Here's a workout I've evolved over time when friends ask for one. I figured I'd publish it here so it's easy to share and so my millions of blog reader can benefit from it.
Eventually I'll write up my manifesto about why everyone should do a boring, simple, regular light strength training workout and skip pretty much all other exercise activity, but for now I'll just say: This is a pretty complete full body workout, is not very challenging and becomes only somewhat challenging, and doing it regularly will quickly make you stronger than 85% [number I just made up] of your peers, give you more "energy", help you avoid injury, lower your blood pressure, insulin resistance, etc. etc., even when sticking with low weights.
First, I describe the different movements and show some videos. Then, I show you how many to do, how often, when to add weight, etc. If you're curious about seeing this overview before reading about the movements, scroll down to the "Programming" section.
First, a dynamic warm up. Many people say to never "stretch" before working out - science shows a dynamic warmup is better and safer. Your full-body strength training will be all the "stretch" that you need.
I can't find a video that I really like, so you can you can search for "dynamic warm up " on youtube or google and see if you find something you like. Skip the yogaesque movements that seem like they take strength to achieve. Or just start with this:
- Slow jumping jacks for 15-30 seconds
- Slow high knee marching in place for 15-30 seconds
- windmilling your arms around
- other warmuppy stuff that you remember from middle school P.E.
We'll start with a movement that uses no weights:
You can do them more slowly than shown there, whatever is comfortable. Go low enough so your hips go just below the level of your knees.
The first few of these might seem super easy, but doing all your sets and reps with good form will be more challenging than you expect. But you will soon get stronger! And then you'll be ready for goblet squats:
Bent-Over Arm Raise / Bent-Over Row
When just starting out, just do the bent-over arm raise with no weights.
When we want to add weight, we'll switch to bent-over row.
Do the workout 2-3 times per week.
Absolute beginner, with no weights
For each movement:
- no weights!
- do 3 sets of 3 repetitions
- rest 1 minute between sets
Each week, add a repetition to the sets. So, in week 2, you'll do 3 sets of 4 repetitions. Do this until you get to 8 repetitions. Don't do more than 8!
Congrats, you are doing 3 sets of 8 reps on all the no-weight exercises and you are ready to add weight!
You'll switch from the air squats to goblet squats, and from arm raises to bent-over rows. Overhead press is the same, you'll just start to add weight.
What equipment will you use? Dumbbells are still semi-mysteriously expensive. It's impossible to find a bargain on dumbbells. I guess they are composed of a lot of material, which can't be shipped cheaply, so it probably just comes down to that. If you go to a gym, it probably has set of dumbbells with several increments below 15 lbs. If you're buying something for your home, you will probably want to only pay for a set of 3 weights. If I had to recommend only one purchase for your home, it would be something like this - a set of 5lb, 10lb, and 15lb weights.
If you have access to weights in a lot of increments... (1lb, 2lb, 4lb, 6lb, ...)
- stick with 8 reps and never change that
- start with the lowest weight
- go to the next weight each week (or, if you prefer, each month. it's fine! just stick with it.)
If you only have access to a few weights in larger increments (5lb, 10lb, 15lb, ...)
- go back down to 3 reps
- start with the lowest weight
- each week, increase the number of reps
- when you reach 8 reps, this is your last week with that weight
- the next week, go back down to 3 reps, and increase the amount of weight
When should you stop increasing reps & weight?
There isn't a great scientific answer to this (although I think there will be one one day and it will change society). If you get to 8 reps with 15 lbs and you feel you are getting the benefits you want, then you can just stick with that forever and enjoy reaping the benefits of being significantly stronger than you used to be.
If you want to keep progressing, the simple answer is to keep adding weight. At some point it becomes a little annoying to do these exercises with dumbbells instead of barbells (getting into position for a goblet squat with a 90lb dumbbell is a hassle), or you might want to expand your strength training horizons a bit. At this point, I suggest switching to barbells . You can start your journey here and here.