Workout Routines for Beginners

Workout Routines for Beginners

Table of Contents

So many times workout guides are written for advanced athletes or those who’ve been training for a long time already. However, once you’ve been training for a long time you’ll begin to experience decreasing benefits to each modification and tweak you make to your workout routine.

The biggest gains come from switching from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one. Many beginners though find it tough just to get started – they can feel overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge out there and the amount of knowledge they feel they need to know just to get started.

With that being said, what follows is intended just to get you started. Is this going to be the best workout plan ever devised? No. But it will provide a framework for getting yourself into an active lifestyle if you’re not already

Back to the Basics

Before you get started mapping your next exercise routine, you should familiarize yourself with the options. You may choose one type of exercise over another, depending on your health and fitness goals.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise works your cardiovascular system. Not only are aerobic exercises heart-healthy, they’re also great for your respiratory system. If you’re looking to trim your midsection, aerobic activity is a great way to drop a few inches.

Aerobic exercises work large muscle groups, raise your heart rate, and require that you bring in more oxygen than usual. To be truly effective, you’ll need to dedicate at least 10 minutes to your routine.

The American Heart Association suggests five 30-minute moderate-intensity cardio workouts a week. If you choose to do high-intensity workouts, three 25-minute workouts will suffice.

Looking for an aerobic exercise that suits you? You may want to try one of the following:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing

If these activities don’t appeal to you, choose something that does. You just need to pick an activity that’s going to get your heart rate elevated. Moderate intensity workouts should have you using 50–70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

You should always consult your doctor if you have any questions about what’s healthy for you. For planning purposes, though, subtract your age from 220 to determine what your maximum heart rate is.

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training works to help you improve your range of motion. You might not hear about it as much as cardio exercise or strength training, but it’s an important component of working out.

Lack of use and age can impede your range of motion. Increasing your range of motion can improve your athletic performance—and also reduce the risk of injury.

Flexibility training may often be lumped in with stretching. While stretching can be a piece of flexibility training, they aren’t entirely one and the same. Yoga can be a great way to get into flexibility training.

There are several different kinds of flexibility training. They can all be used to increase mobility but do so in different ways. They include:

  • Dynamic flexibility
  • Static active flexibility
  • Static passive flexibility

For more information on flexibility training, this video may be helpful:

Strength Training

Also known as weight training and resistance training, strength-training exercises are used to improve your muscle function.

Strength training comes with a host of health benefits, including helping you keep your bone mass and skeletal muscle as you age. Strength training can also help reduce blood pressure and prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Additionally, strength training will help you trim down. Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. Building up muscle can quickly make a significant difference in how you look and feel. As a bonus, it can boost your metabolism for more than a day after your workout.

Strength training activities include weight-lifting, resistance band activities, and body mass resistance exercises.

Equipment Options

Fortunately, there are lots of great ways out there to work out. Whether you hit the gym or work out at home, you’ll want to look at the equipment that’s available to you. Give a variety a try and test them out more than once—you can find something that clicks for you.

Cardio Equipment

Cardio is the cornerstone to a successful workout routine. If you aren’t going to pound the pavement or swear by in-home digital workouts, you’re going to want a cardio machine.

Working around a busy family or work life? Live where the weather is unpredictable (or predictably bad)? Cardio machines can be a great tool to help keep you on track and accountable.

Treadmill

That classic at-home piece of equipment, the treadmill can be used for walking or running. It’s available in a wide variety of types and can be had by even those on a budget. Have limited space? No problem—there are foldaway and space-saving models.

What’s to love about the treadmill? You can tailor your activity to your mood or the intensity of exercise you need. Active recovery day? Put your treadmill on an incline and go for a walk. Interval day? Your treadmill can also accommodate that.

Elliptical

An elliptical trainer could be a great option if you’re looking to reduce strain and impact on your joints. Just like a treadmill, you can choose to take it a little easy or ramp up the workout.

What’s to love about the elliptical trainer? You can get a killer workout in while protecting your joints. The elliptical can be a great piece of equipment if you have a bad back or knees. It’s also perfect for rehabbing injuries.

Stationary Bike

Stationary bikes can offer small footprints and be suitable even in an apartment. Unlike the treadmill, which can be loud for your neighbors, a bike is virtually soundless. You can get in a quick spin while binge-watching last week’s shows or get in a serious digital workout.

What’s to love about the stationary bike? It’s pretty versatile and comes in two types: the upright and the recumbent. Have a bike you already love? You can consider converting it for indoor use with a bike trainer for a similar workout.

Rowing Machine

Frequently passed over for the more iconic pieces of workout equipment, a rowing machine can give you an incredible workout. One complete row works the majority of the muscles in your body. You can get your heart rate up while toning those muscles.

What’s to love about the rowing machine? You could get a full body workout in with just a few strokes. It’s great for your heart and lungs, and space-saving models are readily available.

Stair Climbers

If you’re looking for an activity that’s going to target your lower body and provide great shape, a stair climber might be what you’re looking for. You’ll also love the way it helps build up bone strength and your major muscle groups.

What’s to love about the stair climber? Stair climbers can be low-impact and suitable for beginners. There’s no denying it gives your backside lift and a great shape.

Other Exercise Equipment

Cardio machines will help you tackle half of your fitness regimen. You’ll probably need additional equipment for your strength and flexibility training sessions.

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are hand-held weights that come in a variety of sizes. Even a lightweight dumbbell (readily available in 1, 3, and 5 pounds) can make a huge difference when you’re working out.

What’s to love about dumbbells? Dumbbells are extremely versatile. You can simply hold them while doing a regular routine to up the difficulty—and to see greater results. You can also do exercises to target specific muscles.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are stretchy, heavy-duty rubber bands. They usually come with handholds and are available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses. The different thicknesses and lengths change the amount of resistance.

What’s to love about resistance bands? Resistance bands are a great tool for your exercise routine. They’re easy to travel with and allow for a custom workout experience—every time. They’re also very affordable.

Fitness Balls

Fitness balls are oversized inflatable balls, frequently used in yoga and other core-focused routines. They are great for building small-muscle strength and stability. You can even choose to work at your desk or watch TV while using them—engaging your core even during down time.

What’s to love about fitness balls? Fitness balls can add variety to your routine. Whether you’re spicing up your ab workout or just looking for full-body engagement, the fitness ball can make it happen.

What Your Beginner Workout Routine Will Achieve

When you’re looking for your new workout routine, you’ll want one that improves your coordination and speed. Focus on getting the techniques down and getting stronger.

You may find that your exercise routine gets a little boring the more you do it. That’s when you know it’s time to progress to something a little harder.

Some core components of a successful beginner workout are:

  • Frequency: Now’s the time to get into a workout habit. Plan on working out at least three times a week.
  • Intensity: Your workout journey should begin with moderate exercise. As you get stronger, go ahead and move forward with short bursts of more intense activity.
  • Time: Start with 20- to 25-minute cardio sessions. Add a few minutes to your workout routine every week or so to increase your ability and performance.

Choosing a Workout Routine That’s Right for You

Now that you know a little bit about the kinds of workout routines out there, you can better choose one that suits you. Take a few minutes to outline your goals and identify what appeals to you. You aren’t likely to stick with a routine you don’t enjoy—make this a priority when choosing your routine.

Cardio will be a major piece of any routine you go with. If you haven’t found a cardio activity you love, keep trying new ones. There’ll be one out there for you.

If you’re still hunting for the perfect routine, consider one of the following.

Full Workout Routines

You’ll want to set aside a chunk of time at the beginning of your workout journey. It may take you longer to get through a workout, but you’ll be motivated by results. Get started with a full workout routine and try to stick to it.

As you establish your routine, you may find there are days where you can only squeeze in a quick mini workout. If you have the choice between getting in something fast and doing nothing at all, always choose the mini workout to continue your fitness journey.

Workout Routine One

Day 1: Cardio-Focused

  • Cardio activity of your choice – 25 minutes
  • Strength training with light dumbbells for arms and upper body – 10–20 minutes
  • Stretching session – 5 minutes

Day 2: Active Recovery

  • Brisk walk – 15 minutes
  • Flexibility training session – 10 minutes

Day 3: Cardio Interval

  • Cardio interval on the cardio machine of your choice – 20 minutes
  • Strength training with light dumbbells with focus on the lower body – 10–20 minutes
  • Stretching session – 5 minutes

Day 4: Active Rest

  • This is a day for your body to recover—but it’s not a day to take off. For example, add a few extra minutes to your dog’s walk, park at the back of the lot, or play tag with your kids.

Day 5: Active Recovery

  • Brisk walk – 15 minutes
  • Flexibility training session – 10 minutes

Day 6: Cardio-Focused

  • Cardio activity of your choice – 25 minutes
  • Strength training with light dumbbells with a mix of upper and lower body focus – 10–20 minutes
  • Stretching session– 5 minutes

Day 7: Rest Day

  • You’ve made it through the end of the week. Pat yourself on the back and take the day off, then start the week over at day 1.

Workout Routine Two

Day 1: Cardio

  • Cardio activity of your choice – 25 minutes

Day 2: Full-Body Strength Training – 2 sets, 10 reps each

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Lat pull-downs
  • Lunges
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Step-ups
  • Shoulder presses
  • Crunches

Day 3: Cardio

  • Cardio activity of your choice – 25 minutes

Day 4: Full-Body Strength Training – 15–45-second intervals

Do as many circuits as you can during a 25-minute session.

  • Wall sit
  • Push-ups
  • Plank
  • Jumping jacks
  • Step-ups
  • Tricep dips
  • Squats
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Bridges
  • Mountain climbers

Day 5: Cardio

  • Cardio activity of your choice – 25 minutes

Day 6 and Day 7: Rest Days

  • You made it through the week. Keep track of your stats—especially how many circuits you’re able to complete. A few weeks in and you’ll be surprised by how much progress you’ve made.

Workout Routine Three

Day 1: Cardio/Tone

  • Warm-up walk – 5 minutes
  • Jog/run – 10 minutes
  • Walk – 5 minutes
  • Machine row – 1 minute
  • Bicep curl machine – 1 minute
  • Tricep dips – 1 minute
  • Dumbbell front raises – 1 minute
  • Cool-down walk – 5 minutes

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Cardio/Core

  • Warm-up walk – 5 minutes
  • Crunches – 1 minute
  • Plank – 1 minute
  • Jackknife sit-ups – 1 minute
  • Dumbbell side bends – 1 minute
  • Dumbbell wood chop – 1 minute
  • Jog/run – 10 minutes
  • Cool-down walk – 5 minutes

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Cardio/Lower Body

  • Warm-up walk – 5 minutes
  • Walking lunge – 1 minute
  • Squats – 1 minute
  • Thigh abductor – 1 minute
  • Thigh adductor – 1 minute
  • Leg extensions – 1 minute
  • Lying leg curls – 1 minute
  • Jog/run – 30 minutes
  • Cool-down walk – 5 minutes

Day 6: Cardio

  • Warm-up walk – 5 minutes
  • Jog/run – 30 minutes
  • Cool-down walk – 5 minutes

Day 7: Rest

  • Go ahead and take this rest day to reenergize yourself for the coming week. Remember to track how many reps of each 1-minute exercise you get in. You’ll surely love the progress you make as the weeks go by.

Mini Workouts

Mini workouts can be a great way to get in a workout when time is limited. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can do one on top of your regular workout. These workouts generally target a specific area and work to get to muscle fatigue quicker.

Mini Workout Routine One: 7-Minute Abs

For this workout, you’ll do seven different exercises for 45 seconds each. Rest for 15 seconds, and then begin the next workout.

  • Burpees
  • Vertical leg lifts
  • Jog in place
  • Push-throughs
  • Mountain climbers
  • Plank
  • Jumping jacks

Mini Workout Routine Two: 15-Minute HIIT Program

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. You’ll do short bursts of high-intensity activities. It’s a great way to get a big impact workout during a small period of time.

For this workout, you’ll do each exercise for 45 seconds. Take a 15-second rest, and then move on to the next exercise. Repeat the entire circuit for a total of three complete circuits and a 15-minute workout.

  • Mountain climbers
  • Squat jacks
  • Vertical leg lifts
  • Skaters
  • Walking lunges

Mini Workout Routine Three: 5-Minute Fat-Burning Routine

You can up the intensity of this routine by doing more than one circuit. Start with just one and add a second (or third!) when you’re ready.

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds. Rest for 10. Then move on to the next exercise.

  • Jumping lunges
  • Pilates leg pulls
  • Burpees
  • Jump rope
  • Jackknife sit-ups
  • Jumping squats
  • Mountain climbers
  • Plank
  • Push-ups
  • Jumping jacks

Alternate Workouts

Looking for something a little different? These introductory routines to other exercise disciplines might fit the bill.

Alternate Workout Routine One: Intro to CrossFit

This workout will take 7 minutes. Set your timer and see how many circuits you can do during the designated time. Becoming too easy? If you’re ready to move up, try 10 minutes—and then 15.

  • Burpees – 10
  • Squats – 20
  • Push-ups – 10
  • Mountain climbers – 40
  • Butt kickers – 50

Alternate Workout Routine Two: Intro to Yoga

Yoga can be a great way to increase your flexibility and tone your muscles. It could also be an effective way to relieve stress and recenter.

Perform each yoga movement for 30 seconds. Make sure to do high lunge, mountain, tree, warrior I, and triangle on each side. Move through the complete series of 10 exercises and then repeat the circuit. When you’re ready, add a third circuit.

  • Cat cow
  • Downward facing dog
  • High lunge (both sides)
  • Cobra
  • Mountain (both sides)
  • Tree (both sides)
  • Warrior I (both sides)
  • Triangle (both sides)
  • Bridge
  • Happy baby

Alternate Workout Routine Three: Intro to Pilates

This is a quick, 10-minute routine that will certainly provide you with definition and stability. Pilates workouts focus on small, fine movements to tone and sculpt your body. You’ll be surprised how minor movements can make such a big difference in your body.

  • Hundreds – 30 seconds
  • Kneeling rear leg lifts – 15 each side
  • Side plank with leg lifts – 15 each side
  • Back bows – 15
  • Table tops – 15
  • Side leg lifts – 15 each side
  • Imprints – 30 seconds

Working Out Can Be for Everyone

It doesn’t matter if you hit the gym every day or if you’re hard-pressed to make the trip. You can find success and be happier with your health and your body. Really identifying what kind of workouts appeal to you can be a great start.

Try them all until you find one that clicks with you. You may be surprised how little time it takes for you to outgrow these beginner workouts. When you do, you’ll be ready for the next step in your workout journey.

Glossary

Need some help with the terminology used here? To clarify, here are brief definitions of some exercises listed in this article.

A–C

Back bows: Lying face down, extend your arms out in front of you. Then lift and lower your upper body.

Bicep curl: Holding your weights with palms forward, raise your forearms until your hands are at shoulder height. Lower and repeat. Keep your elbows in and the movement controlled.

Bridge: Lying on your back, bring your knees up, feet beneath them and flat on the floor near your rear. Using your legs and hips, lift the lower half of your body from the ground, arms extended beneath you, body weight on your shoulders.

Burpee: A burpee is a multistep exercise. Begin by standing upright, arms at your sides. Drop down so your knees are bent and your hands are touching the ground. Spring your legs back until you’re in a push-up position. Jump your feet back up under you and spring upright. Repeat.

Butt kickers: Jogging in place, exaggerate the run step to tap your rear with your heels.

Cat cow: Begin on all fours, hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Pull your shoulder toward your rear, looking toward the sky and pressing your midsection toward the ground. Then round your back. Repeat.

Cobra: Begin in downward facing dog pose. Move forward into plank. Lower to the ground, then raise your upper body, pulling your shoulders toward your rear and pressing your lower body into the floor.

Crunch: Lying on your back, place your hands beneath your head. Raise your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Engage your abdominals and crunch upward toward your knees.

D–G

Downward facing dog: A triangular pose, your hands and arms will be extended in front of you, your rear in the air. Your back and also your legs should be flat.

Dumbbell front raise: Standing upright, arms with dumbbells at your side and feet shoulder-width apart, raise your arms to shoulder height. Make sure your hands are palm down and your arms are extended in front of you. Then return to starting position. Repeat.

Dumbbell row: Begin with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the waist, keeping your back flat. Draw your elbows back so hands pull dumbbells up. Then return to starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell side bend: Start by standing upright, feet shoulder-width apart. With a dumbbell in each hand, slide one dumbbell down the length of your body toward the floor. Return to starting position. Repeat on other side.

Dumbbell wood chop: Begin by standing upright. Holding a single dumbbell with both hands, start hip-level on one side of your body. Bring the dumbbell up across your body and then over the opposite shoulder. Your whole body should be involved in the movement and follow-through.

H–K

Happy baby: Lying on your back, lift your legs into the air. Reach for and grab your toes. Rock gently back and forth and side to side.

High lunge: Standing upright, bring one leg forward and move into a lunge position. Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and your back leg should also be engaged. Your arms reach overhead, and your body is upright. Bring to starting position. Repeat on other side.

Hundred: This movement involves lying on your back on a yoga mat. Raise your knees so your lower legs are parallel to the floor and extend your arms alongside your body. Engage your abs and lift your head. Rapidly raise and drop your arms a few inches, keeping your arms straight and fingers pointed.

Imprint: Lying on your back with knees up and feet flat, draw the small of your back toward the ground. Repeat.

Jackknife sit-up: Start on your back, with arms and legs fully extended and elevated. Crunch forward, simultaneously bringing your arms and legs together toward your center.

Jumping squats: Perform a traditional squat. From the squatted position spring into a jump. Repeat.

L–R

Lunge: Start by standing upright. Drop into a lunge position, back knee hovering above the ground. Meanwhile, your other knee should remain at a 90-degree angle. Bring yourself back to standing. Repeat.

Lying leg curl: Lying prone, propped on your elbows, bring your legs up so your heels are moving toward your rear. Return to starting position. Repeat.

Mountain: A standing upright position that focuses on muscle engagement and grounding the body.

Mountain climber: Bring yourself into a push-up position. Bring one leg forward so your knee is up against your chest and your foot beneath you. Then return your leg to its original position and do the same with your other leg. Repeat, increasing the speed as you’re able to.

Pilates leg pulls: Beginning in plank position, raise one leg until it’s parallel to the floor. Bring back down and repeat on the other side.

Plank: Similar to a push-up position, you’ll want your body to be parallel to the floor. Engage your core. This move can be performed on your forearms and also with arms fully extended.

Push-through: Lying flat on your back, bend your knees. Keep your knees apart. Crunch up and push your extended arms through the resulting space.

Push-up: Lying flat on the ground on your stomach, place your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Your feet should be together, feet flexed so they’re perpendicular to the floor. Raise your body, extending your arms, then lower back toward the floor. Repeat. To modify, drop your knees.

S–U

Shoulder press: Stand upright with dumbbells in hand. Lift your arms so they are out to your sides and parallel to the floor. Bring your arms up over your head and return to their starting position. Repeat.

Skater: This is a sideways move that covers some ground. Make a small leap to one side, landing on the outer leg and bringing the other behind and across that stabilizing leg. From this position, then spring back to the other side and repeat on the other leg.

Squat: Start with feet shoulder-width apart, toes forward. Drop down into a seated position. Keep your knees above your toes and sink down into your heel and rear. Then return to starting position. Repeat.

Squat jack: Begin in squat position. Hop legs out and in, traditional jumping jack style, keeping low and centered over your rear.

Table tops: Begin on all fours. Extend opposite arm and leg until they are parallel to the floor. Hold. Return to starting position. Repeat on other side.

Tree: This is a standing stability pose. Press one foot into the floor, bring your other up to the opposite knee. Create more balance by pressing your hands into one another at your center.

Triangle: Begin by facing forward, legs wide apart, body stable. Turn your right foot out to the side, keeping your pelvis square and forward. With arms fully extended to your sides, bring your right arm down toward your right ankle. Repeat on the other side.

Tricep dip: Sitting on the edge of a stable chair, move yourself forward, supporting your weight on the seat of the chair with your hands. Drop your rear toward the floor, and then bring yourself back up. Repeat.

V–Z

Vertical leg lift: Lie flat on your back. Raise your legs so they are perpendicular to the floor, and cross them at the ankle. Slowly lower and raise them. You should feel this in your core—not in your neck.

Wall sit: Press your body back against a wall, heels up against it. Slide down the wall until you’re in a seated-in-a-chair position. Bring yourself back up. Repeat. Can be done with or without a ball between the knees.

Walking lunge: Stand with legs together at one end of the room. Drop down into a lunge position, knee hovering over the ground. Your other knee should not extend beyond the toe. Bring yourself back to standing. Then repeat, moving forward on the opposite leg.

Warrior I: Begin by spreading your legs greater than hip-width apart and holding your arms out to the sides. Rotate your body to the side, maintain your feet position, and raise your arms above your head. Lean into your front knee, dropping toward the ground and maintaining the 90-degree angle.

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