Not sure where to start? This program gets results in weeks.
Charles Staley 1 / 16
How It Works
As a beginner, you need to think about your workouts like you’re packing for a short trip. While you might want to bring four pairs of shoes, you don’t have enough luggage space—so you pick the one pair that’s suitable for most occasions. (Now try telling that to your wife.) Same with training: You might want to do four exercises each for the chest and abs, but you need only one. Learn to “pack” your training efficiently with the right exercises, and you’ll be well on your way to gainsville (no, not the one in Florida).
Beginners should always train the entire body each session, to guarantee balanced development and take advantage of your ability to recover quickly and work the same muscles again for faster growth. This approach also burns maximum calories each workout. Every time you train you’ll build your workout around a main lift (the front squat, bench press, or deadlift), the exercises that work the most muscle. At this stage, you need to master form on the basics and recognize less work equals more results.
Perform each workout (Day I, II, and III) once per week, resting a day between each session. Perform the exercises in circuit fashion, completing one set of 8 to 12 reps for each lift in turn and resting as needed between lifts. Afterward, repeat the circuit for three to five total rounds. Choose a load that allows you to perform the prescribed number of reps—but no more—and adjust as needed. Add weight to the exercises each week.
Grasp the bar with hands at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Take the bar out of the rack and let it rest on your fingertips. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width with toes turned slightly out. Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back. Target muscles: thighs, hamstrings, core
Grasp the bar at shoulder width and take it out of a rack set to hip level. Hold the bar in front of your thighs, pulling it in toward your body—don’t let it drift in front of you when you begin the movement. Bend your hips back and lower your torso, allowing your knees to bend as needed, until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Extend your hips to come back up. Target muscles: hamstrings, glutes, core
Load a barbell with five-pound plates. Kneel on the floor with your shoulders over the bar. Brace your abs and extend your arms in front of you, rolling the bar forward till you feel your lower back is about to sag. Roll the bar back. Target muscles: core
Lie back on a bench and grasp the bar with hands just outside shoulder width. Arch your back and tighten your glutes and abs. Pull the bar out of the rack and lower it to your sternum. Push your feet into the floor as you press the bar back up. Target muscles: chest, shoulders, triceps
Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your rear knee is just above the floor. Target muscles: thighs, hamstrings, glutes
Secure your knees under the pad of a lat-pulldown station, reach up, and grasp the handle outside shoulder width. Pull the handle down to your collarbone, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull. Target muscles: back
Stand with feet hip width and reach down to grasp the bar just outside your knees. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, push through your heels to extend your hips until you’re standing. Target muscles: hamstrings, glutes, back
Place a barbell on a rack set to shoulder height. Grasp the bar with hands at shoulder width and take it off the rack. Press the bar overhead, pushing your head forward as the bar clears your face so it ends up directly overhead. Target muscles: shoulders, triceps, core
Set up in a leg press machine, planting your feet at shoulder width with toes turned out about 30 degrees. Bend your knees and lower the plate toward your chest until your knees are 90 degrees. Press back up. Target muscles: thighs, hamstrings
Hold an EZ-curl bar with hands shoulder-width apart and lie back on a bench. Press the bar over your chest and let your arms drift behind you a bit. Bend your elbows and lower the bar, then extend your elbows to lock out again. Target muscles: triceps
Use a standing calf raise machine or stand on a block or step. Lower your heels toward the floor so you feel a stretch on your calves and then drive the balls of your feet down to raise your ankles up as high as you can. Target muscles: calves