Weight Training Workouts: Beginners


beginner weight training

There are several aspects of weight training that an individual that is just starting out needs to understand in order to perform their weight training routine with safety, efficiency, and a high probability of achieving their personal health and fitness goals.

This being said, the first item of importance is to determine if you are going to performing your strength training routine using free weights, weight training circuit machines, elastic bands, exercise or medicine balls, kettlebells, or some combination of the above.

Once you determine which form of strength training you are going to perform, you will need to learn how to safely and correctly perform the various exercises for each primary muscle group.

In parallel with learning how to perform each of the exercises correctly, you will need to also learn the various muscle groups, how they perform and interact with the other muscle groups, and then put together a workout routine that will exercise all major muscle groups effectively.

This portion of the learning process will take some time to master and is important in that your personal fitness goals will either be achieved, or not, based on your actual workouts.

Primary Muscle Groups


In order to design a well-balanced and complete weight training routine, you will want to exercise all major muscle groups as a primary muscle group. Exercising a major muscle group only from the perspective of a secondary muscle group will not be sufficient. Below is a list of the primary muscle groups that you will want to focus on and ensure that you are adequately exercising:

major muscle groups
  • Abdominals: The muscles that make up the front of your mid-section.

  • Biceps: The muscles located on the front of your arm between your shoulder and elbow.

  • Calves: The muscles that make up the lower portion of the back of your leg.

  • Deltoids: The muscles that make up a large portion of the curve of your shoulder.

  • Forearms: The muscles located on the lower arm between the elbow and wrist.

  • Gluteals: The muscles of your posterior.

  • Hamstrings: The muscles located on the back of your legs between your gluteals and knee.

  • Latissimus Dorsi: The muscles located on the sides of the upper back under the arm pit.

  • Pectorals: The muscles of your chest.

  • Obliques: The muscles on the sides of your mid-section.

  • Quadriceps: The muscles located on the front of your leg between your hip and knee.

  • Trapezius: The muscles located on the sides of your neck.

  • Triceps: The muscles located on the back of your arm between your shoulder and elbow.

Increasing Overall Structural Strength


You will want to initially focus on increasing your overall structural strength. In other words, perform exercises that will strengthen all soft tissue (i.e. muscles, ligaments, and tendons), your joints, and your skeletal frame.

One approach to accomplishing this is to focus on the core exercises for each muscle group. In general, each strength training exercise can be divided into one of two groups: explosive movements and rhythmic movements. Explosive movements are the basic core weight training exercises that are designed to increase muscle size and strength. The rhythmic movements are weight training exercises that focus on shaping and defining the muscle.

If you are new to strength training and just starting your strength training exercise routine, it is recommended that you initially focus on performing explosive exercises for each muscle group. As you progress, you will want to perform a combination of both explosive and rhythmic exercises for each muscle group.

Lastly, it is important that, as you progress both mentally (i.e. continue to gain knowledge) and physically, you pay attention to which exercises seem to work well for you. These will be the exercises that seem to work each of your muscle groups best in terms of increasing your lean muscle mass and strength. Once you have determined which exercises work best for you, you will want to think of these specific exercises as your core exercises.

It is important to modify your strength training routine every four to eight weeks in order to keep each of your muscle groups in a constant state of confusion and growth. By understanding which exercises for each muscle group are your core exercises, you can change the exercises that are less important as you modify your strength training routine. By doing so, you will ensure that your strength training routine continues to provide positive results that are aligned with your strength training goals.

General Tips and Techniques for Beginning Weight Trainers


Below are several tips and techniques that are designed to assist you in designing and performing a weight training routine that is safe, productive and enjoyable:

    weight lifting tips
  • Begin slowly: Perform your initial weight training routines by performing one to no more than two exercises per muscle group. It is important to understand that you are requiring that your body perform exercises that it is not accustomed to. It will take time for your body to acclimate to the new physical demands that you are placing on it.

  • Use your first few weight training workouts to exercise your entire body: In relation to the previous tip, when first beginning your weight training program, set a goal to exercise all muscle groups in a single workout and to perform one to no more than two exercises per muscle group. A typical number of repetitions for each exercise would be 10 to 12.

  • Begin each weight training session with a brief warm-up and stretching routine: Strength training has the ability to place a high level of stress on the structural frame and joints of the body. Understanding this, it is highly recommended that you perform a 5 to 15-minute warm-up routine followed by a 10 to 15-minute stretching routine.

    Typical warm-up routines include using an exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, jump rope and so on. Most warm-up routines include some form of cardiovascular exercise, and are designed to prepare your muscles for a more strenuous exercise routine. In addition, the warm-up routine will increase your heart rate and provide an increased flow of oxygen and blood to your muscle tissue.

    Follow your warm up routine with a 10 to 15-minute stretching routine. The intent of your stretching routine is to further increase the circulation of blood and oxygen to your muscle tissue. In addition, regularly performing a stretching routine will provide improvements in your joint flexibility and range or motion. This, in turn, will decrease your probability of injury, relieve tension and stress caused by weight training, and even accelerate the healing process associated with several types of injuries.

  • Allow at least 24 hours of rest between workout sessions: Whether you are a beginning weight trainer or a seasoned veteran, you will want to ensure that you allow your muscles an adequate time to recover from your weight training routine. In general, you will want to allow each muscle group that you exercise between 24 and 48 hours of rest before exercising it again. By doing so, you will allow each muscle group the necessary time to repair the muscle tissue that was damaged during your weight training session.

  • Allow additional time to rest and recover if muscle soreness still persists: One indication that a muscle group is still in recovery mode is that the muscle is still sore. It is important to understand that strength training actually creates small tears in the muscle tissue. Because of this, time is required to allow the body to repair the muscle tissue that was damaged. This being said, always allow each muscle group the time necessary to repair itself before exercising it again. Typical time durations required to allow the muscle tissue to heal range from 24 to 48 hours.

  • Learn to listen to your body: The importance of learning to listen to what your body is telling you cannot be overstated. When performing a strength training routine, pain is involved in aggressively exercising each muscle group.

    It is important that you learn the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain". Good pain is associated with pushing the muscle to gain in strength and size through performing an exercise to failure, or near failure, and is normal. Bad pain is related to any sharp abrupt pain in the muscle or joint. In the event that this occurs, it may be an indication of a muscle strain or sprain, or stress on the tissue of a joint. If this occurs, discontinue the exercise and evaluate the symptoms of the pain to determine which type it is.

A Beginning Weight Training Routine


As previously mentioned, the primary goal for a beginning weight trainer is to strengthen the structural frame, or more specifically, to strengthen the muscles, ligaments, tendons and skeletal frame. This is an important first step in that weight training can place a high level of stress on the soft tissue, skeletal frame and joints of the body.

One approach to strengthening your structural frame is to perform the core exercises for each major muscle group. The core exercises for each major muscle group are designed to strengthen the primary muscle group that is involved in the exercise, as well as all secondary muscles. The core exercises will strengthen the skeletal frame and the joints that are involved in performing the exercise as well.

As you strengthen your structural frame and your knowledge and understanding of weight training, you will want to incorporate additional exercises that will work each muscle from varying angles and with a different type or level of stress. By doing so, you will begin to maximize your improvements in strength and the development of lean muscle tissue.

Below is a list of the core weight training exercises for each major muscle group and how to perform the exercise:

Abdominals

Abdominal Crunches

  • Step 1: Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.

  • Step 2: Place your hands by your ears or cross them across your chest.

  • Step 3: Exhale and contract (crunch) forward so that your shoulder blades barely come off the floor.

  • Step 4: Inhale and return to your starting position.

Biceps

Standing Barbell Curls

  • Step 1: Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart.

  • Step 2: Grip a barbell with your arms fully extended by your sides, shoulder width apart, and your palms facing forward.

  • Step 3: With your arms fully extended, exhale and bend them at the elbows and bring your hands toward your shoulders.

  • Step 4: Once you get to the point where the bar is at your chest, inhale and slowly lower the barbell to your starting position.

Calves

Seated Calf Raises

  • Step 1: Sit in the calf raise exercise machine with the balls of your feet on the edge of the platform and your knees under the padded support.

  • Step 2: Inhale and push your knees upward so that your heels raise fully upward toward the ceiling while pressing the ball of each foot down.

  • Step 3: Inhale and lower your heels to the starting position.

Deltoids

Behind the Neck Seated Barbell Deltoid Military Presses

  • Step 1: Begin seated holding the barbell in your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, behind your neck, with your palms facing forward.

  • Step 2: Exhale and fully extend your arms above your head toward the ceiling.

  • Step 3: Inhale and lower your arms back to their starting position behind your neck.

Forearms

Barbell Wrist Curls Behind the Back

  • Step 1: While standing, grab a barbell and hold it behind your back with your arms fully extended toward the floor, palms facing away from you.

  • Step 2: Exhale and curl your wrists up as far as possible.

  • Step 3: Inhale and roll your wrists back to their starting position.

Gluteals

Leg Press

  • Step 1: Sit in the leg press machine and place your feet approximately 12 to 16 inches apart on the platform.

  • Step 2: Extend your legs and pull the lever to release the weight.

  • Step 3: Inhale and bend your knees so that they move toward your chest.

  • Step 4: Exhale and push the weight up until your legs are fully extended.

Hamstrings

Lying Leg Curls

  • Step 1: Set the leg curl machine to your desired weight level.

  • Step 2: Lie face down with your legs securely under the bar.

  • Step 3: Exhale and raise both of your feet toward your lower back.

  • Step 4: Inhale and lower the weight back to the starting position.

Latissimus Dorsi

Wide Grip Pulldowns

  • Step 1: Sit down in the latissimus dorsi machine and grab the bar with your arms fully extended and your palms facing forward.

  • Step 2: Exhale and pull the bar down toward your chest.

  • Step 3: Inhale and allow the bar to return to its starting position with your arms fully extended.

Pectorals

Flat Barbell Bench Press

  • Step 1: Lie flat on your back on the bench, with your feet on the ground, and grip the barbell with your hands shoulder width apart and your palms facing upward.

  • Step 2: Inhale and lower the barbell until it touches your chest.

  • Step 3: Exhale and push the barbell from your chest to its starting position.

Obliques

Elbow to Knee Oblique Crunches

  • Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Step 2: Put your hands behind your head so that your elbows are pointing out.

  • Step 3: Exhale and crunch upward toward your torso and twist your body to one side.

  • Step 4: While performing Step 3, make sure that you bring your opposite knee (i.e. right knee) up and touch it with the opposite elbow (i.e. left elbow). Exhale and return to the starting position. Repeat bringing your left knee up and touching it with your right elbow.

Quadriceps

Barbell Squats

  • Step 1: Place a barbell on your shoulders behind your neck while standing with your feet shoulder width apart.

  • Step 2: Inhale and begin bending down at your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your back upright and your eyes looking slightly upward.

  • Step 3: Exhale and stand back up to return to your starting position.

Trapezius

Barbell Shrugs

  • Step 1: Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart, holding the barbell in front of you with your hands shoulder width apart (palms facing toward your body), with your arms fully extended so that the bar is touching the front of your thighs.

  • Step 2: Exhale, and while keeping your arms fully extended, pull (shrug) your shoulders toward your ears.

  • Step 3: Inhale and lower your shoulders to their starting position.

Triceps

Straight Bar Pushdowns

  • Step 1: Attach a straight bar to the cable machine and face the machine so that you are standing directly in front of it.

  • Step 2: Grip a bar with your palms facing downward approximately 12 inches apart and your elbows tight against your sides.

  • Step 3: Exhale and press the bar downward until your arms are fully extended towards the floor.

  • Step 4: Inhale and allow the bar to return upward until it is approximately even with your chest (your elbows should be bent at approximately a 90 degree angle).

The specific weight training exercises listed above represent a core exercise for each muscle group. There are additional core exercises for each muscle group that are designed to increase structural strength for the beginning weight trainer.

Adding a strength training routine, as a primary form of exercise or to complement your existing fitness routine, is an excellent idea as strength training provides several unique health and fitness benefits. In fact, it is our belief that all fitness routines should include a strength training portion.

female doing dumbbell biceps curls

For individuals that are just starting a strength training routine, it is important to remember that you will want to improve your structural strength first.

Once this has been accomplished, you will want to continue to learn about the various primary muscle groups, how they function, and how best to exercise them.

Thereafter, you will want to continue to modify your strength training routine to include different exercises that work your muscles from different angles and from a different stress perspective.

By doing so, you will maximize your efforts in terms of increasing your lean muscle mass and strength.

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