The 7 best workouts for absolute beginners

It can be intimidating to start an exercise routine if you’ve never done it before. If you’re a fitness beginner, you may have heard so many mixed messages about what to do and what not to do that it’s even confusing to know where to start. We’re all beginners at times, so it’s helpful to have some guidance if you’re new to all the different types of exercise the fitness world has to offer.

With the help of some experts, we’ve determined the most important exercises you should do when trying to get an exercise routine going. Follow these tips to get the most out of your new workout.

What you need to know before you start

A common mistake many people make when starting a new exercise routine or regimen is doing too much, too quickly. Director of Education for Fitness Program and Equipment Hub, Living.Fit, Aaron Guyett says it’s best to start slower and lighter and do less than you think because too much at once can lead to burnout. That’s why people often stop when things feel too difficult.

“Remember to be able to exercise every day and the exponential growth and performance that comes from consistency over intensity,” Guyett explains. He suggests gradually adding intensity each week until you find your sweet spot.

You also need to be realistic about how often you train during the week: “Someone with two to three days of workout time in their schedule might be able to do full-body workout days, while those with three to five days available to work out might be able to do it.” split upper and lower body.”

Most importantly, Guyett says the key is to find workouts you enjoy doing and want to revisit. He recommends starting with full-body workouts and then working toward developing a workout that divides exercises for your upper and lower body.

Young medium sized woman doing squats on a yoga mat in the living room.
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A good rule of thumb is that any good workout program should include some form of squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, and carrying over the course of the week. Simply put, most of these exercises mimic everyday functions, such as helping you pick things up off the floor or sit down and get up again — which is why it’s important to maintain and improve on these strengths. If you’re not familiar with all the terms, don’t worry — all these types of exercises are included in our recommendations below. As you become more familiar with the basic moves, you can move on to more advanced exercises.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should take a rest day or two to help your body recover from your workouts. Remember, it’s about being consistent, not doing the most, or more than you can realistically handle.

If you are not sure if you are in good health to perform these activities, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Do you need equipment?

You will need dumbbells for these exercises as they are part of a strength training regimen. As a beginner, it’s important to start with a variety of light to moderate weights that you can lift comfortably with good form for 10 to 15 reps. Once you’ve completed one round of the reps, it counts as a set. Aim to do two to three sets of an exercise with one minute to three minutes of rest between sets.

A pair of bright blue dumbbells atop a purple yoga mat with a silver exercise ball.
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The weight you use depends on the type of exercise you do and your fitness level. “I’d start with two dumbbells that you can easily press overhead, then two dumbbells that you can squat down, and finally two dumbbells that you can carry,” Guyett says. In general, he says you should start very light with 5-pound and 10-pound dumbbells, but to keep in mind you’ll improve quickly after you start training. For women, he suggests having a set of 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-pound dumbbells, while men have sets of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 – and 40-pound dumbbells.

Be honest with yourself about the weight you can easily lift, because if it’s too light you won’t get all the benefits of that particular exercise, and if it’s too heavy, you’re at risk of injury. Once you feel you have mastered a good form exercise with your starting weight, you can slowly increase it by 5 to 10 percent every four to six weeks. For example, if you can easily squat a 25-pound dumbbell, you should try to squat 30 to 35 pounds next. One way to hold yourself accountable is to keep an exercise journal where you record the weights you use for each exercise.

Best Beginner Exercises

Now that you understand that less is more when it comes to starting a new exercise program, you need to know what specific exercises to do. Below are some exercises that are helpful to start with as you begin your training journey.


There are several variations of the squat that can help you familiarize yourself with the move. Guyett recommends the dumbbell front squat: Hold light to medium dumbbells at your shoulder with your elbows pointing forward in line with your chest. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, push your hips back as you bend your knees and come to at least a parallel squat position (when the knees are at a 90-degree angle). If you go too far past parallel, you can curve your lower back, which can lead to back pain.

It’s more important to get into shape first with this exercise, as it requires good wrist mobility to hold the dumbbells, and shoulders and ankles to keep you upright as you move into the squat.

If you’re looking for extra support when doing this exercise, you can place a bench or box behind you for reference. As you come down into the squat, control your body until your glutes touch the box or bench and return to their upright position.

glute bridge

If you want to train your glutes, but don’t feel completely comfortable with the squat, a glute bridge is a good alternative. Jake Dickson, a certified personal trainer and contributing editor at BarBend, says, “The glute bridge is a great technique for beginners because it stimulates your glutes, the large muscles in your rear.”

To perform the glute bridge, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your glutes and lift your hips so that your body creates a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Pause briefly and squeeze the glutes again, then return to the starting position. To make this exercise more difficult, you can add a dumbbell or barbell over the hips (add a mat for cushioning) as you master the movement.


The great thing about push-ups is that you can do them anywhere, without any equipment. There are also several variations that can make the exercise harder or easier, depending on your fitness level. For example, if you are an absolute beginner, the push-up can be done against a wall.

Once you get stronger, you can do it with your hands up on a ramp and gradually lower the height of the ramp to make it more challenging. Once you can do pushups from the floor, you can play with hand positioning and pace to increase the difficulty.


Deadlifts are considered one of the few exercises that closely align with the movements you use in everyday life, such as carrying heavy shopping bags and putting them down. There are also variations of this exercise and it can be done with barbells, barbells and kettlebells.

As a beginner, doing deadlifts with a pair of dumbbells in hand is a good start. This exercise will help you practice hinges from your hips, as well as your core, back, glutes, and hamstrings.

To do a dumbbell deadlift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a gentle bend in your knees, holding the dumbbells in front of you. Keep your shoulders back (avoid rounding your back) as you bend at the hips and push your hips back as you slowly lower your torso, keeping the dumbbells close to your shins. Stop once your body is parallel to the floor. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings at the bottom of the movement. Slowly return to the starting position while maintaining your form. As you improve your form on this exercise, you can increase the weight from the barbell or move on to barbells and kettlebells.

dumbbell rows

Pulling exercises like the dumbbell rows target the muscles on your back and can even help improve your posture. You will need a weight bench and a pair of dumbbells for this exercise. If you don’t have a weight bench, you can find one at most gyms, or use a similar bench you have at home (just make sure it’s sturdy).

Since this exercise is done with one arm at a time, you have to take turns on each side.

To start, bend over and place your left knee on the bench along with your left hand directly in front of you, aligned with your shoulder, supporting your body weight. In this position, your back should be flat. Meanwhile, with your right hand, hold a dumbbell extended toward the floor. To perform the row, roll your shoulders back, pulling the barbell in while pulling the elbow toward your hip.

As you improve your form for the dumbbell row, you can move on to other variations, such as the barbell or kettlebell row.

Farm food

This exercise can be done with dumbbells or kettlebells and will challenge the stabilization of your upper body, shoulder and core and strengthen your grip. The purpose of carrying the jack is to prepare for the ability to carry heavy objects in the hand. For example, if you want to transport all your heavy groceries in one ride instead of making several trips.

Personally, I like doing this exercise with kettlebells, but you can get the same effect with dumbbells.

To perform a jack’s carry, hold a heavy barbell that is challenging enough for your grip, but still achievable to hold in either hand. Pull your shoulders back and support your core, standing with your back straight as you walk across the room for time or distance. Concentrate on form as you do this exercise, taking breaks as needed.


Cardio has its own health benefits, and balancing it with strength training (including the other exercises on this list) can help you reap the benefits of even more exercise. Cardio can include anything that raises your heart rate, such as walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, running, or even taking a dance class. Typically, Guyett advises that beginners aim to strength train one to three days a week with some form of cardio one to three times a week. Doing cardio regularly is also a great way to keep your stamina and heart healthy.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.