The Ultimate Beginner Strength Workout

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First of all I want to start by saying that this isn’t necessarily the most effective programme nor is it personalised to the individual. The great thing about this programme, however, is that it works for any beginner looking to make gains in strength. The workout features 6 exercises which will give you a full body workout and will allow you to gain maximal strength in all these exercises.

The workout is as follows:

Deadlifts – 3 sets 5 reps

Squats – 4 sets 5 reps

Overhead Press – 2 sets 5 reps

Bent Over Row – 2 sets 5 reps

Bench Press – 2 sets 5 reps

Pull Up/ Pulldown – 2 sets 5 reps

You will do this workout 3 times per week adding as little weight as possible in each session. You should start with a weight where you can do all the reps fairly comfortably with perfect form as this is going to allow you to progress in weight for a longer period of time. After a certain period of time, you will find it impossible to keep adding weight. If this does happen then rather than adding weight to all your sets, just add weight to the first set and then do the same weight you did previously for the rest of the sets and progress like that. So taking deadlifts for example, on session one you might do 3 sets of 5 reps with 100kg then session two, 1 set of 5 with 102.5kg and then 2 sets with 100kg and session three you can do 102.5kg for 2 sets of 5 and 100kg for 1 set of 5 and keep going like that. Once you get to the point that you are doing this with all your exercises then you probably need to go onto a more intermediate programme.

I will quickly discuss the exercises involved in the workout and the technique you should use.


I have previously written a blog about this entitled ‘The easiest way to deadlift’. This outlines a safe and effective technique that almost everyone should be able to do. The key with all the exercises is that perfect technique must be maintained throughout the workout to ensure that bad habits do not start to creep in and so that the exercises are done as safely as possible.


Squats are one of the best leg strengthening exercises out there. Ideally I would be having people doing a back squat with the bar lying across the upper traps, however if you prefer front squats then that is an option. Everyone’s technique for squats will look a little different but the most important points are that the back should stay in a neutral position throughout the lift, the centre of balance should be over the middle of each foot and the knees should track in line with your toes. You should be able to squat to at least parallel (hip crease in line with top of knee). If you are not able to do this then there is likely a flaw in your technique so seek a professional to help with this.

Overhead Press

Overhead pressing is one of the best exercises you can do for your upper body. This will strengthen your shoulders and triceps and requires a very strong core. The most effective way to do these for overall strength is probably standing with a barbell however you can do them seated or with dumbbells. The most important technique tip is to not hyperextend your lower back and lean back when you press. A slight lean back is fine when pressing initially but the bar should finish directly over the shoulder joint, hips, knees and ankles without an excessive arch in the back.

Bent Over Row

Bent over rows are going to target your entire upper back and your biceps as well. Again, I like to see these done with a barbell as it allows for more weight to be used. The way I teach these is with very strict form and no swinging. You can start by deadlifting the bar off the floor and then bend forward by hinging at the hips and maintaining a neutral spine with your knees slightly bent. Bend as far as you can without you back changing its position significantly. Then pull the bar to around your belly button and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your back angle should not change throughout the lift; if it does then reduce the weight.

Bench Press

For bench press there are few main technical points that need to be made. The first thing to look at is your posture when setting up. I always advise people to lift with a small arch in the upper back. This isn’t dangerous unless you have a pre existing thoracic spine injury. This position will allow you retract and depress your shoulder blades fully; this basically means squeezing your shoulder blades back and down. I like to imagine tucking my shoulder blades into my back pockets. Your shoulders will be a lot safer in this position and you will be less likely to get any impingement in your shoulder and will also allow for a greater power output as you can use the muscles in your chest more. When you start the lift, the bar should be directly over your shoulder joint, then as you lower the bar it should go down in a small arc towards your nipples/ mid chest and then return to above your shoulder joint as you press.

Pull Up/ Pulldown

The final exercise would ideally be a pull up, however most beginners would not be able to complete 5 full pull ups and so pulldowns can be used as a substitute. The main technical points with this lift is that you should use full range of motion (arms straight and then chest to bar) and you should retract and depress your shoulder blades as you pull.

I hope this acts as a good guide for those looking to get into strength training and if you need any tips or are looking for a more advanced programme then email me at

Speak to you again soon.


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