Simple Weekly Weight Lifting Routines for Beginners to Build Muscle

Written by | Posted under Exercising, Health and Wellness | 6 years ago

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The goal of building muscle in weight lifting is known as hypertrophy. Different than simply increasing strength or power, hypertrophy is an increase in the size of the muscle’s contractile area as a result of greater contractile proteins and a greater number and size of myofibrils in each fiber. Unlike maximal strength training, hypertrophy is best-achieved with just moderate loads. Therefore, to build the most muscle, you don’t always need to lift more. Here are the basic components of a hypertrophy program for beginners:


Because you are not taxing your muscles too much with each workout, you can perform a greater number of exercises than you would with a maximal strength or power training program. Choose about six exercises each weight lifting session, targeting all areas of the body. Because your goal is to increase size, focus on larger muscle groups such as the lats, pecs, gluts and quads.



Research has demonstrated that maximal hypertrophy occurs with moderate loads, at about the 65 to 82% of 1RM range. If you don’t know your 1RM for a given exercise, use the NSCA’s calculator.

Sets and Reps

Once again, sets and reps don’t need to be high to achieve maximum hypertrophy. Perform two to three sets of six to 12 repetitions of each exercise.


The amount of time you rest in between sets plays an important role in the way your muscles will adapt. Minimal rest between sets will improve muscular endurance, while maximal rest will improve strength and power. With hypertrophy, think moderation. About two to three minutes between sets is sufficient.

Increasing Load

For continued muscle growth over time, you’ll need to increase the amount of weight you lift. You can increase the amount of weight you lift for each exercise by about 5 to 10 percent when you can perform two additional repetitions beyond your target number for two consecutive sets (known as the 2-for-2 rule). For example, if you are performing the bench press with 150 lbs., and your goal is three sets of 10 reps, you can increase the load by about 8 to 15 lbs. when you can perform 12 repetitions twice in a row.


Absolute beginners should only perform two resistance training sessions per week to allow the muscles time to recover and grow. It’s during the rest periods that muscles grow, not while lifting. More advanced lifters can perform three sessions, and elite lifters can perform four or more.


The tempo you perform each lift is also important. For example, to improve muscular power, you need to perform lifts fast and explosively because power is a result of force, distance and time. Maximal strength, however, is best achieved when performing lifts slowly. Hypertrophy is highest when lifts are performed at a moderate tempo. However, research has demonstrated that the eccentric phase (sometimes called negatives) promotes greater hypertrophy than the concentric. The eccentric phase of a lift is the one in which the muscle lengthens, while in the concentric phase the muscle shortens.

For most lifts, the concentric phase is considered the lifting phase, while the eccentric phase returns the weight to its starting position. With the bench press, for example, pressing the bar to the sky is the concentric phase and lowering it back to the chest is eccentric. Perform lifts at a time ratio of 1:2 for the concentric vs. eccentric phase to promote maximal hypertrophy (i.e., a count of 1 on the way up, a count of 2 on the way down).

Sample Beginner’s Program

It doesn’t have to be super complicated when you’re just starting out. Think simple, moderate weight, and hit the major muscle groups. Make sure to warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of cardio and dynamic stretching before lifting weights.

Day 1

Bench press 3 x 10 @ 65%

Back squats 3 x 10 @ 65%

Bench pull 3 x 10 @ 65%

Leg press 3 x 10 @ 65%

Incline press 3 x 10 @ 65%

Leg extensions 3 x 10 @65%

Day 2

Chest flies 3 x 10 @ 65%

Overhead squats 3 x 10 @ 65%

Seated row 3 x 10 @ 65%

Straight-leg deadlifts 3 x 10 @65%

Decline press 3 x 10 @ 65%

Lat pulldowns 3 x 10 @65%

Week 2 Days 1 and 2

Same routine, but change to 3 sets of 8 at 70%

One Comment

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  1. Greatestmuscle said,

    Very good post! Printed the series to give to the new people at the gym

    6 years ago


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