Working out can be hard to get back into, especially if you’ve taken a decent amount of time off. It takes a little while to get back into the swing of things, which can be especially frustrating when you want quick results. But if you focus on a few key workouts you can re-establish your base of strength. These will help you keep form, prevent injury, and give you back some of that confidence you may have been missing. Head to the gym 3-4 times a week and hit these five workouts, and you’ll find that your fitness fire has been rekindled just in time for summer.

1. Deadlift: While this will mainly target your lower back, it will also hit your legs, chest and arms in just one motion. If you aren’t sure how to properly do a deadlift, check out this link. The most important thing to remember is to not roll your back, as this can lead to injury. Use light weights until you get comfortable with your technique, and then slowly increase the weight.

2. Squat: Never skip leg day, that’s the mantra. With good form, you will see impressive improvements in strength if you consistently squat. While mainly working your quads, your calves, glutes, hamstrings and lower back will all benefit from a round of squats. Check your form here.

3. Military Press: Finally, some upper body! A standing military press (using a barbell) will target your shoulders while involving your triceps. For better isolation you can use dumbbells, but either way make sure to keep your core tight as you extend. As with all lifts, start light to avoid injury. Make sure your form is on point here.

4. Bench Press: Whether you are using a barbell or dumbbell, the bench press is a staple of any workout routine. Obviously hitting your chest, the bench press will also be working out your shoulders and triceps. Start out with a medium grip and a flat bench, and after you master yourform, feel free to start introducing incline, decline, wide-grip, close-grip, and other variants to target specific parts of your chest.

5. Barbell Row: Your middle back is important for many things including stability, and the bent over barbell row is one of the best ways to strengthen this area. As with anything involving your back, start with a light weight and build your way up to ensure form and safety.

So, what’s the plan?
At this point you’re probably thinking great, I know what lifts to focus on but what about sets/reps/days on and off? While there are plenty of plans to choose from, I’m going to recommend the StrongLifts 5×5. It focuses on the 5 lifts above, and is set up to help you gain strength quickly. That’s it. If you haven’t realized it yet, the 5×5 stands for five sets of five. One of the best (and worst) parts of this workout plan is it has you doing squats every lift. Not only will this help increase your deadlift, but you will see major improvements in the first couple weeks. The other great part of this lift is they only have you going 3 times a week, with each workout lasting around 45 minutes. That’s just 2 hours and 15 minutes a week, making this very doable without being time consuming. Plus, the website covers every possible morsel of information that you could possibly want regarding the workout plan. Check out the StrongLifts 5×5 here.

Photo credit: markus spiske