Beginner’s Guide for Strength Training
5 Simple Steps to Help You Start Your Fitness Journey
You’re here because you want to strengthen your body. But when you hear the words “strength training” you might feel intimidated. And maybe you don’t even know where to start. Some of you might have already tried working out on your own and didn’t see the results you were looking for. If this is you, I’ve got some great news for you. In this guide, I’m going to simplify strength training for you. You’ll understand what you need to do and how to do it. And I promise that you’ll walk away feeling confident about strength training.
Benefits of Strength Training
But before I dive into how to get started on your strength training journey, let’s take a look at the benefits. Strength training goes beyond building a stronger body. Here are some benefits that might surprise you:
- Better cardiovascular health
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Lowered risk of injury
- Improved flexibility
- Stronger bones
- Longer Lifespan
Build a Strong Foundation
Before we move onto the tips on how to get started on strength training, I’d like to ask you to do one thing. Keep your focus on the long-term. When we focus on the short-term, it’s easy to become discouraged. In the beginning, you’ll feel as if you’re not making any progress. Short-term thinking will make you believe that the workout you did had no effect. But that’s not true. With each training session you complete, you’re developing habits for success. And when you practice the right habits, time will be on your side to bring you the results you’re looking for.
Think of your fitness journey as building a sturdy house. First, you begin with the basic foundations. Without a solid foundation, your house will have nothing to stand on. Whenever the foundation is being worked on in a house, it looks like nothing happened. All you see is cement covering a hole. It may look insignificant, but it doesn’t change its importance. Without a solid foundation, the house will collapse.
In the same way, without the right habits in place, your fitness journey will not last. You should develop good habits as early as possible. Because changing them later down the line will be much harder than it is now. So to help you get started on your training, here are 8 simple steps.
1. Start With a Warm-Up Routine
When you begin training the last thing you want is an injury. But a warm-up routine does more than injury prevention. It’s also a great way to discipline yourself to workout when you don’t feel like it. When you think of the whole workout, you might dread the thought. But an easy warm-up helps you feel less overwhelmed. After all, you don’t do the whole workout all at once. You complete it one rep at a time.
So start with an easy warm-up. It can be as simple as moving your body around to your favorite song. Since most gyms have shut down, we’re now confined to home workouts. But here’s the good news, you can make your warm-ups as silly and ridiculous as you want. No one’s judging. And by the time you finish your warm-up, that feeling of laziness will fade away. Do you still need more ideas on fun ways to warm up? Check out “9 Fun and Effective Ways to Warm Up” by C.J. Sower on Bodybuilding.com (linked at the bottom).
2. Train With Your Body Weight
Before you hit the weights, learn how to do bodyweight exercises properly. Bodyweight training helps you familiarize yourself with weight training exercises. It might seem overly simplistic at first, but that’s the whole point. It’s to reduce overwhelm. Starting small and simple prevents you from getting stuck. You’ll know what to do and how to do it. So for simplicity’s sake, let’s take a look at what strength training is.
Strength training centers around developing different muscle groups in your body. So when you create workout routines, rather than doing full-body workouts in one day, you should divide up your workouts into two or three days. Begin by training your biggest muscle groups first during your week. Here are your muscle groups from largest to smallest:
- Arms (Tricep and Bicep)
So let’s make a simple workout plan you can start with. We’re going to divide up your training days by muscle groups. Why? Because it will help decrease overwhelm. How? By making each of your workouts short and simple. So here’s what your workout plan could look like:
Day 1- Legs (1-minute break between each set)
- Squats (4 x 25) (4 sets of 15)
- Squat Jumps (2 x 10)
- Lunges (2 x 20)
- Wall Sits (2 x 1 Minute) (2 one-minute sets)
- Calf Raises (2 x 40)
Day 2- Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
- Push-Ups (2 x 15)
- Incline Push-Ups (2 x 15)
- Decline Push-Ups (2 x 15)
- Narrow Grip Push-ups (2 x 8)
- Bench Dips (2 x 10)
Day 3- Back, Biceps, and Abs
- Pull-Ups- (3 x 5)
- Superman (2 x 20)
- Y Superman (2 x 20)
- W Superman (2 x 20)
- Sit-Ups (4 x 20)
- Bicycle (Ab Workout) (4 x 10)
- Russian Twist (4 x 15)
- Plank (2 x 1 Minute)
Just remember that this is an example of what your workout could look like. Everyone’s fitness levels are different. If this workout seems too hard for you, you can adjust the sets and reps. You can also get rid of some of the exercises. If it looks too easy, do the opposite. Experiment and figure out what works best for you.
If this 3-Day workout routine looks overwhelming, feel free to divide them up into more days. I recommend three days only because it’s easier to build a habit of working out three times a week (as opposed to four or five times a week). This brings me to my next point.
3. Turn Strength Training into a Habit
It doesn’t matter if you put in half an effort. Or even a quarter of an effort. If you show up to workout at least three times a week for many consecutive weeks, it will become a habit. I’m sure you’ve heard this cliché a thousand times before, but here it is again. We are creatures of habit. We become what we do repeatedly.
Whenever I talk to friends who struggle to keep their fitness commitments, I always hear comments like… “I’m just not a workout person.” Or “I’m just not cut out for a healthy lifestyle.” There’s one common denominator in what’s spoken out of their mouths. It is the statement “I am.” It describes who they are. And they speak as if they can’t change themselves. But one thing that they don’t realize is that people CAN change. You can change. You can change yourself by changing your habits.
So allow yourself plenty of time to turn strength training into a lifelong habit. When you train consistently over a long time, it becomes a part of you. You will grow and become a new person with new habits.
4. Train With Light Weights to Learn Proper Form and Techniques
When you’re starting out, there’s no need for heavy weights and fancy gym equipment. There’s no point in investing in dumbbells that you can’t lift. Your main focus from the start should be to learn the proper form and techniques. And the best way to learn is by training with light weights. Why? Because you’ll have a much easier time controlling the weight.
Start with a small dumbbell set. Learn proper lifting form by watching instructional videos on YouTube. If everything seems too overwhelming, book a personal trainer for a few sessions. Try recording yourself to see how your form compares to personal trainers. Learning the correct form goes beyond injury prevention. You’ll get the most out of each training session. You’ll feel more confident with each lift and achieve your goals faster.
And now you might be wondering what a training session looks like with weights. It’s quite simple. It’s like the bodyweight workout plan we created earlier. Except, this time we’re adding dumbbells to the bodyweight exercises. So here’s a 4-Day Strength Training Plan:
Day 1- Legs (1-minute break between each set)
- Squats with 15 lb Dumbbells (4 x 25) (4 sets of 15)
- Squat Jumps (2 x 10)
- Lunges with 10 lb Dumbbells (2 x 20)
- Wall Sits with 10 lb Dumbbells (2 x 1 Minute) (2 one-minute sets)
- Calf Raises with 15 lb Dumbbells (2 x 40)
Day 2- Chest and Shoulders
- Push-Ups (2 x 15)
- Bench Press with 15 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Chest Flies with 5 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
- Shoulder Press with 10 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
- Lateral Raises with 5 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
Day 3- Back
- Wide Grip Pull-Ups- (5 x 2)
- Pull-Ups- (5 x 2)
- One-Arm Bench Rows with 15 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Bent-Over Rows with 15 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
- Back Flies with 10 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
Day 4- Triceps and Biceps
- Skull Crushers with 10 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Tricep Overhead Extension with 20 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
- Tricep Kick Backs with 5 lb Dumbbells (2 x 10)
- Preacher Curls with 10 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Seated Bicep Curls with 10 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Standing Bicep Curls with 10 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
- Standing Hammer Curls with 10 lb Dumbbells (3 x 10)
I know this might seem like a lot, but remember that this workout plan is divided up into four days. Most of the days consist of 5 different exercises or less. Each of these workouts should only last between 25–40 minutes max. So if you’re worried that you won’t have enough time to work out, just remember one thing. You only need at most 40 minutes of free time four days out of the week.
5. Track Your Progress and Gradually Increase Your Weights
While you’re training it’s actually quite easy to get distracted. Especially during your rests between sets. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve caught myself staring at my phone well over the time I set for my breaks. You can stay focused on your training by keeping a fitness journal with you.
On the night before you begin your training, plan out your training session. Write down all the exercises you want to do. Set goals on the number of sets and reps you want to do. Then when it’s time to train, have your fitness journal ready. While you’re resting between your sets, record the reps you completed. You’ll stay focused on your training while collecting valuable data. You can then use the journal as a reference point to set goals for your future workouts.
In the beginning, it’ll be hard to see the significance of keeping track of your progress. But give it a few months. As you flip through your fitness journal you’ll feel great encouragement. I know I did when my one rep max bench press went from 120 lbs to 225 lbs in only 5.5 months of training. There’s no better feeling when your hard work pays off beyond your expectations. So keep a good record of your training sessions. You’ll surprise yourself with the progress you make.
Now you have everything you need to get started on your journey. And remember it’s all a learning process. You can build on your workouts as you go. So go out there and have fun with it. You’re more than capable of accomplishing your goals. If you know a friend or family member who struggles to stay in shape, feel free to share this guide with them.
- 11 Benefits of Strength Training, K. Aleisha Fetters https://health.usnews.com/wellness/fitness/articles/2018-03-23/11-benefits-of-strength-training-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-muscle-size
- 9 Fun and Effective Ways to Warm Up, C.J. Sower https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/9-fun-and-effective-ways-to-warm-up.html
- The Easy Way to Get Hard Things Done — Mini Habits by Stephen Guise; Detailed Book Notes Summary, Sarah Cy, https://sarahcy.medium.com/the-easy-way-to-get-hard-things-done-mini-habits-by-stephen-guise-b8e9ca14bb4a