Everyone starts at the same place in the gym: the beginning. Deciding to start a weight lifting program is an exciting time when you’ve decided to take the next step into your health and fitness goals. Whether you just want to tone down and lose some weight or if your ultimate goal is to compete at bodybuilding competitions, the beginner’s weight lifting plan is always relatively similar.
Consistent strength training, which consists of at least two sessions weekly for at least 12 weeks, has many health and fitness benefits. If you’ve been struggling to see results by just changing your diet or by using cardio, strength training through weight lifting will help you get to where you want to be in your fitness journey. Typical results include increased muscle, tendon, and ligament strength, as well as a toned, muscled body (and don’t worry ladies, toned does not mean “masculine”).
- Make sure to rerack any weights by placing dumbbells back on the rack and reracking the weights you use on barbells.
- Check with your gym to see if you need to bring your own towel to wipe down equipment. Many bigger gyms provide disposable wipes or towels and spray. Whichever your gym does, make sure you’re wiping down the equipment you use.
- If people are waiting to use a machine, think about sharing in between sets. Most people are happy to share and work with you.
- Try to avoid talking on the phone in the gym. It’s distracting and can become pretty rude if you’re talking loudly or even talking on speaker.
General Rules of Thumb
- Start with smaller weights to work on your form. You want to be using your muscles to perform the exercises, not momentum. Starting with low weights decreases risk of injury.
- If you can perform 30 reps at a weight comfortably, it’s time to increase the weight. Increase the weight slowly and in small increments, about 5% at a time.
- Use a controlled movement to work through your exercises. Your muscles activate and work harder on slow, controlled movements. Slower exercises are also gentler on your joints, which can strain with fast, sloppy work.
- Find your ideal rest period between 30 and 90 seconds. Resting too long will take your muscles out of anaerobic work and not resting long enough will set you up for failure when your muscles are strained.
- Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle to your workouts and make sure to drink during exercise.
- Eat something small before and after workouts. This can be as simple as a protein shake or you can make small meals of chicken and rice.
- Perform cardio after your weight training or on different days. This ensures that your muscles will have enough energy to handle the weight training.
Before You Start
- Start with machines over free weight work. Machines support your weaker areas and help to isolate your targeted muscle.
- Perform a weight lifting routine at least twice a week with at least one day off in between. This allows your muscles time to recover while still reaping significant health benefits.
- Start with one set of 8-12 reps to fatigue (using a weight that will tire the muscle significantly by the end of the set). Once comfortable with the form of that exercise, increase to two sets of 8-12 reps to fatigue with a 30-90 rest period in between.
Combine these exercises to create a full-body weight lifting plan. Switch out exercises to keep things interesting. Repeat at least twice a week or more if you feel up to it!
- Squats: Front, back, and box squats
- Hip Hinge: Traditional, sumo, Romanian, and trap-bar deadlifts
- Single Leg: Forward, reverse, and lateral lunges. Step ups. Single leg hip thrusts.
- Pushing: Bench press, dumbbell press, military press, and pushups.
- Pulling: Cable row, chest-supported rows, barbell rows, chin-ups, and pullups.
- Carries: Farmer’s carry, suitcase carry, and cross body carry.
- Core: Overhead lifts, split-stance exercises, planks, and rollouts.