Basic Terms & What to do for Beginners


What is a Set and a Rep?
A rep is the number of times you perform an exercise before a rest period.
A set is the number of cycles of reps that you complete.

How Many Sets should I do?
Research shows that a beginner can get the same benefits from doing one set then a beginner doing three or four. The reason for this is because muscles respond quickly to resistance exercise in untrained individuals. However, after about three months, individuals will become less responsive and multiple sets (three to five sets) will become necessary.

How many reps should I do?
This basically depends on what you want to achieve. their are three basic types: muscular strenght, muscular endurance, and muscular size.

  • If you want to gain muscular strength, I would recommend doing 1-5 reps. This means you have to be fatigued by the 5th rep at latest.
  • If you want to gain muscular endurance, I would recommend doing 15-20 reps. Muscular endurance will give you that lean and toned look.
  • If you want to gain muscular size, I would recommend doing 6-12 reps. Again the point of this is to fatigue your muscles by the 12th rep at the latest and the 8th rep at the earliest.

How much should I rest between sets?

  • For muscular strength, you should rest between 3-5 minutes.
  • For muscular endurance, you should rest about 1min to 1min 30 seconds.
  • for muscular size, you should rest about 1min 30 seconds to 2mins.

How many days should I lift?
Beginners’ can work out around two to three days a week.
More advanced lifters should be lifting at least four times a week.

How much weight should I start with?
This is basically trial and error. Try to estimate how much you think you can do realistically. Don't look at a professionally body builder and assume you can lift what he is lifting. It is always better to start off with lest weight than more weight.
Also remember proper form is key to insuring muscle development and preventing against injury, when you try and lift too much you lose form.

Free weights vs. machines

Pulleys, cams, and cables provide increased control over the direction and pattern of resistance.

Advantages to machines: Safety, flexibility, Ease of use.

Machines are probably the best for beginners until they are able to develop balance to use free weights.

Free weights
Gravity is the source of resistance.

Advantages to free weights: Whole body training, Simulation of real life activities.

Because of the whole body training you achieve from free weights they are generally better.

How important is the order in which I perform exercises?
Research shows that the order in which you perform exercises greatly affects strength. Also, it is grounds for making a workout schedule.
EX: If you work out you're bicep and then try and do lat pull-downs (which use biceps, shoulders and back), you wont be able to do as many because your biceps are to fatigued.

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Another great post by Arm88,

justin's picture

Another great post by Arm88, I would like to add that, if your new to the gym. Take a pen / piece of paper, practice a few exercises specific to the goals your going for, then right it down for next time.

So for example: Your aiming for 15 reps before you fatigued. Find the right amount of weight for each exercise and write it down. This allows you to improve upon it for the next time, and easily make new routines.

After you've found the popper weight, make an routine or workout guide from your list of exercises. Sure enough you can find an substantial amount of workout guides & routines on this site.

Thanks for some helpful

cameron's picture

Thanks for some helpful info.

Quick question. Why are some muscular guys "puffy" while other muscular guys look hard as rock all over?


Usually has to do with

arm88's picture

Usually has to do with genetics, but also a reason for this could be % of body fat. Often people who look hard as a rock are solid muscle with like 5% body fat.

Here's my paradigm example,

cameron's picture

Here's my paradigm example, Alex:

John Cena: puffy muscular
John Morrison: hard muscular

I want to be more like John Morrison.


Both of them probably train

arm88's picture

Both of them probably train their bodies differently. Cena may focus on his arm more, while Morrison may focus on abs.

Also, it could come down to genetics, Morrison probably gains muscle on his abs better than Cena, and Cena probably gains muscle better on his biceps.

There are multiple things this could be. Everybody’s body is different. As you work out more and more, you get to know your body. You'll find out where you gain muscle and lose weight the fastest, ect.

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No, I'm not referring to

cameron's picture

No, I'm not referring to size. Cena's got a soft puffy look to his body. Morrison's whole body is hard--not just his abs. Cena's got excellent abs but they are puffy looking. LOL I wish I had $1 for each time I've used "puffy".

I've seen guys on the beach that way too. Some guys muscular and defined but puffy and other guys muscular and defined but very hard looking.

Maybe Cena does have way too much bodyfat his abs still look defined.

I guess I'm not making myself clear but that's the best I can do.


I think I understand now.

arm88's picture

I think I understand now. lol, That just comes down to genetics.

And--maybe-- to

cameron's picture

And--maybe-- to performance-enhancing drugs. I don't want to put drugs into my body. I want to gain lean muscle mass by eating a LOT and lifting wisely for growth.


Haha yeah, thats true.

arm88's picture

Haha yeah, thats true. Almost everyone in the WWE, if not everyone, is on steroids.

You guys forgot to factor in

justin's picture

You guys forgot to factor in the amount of water in between the skin.

All body builders loose most of their water weight when coming into a competition to give them the dry, rock-hard look.

Then comes the cramps. I

cameron's picture

Then comes the cramps.

I know that some bodybuilders who get rid of the water in their cells--can't just focus it on the visible part of the body--cramp up after they compete. Not healthy at all. Bodybuilding is not a healthy lifestyle. imho


it depends on how tight your

nick hults's picture

it depends on how tight your skin is also. the tighter ur skin the more ur abs/muscles stick out to make them look more define and rock hard. cardio is what makes skin tighter.

That's all a beginner should

jasper's picture

That's all a beginner should know, it seems quite simple but there are times when these tips do not apply. For example i have a really skinny friend who would do anything to gain muscles. We both started working-out at the same time and had the same type of exercises and diet, but it looks like while i am visible gaining muscles his efforts are barely noticeable. I believe he is one of those people who get no help from their genetics, his efforts are in vain and i really think that at this point his only chance to build muscles are legal steroids.

Interesting post and thanks

star09's picture

Interesting post and thanks for sharing. Some things in here I have not thought about before.Thanks for making such a cool post which is really very well written.will be referring a lot of friends about this.Keep blogging.under armor

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