I started going to a gym a week ago because I want to build lean muscle and stay healthy, I'm 5'6" and 75kg. The coach gave me a beginner's plan, but I'm skeptical about it. I'm not sure if I'm on the right path.

I'm a vegetarian, well, a type of vegetarian that can consume dairy products except egg, I don't know the specific name you call such a person.

My current diet is as follows:

3 meals of brown rice (2 1/2 cups of rice per meal) with dhal, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, and various beans. I usually serve myself three types of vegetables per meal.

My workout plan:

  1. 15 min interval running on treadmill (2 min run, 1 min walk).
  2. 15 min on elliptical trainer (L2).
  3. Leg Press (54kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  4. Leg Curls (30kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  5. Leg Extensions (30kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  6. Dumb Bell Pull Overs (10kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  7. Bench Press (10kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  8. Side Raises (4kg x2, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  9. Shoulder Pull Down (20kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  10. Preacher Curls (20kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  11. Triceps machine push down (20kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  12. Forearms (20kg, 15 reps, 3 sets).
  13. Calf raises (15 reps, 3 sets).

That's it. Please tell me if anything is wrong with this. Btw, I just got started, it's still a week since I started.

  • That would be a lacto-vegetarian. And I've never understood why eggs are lumped in with dairy--particularly since chicken is not considered dairy. May 28, 2014 at 14:22
  • @BerinLoritsch I've usually heard "lacto-ovo vegetarian", which accounts for eggs not being dairy.
    – SourDoh
    May 28, 2014 at 16:58
  • @Saranga You can merge your two accounts by following the instructions at this page: meta.stackexchange.com/help/merging-accounts
    – user241
    May 29, 2014 at 2:04

2 Answers 2


First off, strength training should be done before cardio, as you don't want to be fatigued when lifting weights. With increasing fatigue, your technique begins to suffer and you're more likely to get injured.

This is also why you should do compound exercises before isolation exercises, as compounds use multiple muscle groups and are therefore more difficult to perform right.

I also think you have too much isolation exercises in your program, which leads to a much too high volume. When training each muscle seperately you won't have the energy to give it your all across 52 sets.

With that said, a good beginner's full body workout should be done on 3 non-consecutive days per week and might look like this:

  • Warm Up (this can be light cardio for 15min max)

  • Squats/Front Squats, 3x5
  • Bench Press/Overhead Press, 3x5
  • Deadlift/Power Clean, 1x5

  • Pullups, 3x12 (optional)
  • Dumbbell Rows, 3x12 (optional)

  • Cardio (running, elliptical etc.)

The warm up is more or less optional, as you'll be doing warm up sets before each compound exercise. It's good to get the core temperature up, though, and just warm up the body as a whole.

Now, the first portion of the actual program are compound movements, which you can alternate between from workout to workout. These are the most important exercises, as they train almost your whole body and will lead to more strength (and thus muscle) most efficiently. Since you're concentrating on technique and gaining strength, 3x5 reps would be optimal, hopefully allowing you to raise weight by 2,5kg (5lbs) per workout for some weeks.
I've found that alternating reduces the repetitive strain on certain muscles/joints and also shifts the work to muscles that would otherwise be underused. (Also note this is almost the basic Starting Strength program, which I can only recommend to beginners)

The second portion are auxilliary exercises. These are used to train weak spots that the compounds didn't cover. Once you progress and notice weak spots, you can customize these to react to shortcomings (Flyes for chest, Calf Raises for calves etc.). They are done to add volume to your workout, so 3x12 reps should be good.

Cardio is last, as it's not really that important if you're already exhausted when running. I assume you're doing this to burn additional calories and increase your cardiovascular performance. Thus, as long as you're not doing a running-technique session, being tired is okay.

I can't say much about nutrition, but if you want to build muscle (lean or not) you need to have a caloric surplus (eat more than you use). While beginners are to a certain degree able to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously, that process won't last forever and it's inefficient. With a slight caloric surplus (~500kcal) you should be able to build muscle and gain strength fast, while keeping fat gains pretty low. Just try not to gain more than 0,5kg (1lb) per week and you should be good.

  • Thanks very much LarissaGodzilla for your quick answer. I see there are less repetitions per sets in your routine. Is it a myth when people say that lower the repetitions, the bulkier the muscle will be, and higher the repetitions, leaner the muscle would be? I'm a beginner and I seriously don't have a firm idea. Also, please advise me on diet. My main goal is to look lean and feel healthy. Also, is it enough working out only 3 non-consecutive days per week? Or does people tend to work out daily once they become experienced?
    – user8757
    May 28, 2014 at 13:31
  • This would have been better as comment to my answer (every answer has a comment button beneath it), as it is now mislabeled as an answer to your question. Anyway, low repetitions increase strength more than actual muscle mass, while high repetitions (8-12 per set) will do more for actual muscle mass. Leanness, however, is determined by the amount of body fat covering the muscle (and maybe water retention). As for frequency, 3 days per week is enough on a full body program, as each muscle group is trained three times. With a split you could train more often, but not as efficiently.
    – user8119
    May 28, 2014 at 13:46
  • Regarding nutrition, I'm not really good at this stuff. To build muscle you need a slight caloric surplus and enough protein (~2g per kg of body weight). Don't skip carbs and/or fat, as those are both important too. Other than that, eat fresh (little processed food) and diverse. Oh and drink enough (at least 3l per day). All the rumours about how protein kills your kidneys come from people drinking too little (and people with pre-existing conditions, which I assume you haven't).
    – user8119
    May 28, 2014 at 13:49

First, a couple of pointers:

  • When first getting started, it's best to have a simple full body program to build strength so you can have enough stimulus to build muscle.
  • There are several good beginner programs, but a smart rep progression can make them better.

Greg Nuckols had a good article about making your novice training program more effective. There were two major tips:

  1. Periodize. All that means is having defined times in your training where you emphasize a specific goal. An example would be, I'm going to improve my strength for 3 months, then I'm going to emphasize hypertrophy for 3 months, etc.
  2. When you plateau, add volume. He has a link in the article to scientific studies that explain why. The long and short of it, volume helps you get bigger and stronger.

In the article he has a simple set/rep progression for your first periodization. The idea is that you take a basic program like Greyskull or Starting Strength, or even the outline that @LarrissaGodzilla gave you. Basically, you change the sets/reps when you stall (can't finish the prescribed work). Then you change the sets reps to Greg's progression to help lay a good foundation:

  • 3x8
  • 5x5
  • 5x3

And when you can't get that 5x3, you'll drop the weight to where you changed from 3x8 to 5x5 and add volume:

  • 5x8
  • 6x5
  • 7x3

By this time you should be very strong for your frame, and you can branch out and focus on whatever it is that you want to focus on next.


In general you want to figure out what your maintenance calories are (the amount of food you need to eat to maintain your weight). There's several calculators that will help you get in the ballpark, so you don't have to worry too much about it. Don't forget to adjust for your activity. If you are training 3 days a week, use "Lightly Active". If you are training more than that (i.e. with cardio session on off days), use "Moderately Active" as a starting point. If you want to gain muscle, adjust it so that you are gaining an average of 0.75 lb (.35 kg) per week. Muscle isn't going to grow faster than that naturally.

  • Protein: 1.8 g/kg (0.8 g/lb). This gives you the raw materials to repair and build new muscle.
  • Fat: at least .35 g/kg (.75 g/lb). That's the bare minimum to keep your body functioning properly. More is good, but a target around 20-30% of everything you eat will help keep it from being the bulk of everything you eat.
  • Carbohydrates: all the rest of your calories come from this.

As a vegetarian, this might work well considering that plant based diets are typically high in complex carbohydrates. The hard part is to get all your protein in without blowing your calorie limit, so you might have to supplement with a whey protein (milk based).

There are a number of relatively high protein foods that are friendly to vegetarians such as:

  • Qinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Cottage Cheese/Yogurt/Keifer
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Black beans
  • Soy
  • Peanut butter

And the list goes on. Some of those foods have a decent amount of fat in them, like most of your nut butters. If you figure out a menu that fits your target macros once you can keep eating the same things. If you need some variety, you can use tools like Eat This Much which has meal plan options for vegetarians and vegans. You can also remove ingredients from the list for foods you know you don't like. There are some other meal planners, but that one is designed by bodybuilders so it typically works better.

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