Total Body Strength Workout for Absolute Beginners

The total body workout below is specifically 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.

Total Body Strength for Beginners

Woman doing a lateral raise
Getty Images/John Fedele


See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions.

Equipment Needed
Light-Medium dumbbells, an exercise ball or chair and a mat.

How To

  • Begin with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up of light cardio (walking in place, etc.)
  • Perform 1 set of 12 reps of each exercise.  For the weighted exercise, choose a weight that allows you to complete 12 reps. The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible.  More about How to Choose Your Weight.
  • For more challenge, try Total Body Strength 3 which contains more difficult exercises.
  • Do this workout 1 to 3 non-consecutive days a week, taking at least one day of rest between workouts.

Assisted Lunges

single lunge
Ben Goldstein

Assisted Lunge

Stand in split stance, feet about 3 feet apart using a chair or wall for balance. Keeping torso straight, bend knees and lower body towards the floor without allowing 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.  If this bothers your knees, consider alternatives to lunges.

Bird Dog

superhuman core
Ben Goldstein

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, 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).

Seated Triceps Extension

Front Raise Triceps Extensions
Ben Goldstein

Triceps Extensions

Sit on a ball or chair and hold a light-medium dumbbell in both hands (hold on the top of the weight) 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.

Floor Squats with a Ball

Floor Squat

Stand with feet wider than shoulders and place hands on an exercise ball. Roll the ball out as you bend your knees, lowering the hips into a squat.  Keep the abs in, the back straight and make sure you keep the knees behind the toes as you squat. Stand back up as you roll the ball in, squeezing the glutes (avoid locking the knees).  Repeat squats for 1 set of 12 reps.

Got knee problems?  Try these alternatives to squats.

Wall Pushup

Wall or Rail Push Up

Stand a few feet away from a wall or a high stair railing (as shown) and place hands on wall or rail so that they're just wider than the shoulders. Pull the abs in and, keeping back straight, bend elbows and lower body towards the wall/rail until elbows are at 90 degree angles. Push back to start and repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

More About Pushup Variations.

One Arm Row

One Arm Row

Place left foot on a step or raised platform.  You can also prop one knee on a weight bench.

Hold a weight in the right hand and prop the left hand on the left thigh for support as you bend over (back flat and abs in), hanging the weight down towards the floor. Squeeze the back to pull the elbow 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 weight and repeat for 12 reps before switching sides.

Lateral Raise

Lateral Raise

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 a repeat for 1 set of 12 reps.

Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls

Stand with feet about hip-width apart, holding medium 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.

Seated Rotation for Abs

Seated Rotation for Abs

Sit with good posture holding a medium dumbbell in front of 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 12 reps.