You've probably heard that strength training sessions are beneficial. And if running a few miles or jumping on a spin bike is more your style. That is perfectly OK! However, the advantages of strength training are simply too excellent to pass up—and they are critical to living a long, healthy, and injury-free life.
"Basic strength training is essential for developing a solid muscular foundation," says Joel Freeman, Beachbody Super Trainer and LIIFT4 program designer. "Bones give our bodies structure, but muscles allow us to move and function."
When you first begin weight training, it is not necessarily the most enjoyable or glamorous experience (hi, DOMS). However, if you do it correctly, you will have the strength to do the things you truly enjoy, according to Freeman. "Most significantly, increasing the amount of muscle in your body boosts your metabolism, which means you'll burn more calories throughout the day," he explains. "That's a win-win situation." See also: What Happens When Women Lift Heavy Weights.
A strength training should ideally comprise eight to ten exercises that target the major muscle groups. This total-body program accomplishes precisely that and can be practiced a few times each week to maintain and increase overall strength. Would you like a complete month of strength training? Try this four-week women's strength training program.
Begin with light weights and gradually increase: "Select a weight that's just heavy enough to finish 10 reps, and by the eighth rep, you're pretty happy it's almost over," Freeman adds. "This will ensure that you are challenging your muscles so that they may grow and become stronger while also burning the most calories in each session." Once you've mastered form with bodyweight and low weights, check out this beginner's approach to heavy weight lifting.
Are you willing to give it a shot? Follow the steps below to achieve a superb strength training program that is suitable for beginners.
Strength Training Workout for Beginners
How it works: Do 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Repeat it two or three times a week on alternate days. If you think this is still too hard—no shame!—instead, try this super-basic strength training plan that uses workout balls, light dumbbells, and bodyweight moves to build a strength base.
You'll need: Two sets of dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 12 pounds) or a set of resistance bands.
1. Dumbbell Chest Press
Muscles worked: Chest, shoulders, triceps
How to do it: Lie on a bench, elbows bent 90 degrees out to sides; straighten arms up and return. Keep the weights centered over the middle of the chest. Do these on the floor instead of a bench to keep from hyperextending arms below the chest, which can place a lot of stress on your shoulders.
Why you should: "Your chest is one of your largest upper-body muscles, and when it comes to chest training, the chest press reigns supreme," says Freeman. "It's a compound movement, meaning that it’s also working your anterior deltoids [the front of your shoulders] and triceps throughout the movement." See: How to Execute a Perfect Dumbbell Bench Press
2. One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Muscles worked: Upper back
How to do it: Stand with legs hip-width apart and place one hand on the bench, opposite arm holding weight below shoulder; draw elbow up toward ribs and lower. Keep back flat and stand with a 45-degree bend at the hips.
Why you should: "The single-arm dumbbell row is a great compound upper-body movement targeting your upper back, lats, and traps while your biceps and shoulders assist throughout," says Freeman. "Standing during this exercise is also a great way to get some extra core work in as well. Just remember that there should be ZERO momentum or swinging—slow and steady wins the muscular race!"
3. Biceps Curl
Muscles worked: Biceps
How to do it: Stand with arms extended in front of thighs and one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward. Slowly curl weights toward shoulders, then lower to starting position.
Why you should: "This is the best isolation exercise for your biceps," says Freeman. The key here is to nix all momentum; don't swing to get the dumbbell up. "Think about trying to pin your elbows at your sides and lift the dumbbell up completely with your biceps," he says. "Stop at the top before your elbows move away from your sides—meaning if the weights touch your shoulders you've gone too far." (Here are more tips to master the biceps curl.)
4. Triceps Extension
Muscles worked: Triceps
How to do it: Stand with legs hip-width apart. Lean forward from the waist, elbows bent 90 degrees at your sides; straighten arms behind you.
Why you should: "The triceps extension is a great isolation move where you don't need a lot of weight to feel the burn," says Freeman. Similar to the biceps curl, the key here is to think of your elbow as a hinge pinned at your side. "The only thing that should be moving is your elbow to straighten your arm, squeeze your triceps at the top and return."
5. Lateral Raise
Muscles worked: Shoulders
How to do it: Stand with arms down by your sides, palms in. Raise straight arms (with pinky leading the way) to shoulder height.
Why you should: "Well-built lateral delts [the sides of your shoulders] are what give you that nice rounded shoulder look, and the lateral raise is the best exercise to isolate this muscle," says Freeman. "Just like any isolation move, it's all about control to execute this move properly."
6. Basic Squat
Muscles worked: Legs, butt
How to do it: Stand feet a bit wider than hip-distance apart, toes turned slightly out. Keeping weight in the mid-foot and heels (not the toes), sit back and down. Keep knees in line with toes and focus on keeping your chest lifted. Lower until thighs are parallel to the floor, if possible.
Why you should: "Squats have become the most popular of all lower-body exercises, especially if you're looking to grow your glutes!" says Freeman. But keep in mind: "Safety is a must in this exercise to avoid injury, specifically to the lower-back area. If you're newer or returning to exercise, it's often best to start with bodyweight only and focus completely on flexibility and proper form. If you can't go that low without dropping your chest forward, then keep working on your flexibility." Once your form is on-point, you can start to add weight. (This video has more basic squat tips.)
7. Front Lunge
Muscles worked: Legs, butt
How to do it: Stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand by sides. Step forward with the right foot, lowering until both knees form 90-degree angles and back knee is hovering off the ground. Push off the front heel to step back and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Why you should: "Also great for the legs and booty, lunges can also wreak havoc on your knees if done incorrectly," says Freeman. "This is a challenging move and can easily be felt using only bodyweight."
Muscles worked: Abs
How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor. Bend opposite elbow to knee, then switch sides.
Why you should: "Bicycle twists are great to engage multiple areas of your core, especially the obliques," says Freeman. "The main error that many people make with this core exercise is pulling on your neck. To avoid this, try placing your fingertips right behind your temples and keep your elbows open, instead of closing them in towards your head." If you do feel any neck strain, it means you're trying to lift higher than your core has the strength to and you're compensating in your neck. "Lower your range (meaning: don't try to lift as high off the ground) and slow down your twists instead," says Freeman. "You'll still feel it!"
Muscles worked: Lower back, butt
How to do it: Lie facedown on the floor and lift opposite arm/leg; switch sides. Keep your gaze down to the floor to maintain proper postural alignment.
Why you should: "This is a wonderful lower-back exercise, which is a must to help prevent lower-back injuries," says Freeman. When set up on your stomach, think about planting your toes into the floor and not letting them come off the ground at any time. This will also help you engage more glutes as well. When lifting your chest off the floor, you really don't have to lift very high. Just focus on squeezing your booty as you lift, and you'll also be engaging the lower-back muscles.
Beginner Weight Lifting Routine
Week 1: Full-body split
Week 2: Two-day split: Upper body/Lower body
Week 3: Three-day split: Push/Pull/Legs
Week 4: Four-day split: Full body
Weight Lifting Program
Workout 1: Push
Dumbbell bench press
Incline bench press
Workout 2: Pull
Workout 3: Rotation
Kettlebell walking lunge
Kettlebell Turkish get-up
Basic Workout Plan
DON'T BE HALF-HEARTED
WHAT THE WORDS MEAN
IT'S OKAY TO SUBSTITUTE EXERCISES
DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE JOURNAL FOR THIS PROGRAM (50% OFF)
These Exercises Should Be Hard To Complete.
These sets should be challenging for you. If you can complete all three sets of ten, you should gradually raise the weight until you are unable to finish every rep. If you can perform both 45-second planks, increase the time to one minute. The beauty of this workout is that you may continue it indefinitely and keep becoming stronger and stronger. The "advanced" version of this workout is very identical. If you can stick to this regimen for four weeks, you'll have developed a fitness skill set that you can use to achieve any fitness goal you set for yourself.
How To Complete A Workout When You Don't Want To.
If you truly want to stop in the middle of a workout, it could be because you're trudging through your rest periods between sets. Use a stopwatch or your iPhone's clock app to keep yourself at 30 second rests between sets. Not for a single second longer. This will make your workout feel tougher and more intense, but it will be over much faster. In addition, short breaks can sometimes be advantageous for muscular building. Many people remark that, while doing this makes the workout physically harder in the moment, it makes them feel like they did a lot more work when they're finished.
Don't Take Any Days Off.
On your "rest days," do three sets of anything. Try these, for example:
50 push-ups for time and a brisk 20 minute walk.
3 sets of 15 burpees, and a brisk 20 minute walk.
Just walk for an hour at a brisk pace
Whatever you do, don't just sit at home. It's not your "day off." There's no such thing as a "day off." It's just another day. Keep that time block you've reserved for working out, and dedicate it every single day to pushing yourself — even just a little bit. This will fortify the habit in your mind, and even one of these mini-workouts on your day off will make your "days on" much easier.
Stay Off Your Phone
It's OK if you need to use it as a timer. However, put it in airplane mode and disable the WiFi. The longer you spend on your phone, the longer you'll be in the gym, and the more you'll despise working out. Using your phone while working out reduces your exercise intensity and depletes your willpower. If you really need your phone, leave it in your car and use addiction as motivation to get through the workout as quickly as possible.
The only time your phone doesn't disrupt your workout is when you're on the treadmill. You're walking at a certain pace for a set period of time at that point. To pass the time, why not listen to a podcast?
Don't Do This Alone
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For novices, strength training can be scary, but the rewards are unbeatable: more muscle, higher calorie burn, stronger bones and joints, increased endurance, and a lower risk of injury during another workout.
Remember to combine strength workouts with cardio when you design your fitness program, and when you're ready to begin your road to becoming stronger, try these ideas and top-tier strength training routines for beginners.