Beginner Weight Lifting Routine to Make Gains

Everyone seems to think you need to be in the gym six days a week to see any progress. Today I am here to tell you incredible gains can be made with a beginner weight lifting routine.

There is a TON of misinformation out there at the moment. From six pack short cut towel rows to fancy pre-workouts, I have seen it all.

Thankfully things are starting to look slightly better with the rise of powerlifting and good strength standards across the fitness industry.

The hard part is knowing the difference between to good and the bad. For some it is harder than you may think.

How are you supposed to know if no one has ever shown you what good looks like? This is exactly what I will be doing with you today.

Today we will be talking about everything good. Good training, good nutrition and good gains. 

When I first began going to the gym I didn’t know what to do. Seriously, I was completely lost among the misinformation.

I would go to the gym and feel like zero progress was being made. This was incredibly frustrating at the time.

Looking back I’m just glad I didn’t quit. Thankfully now I am here to give everyone reading this what I wished I had in the beginning.

A solid program from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Not one of these “fluff and pump” routines designed for those on massive doses of steroids.

The truth is the path to getting jacked as a natural lifter is through what is known as the principle of progressive overload. In order to grow, you need to place your muscles under gradually higher levels of tension.

This is usually done in the form of increasing the weight or the number of reps/sets done. You must force your body to adapt to tensions above and beyond what has previously experienced.

Have you ever seen those guys come into the gym and lift the same weights year after year? You may well be one of them unfortunately. It’s more than likely they aren’t applying the principle of progressive overload.

I didn’t use that as an example to point fingers and laugh at anyone. I genuinely feel sympathy towards these folks. They have never been taught proper training principles, Instead they are stuck spinning they’re wheels workout after workout.

Hopefully that will change after today. It’s time to put the nonsense aside and start training smart.

Introducing Starting Strength

Starting strength is a training program designed by Mark Rippetoe. Mark has over three decades of experience in the iron game.

He has experienced life both as a lifter and a coach. All those years of experience have now been brought together in his training system to improve strength and performance.

This is a program perfect for beginners who are new to weight lifting. In fact if you have never touched a barbell in your life you will see the most drastic changes possible.

Wouldn’t it be great to look and feel so much better six months from now? Believe me it would.

There is nothing more powerful in this world than being able to change yourself. Through the power of grit and determination you can mould yourself into something better and stronger.

This world can be a cruel place and there are few things better for protection than becoming stronger and bigger. Following a solid training program like this will prepare you excellently for what is out there.

If you’re ready to take a look at the actual program then let us begin.

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The Program

The program focuses around seven key exercises. These are the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, power clean and chin ups.

This program applies progresssive overload in the form of increasing loads over time. About 95{3711378c469cb0b0f2923e21da067e748d3928633920f885cee3cbec769ee698} of those who go to the gym are still classified as “novice” lifters.

I know what you’re thinking – “But I’m not a novice!” Unless you can bench press two plates, squat three plates and deadlift four plates you are most likely a novice.

Novices recovery time between workouts is 48-72 hours. This makes this beginner weight lifting routine a perfect fit.

You will rest 48 hours between each workout during the week. Finally you will rest 72 hours before beginning the following week. This will ensure you are fully recovered and ready to make progress in the gym.

Their a two workouts to follow – A and B. These should be done in rotating order. The first week you will perform A-B-A and the second week B-A-B.

An example schedule to follow could be Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. It really is up to you depending on your schedule.

Workout A

  1. Squat:  3 sets x 5 reps with the same weight
  2. Press:  3 x 5 with the same weight
  3. Deadlift:  1 x 5
  4. Chin-ups:  3 x failure, 5 minutes rest between sets

Workout B

  1. Squat:  3 x 5 with the same weight
  2. Bench Press:  3 x 5 with the same weight
  3. Power Clean:  5 x 3 with the same weight

Are you shocked it seems so simple? Were you expecting some elaborate routine with tons of bells and whistles. I’m sorry to disappoint. That would only serve to waste your time and energy.

Starting strength focuses on what is going to help you get the most bang for your buck. These exercises work the most muscles and will give you the greatest return on your investment.

Exercises like the deadlift train the whole body to work as a system. It will cause the greaest adaption to occur and thus the most muscle to be gained.

It’s easy to follow ensuring anyone can do it if they so choose.

“What’s the catch?” 

You’re smart enough to know that’s not whole story. There remains one final requirement:

Every time you enter the gym the weight on each exercise must be increased from what was done previously.

​Now of course this can’t continue indefinitely. But until you no longer can, the weight should be increased every workout.

This is progressive overload in action.

Eventually progress will slow and you will begin to stall “But it is not this day!”  If I may quote Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings.

The bench press, overhead press and power clean should be increased 5lbs/2.5kg every workout. This is because smaller muscle groups are involved in these exercises.

The squat and deadlift can be increased 10lbs/5kg every workout for the first two weeks. After that reduce the progression to 5lbs/2.5kg.

For the vast majority of lifters, the deadlift will be your strongest lift. With that said don’t be surprised if you are lifting the most weight with your deadlift. This is also due to the decreased range of motion compared to the barbell squat.

Rest and Nutrition

Recovery occurs outside the gym. It is here where your progress can be made or broken. 

The two biggest factors when it comes to recovery is sleep and nutrition. For sleep you need to be getting eight hours a night. I know, for some of you that is difficult. Get as close to it as you can though.

Sleep is when the body releases hormones that facilitate strength gains and nervous system recovery. It is essential for optimizing this program.

Even catching up on some shut eye at the weekend helps as well. Getting much less sleep than this will slow your progress. If there is nothing you can do about it, just accept it and work with what you are given.

For nutrition, it is time to eat a lot. If you are one of these young skinny dudes who just “can’t put on weight” I feel your pain. Although I have never been in that situation I imagine it must be tough. 

But it’s time to get serious. You need to treat your diet like it’s your job. That means you don’t go to bed at night before fulfilling your dietary duties for the day. 

A popular method for young guys like this is the GOMAD diet. This is where you drink a gallon of milk every day. Personally I have never tried it, but it works.

For older gentleman and those who are overweight, you won’t need to eat as much. Regardless, getting enough protein and total calories in is essential for all embarking on this program.

As a beginner to lifting you are about to enter a phase known as “noob gains”. This is a period where you can put on more muscle than you ever will in your life. Use it to your advantage and do not waste it.

you need to gain muscle

What are the Critics Saying?

Some would argue starting strength doesn’t have enough upper body volume. While this may be true this program is designed to serve as a foundation for strength. Once that is built much more muscle can be gained down the line.

However if your bench and overhead press have doubled – your chest and shoulders will have grown, trust me. Some would also say there isn’t enough direct arm work, biceps more specifically.

But if it’s going to be the difference between you doing the program and not, so be it. Once you can bench press 175lbs/80kg and overhead press 110lbs/50kg for 5×5 drop back down to 5×3.

This is because the overall tonnage moved (weigh x sets x reps) will be greater as the weight begins to increase.

There should be enough work done with the chin ups taken to failure. If you feel you absolutely must work your arms directly then do some curls. But bare in mind it may impeded on your performance if you over-tax your arms.

Remember they are called accessory lifts for a reason. They are not meant to take up the bulk of your training.


Here’s what I would do if I was focused on building muscle with starting strength:

At the end of every session add 3 sets of 8-12 lateral raises. On the days with no chin ups (workout B) I would add 3 sets of bicep curls 8-12.

 If the lack of pressing volume is keeping you up at night you can increase them from 3×5 to 5×5. I have no doubt Mark would completely disagree with me here however.

Progressive overload still applies to accessory movements.

Basic Barbell Training

There is only so much I can tell you in one blog post. Mark has written extensively on the subject of lifting and has released multiple books.

The most popular one – Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training is one of the most well renowned lifting books there is. It teaches you everything you need to know about lifting in great detail.

In it’s third edition you will learn detailed instructions on how to perform all the key lifts. You will not only learn how but why as well.

Click here to grab your copy of Starting Strength – Basic Barbell Training

Most can continue Starting Strength for 6 months and it is the ideal start to your lifting career. Completing this program will set you up for a lifetime of success inside the gym.

2018-01-28T13:03:48-07:00 By |Fitness|2 Comments


  1. thedanshea January 24, 2018 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    Great post. Thank you for breaking it down into simple and concise steps. I didn’t realize how much nutrition plays a part in weight training.

    • Peter January 24, 2018 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      No problem and thanks for commenting. Yes you need to be serious both in the kitchen and in the gym to do it properly.

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