So you’ve been attending the gym for approximately 6-8 weeks now and have been progressing well with your initial workout routine given to you. This beginner’s workout guide should have consisted of a series of machine exercises aimed at targeting the major muscles in your upper and lower body.

In order to keep progressing and to keep plateaus at bay, it’s vital that you continue to push yourself to enable your body to continually be tested. Not only that, but if you keep the same workout from day one, then soon enough you’ll become bored of the monotony involved in the routine. So how can you keep your muscles guessing whilst at the same time applying new demands onto your ever enhancing musculoskeletal system?

One effective way to do this, without bringing about changes left, right and centre is to simply wean you off of the exercise machines and into the world of free weights. Simply by doing this, your support system supplied by the equipment for the last several months will come crashing down around you. Don’t be nervous though, this is a positive step in the right direction.

Free weights not only place a greater demand on your musculoskeletal system, but they will also bring about enhancements to your stabilizing muscles, core stability and proprioceptive skills.

You might feel like you’ve taken a step backwards in your training as you learn to adapt to this new way of exercising. Don’t let this dishearten you though, it’s a naturally occurring progression that each and every single weightlifter has either gone through or is going through. Just enjoy the ride and keep on going!

This workout plan also contains exercises that will target every single major muscle in the upper and lower body. Further progressions at a later stage will involve breaking down muscle groups into training days, but at present this is an optimal method to further develop your training whilst avoiding the potential for any overtraining.

Before moving onto the exercises themselves, let us consider your exercise prescription. Throughout you will be looking to achieve the following;

  • 12 repetitions per exercise.
  • 3 sets per exercise.
  • Approximately 30-60 seconds rest and recovery between exercise sets.

For each exercise we will provide a brief description of what is required of you as well as a demonstration video. So let’s get this workout started with the chest muscle group;

The Intermediate’s Workout Guide
Chest Exercise – Barbell Bench Press

To perform this exercise lie on the bench. Unrack the barbell over your upper chest using a wide grip. Lower the bar to your mid chest region before pushing the bar back upwards.

Back Exercise – Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Kneel over the side of a bench and grasp a dumbbell from the floor. Lift the dumbbell upwards until your upper arm is beyond horizontal. Lower your arm slowly. Repeat on both sides.

Shoulder Exercise – Dumbbell Shoulder Press

To execute position dumbbells either side of your shoulders with your elbows directly below your wrists. Press upwards until arms are almost extended. Lower under control and repeat.

Biceps Exercise – Barbell Biceps Curl

Grasp the barbell with hands shoulder width apart. With your elbows remaining by your side, raise the bar upwards until your forearms are vertical. Lower slowly until extended.

Triceps Exercise – Overhead Barbell Press

To perform position the barbell overhead with a narrow grip. Lower your forearms whilst maintaining your elbows overhead. Reverse movement by extending at the forearm.

Quadriceps Exercise – Barbell Squats

Position the barbell on the back of your shoulders and grasp either side. Stand shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and drop your hips backwards. Ensure rigid back and knees pointing forwards at all times. When thighs are parallel to the floor, push upwards until standing.

Hamstrings Exercise – Barbell Deadlifts

To commence grasp the barbell with a wider than shoulder width grip and feet shoulder width apart. Maintain a rigid back and knees throughout the movement. Lower the bar by flexing at the hips until your hamstrings allow no further movement. Extend hips to reverse until upright.

Calf Exercise – Smith Machine Calf Raise

Position the bar on the back of your upper shoulders and the front of your feet on the raised platform with your arches and heels off. Unrack the bar and stand with your hips and knees extended. Raise heels by extending your ankles as far as possible.

Final Word

This here marks the end of your exercise workout. We hope you enjoy the experience. This program allows five major muscle groups within your upper body and three major muscles within your lower body to be isolated and targeted through their own unique exercises.

This intermediate’s workout should be followed for approximately 4-6 weeks, making improvements in the resistance shifted where possible. Following this period, modifications in your program can be introduced, including the use of split muscle group training days and further exercise variation. The exercise prescription can also be manipulated to meet your training needs and requirements, including strength, power and hypertrophy.

Before signing off it’s important to note from a health and safety point of view, the obvious risks of training with free weights. That support system offered through the machines is no longer in place, so always ensure you select a suitable resistance and follow textbook techniques for each and every exercise. With this in mind, you shouldn’t go far wrong.