How To Start Strength Training

So you wanna start strength training, do ya?

Maybe you’ve been to the gym for years, but spend most your time in the cardio section.

Maybe you’ve wandered into the side with the weights without getting anywhere realizing you don’t know what you’re doing. A little worried about looking clueless in an area many seem so certain.

Or maybe you’ve got weights sitting around the house and you have no idea what to do with them.

To top it off, you’ve already heard about how strength training has all these benefits, but you’re hopeless (so far!) in feeling confident you’d have any idea what you’re doing when you actually get to the working out part.

I get it. And I’ve got plenty of answers for you. I want you to see this article as more of a guide or a blue print; something you can come back to often.

Follow the steps, then practice writing a workout.

Then go do that workout.

What answers are ya gonna get?

How many sets and reps?

How much weight should you use?

What exercises are best?

How many workouts should you do a week?

And more.

With this simple guide, you’ll be prepared to get all the benefits of strength training:

  • Adding lean muscle
  • Enhanced fat loss. Increased metabolism
  • Cardiovascular health (you can get cardio benefits from something other than cardio)
  • Increase bone density (stronger bones, basically)
  • Joint health (as long as you take proper programming and exercise technique seriously)
  • Better movement
  • And yeah, you’ll feel stronger too.

You probably came for the first two, but I hope the value of the last five, whether you’ve considered or experienced them before or not, become the cornerstones of what keep you going.

If you do it right — and I’ll teach you — you’ll just flat out feel better.

My hope is I can help you not only look better, but feel it too.

What we won’t do today is go through a more detailed overview of “program design”. I just want to give you what you need in order to go into workouts confidently — with much less confusion.

Walking into the gym with an actual program is crucial. The days you walk in picking exercises and machines aimlessly ends now.

How To Use This Article

It’s a step by step process, you’ll go through each selection and have a little learning to do as I explain why or how you need to do what you need to do.

  1. The Movements Every Program Need
  2. How Many Days A Week Should You Work Out
  3. How to Plan Your Workout Days (choosing your “split)
  4. How to Plan EACH Workout Day
  5. Pick Your Exercises
  6. Pick Sets and Reps
  7. Examples

The Movements Every Program Needs

Pretty well every program you should ever write should have certain movements included. Talk to different coaches and trainers out there and they might explain them differently, but regardless of the words they use or the little differences, it makes no difference: there’s a set of exercise groups you’ll want in each program.

Call them compound lifts, multi-joint lifts, or even “primal movements”. They work the whole body together; and when performed correctly they result in real strength, high metabolism, and they’ll just flat out help you change faster as you get stronger.

Squat

You’ve squatted before and you’ll squat again. The squat movements is nothing more than the knees and hips bending together with a relatively upright torso – the hips lower. It works the front of your upper thighs (quads), back of your upper thighs (glutes, hamstrings), and depending on the specific variation, is actually working a lot of your upper body together.

You’re probably most familiar with the back squat, but I use it very little with my clients (unless they ask), and almost never with beginners — not that you can’t.

A list of choices (listed from easiest to learn to harder)

Assisted Squat, Plate Squat, Goblet Squat, Double Kettlebell Front Squat, Front Squat, Back Squat. There are more, but as a beginner you can stick with the first four. Really, you can stick with just those forever if you want.

Here’s the Goblet Squat:

Hip Hinge*

The hip hinge is characterized by bending your hips while very minimally bending your knees. Like the squat, your spine (tail bone to neck) remains flat. This differentiates from a squat, and this lack of knee bend takes pressure away from your your upper thighs (quads), and places it mostly on your glutes and hamstrings.

Because we spend too much sitting, it’s also a movement pattern you may a lot of trouble with. Imbalances between the quads and glutes/hamstrings is common and focusing more on hip hinging over squatting can help balance posture, strength and improve joint health.

A list of choices (easiest to learn to harder)

Dowel Hip Hinge (start here if you’re unsure, especially if you’re worried about back problems) Kettlebell Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, Conventional Deadlift)

Here’s the drill that teaches you the hinge movement:

Push

The “Push” category involves exercises in which you are pushing out against resistance. This could be like a bench press in which you wish a weight away from your body. Or it could be a push up where you’re pushing your body away from the ground.

Push movements challenge the muscles of your chest, triceps and the front side of your shoulders.

Because we live most of our lives out ahead of us — typing on a keyboard, like I’m doing right now, for instance — a lot of people get into some trouble focusing too on this movement. This mostly happens with males who want a bigger chest and shoulders leading them to bench press every chance they get with little attention paid to the rest of their body.

Don’t do that.

This is a general rule in programming for your body, but it’s best placed under this category as it’s the most abused; but there should be at least a reasonable amount of balance in your programs to be strong and capable in ALL of these movements.

You will look better, have better posture, feel better and avoid injuries.

Exercises falling under the push category: Dumbbell Bench Press, Bench Press, Push Ups, Landmine Press, Overhead Press, among many others.

One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

Pull*

Opposite to the “push” category, pull exercises involve the upper back, biceps and rear muscles of the shoulder. Unlike the muscles of the chest and front shoulder, our upper back and rear shoulders are typically weak in comparison.

Because of this, sometimes it’s recommended to have a 2 to 1 ratio of pulling to pushing in your programs. This is totally reasonable advice, but I would just tell you to ensure you’re at least getting 1 to 1.

Be aware your strength in pulling exercises is likely even less than your strength in pushing. And feeling these muscles work properly will be most challenged here — and potentially in hip hinging.

Pauses and using less weight (to avoid using momentum) will help get a better full for these muscles you rarely actually see.

Exercises: Dumbbell Row, Seated Cable Row, Lat Pulldown, Chin Up, among many others. Basically, if you see pulldown, row, or chin up/pull up, you’ve got a pull.

Seated Cable Row

Lunge/Single Leg

These categories do have some grey area to them. Split Squat could easily be categorized separately to lunge; maybe as a single leg squat or under squat. In most cases, I like it placed with lunges because split squats provide a nice progression towards lunges.

If you can’t split squat well, probably shouldn’t be lunging.

If you can’t walk, don’t run.

Many of my clients don’t lunge right away — even if they’ve lunged before — because their form and movement needs some improvement – and the best way to do that is through split squatting.

Check the split squat video — basically a stationary lunge that gives you more control. Easier to learn a movement slow before you go faster or more dynamic.

Lunges and Split Squats generally work the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Given their single leg nature, your balance and stability is also tested. Many muscles of the core you’ll never see but could help you stay out of pain are being worked; along with inner and outer thigh muscles working harder during these than squats or deadlifts because they’re managing to keep your leg balanced.

Lunges and split squats can also be extremely useful if you have low back issues, or if you’re looking for better performance and just better balance on one foot at a time.

If you have knee pain with lunges and split squats, it’s possible to adapt the exercise to put more emphasis on the glutes but less on the knees by emphasizing a forward torso angle and a more vertical front shin.

Just watch, most people perform these in the gym and you’ll the opposite: a vertical torso and very forwardly angled shins. If you’ve chosen lunges and split squats to target your glutes, you want an angled torso and a more vertical front shin.

Exercises for lunges and split squats: Split Squat, Reverse Lunge, Forward Lunge, Lateral Squat, Lateral Lunge, Walking Lunge. Stepthrough Lunges, Bulgarian Split Squat.

Split Squat

Core* (for the rest of the article, each subsection is considered “core”)

Ah one of the fitness industry’s biggest buzz words, training the core could take on a whole article of its own. And I kinda did that about two years ago.

But for the sake of keeping this shorter:

Any movement involves the core somehow. Push Ups, Chin Ups, Planks, Lunges, Squats, Deadlifts are all, in some way, training the core. Good movement is core training.

Not for getting defined abs — but that isn’t really a core training thing nearly as much as it’s a strength training and nutrition thing. I have a FREE nutrition course for that — and it comes with 52 free workouts.

So, training the core specifically has very little to do with ab definition, although some extra tone around the stomach muscles certainly doesn’t hurt when body fat percentage is low enough to reveal that definition.

Training the core directly, to keep things simple, is usually done in 3 ways: extension/flexion, side bending, and rotation.

If you’re confused, the ones under extension/flexion are priority. I often have one or two exercises from each of these in a client’s program.

Extension/Flexion (like planks):

Crunches or planks. You probably — and by probably I mean definitely — need planks and progressions from it. Planks, to Long Lever Planks, to Stability Ball Plank Rolls, to Stability Ball Rollouts, for example. Easier to harder.

Most of your attention should be paid to teaching your core (abs and glutes mainly) to prevent arching of your back. Think of your back arching to the floor in a plank — your goal in a plank is to use your abs and glutes to prevent that.

Lateral Of The Spine Bending (side bending, or preventing side bending of the spine)

You see side bends more often in the gym than side planks or suitcase carries, but your focus should be on the latter two. Preventing side bending of the spine.

If your side plank is lazy your body collapses to the floor and the torso bends. Your goal is to use your oblique, abdominal and side glute muscles to prevent that. In a suitcase carry, it’s actually very much the same, except you’re walking.

Rotation (again, or the prevention of it)

Again, you may see people in that ab machine where people sit and torque their spine rotationally. If you pay attention, I’d bet most people devoted to this machine don’t last long.

It’s not a great idea – bending and twisting of your spine under load can be very dangerous. Especially if you don’t have the strength and mobility through your hips, and a solid core.

Exercises learning to control rotation.

Pallof presses, landmine rotations, anti-rotation chops, stir the pots, and others. This is where your attention should be.

Core training is really about better movement and joint health than it is about getting a toned stomach. But doing these will help firm up your midsection AND improve movement.

Crunches, side bends, and other typical “core exercises” at worst will bring you closer to injury, and at best will take away time from exercises that should be more priority for you right now.

Like I said, there are a few more classifications I could add, like “carries”, or getting more specific about core, but lets not worry about that. Some coaches get really specific about nuances within these classes, but for your needs, don’t worry about it.

*I put asterisk beside the the three highest priority, meaning you may want selections from these 3 a little more. Muscles and movements in these groups tend to be weaker due to sitting all the time.

How Many Days A Week Should You Work Out?

So.

You’ve got a basic outline of the main compound lifts you’ll be using.

Good news: those stay the same – now to figure out how much you should use them.

Good news again: this doesn’t really ever have to change either.

Most reasonable people looking to get a little more serious about their fitness when it comes to strength train will perform it somewhere between 3-5 times a week.

I personally rarely go above 4 times a week and think unless your goals are very specific, you never actually have to go above 3. And yes, that means if your goal is to get pretty lean, too.

A few points…

  1. If you think you want to do 4 but aren’t 100% certain, go with 3. And if you can’t do 3, start with 2.
  2. Consider 3 anyways, you’re just starting out, this isn’t a big decision whatsoever
  3. You can switch at anytime

I believe so little in you training more than 4 times a week as you start out, I won’t even provide you with any 5+ day routine choices.

How To Plan Your Workout Days

I talk to a lot of people who walk into the gym with no plan. Here’s what they say: “I just walk into the gym and decide I’m gonna work my legs today”. Or “I just walk into the gym and look for the machines that seem easiest to use”.

Or maybe you just walk into the weight’s section, think about it for a few seconds, then go do cardio.

That has to stop.

Walking into the gym with a plan will change your mentality and intention. You’ll just flat out feel more confident, motivated, and focused.

By the way, a “split” is just a word to describe how your training schedule set up. “I train legs on Mondays and Thursdays, and upper body on Tuesdays and Fridays” would be someone telling you a little about their workout split. It’s a schedule.

First step in making your own program is to have a split. I’m gonna go over one example for each and then an example of each at the end. There are other options, but I want you to stick with either of these.

4 Day Training Schedule (or “Split”)

On a four day plan, an effective and popular split could be to work lower body and upper body twice a week each.

Monday: Lower Body

Tuesday: Upper Body

Thursday: Lower Body

Friday/Saturday: Upper Body

*don’t get too caught up with sticking to specific days. Your schedule and life is likely to force some changes. There’s nothing wrong with working out two days straight, and in the event you need to do 3 days, just make sure to get a day of rest or two afterward.

3 Day Training Schedule (or “Split”)

Monday: Whole Body

Wednesday: Whole Body

Friday: Whole Body

*you can totally change the days around. If you happen to need to train two days in a row, go for it. Wouldn’t recommend 3 days in a row regularly, but here and there, go for it. You may just find yourself a little fatigued by the third day and need a few days. 

So, pick one. 3 days, or 4?

How To Schedule Each Workout Day

Now, this part may get more confusing. I’ve laid out some specific options and highly encourage you to stick to these examples. You aren’t missing out by not having all your questions answered, and you’ll probably find those answers as you go along.

There’s also an FAQ at the end of the article.

What you’re gonna see is a combination of the last two sections. Your workout split and the compound movements explained before will be pieced together in this section.

We’re not at the program yet, but this is a valuable section as you truly start to see the formula in which trainers and coaches make programs for their clients.

Our job in making these workouts is to:

  1. Cover the entire body giving each basic compound movement it’s place (squat, hinge, push, lunge/single leg, pull and some core)
  2. Do it in a way that’s balanced and doesn’t overemphasize certain body parts over others
  3. Don’t confuse yourself. You can stop looking for the “best workouts” from Jodie tight pants — you can now start making one made for you (which is the best workout)
  4. Have some consideration for movements you aren’t able to do yet. I’ve had many clients who do not perform a “hip hinge” movement in their strength training session, we work on preparing them for it and do more variations of bridges, squats, and perhaps lunge/split squats. Many people don’t hinge well, so there’s no sense giving those people a deadlift variation immediately with the intention to add weight. You need to respect some exercises aren’t right for you; this is where a trainer or coach comes into play big, too.

And any questions about “why did you do that” and “could I change what you did there to this” to chad@chadhargrove.com.

If these “templates” below are at all confusing, go take a look through the first two sections and come back to it. It’ll start to make sense.

All you’re doing here is placing the movements into your workout split.

You have options listed beside the movements — take a look at the final examples to see how I did that.

If you’re confused about certain decisions, like why do a squat last and a hinge first, I’ll have you know those decisions are very small. Our intention, especially with you being new to this, is just to cover the whole body and have a balanced program.

3 Day (Whole Body)

Day 1 (Whole Body)

1A) Hinge

1B) Core

2A) Push

2B) Pull

3A) Squat

3B) Core/Carry

Day 2 (Whole Body)

1A) Push

1B) Pull

2A) Lunge/Hinge

2B) Core

3A) Push

3B) Pull

Day 3 (Whole Body)

1A) Hinge

1B) Core

2A) Push

2B) Pull

3A) Squat/Lunge

3B) Core/Carry

4 Day (Upper/Lower)

Day 1 (Lower)

1A) Hinge

1B) Core –

2A) Squat

2B) Core

3A) Bridge/Lunge

3B) Core/Carry

 

Day 2 (Upper Body)

1A) Push

1B) Pull

2A) Pull

2B) Isolation

3A) Push

3B) Pull

Day 3 (Lower Body)

1A) Lunge/Hinge

1B) Core

2A) Squat

2B) Core/Carry

3A) Bridge/Lunge

3B) Core/Carry

Day 4 (Upper Body)

1A) Push

1B) Pull

2A) Pull

2B) Isolation

3A) Pull

3B) Isolation

Yes, you’re right, “isolation” wasn’t discussed before. Basically just single joint movements like bicep curls, tricep extensions. They aren’t priority, but they fit nicely. And some people just like to work specific body parts, so I made some room for them. For beginners, they’re relatively simple. I also looked to choose isolation exercises that don’t hit the muscles that were just worked in the exercise it’s paired with.

It’s also totally fine if instead of “isolation” you used another compound movement.

Choosing Your Exercises

So you’ve got the main movements, you’ve got a decision to make (3 or 4 workouts a week), and you have some very usable examples on how to plug those movements into the workouts.

You also know, when in doubt, stick between 6-12 reps for your compound movements.

But, choosing exercises is actually a big consideration. Don’t worry, there’s gonna be some full-on examples below this. But I want you to take some time through this one as we’re about to get specific.

The biggest factor in choosing exercises for your programs as a beginner are progressions/regressions.

Progressions/Regressions

Some exercises are harder, some are easier. Also, there is a lot of grey area and a lot of place for argument and even personal preference. In some cases, what may be easier or harder for someone else could just be a matter of variation for you.

I’ll talk about variation afterward too.

As a beginner, you’re more likely to find the exercises on the left easier to start. So, when you write your first program, maybe stick with a reaching plate squat and then in your next program, maybe you change it to a goblet squat.

Or goblet squat and then in the next month go with a double kettlebell front squat.

Hinge

Dowel Hip Hinge > Kettlebell Deadlift -> Cable Pullthrough -> Trap Bar Deadlift -> Modified Sumo Deadlift -> Conventional Deadlift -> All kinds of deadlift variations -> Kettlebell Swing

Squat

Assisted Squat -> Plate Squat -> Goblet Squat -> Double Kettlebell Front Squat -> Front Squat -> Back Squat

Lunge

Half Kneeling Pallof Press -> Assisted Split Squat -> Split Squat -> Reverse Lunge -> Forward Lunge -> Bulgarian Split Squat

Push

Machine Chest Press -> Elevated Push Up -> One Arm DB Bench Press -> Alternating DB Bench Press -> DB Bench Press -> Other DB Bench Press Variations -> Bench Press -> Overhead Barbell Press

Pull

Machine Row -> Seated Cable Row -> Lat Pulldown -> Chest Supported DB Row -> 3 Point DB Row –> Bent Over Row -> Chin Ups (highly depends on bodyweight and body fat percentage).

Core

Dead Bug -> Plank -> Long Lever Plank -> Leg Lifts -> Stability Ball Plank -> Stability Ball Stir The Pot -> Stability Ball Rollout -> TRX Fallout -> Ab Wheel Rollout -> Kneeling Walkout

Note on progressions: when it comes to push and pull, the progressions aren’t so useful. If you can learn to perform a one arm db bench press, you can learn to perform a dumbbell bench press with two arms as well. For core, lunge, squat, and hinge, the progressions can be much more valuable.

Variations

Under the movement categories talked about above there are an endless amount of variation. Just take the lunge. You’ve got forward, reverse, lateral lunges. You can hold the weight in goblet, front loaded, back loaded, double kettlebell, offset (dumbbell on one side, not the other), and others.

There’s stepthrough lunges, landmine lunges, and more.

They can be progressions, but at a certain point, it’s just variation. Some variations may be better for certain situations (working around an injury, for example) and sometimes they act as progressions — forward and reverse lunges should be learned before lateral lunges.

Tempo

Great way to avoid strength plateaus and train different aspects of the exercise you’re doing is to periodically train it with different tempos. Simply put, the tempo is the way perform the exercise.

Here’s a few options:

Slow eccentric (the lowering part of the exercise is done slower). Note: the “lowering” of an exercise represents the part you’re releasing the way, so in a lat pulldown, for example, it’s actually the part the weight is going up. “Eccentric” is a better term, so google that one if you want to.

Pauses (pause at the bottom of the rep — or in some cases during).

1.5 reps (perform the full rep, then half way up, then back down, then all the way to the start — this basically forces you to spend most of the set in the hardest part of the exercise)

Choosing Your Sets and Reps

After you’ve plugged exercises into your workout days, you’d pick sets and reps. Honestly, it’s totally possible for you to have sets and reps predetermined based on a previous months decisions, or you can fill them in after exercises are chosen.

That’s kinda up to you.

Most people spend way too much time and give way too much value to this one. The section after this goes over what’s more important.

The amount of reps you choose per set isn’t a big thing. Higher reps aren’t about toning and fat loss and lower reps are not about getting big and bulky.

It’s just not.

You can get lean and look more and more the way you want never doing reps over 8 per set. And you can do it much the same sticking between 10-15.

As you move along there’s a few things to understand:

  1. Lower reps really encourage strength (1-6 reps per set) — you can get stronger without going this low in reps per set for a WHILE (many months).
  2. Higher reps encourage more endurance and conditioning. Basically, training your muscle to handle a certain amount of weight for a longer period (ideal for adding muscle, but that’s mostly because lifting 1-6 reps per set all the time is hard on the body)
  3. And then there’s 6-12 where most of the magic happens — not because it’s actually magic, just because the sets are reasonable in length and the reps can be relatively challenging so you work on strength, but long enough that you’re getting repetitions and aren’t beating up your body from constantly lifting heavy for low reps (1-5)
  4. When in doubt, stay around 8-12 reps per set most the time.

How many sets? 

Easy. 3 or 4 per set. Pretty standard.

The Most Important Thing (How To Get Stronger)

Strength is the foundation on which fat loss and adding muscle gets easier. Muscle gain may not be 100% tied directly to how you add strength, but they certainly do go together. At no point will getting stronger be easier week to week then it is when you’re just starting out.

And not coincidentally, at no point will adding muscle be easier — even when losing fat — then when you’re starting out. If you’ve ever heard of “newbie gains”, this is it. The ability to gain muscle this quickly, or as you focus on fat loss, will slow down.

And in terms of losing fat and adding muscle at the same time, eventually the ability to do so will pretty well stop.

How do you get stronger?

Good question. You add a little weight to the exercise consistently. Your body feels that new stress, and as you go home, sleep, recover, your body adapts to be able to handle it.

Voila, you’re stronger.

When in doubt, start light and make sure form is great. Then add weight bit by bit every week or two.

Examples

Finally. You probably just wanted the workouts all along right (unless you just skipped ahead ;)). That said, it’s important you have a sense of what this article was intending to teach you.

This is me making example 3 and 4 day programs for a hypothetical client who has a decent level of ability.

As you can see, I skipped lunge variations (and split squats) and relied mainly on earlier progressions for the core, hinge, and squat. Many beginners can’t hinge properly and should spend time learning it with a drill like the dowel hip hinge (or something similar), and the “hinge” category could be replaced by squats, bridges, or maybe split squats/lunges.

Unsure how I came up with these examples coming up? Go look through “How To Schedule Each Workout” and “Progressions/Regressions” again (especially if you skipped them). These are just the templates I made for what I went through above — with exercises plugged in. And given your specific circumstance, it may be necessary to change something.

3 Day Whole Body Example

Day 1

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A)  DB Romanian Deadlift (Hinge)  3×12
1B)  Dead Bug (Core) 3×6 90sec
2A)  One Arm DB Bench Press (Push) 3×12/side
2B)  One Arm DB Row (Pull) 3×12/side 90sec
3A)  Goblet Squat to Bench (Squat) 3×12
3B)  Farmer Carry (Carry/Core) 3x15sec 90sec

Day 2

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A) DB Bench Press 3×12
1B) Chest Supported DB Row 3×12 90sec
2A) Kettlebell Deadlift 3×10
2B) Plank 3x30sec 90sec
3) Seated Cable Row 3×15 90sec
4) Machine Chest Press 3×12 90sec

Day 3

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A) DB Romanian Deadlift 3×10
1B) Dead Bug Pullover 3×6 90sec
2A) Alternating DB Bench Press 3×12/side
2B) 3 Point DB Row 3×10/side 90sec
3A) Reaching Plate Squat 3×10
3B) Suitcase Carry 3x15sec/side 90sec

 

4 Day Upper/Lower

Day 1 (Lower)

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A)  DB Romanian Deadlift (Hinge)  3×12
1B)  Dead Bug (Core) 3×6 90sec
2A) Goblet Squat to Bench (Squat) 3×10
2B)  Suitcase Carry (Carry) 3x15sec/side 90sec
3A)  Cable Pullthrough 3×12
3B)  Half Kneeling Pallof Press 3×10/side 90sec

Day 2 (Upper)

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A) DB Bench Press 3×12
1B) Chest Supported DB Row 3×12 90sec
2A) Machine Row 3×10
2B) Standing DB Lateral Raise 3x30sec 90sec
3A) Seated Cable Row 3×15
3B) Elevated Push Up 3×8-12 90sec

Day 3 (Lower)

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A) DB Romanian Deadlift 3×10
1B) Dead Bug Pullover 3×6 90sec
2A) Leg Press 3×12
2B) Plank 3×20-30sec 90sec
3A) Lying Leg Curl 3×10
3B) Goblet Squat w/ 1 sec pause 3×10 90sec

Day 4 (Upper)

Exercise Sets/Reps Rest Period
1A) One Arm DB Bench Press 3×12
1B) 3 Point DB Row 3×12 90sec
2A) Lat Pulldown 3×10
2B) Band Pullaparts 3×12 90sec
3A) Machine Press 3×12
3B) DB Hammer Curls 3×12 90sec

So now, you can literally go use these.

Remember:

  • Pick the number of days you can workout consistently
  • Choose the split
  • Plug the exercises and put them into the workout template (or just use the examples provided)
  • Choose sets/reps (when in doubt 8-12 is standard)
  • Make sure form is good
  • Add weight slowly

Then progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Because you’re gonna have some…

What about other splits? Body part splits, push/pull/legs, others..

The question of what split to use isn’t really that important. If you’re listening to someone telling you that your split is why you’re not getting results, stop listening to them. If you’re “split” involves mostly compound lifts (like these do) and you’re getting stronger regularly, you’re fine.

How often should you change the workout?

I update 1 on 1 online client programs every 4 weeks. Not that you have to, and not the changes need to be major, but at some point you’ll have to make changes. To avoid plateaus, boredom, and maybe even overuse injuries from too much of the same specific movements.

Change tempos, grips, number of reps per set, variations and progressions.

The workout template itself can actually stay the same. And down the road, you may change it. But that goes outside of the scope of this article.

What if my knee (or other joint) hurts when I do X exercise?

So maybe your knees hurt when you lunge. And lets assume they hurt when you lunge properly too — that’s possible. These programs or even the templates weren’t built taking injury histories in mind.

The main thing is don’t do things that hurt. You basically have two choices to work around injuries:

1. Skip the movement(s) that hurt entirely.

If squats and lunges hurt, don’t do any squats or lunges

2. Find a regression or variation that doesn’t hurt.

The actual ability to do this well comes down somewhat to understanding of anatomy and some experience. A trainer or coach should know how to do this well.

However, for example, a forward lunge might hurt your knees but a reverse lunge doesn’t. And if the reverse lunge hurts, maybe a split squat with a slow lowering plus a torso angle and a vertical shin doesn’t.

And if that does, maybe half kneeling and split stance pallof press don’t hurt, and those are nice because they train stability in positions that mimic the lunge and split squat. So you do that stuff for a month or two and you may see less pain in the movements that used to be painful. Sometimes.

Don’t feel like you have to know this stuff, your main goal is to not do what hurts. Try things out or ask or work with someone who knows.

Can I put “this” exercise in instead? Or add “this” exercise, finisher, cardio.

By all means, go for it. There’s nothing inherently special about the workout designed there. It’s relatively short, focuses on compound lifts and is organized in a way that makes sense.  You don’t have to add to it or change it — but you can.

How do you know when to add weight? Or what weight to start with.

If you can do the exercise properly and can probably do more weight, it’s always time to use more weight. When you’re a beginner, if you can’t add a little weight week to week, you probably started too heavy.

If you don’t know what weight to start with, start too light and too easy and go up slowly from there.

Remember, you don’t have to have the world’s most effective workout on day 1 of the rest of your life.

Have an easy workout. Then have a slightly hard one with a little more weight. Keep doing that while focusing on good form. A little better each time.

So let me get this straight, this is a fat loss workout because a lot of the reps are at 10-12, instead of a muscle building program that would be less reps?

It doesn’t work that way. At all. Ignore the notion that 10-15 reps is toning and 4-6 is muscle building. Not how it works.

10-12 reps is a pretty standard rep range where you can use weights and get stronger, but you also get a decent amount of reps in. Both important for the beginner. But reps at 10-12 are useful for anyone….just like there’s a time and place for lower reps and higher reps.

Use em all.

Use em all in the same program — generally going low reps to high reps. Or use them all in different workout programs: high one month, lower in another, and middle the next.

Don’t know how to use machine?

Ask for help, or spend some time playing with it. Trust me, there are certain machines in the gym I never use. And if i had to it make take me longer than to admit how to work it. If anyone’s watching you they might be saying “I don’t know how to work that one either, lets see if they figure it out”.

So please, get to it. Take a look at this and come back to it often. A lot will sink in as you go over it repeatedly and put things to action. Draw a plan out right now on paper!

Gonna end this there. If you have any questions, please reach out at chad@chadhargrove.com. 

Did you know fat loss is mostly about nutrition? Click HERE and you’ll get a FREE 7 day nutrition course for fat loss and 52 free workouts. Learn what to eat, how to set calories, and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark says:

    Great article. Very useful 👍🏻✅

    1. Chad Hargrove says:

      Thanks, Mark. Appreciate it.

    2. Chad Hargrove says:

      Thanks Mark. Appreciate it.

      1. Chad Hargrove says:

        Thanks for reading, Trish. Probably have to refer back to this one and feel free to reach out with questions as they come up. I’m sure they they will.

  2. Trish says:

    I just want to say thank you because this is really helpful. I just started working out and felt a little loss with all the information on the internet.

  3. Maya says:

    This article is sooooo interesting. Thank you for sharing it, Chad!

    1. Chad Hargrove says:

      Appreciate you reading, Maya. Hope it helps.

  4. Mini says:

    Very useful one,I have bookmarked it.Thanks Chad

    1. Chad Hargrove says:

      Good idea :). Get to it. Thank you.

  5. Mary says:

    Thank you for information!!

  6. Anusha says:

    I loved the way u have put forth the workout plan in steps…. Because I had got little confused when people talk about these.

    I’ll keep this as my base reference n start my planned workout from today.

    Thanks a lot Chad !!!

    1. Chad Hargrove says:

      That’s perfect, Anusha. Appreciate you reaching out.

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