Everyone has to start somewhere. Even the fittest of the fit had to walk into a gym a little wet behind the biceps. Fortunately, you’ve already put your best foot forward by educating yourself before you start training. When it comes to building muscle, losing weight, and getting fit, it’s far easier to go wrong than it is to blindly stumble onto the right formula.

When you’re a total novice, the best thing you can do is ease into training. If you strain so hard that the veins in your forehead read like a roadmap, the next day you’ll feel stiffer than the Tin Man after a dip in the Pacific. Yes, it’s only natural and expected to experience a little post-workout pain, but you shouldn’t be bumping up the share price of your favourite ibuprofen. This is not the route you have to take.

The following is the most basic muscle-building plan for the everyman. If you have any injuries, see a professional to figure out whether you can do these moves. You should expect to feel comfortable with all of these exercises. Some trainers may argue that these are advanced exercises and that novices should use machines first. However, these exercises involve essential, everyday actions (performed with a weight) that even a 5-year-old can do with a smile.

If you can’t perform these exercises, see a medical professional about fixing your imbalances before you start any kind of exercise program. If you have a persistent, irresolvable injury, simply leave out the exercises you can’t do and replace them with the nearest machine equivalent that your gym has to offer.

In less than four weeks you’ll probably have to fork out some money for a few new shirts. It’s a small price to pay for sleeve-splitting arms and a more muscular frame.