Beginner Workouts for Men & Women – Resistance Training 101

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So you’ve crawled back to the gym and want to start a resistance training program. You don’t just want to lose weight, but are also interested in carving out that fit physique all the “cool kids” on Instagram have.

Perhaps you’ve lost some weight already, and have cardio on point. But you keep hearing the same drum beat:

“If you want to look good, you not only need to lose weight, but also to build muscle.”

This is the gospel. While weight loss is great for overall health, it alone won’t give you the amazing body you’re after. Who wants to look skinny but flabby anyway? Not me, and not you either.

A little bit of muscle mass goes a long way. It makes your body look noticeably better, even when you’re not as lean as you would like to be. Simply stated, the addition of muscle gives you that toned, fit, athletic and sexy look you are after. If you want to look good, muscle building is as important, if not more important than fat loss.

The comparison picture below is me. In both images I weighed 246 pounds. The image on the left was taken about two years ago. I had lost 100 pounds, dropping from 346 to 246 pounds. I looked leaner, but still wasn’t even close to having the body I wanted.

The image on the right was taken a few months ago. Same weight of 246. the difference? I lost another 10 to 15 pounds of fat while replacing it with 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.

The point here is simple… Even small changes in body composition matter.

A post shared by Steve Shaw (@bendthebarman) on

What does body composition mean? Body composition involves body fat and muscle mass levels. When you decrease fat, you will look better, and your body fat percentage drops, but the amount of muscle mass you have remains about the same. The result? You get a body like I had on the left picture.

Now, if you lose fat while adding muscle, you get the body I have on the right. Make sense? Here’s a simple chart that should help:

  • Fat Loss = Skinny, but flabby. Not an ideal body type. “Skinny fat.” You look better, but aren’t even close to the fit, athletic, and sexy look you are after.
  • Fat Loss + Muscle Gain = The lean, athletic look you are after. And remember, it doesn’t take muscle mass to make you look much better. This is not about being a bodybuilder. Not at all.
  • Weight Maintenance + Muscle Gain = Even if you don’t lose fat, muscle mass gains will make you look much better. They will only serve to enhance your look, regardless of your body fat levels.

So here we are. You want to build muscle, know the benefits, yearn to look better, but don’t know where to start. Have no fear. These workouts will serve you well and get you pointed in the right direction.

Beginner Workouts – The First 2 Months

We’re assuming here that you are new to resistance training. The question is, where to start?

Compound exercises are king. They provide the most bang for your buck. With that said, these dumbbell and barbell exercises are more difficult to master. For this reason, I am including two workout variations – one that uses dumbbell and barbell compound movements, and one that doesn’t.

But don’t fret if you opt to avoid dumbbells and barbells right out of the gate. We have four goals during your first couple of months of resistance training:

  • Goal 1 – To develop a good habit and consistency. Stop trying to punish yourself. Instead, focus on just getting to the gym, not missing workouts, and establishing a good habit that will change your life and body.
  • Goal 2 – To overcome the shaky feeling. During the first several months of resistance training, you will experience more neuromuscular adaptation than pure muscle growth. What does this mean? When you first start lifting, you feel shaky. Your central nervous system is inefficient at communicating with your muscles. This is improved over time. Much of the strength gains you experience during this time aren’t muscular at all. They are mainly from your nervous system improving its communication with the muscle fibers.
  • Goal 3 – To familiarize yourself with muscle groups, movements, and equipment. It takes a while to understand just what we’re doing in the gym, and how each muscle and piece of equipment works.
  • Goal 4 – To not get injured. Start slow. Get the feel for each movement. Take time to learn solid form.

The rules of lifting aren’t different for men and women, but end goals can be. Most men want more muscle than women. Fair enough. But women need to understand an important reality:

Avoiding the hard exercises is only going to slow down your progress.

You might fear packing on too much mass. Women… It’s not going to happen. Most men struggle to put on muscle mass. No matter how hard you train, no matter how brute strong you get, without steroids this is about how “big” you’ll get…

Kara Corey, bikini pro and MA, RD. Check out Kara’s FitBurn, an appetite control product from RD Nutrition. Click here to order.

Beginner Workouts – Weeks 1 to 4

You have two options here. First, you can workout two days per week. Second, you could lift three days per week, alternating between workouts. The choice is yours. Just remember that during this four week period, “more” is not better.

Option A – 2 Days Per Week

  • Day 1 – Workout A
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Workout B
  • Day 5 – Off
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off

Option B – 3 Days Per Week

  • Day 1 – Workout A
  • Day 2 – Off
  • Day 3 – Workout B
  • Day 4 – Off
  • Day 5 – Workout A
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off
  • Day 8 – Workout B
  • Day 9 – Off
  • Day 10 – Workout A
  • Day 11 – Off
  • Day 12 – Workout B
  • Day 13 – Off
  • Day 14 – Off
Workout a
Weeks 1 to 4
Exercise Sets Reps
 Goblet Squat  3  10
 Machine Chest Press  3  10
 Lat Pull Down  3  10
 Machine Shoulder Press  3  10
 Leg Curls  2  10
 Cable Curls  2  10
 Push Ups (Diamond style if possible)  2  10
 Planks  2  30-60 sec
Workout B
Weeks 1 to 4
Exercise Sets Reps
 Leg Press  3  10
 Pec Dec  3  10
 Machine Row  3  10
 Upright Row  3  10
 Reverse Lunges (Reps are for each leg)  2  10
 Machine Curls  2  10
 Cable Triceps Extensions  2  10
 Wall Sit  2  30-60 sec

Beginner Workouts – Weeks 5 to 8

Here, you can either continue to use the same workouts from weeks 1 to 4, slowly trying to add resistance as it makes sense, or progress on to a focus on barbell and dumbbell exercises.

Workout a
Weeks 5 to 8
Exercise Sets Reps
 Squats  3  10
 Dumbbell Bench Press  3  10
 Lat Pull Downs  3  10
 Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  3  10
 Leg Curls  2  10
 Dumbbell Curls  2  10
 Cable Triceps Extensions  2  10
 Planks  2  20-20 sec
Workout a
Weeks 5 to 8
Exercise Sets Reps
 Leg Press  3  10
 Bench Press  3  10
 Dumbbell Rows  3  10
 Side Lateral Raise  3  10
 Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts  2  10
 EZ Bar Curls  2  10
 Skullcrushers  2  10
 Wall Sit  2  20-30 sec

Workout Notes

During the first four weeks keep the weight relatively light and focus on exercise form. After this point, you can slowly begin to add weight if an exercise feels too light.

Following this two month kickoff period, it’s time to challenge your body with progressive overload and a tougher approach. Here are some workouts found at Tiger Fitness:

Nutrition is also important. Without getting into too much detail, here are some basic guidelines.

Men

  • 160 to 220 grams of protein per day.
  • 25 to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.
  • The rest of your daily calories from quality carb sources such as oatmeal, rice, fruits and veggies.
  • Make sure to eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies each week.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, start at 300 to 500 calories below maintenance levels and remain patient for a couple months to see how things progress.
  • If you are trying to hold weight but gain muscle, eat at maintenance levels for two months to see how things progress.

Women

  • 100 to 120 grams of protein per day.
  • 25 to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.
  • The rest of your daily calories from quality carb sources such as oatmeal, rice, fruits and veggies.
  • Make sure to eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies each week.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, start at 250 to 400 calories below maintenance levels and remain patient for a couple months to see how things progress.
  • If you are trying to hold weight but gain muscle, eat at maintenance levels for two months to see how things progress.
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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.