Learn How to Lift Weights (and Build Muscle)

4-Week Beginner Workout Plan

Weightlifting is one of the best ways to build muscle and lower your body fat percentage. A 2006 review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that weightlifting will also increase your bone mass, improve your cardiovascular levels, and enhance your sense of well-being.

If your goal is to learn how to lift weights, but you aren’t exactly sure where to get started, I’ve got you covered. This four-week strength program will provide you with a strength foundation and teach you the basics.

Because everyone has different strength levels, here are general recommendations to determine the amount of weight you should lift. For upper-body exercises, I recommend starting with 7.5- to 10-pound dumbbells. If the weight is too light or too easy, feel free to make adjustments. For lower-body exercises with dumbbells, start with 10- to 15-pound dumbbells increasing or decreasing the weight as necessary. For barbell exercises, begin by adding 10 pounds to each side increasing or decreasing the weight as needed.

As always, make sure to warm up and cool down before and after your workout.

Week 1

This week you’ll start with basic movements to build your strength foundation.

Monday

  • Glute bridge: two sets of 10 reps
  • Lateral band walk: two sets of 10 reps, each direction
  • Dumbbell squat: 12 reps
  • Walking lunge: two sets of 10 reps, each leg
  • Cable machine Romanian deadlift: three sets of 12 reps

Tuesday

  • Plank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side
  • Bicep curl: three sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell bench press: three sets of 10 reps
  • Single-arm row: three sets of 10 reps
  • Push-up: three sets of 10 reps (can be modified and done on your knees)

Wednesday

You’re off to a great start and now it’s time to give your muscles a rest. Foam roll, stretch, take a yoga class — just do something that will make you feel good.

Thursday

Yes, this is a strength program but it’s imperative to give your muscles a rest. Today, you’re going to cross-train. Consider doing a light 15-30 minute run, swimming, riding a bike, or using the elliptical.

Friday

  • Glute bridge: two sets of 10 reps
  • Plank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side

The remainder of the workout will be completed as a circuit. Take minimal rest in between exercises (listen to your body) and no more than two minutes of rest in between each round. Complete two to three rounds (if you’re feeling completely exhausted after two rounds, stop).

  • Dumbbell squat press: 10 reps
  • Frogger: 10 reps (you can also do standard burpee)
  • Lateral lunge with high pull: 10 reps
  • Mountain climber: 20 reps
  • Bent-over row: 10 reps
  • High knees: 20 reps

Saturday and Sunday
Congratulations, week one of training is officially complete. If you’re feeling tight or sore, take an epsom salt bath, relax in the steam room, roll out, and most importantly, keep moving to loosen up your muscles.

 

Week 2

During week two, you’ll be introduced to a few new exercises and the volume (the amount of sets and reps) will increase slightly.

Monday

  • Glute bridge: two sets of 10 reps
  • Lateral band walk: two sets of 10 reps, each direction
  • Goblet squat: three sets of 12 reps
  • Hamstring curl: three sets of 10 reps
  • Reverse lunge with twist: three sets of 12 reps
  • Romanian deadlift: three sets of 10 reps

Tuesday

  • Plank walkout: two sets of 10 repsPlank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side
  • Bicep curl and overhead press: three sets of 12 reps
  • Cable pullover: three sets of 12 reps
  • Triceps extension: three sets of 12 reps
  • Plank with shoulder tap: three sets of 10 reps

Wednesday

You’re been working hard and now it’s time to give your muscles some TLC. Stretch and get ready for tomorrow.

Thursday

It’s time to cross-train, again. This week, you’ll be doing sprints. You can do them outside on a field or a track, or inside on the treadmill. If you’re running outside, do eight 100-meter sprints (around 80-85 percent of your fastest sprint) and take one minute of rest in between each sprint.

If you’re on the treadmill, complete eight 30-second sprints, taking one minute of rest in between sprints. The speed will vary person to person; try sprinting between 6 and 9 mph, but ultimately, find a speed that challenges you.

Friday

  • Clamshell: two sets of 10 reps
  • Plank with knee tap: two sets of 10 reps
  • Side plank leg lift: two sets of 10 reps
  • Single-arm overhead squat: three sets of 12 reps, each arm
  • Bent-over row: three sets of 12 reps
  • Narrow stance deadlift: four sets of 12 reps
  • Bent-over reverse fly: four sets of 10 reps

Saturday and Sunday
Take these two days to rest and recover. If you’re feeling sore, foam roll, stretch, and continue to move your body.

 

Week 3


This week, you’ll notice that the volume has increased and that exercises like the glute bridge have progressed.

Monday

  • Lateral band walk: two sets of 10 reps, each direction
  • Weighted glute bridge: three sets of 10 reps
  • Barbell squat: four sets of 10 reps
  • Walking lunge: three sets of 10 reps, each leg
  • Hex bar deadlift: four sets of 12 reps

Tuesday

  • Plank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side
  • Bicep curl: four sets of 10 reps
  • Dumbbell bench press: four sets of 10 reps
  • Single-arm row: four sets of 10 reps
  • Push-up: two sets of 12 reps (can be modified and done on your knees)
  • Banded assisted pull-up: two sets of eight reps

Wednesday

You’re probably sore, so take today to rest and recover. Foam roll, stretch, take a yoga class — just do something that will make you feel good.

Thursday

It’s cross-training time. By now you should know what to do. If not, consider doing a light 20-30 minute run, swimming, riding a bike, or using the elliptical.

Friday

  • Weighted glute bridge: three sets of 10 reps
  • Plank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side

The remainder of the workout will be completed as a circuit. Take minimal rest in between exercises (listen to your body) and no more than two minutes of rest in between each round. Complete four rounds.

  • Dumbbell squat press: 12 reps
  • Burpee: 12 reps
  • Lateral lunge with high pull: 12 reps
  • Mountain climber: 30 reps
  • Bent-over row: 10 reps
  • High knees: 30 reps

Saturday and Sunday

Way to work. Week three of training is complete. If you’re feeling tight or sore, take an epsom salt bath, relax in the steam room, roll out, and most importantly keep moving to loosen up your muscles.

 

Week 4

You’ve been working hard for the past three weeks, and now it’s time to crush week four.

Monday

  • Lateral band walk: two sets of 10 reps, each direction
  • Weighted glute bride: three sets of 10 reps
  • Barbell squat: four sets of 12 reps
  • Hamstring curl: four sets of 10 reps
  • Reverse lunch with twist: four sets of 12 reps
  • Hex bar deadlift: four sets of 10 reps

Tuesday

  • Plank walkout: two sets of 10 reps
  • Plank with lateral arm reach: two sets of 10 reps, each side
  • Bicep curl and overhead press: four sets of 12 reps
  • Cable pullover: four sets of 12 reps
  • Triceps extension: four sets of 12 reps

Wednesday
Give your muscles a break and take a rest day; you deserve it. Stretch and get ready for tomorrow.

Thursday
It’s time to sprint again. You can sprint outside on a field or a track, or inside on the treadmill. If you’re running outside, do 10 100-meter sprints (around 80-85 percent of your fastest sprint) and take one minute of rest in between each sprint.

If you’re on the treadmill, complete 10 30-seconds sprints, taking one minute of rest in between sprints. The speed will vary person to person; try sprinting between 6 and 9 mph, but ultimately, find a speed that challenges you.

Friday

  • Clamshell: two sets of 10 reps
  • Plank with knee tap: two sets of 10 reps
  • Side plank leg lift: two sets of 10 reps
  • Single-arm overhead squat: three sets of 12 reps, each arm
  • Narrow stance deadlift: four sets of 12 reps
  • Banded assisted pull-up: three sets of 10 reps
  • Burpee: three sets to failure (as many as you can until you can’t do anymore)

Saturday
Shake your body out with a 20-minute light run. The pace is up to you.

Sunday Way to work! You’re officially done with the four-week plan. It’s time to rest and let your body recover. If you’d like, you can start the program over again.