Strength Training For Beginners: How To Craft A Great Strength Workout

This is the final part of our Strength Training for Beginners series. Now that you know the science, the whys, and the why nots, it’s time to put it all together and create a workout that you’ll enjoy and will make you stronger—but in a framework that you can use time and time again.

If you haven’t read the previous three articles in this series, I highly recommend reading those first. This piece will make a lot more sense if you do.

Here are the links:

What is strength training: A beginners guide
Strength training for beginners: How do I start?
Strength training for beginners: Equipment 101

There’s an art and a science to strength program design. The more advanced an individual is, the harder it is to create and write a program. This is because as an advanced trainee your ability to adapt to change is that much harder.

However, as a beginner, you’re in luck. Your ability to develop, adapt, and improve will be far quicker, and you’ll see and notice results that much faster.

You have what we call a lower training age and the graph below illustrates this point nicely:

This is a good thing, and with some intelligent application, we can maximize our chances for success if we put together a great workout that’s right for you, in a proven time-tested framework.

At the same time, it’s important that you are aware that this change will only occur for the first 6–10 weeks. During this time frame, it is common to see many people hit a plateau. The results don’t happen as fast, and sometimes, they can even go backwards.

This is normal, so don’t get too worried if this sounds like you, but I know it can leave you extremely frustrated and ultimately lead to giving up.

It’s why so many people see great results in a short space of time on these 21-day or 6-week challenges. As a beginner, almost every workout works for you. But what separates the people who continue to succeed and the people who give up is their ability to recognise this and adapt and change the plans accordingly.

Now that doesn’t mean you should completely change everything up once you hit the 6-week mark. No, far from it. That’s another rookie mistake. It just means we have to change the approach slightly, but we’ll save that topic for another time. 

As a beginner, almost every workout works for you. It’s why so many people see great results in a short space of time on these 21-day or 6-week challenges. Click To Tweet

The Strength Matters Workout Framework 

Before we put together the meat and potatoes of the strength workout, I want to share with you our basic framework for the overall structure of a workout. In fact, irrespective of ability, beginner to advanced alike, our workouts follow the LAWS of all workouts—a concept I learned from personal trainer, Philip McDougall.

The LAWS are:

  • Lubricate
  • Activate
  • Workout
  • Stretch


You must first lubricate the joints in your body. In other words, we mobilize the joints and take them through their active range of motion several times (3–10 times ideally). Joint lubrication prior to the main workout can vastly reduce your chance of injury and potentially decrease your chance of developing chronic pain, all while maintaining a healthy range of movement and mobility and making you feel like a million dollars.

This is often a neglected area of strength training. Long term, it can be the difference in seeing improvements or plateauing. This is very different from stretching and being flexible, and we highly recommend this type of work daily. It’s often the missing piece in many people’s training plans, yet I would say it is probably the most important.


The purpose of activation is to activate and stimulate the nervous and muscular systems of the body. As mentioned in the previous articles, strength training is not about muscle size. It’s more about working in conjunction with the central nervous system.

By stimulating these neurological pathways, we are better preparing ourselves for the movements in the main workout ahead. In other words, we’re firing up the right muscles to help make us stronger and safeguard us from injury.

The choice of activation work is dependent on:

  1. Your individual needs
  2. The demands of the workout
  3. Injury history


The main workout section. This depends entirely on your goals, needs, ability, and training age. This is about strength training for beginners, and we’ll discuss how we structure this part for strength later in the article.


We love to stretch. In fact, with a few exceptions, everybody should stretch for five to ten minutes at the end of each workout while the soft tissue is warm and malleable because it offers faster improvements.

Like lubrication, it’s often the missing link in strength training workouts. It’s not seen as sexy, but it’s the hidden secret of the really strong and powerful. Take elite Olympic weightlifters as an example. They stretch. They lubricate their joints. And they’re strong like bulls.

The Strength Workout Framework for Beginners

Now that you know the overall outline of a workout, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the actual strength framework for the workout section—the part everyone loves and wants to do.

We use multiple types of frameworks for strength training for beginners, depending on their goals and needs. However, this is one of our most popular and results-driven frameworks for both strength and fat loss. It’s an ideal combination for beginners just starting their journey.

Strength Training Framework for Fat Loss:

A1 Upper Body
A2 Lower Body/Full Body Movement

B1 Upper Body
B2 Lower Body/Full Body Movement

C1 Upper Body
C2 Lower Body/Full Body Movement

It’s important to understand what we mean by A1, A2, etc. This essentially means we’re pairing two exercises and working them back to back with minimal rest in between. We’re super-setting them.

That means, we’re doing the following:

  1. Performing exercise A1
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. Perform exercise A2
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. Perform exercise A1 again
  6. Rest 30 seconds
  7. Perform exercise A2 again
  8. Rest 2 minutes before starting B1/B2
  9. Repeat for B1/B2 and C1/C2

In this instance, we have performed two sets of supersets with A1/A2 with 30 seconds of rest in between. As a beginner, the default number of repetitions is 12 reps, and the default rest period is always 30 seconds between working sets.

There is always a 2-minute rest between the next working superset.

This is because the primary focus of a beginner is to build muscular endurance, prior to strength endurance and doing maximum strength work.

Feeling a bit confused? Don’t worry, this is how the entire workout would look in easy to read terms:

Section 1 

  1. Perform A1 for 12 reps
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. Perform A2 for 12 reps
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. Perform A1 for 12 reps
  6. Rest 30 seconds
  7. Perform A2 for 12 reps
  8. Rest 2 minutes

Section 2

  1. Perform B1 for 12 reps
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. Perform B2 for 12 reps
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. Perform B1 for 12 reps
  6. Rest 30 seconds
  7. Perform B2 for 12 reps
  8. Rest 2 minutes

Section 3 

  1. Perform C1 for 12 reps
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. Perform C2 for 12 reps
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. Perform C1 for 12 reps
  6. Rest 30 seconds
  7. Perform C2 for 12 reps
  8. Rest 2 minutes
  9. End of workout; proceed to stretch

One workout, split into three sections.

The primary focus of a beginner is to build muscular endurance, prior to strength endurance and doing maximum strength work.Click To Tweet

But What Exercises Do I Do?

We’re getting there. Don’t worry! You need to understand this framework first before we discuss the actual exercises.

Now, in order to choose the correct exercises for your needs we need to establish:

  1. Your actual needs (through assessment)
  2. The Seven Fundamental Human Movements

Assess, Don’t Guess

If we don’t assess, we just guess. Your workout needs to reflect the exercises you need to work on and address your actual weaknesses. We assess to uncover the truth, and again, lack of assessment is a very common rookie mistake.

The truth often hurts. However, by facing your fears and actually establishing and taking the time to learn your weaknesses, you will progress faster with a program that’s right for you.

(This often starts with a health assessment. To learn more about our health assessments, click here.)

For example, if you’re strong at push ups but weak at pull ups, why would we program more push ups? This will only lead to you being more out of balance, and it could potentially make you weaker and more injury prone. Balance in the force (Star Wars) is our friend in fitness.

All Beginner Strength Workouts Must Include the Seven Fundamental Human Movements

Once we know the areas of weakness that we need to address, we need to ensure all seven human movements are present in the workout section for strength training.

The seven human movements are:

  1. Locomotion
  2. Push
  3. Pull
  4. Hinge
  5. Squat
  6. Rotate
  7. Anti-rotate

If you would like to learn about these movements in depth, I encourage you to read this article that covers them in detail.

As a beginner to strength training, you need to know that strength through movement is far more beneficial to health, longevity, and athletic performance than working muscles in isolation. I’m not saying isolation doesn’t have its place, but I just want you to think of the difference between athletes and bodybuilders.

Which would you rather have—strength for performance or strength for aesthetics? It’s an important distinction, and in our model of training, strength for health and performance comes first.

So when choosing the workouts, we need to include exercises that cover each of these movements and are suitable for your current ability.

Here are some examples of each:

Locomotion Rolling, crawling, walking, getting up from the floor, lunging, and running
Push Push ups, dips, military press, bench press, and handstand push up
Pull Scapular pull ups, TRX rows, deadlifts, pull up variations, muscle ups, and kipping pull ups
Hinge Glute bridge, deadlifts, vertical jumps, long jumps, kettlebell swings, and plyometric work
Squat Rocking, deep squat sitting, goblet squat, barbell squats, thrusters and Olympic lifts
Rotate Walking, throwing, punching, TRX rotational pulls, crawling patterns, medicine ball toss, and Turkish get ups
Anti-rotate Dead bugs, bird dogs, single side farmers carries, one arm one leg planks, single leg deadlift, suitcase deadlift, and Bulgarian bag swings

The list could go on, but I hope you’re getting the picture as to what these movements look like with the types of exercises that are available to us.

For the advanced eye, start to think about the possibilities of how some of these exercises combine to form multiple movements at once:

Take the single arm farmers carry. This is both locomotion AND an anti-rotational exercise.

Take the half-kneeling kettlebell press. This is both a pressing AND an anti-rotational exercise.

Take the offset kettlebell (e.g., 24kg + 16kg) walking lunge. Locomotion, squatting AND anti-rotation.

Again, the list can go on, but the point is we need to combine all seven fundamental human movements in a strength training workout for beginners. This will make the program more effective, produce greater results, and see you get the best return on your time invested in strength training.

Putting It All Together

Enough of the theory already. “How do I put this thing together?” I hear you ask.

Well, in order to do that, let’s do a working case study. Here’s our example client:

Name: Jane Doe
Sex: Female
Age: 41
Family: Husband, two children
Lifestyle: Working mum, highly stressed
Training Age: 0 (Beginner)
Goals: Weight loss, strength
Weakness: Can’t hold 2-minute plank. Can’t hold 2-minute glute bridge
Time to train: 60 minutes maximum per session

Our goal for Jane is to introduce her to strength training, improve muscular endurance, develop core strength, and switch on her glutei (buttocks) at the same time.

Here’s how we structured one of Jane Doe’s workouts. (This is an actual workout. We just changed the name of the client.)

60 Minute Workout:

  1. Lubricate: 10 Minutes
  2. Activate: 10 Minutes
  3. Workout: 30 Minutes
  4. Stretch: 10 Minutes

The workout framework:

A1: TRX row – 12 reps
A2: Sandbag hug hinge – 6 reps + walking sandbag hug carry 30 seconds + sandbag hug hinge 6 reps

B1: Half-kneeling kettlebell press – 12 reps left/12 reps right
B2: Goblet squat – 12 reps

C1: Renegade row – 12 reps left/12 reps right
C2: Turkish get up – 1/1 with shoe

It’s simple in nature, but I challenge anyone with the right weight to try out this workout.

This was just one of the three workouts we programmed for Jane in her week for a period of 8 weeks. If you look at this more closely, you can see there’s a lot of core work involved because we feel her number one goal is to improve core strength.

You don’t have to do planks and sit ups to get a stronger core.

The TRX row, a horizontal plank. Sandbag with hinge, core work. Half-kneeling press, core. Goblet squats, core. Renegade row, plank position. Turkish get up, core work.

Could you spot all seven human movements?

A1: Pull
A2: Hinge + Locomotion

B1: Anti-rotation + press
B2: Squat

C1: Anti-rotate + pull
C2: All seven human movements in one exercise

This is how we start putting a strength training program for beginners together.

And hopefully, you can do it now, too.

Closing Thoughts

There’s an art and a science to strength workouts and program design, but once you know the formula and the framework, it makes things a lot easier to put together.

The LAWS of all workouts are what govern the overall structure of the workout, but pay close attention to the structure of the strength portion itself.

This framework is well suited for beginners who are new to strength work and for those who need to work on muscular endurance and lose body fat at the same time. By pairing upper body with lower body/full body exercises, you get your biggest bang for your buck for the time you invest in training.

Never forget to assess your current strength levels, program for them accordingly, and always always always include the seven human movements as a beginner to strength training.

Now it’s your turn to get creative and put it all together.

Enjoy, and remember – strength does matter.

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step

In every great movie, the hero embarks on a path that promises adventure, challenges, and finally, achievement. Often, the hero finds a guide that takes the hero under their wing and pushes him or her to the limit. Just think, where would Luke be without Yoda? We are the stars of our own movies. And we all need that guide.

When it comes to fitness, a coach can be your guide to movie hero-type success, and your secret weapon. There are so many benefits to having a personal coach. I would go so far as to say that coaching is a prerequisite for achievement. Period.

Applying the Strength Matters System to achieve a pain-free athletic lifestyle won’t be easy but it’s guaranteed to work if you follow it. And we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Are you ready to take that first step?

Start Your FREE 7-Day Coaching Experience.

Life’s better as an everyday athlete. ~ James Breese

Strength Training For Beginners: How To Craft A Great Strength Workout
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Strength Training For Beginners: How To Craft A Great Strength Workout
There’s an art and a science to strength program design. The more advanced an individual is, the harder it is to create and write a program. However, as a beginner, you’re in luck. Your ability to develop, adapt, and improve will be far quicker, and you’ll see and notice results that much faster.
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2 thoughts on “Strength Training For Beginners: How To Craft A Great Strength Workout”

  1. Hi,

    ive left comments before referring to wear & tear in my lower back and right knee, plus a slightly sticky right shoulder

    At the gym im strengthening twice per week. I’m trying to do a three day split of the following;

    a) Bench press on smith machine , 3 sets of 10, (my present weights are 32.5 kg – 35kg ,the bar is included in this which im told is 7.5 kg)
    Lunges 2 x 10 both sides
    Seated rows , 1x 25kg and 2 x 30kg.

    b) Deadlift on smith machine , 3 x 27.5 kg
    Shoulder press 3 x 10 kg,
    Lat pulldown to front 2 x 30kg and 1 x 35kg.

    I walk most days ; some just 2 miles and others longer walks c. 3.5 miles.
    I also do 20 minute lower back strengthening & stretching exercises every other day.

    When i try the plank i can hold for 1 minute 30 secs. The bridge i can comfortably hold for 2 minutes.

    In the above gym routine i sometimes do squats on the smith machine, again with just 2 x 10 kg weights plus 7.5 kg bar.

    This is the crux. During training i feel ok, just twinges occasionally in my knee or back and the weights feel comfortably heavy for 8-10 reps. However, the problem hits later on after ive had an evening meal and maybe a doze i feel drained and the same next day. Sometimes this carries into another day and then i have to miss the gym (hence why im only really doing 2 sessions!)

    I’m in reasonable shape for my age , 57, 5′ 8”, approx 10 stone 11 ib’s.

    A friend i see occasionally and who is a really strong bodybuilder says im not getting enough protein but i think i have a well varied diet and dont agree as hes a proponent of protein drinks. But i seem to be going round in circles and not getting anywhere fast.

    A trainer, one of the ones who assessed me at the gym says i just need to do maintaining workouts but i find it frustrating as , previously, whilst not always being the strongest or fastest , ive always been agile and active, and so i feel i should be doing better.
    Another thing is that my wear & tear issues arent arthritis as such! On some mornings i’m stiff and sore which is , i believe symptoms , of osteo arthritis, but im not in constant pain. My knee problem, which was scanned, for instance, was diagnosed as minor wear and tear but no arthritis present. However, obviously i need to get the training right to prevent it developing into arthritis.

    So, this is the best i can describe my situation atm and wondered if you could help?

    regards, Andrew

    1. Thanks so much for your detailed reply. Honestly, right now it could be anything. It’s almost impossible to see what’s going on without looking at your from a holistic standpoint. We would need to assess. It could be anythign top to toe, your diet, the way you workout. We just can’t tell. Our 30 day challenge might be a good fit so we can uncover what’s going on, but from reading this, it’s quite complex. Sorry i can’t help further but want to make sure you get to the route of the problem as opposed to theory and me guessing.

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