Beginner’s Weightlifting Program

Want to try lifting weights? Don’t know where to start? You’re in luck. Here’s a free beginner program to get you going.

Program Specifics

This program was taken from Brad Schoenfeld's book The MAX Muscle Plan. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in building muscle.

The workout is suitable for beginners with little or no gym experience. But if you've never stepped foot in a gym, look up the exercises first to learn the basics. The program will help you learn the movement patterns for major lifts. It is not an ongoing program. Use it for 4-8 weeks before progressing.

You’ll workout on 3 non-consecutive days per week (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). The program is a full body workout that targets all the major muscle groups. You’ll use a weight that allows you to work in the 15-20 repetition maximum (RM) range. This means working with a weight that challenges you when lifted 15-20 times for each set. The same workout is repeated every session. You perform 3 sets per exercise and take 1-2 minutes rest between sets. Every week, you increase your level of effort. Use the below rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale to determine effort.

For week 1, you should be working at an RPE of 6. The lifts should be somewhat hard, but you shouldn't be struggling with any of the reps. The aim is to focus on form, feeling the muscle work, and coordination.

For week 2, you should be working at an RPE of 7. The reps should be more challenging, but you shouldn't be struggling on the last few reps. Focus on slow, controlled movements.

For week 3, you should be working at an RPE of 8-9. The reps should be very challenging, but you’re not training to absolute failure.

For week 4, you deload. This means that you reduce volume and intensity of weights lifted to give your body a break. You’ll train at an RPE of 6. For this week, you’ll only train two times with 72 hours rest in between workouts (e.g., train on Monday and Thursday).

RPE Scale-1.png

If you’re comfortable with all the exercises after week 4, you can progress to another program. If you feel like you still need to work on form, cycle back through for another 4 weeks.

Summary of Workout:

  • Repetitions – 15-20 RM
  • Sets – 3 per exercise
  • Rest interval – 1-2 minutes
  • Tempo – concentric (lifting of weight) 1-2 seconds and eccentric (lowering of weight) 2-3 seconds
  • Frequency – 3 days per week

Warm Up

Complete a 5-10 minute warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and light cardio or movement preparation. In addition, you need to do warm up sets on every exercise. You simply use about 50% of your working weight and do 8-12 reps.

The Workout

The same full body workout three times per week:

  • Barbell back squat (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Lying hamstring curl (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Machine standing calf raise (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Dumbbell chest press (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Dumbbell one arm row (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Dumbbell shoulder press (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Dumbbell standing biceps curl (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Cable triceps press-down (3 sets of 15-20 RM)
  • Crunch (3 sets of 15-20 RM)


Never compromise form. You should be doing controlled reps every set. Think about the muscle you’re working to build a mind-muscle connection. The tempo is a very important variable. So be honest and stick to it. You’ll need to use lighter weights when using a controlled tempo.

Learn Exercises

It’s important to understand the muscle you’re targeting and how to perform the exercise correctly. I’m assuming you have some basic knowledge of gym workouts. If you don’t, do a little research and learn how to perform them safely. If you need more help, book a session with me. This is especially important for free weight exercises like the barbell back squat.

Get Started - Take Action!

I write to share my experiences and knowledge with you. But my ultimate goal is to give you information that’ll help you eat, move, and live optimally. Get these right, and you’ll transform your body and change your life. So, I like to end each post with some actionable steps you can take immediately.

To get the most out of this post, commit to a start date for your program. No excuses! Set the date now and give it a shot. Decision creates action. Action creates results.

Add a comment below and let me know what you think of the workout, or what your go to beginner routine is for weightlifting.

Finally, if you want help in putting together a customised program to transform your body, book a free consultation with me.

P.S. If you liked this workout, I’d owe you one if you could get it out there by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on social media. You might also be interested in my free e-book: The Battle Tested Body Transformation Guide.