Weight Training Workouts: Beginner

couple weight training

You've started your exercise log, obtained the necessary gear and apparel, found an exercise partner, and defined your personal fitness goals and dietary requirements. Now its time to take action and begin your weight training workout

The intent of this article is to discuss information related to a weight training workout program that is designed for the individual who is new to strength training, or has not performed a strength training routine for several years.

The focus of a beginning weight training program is to build the core structural foundation and begin the process of building muscular strength and endurance.

In other words, begin the process of building a solid structural frame of muscular strength and endurance through developing the soft tissue (i.e. muscles, ligaments, and tendons) of the human body. This is an important first step as performing any type of resistance based exercise will place a level of stress on the various joints and soft tissue of the body.

It is during the beginning weight training program that the individual will determine whether they have any structural weaknesses. For example, an individual may find that their left knee is causing them pain when performing squats, or that their elbows hurt when performing triceps pressdowns. It this is the case, adjustments to the weight training program may be necessary.

In addition, it is important that each individual determine if they are going to begin their weight training program using free weights, circuit weight equipment, or a combination of both.

Free Weights vs. Circuit Weight Equipment

Free weights predominantly utilize iron bars where the individual adds plates of weights to them (i.e. 5, 10, 25, 35, and 45-pound plates), and/or iron dumbbells. The reason this type of equipment is called "free weights" is because the individual must balance and control the movement of the weight.

Circuit weight equipment is designed for specific muscle groups and movements, and the weight resistance is attached to the piece of equipment. Each individual piece of circuit weight equipment is designed to perform a specific exercise for a specific muscle group.

The movement of each piece of circuit weight equipment is pre-defined and the individual simply moves the piece of equipment in the direction it was designed to move. For example, the circuit weight equipment named the seated leg extension works the quadriceps muscles (front thigh area) and moves in a specific direction to do so. The individual simply sets the equipment to the amount of weight they want to move, and then forces the equipment to move in the direction it was designed. This makes circuit equipment relatively safe in comparison to free weights.

Once an individual becomes familiar with the specific muscle groups and the types of free weight and circuit weight equipment that are available to exercise each muscle group, they typically incorporate both types of weight equipment into their routine.

Tips for the Beginning Weight Trainer

Individuals that are beginning a weight training routine for the first time may find that it is a little intimidating. Below are several tips designed to minimize the level of intimidation and assist the individual in getting off to a good start: 

    male performing flat straight bar bench press
  1. Take it easy - Begin with low weight levels to allow yourself to get used to the exercise that is being performed. 

    Most individuals should begin with approximately 50% of the maximum weight they could actually use to perform the exercise (50% intensity).

  2. Perform a fairly high number of repetitions - Initially, perform approximately 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise until you get used to the exercise and are able to perform it correctly.

    If you cannot do 10 repetitions, you are using too much weight.

  3. Stay well hydrated - One of the first mistakes many beginning weight trainers make is to get so focused on the exercises that they forget to drink plenty of water during their workout. 

    Every time (or every other time) that you rest after an exercise, take a trip to the water fountain.

  4. Never sacrifice form and control for speed - Many beginning weight trainers perform their exercises too quickly and without proper control of the weight. The concern with this approach is that the individual is increasing their probability of injury, and actually not working the muscle group to its fullest potential. Hence, it is better to perform 10 repetitions with good form and speed than 15 repetitions with poor form and speed.

  5. Never perform an exercise or use a piece of equipment with which you are unfamiliar - If you are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, an exercise or how to correctly perform it, ask a personal trainer trainers or refer to our Exercises section.

  6. Listen to your body - Weight training is excellent at exposing any physical weaknesses an individual may have. Whether it's a bad knee, lower back or elbow, the torque placed on the joints during the exercises will quickly let the individual know that they need to use caution when performing a specific exercise. Hence, it is important that the individual listen to their body and understand the difference between good pain (pain due to the tearing down of muscle tissue) and bad pain (pain due to stress on a joint, muscle, ligament or tendon).

  7. Remember to breathe - Many individuals that begin a weight training program tend to hold their breath when performing the exercise. The rule of thumb is to exhale on the portion of the exercise that is hard and to inhale on the portion of the exercise that is easy. For example, when performing the flat straight bar bench press the individual should inhale as they lower the weight to their chest, and exhale as they press the weight away from their chest.

Your First Total Body Workout

Provided below is a beginning weight training workout program designed for the individual that has never weight trained before, or has not weight trained for several years. Again, the intent of the beginning weight training routine is to build the individual's structural foundation. In addition, an individual may want to couple a cardiovascular workout program with their weight training program. For instance, an individual may weight train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and bike on Tuesday and Thursday. 

The items listed below are to be performed prior to each and every weight training session.

  • Warm up - Perform a light cardiovascular activity prior to the weight training session. For example, exercise on the stationary bike, stair climber, elliptical or rowing machine for 10 to 15 minutes before weight training. By doing so, you will warm up the body, increase your heart rate and loosen your joints. This approach will ready your body for the weight training portion of your exercise program.

  • Stretch - After you complete your warm-up exercises, perform a stretching routine for 5-10 minutes. This approach will further warm up your muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. It's also a good idea to stretch after you have completed your weight training routine.

  • Follow the general guidelines- Perform the beginner weight training exercise program at least twice per week. Begin with the first exercise listed for the muscle group and complete the number of sets required for that exercise before performing the next exercise for the same muscle group. Once the total number of required sets has been completed for all exercises listed under a muscle group, proceed to the next muscle group and perform in the same manner.

    An alternative approach is to perform one set of each of the exercises listed in the program (referred to as a circuit). Once all exercises in the beginner weight training program have been completed, repeat the process again. Repeat this process until all required sets have been completed. It is acceptable to rest for approximately 30 to 90 seconds in between each exercise set performed. Of course, if you feel that you need to rest for longer, then by all means do so.

  • Conduct yourself with proper etiquette - Always remove the plates from the bars and return them to the plate tree after finishing an exercise. When you finish using the dumbbells, return them to their appropriate position on the dumbbell rack. For sanitary reasons, always wipe off any sweat that you may happen to leave on a piece of equipment before moving on to the next piece of equipment. If you think that it is possible that an individual is still using a piece of equipment, then you should always ask them prior to using it.


Sample Routine

Below is a link to a sample routine with the specific exercises associated with the beginning weight training program. Remember to focus on the correct breathing technique and controlled movements and form for each exercise.

Beginner Full Body Weight Training Routines

man weight training

The intent of a beginning weight training program is to become familiar with the various strength training exercises and build the physical structural foundation to support increasing the percentage of lean muscle tissue.

In addition, it is important to learn how each of the major muscle groups interact with one another and the range of motion that they are intended to function within.

At Fitnesshealth101.com we have created several beginning weight training programs that are designed to promote lean muscle tissue development and to build the physical structural foundation required to progress to the next level in weight training.

Initially it is important to learn how to perform each of the exercises correctly and to learn to "listen to your body" in terms of understanding which exercises may be harmful to your joints.

This being said, please click on the hyperlink below to view the various beginner weight training programs and feel free to download the one that you would like to begin.

The intent of the beginning weight training program is to introduce the individual to the basic fundamentals of strength training. This includes learning how to perform the strength training exercises correctly, how to breathe correctly during each exercise, the types of exercises performed, the number of sets and repetitions per exercise type, and the number of days necessary to effectively strength train. The beginning strength training program, detailed earlier in this article, will provide the structural development necessary for an individual to progress to the intermediate and advanced strength training routines. 

Things to Remember

Weight training on a regular basis offers an enormous range of benefits:

  • Increases in lean muscle tissue and strength

  • Improvements in cardiovascular endurance

  • Increases in metabolic rate (i.e. the body will burn more calories per day)

  • Strengthens bones and reduces the probability of contracting osteoporosis

  • Decreases resting blood pressure levels

  • Strengthens the immune system

  • Reduces the risk of contracting adult onset diabetes
female performing incline straight bar bench press

However, it's very important that each and every individual who embarks on a strength training program learn to listen to their body and truly understand the difference between good pain and bad pain.

While regularly performing a strength training routine can yield a large number of health and fitness benefits, it can also be devastating on the joints if performed incorrectly.

This being said, enjoy the beginning strength training program and feel free to browse the Weight Training section of our website for additional tips, strategies, and the latest leading-edge approaches to weight training.