Every Workout a Beginner Needs to Train Like a Pro
Everyone needs a little help getting started on a new routine. Coffee addictions and snooze-button obsessions can be broken (but maybe not at the same time!). Your 2018 resolution may have been to improve your fitness and get stronger, and with so many options out there, it may seem overwhelming to know where to direct your time and energy. Here are 15 great options that include strength training, core building, and cardio development — all designed for beginners.
If you start with something too difficult, struggling through can be very discouraging. Set yourself up for workout success by taking time to allow your body to add challenges in a responsible and thoughtful way. After four to six weeks, you will notice that your body is looking for more. That is when you can choose more difficult routines. Until then, sweat and recover and get stronger in a way that works for you!
Beginner No-Equipment Workout
These 14 exercises are a great introduction to the type of moves your body will be doing as it starts on its fitness journey. And they are equipment free! Take it at your own pace, and if something hurts, ease up or stop the exercise completely. Done correctly, these moves should feel challenging but not painful.
- Begin with a 3-5 minute warmup: walking on a treadmill, jump roping, jumping jacks, jogging in place.
- Start with the first exercise, aim for 10-15 repetitions.
- Move on to the second exercise and complete the same amount of repetitions as the first.
- Once you have completed all the exercises, take a water break and determine if you are ready for another round, or if one complete circuit was enough. Over time you will build up to completing two to three rounds. It won't happen overnight, so give yourself a chance to adapt and recover!
Beginner Arm Workout
Nothing says fit and fabulous like a pair of sculpted arms. The key with this workout is pairing two exercises back to back for maximum burn. All you need is a pair of dumbbells!
- Start with 5-8-pound dumbbells. If after completing the first set your muscles aren't fazed at all, try something slightly heavier until you are feeling some fatigue by the final rep.
- Perform 10 repetitions of the first exercise in the set, then immediately start 10 reps of the second exercise.
- Repeat the paired exercises two more times.
- Move on to the second and third pairs of exercises, 10 reps a piece for three sets.
- Note: if you can complete the entire circuit without any struggle, you aren't challenging your body enough. Try something heavier, with a priority on form over weight. Once form slips, you'll risk injury, so work hard but listen to your body — if something hurts, stop, reset, and try it again with less weight.
If you aren't ready to jump (literally) into a cardio workout, try this low-impact sequence of seven exercises. Low impact does not mean low intensity, so be ready to feel the burn!
- Begin with a low-impact warmup, 3-5 minutes of high stepping knees, step jacks, step touches — whatever will get your heart rate up and increase your oxygen consumption.
- Start with the first exercise, the seated trunk rotation, and warm up your side body by twisting right to left for 60 seconds.
- Move on through the next six exercises: seated Russian Twists, Bicycle Crunches, Fire Hydrants, Good Mornings, Air Squats, and Side Lunges in 60-second intervals.
- The circuit, including warmup, is about 10 minutes, so if you feel motivated, do two rounds.
- Note: you control the intensity. The more repetitions you get in per minute, the more calories you burn and the quicker you will tire out the muscles. Work hard but make sure you are pacing yourself. Over time you will learn your limits and how to push them. Let each time be a learning experience.
How about a workout where you never have to get off the floor? Just because you aren't running around doesn't mean you won't be firing up your muscle groups. Grab a mat, and hit the floor for this 10-move circuit.
- Begin with Supermans, modifying by leaving your feet on the ground if it hurts your back in any way. Go for 3 sets of 12 reps.
- Continue to Bridge kicks, diamond sit-ups, runners' crunches, half bananas, crunchy frogs, and elbow planks with a single arm lift for sets of 20 reps each exercise.
- Finish with three yoga stretches designed to open your back/chest and hips: Bow, Pigeon (on each side), and Half Wheel. Hold each pose for at least 5 breaths. If you have any pain or discomfort in your back, release the pose immediately, take a Child's Pose, and move on.
Bodyweight Ab Workout
You've got six minutes for tighter abs, don't you? This workout includes six moves, done for 30 seconds each, making a 3-minute workout. Repeat for a total of 2 times for 6 minutes of core burn!
- Begin with the bunny hop. If jumping both feet at the same time is too much to start, try stepping one foot at a time until you are ready to try the hop!
- Reverse crunches are next; make sure you are lifting from the core and not using momentum to roll!
- You'll need to control the roll on this next one: starting with Superman, roll to your back holding the arms and legs aloft.
- Side plank crunches are deceptively difficult, so modify by dropping the lower knee down!
- Diamond sit-ups are fun change from regular sit-ups as long as your low back stays firmly planted for the entire motion!
- Bicycle crunches are most effective if done at a slower speed with control! Make sure your hands aren't pulling on your head or neck; they should lightly rest behind your ears and move along with the torso as it twists.
Beginner Elliptical Workout
For those machine addicts out there, this is the beginner elliptical workout for you. Ellipticals are great due to the low impact on joints and the ability to work upper and lower body at the same time (you can't do that on a treadmill!).
- Begin with a 3-minute warm up at a starting resistance and pace you can manage (remember, the SPM are guidelines, not mandatory speeds).
- Increase the resistance for 2 more warmup minutes at the same pace, then increase your speed for 5 minutes.
- Increase the speed again, and maintain the same level of resistance as you alternate between forward and backward strides and pushing and pulling on the handles to better activate your upper body.
- Drop your speed and resistance slightly, and finish with 5 minutes of hands-free striding.
- Decrease speed and resistance again for your 5-minute cooldown.
Beginner Butt Workout
Sometimes you don't want something slow and controlled. But you don't want 30-60 minutes of insanity. How about 10 minutes of intensity? This is a ladder-style workout that increases repetitions as time passes. It may seem easy at first, but you'll be happy when time's up!
- Use these 4 exercises for the sequence: squat thrust, squat with overhead reach, alternating forward lunge (1 on each side counts as 1 rep), and sumo squat jump
- Set the timer for 10 minutes.
- Do 3 reps of each exercise, then 6 reps, then 9 reps, then 12 reps, and so on until the 10 minutes are up.
Basic Kettlebell Workout
You've seen them in the gym, now it's time to introduce yourself to a highly versatile gym tool — the kettlebell (KB). With just 5 exercises, this workout will have you sweating and gaining strength in no time. Once you have completed one complete round, go for a second; you'll be amazed how tired (and pumped) you feel!
- Start with a 5-10-pound kettlebell. Lighter is better until you learn the proper form: safety first, beast mode second! (When you can do 20 perfect reps with the light weight you can move on to something heavier).
- Start with the foundational KB movement: the swing. Aim for 10 reps, making sure you engage your abs and keep the swing level with your shoulders.
- Start in a squat for the next move, and slowly begin to weave the KB through your legs in a figure 8, passing it from front to back with alternating hands. Do 10 reps before standing back up.
- Windmills are the next move, perfect for working your side body. Keep the KB overhead with one arm, slowly lowering the other arm along yours side. Do 10 reps each side.
- Fire up your core with halos next — imagine you are wrapping your head with toilet paper, keeping the elbows aloft and not dropping the weight on your head for 10 reps. Switch direction for 10 more reps.
- Finish with a controlled orbit move. Stand up straight and move the KB around your midsection in a controlled oval, passing the weight from hand to hand as you cross sides. Keep the abs engaged for all 10 reps. Switch directions and do 10 more reps.
At-Home Cardio Workout
Not a fan of running? No problem. This take-anywhere workout gets you the cardio push without having to hit the road (or the treadmill). You will need a jump rope, stairs or a step, and about 30 minutes to complete it.
- Start with a warmup including marching, step-ups, jump rope, and stretching.
- For either time or reps, complete the following exercises: jumping jacks and cross jacks, squats, alternating side lunges, jump rope, jump squats, march in place.
- Before the next set, do 15 burpees (modifying to stepping in and back if you need to take out the impact).
- After the second set of exercises, do 2 minutes of step-ups.
- Start winding down by marching in place for 2 minutes.
- Head to the floor for 20 push-ups (modify on knees if needed).
- Finish with 5 minutes of ab work, your choice, and 30 triceps dips.
Beginner Treadmill Workout
You've seen the masses on the treadmills, and you want to be there too. No idea where to start? Here is an interval workout designed to acclimate you to the machine AND the work, and you'll be running with the regulars before you know it.
- Set your incline to 1 and leave it there for the duration of the workout.
- Begin by walking at a warmup pace for 5 minutes.
- Slightly increase your speed to fast walking pace for 5 more minutes.
- Increase your speed to a medium-pace run for 2 minutes.
- Alternate between walking for 4 minutes and running for 2.
- Finish with 5 minutes at your fast walk and 5 more minutes at your warmup pace.
Beginner Yoga Workout
Yoga is the new little black dress — everyone needs it in their fitness closet. If you've never set foot on a mat before, never fear. Practice these foundational moves at home before you try a class, and your transition will be more confident, and you'll get more from your class time if you aren't trying to figure out what this Warrior business is from scratch. Yoga is lifelong fitness, perfect for beginners and experienced practitioners alike.
- Begin with Child's Pose, a common warmup and resting pose. Sitting back into your heels with your arms extended allows you to concentrate on yoga's most important component: your breath. The key to yoga is timing your breath with movement, so when you start, take the time to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale fully from the base of your abdomen.
- As you progress through the 10 poses, remember your breathing. Each pose is held for 5 inhales and exhales.
- Tip: try to relax into the movements and holds. Tension in any part of your body will affect your ability to sink into the posture and find rest, even as you are working. Anything that feels painful or forced is too much: bend your knee more, use a block to raise up the floor, and don't be afraid to soften the move to suit your body's needs THAT DAY. Every day will be different. And that's what makes yoga so wonderful!
When you are just starting out, you may need to focus on efficiency rather than total time in the gym. Tabata is the perfect solution.
This workout is a quick 10-minute gut buster. You'll work to your max, but
it's only 10 minutes. It's doable, promise! Working at this level creates EPOC,
loosely explained as post-workout continued fat burning. Sounds like a great
investment, doesn't it? All you need for this workout it a timer!
- Start with a 3-5 minute warmup of your choice.
- You will be working in 20-second intervals for 8 rounds: 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes.
- For the first set you will alternate between two exercises, skater plyos and push-ups.
- For the second set, you will alternate between squat jumps and grasshoppers.
- If the plyo (explosive-style jumping) is too much starting out, take any jumping out until you are ready. Be kind to your joints. Modifying the move will allow you to complete the circuit safely.
Cardio Dance Workout
Who said working out had to be all weights and machines? Why not dance your way to fitness? This 30-minute video will get your heart rate up AND has modifications to help you finish!
- If you are new to dance fitness, make sure you warm up with some gentle cardio movements before starting the video.
- Learning footwork and routines can be challenging, so just relax and let it be fun! The more you do it, the easier the steps will become.
- Make sure you do the entire cool down, and maybe add in a stretching routine to help recovery!
Beginner Strength-Training Workout
There are several reasons we love this 30-minute workout video for beginners. First, it is all bodyweight, so no equipment needed. Second, it is full body, from legs to core to upper body. Third, and most importantly, it shows how to progress the moves from beginner to advanced, allowing you to take things at your own pace AND to choose when and how you make it harder!
- Make sure you do a full low-impact cardio warmup before starting the video (marching in place, toe taps, step jax, light jump rope).
- As you progress through the video, start with the beginner version of the exercise and only progress to the more advanced moves when you are ready.
- Take advantage of the full cooldown, maybe adding in some additional stretches, or try foam rolling to get a head start on recovery.
Barre is one of the hottest formats in fitness. If you've been itching to see what it's all about, try this four-move booty toning sequence. It'll burn, but for only 7 minutes. You've got that! All you need is a resistance band. Each exercise should be done for 30 seconds, or 30 seconds per side.
- For the first move, anchor your plank against the wall for more support when you lift and move each leg. Rotate the lifted, bent knee leg in and out with control.
- For the pivot lunges, try to keep tension in the resistance band as you lower and lift.
- With the lunge extensions, make sure your knee stays over your ankle in the front leg. Only drop the rear leg until you feel tension, not pain. Make sure to squeeze your booty at the top!
- If you aren't ready to jump with the jump lunge switch, take a step in between. Make sure you are maintaining even tension in the resistance band as you go from side to side.