A Simple Starter Workout

by Michael on June 5, 2009 · 4 comments

UPDATE: As of 8/24/2010, this easy workout can be yours as a free e-book, with additional helpful information, just for subscribing to the Tao of Bachelorhood! Just enter your e-mail address to the right of this article for your free download.

If you’ve never really worked out seriously before, the amount of information out there can make your head swim. I’m going to help you get started quickly with an easy workout plan I devised a couple of years ago.

I had let myself go just a little bit – with a new job it took a while for me to fit a workout into my day, then I pulled an abdominal muscle (You know how they say you involve your “core” in everything? Yep, true). Eventually I healed and found a gym near the office so I could pop out at lunch, get my pump on, and eat at the desk back at work.

Not exactly what I meant by "get ripped." (Flickr photo by Megyarsh)

Not exactly what I meant by "get ripped." (Flickr photo by Megyarsh)

But I got to thinking about efficiency in my workout plan. I needed to incorporate a mild cardio workout with my weights – there wasn’t time for both. Also, I wanted something that kept up my intensity better than the standard “guy workout”: 12 reps, rest, 10 reps, rest, 8 reps, and  then move on to the next exercise. (As we’ve discussed, intensity is critical to good results.)

I came up with something that filled the bill perfectly. I started seeing better results, faster than any plan I tried from books or magazines. The whole routine took not much more than a half-hour a day and after I was done I felt beat, but great. And it’s so simple my guess is that I’m not the first to figure it out – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere has developed it into a book and DVD set, with 30 testimonials and a catchy name.

Well, I’m giving it to you free, and you can call it whatever you want. Let me walk you through it, and then I’ll give you some help preparing.

Start with a cardio warm-up

You can do this just about anywhere – a public gym, a hotel fitness center, or your home gym (some dumbbells and a mat and there you are).

What you’re going to do first is five minutes of whatever kind of cardio you prefer: running, jumping rope, the elliptical or stair machines, anything. Keep a solid pace but don’t kill yourself. You should feel yourself breathing more heavily than usual, and sweating is fine too, but you shouldn’t have to pause to catch your breath afterward.

After your five minutes are up, you’re going to move to the weights.

Break up your body parts

The first day you perform this workout you’re going to do chest and back exercises. There are a lot of different exercises you can do here, but for this first day let’s make it these:

  • Chest press
  • Lat pull-downs
  • Flyes
  • Seated rows

These are exercises that should be available at any gym, and while they’re all done using machines, they’re relatively safe for your joints. After you get accustomed to having a plan, or you want to work out at home, you should substitute free-weight exercises, which will not only help shape your body faster, but will enable you to mutter “machines suck” under your breath like the pros do. (For example, no-machine substitutions for these exercises could be a dumbbell or barbell chest press, pull-ups, dumbbell flyes and bent-over rows.)

You’re going to do one set of each exercise, at a weight where you can do around 10 reps, give or take one or two, before your muscles “fail.” Plan at first to do much less weight than you think you can do. Perform each exercise smoothly – don’t jerk the weight or release it too fast. You should be in control of the weight the entire time.

After you finish your set of chest presses, move immediately to the pull-down bar and start your set there. Drink some water while you’re on the move. Then do the same with the flyes and rows, until you’ve finished one set of each exercise. Then head directly back to your cardio, and this time do three minutes.

Lather, rinse, repeat

After your second round of cardio, move back to the weights and finish another set of each. Then three more minutes of cardio and a third set of everything.

Congratulations, you just finished your first workout! Before you hit the shower, it’s a good idea to stretch the body parts you just worked on.

Tomorrow you’ll do the same program, substituting arm exercises for the chest and back exercises you did today:

  • Barbell curls
  • Tricep pull-downs
  • Shoulder press
  • Shrugs

And on the third day you’ll work on your legs and your core:

  • Leg press
  • Hamstring curls
  • Sit-ups
  • Back extensions

If you’re just starting out, I recommend a rest after the third day, then go back to the chest/back and continue through the cycle. At the very least, rest one or two days per week. As you get more accustomed to this, you can substitute new exercises (like squats instead of the leg press, or push-ups instead of the chest press), remembering to alternate body parts each day, and opposing muscle groups within each workout.

Prep makes perfect

A key to starting out on a workout program, especially a weightlifting workout, is knowledge of both the exercises and yourself. If you don’t know how to do an exercise, ask. There are also examples available on the ‘net (YouTube is a treasure trove). And bring a small notebook or other paper and a pencil so that you’ll remember the weight you’re using.

And on those first days, use light weights – if you’re unfamiliar with a movement, you might even want to try it with no weight at all. Just performing the movements and moving between the exercises will be plenty at first.

Bring water – always keep hydrated, especially as your intensity increases. And if you feel faint or chest pain or any kind of pain other than the “burn,” stop immediately and take a break.

I hope this gives you the little nudge you need to get started in your workouts, and remember, I’m here to answer any questions.

4 comments… read them below or add one

Dave June 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for the advice! I just got a membership and will be starting this workout today.


Michael June 29, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Way to go, Dave! Feel free to check back in with your progress.


Teslim April 13, 2014 at 11:45 am

Abdominal strength-building is a big thing at our scohol. Here are some exercises that may help:1. Reverse crunches: Lie on your back, arms crossed across your chest or flat on the ground at your side. Bend your knees and lift your legs so that your shins are parallel to the ground. Cross your ankles. From this position, lower your legs until your feet are about 3 inches off the ground, then hold for a count of four. Raise your legs back up. Repeat 8 times.2. V reaches: Lie on your back, arms flat at your sides. Lift your legs into the air, then split them into a large V. Reach your arms through your legs and hold for a count of 4, then relax. Repeat 8 times.3. Rope pulls: Lie on your back, knees bent but feet flat on the floor. Pretend that there is a rope going from your stomach up to the ceiling. For a count of eight, lift your back and abs off the floor and use your arms to climb the rope up. Relax, then repeat 8 times.4. Double extensions: Lie on the ground with knees bent and slightly raised, feet off the floor, arms crossed across your chest. Lift your head and upper back to focus on your knees. Simultaeneously, shoot your legs straight out to hover about 4 inches off the floor while you shoot your arms over your head. Return and repeat 8 times.5. Pushes: Lie on the ground with your knees bent, legs elevated off the floor. Raise your back and abs off the floor and extend your arms to either side of your knees, palms open and facing away from you. Sit up as high as you can, pushing away something in front of you. Pulse for a count of 8, rest, then repeat.These should get you started.


Michael May 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for the great information, Teslim! These are some great recommendations for bodyweight ab exercises you can work into a full-body program. I would suggest that for most people one or two per workout should be plenty (I’m a big fan of reverse crunches).

If you start working with free weights, you’ll get lots of core strength by performing squats, overhead lunges, standing shoulder presses, “good mornings” and deadlifts. Overall, do the workout routine you love – that’s what will keep you exercising.

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