Strength Training for Beginners: How to Start

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Strength training for beginners doesn’t have to be daunting or overwhelming. You don’t need to show up at the gym in all the latest gear and start lifting heavy weights with the muscle head next to you. Instead, you can do it from the comfort of your own home or at the gym without feeling intimidated. 

Here is all you need to know to start a strength training for beginners routine without the intimidation and grunting. 

Let get sweating…

What is Strength Training? 

The simple answer is a method to build muscle strength. And that is precisely what it is. No need for a more in-depth explanation. 

However, there are a few things to qualify here. 

You can build muscle strength in various ways—resistance bands, cables, free weights, weight machines, and your own body weight. So basically, by adding weight or resistance to an exercise, you are strength training, also known as weight training or resistance training. 

Why You Should Start Strength Training ASAP

Developing a strong muscular foundation has a lot of benefits, not just the obvious ones. If you are over 40, there are health reasons to start adding strength training to your workout. Check it out:

  • It’s a metabolism booster, so you’ll burn more calories all day long, even at rest.
  • It’s good for your bone density because weightlifting signals the bones to develop a stronger mineral mix. Stronger minerals = stronger bones. 
  • Increases balance and sturdiness. Weight training boosts muscles along the core and back chain, which in turn works the smaller stability muscles along the hips and ankles to prevent falls.
  • It slows the aging process.
  • Strength training helps you to get leaner and lose weight
  • Gaining muscle translates into improved daily life, not just at the gym. It means lifting your kids and grandkids easier. Squatting in the garden is easier. Hauling groceries. Everyday life gets easier as you get stronger.
  • It lowers cholesterol.
  • As you get stronger, you’ll feel more empowered and confident. The stronger your body feels, the stronger your mind feels. All that equals a whole lot of sexy.
  • It helps create and retain lean body mass.
  • It’ll make you happy. Weightlifting increases endorphin production, which elevates your mood and decreases stress. 

What Equipment Do You Need For Beginner Strength Training?

You’re probably thinking, “It’s obviously going to be a lonnnnnng list. I’m gonna need to fork out some cash or join a gym.” 

But no.

You don’t really need ANY equipment to get started. That’s right, zero. 

All you need to start a beginner strength training routine is your own body. In fact, until you get stronger, most professional trainers suggest you do many exercises with just your body weight.

If you are strong enough and want to purchase some equipment, a simple set of dumbbells is perfect. If you can, get a set starting at 3 lbs. Even better if the set has a light, medium, and heavy pair, so as you get stronger, you can lift more. 

Gloves are another piece of equipment that won’t break the bank but can certainly help you avoid calluses and blisters.  

So, the bottom line is that you can start your strength training routine for beginners right in your own home for zero dollars. Can’t beat that.

If you do want to invest in some hand weights, we recommend these below.

hand weights

Amazon: $34,12 for the set of 3! Comes in different colors.

hand weights blue

Amazon: $13.69 for the pair – different colors and weights available

The Biggest Myth About Women Who Lift Weights

So many women are worried they will look like a bodybuilder if they lift heavy weights. News flash, it’s not going to happen. There is a drastic difference between someone who strength-trains a few times a week and a professional. The average person will never look like a bodybuilder without training daily towards that goal with weights, supplements, meal planning, the whole nine yards. Not just a few sweat seshes a week. So, don’t worry about bulking up. It takes years of dedication towards that goal to look like a bodybuilder.  

Tips Before You Start Strength Training for Beginners

  1. Ease into weight training. Start with 2 sessions a week and then increase as your body adjusts to the stress you are putting on the muscles.
  2. Don’t forget to warm up. It’s essential to prime the muscles before you jump in and stress them. Do a few minutes of cardio and get the blood flowing and heart pumping, as well as some muscle activation for the muscles you’ll be working out.
  3. Start with light weights. You can always increase, and you will over time, but starting too heavy can lead to injuries. Not to mention if you are too sore, you won’t be able to work out again, and that defeats the purpose.

    Start with a weight just substantial enough to complete 10 reps. But not easily. By the 8th rep, you should be struggling to finish. You want to stress the muscle a little bit but not too much. If by the 10th rep you could continue easily, increase the weight a little.  If by the 8th rep you have nothing left in the tank, decrease the weight, or just use your own body weight. 
  1. Don’t use momentum to lift the weight. In other words, don’t swing the weights. If you have to swing it, it’s too heavy.
  2. Form is everything. It’s essential to get the form down perfectly before adding weights into the mix.
  3. Don’t rush through the reps. Instead, take your time as you lift and lower the weights. And try to visualize the muscle you are working on getting stronger. There is a mind-body connection with lifting weights, and if you can visualize your bicep getting strong as you do a curl, it helps.
  4. Don’t forget to breathe with every rep. It’s really easy to hold your breath and not even notice it. So, try this:

Breathe out when you push or lift the weight and inhale while pulling it back in.

  1. Rest and recovery days are essential. Plan them into your weekly routine.

    Listen to your body. If you are super sore, take the day off. Do some light stretches or take a walk but don’t lift weights. 
  1. Consistency is vital. Pick a beginner strength training schedule and stick to it for at least six weeks. You’ll start noticing your body getting stronger within that time frame, but you must be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Best Beginner Strength Training Exercises 

Below is a list of exercises categorized by muscle group.

Chest Exercises

Bodyweight: push-ups, wall push-ups

Weighted: bench press chest press, chest flies

How To Do a Proper Push Up

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Shoulder Exercises

Bodyweight: plank to downward dog

Weighted: front raise, overhead press, lateral raise

Overhead press

Bicep Exercises

Bodyweight: plank and side planks

Weighted: bicep curls, hammer curls

Incline Forearm Plank

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Tricep Exercises

Bodyweight: dips

Weighted: tricep extensions, kickbacks

Tricep Kickback

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Back Exercises

Bodyweight: super(WO)man

Weighted: lat pulldowns, one arm bent-over rows 

Superman

Ab Exercises

Planks, crunches, sit-ups

Dead Bugs (good for your triceps too!)

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Quadricep Exercises 

Bodyweight: squats, lunges, walking lunges

Weighted: weighted squats, leg press, deadlifts, dumbbell lunges

Squat

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Glute Exercises

Bodyweight: glute bridge, step-ups, wall sits, fire hydrants, curtsy lunge

Weighted: weighted glute bridge, step-ups with weights, single-leg deadlifts with a dumbbell

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Your First Workout

So now you know the exercises, let’s go over how to start your very first beginner strength training routine.

If you do a full-body workout, start with the largest muscle groups first, like your legs and glutes, then go to your back and arms. 

The larger the muscle, the more exercises you can do. For example, pick one targeting your biceps and one targeting your triceps. But for your lower body, you can do more because your quads and glutes are such large muscles. So, you can do 2-3. 

But remember to rest that muscle group the next day. Never do two upper or lower body days in a row. If you are doing a whole-body workout, you can rest or do cardio the next day.

Your first workout, only do 1 set of each exercise. Each set should be 10-12 reps or repetitions. Then, for the next workout, try 2 sets of each exercise with a minute or two between sets. 

If any exercise causes you pain, stop immediately. There is a reason it hurts, so stop and try a different exercise.  

If you work out with weights, write down the exercise and the weight you’ve started at, so next time you work out, you can choose the same weight. And as you get stronger, you can track your progress.

If you prefer to follow a structured program, fitness coach Tina Tang created a 12 Week Beginners Strength Training Program For Women Over 40 called Get Strong Over 40.

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All pre-recorded video exercises that you do on your own time – we recommend you pick up the weights at least twice a week. There is a Facebook Group so you can ask your questions and have support of like-minded strong women! It’s only $157 for the 12 weeks. Check out the deets here.

The Final Exercise

No matter what exercises you choose, have fun. But don’t take it so seriously that you don’t even start. Yes, it can be intimidating but remember, everyone, even the muscle heads began at the beginning.  

If you just want to dip your toes in the water and see how it goes, try these short workouts!

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So, hop to it. And let us know how your first workout goes!

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