So you’ve decided to start strength training – that’s great! By the time you’re finished reading this Beginner’s Guide you’ll know exactly how to start strength training safely and effectively.
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
- The Most Important Thing To Know Before You Start Strength Training
- Do I Need To Go To A Gym?
- I’m Over 50 Years Old – Am I Too Old To Start Strength Training?
- 7 Strength Training Exercises You Need To Know
- How Do I Know If I’m Doing An Exercise Properly?
- 5 Ways To Start Strength Training
- 5 Best Strength Training Workouts For Beginners
- Ready To Get Started? Here’s Your Next Steps…
If you’d like to go a bit deeper, check out our Simple Guide To Strength Training For Beginners.
And if you’d like more personalized help getting started lifting weights and getting stronger, definitely check out our 1-1 online BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching experience:
Alright let’s get started…
The Most Important Thing You Need To Know Before You Start Strength Training
Before you get started lifting weights, the most important principle you need to understand is: Progressive Overload.
In order to get stronger and build muscle you need to continually place higher demands on the muscles over time. This can be done by making adjustments to the exercise itself, or by increasing the resistance you’re using.
This is so important that it actually goes back 2500+ years, when people were lifting cows and rocks.
If you keep lifting those pink dumbbells you’ll never get anywhere. You need to keep pushing yourself to lift heavier weights or do more challenging exercises. That’s how muscles grow and get stronger.
The simplest way to accomplish progressive overload is by using either dumbbells or weight plates on a barbell. But resistance bands can work too, they’re just not as precise.
Here’s how to do it:
Let’s say you have 3 sets of dumbbell incline bench press in your training program and your prescribed rep range is 8-10 reps.
This means you want to be using a weight that is challenging for 8-10 reps. If you’re using a weight that you can do 17 reps with, it’s too light for this prescription. If you’re using a weight that you can only do 5 reps with, it’s too heavy.
Last week your sets looked like this:
SET 1: 20 lbs x 10 reps
SET 2: 20 lbs x 10 reps
SET 3: 20 lbs x 10 reps
Since you were able to hit the high end of your prescribed rep range (i.e. 8-10 reps) with 20’s, that means this week you should be grabbing the 25’s.
Now this week might look like this:
SET 1: 25 lbs x 7 reps
SET 2: 20 lbs x 10 reps
SET 2: 20 lbs x 9 reps
That’s O.K. Keep working at it until you can get 3 sets of 10 reps with those 25 lbs dumbbells. Then when you can do that, grab the 30’s and repeat the process.
Don’t be afraid of lifting heavier weights. When done properly and safely with perfect form, this is how you build muscle and get stronger at any age.
Do I Need To Go To A Gym To Start Strength Training?
Personally, I prefer a full gym because I like the atmosphere and variety of equipment. But not everyone is like me and that’s O.K.
Inside our 1-1 online BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching Experience we’ve helped people start strength training whether they have access to a full gym or they’re just using their own bodyweight in their living room.
What matters is that you have a properly designed strength training program set up for you, and that you’re doing the movements safely with progressive overload in mind.
If you’re going to be training at home, be sure to check out our Simple Guide To Building A Home Gym For Any Budget. That guide will take you through our 4-level home gym blueprint and show you which equipment to invest in at what points in your journey.
And at the end of this article I’ll show you a simple beginner bodyweight workout that you can do anywhere. All you need is your own body!
I’m Over 50 years old – Am I Too Old To Start Strength Training?
In fact, starting to lift weights is one of the best things you can do to improve your health as you get older. But like investing, the sooner you start the better.
Consistent strength training has been found to significantly reduce falls and hip fractures, while improving risk factors for osteoporosis.
Be sure to check out our Simple Guide To Strength Training For Beginners for more on these benefits.
The most important thing is to start very slowly, and safely. This is why it’s important to work with a professional as you’re getting started. They can ensure you’re using exercises appropriate for your body, with proper form so that you don’t injure yourself.
Inside our 1-1 online BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching Experience we’ve helped dozens of men and women from 50-80+ years old get stronger and build muscle.
Awesome people like Teresa who was just about to turn 60 years old and wanted to be more active in her retirement years:
And others like Dr. John Mansfield who was 73 years old, loved his job so much he continued to work, and also enjoyed traveling:
7 Strength Training Exercises You Need To Know
For beginners, exercise selection is going to be quite important. Especially when working out at home. Understanding the different progressions and regressions of exercises will help you get more out of your workouts, and reduce your risk of injury.
In terms of the actual exercises when you’re just starting out, simply choose ONE (1) exercise from each movement pattern category for each workout:
- Push (horizontal and vertical)
- Pull (horizontal and vertical)
From there you can check out our Simple Guide To Strength Training for examples of each. You’ll also find progressions and regressions that you can choose from depending on your fitness level.
How Do I Know If I’m Doing An Exercise Properly
The best way to know if you’re doing an exercise properly is to work with a professional. At least for the first 6-12 months when you’re just starting.
A good coach (even an online one) will be able to walk you through exactly how to do each exercise safely, while showing you common errors people make. If they’ve helped enough people they’ll know mistakes before you even make them.
Inside our 1-1 online coaching experience we’ll put together a safe and effective strength training program for you, with exercises specifically selected for your fitness level. Then you’ll have video demos of every single exercise, walking you through exactly how to perform them.
Also, you always have the option to record yourself doing any exercise and sending it to us for form checks. And if you’re having issues or something just doesn’t “feel” right, we’ll jump on a video call with you to give you real-time coaching.
As you can see, you’re in very good hands when you enroll in BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching.
Basics At A High Level
Doing the exercises safely, with perfect form is crucial. Not only to your success, but to make sure you stay injury-free.
After that it’s practice, practice, and more practice. Performing complex exercises properly sometimes takes months of practice, even years.
That’s one reason why our BPX training programs sometimes seem “boring” because we use variations of the same exercises over and over again. We do this for a reason: repetition.
I’ve been lifting weights for 16 years and 95% of my workouts are the same basic exercise variations.
It’s important to engrain proper movement before jumping into more complex exercises.
For this reason one of our core values at BluePhoenix Fitness is, “Basics at a high level”.
Practice. That’s how you get long-term results and reduce risk of injury.
5 Ways To Start Strength Training
Like we mentioned earlier, in order to get stronger and build muscle we need to continually apply more stress to the muscles. This can be done in a couple of ways:
- Using progressively more challenging variations of an exercise
- Slowly increase the resistance or weight we’re using for an exercise
The simplest and most common option being #2 – slowly increase the resistance or weight you’re using for an exercise.
For example, you’d go from lifting 25 lbs dumbbells to 30 lbs dumbbells. Or you’d go from using a medium resistance band to a heavy resistance band.
But even if you don’t have access to any equipment yet, you can still get started with strength training. Here’s 5 ways to do it:
- Resistance Bands
- Barbells & Weight Plate
Bodyweight Strength Training
Using bodyweight exercises is a quick way to get started with strength training because you don’t need any equipment.
But in order to continue to get stronger and build muscle with only bodyweight training, we need to have a deep understanding of exercise progressions and regressions.
Getting stronger with bodyweight training past the initial 4-8 weeks means we need to use slightly more challenging variations of the exercises.
For example, a push-up progression might look like this:
- Wall push-ups
- Hands Elevated Push-ups (on counter)
- Hands Elevated Push-ups (on couch)
- Decline push-ups
Keep in mind it could take years of consistent training to go from 1 to 5 on that list. Getting stronger with bodyweight training takes incredible patience and understanding of exercise progressions.
With that said, starting with bodyweight is a great, quick way to get into a strength training routine. Then after 4-8 weeks, I recommend investing in some resistance bands, or better yet, a set of adjustable dumbbells.
Here’s a great beginner bodyweight workout to get you started:
1a. Bodyweight Box Squats: 2 sets x 8-15 reps
1b. Wall Push-Ups: 2 sets x 6-15 reps
2a. Assisted Split-Squats: 2 sets x 6-12 reps each leg
2b. Superman “T” Hold: 2 sets x 20-60 second hold
3a. Lying Hip Bridge: 2 sets x 8-15 reps
3b. Bird Dog: 2 sets x 6-10 reps each side
4. Farmer Walk: 2 sets x 30-60 seconds (use grocery bags, or water jugs to carry)
Strength Training With Resistance Bands
Once you’ve mastered the basic bodyweight exercises you’ll need a way to add more stress to the muscles and continue getting stronger.
This means starting to invest in your home gym. And the most budget-friendly way to do that is with resistance bands. This is what we call Level 1 or “Getting Started” in our Simple Guide To Building A Home Gym For Any Budget. And while you’re at it, you might as well grab a stability ball at the same time.
With resistance bands you can start by using the light resistance bands and slowly move up to the medium resistance, and then into the heavy or super-heavy bands.
So when you’re shopping for your resistance bands, just go ahead and buy a whole set. You’ll end up needing different resistance levels for different exercises anyways, and then when you need a heavier or lighter band you’ll have it.
Here’s a sample beginner resistance band strength workout. Remember, you want to use a resistance that is challenging within the rep range prescribed. When you can do the high end of the rep range without much challenge, it’s time to move up a level.
Beginner Resistance Band Strength Training Workout
1a. Resistance Band Squats: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
1b. Resistance Band Chest Press: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
2a. Resistance Band Reverse Lunge: 3 sets x 8-12 reps each leg
2b. Resistance Band Seated Row: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
3a. Stability Ball Leg Curl: 3 sets x 10-15 reps
3b. ½ Kneel Resistance Band Anti-Rotational Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side
4. Farmer Walk: 3 sets x 30-60 seconds (use grocery bags, or water jugs to carry)
Strength Training With Dumbbells
While resistance bands are great, my preferred method for budget-friendly strength training at-home for beginners are dumbbells.
You can grab a good set of adjustable dumbbells for around $400. This would give you from 5 lbs up to 50 lbs. A perfect start for beginners.
Dumbbells would fall into Level 2: Getting Serious of our Simple Guide To Building A Home Gym For Any Budget.
And along with dumbbells it would be a good idea to grab an adjustable bench as well. This would add another $200-400 for a good quality bench. So all in, you’re looking at a $600-800 investment. But once you make that investment, you’re set.
The good thing about dumbbells is that it’s very easy to increase weight slowly. You can do that with resistance bands, but it’s not as precise.
With resistance bands you’ll have 4-5 options for resistance levels. But with dumbbells you have the entire range from 5-50 lbs in 5 lbs increments.
Here’s a sample beginner strength workout using dumbbells. Remember, you want to use a weight that’s challenging within the rep range given. So once you can complete the high end of the rep range without much challenge, it’s time to increase the weight.
Beginner Dumbbell Strength Training Workout
1a. Dumbbell Goblet Squat: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
1b. Single Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side
2a. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
2a. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
3a. Dumbbell Step Ups: 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side
3b. Dumbbell Woodchop: 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side
4. Single Arm Dumbbell Farmer Walk: 3 sets x 30-60 seconds
Strength Training With Barbells & Weight Plate
If you really want to take your fitness and home gym to the next level, you can move into our Level 3 home gym set up, “Getting Awesome”.
In Level 3 you’re going to step up your game by investing in a barbell, weight plate, and a rack. Or you could also join a gym that has all of these things.
With barbell strength training, proper technique becomes even more important. And if not done properly injuries can happen quickly. That’s one reason why we put barbell training down in Level 3.
More than any other level, if you’re interested in learning to train with barbells get proper coaching first so you can learn the techniques and form safely.
But when you’re ready to jump into barbell training, here’s a sample workout to get you started.
Beginner Barbell Strength Training Workout
1a. Weight Plate Woodchop: 2 sets x 8-10 reps each side
1b. Plank: 2 sets x 30-60 seconds hold
2a. Barbell Deadlift: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
2b. Hip Flexor Mobility: 4 sets x 5 reps each side
3a. Barbell Incline Bench Press: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
3b. Band Pull Aparts: 4 sets x 5 reps
4. Barbell Chest Supported Row: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
5. 4. Single Arm Barbell Farmer Walk: 3 sets x 30-60 seconds
Strength Training With Kettlebells
And finally we have kettlebells, which are kind of like a fancier dumbbell that allow for some fun movements.
But just like with barbell training, before you jump into kettlebell training it’s a good idea to get some coaching on the form and technique. Kettlebell exercises often include explosive movements, so while it can be super fun, it can also lead to injury really quickly if not done properly.
With that said, kettlebells are one of my favourite tools to train with because of the variety of exercises you can do.
Just please get some coaching first. Don’t be the guy or gal who blows out their back doing kettlebell swings wrong.
But when you’re ready for kettlebells, and you’ve got some technique coaching under your belt, here’s a sample workout to get you started.
Beginner Kettlebell Strength Training Workout
1a. Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 3 sets x 8-15 reps
1b. Kettlebell Single Arm Row: 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side
2a. Kettlebell Swing: 3 sets x 10-15 reps
2b. Kettlebell Shoulder Press x 8-10 reps each side
3a. Kettlebell Goblet Lateral Lunge: 2 sets x 6-8 each side
3b. Kettlebell Halo: 2 sets x 8-10 reps each direction
4. Racked Kettlebell Single Arm Carry: 3 sets x 30-60 seconds
Ready To Get Started With Strength Training? Here’s Your Next Steps…
This Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started With Strength Training has no doubt given you a lot of tools to get you started.
So now you have 3 options:
OPTION 1: Do nothing
I don’t recommend it, but yes, you could absolutely take everything you just learned and do nothing. Simply go back to living your life like the last few minutes never even happened.
OPTION 2: Do it yourself
A slightly better option is to take this information and do it yourself.
You have everything you need in this guide and all of the other articles we’ve written to get started with strength training and make phenomenal progress.
OPTION 3: Let us help you
And the best option is to let us help you.
Like I mentioned throughout this guide, the absolute best investment you can make when you’re starting to lift weights is coaching. Ensuring you’re using proper form, and performing the exercises safely is critical to your success.
Helping people get started with strength training is what we do every single day with our BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching members.
So if you’d like us to help you too, simply take 5 minutes to fill out a short application, and then schedule a complimentary, no-pressure Discovery Call.
During your call we’ll talk about:
- Where your health and fitness is at right now.
- Where you’d like it to be; any goals you may have.
- Any challenges or obstacles standing in your way
- And finally we’ll make a plan to get you through those challenges, to achieving your goals
Then if you’d like to continue, we’ll talk about how to get started with one of our coaching programs that’s the best fit for you.
And remember, there’s no pressure and no obligation.
If our coaching program makes sense to you and you’re a good fit for us, great! But if not, that’s O.K. too, and at least you’ll have clarity around how to become stronger and healthier.
So there’s really no risk to scheduling a call. But do it now before this gets lost in the shuffle of life.