biggest, strongest guy at the gym may have started off as a 98-pound weakling. Hard work and consistent application of proper diet and exercise will get you results, so don’t sweat it. Do sweat it in the gym though! Having a plan and the will to make a change gives you a tremendous advantage, so you’ve made an awesome start just by reading this far.
You’ve got to make a commitment to change and get better. It’s more fun to go through life being fit, looking good, and full of energy, even if it takes some discipline and work to pull it off.
A solid exercise plan will include weightlifting to build muscle and cardiovascular exercise to build up lung capacity. When you ask something of your body, you’ll get it. You always have to listen to your body and trust your instincts. If your body is telling you that you’re injured or overworked, take notice and rest. This does not mean you should not exert yourself. A real workout leaves you feeling like you’ve been worked out. You’ll be breathing heavy, sweating, and your muscles will be pumped up. Going through the motions will not get you results. Don’t go to the gym to check off ‘go to the gym’ on your to do list. Go there to work and push yourself. You should not be reading a magazine or concentrating on a TV show while you’re on the treadmill. You should be too busy concentrating on pushing yourself to keep going a little harder than you did the last time. The key word to use whenever you workout is INTENSITY.
Gaining muscle and improving your fitness is based on a very simple, time-tested principle. You have to push your body progressively harder, feed it good fuel, and rest. When you lift weights, the muscle breaks down a bit and the body rebuilds it to be a little bigger and stronger than it was before. It’s kind of one step backwards, two steps forward, except the steps are small (but they do add up over time). That’s all there is to exercise. If you want it to keep getting bigger, you have to progressively increase the work demanded of it. That’s why weightlifting is perfectly suited for growing your muscles. With weights, you can systematically increase the number of times you lift the weight and the amount of weight you lift.
It’s very important to note that the muscle can only get bigger and stronger if it’s given a chance to do so. You need to eat right to give it the building materials, and you need to rest to give it time to do the building. Never work the same muscle two days in a row. Seventy-two hours is a good time to recover from a workout. For example, if you do legs on Monday, don’t do them again until Thursday.
Weights not only great for building muscle, but they are very effective for losing fat. Fat cannot turn into muscle. When you lift weights you will lose fat and gain muscle. Growing and maintaining muscle will burn lots of calories, and the body will get some of those calories from the fat you have stored all over your body. By the way, calories are just a unit of energy, so when I say calories, think energy. If two guys weigh the same, the guy with the muscles has his muscles burning calories for him around the clock, while the fat guy’s fat is doing nothing (though he’ll burn some calories lugging that baggage around). Some fat guys are strong because they are constantly carrying a heavy load, though typically they aren’t so strong relative to their bodyweight. It’s better to weight 150 and benchpress 175 than it is to weigh 300 and bench 250!
Use the mirror, not the scale to measure your progress. Gaining muscle and losing fat may cause your weight to increase! This is not a bad thing. Muscle weighs more than fat. It’s easy enough to tell if you’re gaining muscle and losing fat, so don’t overcomplicate it.
You cannot spot reduce fat. In other words, you cannot choose where you lose fat. Anyone who says otherwise is full of it. Your body will use fat up from wherever it pleases and there are some stubborn fat areas on the body. The fat comes off in the reverse order it goes on; the first place it goes on (e.g. the love handles, are the last place it comes off). Doing ab exercises will develop your ab muscles and burn some fat. They will not concentrate the fat burning around your abs though. It’s better to spend time on other exercises. The real problem most people have is their abs are covered in fat, so the muscles can’t be seen. The only way to tackle this is through consistent healthy eating and exercise.
Fat is your body’s way of storing excess energy on your body for later use. The body is designed to keep the fat in case of emergency, i.e., a lack of food or intense exercise. The body does not want to give it up easily. To access the fat, the body needs to be in a calorie deficit, i.e., more energy out than in. The right way to take advantage of this is to burn slightly more than you take in and keep your body well fed. This will lead to gradual progress without muscle loss. If you try to starve yourself, the body will think there’s a food shortage and will desperately try to hang on to its fat reserves. In fact, it will burn up your muscles and save your fat…the exact opposite of what you want! To keep you body happily burning fat, eat small, frequent meals. That way, the body is always confident that there’s more food around the corner, so there’s no need to hang on to fat.
Exercise is the number one tool for getting in shape. A healthy diet is number two. The reason for this is that if you are exercise and feeding your body junkfood, it can still make use of the nutrients and burn up excess energy. Junkfood won’t make your life easy though, because it has little nutritional value and lots of calories (because junkfood is typically high fat, which is high-calorie). It’s really hard to out exercise a terrible diet.
A good diet consists of natural, unprocessed foods. Apples, not apple pies. Carrots, not carrot cakes. Chicken breasts, not cold cuts. The more processed and packaged the food is, the worse it is for you. The closer it is to the way it was when taken from the farmer’s field, the better. The more good food you eat, the less junk you’ll crave.
Do not do calorie counting. Do read the ingredients. If you’re buying yogurt, the ingredients should read ‘milk’ and not ‘milk, sugar, corn starch, artificial flavors’. If you want to eat fruit yogurt, add fruit to plain yogurt. Don’t buy a premixed yogurt. You get the idea.
Avoid refined sugar and corn starch. Such foods will spike your insulin and cause fat storage. Read up on the glycemic index for more information.
While I’m passing along tips, avoid aspartame and any artificial sweeteners. Research it.
The portion size will vary depending on your energy needs. Typically use 2 – 4 handfuls of food. You should not eat to get full. Eat to feel like you’ve had something to eat. You’ll figure out what this means with practice. I can’t tell you exactly how much to eat. Your body is great at giving you feedback though. If you are getting too fat, eat less. Too skinny…eat more. That may sound glib but that’s how it works. Small meals spread throughout the day will keep your energy levels up, your fat burning, and your muscle building. If you feel full or lethargic after a meal, you ate too much. The key is balance. You shouldn’t ever feel hungry or full.
As far as food composition goes, all food is made of the macronutrients named carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Without getting overly complicated, eat a balanced amount. You need all three macronutrients. This will also get you the vitamins, minerals, and fibre you need. Fibre is great for keeping your digestive processes moving along.
1 orange (carbs)
1/3 cup of oats, 2/3 cup water, flax seed, honey, cocoa or cinnamon, splash of skim milk (carbs)
2 lean turkey sausages (protein)
plain yogurt with a handful of berries and hazelnuts (carbs)
handful of smoked salmon (protein and fat)
1 skinless boneless chicken breast (protein)
1/2 cup of quinoa (carbs)
handful of carrots (carbs)
3 figs (carbs)
Workout shake (for energy):
1/2 can of pineapple juice
1/2 scoop of whey protein
Post-workout snack (the sooner the better):
1 tuna steak (protein)
Apple (carbs and fibre)
Carrots (vitamins and fibre)
Handful of nuts (fat and fibre)
Piece of whole wheat bread (carbs and fibre)
1 steak (protein and fat)
spinach, tomato, cucumbers, peppers (carbs, fibre, vitamins)
1 piece of bread (carbs)
If you are eating pretty healthy every day and exercising, it’s not going to make any difference if you snack once in a while. A good strategy is to setup a time once a week where you eat what you want without sweating it. It is a good psychological reward and helps to refuel your body. Have a beer, slice or two of pizza, and a chocolate bar.
Above I’ve cited what the food mainly has. Most foods have a combination of macronutrients but can be classified as more heavy in some than others.
Some people are anti-bread and anti-pasta. Use it in moderation and try to avoid the more highly processed forms. For example, wholesome whole wheat bread with a short ingredient list is better than highly-processed white bread with tons of strange sounding compounds inside.
Nutritional supplements are exactly that…supplements. They do not work miracles. If you are low on protein, drink protein shakes. Need help getting vitamins, eat vitamin pills. It’s always better to get your ‘building materials’ from real food. Avoid the popular energy and protein bars. They are really candy bars that are cleverly marketed to make you feel they’re OK to eat.
Once you’ve got your diet squared away, you can make great progress at the gym. Simply put, lift like an (intense) animal, eat like a (healthy, moderate) king, and sleep like a baby.
In the gym you’re going to go in with a plan that consists of what exercises to do and how many sets of each exercise. You do several sets of an exercise with short rests between sets, and then you move on to the next exercise. You are not at the gym to take it easy. Don’t chat. Don’t loaf.
When you do a set, e.g. lifting the weight several times without a break, you should go to failure. This means you go until you pretty much can’t lift the weight one more time. Then you rest. Your rest between sets should be just long enough so you feel you can go again. If you do 10 reps, wait 10 seconds, and try again to find you can now only do 2 reps, you went too soon. A rule of thumb is 1 to 2 minutes of rest between sets; minimize rest. You’ll find that you will be getting weaker as you work…this is good and means you are taxing your body. Just don’t tax it to the point of injury.
The amount of reps and weight will vary. Generally, 6 to 10 reps until failure is good. Use a weight that allows this many reps to failure. Don’t lift with a weight you could do 30 times; that’s too light. Don’t lift with a weight you can barely do twice. Once you can manage 8 or 10 reps, it’s time to move the weight up. During a workout, your strength will drop, so adjust the weights to keep the rep range and effort consistent. Fewer reps with heavier weight will tend to cause the most bulk growth. More reps with lighter weight will tend to build endurance and definition.
Do not cheat yourself. This means do not use a heavier weight than you can lift properly. You’ll look like an idiot, you won’t work the muscle properly, and you’ll probably injure yourself. You’ll see guys moving the weight through ½ of the full range of movement, or swinging & bending to move the weight. The key to making a muscle work is to use proper form. If you are doing barbell curls and swinging to get the weight up, you are not working your biceps. If you use good form you’ll quickly surpass Mr. Quarter Chin-up and Mr. Bent-back Benchpress. You’ll have to read about proper form (how you move the weight) on your own. ExRx.net is a good website with lots of exercises and explanations of proper form. I’d also recommend books by Stuart McRobert and of course Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding (inspirational, fun, and info-packed…though not always realistic for non-Arnolds).
Some exercises will really develop you overall. Some are good for specialized development. Others are pretty much wastes of time. If you want to be insanely efficient and make good progress, all you need to do are: bench presses, squats, dead-lifts, and chin-ups. These exercises use a lot of muscles and can be pretty taxing, but they work. They also require good form. Exercises with multi-joint involvement can cause injury if you don’t pay attention to good form.
Free weights can be more dangerous than machines but they are better overall because they force lots of stabilizing muscles to work. These stabilizers are needed to keep the weight under control. A machine controls the weight for you. In the real world, you will need to control whatever you are lifting on your own, so free-weights are for real world strength.
Beginner Weightlifting Routine
You can either work opposing muscles or complementary muscles during a workout. Chest and back is an opposing muscle pair. Working chest doesn’t tire your back. Chest and triceps are complementary pairs. Doing chest exercises will tire your triceps. The trade-off is that working opposing pairs will allow a more concentrated workout on each part. Complementary pairs will tire your muscles faster and give an intense workout. You could also focus on only one muscle per workout for real attention to that muscle. That might be OK if you have a problem area like a small chest. I prefer not to do it like that because time is short and I want to get the most bang for my buck.
For the beginner workout we’ll stick to opposing muscle pairs. You’ll have to look up each exercise and how to perform it. There’s lots of that kind of info out there.
There are exercises you can do with a barbell or ones you do with a dumbbell. With a barbell, you can generally do more weight, which will stimulate growth. However, your stronger side will dominate and your muscle symmetry can suffer. Dumbbells will allow you to work on your weak side. Always start with your weak side and work until failure. Then do the same number of reps on your strong side. That way, you will not be working your strong side more than your weak side. Mix up barbell and dumbbell 50/50 for balanced results.
Take 1 minute of rest between sets. Do as much as you can. Dial back the number of exercises and sets if you have to. It’s OK to do 3 exercises per part and 3 exercises per set. It’s OK to start as slow as you need to. Keep in mind to use the right weight to preserve good form and rep count (6 – 12, as per your preference).
The idea here is to give you a structure. It may be too much for some. No problem…you’re able to modify it to meet your needs. Swap in similar exercises or change the volume to suit your needs and ability. As long as you feel like you’ve exerted yourself, you’ve had a good workout. Feel free to go for walks, jogs, sprints, and swims as you like (to build overall fitness and burn additional fat).
Monday – Chest and Back:
Jog or bike for 15 minutes to warm up
Do light stretches and body movements (not getting into that here)
Flat benchpress, 4 sets
Lat pull downs (chin-ups if you can), 4 sets
Dips (assisted or weighted), 4 sets
Seated rows, 4 sets
Incline dumbbell press, 4 sets
Deadlifts, 4 sets
Flat bench chest flies, 4 sets
Shrugs, 4 sets
Stretch & go home for a post workout meal
Tuesday – Rest and go for a walk (1 hour)
Wednesday – Legs
Light jog or bike to warm up
Squats, 4 sets
Calf raises, 4 sets
Leg press, 4 sets
Quad extensions, 4 sets
Hamstring curls, 4 sets
Stretch & go home for a post workout meal
Thursday – Rest and go for a walk (1 hour)
Friday – Arms and shoulders
Shoulder/military barbell press, 4 sets
Barbell bicep curls, 4 sets
Overhead tricep extension, 4 sets
Lateral shoulder raises, 4 sets
Dumbbell bicep curls, 4 sets
Skull crushers or French curls, 4 sets
Front shoulder raises, 4 sets
Preach curls, 4 sets
Close-grip bench press, 4 sets
Read shoulder raises, 4 sets
Saturday – walk, jog, swim, play a sport
Sunday – mainly rest but feel free to do some light exercise and mentally prepare for the week ahead
Workout everywhere, not just at the gym. Walk instead of drive. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. Do a few push-ups in your downtime. It adds up.
Do listen to music. It can rile you up. Bring your own. Gyms play terrible music. Insanely heavy metal is recommended. Don’t blow out your eardrums.
Do not stand right in front of the weight rack when exercising. Other people need to access the weights.
Allow others to work-in (share the equipment).
Do not scream or grunt excessively.
Don’t slam the weights down. You’ll damage them and it’s plain annoying.
Do not chit chat; you’ll destroy your momentum.
Do not talk to people while they are actively lifting the weight; they can’t talk back.
Shift the start day of the cycle around. The gym gets pretty empty from Thursday to Sunday.
Cardio is important from an overall fitness point-of-view. You don’t want to be huffing and puffing all the time. It will help make you more energetic for your weight workouts. Jogging and sprinting are great to strip off fat. If you overdo it your body will also turn to muscle for fuel.
If you jog, try to go for 30 minutes to 1 hour to get fat burning and tax your body. Obviously a 1 minute jog isn’t going to do a lot. Walk if you prefer; just be active.
Sprinting like someone is trying to kill you is more effective for stripping off stubborn fat. You should be panting hard if you did this correctly. Sprint, bend over panting, and sprint again. Look up HIIT for more info (high-intensity interval training).
Some folks claim a morning run on a near-empty stomach is better for fat burning because your body needs to go to stored fat for energy. It makes sense. It’s also can be a miserable way to start your day.
If you make your exercising miserable, you aren’t going to stick with it.
I hope you’ve really enjoyed my article! I’m eager to hear any suggestions or questions you may have and I’ll address them as best I can. Please check out my websites for cool gear that will help you get into the right frame of mind for success.
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Best of luck!!!
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