r/Fitness Basic Beginner Routine

This page will explain r/Fitness’s recommended routine for your first three months in the gym. You will follow a slightly modified version of Phrak’s Greyskull LP variant, and add cardio and conditioning on your off days.


Phrak’s GSLP (Modified)

Purpose

This is a simple, bare-bones implementation of the Greyskull LP program. It is best thought of as a short-run, introductory lifting program. It will help you build familiarity with the fundamental barbell movements that are a core component of most good lifting routines. The version of Phrak’s GSLP on this page has been modified from the original to make it simpler to follow and slightly add Deadlift volume. Pulling exercises (row, chinups) were also changed to be performed before pushing exercises (overhead press, bench press) as this can help some people’s shoulders feel better (for everyone else, it doesn’t matter).

Remember always that this is meant to be an introductory program, in the same way that you don’t jump straight into riding a bicycle – you have a trike or training wheels first so that the cost of failure while you’re still learning is low.

The Program

The notation here is Sets x Reps. The “+” at the end denotes that the last set is AMRAP – As Many Reps As Possible. The last set should not be to true, absolute muscular failure – leave a few reps “in the tank”. A good way to gauge when to stop is when your form breaks down or the speed of the bar slows significantly compared to the previous reps. You want these to be crisp, quality reps.

Day A

  • 3×5+ Barbell Rows
  • 3×5+ Bench Press
  • 3×5+ Squats

Day B

  • 3×5+ Chinups
  • 3×5+ Overhead Press
  • 3×5+ Deadlifts

Rest 2-3 minutes between each set, depending on how you feel.

Since this is an A/B setup, you simply alternate between the A and B workouts each time you are in the gym. If you do A on Monday, do B on Wednesday. Generally this is run three days a week (ex: Week 1 – A/B/A, Week 2 – B/A/B), but if your schedule allows there’s no reason you can’t alternate perpetually (ex: M/W/F, Su/Tu/Th/Sa and so on).

Progression

  • Add 2.5 lbs to the upper body lifts each day you do the lift.
  • Add 5 lbs to the lower body lifts each day you do the lift.
  • If you do more than 10 reps on your AMRAP set, double the weight progression and add 5/10lbs instead.
  • If you fail to complete at least 15 total reps for a lift, deload by subtracting 10% from the weight the next time you do that lift.

Cardio and Conditioning

Choose at least one day a week to do some relatively low intensity cardio and at least one day a week to do some conditioning or HIIT work. This can either be at the end of your rest days or at the end of your lifting. You can do additional cardio and conditioning work if you want, but pay attention to your overall energy while lifting – if you’re starting to feel beat up or run down, dial this work back.

Low intensity cardio options include brisk walks, jogging, light cycling.

For conditioning and HIIT ideas, have a look at our Cardio and Conditioning workout pages.

Don’t overthink your choices here. The specifics of what you do are much less important than that you’re simply doing the work.

Substitutions

If necessary due to equipment access or mobility issues, there are some acceptable substitutions for the major lifts in this program. However, you should prefer to use the original lifts if at all possible. Be aware that some of these may make the normal progression method more difficult to follow.

  • Squats: Front Squats, Goblet Squats, Safety Bar Squats
  • Deadlift: Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Bench Press: DB Bench Press, Dips
  • Overhead Press: DB Overhead Press
  • Barbell Rows: DB Rows, any cable row


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find my starting weights for each lift?

Start with an empty barbell and do a set of five reps. If this is completed easily with good form, add 10-20 lbs to the bar for the next set. If bar speed does not slow and form does not break down, add another 10-20 lbs to the bar and perform another set. Continue this process adding weight as appropriate until either form falters or the bar speed slows significantly more than the preceding sets, whichever comes first. This is now your starting weight. Rests and perform the rest of your work sets at this weight.  Don’t try to kill it on this initial test, be conservative.  The intent here is not to find your max, but to find a good starting point that allows for quality work sets and ample room for improvement.

What should I do if I can’t do chinups?

Not to worry – there are plenty of good options for this situation

  • Do negatives
  • Use a lat pulldown machine
  • Follow a chinup / pullup progression method from r/bodyweightfitness
  • Use resistance bands or an assisted chinup machine

How do I add 2.5 lbs to the upper body lifts?

If your gym doesn’t have micro plates (1.25 lbs), you have several options:

  • Buy your own and bring them with you. They are generally cheap on CraigsList or used sports equipment stores.
  • Secure a 2.5 lb plate to the center of the bar using magnets or bands. Make sure it is secure to prevent injury.
  • Move up in 5 lb increments instead. You may reach points where you need to deload more rapidly – this is fine.
  • Add 5 lbs every other time you do that lift, keeping the weight the same for two workouts in a row and shooting for a higher AMRAP on the second workout.
  • Add a fourth set, either by doing an extra set of five or a second AMRAP set.

I’m not tired after lifting / I finish the lifting very quickly. Am I doing something wrong?

Nope. Remember that this is a simple, bare-bones introductory routine that you are running for only a short period of time. It is not intended to kick your ass. Your focus here is to learn how to perform the lifts with good form, safely, while getting a feel for exertion and your limits.

I want to do more work than this. What should I do?

You’ve got a few good options.

  1. Have a look over any of the many past threads discussing adding accessory work to Phrak’s GSLP for ideas.
  2. Take 20-30% of the weight off the bar and do 1-3 additional sets of 5-8 reps. This can double as extra work and extra practice getting your form right.
  3. Copy the assistance protocol from 5/3/1 for Beginners.

I don’t know how to do any of these lifts. How can I learn them?

Head on over to our Learning and Improving Lifts page, where you will find an extensive collection of resources recommended by r/Fitness users. You should also take advantage of posting form checks in the Daily Threads as you are learning.