If there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty, it’s that strength training will change your life.
I know this because I’ve seen it happen for myself. I’ve also seen it happen for hundreds of other people that I’ve had the pleasure of helping inside our BluePhoenix Fitness Coaching Experience
And after you’ve finished reading this Simple Guide To Strength Training For Beginners, you’ll know how to get started so it can change your life too.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this Simple Guide To Strength Training For Beginners:
- Why Is Strength Training Important? 27 Benefits Of Strength Training
- How Do You Actually Get Stronger & Build Muscle?
- Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?
- Do I Need To Go To A Gym To Get Stronger?
- Can Strength Training Burn Belly Fat or Help With Weight Loss?
- Is Strength Training Better Than Cardio?
- When Should I Lift Weights?
- How Much Strength Training Should Beginners Do?
- Am I Too Old To Start Lifting Weights?
- At-Home Strength Training Workouts For Beginners
- How To Start Strength Training…Like, Today: Your Next Steps
As you can see we have a lot to cover today. Feel free to skip ahead to whatever section calls to your first, or read the entire guide from start-to-finish.
Before we get started, if you’re ready to become the strongest, healthiest & most confident version of you, make sure you check out our 1-1 online fitness & wellness coaching experience – just like strength training, it will truly change your life:
Why Is Strength Training Important? 27 Benefits Of Getting Stronger
It would probably be easier to list the negatives of strength training for beginners because there would be so few.
In terms of benefits though, the list is almost endless. With new research continuing to come out, building muscle and getting stronger improves almost every aspect of your body, and in turn, your life.
Let’s touch on the most obvious benefits first: more muscle & increased strength.
Benefits Of Building Muscle & Getting Stronger For Beginners
With proper strength training you get stronger. And as you get stronger you build more muscle.
In the real world being stronger can be the difference between being independent or having to rely on others; especially as we get older.
When you’re stronger you’re able to do tasks more easily. Even the simplest tasks, like carrying your groceries from the car, can be challenging for people if they aren’t strong enough. Or getting up out of a chair, or even off the toilet.
Our muscle mass naturally decreases with age, but strength training can help slow that process immensely. But just like investing for retirement, the sooner you start the better.
Having more muscle also helps control weight and body fat percentage. Let’s dive into that next.
Weight Loss Benefits Of Strength Training For Beginners
When people want to lose weight, often they’ll say, “I just need to do more cardio.”
But there’s more and more evidence showing that the focus should be on strength training. And my 14 years experience of helping thousands of people achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss backs that up.
For example, one study found that after just 10 weeks of resistance training (i.e. strength training) participants saw a:
- 1.4 kg increase of lean mass (i.e. muscle)
- 7% increase of resting metabolic rate (i.e. your metabolism)
- 1.8 kg decrease of body fat
For weight loss to occur we need to be in a negative energy balance. This means we need to use more energy (by burning calories) than we consume through food.
Energy Consumption (i.e. food) < Energy Expenditure (i.e. metabolic rate, exercise etc.) = Weight Loss
We can achieve this either by decreasing our energy consumption (i.e. food), by increasing our energy expenditure, or both.
When we’re lifting weights we’re burning calories for energy during our workout. This also happens when we do cardio workouts.
However, with strength training we’re also going to continue burning calories for an additional 16-24 hours. This is called E.P.O.C. or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.
E.P.O.C. doesn’t happen to the same degree after cardio workouts because with proper strength training we still need energy to repair the muscle tissue from our workout. This is how we get stronger and build muscle.
Muscle is also more metabolically active than body fat. This means it burns calories for energy just sitting on our body.
This is why strength training to build muscle should be the foundation of your weight loss exercise plan. It makes it much easier to keep the weight off once you’ve lost it.
Improved Blood Sugar Control & Insulin Sensitivity
Another benefit of strength training and building muscle that relates closely to weight loss is its effect on blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
According to one study:
“Resistance training may assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat, reducing HbA1c, increasing the density of glucose transporter type 4, and improving insulin sensitivity.”
If you’re overweight or obese, losing body fat by any means can have a dramatic affect on prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. But increasing your muscle mass may assist even more than just the weight loss alone.
Develop Strong Bones With Strength Training
When we lift weights we’re not only putting stress on our muscles, but our bones as well.
In both cases this is how we make them stronger. We apply stress which makes microscopic tears or cracks, and the muscles or bones repair stronger.
With osteoporosis affecting over 2 million Canadians and 10 million Americans, improving bone health is crucial as we get older. And consistent resistance training has been shown to be the best way to do that.
One review found that, “Both aerobic and resistance training exercise can provide weight-bearing stimulus to bone, yet research indicates that resistance training may have a more profound site specific effect than aerobic exercise.”
And that same review found that when compared to pharmaceutical or nutritional approaches to improve bone health, resistance training had the added benefits of improving multiple other risk factors for osteoporosis such as improved strength, better balance, and more muscle.
Strength Training Improves Chronic Health Conditions
Strength training has also been shown to reduce signs and symptoms of many chronic health conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Heart disease
- Alzheimers & Dementia
- Low-back pain
- Anxiety & Depression
When it comes to heart disease, aerobic training (i.e. cardio) is touted as the best but a study published in the journal “Metabolism” shows that might not be the whole truth.
They found that a 20-week strength training plan showed comparable effects on coronary heart disease risk factors to the same length aerobic training plan.
Another group of researchers looked at the effects of strength training on individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which affects 1.3 million Americans & 300,000 Canadians.
They found that a combination of long-term strength and endurance training “appears to be effective in reducing disease activity and associated pain and was found to have no deleterious effects.”
Improved Brain Function, Memory, & Learning
Along with reducing signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, consistent strength training improves overall brain function, memory, and learning.
One study from the Journal of Aging & Physical Activity found that memory was improved in older adults who participated in a high-intensity resistance training program.
And another study saw a 19% increase in the cognitive capacity of elderly women that followed a 12-week resistance training program.
Ready to start feeling these benefits in your own body and life? Let our SuperCoaches show you how to start strength training safely today:
How Do You Get Stronger & Build Muscle?
Getting stronger is actually quite simple, and I explain it all in this article.
Basically when we apply stress to a muscle, we create microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. When our body repairs those tears, it overcompensates by rebuilding a stronger muscle fibre.
To continue getting stronger and building muscle we need to slowly, and consistently, increase the stress we’re placing on the muscles. This is called “progressive overload” and it’s the most important principle in strength training.
For more on this – including how to do it safely – check out this episode of Rebuild Your Body:
This is why you can’t just continue lifting the same 5 lbs pink dumbbells and expect to get stronger. You need to be constantly increasing the resistance you’re using, pushing yourself every workout to get stronger. We’ll talk about different ways to do that later in this guide.
And the beautiful thing is, when we focus on getting stronger, we end up building muscle also. It’s one of those “2 birds with 1 stone” situations.
Now with that said, let’s cover one of the most common fears people (usually women) seem to have with strength training…
Will Strength Training Make Me “Bulky”?
To be fair, this fear is getting less common with the overall acceptance of resistance training. But it still baffles me that it comes up as much as it does.
In a word, no. Strength training will not make you “bulky”.
In fact, proper strength training (combined with a solid nutrition plan) will undoubtedly give you the exact “dream body” you’re thinking about; whatever that looks like to you.
When someone asks this question the image they have in their head is that of Arnold in the 70’s and 80’s or Ronnie Coleman of the 2000’s. An enormous bodybuilder at the top of their game.
Or maybe they’re looking at some of the top Crossfit Games competitors. Again, elite athletes at the absolute pinnacle of their sport.
What they don’t realize is the amount of work and dedication (not to mention genetics) to build that much muscle is insane and more than any regular person would ever be capable of. I promise, you have nothing to fear with 2-4 moderate-intensity strength workouts per week.
Alright, now that we have that taken care of let’s get to the good stuff…
Do I Need To Go To A Gym To Get Stronger?
In the past I would have said yes, you should go to a proper gym to get stronger. But with the advances in home gym equipment, and knowledge of proper exercise progressions, you can make phenomenal strength gains without setting foot in an actual gym.
My personal preference is still to have a full gym set up because I enjoy the variety of equipment. But as you can see in our Simple Guide To Building A Home Gym, if you’d rather workout at home there are options for every budget or space.
And whether you have access to a full gym, or no gym at all, our SuperCoaches can design the perfect strength training program for you.
Let’s take a quick look at how you can start strength training at home with some minimal equipment.
Strength Training For Beginners At Home
When you’re just starting to get into strength training, going to a full gym can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
Fortunately there are a lot of options for strength training at home, either with minimal equipment (see below) or no equipment at all.
For beginners working out at home, the most important thing for you is going to be exercise selection. 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:
- Push (horizontal and vertical)
- Pull (horizontal and vertical)
Here’s an example of some Level 1 (i.e. beginner) options for each of those, using no equipment, in order from easiest to hardest.
- Assisted Box Squat
- Box Squat
- Assisted Bodyweight Squat
- Bodyweight Squat
- Step Up & Lateral Step Up
- Hip Bridge
- Single Leg Hip Bridge
- Glute Thrust (shoulders elevated)
- Single Leg Glute Thrust (shoulders elevated)
- Hip Hinge w/ broomstick
- Bodyweight Deadlift
- Grocery Bag Deadlift
- Assisted Split Squat
- Split Squat
- Assisted Reverse Lunge
- Reverse Lunge
PUSH (horizontal & vertical)
- Wall Push-Ups
- Overhead Reach (or overhead press using canned food)
- Push-Ups on counter
- Push-Up position plank
PULL (horizontal & vertical)
- Lying Superman “T” Hold
- Lying “Y”, “T”, “W”
- Bent-Over Reverse Fly (with canned food)
- Bent-Over Backpack Row
- Bodyweight Woodchop
- Grocery Bag Carry
- Single-Arm Grocery Bag Carry
- Overhead Carry with Canned Food
- Offset Overhead & Grocery Bag Carry
Strength Training For Beginners With Resistance Bands
Remember what we said the most important principle is for getting stronger?
Progressive overload! We need to be slowly and consistently increasing the stress (i.e. load, resistance, or weight) we’re placing on our muscles.
You can do that with bodyweight-only exercises, but it requires a deep understanding of exercise progressions. And in my opinion it’s not the best option for beginners.
A much simpler option is to grab a set of resistance bands, or invest in a set of dumbbells.
Check out our Simple Guide For Building A Home Gym for our resistance band and dumbbell recommendations.
Once you’ve mastered the Level 1 exercises above for each category, it’s time to add some additional resistance.
Since resistance bands are the cheaper option, let’s take a look at how you could continue getting stronger with resistance bands.
- Resistance Band Front Squat
- Resistance Band Step Up
- Resistance Band Deadlift
- Resistance Band Kickstand Deadlift
- Resistance Band Split Squat
- Resistance Band Reverse Lunge
PUSH (horizontal & vertical)
- Resistance Band Chest Press
- Single Arm Resistance Band Chest Press
- Resistance Band Overhead Press
- Single Arm Resistance Band Overhead Press
PULL (horizontal & vertical)
- Resistance Band Row
- Single Arm Resistance Band Row
- Resistance Band Pulldown
- Single Arm Resistance Band Pulldown
- Resistance Band Face Pull
- Resistance Band Anti-Rotational Press
- Resistance Band Horizontal Rotation
- ½ kneel Resistance Band High-Low Chop
- Same options as above
Strength Training For Beginners With Dumbbells
And then we get to my preferred option for strength training at home – dumbbells.
Check out our Simple Guide For Building A Home Gym to find our dumbbell recommendations.
Once you’ve mastered the Level 1 exercises above for each movement pattern category, it’s time to add some additional resistance. Dumbbells are the easiest way to do this because you can start with light dumbbells (i.e. 5-10 lbs) and then slowly increase the weight you’re using over time.
Let’s take a look at those movement pattern categories with some dumbbell exercise options.
Remember you’re just choosing ONE (1) from each category for each workout.
- Dumbbell Goblet Box Squat
- Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- Dumbbell Front Squat (2 dumbbells)
- Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (1 dumbbell)
- Dumbbell Deadlift (2 dumbbells)
- Dumbbell Kickstand Deadlift (2 dumbbells)
- Dumbbell Goblet Split Squat
- Dumbbell Split Squat (dumbbells at sides)
- Dumbbell Front-Load Split Squat (dumbbells at shoulders)
- Dumbbell Goblet Reverse Lunge
- Dumbbell Reverse Lunge (dumbbells at sides)
- Dumbbell Front-Load Reverse Lunge (dumbbells at shoulders)
PUSH (horizontal or vertical)
- Dumbbell Floor Press
- Dumbbell Chest Press
- Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press
- Dumbbell Standing Shoulder Press
PULL (horizontal or vertical)
- Dumbbell Single Arm Row
- Dumbbell Chest Supported Row
- Dumbbell Bent Over Row
- Dumbbell Woodchop
- Dumbbell Farmer Carry
- Dumbbell Single Arm Farmer Carry
- Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Carry
To recap, for ONE (1) workout you’re choosing ONE (1) exercise from each of the 7 movement pattern categories. Start with the Level 1 exercises in the first section (Strength Training At Home For Beginners). And then you can slowly start adding from the resistance band or dumbbell options as you get stronger.
Can Strength Training Burn Belly Fat or Help With Weight Loss?
Very simply yes, strength training can absolutely help with losing belly fat and body fat in general.
However when it comes to weight loss the main rule still applies: we need to create a negative energy balance (i.e. a calorie deficit).
Energy Consumption (i.e. food) < Energy Expenditure (i.e. burning calories) = Weight Loss
This is often referred to as “calories in/calories out” to create a calorie deficit.
Our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (T.D.E.E.) is made up of 4 areas:
- Basal Metabolic Rate
- Thermic Effect Of Food
- N.E.A.T. (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
And proper strength training helps increase our T.D.E.E. in 3 ways:
- Burning calories for energy during your workout
- Burning calories for energy to repair your body after your workout
- Building muscle, which slightly increases your overall metabolism or basal metabolic rate
That last point is why building muscle is so important for sustainable, long-term weight loss. Having more muscle raises your basal metabolic rate slightly so that you don’t have to keep cutting calories in order to maintain your weight loss.
This is why strength training is the foundation for all of our weight loss programs (combined with our Sustainable Nutrition System, of course).
Is Strength Training Better Than Cardio
Strength training isn’t necessarily “better” than cardio. They’re different forms of exercise with different effects on the body.
Cardiovascular exercise is incredibly important for overall health, as we outlined in “Why You Should Stop Doing Cardio To Lose Weight”.
However most beginners are still doing too much cardio-style training, and not enough strength training.
The main reason for this is that it’s easy to jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes. It’s much more complicated to put together an effective strength training plan. This is why working with a professional is so important.
At BluePhoenix Fitness our Transformation Coaches specialize in helping beginners go from struggling to flexing. When you’re ready, click here for more information on how our 1-1 online personal fitness & wellness coaching experience can change your life.
For all of the reasons discussed earlier in this guide, strength training should be the foundation of your workout program. But it shouldn’t be *all* of your workout program.
In an effective training program there should be balance between:
- Mobility, Flexibility, & Soft-Tissue Work
- Core Development
- Power Development
- Strength Development
- Energy System Development
- Low-Moderate Intensity Cardiovascular Training
If your current workout program doesn’t cover all 6 of those areas, then you should absolutely check out our 1-1 online Transformation Coaching Experience and feel the effects a properly designed, personalized training program can have on your body.
When Should I Do Strength Training?
The simple answer to this is you should schedule your strength training workouts whenever you can be the most consistent, and when you’re feeling the strongest.
That first criteria is the most important. You should schedule your workouts whenever you can be the most consistent with them.
If you hate getting up early, then it’s probably a bad idea to schedule your workouts for 6:00am.
But if you work all day and need to be at the office, then a 2:00pm workout might not work either.
You’ll have to figure this out on your own through some trial and error. But the most important thing is to set yourself up for success by planning your workouts for a time that you can commit to.
Which leads into the next part that most people miss: You should be SCHEDULING your workouts. Like, in your calendar.
Every week you should be looking ahead and putting your workouts directly into your calendar. It’s an appointment with yourself that cannot be cancelled.
If you miss this step you’ll have a very hard time being consistent because something will always come up that pushes your workout off for another day.
Take 5 minutes on Sunday to schedule your weekly workouts and then stick to that schedule.
How Much Strength Training Should Beginners Do?
This is a tough question because like so many others the answer is, it depends.
However for a general rule of thumb 2 full-body workouts per week would be a good place to start. As long as those workouts are properly designed of course.
As a beginner you’ll be fairly sore after your workouts, so you’ll want adequate time between so you can recover.
Once you’re comfortable with that and your recovery between workouts is getting better (typically 3-6 weeks), you have a couple options:
- Add a 3rd full-body strength workout to your week
- Start incorporating other forms of exercise into your plan
Personally I like to get people doing 2-4 strength workouts per week consistently as a foundation.
Am I too old to start strength training?
I’m not sure how old you are, but it doesn’t matter. No, you are absolutely not too old to start strength training.
In fact, as you saw in the “Benefits Of Strength Training” section above, resistance training might be one of the most beneficial forms of exercise you can do as you get older.
With that said, no matter what age you are you need to be careful when you’re starting out. But this is especially true if you’re over 50 or 60 years old because the risk of injury can be even higher.
But with the right coaching and program design, you’re never too old to start strength training!
Our Transformation Coaches have helped dozens of people from 55-85 years old get stronger, and move pain-free:
At-Home Strength Training Workouts For Beginners
Now that you have a solid grasp on the ins-and-outs of strength training as a beginner, it’s time to get to work!
Here’s a simple, full-body, at-home strength training workout you can use to get started.
And if you’d like something more personalized for you and your goals, I highly recommend you check out our 1-1 online personal fitness & wellness coaching experience – click here to apply.
At-Home Strength Workout
- Bodyweight Box Squat – 2 sets x 10-15 reps x 60 seconds rest
- Wall Push-Ups – 2 sets x 10-15 reps x 60 seconds rest
- Assisted Split Squat – 2 sets x 10-15 reps x 60 seconds rest
- Lying Hip Bridge – 2 sets x 10-15 reps x 60 seconds rest
- Resistance Band Row – 2 sets 10-15 rest x 60 seconds rest
- Bodyweight Woodchop – 2 sets x 6-10 reps x 60 seconds rest
- Grocery Bag Carry – 2 sets x 30 seconds x 60 seconds rest
How To Start Strength Training…Like, Today: Your Next Steps
This Simple Guide has no doubt given you a lot of great places to get started with strength training.
But if you’d like some more personalized help with all of this, I highly recommend scheduling a complimentary, 1-1 Discovery Call with one of our specialists:
Simply take 5 minutes to answer a couple of questions on the next page and then choose a time that works best for you.
During your call, we’ll go over:
- Where things are at right now for you, what’s working/not working
- Where you’d like to be in the next 12 months
- Any obstacles or challenges you’re facing, and how to break through them to achieve your biggest goals!
At the end of your call you’ll have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have, and if it makes sense we can chat about getting involved with one of our coaching programs.
But either way, you’ll you have crystal clear clarity on exactly what you need to do to moving forward to achieve your biggest fitness, weight loss or transformation goals.
It only takes 5 minutes to schedule a call and there’s zero-risk, so do it now before it gets lost in the shuffle of life:
Rise up stronger & live awesome,