12 Week Beginners Training Routine

12 Week Beginners Training Routine
A twelve week full body beginners routine designed to get your body ready for an intense split routine. Includes a detailed week by week plan.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
Full Body
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines
Male & Female

Workout Description

Everyone has to start somewhere. If you have never trained with weights before, you need a routine to get your muscles prepared for more serious training. It's essential that you complete a full body routine (like the one in this article) for 12 weeks before starting a split routine.

If you're new to the gym and working out, head over to our forum and get some advice to make sure you're on the right path and don't waste your gym time!

Weeks 1-6: Total Body Circuit Workout

  • Complete the following on two non-consecutive days per week.
  • During the first three weeks, do each exercise for one set of 15 reps: during the last three weeks, do two sets of 12 reps for bodyparts indicated (using a slightly heavier weight on all sets)

WEEKS 1-3:

Weeks 1-3
Weeks 1-3
Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Quads/Glutes Leg Press 1 15
Hamstrings Lying Leg Curl 1 15
Upper Back Seated Cable Row 1 15
Chest Flat Bench Press 1 15
Shoulders Dumbbell Press 1 15
Traps Dumbbell shrug 1 15
Triceps Pushdown 1 15
Biceps Barbell curl 1 15
Lower Back Back extension 1 15
Calves Standing calf raise 1 15
Forearms Barbell wrist curl 1 15
Abdominals Crunches 1 15

WEEKS 4-6:

Weeks 4-6
Weeks 4-6
Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Quads/Glutes Leg Press 2 12
Hamstrings Lying Leg Curl 2 12
Upper Back Seated Cable Row 2 12
Chest Flat Bench Press 2 12
Shoulders Dumbbell press 2 12
Traps Dumbbell shrug 2 12
Triceps Pushdown 2 12
Biceps Barbell curl 2 12
Lower Back Back extension 2 12
Calves Standing calf raise 2 12
Forearms Barbell wrist curl 2 12
Abdominals Crunches 2 12

Weeks 7 – 12: Split Workout with Increased Intensity.

  • Divide your body into two parts (upper and lower), increasing weight training days to three non consecutive days per week (i.e., Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
  • Alternate between the two exercise routines. In the first week, you’ll end up doing Workout 1 twice, while in the second week you’ll do workout 2 twice etc.
  • Do sets and reps as indicated.
  • Rest 60-90 seconds between the sets.
  • Choose exercise alternates on occasion to work the muscles a little differently

Workout 1: Upper Body

Workout 1: Upper Body
Workout 1: Upper Body
Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Chest Flat Dumbbell Press Pec Dec Fly 2 1 10-12 10-12
Upper Back 1 arm dumbbell row Seated Cable Row 2 1 10-12 10-12
Shoulders Seated dumbbell press Dumbbell lateral raise 2 1 10-12 10-12
Traps Dumbbell shrug 2 10-15
Triceps Pushdown 2 10-12
Biceps Barbell curl 2 10-12
Forearms Barbell wrist curl 2 10-12

Workout 2: Lower Body

Workout 2: Lower Body
Workout 2: Lower Body
Bodypart Exercise Sets Reps
Quads/Glutes Smith machine squats 1 8-12
Quads Leg extension 1 10-12
Hamstrings Lying leg curl 1 10-12
Lower Back Back extension 1 20-30
Calves Standing calf raise 1 12-15
Abdominals Crunches Reverse crunch 2 2 15-40 15-30

If you need any help with the workout on this page head over to our muscle building forum. Our experienced members will make sure you're on the right track!

About The Author
Doug is an ex-competitive bodybuilder with over 20 years fitness experience, specifically diet & nutrition, weight management and training techniques.

687 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 07/28/2015 - 04:24

is it a good idea to do weights one week then cardio the next? I was told to change my workout...do not keep the same work routine. The body would react to loosing weight and gaining muscle....Also I don't want to bulk up, I just want to define and tone my body....is it true that lifting light weight will get me toned and defined?

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Posted Tue, 07/28/2015 - 10:38

Stick to lifting weights 3-4 times per week and perform 1-2 cardiovascular sessions as well depending upon your schedule. "Muscle confusion" is a myth; if you're progressively overloading movements each week (i.e. adding more weight, sets, or reps) then the workout is indeed changing in some form or fashion.

If you ENJOY doing a different workout every time you enter the gym, you can do that but it will just be harder to track your progress in the long run so that's important to keep in mind.

As I mentioned in the comments section of this article (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/4-week-beginner-workout-for-w...), "...keep in mind that the "toned" look most women are going for is going to be accomplished by adding muscle mass to your frame, not by slimming down indefinitely.

If someone wants to lose weight, that should primarily be accomplished through a caloric deficit, not through excessive amounts of cardiovascular work.

Weight training won't make you bulky or cause you to lose your shapely frame as you don't have the hormones for that to take place."

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Posted Fri, 05/01/2015 - 20:15

So weeks 7-12 it says so sets and reps but how do you know how many reps to do.

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Posted Mon, 03/30/2015 - 22:20

Hey Steve - I am not new to lifting but am looking to get some advise in regards to how many calories I should intake daily.. I just found the above routine and thought it would be great to get me back in the routine again as I haven't done any serious lifting since college basketball a yr ago.. What would you suggest my daily calorie intake be? And would you also agree that I am good to drink a protein shake before and after my workouts or just after?

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Posted Mon, 03/23/2015 - 07:31

can we do cardio with this plan?

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Posted Sun, 02/22/2015 - 23:39

Should I be doing anything cardio wise? Like some cardio on non-gym days or something like that?

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Posted Tue, 01/20/2015 - 16:02

Hi Steve,
The forum has been super helpful but I'm still struggling to pick my first routine- I'm 35 yo f, 21% body fat, 130 lbs. I'm athletic and run but really haven't had a weight training routine. I'm ready to add muscle and in the process, if realistic, cut to 18% BF. I have read enough about supplementation and nutrition and I eat clean already, so am ready to supplement - it seems like the 12 week program with only 2 days a week isn't enough, and I see you recommend the 3 day beginner workout quite a bit but honestly I haven't truly lifted weights before on a schedule. Would you still recommend the 12 week 2 day-er or do the 3 day beginner with lighter weights for a couple weeks to get form down? Thank you so much for diligently replying to people's questions, I think I have learned more through reading the comments than even the article! Look forward to finally picking a program with your help,

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Posted Mon, 01/19/2015 - 11:35

Does this workout apply to women as well as men?

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Posted Wed, 01/07/2015 - 03:23
Shamsul Ari Fin

Dear Sir,
I am trying to gain some wait and at the same time gain muscle. What's your advice??

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Posted Tue, 10/14/2014 - 03:31

Hi i am not be on a gym for 5-6 months do you recomendad to do this program first then 20 week quick start

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Posted Mon, 09/01/2014 - 08:11


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Posted Sun, 08/24/2014 - 15:24

I was wondering if this workout was tailored for females as well? Also what would you recommend as far as caloric range for me if I'm trying to lose fat and tone up my muscles??

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Posted Sat, 07/05/2014 - 08:49

Hi, I am only 15 and I am wondering if I'm too young to start going to the gym or not. I'm 173cm and I weigh 58kg but I really want to gain some mass and lose some of the fat I have. Also with exercises do you only do the one exercise and that's it because if so, I was thinking of putting all the exercises in 3 days. Like this.
Day 1
Lower back, Upper back, Chest, Traps
Day 2
Quads/glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, Shoulders
Day 3
Forearm, Bicep, Tricep, Abs

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Posted Fri, 06/20/2014 - 10:52

Is this routine suitable for a skinny guy?Will I lose any more weight?Might I hopefully gain some weight?...I'm 6'1 tall but only 60 kg heavy,
Thanks a lot,

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Posted Fri, 06/13/2014 - 12:28

When I get to the split section, should I do my two sets consecutively then move on to the next exercise, or should I do one set of each exercise and then go back and repeat the entire workout?

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Posted Wed, 06/04/2014 - 12:49

What is a good workout to do after this one?

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Posted Sun, 06/01/2014 - 16:34

Im training to be a dancer. been at dance school doing street/hip hop for 2 years now and now wanting to start building my body up. Im 5.6 weighting bout 140 pounds and im skinny but got some belly fat. i have been told to eat around 3000 calories and to bulk up and then get rid of any fat later on.

is that weight plan ok for me to stick to to reach my goals to have a nice strong body for dancing?


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Posted Sat, 05/31/2014 - 20:02

Hi I started weight training 3 months ago , but the program I followed was the 10 week mass building program I got on this site, not knowing it was for advanced people. I got some gains on it found it hard to do some of the excercises near end of the workout and to up my weight. What would be a good program to follow would this suit me? Or would I go for something else? Iv gained muscle but not a lot and iv defiantly got abit stronger

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Posted Tue, 05/13/2014 - 16:29

Hi Steve,
A group of friends and me are looking for a workout to do together in a small group. We basically have little workout experience and are just trying to shed some weight and tone up for summer. Would you recommend this for us? Thanks.

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Posted Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:13

Hi, What is the sequence should be followed for 1-6 weeks exercises?? Should start from Legs and end with abdomen??

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Posted Sun, 04/20/2014 - 09:41

Hi, Should I do the work out for 1-6 weeks in sequence it is given i.e starting from Legs and ending with Abdomen?? Can i change sequence??

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Posted Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:19

Hi Steve
Im looking to build some lean muscle whilst getting fit. I dont want to be too big and bulky so i was wondering if i could follow this routine thrice a week (Monday,Wednesday,Friday) without the arm exercises? And instead have a dedicated day for a full arm session? i train 5 days a week and usually combine my weight training with kickboxing.
i am 24 , i am 176cm tall and weigh 65kg and would ideally like to get up to around 70kg

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Posted Mon, 04/07/2014 - 22:58

What would you reccommend we do after completing this? What do we move on to?

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Posted Tue, 04/01/2014 - 01:42

Hi Steve. I'm looking to burn fat in a big way. I have lost 35lbs thru diet alone since the beginning of the year. I still have 125lbs to go to meet my goal. I am 5'9 and currently weigh 325lbs. What would you recommend?

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Posted Sat, 03/15/2014 - 09:46

Just starting the last phase of this program. Steve what do you recommend once this program is complete? 3-4 days a week works well for me.

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Posted Thu, 03/13/2014 - 03:19

Hi there

Thanks for taking all the time to respond to questions here.

This has probably been asked, but for beginners, is the first 6 weeks supposed to be 1 set of 15 reps *to failure*? Close to failure? Assume I have lifted weights maybe 4 times in my life (i.e. basically never).

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Posted Thu, 03/06/2014 - 06:56

Hi Steve & any other experienced trainer
have been training 3 times a week doing your routine which I have had to modify as I have a long term back injury. I hadn't done any exercise in 10 years and weighed 125kgs I am now down to 117kgs and I love the feeling of working out.

Can you please give me some advice on routine to continue muscle growth and reduce fat? I currently perform a fully body circuit doing 4 sets of 10 reps on each major muscle group plus a super set to exhaustion after each group.

I train 3 days per week and do 30 mins Cardio at the end of each session. i have been told to avoid squats,dead lift military press etc due to my back injury but I have found I am weak in the knees front and back. I have been doing goblet squats although my knees are sore after.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Posted Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:53

Need to lose about 40 pounds. Mid-thirties. Female. Beginner.
Hesitant to start this workout bc it's not specific to women. Shouldn't the workout routine be different for men vs women?

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Posted Tue, 03/04/2014 - 05:53
Christian Cabacungan

Hi Steve!
I'm an avid reader of your column. I'm from the Philippines.
I go to work at 2:30 pm and I get home at 11:30 pm.
I just want to know your opinion, Is it okay to jog in the evening and work out in the morning?
What kind of work out routine can you recommend that suites my lifestyle?

Thanks in advance.

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Posted Sat, 03/01/2014 - 21:26

what routine do u recommend after finishing this one ??

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Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 16:49


Because during Week 1 - 6 you you are only doing 1 set each and you want to focus on proper form. Then starting Week 7 and beyond you start on 2 sets while increasing weight each week.

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Posted Tue, 02/04/2014 - 18:45
Frank Hagerty

How come After weeks 1-6 it switches from 15 reps to a rep range which is 6-12?

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 12:18

On the 7-12 week split it give two exercises with 2 set numbers do I do them both or is one an alternative

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Posted Sat, 02/01/2014 - 13:26
Dave Satterlee

Where can I find links to the back extension and reverse crunch exercises? I tried Googling them and came up with many different exercises. Which ones are you referring to? Thanks!

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Posted Fri, 01/31/2014 - 06:55
Alex Tulsie

Can this workout routine be done 3 days per week?

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Posted Wed, 02/05/2014 - 16:50

Weeks 1 - 6 are all about proper form. Don't try to push yourself too hard during the first 6 weeks, your focus should be to get proper form down.

Then Week 7 and beyond you will start doing a 3 day per week split routine.

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Posted Mon, 01/27/2014 - 19:17

Hey Steve
I'm 5' 7'' and really overweight but I'm trying to change that. I work in construction so not new to lifting a lot of weight and moving around should I start with this workout and what kind of food should I eat

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Posted Thu, 01/23/2014 - 09:31

Hello, I am looking to get into strength training and found this routine through Google. I am female, 25, 5'9, weigh 195 lbs (over 25% body fat), and have this far led a fairly sedentary life- I feel like crap and want to change. Would this routine still be appropriate? Is there anything I should do to prepare my body before starting strength training, or can I start as is? I have no medical problems that I know of. Thanks for any replies, I see this article is about 3 years old...

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Posted Mon, 01/20/2014 - 21:19

Hi Steve, im a little confused. Beginner here. So am i doing all the body parts workouts on say tuesday, then repeat all on thursday (my 2days)?

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Posted Mon, 01/20/2014 - 20:26
Derick Hardy

Can I start this workout with my 13 yr old son. He plays football.

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Posted Sun, 01/19/2014 - 06:18

Hi Steve
I haven't worked out in a while . Even when I did all these years
,I was always inconsistent . How long should I do this program for?
Will this program help me lose some weight off my stomach ?
I'm 37 and weigh about 190 . My goal is to gain muscles .

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Posted Fri, 12/27/2013 - 21:13

Haven't worked out for about 20 years. Have gout issues and a side lower back pain but need to work out. Any recommendations to begin again

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Posted Tue, 12/24/2013 - 00:17

Hi Steve, i would like to ask which program is fit for me? My weight is 80 kilograms. I want to lose weight and tone my body. Thank you in advance and a Happy Holiday.

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Posted Tue, 12/17/2013 - 14:22

Ive never worked out... I know its bad but was in great shape in school play multi-sports but after 06 till now, I've just worked at a desk and done nothing to really cause any kind of exercise. I really need to get in shape for health reason. Would this work for me or will I need to talk it even slower do to shitty cardio and strength...?

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Posted Mon, 12/16/2013 - 22:27

i am beginner i was wondering how much weight should i be lifting for the different exercises?

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Posted Thu, 12/12/2013 - 17:32

hi Steve
I'm a 44 year old woman, 165cm and 69kg. I have been running for years but find that even though I can do that for hours, I still dont feel like I'm fit. I feel stiff and slow when doing all kinds of things like if I sit on the floor and try standing up. So I would really like to be stronger and more generally fitter (I hope I'm making sense). Have a few kg to loose also but it's the feeling of fitness and strength that I mostly crave. What would you reccomend?

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Posted Fri, 11/22/2013 - 06:17
Nick Rodriguez

What kind of foods should be eating and which should I avoid while doing this? Also I want to gain muscle and get toned as well, what types of protein shakes or other supplements would you recommend to use?

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Posted Fri, 11/15/2013 - 16:02

Also, I am a registered nurse and very conscious of my back. I have been lucky for the past ten years of my career, but I am also looking for workouts that will strengthen my core and back.

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Posted Fri, 11/15/2013 - 15:57

How much weight should I start out with? I am not looking for a specific number, but how should it feel? The problem I have when I start working out is that I tend to overdo it and not able to go again for several days? I guess I have to get out of the mind set of "If its not hard, then its not working." Your advice?

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Posted Sun, 11/10/2013 - 01:00

This is a great routine for a beginner. I`ve swapped the upper back exercise for pull ups which I do first, then some legs work, then back to arms. I use a back extension machine too for lower back.
It`s a great routine for introducing the body to lifting weights and gets you firm rather than bigger before going to to some more intensive work.
In fact, on rest days I do some swimming which tends to help with soreness and tighness not being used to lifting.
Instead of antagonising an existing lumber injury after a RTA, it indeed has helped relieved the pain. I guess through increased blood flow to the joints and reducing muscle spasm.
I`m not a huge eater so I guess my limit will be to add some strength and maybe a a bit more sculpted.
I still weigh what I did at 18 which i suppose is lucky as I am 47 now!