So you want to get started with strength training? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article, I’ll outline a simple but effective training program for beginners. The program is entirely based on machines, and you’ll be working out twice per week.
This program is available completely free in our workout tracker StrengthLog, which you can download for free with the links below:
Of course, I’ll outline the program below as well. But if you download the app and use it to track your training, it will remember the weights and reps for you.
A beginner certainly doesn’t have to start his or her weight training career with machines.
We have a beginner barbell program that is equally effective for getting started with strength training, and it is more a matter of personal preference and circumstances which one is the better choice.
I’ve written a short post outlining the pros and cons of free weights vs. machines, and one of the advantages of machines is that they can give beginners a greater sense of safety when they first start out: There are instructions on the side of the machine, there’s seemingly not too much that can go wrong, and you don’t have to venture out in the exposed, open area of the free weight section.
Later on, I suggest you explore and at least try the free weight section because most people simply find it to be more fun. But if you’re new in the gym and don’t feel like hitting the barbell immediately, the machine area is a great place to start out.
The Beginner Machine Program
This machine-based program contains two workouts which you will alternate between, completing each workout once per week.
You could for instance be doing workout A on Mondays and workout B on Thursdays. The exact days are not important; just try to get three or four days of rest in between workouts.
Here’s how the workouts look.
- Leg Press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Leg Extension: 2 sets x 10 reps
- Chest Press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Seated Machine Row: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Machine Crunch: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Leg Press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Seated Leg Curl: 2 sets x 10 reps
- Shoulder Press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Lat Pulldown: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Back Extension: 3 sets x 10 reps
Each workout consists of five exercises and will work all your major muscle groups. You should be able to complete them in 30 to 45 minutes when you’ve gotten to know your way around the machines.
You will be doing two or three sets of ten repetitions of each exercise. When you can successfully complete all sets of ten reps in a given exercise, you increase the weight slightly the next workout.
Let’s take a closer look at the exercises in each of the workouts.
Beginner Machine Workout A
1. Leg Press, 3 sets x 10 reps
The leg press is a great lower body exercise. Use a long range of motion, and set up the safety pins so that they can take the weight if necessary.
2. Leg Extension, 2 sets x 10 reps
Make sure to set the machine up so that the pivot joint is in line with your knees.
3. Chest Press, 3 sets x 10 reps
Chest press machines come in many shapes, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t look exactly like the one pictured above. The details are not important; just make sure that you’re pushing something away from your body.
4. Seated Machine Row, 3 sets x 10 reps
Once again, the rowing machines differ in appearance and loading mechanism, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t look exactly like the one above. The important thing is that you are pulling something towards you.
5. Machine Crunch, 3 sets x 10 reps
Finally, for the last exercise of this workout: the machine crunch. Simply adjust the machine to your height and bend yourself forward.
Beginner Machine Workout B
1. Leg Press, 3 sets x 10 reps
Once again, you will kick the workout off with the leg press, because it is such a good catch-all for your lower body.
Strive to use more weight, but not at the expense of a long range of motion.
2. Seated Leg Curl, 2 sets x 10 reps
3. Shoulder Press, 3 sets x 10 reps
The machine shoulder press is another upper body pushing exercise, just like the chest press you did on workout A. But unlike the chest press, the shoulder press has you pressing vertically instead of horizontally, which means more work for your shoulders as well as your triceps.
4. Lat Pulldown, 3 sets x 10 reps
The lat pulldown is another upper body pulling exercise, similar to the rows you did in workout A. But, just like with the shoulder press, in this exercise we switch from a horizontal to a vertical direction of work.
5. Back Extension, 3 sets x 10 reps
If you decide to go with the variant in the image above, begin without any weight at all, and add weight by holding it against your chest when that gets too easy.
What Should You Do For Warm-Up?
Warming up before your workouts improves your performance, lowers your injury risk, and helps you shift your focus to the training.
I recommend a general warm-up in the form of five to ten minutes of medium intensity work on a crosstrainer, stationary bike, rowing machine, or similar.
After that, you can move on to the first exercise of the workout, which in the case of this program is the leg press. Begin with no or very light weight, and gradually increase the weight until you’ve reached your training weight.
After the first exercise, you are probably warmed up enough that you will only require one or two quick warm-up sets before each of the remaining exercises.
How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?
When you rest between sets, your muscles recover their energy and performance capacity.
When you’re just starting out on a weight training program, you generally don’t need a lot of rest in between sets. Just one or two minutes is generally enough.
Then, as you become stronger and more proficient, you will be able to tax your muscles harder in each set, and you might want to increase your rest to upwards two or three minutes between your toughest sets.
The rest between sets is not what is really important: lifting more weight or doing more reps than last time is. As long as you can do that, you’re resting long enough.
Read More: How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?
How Heavy Weights Should You Use?
Begin each exercise at a light weight that comfortably lets you complete all sets and reps.
The next time you’re in the gym to do that workout, increase the weight by one small step (for example 2.5 kg or 5 lb) and try to do all sets of ten reps again.
If you succeed, you increase the weight by another small step in the next workout. If you fail to get all sets of ten reps, you keep the weight the same for your next workout and once again try to get all sets and reps in.
The process outlined above captures the essence of strength training and is the most important thing to know about it. Lift a weight for a given number of sets and reps, and then try to lift more weight for the same number of reps in the next workout. If you follow this tactic, you will make quick gains in strength and muscle.
Write Down Your Weight and Reps, Buddy
In order to lift more than last time, you must write down how much you lifted, for how many reps, and in which exercises.
Fail to do this, and you will soon forget to improve upon your past performance. And if you don’t do that, then you will not get any results from your training. You will only be spinning your wheels in the gym.
Because this is so important, we have developed a workout log app to help you keep track of your weights and reps: StrengthLog.
StrengthLog is completely free to download and use as a workout tracker. It also has a bunch of free workouts and training programs, including this beginner machine program.
If you use the app to follow this program, then it will be easy for you to remember what weights you used in each exercise the last time you trained, which in turn will make it easier for you to improve on your last workout and see quicker training results.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below: