Beginner Checklist: Make Sure Your Workouts Get Results

Here’s what you’ll learn…

  • What you need to include in your workouts
  • How to tell if you’re missing anything
  • How much you need to do to see results
  • How to build-in flexibility in your program
  • Consistency makes ANY program successful


Getting started with exercise can be tough.

Not only because of the obvious physical challenges you’re exposing yourself to, but the mental barrier of wanting to make sure you’re “doing everything ok” or your workouts are “good” and that there’s not “something else you should be doing”…

I recently started offering Movement Sessions at my clinic in Melbourne (AUS) to address this very dilemma!

“Do you think I’m missing anything..?”

This is by far the most common question I get during Movement Sessions.

We’ll sit down and people will show me their current program and then hit me with the question “is that like… ok?”

Firstly, the fact you have a program and you seem to be consistently exercises is a helluva win. You’re most likely already in the top 15% of the population so there’s no need for such a concerned look when you ask the question!

Secondly, the fastest answer in this situation is… “it depends”.

It depends on:

↳ Goals
↳ Training History
↳ Health / Injury History
↳ Preferences
↳ Time Availability
↳ Equipment Availability

etc etc… you get the idea. Let’s move on to something tangible because I know everybody hates the “it depends”…


Think “movements” not “muscles”…

Unless you’re a professional bodybuilder, the reality is that we probably don’t need to care about individual muscles (yet). 

 The first step of the audit is to make sure you’re hitting all of the following movement categories:


[  ] Upper Body: Push
[  ] Upper Body: Pull
[  ] Squat Variation
[  ] Hinge Variation
[  ] Single Leg Focus
[  ] Core
[  ] Cardio Activity

Now I need you to know that if you are doing the above categories of movement, twice a week with consistency and a level of intensity that means you’re constantly pushing yourself in the gym… You’re in the top 15% of the population already. Between 75-85% of the population does not get enough physical activity and the biggest reason is lack of strength training.

You could train the above movements for the rest of your life without ever needing to read the advanced categories below and probably be fitter than all your peers.


[  ] Upper Body: Vertical Push
[  ] Upper Body: Vertical Pull
[  ] Upper Body: Horizontal Push
[  ] Upper Body: Horizontal Pull
[  ]  Squat / Knee Dominant
[  ] Single Leg Bias
[  ] Hinge / Hip Dominant
[  ] Accessory / Isolation
[  ] Core: Frontal Plane
[  ] Core: Sagittal Plane
[  ] Core: Transverse Plane
[  ] Cardio: Zone 2
[  ] Cardio: High Intensity
[  ] Plyometric Activity

Being flexible with your program is key for (real) people

The more comfortable you get in a gym environment, the more “tools” you’ll have in the toolbox so to speak.

You’ll understand the basics of movement and you’ll be able to apply your skills to lots of new, exciting exercises!

I work with real people so I deal in reality.

Programs need to have flexibility built-in, otherwise everything goes out the window when we can’t follow the program to a tee…

There’s a big difference between writing “Bench Press” on somebody’s program and understanding “Upper Body Push”.

Bench Press:

  • Uh oh, you’re a normal person who works 9-5 and you’ve gone to the gym after work.
  • But it’s Monday… Universal “bro” chest day. Every single bench press is taken.
  • Now you can’t get a bench. You lose steam. You do 10mins on the bike and go home.

Upper Body Push:

  • The same normal person goes to the gym after work
  • Great! Bloody bro’s all over the bench press again… Dam you Monday’s…
  • All good, I think movements not specific muscles or exercises
  • I’ve got unlimited number of other options:
  • DB Chest Press
  • Cable Chest Press
  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Chest Machine
  • Shoulder Press
  • Pushups

It’s not JUST about flexibility, it can be about variety and choice as well.

You may feel like doing certain exercises on certain days.

You might wake up one morning and decide you hate a barbell.

You might have some niggling knee pain that’s aggravated by barbell squats but the leg press is fine.

Either way, you’ve ticked off the “squat / knee dominant” category and remain in the top 15%.

How much do you need to do to see results?

I’ve included a snippet from an Eric Helms book (Muscle & Strength Pyramid) below on his recommendations for volume, intensity and frequency.

Basically: how much of all this stuff should you be aiming at each week to get results?

It aligns with other stuff I’ve researched but it’s a nice little table to visualise.

Let’s break it down…


  • For each movement category in the beginner list above, you need to be doing minimum of 10 sets per week.
  • This means if you’re only doing two workouts each week, then you should aim for 5 sets in each category.


  • Basically…
  • If you want to focus on strength: Most of your exercises should be in the lower (1-6 rep ranges) with 1-3 reps “in the tank” at the end of each set.
  • If you want to focus on muscle size: Most of your exercises should be in the middle (6-12 rep ranges) with 1-2 reps “in the tank” at the end of each set.


  • As mentioned, at least twice per week, per movement pattern.
  • This doesn’t mean you have to do the exact same exercise twice per week (REMEMBER: movements, not individual exercises or muscles)

Put into practice next 7 days

Over the next week, put your program through the self-audit and see if you’re missing any movement categories.

Don’t have a program at all? Here’s one to get you started:

[  ] UB Push | Chest Press OR Dumbbell Shoulder Press OR Pushups
[  ] UB Pull | Seated Row OR Dumbbell One-Arm Row OR Lat Pulldown
[  ] Squat | Box Squats OR Leg Press OR Trap Bar Deadlifts
[  ] Hinge | Barbell Deadlift OR Hip Thrusts OR Romanian Deadlifts
[  ] Single Leg | Split Squats OR Step Ups OR Lunge Variations
[  ] Core | Plank Hold OR Dead Bug OR Cable Twists
[  ] Cardio | Exercise Bike OR Outside Walk OR Swim Laps


As always, contact me directly if you have any problems getting started.

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