Get Fit: Beginner’s Guide For Strength Training

Weightlifting and strength training for beginners can be straightforward if you use the right kind of resistance training. This involves free weights like dumbbells, fixed weights like barbells, and machine weights.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed when trying to plan your entry into working out, you’re not alone.

The weight training and strength training sections of the gym can be intimidating, as can using home gym equipment if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Strength training

Strength training is a type of resistance training that uses opposing forces to build strength across your body and increase your muscle mass.

Kate Whapples, a strength and conditioning coach explains that strength training is a method of training that helps you increase your muscular strength and build muscle mass. Strength training provides a stimulus to the body that requires an adaptation response.

Strength training for beginners should focus on compound exercises, which are movements that recruit multiple muscle groups. Once the beginner has built enough strength to isolate muscles, they can work them to their limit.

Strength training benefits

  1. Lowers cholesterol
  2. Improves stress
  3. Increases muscle mass
  4. Improves body composition (the ratio of body fat to muscle you have)
  5. Improves posture
  6. Decreased risk of injury
  7. Increases bone density
  8. Improves sleep

Regular strength training can help you get strong and feel sturdy, which is especially important as you get older. It can also improve your heart health, lower your cholesterol, and help with your posture. Plus, it can increase your metabolism since muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue.

The more muscle tissue you have, the more your body will burn at rest.

Regular strength training requirements


Cardio workouts are good for your heart health, circulation, and blood pressure. Like resistance training, cardio is something you should do regularly throughout your life.

You don’t have to do hundreds of burpees or sprint around the park for a cardio workout. Walking, swimming, and cycling are all gentle cardio workouts that are just as effective.

Active recovery

All the effort we put into our strength-training workouts could be wasted if we don’t let our bodies recover between them. This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to spend your non-workout time supine, sipping protein shakes.

Active recovery is a good way to increase blood flow and includes everything from walking to hiking, foam rolling, stretching, doing mobility exercises and gentle yoga. This will majorly help your muscles repair themselves.

NEAT exercise (NEAT is short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)

Neat exercise is all the movement you do that is not considered exercise. This includes things like walking the dog, playing with your kids, doing chores, and even fidgeting. All of these activities make up a significant portion of our total daily energy expenditure, which is the number of calories we burn in a day.

The goal with NEAT is to maintain a level of activity every day that supports every other healthy thing we’re trying to do (including strength training and weight training). This was much easier when our commute was longer than the bed to the kitchen table and back again but there are simple ways to increase how much NEAT you’re doing a day:

  • Walking to your destination instead of driving or taking public transport;
  • Choosing the stairs over the lift;
  • Standing up and walking around for a short time every hour or between meetings.

5 Strength Training for Beginners Tips

1. Get in the right frame of mind

Go into the strength training section with confidence. Remember, most people are feeling just as shy as you are, or they’re too focused on their own workout to notice what you’re doing. Try to be the latter.

If you’re strength training at home, give yourself the best chance for success by making time in your schedule, playing upbeat music, and clearing enough space to move around.

2. Start light

A good rule of thumb is to start with a lighter weight and then adjust from there based on how easy or difficult the reps are. The most important thing is to maintain perfect form no matter how much weight you’re using.

If you don’t know what the perfect form is, look it up before you start. You can find a lot of examples of basic moves online (like how to squat properly, how to do a push-up or the perfect way to do a plank) and YouTube is a great place to start.

If you need more attention when working out, you should consider getting a personal trainer. They can help you with your form and technique. It is difficult to weight train at home by yourself and it is better to get help so you can learn the proper way to do things.

3. Keep a gym log

A good way to stay on top of your strength training is to maintain a gym log. You can note down the number of reps, sets, and weights used for each exercise on your phone or a fitness app like Strong. This will help you keep track of your progress and see how far you’ve come.

After your next workout, take some time to assess how it made you feel and whether or not you could push yourself a little harder. This might mean adding more weight, slowing down the movement, or doing more repetitions.

4. Stay consistent

If you want to get stronger, you need to put in the work. Strength training is not something you can wing and expect to get results. You need to be consistent with your workouts and follow a structured plan to see any gains in strength. Even if you’re just starting out, you can expect to see some progress in a few weeks if you stick to it.

5. Keep it simple

Don’t make strength training more complicated than it needs to be by using every piece of equipment in the gym. You’ll get more benefits from focusing on classic compound exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups, like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows.

You should focus on these exercises as the foundation of your workout routine. Make sure you do them correctly with good form. If you’re uncertain about how to structure your workout, talk to a PT for guidance. You can schedule a single session or consultation to get help.

Steps to start strength training with dumbbells

Determine your workout split

This type of split is good for people who want to focus on building muscle in specific areas. A body part split means you would focus on 1-2 muscle groups per workout. So, for example, in one workout you would focus on chest exercises, and in another workout, you would focus on back exercises. This type of split is good if you want to specifically build muscle in certain areas.

A type of workout where you do exercises that mostly work the same muscle group is called a movement-style training split. It often includes compound movements, which are exercises that use more than one joint at a time. An example of a workout like this would be doing different variations of the bench press, like the barbell bench press, incline bench press, and dumbbell bench press.

This text is saying that you should train every muscle group 2-3 times a week.

You can also do upper/lower splits, with the fifth day being an additional day for focusing on whichever muscle groups you want to develop further.

Don’t do more than 18 sets of exercises for any one muscle group in a week if you want your muscles to recover properly and grow optimally.

Determine your main dumbbell movements

Figuring out which exercises will help you get stronger using only dumbbells (and body weight) can depend on your ability levels, current strength, and the weight of dumbbells you have available.

Dumbbell squats

Dumbbell front squats and dumbbell goblet squats are great exercises for beginners or lifters who have access to heavier dumbbells since they help build leg strength and muscle.

Training with dumbbells can be improved by adding pauses, tempos, and other advanced protocols.

Dumbbell split squats

Dumbbell split squats are good for people who may not be able to lift heavy weights (or for beginners).

Working out with lighter weights can help improve your strength in the long run by correcting muscle imbalances and improving your symmetry.

Dumbbell single-leg hip raises

If you’re looking for a move to help bulk up your backside, the single-leg dumbbell hip thrust is a great alternative to the bilateral hip thrust, which uses two legs. This exercise can be used to increase the strength of your glutes and hamstrings and can be a replacement for heavier deadlift movements.

Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts - The "Other" Way To Train Your Hamstrings, Without A Leg Curl Machine

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a much safer alternative to regular deadlifts for people who want to focus on their hamstrings.

This cannot replace heavy lifting for those who are stronger, however, it can be used for muscle growth, especially if heavier weights are being used with more advanced training like tempos and pauses.

Dumbbell unilateral lower body exercises

The dumbbell overhead press is an effective way to build shoulder strength and size. This exercise can be performed using a variety of tempos, ranges, and pauses to target the shoulders and build muscle.

Dumbbell bench press

Exercising. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Stock Illustration - Illustration of triceps, initial: 66935924

The dumbbell bench press is a strength exercise for the chest and triceps that can be varied to emphasize the chest or triceps more as needed.

Dumbbell bent over rows

Rows with dumbbells bent over are an excellent way to increase back strength and prevent injury.

Bodyweight movements

Remember to also do bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, handstand push-ups, chin-ups, pull-ups, and pistol squats.

You can increase the difficulty of pull-ups, chin-ups, and pistol squats by adding weight or by doing them with a deficit. Adding a deficit to push-ups and handstand push-ups are also great ways to increase upper body strength with bodyweight movements.

Add accessory work to build muscle

You can complement your training program by adding additional exercises, which can help promote muscle growth, correct imbalances, and help you complete your program.

Single joint movements

Movements that only target one joint are great for working on small, supportive muscles. These exercises let you focus on developing a specific muscle group, often with very specific details.

Lifting weights in a compound manner is key for growing all muscles, however adding in single-joint movements like shoulder raises, biceps curls, triceps skull crushers, and hamstring curls can also lead to increased strength and muscle growth.

Unilateral training

Doing more single-sided exercises can help improve muscle growth, make it easier to do exercises that involve both sides of the body, and fix movement problems and imbalances between muscles.

Adding accessory blocks to your routine is a great way to finish a muscle off for that day and stimulate growth.

Create the exercises, sets, reps, and workout duration

Use these guidelines to develop your own dumbbell workout program for a head start. Follow these guidelines for successful training!

Exercises per workout

Most people should only do 4-6 different exercises per workout, not including warm-up exercises.

The key to having quality work sets is to focus on what you need to be doing and not be excessive where your sets and reps become sloppy and counterproductive.

Sets and reps for strength

If your goal is to become stronger, and you have access to heavy weights, try doing 4-6 sets of 5-10 reps of compound lifts.

We recommend against training with fewer than 8 repetitions for single-joint movements like curls, skull crushers, etc.

Sets and reps for muscle building

To build muscles (or to supplement your training to become stronger), try doing 3-5 sets of 8-20 repetitions with a focus on making the muscles tired (rather than just going through the motions).

The most important aspect of muscle growth is ensuring that the target muscle is being engaged during exercise.

Feel the burn and keep going

Dumbbells are useful for building strength, but you’ll need to use heavier weights as you get stronger. Incorporating a barbell into your routine will help you keep making progress.


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