As a newcomer to muscle building, seeing all the various machines and stations in a well equipped gym can be daunting. To further confuse the would be bodybuilder is to see people performing all kinds of different movements in their quest to build the perfect body. Where to begin?
The first step is to determine what your goals are. If you’re in the weight room I can assume that you are at least looking to build muscle. I will also assume that you want to improve your size, strength and appearance, which would mean you are interested in bodybuilding and not strength training or power lifting. With this in mind the second step is to determine where you are as a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is a continuum, and beginners can fall along that continuum in a few different spots. This article is for true beginners, defined as someone that has no base built yet (meaning you have less than 3-6 months, depending on age, of continuous lifting). With that in mind here are the absolute MUST DO exercises for you:
Military Press. This exercise works the shoulders and triceps.
Bench Press. This exercise works the chest, triceps and some shoulder.
Seated Row. This exercise works all the back muscles, biceps and some trapezius.
Lat Pull Down. This exercise works the large muscles of the back and biceps.
Squat. This works every muscle you have below the waist.
Notice that each of these exercises is a compound move, meaning it works more than one muscle at a time. Beginners should never spend time on isolation exercises, including bicep curls. By definition isolation moves are an advanced exercise and until you have a foundation built you are wasting valuable energy as well as time doing them. Beginners need to get bang for the lift.
When do you stop being a beginner? Obviously it varies according to age but the rule of thumb I use for people is when you can do all 5 of these exercises in a single workout, 3 times a week and not experience the “beginner’s soreness” anymore. If you are a seasoned lifter you get muscle soreness differently than beginning lifters. Until you have a foundation the soreness you feel is one that is actually restrictive of your range of motion and you don’t “feel” stronger workout to workout. Veteran lifters get sore but it’s a “good “sore. You’ll know the difference. Only then should you start adding to these 5 foundation building moves.