Women’s Beginner

Woman doing bench press exercise

Description

The 12-week Women’s Beginner weight training program is designed to:

  • Introduce your body to physical exercise
  • Introduce you to a variety of exercises, training equipment, and training splits
  • Train all of your major muscle groups
  • Strengthen your core and primal movement patterns
  • Encourage body-wide neuromuscular adaptation
  • Promote the development of a strong foundation of muscular endurance upon which you can safely build in the subsequent programs. Without this strong foundation, you will be at risk of injury

By the end of the program, you should have:

  • Developed significant muscular strength (mostly due to neuromuscular adaptation), muscular endurance, and muscular ‘tone’
  • Dramatically improved your overall fitness

The Women’s Beginner weight training program is divided into four sections (microcycles), each one lasting for three weeks. The first two microcycles focus on full-body circuit training, which means that you will be training your entire body in each workout. The last two microcycles focus on split training, which means that you will be dividing your body into sections and training them in separate workouts.

Please don’t be intimidated by the number of exercises in some of the workouts. You will be flying through them with minimal rest, so the workouts will be completed very quickly.

Please read the Overview of women’s weight training programs before starting this program.

Suitability

  • Beginners
  • Individuals who have less than 3 months of consistent weight training experience
  • Experienced individuals who haven’t trained for more than 3 months

General instructions

  • Complete the exercises in the order presented
  • Always use a weight that’s heavy enough to make the reps challenging
  • Whenever you have to increase the weight, add a maximum of 5 lb (or 2.5 kg) to upper-body exercises or 10 lb (or 5 kg) to lower-body exercises
  • Try to master the proper form of each exercise, including proper breathing technique. Also, try to develop a mental connection with your muscles and with the movement patterns
  • If training at home in the absence of cable machines and other specialized equipment, see below the exercise tables for exercise alternatives
  • Don’t forget to warm up before, and stretch after, each workout
  • Once you have completed the Women’s Beginner program, you must take a deload week (a week during which you either rest or train lightly). Only then can you move on to the next program

Specific instructions for each microcycle are presented below.

Microcycle 1: Full-body circuit (3 weeks)

  • For microcycle 1, you will perform a full-body circuit
  • Complete 3 workouts per week, with at least 1 day of rest between each workout (e.g. AXAXAXX, where ‘A’ is a workout day and ‘X’ is a rest day)
  • Complete 2 circuits per workout
  • Rest for only 20 to 30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest for 2 to 3 minutes before starting the second circuit
  • Each workout should take less than 30 minutes
ExerciseReps
Dumbbell sumo squat*15–18
Medium-grip lat pull-down15–18
Hyperextension15–18
Dumbbell bench press15–18
Seated or lying leg curl15–18
Straight-back seated cable row15–18
Machine standing calf raise25–30
Seated dumbbell overhead press15–18
Bicycle crunch15–20
*Bodyweight squat for first week

Alternatives for the cable/machine exercises

Microcycle 2: Full-body circuit (3 weeks)

  • For microcycle 2, you will perform a more comprehensive full-body circuit
  • Complete either 3 workouts a week (AXAXAXX) or a workout every other day (AX)
  • Complete 2 circuits per workout
  • Rest for only 20 to 30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest for 2 to 3 minutes before starting the second circuit
  • Each workout should take less than 40 minutes
ExerciseReps
Barbell squat*13–15
Medium-grip lat pull-down13–15
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift (YT)13–15
Knee push-up or stability ball push-up13–15
Weighted one-leg hip thrust13–15
Bent-over dumbbell row13–15
Seated or lying leg curl13–15
Dumbbell one-arm shoulder press13–15
Lying alternating straight leg raise15–20
Dumbbell curl13–15
Standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise25–30
Bicycle crunch20–25
*Wear loop band around thighs if available

Alternatives for the cable/machine exercises

Microcycle 3: Upper–Lower split (3 weeks)

  • For microcycle 3, you will perform an upper–lower split. This means that you will train all of your upper body in one workout (Workout A) and all of your lower body in another workout (Workout B). Also, instead of circuit training, you will perform set training, which means that you will complete all of the sets for one exercise before moving on to the sets of the following exercise
  • The recommended workout schedules are ABXABXX or ABX
  • Rest for only 20 to 30 seconds between sets
  • Rest for only 60 to 90 seconds between exercises
  • Each workout should take less than 40 minutes
Workout A (Upper body)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Seated cable row2 x 13–15
One-arm lat pull-down2 x 13–15
Knee push-up or stability ball push-up2 x 13–15
Barbell shoulder press2 x 13–15
Cable face pull2 x 13–15
Triceps rope push-down2 x 13–15
EZ bar curl2 x 13–15
Cable twist2 x 13–15
Front plank2 x 45–60 s
s = seconds
Workout B (Lower body)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell front squat*2 x 13–15
Dumbbell lunge2 x 13–15
Barbell Romanian deadlift2 x 13–15
Barbell hip thrust2 x 13–15
Seated or lying leg curl2 x 13–15
Lying leg and hip raise2 x 15–20
Bicycle crunch2 x 20–25
Lying alternating straight leg raise2 x 20–25
Standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise2 x 20–25
*Wear loop band around thighs if available

Alternatives for the cable/machine exercises

Microcycle 4: 3-day split (3 weeks)

  • For microcycle 4, you will perform a 3-day split in which you will train your back, biceps, and core in Workout A; your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core in Workout B; and your legs and glutes in Workout C
  • The recommended workout schedules are ABCXABX (and then start from C the next week) or ABCX (i.e. three days on, one day off)
  • Rest for only 20 to 30 seconds between sets
  • Rest for only 60 to 90 seconds between exercises
  • Each workout should take less than 40 minutes
Workout A (Back, biceps, core)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell sumo deadlift2 x 12–14
Machine-assisted pull-up2 x 12–14
Seated twisting cable row2 x 12–14
Dumbbell curl2 x 12–14
Dumbbell side bend2 x 15–20
Lying side hip raise2 x 15–20
Bicycle crunch2 x 25–30
Wheel rollout2 x 10–15
Workout B (Chest, shoulders, triceps, core)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Standing cable chest press2 x 12–14
Dumbbell one-arm shoulder press2 x 12–14
Reverse dumbbell fly2 x 12–14
Cable face pull2 x 12–14
Diamond push-up on knees2 x 12–14
Cable wood chop2 x 12–14
Captain’s chair leg and hip raise2 x 12–14
Lying alternating straight leg raise2 x 25–30
Workout C (Legs, glutes)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell sumo squat2 x 12–14
Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat2 x 12–14
Weighted one-leg hip thrust2 x 12–14
Smith machine kneeling rear kick2 x 12–14
Seated or lying leg curl2 x 12–14
Cable hip abduction2 x 15–20
Cable hip adduction2 x 15–20
Machine standing calf raise2 x 20–25

Alternatives for the cable/machine exercises


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