Strength Training for Beginners

When working out, people usually choose a side.  They are either lifters or “cardio”ers.  Lifters love to lift weights and do very little to no cardio exercise, while the cardio lovers rarely lift a weight.  In reality, to be healthy we need to do both.

A lot of cardio lovers are afraid of lifting weights.  They think it will make them bulkier than they would like or take too much time away from their beloved cardio without any benefits.  And that’s just not true.

Weight training has many benefits:

  • Increases muscle mass over time.  Muscle mass takes up less space than fat and burns more calories than fat.  So, in time, weight training will increase your metabolism
  • Strengthens bones and muscles
  • Improves coordination and balance
  • Gives your body a nice shape.

If you are new to strength training, here are some basic guidelines to follow to get started:

  • Train each one of your major muscle groups.

There are 8 major muscle groups:

  1. Your chest
  2. Your shoulders
  3. Your back
  4. Your abdominals
  5. Your gluteal muscles (your behind)
  6. Your hamstrings (the back of the upper part of your legs)
  7. You quadriceps (the front of the upper part of your legs)
  8. Your calves (the back of the bottom part of your legs)

If you do one exercise for each of these 8 muscle groups, then you have a full body strength training program.

  •  Train for both muscular strength and endurance

This is one of the mistakes I see a lot in the gym.  People pick either strength or endurance muscle training and stick to it.  When for a strong and toned muscle, you need to train both muscular strength and endurance.

Muscle strength is simply how strong your muscle is and how much weight it can lift.  Muscular endurance is being able to hold a heavy object for a prolonged period of time. Think of the Olympic Weightlifter.  He or she uses pure strength to lift the heavy barbell up and over their head.  They immediately drop the weight once it reaches the top.  The lift part requires muscular strength.  Holding the barbell over your head for a period of time requires muscular endurance, which the Olympic Weight Lifter has very little of.

olympic weight lift

For an everyday example, think of carrying a heavy box of items from one place to another.  You need muscular strength to lift the box up, but you need muscular endurance to carry that box from one location to another.

carrying boxes

To train muscular strength, you should complete 1-3 sets of 5-8 repetitions of the strength training exercise.

To train muscular endurance, you should complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions of a strength training exercise.

Alternate muscular strength and endurance training sessions into your workout.

  • Choose the right weight

When you are just starting a strength training program, knowing what weight to lift can be confusing.  It is always best to start light and then you can increase as you go.

If you are training for muscular strength, choose a heavier weight that you can perform the exercise with proper form 5 to 8 times.  If you can not do at least 5 repetitions with good form, then the weight is too heavy and you should choose a lighter weight.  If you can do more than 10 repetitions, then the weight is too light and you need to choose a heavier weight.

The same rules apply for muscular endurance.  You will need a lighter weight, but if you can do more than 17 repetitions, you need to increase the weight.  If you can not perform 10 repetitions with good form, then you should opt for a lighter weight.

  • Rest your muscles!

You always need to rest your muscles for at least 48 hours after either a muscular strength or muscular endurance training session.

You can do cardiovascular exercise or stretching exercises on days you are resting, but no lifting weights!

  • Choose the right exercise.

If you are brand new to exercise, it is best to seek professional advice before beginning a strength training program.  The professional will make sure you are ready to begin lifting weights and get you started on a safe and effective program based on your current fitness level.

For those who are looking to start a strength training program and have been cleared to exercise, be sure to watch your form.  Use a mirror or a friend to help watch your form.  If a particular exercise is difficult for you to do with proper form, choose another exercise.  You will be doing more harm than good to your body when using improper form.

Below are basic exercises you can use to start a muscular strength and endurance program.  Click on the links for tips on proper form.

Chest Press
Shoulder Press
Donkey Kicks (use a chair or wall for stability)
Straight Leg Lifts
Calf raises



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