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New to the Gym? A Beginner’s Weekly Workout Guide

Starting a fitness journey can be difficult, especially when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. I remember going to the gym for the first time freshman year, when I decided I wanted to incorporate working out into my routine. I climbed Cardiac Hill up to the Pete, swiped in and was faced with an overwhelming number of machines that I did not know how to use. I’ll admit, I stuck to strictly cardio on the treadmills for a long time, too intimidated to wander back to the weights section. And once I did start using weights and lifting, I wasn’t sure how to schedule out my workout split. So, if you’re just starting out, or don’t know what a good workout split looks like, this guide can serve as a start! Of course, you can feel free to adapt it to your individual needs.

Each day in this split focuses on strengthening a different part of your body. I included common exercise moves, so that you can easily look up how to do any moves you’re unfamiliar with. As you will see, each exercise has a number in front of it representing sets and reps. For example, “3×12” reads as “three sets of 12 reps.” This means that you should do the move 12 times in a row, take a break and then repeat, for a total of three times. This workout routine only uses bodyweight and dumbbell exercises, but it’s a good idea to add on machine workouts as you get more comfortable! As for the cardio at the end of each day, there are so many options to choose from. You could do the elliptical, the stationary bike or use the treadmill, either jogging or walking on an incline. You do you!

Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness instructor or personal trainer. This is just the plan I used at the start of my fitness journey. See a personal trainer for a more specific plan tailored to your needs!


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Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Monday – Upper Body

Grab a set of dumbbells anywhere from eight to 12 pounds.

3×10 Arnold presses

3×10 lateral raises

3×10 front raises

4×8 bicep curls

3×10 hammer curls (one side at a time)

3×10 upright rows

Put the dumbbells down and try these bodyweight exercises!

20 shoulder taps in plank position

10 push-ups on knees

20 tricep dips

10 plank up-downs

Finish with 15 minutes of cardio!

Tuesday – Core

Set a timer for 20 minutes and go through this routine as many times as possible.

20 crunches

20 bicycle crunches

30 second plank

15 second side plank on each side

10 plank up-downs

20 oblique toe-taps

30 scissor kicks

30 second plank

20 Russian twists

20 bird-dogs

Finish with 15 minutes of cardio!

Wednesday – Cardio

Set a time goal for yourself and hit the gym for a purely cardio day! When I was just starting out, cardio days were very boring to me, so I would do 15 minutes on one cardio machine and then move on to another. Now, my favorite cardio to do at the gym is a steep incline walk on the treadmill. I set the speed to three miles per hour, the incline to 12% and walk for about 30 minutes.

Thursday – Lower Body

Grab a kettlebell anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds. (Any “weighted” exercises mean you hold the kettlebell!)

20 weighted squats

2×12 pulsing squats

2×8 weighted reverse lunges on each side

20 goblet squats

2×12 donkey kicks

2×8 curtsey lunges on each side

20 weighted single-leg deadlifts on each side

2×12 glute bridges on each side

20 weighted sumo squats

Finish off with 15 minutes of cardio!

Friday – Full Body & Stretch

No weights needed!

20 squats

10 push-ups on knees

20 sit-ups

10 walking lunges each side

20 jumping jacks

15 tricep dips

60 second plank

30 second wall sit

20 bicycle crunches

Finish off your week with a good stretch! I like to follow YouTube videos like these from Mady Morrison and Yoga With Adriene.

Madelyn is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring Psychology and Communications with a certificate in Corporate/Community Relations. Outside of writing and editing for Her Campus Pitt, she is also a member of CHAARG and Gamma Sigma Sigma. In her free time she enjoys watching horror movies, making Spotify playlists, exploring Pittsburgh, getting coffee, and working out.
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