I’m at the gym. What the heck do I do now?

You’ve posted one too many fitspirational pictures on your Pinterest board. You’ve downloaded every bass-pumping EDM song you can find onto your playlist. You’ve got your sneaks on and are walking into the gym full of determination to hit the weight room and unveil that muscle you’ve been hiding this winter. But……. what the heck do you do with all this stuff?


For strength training beginners, it is crucial to hit your major muscle groups as often as you can. You may have heard of upper body/lower body splits or body part splits, but total body workouts are the best bet for beginners. You can worry about switching to one of those later. For now, all you need to know is what your major muscle groups are so that you can strengthen them with all your workouts.

I will give you the inside look on how I teach my clients about the body and strength training, so that you will be able to put together a no-fail total body workout and feel like you have a plan for what do to do in the gym.

1. There are five major muscle groups that we want to hit.

  1. Glutes / hamstrings
  2. Glutes/ quads
  3. Back
  4. Shoulders/ chest
  5. Abs

2. We want to hit the hardest exercises first.

Do the hard/ most important things first so your form will be at it’s best and you will get the most out of that exercise. For a total body workout, this means hitting your legs first.

3. There is a difference between knee-dominant and hip-dominant.

Knee-dominant exercises will predominately work your glutes & quads. Hip-dominant exercises will predominately work your glutes & hamstrings. Knee-dominant exercises include squats, lunges and step ups. Hip-dominant exercises include deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts and glute bridges. Both are incredibly important and hip-dominant (the best kept secret to an awesome butt) exercises are often forgotten.

4. Memorize a few simple exercises for each muscle group.

  1. Glute/ hamstrings: deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, , single-leg deadlifts, glute bridges, single -leg glute bridges
  2. Glute/ quads: back squat, front squat, goblet squat, step-ups, reverse lunges, forward lunges
  3. Back: bent over rows, pull ups, lat pulldowns, chest-supported rows, seated cable rows
  4. Shoulders: push press, barbell or dumbbell overhead press, Arnold press, lateral raises, rear delt flies, face pulls
  5. Abs: hanging leg raises, body-saw planks, v-ups, side planks, reverse crunches, overhead sit ups, dead bugs

Try out a few and find your favorites. These will become your “go-to” exercises for each muscle group. Make sure you can feel the proper muscle group working during the exercise.

5. Put it all together.

The old trusty set and rep ranges. Go heavy for strength, go light for hypertrophy, or just go somewhere in between. Here are some recommendations:

5 sets of 5-6

3 sets of 12

4 sets of 8

10 sets of 5

Pick a set/rep range for each exercise and get to it.

Here’s an example, but try to put together one on your own too!

  • Deadlifts 5 sets of 6
  • Step Ups 4 sets of 8
    • Superset* with Jump Squats 4 sets of 8
  • Seated Cable Rows 3 sets of 12
  • Barbell Overhead Press 3 sets of 10
    • Superset* with Side Planks 3 sets of 20 seconds each side

*Superset = perform the first exercise, then the second exercise and continue alternating until you perform the proper number of sets.


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