A Beginner Workout Plan for Your First Week in the Gym

person taking a short break during a workout
Being new to the gym doesn't have to be intimidating and confusing. Use this beginner workout plan to get started on your fitness journey!

by Autumn Jones

OK, so you've decided to start working out, signed up at a fitness club, and packed your gym bag. That's awesome! Wondering what's next? It's time to create a beginner workout plan that can boost your confidence and prepare you for your first few gym visits.

While there's no set number of hours you need to spend working out each week, scheduling some extra time in the gym to learn where the different pieces of equipment are — and how to use them — can save you valuable time once you're there. Here are three great beginner workouts for someone who can carve out a few gym visits per week.

Your Beginner Workout Plan

It's a good idea to try and make it into the gym a few days a week, if possible. This can help jump-start your fitness journey and make your workouts feel like a normal part of your daily routine. Remember, the key to any successful workout is to warm up your muscles before you begin and cool down your muscles immediately following your workout — this can be as simple as walking for three to five minutes on the treadmill. After you've warmed up, here are some exercises you can tackle during your first three visits to the gym.

Workout 1: Cardio

To begin, choose a cardio machine (like the treadmill or the elliptical) and aim to stick with it for 20 to 25 minutes or whatever seems achievable for you. Start off slow and gradually adjust the incline, resistance, or speed if you think you can handle more.

This is a great, simple way to ease into your routine and get used to the gym environment. Cardio machines also offer a manageable workout for those new to the gym. As Verywell Fit notes, you can "push your limits just enough that you're doing more, but not so much that you feel breathless or uncomfortable."

Workout 2: Lower Body

The large muscle groups in your lower body are important because they are responsible for activities like climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car, or playing fetch with a furry friend. To start strengthening your hamstrings, glutes, and quads, use this beginner workout plan for the lower body that takes you through three rounds of box squats, stationary lunges, calf raises, and glute bridges. It's a great introduction to working these muscle groups!

Workout 3: Upper Body

To keep things balanced, you'll want to show some love to the muscle groups in your upper body. Complete three rounds of the exercises below on your third visit.

1. Lat pulldown: To start, select a low weight and sit on the seat so that your thighs are underneath the pads. Grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip; your hands should be approximately shoulder-width apart. Now pull the bar down to about chin level (or a little lower) while keeping your back at a slight angle. Without releasing your grip, slowly let the bar rise back up to the starting position. This counts as one repetition! Try to complete 10 reps before taking a break.

2. High plank: Start in a "table-top" position, with your hands and knees on the floor and your back parallel to the ground. Once you feel stable, extend your legs back behind you so that your body forms a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. Now activate your core by flexing your abdominal muscles. Try to hold this position for a count of 15 seconds before slowly returning your knees to the floor.

3. Dumbbell chest press: Grab a set of dumbbells that you can lift without straining your muscles. Lie down on a flat bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your upper arm and forearm should create a 90-degree angle. Extend your elbows out away from your ribcage so they are in line with your shoulders. Rotate your wrists so your palms face forward (away from your face). Use your chest muscles to push the dumbbells upward, exhaling as you go. When your arms are fully extended, take a moment and tighten the muscles in your chest. Hold this position before slowly lowering the dumbbells. Aim to make lowering the weights take longer than lifting them. This is one repetition!

If you're feeling up for it, you can also choose among these basic shoulder and arm exercises for beginners and incorporate a different one into your routine each week.

Building on Your Success

During your first few gym visits, simply focus on getting acquainted with the equipment and figuring out a cadence that works for you. At Planet Fitness, members can take advantage of the [email protected] program, which offers an orientation of the gym with a certified trainer who can provide instruction for all cardio and strength machines. This amenity is included in the cost of membership and offers a great opportunity to become familiar with the equipment, ask the trainer questions, and get helpful advice for developing the best beginner workout plan for you.

Remember, getting to the gym is a huge step in the right direction and should be celebrated! Reward yourself for a job well done and share your workout successes with a supportive tribe of fellow gym-goers by posting on Planet of Triumphs. Confidence builds over time, and everyone has to start somewhere!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.