New to Lifting Weights? Try These 9 Strength Moves (2023)

You've probably heard that you should do strength training workouts, but maybe running a few miles or hopping on a spin bike fits your personality more. While that's totally fine, you should keep in mind that the benefits of strength training are too good to pass up, and they range from building muscle endurance to preventing injury.

Read on for a guide to beginner strength training and a closer look at exercises to consider implementing into your workout regimen.

What Is Strength Training?

Most people think of weight lifting when talking about strength training. Contrary to popular belief, though, you can build muscle strength using various methods, including using your own body weight, resistance bands, cable resistance machines, and yes, weight machines and free weights.

When you add weights to an exercise (whether it's via free weights or a weight machine at the gym), that is considered weight training. When it comes to strength training for beginners (and in general), it's important to understand that you can add resistance and strength train without added weight. This is particularly helpful when you don't have access to weights or machines or can't use them for any other reason.

Benefits of Strength Training for Beginners and Beyond

New to strength training? For starters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strengthening activities "at least two days a week." Keep in mind, that's in combination with "150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity," such as a brisk walk or casual bike ride.

"Basic strength training is key to developing a strong muscular foundation," says Joel Freeman, creator of the LIIFT4 program and Beachbody Super Trainer. "Bones give your body structure, but muscles are what allow you to move, and well."

It's not always the most fun or glamorous when you start weight training, but if you do it correctly, then you'll have the strength to really do the things you love, says Freeman. "And increasing the amount of muscle in your body also aids in increasing your metabolism, which means you'll burn more calories throughout the day," he says. "That can be a win-win," especially if your goal is to lose weight.

How to Add Strength Training Exercises for Beginners Into Your Routine

Ideally, a beginner weight lifting routine should include eight to 10 exercises targeting the major muscle groups. This total-body routine does exactly that and can be performed a few times a week to maintain and build strength all over. (Want a full month of strength programming? Try this four-week strength training plan for women.)

Start small with your weights and increase as needed: "Choose a weight that's just heavy enough to complete 10 reps, and by that eighth rep, you feel really happy it's almost over," says Freeman. "This will ensure you're challenging your muscles so they can grow and get stronger."

Ready to give it a try? Follow along below to get a great strength training workout that's totally beginner-friendly

(Video) 20 Common Lifting Mistakes To Avoid! (Are You Guilty Of These?)

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.

You'll need: Two sets of dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 12 pounds) or a set of resistance bands.

Dumbbell Chest Press

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, triceps

A. Lie on a bench, elbows bent 90 degrees out to sides.

B. Straighten arms up and return. Keep the weights centered over the middle of the chest.

Modification: 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 the shoulders.

Why you should do it: "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."

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Muscles worked: upper back

A. Stand with legs hip-width apart and place one hand on the bench with opposite arm holding the weight below shoulder.

B. Draw elbow up toward ribs and lower. Keep back flat and stand with a 45-degree bend at the hips.

(Video) 8 Bodyweight Exercises EVERYONE Should Do! (Hit Every Muscle)

Why you should do it: "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!"

Biceps Curl

Muscles worked: biceps

A. Stand with arms extended in front of thighs and one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.

B. Slowly curl weights toward shoulders then lower to starting position.

Why you should do it: "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.)

Triceps Extension

Muscles worked: triceps

A. Stand with legs hip-width apart.

B. Lean forward from the waist, elbows bent 90 degrees at sides.

C. Straighten arms.

Why you should do it: "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, squeezing your triceps at the top and return."

(Video) Lateral Hip Pain Not Going Away? Try THESE 5 Exercises!

Lateral Raise

Muscles worked: shoulders

A. Stand with arms down by sides, palms in.

B. Raise straight arms (with pinky leading the way) to shoulder height.

Why you should do it: "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."

Basic Squat

Muscles worked: legs, butt

A. Stand feet a bit wider than hips-distance apart, toes turned slightly out.

B. 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 chest lifted.

C. Lower until thighs are parallel to the floor, if possible.

Why you should do it: "Squats have become the more 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, keep working on your flexibility." Once your form is on-point, you can start to add weight. (Make sure you know how to do squats correctly before trying out this strength training workout for beginners.)

Front Lunge

Muscles worked: legs, butt

(Video) Try This 9 Chest Effective Exercises in Your Workout to Grow your Chest Bigger.

A. Stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand by sides.

B. Step forward with the right foot, lowering until both knees form 90-degree angles and back knee is hovering off the ground.

C. Push off the front heel to step back and return to starting position.

D. Repeat on the other side.

Why you should do it: "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."

Bicycle

Muscles worked: abs

A. Lie faceup on the floor.

B. Bend opposite elbow to knee, then switch sides.

Why you should do it: "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!"

Superman

Muscles worked: lower back, butt

(Video) Tristyn, why do you lift so light?

A. Lie facedown on the floor and lift opposite arm and leg.

B. Switch sides. Keep gaze down to the floor to maintain proper postural alignment.

Why you should do it: "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.

FAQs

Is 9 sets enough for a workout? ›

So, How Many Sets to Build Muscle? The ideal training volume for building muscle is around 9–18 sets per muscle per week. And if you're choosing good lifts, doing 6–20 reps per set, and bringing those sets within 1–2 reps of failure, the bottom end of that range is often enough to maximize muscle growth.

What does it mean when a workout says 3x10? ›

It means you do the exercise 10 times and then rest (for allotted time) and repeat 3 times.

What is the 2 for 2 rule in weightlifting? ›

The 2-for-2 Rule suggests that if a client can perform 2 extra repetitions on 2 sets with perfect form, then they should be progressed.

How long should you lift as a beginner? ›

Beginners unfamiliar with their body's limits can easily overdo it at the gym. Overexertion can lead to injury, particularly if you're new to working out. So, it's a good idea to start out with short workouts that are less than 30 minutes. Then, add a few minutes every week to help build up your resistance and stamina.

How many reps should a beginner lift? ›

The key to getting started is to find weights light enough to successfully perform two to three sets of 12 to 17 reps, says strength coach Dan Trink. But before you start ripping through a workout, you aren't actually going to perform that many right off the bat. Aim for two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps, Trink says.

How many sets should a beginner workout? ›

To start, choose one to two exercises per muscle group, aiming for 3 sets and 10 to 12 reps as a beginner.

Is 9 sets per week enough for chest? ›

The general consensus is somewhere between 8 and 32 sets per week for a given muscle group (like the chest muscles) is what is required to create gains in muscle size and strength.

How many sets are good enough in lifting? ›

You should be aiming for 10-20 sets per muscle group per week split into two sessions. This will keep you fresh, avoiding potential over-training and should give you better gains. Aim for each workout to consist of 15-25 sets total but with less than 10 sets for a specific muscle group on one day.

What does 3x8 mean in weightlifting? ›

In this example, the athlete is prescribed to perform an exercise for 3 sets for a total of 8 repetitions per set. Practitioners utilize the multiply symbol to allow us to track total repetitions per exercise. In this case, 3x8 = 24 total reps. This helps when coaches are tracking training volumes (future blog).

Is 3x10 good for strength? ›

However, compound lifts are also effectively trained with the 3×10 scheme, especially for hypertrophy when strength gains are not the immediate, primary goal. Compound lifts done on a 3×10 scheme are great for building muscle, burning total calories, and increasing work capacity/endurance.

Is 4 sets of 10 reps too much? ›

Sets of anywhere from 4–40 reps will stimulate muscle growth quite well, but most research shows that doing 6–20 reps per set is the most efficient way to build muscle. Bodybuilders often use the middle of that range, favouring 8–12 reps per set.

What are the 4 lifting principles? ›

Don't twist your body while lifting. Don't lift from the side. Keep the load squarely in front of you. Don't drop your end of the load when lifting.

What is a 3 second negative in lifting? ›

Negatives are a great way to add more intensity into your workouts and overload the muscle groups engaged in the exercises you are performing. Negatives are performed by controlling the tempo of the repetition and slowing down the lowering phase of the lift to an approximate 3-5 seconds rep count.

Is it better to do more reps or more weight? ›

Generally, exercises with higher reps are used to improve muscular endurance, while higher weights with fewer reps are used to increase muscle size and strength.

Should I lift heavy or light as a beginner? ›

The benefits of lifting light weights

If you're new to working out or starting a new fitness program, light weights may be a good choice. "Someone may choose to train with less resistance when they are learning the form on new exercises.

Should beginners lift everyday? ›

It's important to remain patient even when excited, though. You may feel you have the energy to work out every day as a beginner, but this will quickly lead to burn out and may injure your body. Take your time when starting a new workout regimen and commit to working out only for 1 – 3 days a week.

Does lifting become easier? ›

Get stronger

Heavy weights increase the power and strength of your muscles without significantly adding bulk or size, especially for women. This means that everyday physical tasks get easier, and consistent training will increase the amount of weight you can lift. You'll look stronger, too.

Should a 70 year old man lift weights? ›

So in addition to cardiovascular activities, seniors should consider weight training. The American College Of Sports Medicine recommends weight training for all people over age 50 and tells us even those into their 90s can benefit.

How often should a 60 year old man lift weights? ›

Most researchers advise training at least three times a week but not more than six. If you are using resistance-training equipment, then allow for a two-minute rest period between each machine. Training the low back muscles once a week seems to be just as effective as doing it more often.

How much should a beginner lifter lift? ›

Booker suggests women generally start with a set of two 5- to 10-pound weights, and men start with a set of two 10- to 20-pound weights.

At what age do people typically begin to lose muscle mass? ›

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade.

How long should I rest between sets as a beginner? ›

Adequate rest between sets helps to maintain a high level of force production for the next set. Thus, typical rest periods for increasing strength are between 2–5 minutes, which research shows to be optimal for strength development.

How many reps is too many? ›

Anything greater than 20 reps in a set is probably far too many. Performing this many reps in a set will have diminishing returns. If you can easily do more than 20 reps, then the weight you are using is probably too light or too easy to elicit any significant growth.

Is chest day everyday good? ›

Finally, working your chest every day will not help you grow. In fact, it will do the opposite. Muscles only grow while resting and repairing, thus it's essential to give your chest time to recover between workouts.

How many sets is too many? ›

The Takeway For How Many Sets You Should Do

Each workout can consist of a total of around 15-25 sets, but the number of sets for a specific muscle group in that workout should be at around 10 or below.

Is 10 sets too much for chest? ›

Be sure to keep your weekly training volume (the total of your working sets) for chest between 12-16 total reps. If you find out you are performing more than 20 sets per week, there is a very good chance you are doing TOO much and are actually diminishing your bodies ability to build new muscle mass.

Is 3 reps enough for strength? ›

About 1–5 reps per set (>85% of 1RM) is probably most effective for strength. Up to about 10–20 reps per set (~60% of 1RM) is moderately effective for strength, but any lighter than that and the strength gain is small.

Is 3 sets enough for strength? ›

Three sets are not enough to build muscle. Increasing the number of sets of each exercise, even while only performing 10 reps, can build muscle because you will be pushing your muscles to fatigue because they are under tension longer. Don't stop at 3 sets but complete 4 or 6 or 8.

How many sets should I hit each muscle? ›

If you've been training properly for less than a year, perform 10-15 sets per muscle group per week. If you've been training properly for one to five years, perform 15-20 sets per week. If you're very advanced and have been training properly for over five years, perform 20-25 sets per week.

What does 10x10 mean in lifting? ›

It is called 10x10, or German volume training (GVT). Here's what you'll be doing: 10 sets of 10 reps (100 reps total) of a single exercise, along with just a little bit of extra accessory work. Besides being super-simple, GVT is super-effective and has been used for decades to boost muscle growth.

What does 4x12 mean in workout? ›

that you perform 4 sets of the exercise, the first set. for 12 reps, the next for 10, the third for 8 and the. fourth for 6. Generally, the reason that you're.

Is 4 sets of 8 reps good? ›

Reasoning: A moderate range of 4 sets of 8 reps allows the lifter to handle loads that stress the muscle quickly while facilitating sufficient time under tension.

Do faster reps make you stronger? ›

If you're looking to build muscle quickly, whether you've been training for years or are just starting out, then doing slower reps is the way to go. Workouts with slower reps cause your muscles to experience more time under tension, much more than with faster reps.

Is 5x5 good for beginners? ›

The bottom line. The 5×5 is a simple and effective barbell training program that's well suited for beginner and intermediate lifters. The 5×5 focuses on key barbell movements for a full body workout that will build strength and muscle, as well as your athletic performance and a host of other benefits.

Is 5x5 the best for strength? ›

Build Serious Strength and Size with a 5x5 Workout Program

The 5x5 program can't be beat for increasing strength, breaking plateaus, and adding muscle. Try out this classic lifting routine and see results! One of the most popular muscle and strength-building programs of all time is the 5x5 protocol.

Is it better to do 8 or 10 reps? ›

Train like a bodybuilder: If you're looking to maximize muscle size, target 8-12 reps per set (on average) and choose multijoint movements like the bench press, squat, overhead press, bent-over row, and deadlift, which recruit more total muscle mass than single-joint moves, thus allowing you to lift heavier weights.

Is it better to do 10 or 15 reps? ›

The best number of reps for you will depend on your training goals. If you are new to exercise and looking to improve your current level of fitness, doing 12 to 15 reps should be sufficient. Improving your fitness and strengthening your muscles will help you burn calories, which can lead to weight loss.

Which muscles respond better to high reps? ›

Delts generally respond better to high reps, though the front portion can respond well to lower reps. This is why delt-dominant bench pressers tend to have large front delts. But when training to get that rounded-shoulders look, higher reps of isolation work is best.

What are the 5 steps of lifting? ›

Proper Lifting Technique
  • Keep a wide base of support. ...
  • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. ...
  • Keep good posture. ...
  • Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). ...
  • Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.

What are the 6 steps to lifting? ›

Page 1
  1. Identify the object, plan ahead • Where do you need to take the load? • ...
  2. 2 Holding. the object • Make a decision on how and where to hold the object. ...
  3. 3 Posture. • ...
  4. 4 Lifting. • ...
  5. 5 Walking. with a load • Keep the load as close to your body as possible with your arms straight. ...
  6. 6 Unloading. •

What are the 3 main lifts? ›

As we mentioned above, the big three are the bench press, squat, and deadlift. They're the three lifts used in powerlifting, where powerlifters use the combined total to measure their strength against their competitors.

Do negative reps make you stronger? ›

In addition to building bigger, stronger muscles, negative reps also help make your connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) more resilient, fortifying them against strain and injury. This is especially important for field sport athletes who subject their bodies to explosive forces repeatedly each and every day.

Do slow negatives build more muscle? ›

You get less muscle activation: Many studies have shown that the negative portion of a rep produces more force. This had led to a lot of “gurus” jumping the gun and proclaiming that slow negatives are better for muscle growth. This IS NOT true.

How heavy should I lift to gain muscle? ›

You should aim to lift weight, also known as resistance, that's heavy enough to challenge yourself. A good guide is to select a weight that tires your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions, or reps. When you find that weights feel too easy, try gradually increasing the weight to the next level up.

Do I need to lift heavy to gain muscle? ›

Depending on your goals, muscle growth does not depend on the amount of weight you lift. It is a myth that one must lift more weight to bulk up. If you're regular and patient with lighter weights, you can achieve similar results.

How long does it take to build muscle? ›

Most beginners will see noticeable muscle growth within eight weeks, while more experienced lifters will see changes in three to four weeks. Most individuals gain one to two pounds of lean muscle per month with the right strength training and nutrition plan.

How many days a week should I lift weights as a beginner? ›

How often you should strength train as a beginner. "When beginning strength training, you should be focused on doing full-body workouts consisting of the main compound lifts. This requires at least one day off in-between workouts, meaning you should only be lifting 2-3 times per week," says Rizzo.

How do I start lifting weights from nothing? ›

Romanelli suggests starting with three days each week. As you advance and notice improvements in strength and stamina, you can move to 5–6 days each week. “I would start with a variation of a split routine,” she says, meaning that Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example, would focus on different muscle groups.

Is it better to lift heavy or light weights to gain muscle? ›

So, in general, low reps with heavy weight tends to increase muscle mass, while high reps with light weight increases muscle endurance. This doesn't mean that you have to rely on one method exclusively. Alternating between the two may be the best approach for long-term success.

How long does it take to build noticeable muscle? ›

Most beginners will see noticeable muscle growth within eight weeks, while more experienced lifters will see changes in three to four weeks. Most individuals gain one to two pounds of lean muscle per month with the right strength training and nutrition plan.

Is it OK to lift weights every day? ›

With a plan, you can do strength training every day. If you implement some basic best practices, you can certainly hit the weights every day and see phenomenal strength, mass and overall fitness gains from your efforts.

What are the 4 steps to lift weights the right way? ›

Proper Lifting Technique
  1. Keep a wide base of support. ...
  2. Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. ...
  3. Keep good posture. ...
  4. Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). ...
  5. Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.

Can you get in shape by only lifting weights? ›

And while it's true that doing steady state cardio probably will help with weight loss, experts say it's totally unnecessary if your main goal is fat loss. In fact, you can lose weight just by lifting weights.

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