I’m a big believer in bodyweight workouts.
As a certified personal trainer for almost 20 years, I’ve seen them make the perfect base to start your strength training journey. Exposure to training variety helps you build strength and functional fitness across your whole body.
This ABC beginner bodyweight workout plan will help get you started on the best possible footing.
Even if you’ve never trained before in your life!
In this case, ABC stands for All Bases Covered. It’s a workout plan I put together to keep my personal training clients fit and strong throughout lockdown. This is the beginner version, designed to help people get started with their training by increasing strength and range of movement.
Once you feel comfortable with this try out our beginner weight lifting routine. If you are no longer a beginner, check out our more advanced bodyweight workout plan or our more advanced weight lifting workout.
There are 4 shorter workouts per week in this program, and there are a couple of reasons for that…
- For beginners, the frequency of exercise trumps duration and intensity. When you’re new to training, you don’t want to go beating your body up.
- Establishing a frequent exercise habit is a big win. Simply getting used to doing something is half the battle.
In this program, we’ll work on…
- Building strength across the major movements (push, pull, twist, lunge, squat and hinge)
- Improving range of movement in the joints
- Establishing a frequent exercise regime
I’ll go into more detail about what we’re going to do and why in the section below.
I’m a believer in explaining what you’re going to do and more importantly, why you’re going to do it. That way when you’re struggling mid-workout, at least you’ll know why you’re doing what you’re doing!
In this article, I’m going to share with you a beginner bodyweight workout plan that is the perfect preparation for a more advanced work later.
- ABC Beginner Program: Build muscle & feel more energized in 4 weeks
- 5 Steps to get the most from the ABC Beginner Program
- ABC Beginner Program workouts
- Beginner bodyweight workout at home: ABC Beginner Program bonus tips
- ABC Beginner Program FAQs
- I’m really sore after my session – is that normal?
- I’m progressing well – how long should I keep doing the ABC Beginner program?
- Can I do these workouts alongside other exercises?
- What can I expect from the ABC Beginner Program?
- Some of the exercises are a struggle – can I swap them for something else?
- Do I need to do both types of workout in the program?
- ABC Beginner Program: The bottom line
ABC Beginner Program: Build muscle & feel more energized in 4 weeks
With the ABC Beginner Program the idea is to build a fantastic base level of fitness that will allow you to move onto more advanced workout programs.
By the time you’re ready to progress, you’ll have primed your body, reducing your injury risk and giving yourself the base strength to make real progress in the future.
When people start exercising, there’s a good chance that they lack mobility and stability around their joints.
This means that the risk of injury from exercise is higher.
It’s not that exercise itself is inherently dangerous – far from it – it’s just that if you try to run before you can walk you risk unnecessary injury. In the ABC Beginner Program we work on improving the health and function of your joints, as well as your muscles.
A lot of beginner programs don’t take this important first step and participants get injured as a result.
Here’s how the ABC Beginner Program will work…
1. Building stronger, healthier joints to feel more energized
There’s a good chance that your joints will lack the mobility required for advanced movements if you’re new to exercise.
So we need to get them ready.
We do this by exercising through a full range of movement. This has been proven to improve joint health and flexibility. It strengthens the muscles that stabilize a joint and lengthens the connective tissues to allow a full range of movement.
When you do this you will feel a big difference to your energy levels. It can honestly feel like you’re walking on clouds when you release the tension in your joints.
2. Building muscle and strength endurance
At this point in your fitness journey, we want to improve your strength and your strength endurance.
We’re not looking for anything elite yet.
We just want to be able to get you to a point where you can perform enough reps of each exercise that you can build a ‘training effect’… a level of fatigue where you begin to create changes in your body.
The good news is that within 4 weeks you will notice changes happen to your body. That’s really not a long time! This time next month you will see a difference to your body if you follow this plan.
3. Creating an exercise habit
One of the barriers to exercise in beginners is the size of the lifestyle upheaval.
If you’re not used to exercising, the idea of finding 5 hours per week is super intimidating. To get around that problem these workouts are around 20-30 minutes long and they’re 4 times per week.
The plan is to get you exercising regularly but without a large time commitment.
It’s about habit building and research shows us that frequently engaging in positive behavior helps to make it a habit.
5 Steps to get the most from the ABC Beginner Program
Here are a few ways to maximize your return from the program. It’ll help you to understand what ‘normal’ is and how to assess your progress…
Step 1: Do 4 workouts each week
When you follow the beginner ABC Program, a sample week could look like this…
- Monday: Joint health workout
- Tuesday: Strength workout
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Joint health workout
- Friday: Strength workout
- Weekend: Walking 10k steps per day
Bear in mind this is just a guideline, you could tweak it to suit you and your circumstances. What you do on your rest days is up to you.
The focus should be on rest and recovery.
But I’ve found clients who get the best results make exercise a habit. The best way to engrain a habit is to do something (no matter how small) every day.
Step 2: Keep workouts under 30 minutes
The key here is the intensity of your workouts.
There are loads of benefits of HIIT as you can see in our research. But the main benefit is that it means most people find the time to do these beginner bodyweight workouts. You’ll also be more likely to stick with the plan for at least 4 weeks.
FYI… we have around 112 waking hours every week. You can use 2 (4 half-hour workouts) of these hours to exercise… yes, even on those busy weeks!
Step 3: Perform 3 sets of each exercise
Each workout has a slightly different focus.
But to keep things simple I’ve designed a plan that uses 3 sets per exercise.
You can choose to perform one exercise after another (which can help to reduce rest needed). Or you can tick one exercise off by performing 3 sets after each other for the same exercise.
Step 4: Use the ABC Beginner Program for 4 weeks
Any program you do should last for at least a couple of weeks. But for this beginner bodyweight workout at home, I would not advise sticking to it for much more than that.
Getting bored of the same exercises is the obvious reason.
But more importantly, your body will adapt and become used to it. It’s important to mix up the exercises and programs to follow every few months to avoid plateauing.
Step 5: Monitor your progress
What gets tracked gets done!
If you want to see the best results you need to track your progress. Make a note of the days you perform each workout.
And here are some tips for notes to make for each workout:
- Joint health: Any exercises you struggle to perform the full range of motion. Any exercises you could not complete a set of 10 reps.
- Strength: Make a note of when you needed to rest and your intensity/form dropped. Also, note roughly how many reps you perform for each exercise.
ABC Beginner Program workouts
In this program, you’ll train 4 times per week. Each workout will have a different theme, so you’ll have a new focus and challenge on the different days.
The workouts will be a maximum of 30 minutes each, so across the 4 days, you’ll do a total of 2 hours of ABC Program workouts. If you want to top this up with cardio outside of the workouts you do, feel free.
The workouts are designed to alternate joint health days with strength-building days.
Beginner bodyweight workout 1: Joint health workout
Time required: ~30 minutes
Sets and reps: 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise. In the case of single-sided exercises, perform 10 per side. Rest for a maximum of 60 seconds between sets.
Focus: full range of movement with every exercise.
The important takeaway here is you’re supposed to work through a FULL range of movement. Take each exercise to a deep stretch and hold it there for a few seconds mid-rep. It won’t always be comfortable, but it will be worth it!
I can’t stress the need to exercise through the full range of movement part enough.
It will feel odd at first, but relax, go with the movement, and enjoy the effects. They’ll stretch the muscles and connective tissues, making them work more effectively. It’ll also improve your ability to move, which also reduces the risk of injury and make you feel like you have more energy.
- Knee-over-toes split squat
This interpretation of a classic exercise changes the feeling entirely. You help to improve ankle mobility, knee health, quad and glute strength and finally, you stretch the hip flexors.
- Assume a lunge position with your back foot elevated on a bench
- Lower yourself into a very deep split squat, forcing your knees over your toes to improve ankle mobility
- You should feel the hip flexor of the back leg really stretch too
- Hold this position for a good 5-10 seconds to elongate the stretch
- Push back up through the front foot and repeat
Note: Don’t like the knee-over-toes split squat? Check out some of our other split squat alternatives and variations instead.
- Eccentric calf raises
This is another one that helps with ankle mobility, but it also strengthens the calf muscle and stretches the Achilles tendon.
- Stand with your toes on the edge of a box or step
- Lower yourself as far as you can go with your toes still on the bench
- Feel the stretch for 10+ seconds, then slowly stand back on your tip toes
- Scapular push ups
These help to maintain thoracic mobility and the strength and stability required to control the movement of the scapular throughout various exercises.
- Assume the standard push up position with a tight core and long body
- Keeping your arms straight throughout, lower your torso towards the floor by letting your shoulder blades come together
- Return to the start position by pushing your torso back ‘through’ your shoulder blades
- Full range dips
Doing dips to full range helps to train the chest, shoulders and triceps whilst stretching the chest and shoulders. This helps to keep the shoulders and elbows healthy.
- Hop onto a dip bar and tip yourself slightly forward
- Lower yourself down until you feel a good stretch across your chest and shoulders
- Hold this position for a few seconds
- Press back up to a straight arm and repeat
- Box step up
This is an excellent way to stretch the legs, opening up the hip flexors and forcing a long time under tension through each rep. They’re also easy to do at home.
- Place one foot on a high step, the other foot on the floor
- Drive through the foot on the step, lifting the foot from the floor up
- Stand with both feet on the step, then step down one foot at a time
- Repeat as many times as required
Beginner bodyweight workout 2: Strength building workout
Time required: ~30 minutes
Sets and reps: 3 sets of 60 seconds continuous reps per exercise. In the case of single-sided exercises, alternate one rep on each side. Rest for a maximum of 90 seconds between sets.
Focus: higher rep work and getting the body used to working for longer.
The strength-building workouts are more intense than the joint health workouts. But these lay the foundations for the progression in future. The sets are longer, the rep numbers are higher and you’ll be getting fatigued more frequently.
Make sure you maintain your movement quality throughout each rep.
And make sure you work as hard as you can in each training session. Your results will be directly proportional to the amount of work you put in!
- Push ups
Push ups are the OG of bodyweight chest exercises. Use them through a full range of motion to improve explosive chest strength.
- Assume the standard push up position, tight core, long body
- Slowly lower yourself down until your torso nearly touches the floor
- Push yourself back up until your arms are straight again
- Alternating lunges
Lunges are a functional exercise that build single leg power and strength. They’re another with great sports carryover.
- Start in a normal standing position
- Step forward, bending your back knee until it almost touches the floor. The front leg will bend to 90 degrees
- Push back from the front leg, back to a standing position
- Repeat with the other leg
- Glute bridges
A great exercise for strengthening the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Easy to do at home as well!
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
- Keeping only your shoulders on the floor, drive your hips upwards by pushing your feet into the floor
- At the top of the movement squeeze your glutes together tightly
- Lower yourself back down towards the floor (don’t let your glutes rest on the floor though)
The plank is a fundamental abdominal exercise, but it also benefits other areas of the body. It helps with core control, shoulder stability and also helps to engage the quads. There’s also very little technique to learn.
- Lie face down, supporting your body weight on your forearms and toes
- Keep your entire body rigid straight, using your abdominal muscles to prevent your lower back from ‘sagging’
- Maintain that posture for the entire duration of the set
A perfect exercise for developing leg strength and power, this exercise has huge carryover into sports performance.
- Lower yourself into a deep squat, until your thighs break parallel with the floor
- Keeping your chest up, drive your feet into the floor and stand back up
- Dorsal raises
The dorsal raise is a simple back exercise that helps strengthen right through the middle of the back, down to the glutes. It’s a simple but effective exercise and really helpful for preventing injury.
- Lie face down on the floor
- Lift your upper and lower body off the floor at the same time, making you ‘U’ shaped
- Repeat for the whole minute
Beginner bodyweight workout at home: ABC Beginner Program bonus tips
1. Take your time
Remember, this is a beginner program.
This is to help you get started – don’t rush it, build good habits, good practice and work on your fitness. The harder work will come, so for now focus on where you’re at in your journey.
Don’t compare yourself to others, just focus on getting better each week.
2. It’s normal to feel stiff!
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a curse of the new workout!
When you start training, your muscles won’t be used to exercise so you might feel really sore and stiff for a few days afterwards.
THIS IS TOTALLY NORMAL!
Keep moving, eat plenty of protein and drink lots of water. It’ll go away in a few days and won’t persist beyond a couple of workouts.
3. Keep a diary
Keeping a workout diary really helps with your motivation levels.
This is something I have seen consistently over the years with hundreds of clients. It may feel like more work and you may think you don’t need it.
But please just trust me on this one.
Progress comes in lots of different forms. So keeping a track of your workouts with a diary will help you see when you’ve done more reps and sets.
Make a record of the reps you managed to complete with each set, how you felt and what your goals are for next week. You’ll be amazed at the progress you’ll make within a few weeks.
4. Don’t skip workouts!
There’s a misconception about ‘fit’ people always being motivated.
The reality is these people aren’t motivated to exercise all the time… they just do it anyway. They exercise because they understand that it’ll make them feel better, be healthier and help them enjoy life more.
Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t jump out of bed excited to train. Most people don’t! Remember – perpetual motivation is a myth, fit people do it anyway!
P.S. If you do miss a day, just make sure you don’t miss the next one. It’s really easy to catch up one session… but it’s real easy to spiral out of control and quit once you miss two in a row.
5. Stack the deck in your favor
Your job here is to make it easy to establish the habit.
So, if you know you’ll be too tired to train after work, do it in the morning. This is a bodyweight program so you can do it at home – there’s no need to venture out into a gym in order to do the workouts.
Likewise, pick days that suit you.
If you know there’s a particular day when you’re really busy, don’t make a promise to yourself you’ll train and then be deflated if you can’t. Give yourself the time to workout properly and you’ll get more from it.
Plan it into your existing schedule.
ABC Beginner Program FAQs
I’m really sore after my session – is that normal?
Yes, this is completely normal. It’s called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and happens when your muscles and connective tissues train in a way they’re not used to. It’s nothing serious, it gets better in a few days and isn’t a long-term issue. As your body adapts to exercise it’ll stop!
Continue to move, drink lots of water and eat good protein and it’ll go away in a few days. You are still able to train with DOMS, it’ll just take a bit of time to warm up!
I’m progressing well – how long should I keep doing the ABC Beginner program?
We all progress at different rates and it depends on where you’re starting from, but I’d suggest a minimum of 2 weeks on this program.
Once you can complete every rep in every set on both workouts, it’s time to move up to the more advanced version.
Can I do these workouts alongside other exercises?
You can, but bear in mind if you’re a beginner to exercise, this may already be enough. If you feel you’ve got the energy, go ahead and do something alongside it, certainly! Just make sure you don’t compromise your recovery enough to make these workouts too tough.
What can I expect from the ABC Beginner Program?
If you’re brand new to exercise you can expect to feel sore in the first week because you’re asking your body to do more than it’s used to. This pain will go away, so please stick with it.
You’ll then start to notice your strength climb pretty quickly. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you make – you’ll be able to go from a few reps to lots of reps within a few weeks!
Some of the exercises are a struggle – can I swap them for something else?
On the strength workouts, absolutely – just make sure you’re switching them like-for-like. What this means is if you’re struggling with a push up for example, switch it for an easier push up, not an exercise that trains a different body part!
Don’t switch the range of movement exercises – you’re probably struggling with them because of the lack of flexibility. Stick with them and this will improve significantly in time.
Do I need to do both types of workout in the program?
Yes, the purpose is to cover multiple elements of fitness in the one program, so it’s important you do both types of workouts. Do them both twice per week to establish a good routine and enjoy the fitness benefits.
There’s also a valuable lesson in there – when it comes to fitness, sometimes you’ll have to do what you need to do, not what you want to do!
ABC Beginner Program: The bottom line
The ABC beginner program will give you a nice introduction to bodyweight workouts.
It’s designed to challenge you. But it will give you a solid platform from which to build your fitness. The 4 short sessions per week will encourage you to build an exercise habit, which will make it easier to stick with the program.
By following the ABC beginner program you’ll improve your strength and mobility. Which will pave the way for more advanced workouts in the future.
Enjoy this first step on your fitness journey!
Once you feel comfortable with this try out our more advanced bodyweight workout plan. Or even our beginner weight lifting routine. Want to create your own workouts? Consider reading our article on how to build a workout plan.