The Unprepared Fitness Plan for Beginners
Start getting in shape today and earn a chance to win $5,000.
Fitness is a crucial but under-discussed aspect of preparedness. But taking those first steps can be difficult, both mentally and physically. I’ve spent some time developing a fitness plan that anyone can follow—even if you can’t do a single pushup—and there’s a little prize to motivate you.
Our friend BowTiedOx has announced a 90-day fitness challenge, and it starts today. In short: submit pictures of yourself now, submit another set in December, and Ox and his panel of esteemed judges will rank everyone by how much they’ve improved. The prizes are generous:
The winner gets $5,000
Second place gets $500
Third place wins $250
Fourth place wins $150
Fifth place gets $100
One caveat: you must be a paid subscriber to Ox’s Substack to enter. However, it’s only $5 per month (the minimum Substack lets you charge), and you get access to a lot of great fitness advice, including his just-released 116-page ebook covering his 12-week push pull legs program. It’s one of the most detailed fitness programs I’ve ever read, and I’ve paid a lot more for a lot less.
But… it’s also a pretty advanced program, and it asks you to hit the gym four days per week. We have a program for you aimed at beginners that only takes three days of lifting per week. I had planned to reveal this as part of a series later this year, but I want you to have a chance at that $5,000.
I’m not a medical professional or a personal trainer. I’m just a guy who lifts weights. But as someone who started recently and struggled at first, I have a unique perspective on which exercises are difficult for beginners and what’s most beneficial. I have been testing this routine for the past few weeks and feel confident about sharing it with you.
I’m also not going to make overstated claims about this program, but I can show you actual results. This is how I looked at the end of 2021 and how I look today.
A great deal of the fat is gone and you can start seeing muscle definition in my pecs and abs. I have a long way to go, but I’m also a long way from where I was.
For more fitness tips and encouragement, see “Getting In Shape When It Seems Impossible.”
Unprepared Beginner Fitness Program Goals
The goals of this workout program are simplicity, time efficiency, and challenging but doable exercises. We skipped some optimizations for the sake of a plan that gets you into the gym consistently.
This program is designed for beginners to efficiently build strength and cardiovascular health. No coaching or previous training is required, and it should be doable by any able-bodied person. The exercises cover every major muscle group and have been selected for how easy they are to perform.
All you need is a gym membership because it’s tailored toward machines as opposed to free weights. The trend in fitness the past few years has been away from machines and more toward free weights, and for good reasons, but the program focuses on machines for a few reasons::
You can work a machine even if you can’t lift a 45-pound bar.
Form is easier to maintain so machines are great for novices and take less time to learn. The keys are to stay firmly in the seat (if there is one), follow the machine’s instructions, set the seat so you have good foot-to-ground contact, and use the full range of motion.
No worries about dropping a bar on yourself (except for the Smith Machine). The gym is intimidating at first, and with machines, you shouldn’t have much need for spotters.
Because you don’t have to worry about dropping weights, you can push your muscles to total failure, which is what will build muscle and strength.
Machines are usually more time efficient than free weights. For instance, you can just hop on a hack squat machine and go, while you usually need to tweak a power rack before squatting.
I’ll offer alternative exercises where possible if you don’t have access to some of these machines.
Efficiency is important because many people don’t think they have time to hit the gym. Even with a proper three-minute rest between sets, the weightlifting routines shouldn’t take more than one hour three days per week. If you can make time for football or Netflix you can get in shape.
Simplicity is also key because there’s less of a learning curve and you don’t have to keep track of different reps. You’ll do 4 to 5 exercises each session, three sets of each, 6 to 9 reps per set. Simple.
Why three sets? Truthfully you only need two, and you can drop back to two sets if you’re struggling or are short on time. But we program three sets to ensure that you’re working to failure. The third set acts as insurance.
Why sets of 6 to 9 reps? The rep range determines what sort of physical outcome you achieve. Powerlifters are focused solely on strength and often perform 5 reps per set. Bodybuilders often perform 8 to 12 reps for building muscle (hypertrophy). 6 to 9 reps falls between the two ranges and works well as a compromise between raw strength and muscle building. Again, we’re aiming for simplicity over optimization.