Beginners Weight Training Plan – 5 Week Cycle

Weight-training-CrossFit-styleThere are many ways to lift weights for fitness and strength and almost every bodybuilder and athlete has a different opinion on how to lift for the best results.

Some sensible bodybuilders will suggest that beginners keep their workouts simple. No split workouts, no pyramiding or high intensity training. Just a simple workout that is easy to follow but still challenges you each time.


You can perform this beginners workout for a long time, some people follow this type of strategy for over a year before deciding to adopt some new technique. It is a volume approach to training, which is good for several reasons:

  1. You will be lifting lighter weights than some people may suggest, this should reduce risk of muscle injury.
  2. Each week you will perform the same set of weight training exercises 3 times.
  3. For each workout in a single week you perform the same number of reps (individual lifts) but reduce the weight. So you start with the heaviest workout on a Monday, then get lighter through the week with the lightest on a Friday.
  4. Each week you increase the reps of each set by 1, so you are lifting 4 more reps in each set on the final week.
  5. Every 5 weeks you will increase the weights that you are lifting then return to the starting rep limit.

It may be better to explain it like this:

Each week you will ideally lift on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In week 1 you will perform each set of a single weight training exercise 4 times, and in each set you will lift the weight 8 times. You will also perform a warm up before each of these sets.

The warmup should use about 1/4 of the work weight and lift double the reps. So in the first week, a warm up for squats would be 12.5 kg lifted 16 times.

For each subsequent workout during a week you reduce the weight, first by 10% then by 20%, for example (see below) if you start week 1 by squatting 50kg on a Monday, then you will reduce it to 45 kg on Wednesday and then 40kg of Friday.

In the second week you repeat the same workout with the same weights (same for work sets and warm up sets). The only difference is that you perform one more rep in each set, so lift the weight 9 times each set instead of 8. This means that each week you are actually lifting the weights 28 more times, as you will be doing 7 exercises in each session.

Here is a table of the first week to help explain it better:

Week 1 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Weight Weight
Squats 4 8 50.0 45.0 40.0
Bench Press 4 8 50.0 45.0 40.0
Bent-Over Rows 4 8 30.0 25.0 20.0
Overhead Barbell Presses 4 8 25.0 20.0 20.0
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts 4 8 50.0 45.0 40.0
Barbell Curls 4 8 20.0 15.0 15.0
Calf Raises 4 8 50.0 45.0 40.0

So Day 1 is generally Monday, Day 2 Wednesday, Day 3 Friday. You can of course start on any day you like, so long as you do not do the workout on 2 consecutive days you will be OK. So you could exercise Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday if you preferred.

In the week 2, you will do the same workout as above, only you will perform 9 reps in each of the 4 sets. The warm up will be 18 reps at 1/4 of the weight.

This is a volume training. It builds muscular endurance as well as helping to grow bigger muscles. It also burns a lot of fat as you are working more – 50 kg lifted 32 times burns more energy than 80kg lifted 16 times (many standard weight training workouts suggest 2 sets of 8 reps for beginners).

The final week should look like this:

Week 5 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps Weight Weight Weight
Squats 4 12 50.0 45.0 40.0
Bench Press 4 12 50.0 45.0 40.0
Bent-Over Rows 4 12 30.0 25.0 20.0
Overhead Barbell Presses 4 12 25.0 20.0 20.0
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts 4 12 50.0 45.0 40.0
Barbell Curls 4 12 20.0 15.0 15.0
Calf Raises 4 12 50.0 45.0 40.0

As you can see, the routine is the same, with same exercises and same weight used on each of the workouts. The only difference is that the reps have progressed from 8 per set to 12 per set.

Week 6 starts with a heavier weigh (unless you struggled to manage all the reps in the first 5 weeks). Weight should be increased by 10%, so in this example the next round will involve squatting 55 kg.

This does not sound much to start with, but by the time you get to the 10th cycle (completing 1 year of the beginners bodybuilding workout) the 50 kg squat will increase to 117.5 kg.

Here is the progression for squats, using a start weight of 50 kg (each time the weights are rounded down to the nearest 2.5 kg:

1 50.0 kg
2 55.0 kg
3 60.0 kg
4 65.0 kg
5 72.5 kg
6 80.0 kg
7 87.5 kg
8 97.5 kg
9 107.5 kg
10 117.5 kg

Of course, this is really just a guide, a target to try to achieve. If you are not gaining enough strength to lift 10% more after 5 weeks (failing to complete the 4 sets of 8 at the new weight will show this) then you reduce the weight to find a level that you can work at. In an ideal world though you will make a 10% strength gain every 5 weeks.

Remember that in addition to lifting, diet and rest are both absolutely vital. You have to eat well to get adequate protein to help muscle repair and growth. You will also need more healthy carbohydrate as you progress to fuel the muscles. Sleep really is vital too, try to get a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night, ideally a little more.

More like this in the Strength Training section

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