Strength Training For Beginners – Workout Plans

Whether you’re just starting out or starting again, these strength training for beginners workout routines are the best to get your body back in shape and ready for more advanced training. 

Where do I start? That’s a question I hear all too often. Especially from absolute beginners. There’s a plethora of information available that can be quite tricky to understand. When I first started training I was in the same boat. Spending hours and hours on research. Experimenting with techniques I’d learnt from books, magazines etc got me even more confused as I didn’t have a solid foundation or understanding as to where I should have started.

strength training for beginners

Foundational Knowledge

Before I dive into the best beginner workout plan I would be doing you a complete disservice by not providing some foundational knowledge and trying to help remove some of the confusion in regards to figuring out where to start or even how to get started. I am also going to assume that you are a complete beginner. If you do have some experience exercising I would still strongly suggest that you not skip over this section as it wasn’t until I became a CPT that I learnt a significant amount of information I never found in my prior research.

For most people a moderate intensity exercise program is safe and can provide significant results, however more often than not we tend to overdo it especially when starting out which leads to overtraining and opening up the chance for serious injury.

Fitness Assessments

It’s important to note that before beginning any exercise program you should first consult your physician as well as perform a fitness assessment. Fitness assessments establish a baseline and help you understand what your current strengths, weaknesses, goals and limitations are. From there you can begin training.

As a beginner you’re more than likely in a de-conditioned state. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overweight or have a hard time climbing stairs. It could also mean you have muscular imbalances, poor flexibility, a weak core or joint stability. That’s why it is important to not skip over gathering some basic information about yourself and assessing where you are. Most training programs or even information outlets do not talk about this enough.

I won’t spend a lot of time covering this topic here as I have created an extensive guide on getting started and performing fitness assessments but I will reiterate the importance and provide some insight as to why they need to be done.

Fitness assessments provide an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limitations. They collect information regarding your health, lifestyle, heart rate, body composition, cardiovascular ability, posture and functional limitations. Having this understanding will help you understand how to best achieve your goals.

strength training for beginners fitness assessment

Our static posture is the foundation in which we present ourselves and how we move. A weak foundation leads to problems down the line. Observing static posture exposes imbalances which can identify problem areas. There are three common postural distortion patterns. Those distortion patterns are:

  • Pronation distortion syndrome: flat feet and inward turned knees
  • Lower crossed syndrome: forward tilted pelvis and arched lower back
  • Upper crossed syndrome: forward head and rounded shoulders

Each of these distortion patterns can have significant effects on our physical ability and require proper attention in order to correct and prevent. Through the assessment of our posture we can determine which distortion patterns are present and develop strategies to improve.

At the very least an overhead squat assessment is probably the most important assessment you will need aside from clearance from your physician. It aims to check flexibility during movement, core strength, balance and muscular control. Impairments viewed suggest variances in joint motion, muscle activation and muscle control. Overhead squat assessments help you figure out if there are any corrective flexibility and strengthening routines necessary.

Integrated Training

When I first started training my knowledge came from neighborhood kids, my dad and old Iron Man Magazine issues. All I knew was the basic exercises such as the bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder presses, curls, tricep dips and such. I hadn’t any idea on the importance of integrated training or even what it was. I didn’t know about concepts such as core stability, balance or flexibility training either. I just knew you had to lift, eat, sleep and repeat.

ironman magazine

One of the more significant chunks of information I gathered through certification was the incorporation of these training concepts into a well rounded program and how they play a part in the overall bigger picture. What is integrated training? It is a concept that incorporates all aspects of training into a progressive program. This training methodology includes flexibility, cardio, core, balance, plyometric, SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) and resistance training. It’s a process of continued progression through different phases of a training program to best achieve one's goals.

This is important because most of us live sedentary lifestyles. We aren’t warriors, scavengers, athletes or whatever else. More often than not we are behind a computer screen sitting in a chair or doing something similar. Our bodies aren’t conditioned to the rigorous demands of exercise and we need to make adjustments over time as that is how the body adapts. Backed by science this approach will help to build up stabilization, muscular endurance, muscle mass, strength and power. It will also help one to prevent injury and overload.

As a friend and ultra-endurance athlete once told me, sometimes you have to walk to go fast. This same methodology applies to exercise. Our bodies adapt to what’s thrown at them but sometimes that adaptation can be in the form of an imbalance or injury. To keep training and reach your goals it’s best to take this approach.

For more information on this topic check out the getting started guide. It’s a comprehensive guide that shows you how to build a training program custom tailored to your goals.

What Is The Best strength training for beginners?

With all that being said now we’re into the information you came here for. The best strength training for beginners workout plan. Right? Well, almost. You see there isn’t a workout plan that’s the best for everyone. Just like there isn’t a shoe size that fits all.

Workout plans are specific to the individual. Your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limitations all play a part in what a workout program would look like. Training plans should be a systematic approach that progresses over time.

While I cannot with good conscience say that one particular plan is the best strength training for beginners workout plan I can provide examples and how to put one together.

Training variables are the backbone of your daily exercise routine. If you have seen any workout routine you’ll be familiar with some of these variables as most programs suggest rep ranges, rest periods, training volume, frequency and exercise selection. All of the different training variables are:

  • Reps: a complete movement of an exercise
  • Sets: group of consecutive reps
  • Intensity: the level of effort exerted up to your max
  • Tempo: speed at which reps are performed
  • Rest: time to recover between sets and reps
  • Volume: work over time
  • Frequency: amount of training sessions in time
  • Duration: time frame of a training session
  • Selection: selection of a specific exercise

Periodization is an approach that allows the body to adapt overtime. Training is divided into different periods of time. Training plans can be broken down into annual, monthly, weekly and even daily plans. Annual plans show a macro level of training protocols over the course of a year. Once broken down into monthly and weekly plans the view is more detailed and specific.

Training models are the different phases of training throughout the course of a program. Each model is specific to a particular type of goal and works hand in hand with others. The different models are:

  • Stabilization is the first level of training and focuses on building strength in the stabilizer muscles and preparing the body for the demands of exercise. At this time you’re not only building a foundation, you’re correcting any imbalances.
  • Strength is the second phase of training designed to build upon the body’s ability to handle stress and lay the foundation for additional training models.
  • Hypertrophy is the third phase of training and focuses on maximal muscle growth. Training and rest periods are designed to force cellular change.
  • Max strength is the fourth phase of the training program and focuses on increasing the ability to handle heavier weights.
  • Power is the fifth phase and focuses on increasing the force and velocity at which loads can be moved.

All of this is what makes up a good beginner workout plan. But you’ll also need to know:

  • What exercises are appropriate or inappropriate
  • What intensities are best for your goal(s)
  • How many exercises you should perform
  • What set and rep range is needed
  • How often you should train

Which can be a ton of information to consider. So if you're not someone who wants to build a workout program for yourself that’s ok. It’s a feat in its own and why personal trainers exist. If you do you can go more in depth here.

strength training for beginners Workout Plans

Now that I’ve bored you with a bunch of technical information, hopefully not, here are some examples of the best beginner workout plans.

Circuit Training

strength training for beginners circuit training

Circuit training is an excellent strength training for beginners workout. It consists of a series of exercises completed one after another with minimal rest in between each exercise. Once the circuit is completed there is a short period of rest in-between the next circuit. Circuit training is typically a full body training program that progresses through a series of strength training exercises.

Circuit training routines usually include a lower amount of sets followed by higher rep ranges and short rest periods. There have been several research studies that have shown circuit training to be just as beneficial to the cardiovascular system as they are to improving fitness and strength.

This circuit training routine cycles through three different phases of training. Using undulating periodization each phase could be completed for an entire week or once per week throughout the course of 12 weeks. Perform each exercise with no rest in-between and repeat each circuit 3-4 times with 60 seconds rest.

Example Circuit Training Routine


  • Stability ball dumbbell press
    • 1 set 15-20 reps
  • Stability ball dumbbell row
    • 1 set 15-20 reps
  • Single-leg scaption
    • 1 set 15-20 reps
  • Single-leg dumbbell curl
    • 1 set 15-20 reps
  • Stability ball dumbbell tricep extension
    • 1 set 15-20 reps
  • Stability ball wall squat
    • 1 set 15-20 reps


  • Dumbbell chest press
    • 1 set 8-10 reps
  • Machine cable row
    • 1 set 8-10 reps
  • Seated dumbbell shoulder press
    • 1 set 8-10 reps
  • Standing barbell curl
    • 1 set 8-10 reps
  • Machine triceps pushdown
    • 1 set 8-10 reps
  • Lunges
    • 1 set 8-10 reps


  • Medicine ball chest pass
    • 1 set 10 reps
  • Medicine ball soccer throw
    • 1 set 10 reps
  • Medicine ball scoop toss
    • 1 set 10 reps
  • Squat jump
    • 1 set 10 reps

5x5 Training

The 5×5 training method is also a great strength training for beginners workout. It follows the ideas of progressive overload where you slowly increase the load placed on your muscle, putting your body in the ideal state to evolve. Progressive overloading consists of adding weight in small increments only if the previous workouts sets and reps are successfully completed.

A basic 5×5 training program consists of two lifting days, Day A and Day B. Each day will have its respective exercises. The 5 movements are the squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press.

Alternate your workout days for each week. Week 1 will begin with Day A and end with Day A (ex. A,B,A). Therefore week 2 will begin with Day B and end with Day B (ex. B,A,B).

Example 5x5 Routine

Day A

  • Squat
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 3 sets 5 reps working weight
  • Bench Press
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 3 sets 5 reps working weight
  • Barbell Row
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 3 sets 5 reps working weight

Day B

  • Squat
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 3 sets 5 reps working weight
  • Overhead Press
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 3 sets 5 reps working weight
  • Deadlift
    • 2 sets 5 reps light weight
    • 1 set 5 reps moderate weight
    • 1 sets 5 reps working weight


The best strength training for beginners workout plan is one that is specific to the individual. It considers your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limitations as well as overall goals. Training plans should be systematic approaches that progress over time. Performing a fitness assessment is the best way to get started but beginners of all levels can try programs like circuit training or 5x5 to help them shape their dream physique.

Now that you have been armed with the basic tools to sculpt your dream, get out there and get to it. Always stay true to form and lift with intensity. Make every rep count.

About the author, Steve Hall

Steve is a strength training fanatic who geeks out over the best, most efficient workouts, nutrition and gear to help get you stronger and healthier!