Routines for those who are just starting out
More challenging and intense routines
Dumbbell routines for the gym and home
Programs to futher body development
Workouts to help burn off body fat
1, 2 , 3, 4 , 5, and 6 day split routines
To understand some of the basics of setting up a weight training routine, it will be necessary to go over some of the basics.
Let’s go over some information about how you need to structure your overall program.
How Do You Set Up A Routine
How Do You Build Muscle With Weight Training?
What is a repetition?
How much repetitions should you do?
What is a set?
What is progressive resistance?
How much weight should I increase?
Weight training to failure
How long should I rest between sets
How long should I rest between workouts
How long should your workouts be?
Warming up and cooling down
In a nutshell, you have to know what you want. If you’re a beginner looking to tone up and add a bit of muscle, you will have to start with a beginners routine. If you’ve been weight training for a couple of months and have a pretty good grasp of the exercises, you may need a routine that’s a bit more challenging. In this case, you’ll need an intermediate weight training routine.
On the other hand, if you are an experienced weight trainer looking to try something different, you’ll need a specialized routine.
It’s a matter of finding out what you want and establishing your goals. If you don’t know what you want, than you will have to sit down and figure that out.
Weight training requires the use of weight bearing equipment such as barbells and dumbbells (free weights), and machines that use cables and pulleys to help lift the weight. You can also use body weight bearing exercises such as chin ups and dips. Do you want to set up a home gym, on a budget, click here for more information.
If you are just starting out, I suggest you use a combination of machine and free weight exercises in your program. This will give your body the time it needs to adjust to the different levels of stress that resistance exercise places on your body.
As you progress, I suggest you add more free weight exercises. Free weights and compound movements such as squats, bench press, shoulder press, and bent over barbell rows apply a lot of stress on the supporting muscles.
These exercises are often called multi jointed exercises because they employ not only the targeted muscle but the supporting muscles as well. By using free weights and compound movements, you will challenge your body to work harder and therefore make improved muscle gains. Adding more free weight exercises will increase the overall intensity of your routine.
The result? Added overall power and quality beef added to your frame.
Here are examples of compound movements to use in your weight lifting routines:
Before proceeding to Building Muscle 101’s weight lifting routines, I think it’s important that you read over the following information. These are the fundamentals and it’s important that you understand them.
For those of you who are looking to build muscle and strength, I think it’s important you read over the following article. The article will outline what what’s needed to achieve this goal. Click here.
The movement of lifting the weight up and down in weight training consists of repetitions and sets. One repetition consists of a series of muscle contractions with a weight or movement such as one push up. A series of repetitions is called a set. For example, 10 repetitions of push ups is considered one set.
The number of sets performed will depend on your current level of fitness and goals. Beginners can only tolerate a couple of sets per body part. Anymore than one or two sets for a beginner is certainly not recommended as this can be counterproductive. If you are a beginner to weight training, I suggest you design your routine using light weight and higher repetitions. This way, you get a better feel for the weight and an understanding of the exercise.
As you progress, your strength and muscle gains will be moderate but what you want to concentrate on is form. This is very important . As a beginner, you want to learn how to perform the exercises with proper form and technique. This will be very important as you progress to the intermediate and advanced stages of weight training.
As your form and style improves, you’ll want to move to a lower repetition range using heavier weights. Although you will want to keep using the higher repetition range for warm ups. As your training levels advance, you can add more sets to your routine in order to stimulate more growth. For building muscle it is desirable to perform low repetitions using heavy weight. Although this is but one way to increase intenstiy (There are more), heavy weights is still one of the best ways to do this.
The amount of repetitions you complete will depend on your goals as well as the routine itself. There really is no magic number of repetitions and one that you will have to figure out as you progress. This is called inner body awareness. You and only you know what your body is capable of and what it prefers. You have to test, and re-test certain combinations of sets, reps, and weights to figure that out. The information in this site can help, but remember, it is only a framework or guideline for you to follow until you customized the information for your own body.
You will have to determine your combination of body chemistry, feel, and trial and error to determine what works best for you. What works for one person may not necessarily work another.
Deciding on a repetition range to use will depend on your goals. Do you want to build explosive strength, power, and muscle mass? Perhaps you want to train for speed, strength and a well defined body? Or perhaps you need stamina, and endurance. These points will help you in deciding what repetition range is best for you and your weight lifting routine:
3 to 5 repetitions
• Intensity levels are high
• Advanced strength training
• Build muscle mass, explosive strength, power, and speed
8 to 12 repetitions
• Intensity levels are moderate to high
• Intermediate to advanced strength training
• Build speed, strength, and muscle mass
15 to 26 repetitions
• Intensity levels are moderate to light
• Beginners to strength training or advanced for competitive athletes
• Build stamina and endurance, and moderate muscle mass
26 to 45 repetitions
•Intensity levels are light
•Beginners to strength training or advanced for competitive athletes
•Build endurance and minimum muscle mass
To build strength and definition, repetitions should be in the lower range. To build strength and muscle mass, your repetition range should be between 8 and 12. The heavier you lift, the more strength and mass you will gain.
A word of extreme caution. The heavier you lift, the more stress you put on your body. Lifting heavier weights increases the chances of injury. Therefore, the heavier you lift, the more advanced you should be. There is a place for both, high repetitions and low repetitions when it comes to building muscle.
Heavy weight lifting requires the proper form, style and inner body awareness. These attributes will not come overnight and should be practised in your beginning stages. Do not be tempted to show off as this will lead to injuries.
A set is the completion of a series of repetitions. Beginners should perform one to two sets per exercise for the first couple of months of a weight lifting routine.
This should be sufficient to stimulate increases in muscle size and strength. After a couple of months, you will probably need to add one or two more sets to further stimulate improvements.
Two of the most common mistakes people make in their routines are to:
1) Increasing the amount of weight too quickly; And
2) Not increasing the amount of weight to stimulate further improvements
These are two different things. Don’t let your excitement and enthusiasm get the better of you. If you are not ready to increase the amount of weight, don’t try and force it. Increasing the weight before you are ready will lead to poor form. Poor form leads to injuries. Trust me, you don’t want injuries.
Avoid adding weight if you cannot perform the necessary repetitions in the proper form. Use weight that allows you to perform the exercise in proper form and in your target repetition range.
For example, If you set a target repetition range for 12 and you cannot complete 3, chances are that your are using too heavy a workload and you will have to lighten the load.
Determining your target workload will take some trial and error. The following notes will help you determine when to increase your weight:
•Performing 12 repetitions in good form using the same workload;
•Performing all of your sets for 12 repetitions in good form using the same workload;
If for example, you can perform 2 sets of 12 repetitions in good form, you might want to increase the weight. Another option is to increase the number of sets to 3 sets of 12 repetitions if building endurance and stamina is your goal. Another alternative is to cut down on your rest perionds. If you’re resting 60 seconds in between sets, try cutting it down to 40 seconds. This will increase the overall intenstiy of the exercise.
However, if you’re goal is building muscle mass and strength, consider increasing the weight. Click here for additional information about progressive resistance.
Increase the weight by 5% to 10% of your current workload. For example, if you’re current workload is 100 pounds and you can perform 2 sets of 12 repetitions using good form, take 5% to 10% of 100 pounds and add it to your overall workload.
In this case, 105 to 110 pounds. With this new workload, your repetition range will decrease but strive to get the range back up to 12 repetitions. Repeat this process of evaluation on a weekly basis using your diary and logs.
If you want to build muscle, you have to use heavy weight but the trick is to perform the exercise using proper form. As you improve your form and your strength increases you may add additional weight to further challenge your muscles.
Remember that the bigger and stronger you get, the more resistance or intensity you will have to apply to your muscles in order to stimulate further growth.
Intensity ranges from high to low. For our purposes, high intensity training means to train with heavy workloads using low repetitions. However, intensity is basically how hard you challenge your body with each passing workout. Intensity levels can be attained using a variety of techniques, but heavy weight is still one of the common forms of increasing intensity levels.
Low to medium intensity training means to train with lower workloads using higher repetition ranges for your fitness purposes. Building muscle requires high intensity ranges. You will need to determine your intensity levels that will correspond to your routine. There are different intensity ranges depending on the method you wish to use and what your goals are. Intensity levels are dependent on progressive weight training. That means, as you improve from workout to workout, intensity levels increase.
This is needed in order to keep getting stronger and building more muscle mass. Increasing intensity levels can be progressive workloads, increased repetition ranges, or faster workout times. If you don’t feel ?the burn? or discomfort in the muscle you are working, it either means you are not ready for the high intensity set yet or you are not working hard enough.
Is is absolutely necessary to train to muscular failure to build maximum muscle mass? If you would have asked me this 10 years ago and I would have said yes.
However, I’ve come to realize that using heavy weight and taking your exercise to complete muscular failure is but one of many ways to increase intensity levels. Mind you, it’s a very effective way but only one of the ways.
Today, I tend to think that in order to build muscle, you need to improve upon your routine and exercises with each passing workout, day after day, week after week and month after month.
That is, you need to either use more weight that you did last workout for your working set, using the same reps, and rest times. Or, you do more repetitions using the same weight than you did last workout on your work set, using the same rest periods. Or, do the whole workout in less time.
By improving your weight training sessions with each workout, you increase the intensity of each session therefore creating a better environment for muscle growth. However, going to failure on your last set is very effective for muscle growth, but, it is only effective as long as you are improving.
For example, let’s say I used 225 pounds last workout for 8 repetitions and I went to failure on the 8th repetition. Now, let’s say this workout, I did 8 unassisted repetitions and hit muscular failure on the 9th repetition. I’ve improved from this workout to the last. You need to keep improving with each workout in order to build muscle mass.
Training at least one of your work sets to complete failure will produce optimal growth. Training to failure is a high intensity technique designed to stimulate optimal growth. Now, This technique is for advanced trainers. You really have to understand how to use this technique in order to get the most from it.
Beginners should not perform any failure sets for the first 3 months. If, after 3 months you have established correct training techniques and want to bring your weight lifting routine to the next level, consider training to complete failure on at least one of your work sets (Last set of your exercise). Remember to always use a spotter when training to failure.
Rest periods between sets will depend on your training goals. If you are a beginner to weight training, take as much resting time necessary to fully recover from your sets without feeling dizzy or nauseated. It will take some time for your body to adjust to the new stress levels that weight training brings.
It will take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks for your body to adjust. Generally, for compound movements such as squats or barbell bent rows, you want to make sure you are completely recovered before attempting the next set.
I can’t overstate the importance of getting quality rest. It is vitally important that you get the proper amount of rest in order to allow your body to grow.
The amount of rest necessary will depend on your age, genetics, and current state of health. If you are a beginner, you generally need anywhere from two to three days rest.
Depending on your intensity levels, you may need more. Just remember that your body should never be sore before you go into a workout. If your body is sore, take another day off. Your goal is to go into a workout feeling good, strong, and energized. For more information, please see this page here.
Please see our rest and recovery guide for building muscle
How much time should you spend weight training? This will depend on your goals and the type of routine you are using. Beginners should spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes in the gym. Intermediate and advanced weight trainers should spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes training.
There really is no hard and fast rule as to how much time you should spend training. The important point to remember is deciding how much time is needed to get the job done. Remember to cut the chit chat and focus completely on the routine and exercise at hand. Keep focussed at all times.
Stretching is very important. I recommend that you get into the habit of stretching once or twice a day, before, during and after your weight lifting sessions and on non training days. Stretching improves flexibility and if the muscles become tight and inflexible, blood flow is impaired, thus reducing muscle contraction.
When stretching, make sure that you start slowly and hold for 5 to 15 seconds while maintaining good breathing. Do not force yourself into stretching positions. It will take some time for you to develop good stretching techniques so be patient.
Be sure to include stretching.
Try and get into the habit of warming up before each of your fitness sessions. The thing you want to do here is get the blood flowing throughout your whole body. This will actually “prime” your body for the upcoming workout.
Warming up can consist of an aerobic activity such as riding the stationary bike, stair climber, elliptical trainer, or any other multitude of aerobic activities such as jumping jacks or running on the spot.
Follow this up with a period of stretching. I usually ride the stationary bike for about 5 to 10 minutes before all workouts. This gets my body warmed up and helps with the knee joints before a heavy leg day.
It is very important that you breath correctly when doing your exercises. Keep these basic rules of breathing in mind:
1) Never hold your breath during the repetition;
2) Breath in when your muscles are elongating and breath out when they are contracting;
3) Try and keep your mouth open while performing your exercises. By breathing through your mouth you equalize the pressure in your chest.
Aerobic training is very important and I strongly suggest you include aerobic training in your weight lifting routine.
Aerobic training can be any type of exercise that causes your heart rate to increase and makes you breath harder than normal. Don’t worry, your not going to have to join any “aerobics” classes to benefit from aerobic exercise.
Aerobic training is a very useful tool in fat burning, as well as building muscle. The body has two sources of energy; sugar and fat. Sugar or glycogen is stored in the liver and muscle and is the easiest from of energy for your body to use. Glycogen is the bodies preferred source of energy. Fat on the other hand, requires more work to be used as energy.
Why? The problem is that fat can be broken down only as long as oxygen is available. Oxygen must be present for your body to burn fat for energy, but not to burn glycogen. In the initial stages of exercise, oxygen is not yet available.
It can take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes of constant exercise before fat is fully available to the muscles as fuel. Depending on your current conditioning will determine how efficiently your body burns fat.
Exercise, particularly aerobics, enhances the development of capillaries to the muscle which in turn improves the blood flow where it’s needed. With better blood flow and improved oxygen uptake by the muscles, your body becomes better adapted at building muscle.
This is the number one reason why you shouldn’t neglect the aerobic part of your training.
I recommend that your aerobics sessions be at least 15 to 20 minutes in length. Although beginners will want to take it easy when first starting aerobic training.
Beginners will want to start off doing 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic training and increase the amount of “work” time when it feels comfortable to do so.
When doing aerobics training, shoot for training in your target heart range.
In order to find this range, take the number 220 and subtract your age in years (for example, if your 32, it would be 220 – 32 = 188), then take that number and keep your heart rate within 60 to 80 percent of it (for example, take 188 x 60% = 113 beats per minute).
Try and stick to this range while you train. Make sure that you record these numbers in your training log.
Here are a couple of articles that may be useful with regards to aerobic exercise and building muscle:
Here is another great resource for gaining strength and muscle:
Remember, to get the absolute most from any routine, you have to improve. Improvement is the true key to burning fat, build muscle, and achieve a higher level of health and fitness.
For those of you who are looking to build quality muscle mass without adding a ton of fat, you might want to take a look at Kyle Leon’s program, called “The Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer“. I highly recommend this program becuase it uses body type profiling to customize a nutritional and weight training plan. In fact, it’s the first of it’s kind and uses the following elements to build a custom plan:
– Activity levels; And
– Body type
There is no other program like it on the internet. I’ve actually purchased this program and use it on a regular basis. Check my review out here .
All the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.