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Getting back into shape: A Gym Routine for the beginner

So you're ready to get back in the gym... or you're ready to head there for the first time... Where do you start?

There's a LOT of information on the internet. Probably too much. Back in my day we had Arnold's Bodybuilding Encyclopedia:

Several of us had this book near the end of high school in the early to mid nineties, and there's a lot of useful information in it. However - as far as starting a training program, it's a little lacking.

The Level 1 Exercise Program has 6 days a week training, with a sample day consisting of Bench Press, Incline Press, Pullovers, Chin ups (50 total reps!), Bent Over Rows, Deadlifts and Abs. Holy cow! I would be hurting to fit all that in, or even worse I would not be able to give my best effort. Of course Mr Schwarzenegger would talk about training for 3 hours a day, twice a day, so this is not a big deal perhaps in his eyes...

In any case, I recommend you follow MY beginners routine. I use it or some small variation on almost all my new clients; or anyone who needs something simple to break out of a rut. Try it on for a couple weeks and see how quickly you get back in shape, or get through a sticking point.

The basic premise of this routine is for you to get in as many sessions per week as possible, with a minimum 24 hour rest on each muscle, allowing for the most sessions with a minimum amount of volume per session

There is an "A" day for upper body, then a "B" day for lower body - and you just alternate days depending on how often you get to the gym. You could very easily get in 3 sessions per body part per week and make excellent progress as long as you keep track of your weights and reps.


Upper body (A)/Lower body(B)

Beginner routine, use 3 sets; move up to 4 sets after a few weeks once you've adapted and always make sure the last set is to FAILURE.

Use 3 sets of 15 reps, increasing weight each set until failure occurs before 15 reps is achieved. The first set should a good warm up where 20 reps might be possible but only 10 reps are executed.

A (upper body):

5 min cardio treadmill

Aim for 70% of max heart rate and adjust incline to achieve

Max HR is 220 minus age times .7

Superset (one after the other, no rest between) a chest exercise with a back exercise

Example: Machine bench press/Assisted pull ups

3 sets of 12-15 reps

(Alt exercise: pushups/Lat pulldown)

Rope tricep pressdown superset with Rope curl

3 sets of 15

Shoulder dumbbell press superset with rear delt (pec machine) OR superset seated row for more back emphasis


Finish with

15-30 min cardio at 70% max HR


B (lower body):

5 min cardio treadmill at 70% of max heart rate

Glute activation warm up with band: 10 per leg x 3 sets

Leg press (push through the heels, keep knees apart)

3 sets keep adding weight

12-15 reps

Goblet squat to bench (hip hinge, reach back and sit, then stand by pushing through heels.)

3 sets of 15

Leg extensions superset with leg curls

3x15 each

Standing or seated Calves 3 sets of 15 superset with abs (Roman chair: 10-15 reps, slow and emphasize the contraction at the top)

Finish with

15-30 min treadmill cardio at 70% max HR

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