When I stepped into a gym for the first time, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I hopped from machine to machine, guessing how each one worked, before cranking through a few dumbbell curls and heading home.
The game-changer for me was discovering an expert plan to follow. This gave me a clear guide for each session—I knew exactly which exercises to do, how many sets and repetitions I needed to perform, and how to do each move with good technique.
With this in mind, I asked NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach Aleksander Saks to create a New Year strength training gym workout for Fit&Well readers. And he delivered, providing a full-body session that can be wrapped up in roughly 45 minutes, even with a thorough warm-up.
"The main benefit of this workout is that it targets almost all of the major muscle groups in your body. This makes it a functional and time-efficient workout, helping you build muscle and strength at the same time," he explains.
How to do Aleksander Saks' full-body gym workout
Perform the exercises below in straight sets. This means you will do one set, rest for the prescribed amount of time, then perform another set of the same exercise.
Once you've completed three sets of an exercise, move on to the next one until you finish the workout.
1. Goblet squat
Sets 3 Reps 10-15 Rest 60-90 seconds
- Stand upright with your feet about hip-width apart and your toes pointed outwards slightly. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest with both hands.
- Keeping your chest up and your back straight, push your hips back and lower them as if you were sitting down into a chair behind you.
- Lower your hips as far as you can while keeping your chest up, then drive through your feet to return to the starting position.
2. Dumbbell bench press
Sets 3 Reps 8-10 Rest 60-90 seconds
- Lie on a flat weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms fully extended upwards so your hands are directly above your shoulders.
- Keeping your upper arms at roughly a 45° angle with your torso, slowly lower the dumbbells to your chest.
- When they reach your torso, press them back up to the starting position.
3. Alternating dumbbell lunge
Sets 3 Reps 8-10 (each leg) Rest 60-90 seconds
- Stand upright with your arms by your sides and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step forward with your right leg and lower your hips towards the ground until both knees form a rough right angle.
- Drive through your right foot to return to the starting position. That's one rep. Alternate the leg you step forward with after each rep.
Sets 3 Reps 60-second hold Rest 60-90 seconds
- Assume a low plank position, with your weight spread between your toes and forearms, and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders.
- Brace your core and hold this position for 30-60 seconds without letting your hips rise or drop. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
5. Face pull
Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 60 seconds
- Stand in front of a cable machine. Set it to approximately eye level and attach a rope attachment, which should be available in most gyms. Hold the band or cable with your thumbs facing each other.
- Pull it towards your face, so your hands end up either side of your head.
- Control the weight back to the starting position. You can also use a resistance band looped around a stable upright pillar for this exercise.
6. Lat pulldown
Sets 3 Reps 10-12 Rest 60-90 seconds
- Sit at a lat pulldown machine with your thighs under the foam pads provided (you may need to adjust this so it's a snug fit). Grip the bar with a wide overhand grip.
- Pull the bar down to your chest with control, thinking about driving your elbows towards the floor. As you do this, retract your shoulder blades together like you are trying to move them towards your back pockets.
- Slowly slowly let the bar rise back up and repeat.
Three major benefits of strength training
1. Building strength and muscle
"As you age, there will come a point when you naturally start to lose muscle mass and strength—this is known as sarcopenia," Saks explains.
"Strength training counteracts this by building and maintaining muscle mass and strength. This not only improves physical capabilities but also supports daily activities and functional independence, especially in older adults."
2. Increased bone health and density
"Strength training stimulates bone growth and increases bone density," says Saks.
"This is particularly important for preventing osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. By improving bone health, strength training reduces the risk of fractures and injuries, possibly contributing to a longer, healthier life."
3. Improved metabolic health
"Regular strength training has a profound impact on metabolic health," Saks says. "It improves insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for blood sugar regulation, thereby reducing the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
"Additionally, increased muscle mass from strength training elevates resting metabolic rate, meaning the body burns more calories even at rest. This helps you maintain a healthy weight and combats obesity-related health issues."
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Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.
Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.
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