Full Body Strength Workout for Beginners

8 Simple Moves to Work Your Whole Body

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This full body workout is for beginners who have never lifted weights or who haven't lifted weights in a long time.  It hits all the major muscle groups with classic moves that you'll probably recognize. ​Take your time with the exercises and modify them to fit your needs.

Doing a whole-body strength training workout is excellent for beginners to start to work muscle groups throughout the body. It is important to work on a variety of muscle groups to prevent strength imbalances that can lead to instability, decreased flexibility, and falls.

Speak with a health care professional before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions.

Safety and Precautions

Anytime you start a new workout, it's a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional to make sure the exercise routine is safe for you. If any of these exercises cause low back pain, stop immediately, modify the exercise if it's appropriate, or swap in an exercise that does not aggravate the low back.

When you're working out with dumbbells, choose a weight that will allow you to complete all the reps with proper form. Lifting too much weight too fast can lead to injuries.

Overview

Total Time: 45 minutes

Level: Beginner

Equipment Needed: Exercise mat, dumbbells, exercise ball, medicine ball (optional)

What to Expect: Begin with quick warm-up of light cardio. Do this workout 1 to 3 non-consecutive days per week, taking at least one day of rest between workouts. For more challenge, try Total Body Strength 3, which contains more difficult exercises.

Perform 1 set of 12 reps of each exercise. For the weighted exercises, choose a weight that allows you to complete 12 reps. The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible. 

Warm-Up

Doing a 5- to 10-minute warm-up will increase the temperature of your muscles and help get the blood flowing to the muscles that you will exercise. A proper warm-up is an important part of preventing injury, especially for beginners.

A brisk walk is an excellent form of active warm-up, as are jumping jacks, stair climbing, and cardio machines like the elliptical trainer or recumbent bike.

The Workout

Cycle through the following exercises, doing the recommended number of reps recommended. For total beginners, going through the routine once is a great start.

To add intensity as you meet your fitness goals, you can do more than one set of each exercise. Be sure to intensify the workout gradually to lower the risk of injury or burnout.

Assisted Lunges

single lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

To perform the assisted lunge, stand in a split stance, feet about 3 feet apart, using a chair or wall for balance. Keeping the torso straight, bend the knees and lower the body towards the floor without allowing the front knee to bend over the toe (you should see the tip of your shoe). Push through the heel to come back up without locking the knees.

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps and then repeat the series with the other leg forward. 

Safety Tip

If this bothers your knees, consider alternatives to lunges. There are many ways you can activate the same muscle groups with lunges that are easier on your knees.

How to Do It Right

Whether you're doing an assisted lunge or another lunge variety, ensure you are using proper form to prevent injury and get the most benefit from the exercise. Keep your front knee at a right angle and make sure it is aligned with your toes.

Bird Dog

superhuman core

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

For the bird dog, begin on hands and knees with the back straight and the abs pulled in. Lift the right arm up until it is level with the body and, at the same time, lift the left leg up and straighten it until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for several seconds, then lower and repeat on the other side, this time lifting the left arm and right leg.

Continue alternating sides for 12 reps (1 rep includes both the right and left sides).

Safety Tip

This is one of the safest exercises for low back pain. If you struggle to coordinate arms and legs, do just the arm, then just the leg on each side.

How to Do It Right

When you're doing the bird dog exercise, think about your arm and leg forming a straight line. Focus on keeping your body still as you move your arms and legs, with hips square over the mat.

Seated Triceps Extension

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

To perform triceps extensions, sit on a ball or chair and hold one end of a light-medium dumbbell or a medicine ball in both hands with arms extended overhead, elbows next to ears, arms straight. Bend elbows and slowly lower weight behind you until elbows are at 90 degrees—keep the elbows in and right next to ears. Contract the back of the arms to extend the arms. 

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Safety Tip

Since you're lifting a weight over your head, it is important to make sure you can safely sustain that weight so it does not fall. If you notice your grip weakening as you progress through the set, shift to a lighter weight while you build more strength.

How to Do It Right

Pay attention to minimizing head movement during tricep extensions. If you're not accustomed to engaging the tricep muscles along with your core, your body might try to compensate by moving the head. If this happens, concentrate on engaging your core, and use a lighter weight if necessary.

Knee Push-Up

Woman doing a knee pushup

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

For a knee push-up, kneel on the ground and walk your upper body forward on your hands. Stack your hands under the shoulders. Pull the abs in and, keeping the back straight, bend your elbows and lower the body towards the floor until the elbows are at 90-degree angles, or as far as you can. Push back to start.

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Safety Tip

You can also do push-ups against a wall. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall and bend at the elbows so your forehead gets close to the wall. Slowly push your bodyweight away from the wall until your arms are fully extended again.

How to Do It Right

There are many variations on push-ups that you can use to modulate the intensity of the exercise. In each variation, make sure your hands are not placed too far forward. Keep your hands under your shoulders.

Rear Lunge Row

Woman in lunge position doing row exercise with dumbbells

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Hold a weight in each hand and bend over with one knee bent and the other leg extended behind you (back flat and abs in), hanging the weights down towards the floor. Squeeze the back to pull the elbows up in a rowing motion until it is level with the torso. You should feel your lats (the muscles on either side of your back) contracting. Lower the weights.

Repeat for 12 reps.

Safety Tip

The single-arm row is a variation that allows you to isolate each arm in this exercise. Hold one dumbbell in the arm you will use to do your rows, and place the other hand on the thigh of the same side.

How to Do It Right

As you complete this exercise, focus on pinching the shoulder blades together. This will help you target the correct muscles to make this an effective lat strengthener. There are also several variations on this exercise.

Lateral Raise

Standing woman lifting dumbbells to the side with both arms

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding light dumbbells in front of thighs with the palms facing each other. Keep a slight bend in the elbows to protect the joints and lift the arms out to the sides, just to shoulder level. Lower the weights.

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Safety Tip

Compared to exercises like rear lunge row, you will likely need a lighter weight for lateral raises. Using weights that are too heavy is a common mistake with this exercise. Start with light weight, and switch to a heavier option as you gain strength.

How to Do It Right

Lateral raises isolate the deltoid muscles of the shoulders. Make sure the weights are lifted through your strength alone, not by any momentum you generate while performing the exercise.

Hammer Curls

Woman holding dumbbells in hammer curl position

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stand with feet about hip-width apart, holding medium-wight dumbbells with the palms facing in. Squeeze the biceps to curl the weights towards the shoulders, keeping the elbows stationary. Slowly lower the weights, keeping a slight bend in the elbows at the bottom.

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Safety Tip

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, consider a variation of the hammer curl. Lifting weights in this position could exacerbate your carpal tunnel symptoms.

How to Do It Right

Make sure you are engaging your abdominal muscles as you lift the weight. This will prevent you from using momentum to aid in your hammer curls and will ensure your biceps are getting the most effective workout.

Seated Rotation for Abs

Woman sitting on a bench performing an ab rotation

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Using good posture, sit and hold a medium dumbbell or medicine ball in front of the chest. Keeping the abs contracted, rotate the torso to the right while keeping the hips and legs facing forward. Contract abs to bring the weight back to center and then rotate to the left.

Repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Safety Tip

If you notice any lower back pain while you are doing this exercise, do some cat-cow stretches, then switch to a lower weight and cautiously try again. If the pain persists, try other abdominal strengtheners that don't aggravate your back.

How to Do It Right

As you complete this exercise, make sure your hips remain squared to the front, and do not allow your knees to collapse to each side as you switch back and forth. This will ensure your core muscles remain activated.

Cool Down

Including a recovery period after your workout is an excellent way to allow your heart rate and breathing to return to baseline. Walk at a moderate pace for 5 to 10 minutes. You may also perform some stretching exercises.

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