Strength Training for Beginners

If you want to start working out and building muscle, you’ve probably considered strength training workouts. Many people are drawn to running, riding a spin bike, or other forms of cardiovascular exercise, but remember that strength training can provide even more benefits than just building muscle.  

Weight Lifting

From improving mood and posture to building muscle, lifting weights is one of the best things you can do for your body. As you age, your muscle mass declines, so it’s important to take steps to enhance and preserve your muscle mass. Whether you’re out of shape or do other forms of exercise, training your body to develop more muscle can only help benefit your body when it’s done properly. 

When most people think about strength training, they picture weight lifting. However, there are many ways for the body to build muscle strength through other methods. Using cable resistance machines, your own body weight, resistance bands, and even free weights or weight machines. Any time you add weights to your exercise, that is weight training. While using weight machines and free weights is the most common form of strength training, you can strength train and add resistance in other ways. This is helpful to people that don’t have access to a gym, weights, or machines. 

Where Do I Begin?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for beginners is to do strengthening activities at least two days a week in combination with “150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity” like a bike ride or brisk walk. The key to developing a strong muscular foundation is through basic strength training. While bones give your body structure, muscles are what allow your body to move. Weight training isn’t always the most exciting when you start, but if you do it properly your body will have the strength to do the things you really want to do. 

Increasing the amount of muscle in your body also helps to improve your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. When lifting weights, your routine should include eight to ten exercises targeting the major muscle groups. If you’re a beginner you’ll want to start with lighter weights and increase as needed. Make sure that when you choose weights, they’re not too heavy for you. There are many different workout programs available that you can tailor to your body. 

Examples of Strength Training

There are a few different ways to do strength training, and they all have different benefits. Which form of strength training you choose will depend on your ability level, access to equipment, and goals. Some examples of strength training include: 

Bodyweight Training 

When you do an exercise where your body is the weight, you are doing bodyweight training. This is a wonderful place for beginners, regardless of age or weight, to start their strength training journey. Why is that? For starters, you always have your body with you so you can work out anywhere. The other reason is that when you use your body for resistance, you use it exactly as it was designed. Our bodies were meant to squat and move. 

Dumbbell Training

Most gyms have a set of dumbbells, even if it’s just the gym in your apartment complex. They don’t take up a ton of room, which can be nice if you’re wanting to workout at home. Dumbbells can add a level of difficulty to a bodyweight move. If you’re doing lunges and holding dumbbells, they can help add some resistance to help your body increase its muscle. 

For beginners, dumbbell exercises can be much less intimidating than barbell training and are a step towards using barbells. Dumbbells add a challenge to stabilization, and can help to differentiate an imbalance in muscles pretty easily. They also allow for single-leg or single-arm exercises to be performed and allow you to strengthen any muscle imbalances. Dumbbells are also generally easy to scale, making it easy for beginners. 


Kettlebells have gained popularity over the last few years, and for good reasons. Kettlebells are basically cannonballs with a handle attached. They are available in any weight, don’t take up tons of room, and can be used in many ways for a great compact workout. There are 20 minute workouts with eight or more exercises you can do with just one weight! There are adjustable kettlebells, but if you’re a member of a gym, they will most likely have multiple kettlebells that you can use. 

3 Workouts For Beginners

As a beginning strength trainer, it’s very helpful to have workouts laid out to follow. Trainers have come up with certain workouts that use a variety of rep ranges to promote strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance. Here are some workouts that you may be helpful to begin your strength training journey:

1. Beginner Bodyweight Workout

With this workout, you should complete one set of each exercise before moving right on to the next exercise:

  • 20 bodyweight squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
  • 15-second plank
  • 30 Jumping Jacks

Repeat these exercises for 3 rounds.

2. Beginner Dumbbell Workout

When you get started with dumbbells, this is a great beginner workout program to follow. 

  • 10 goblet squats 
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 dumbbell rows on each side

Repeat for 3 rounds.

3. Beginner Kettlebell Workout

If you’ve got room to swing a kettlebell, you can do this workout. Do three of these workout circuits:

  • 8 Halos on each side
  • 10 goblet squats
  • 8 overhead presses on each side 
  • 15 kettlebell swings
  • 8 bent over rows on each side
  • 6 front rack reverse lunge on each side

Choosing A Program

Choosing a program can be a little more difficult for some people, but there are many beginner workouts that are designed to help you build muscle and minimize damage to your body. The gold standard barbell weight training program for beginners is called Starting Strength. There’s a book that accompanies the program, and if you’re serious about barbell training, it’s a great resource to use.

Strong Lifts 5x5 is another workout program that starts you out slowly using a barbell and helps you learn correct form before you get too heavy. A solid program that has been around for many years, it keeps things simple with their “5x5” system. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is more flexible and allows freedom for you to work on personal weaknesses and do exercises that you enjoy.

Realistically, the program that is right for you is one that you will actually perform. In terms of building strength quickly, barbell training might be the best, but if you don’t actually do it, it’s doing you no good. Some people may feel awkward lifting weights at the gym at first when they aren’t completely sure what they are doing. Starting with bodyweight training is a wonderful point for most people since they can do it at home.

Incorporating Beginner Strength Training Exercises Into Your Workout

A weight lifting routine for beginners should include eight to ten exercises that target the major muscle groups. These total body routines do that and can be done a few times a week to build and maintain strength all over the body. You want to start smaller with your weights, and increase as you need to. It’s important that you choose a weight that’s not too heavy or too light. To do that, you want to pick one that’s heavy enough to complete ten repetitions. By the eighth rep, you want to be happy that you’re almost done. When you do this, you challenge your muscles so that they have the opportunity to strengthen and build. 

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Regardless of when and where you start, everyone has to begin somewhere so don’t feel embarrassed. Choose a workout program that piques your interest and give it a try. If that doesn’t work, you can pick a different program to try. You may go through several different programs before settling on one that works well for you. Whatever you decide, you should be proud of your commitment to strengthening your body. Give it a try- you just may fall in love with strength training!