Tips for beginners starting weight training and sample program

active adult athlete barbell

Training with weights is a great way to get in shape and get stronger.

So you walk into a gym and its very confusing right?

There are all these machines that do something or the other.

On the other side of the room are these racks and benches with different people doing exercises you’re not quite sure about.

What do you do . Where do you start?

A great place to start is to move away from the machines area and go to the free weights section.

Free weights engage your stabilizer muscles and let you move in a way that is suitable for your body.

So in this way it will make you stronger and more athletic in the long run.

What exercises should you focus on to maximise your time?

Well if you want to strengthen and in the process define and tone your body and build muscle, you need exercises that engage large muscles groups at once.

1 .Squat( Back squat)

The Squat is a lower body exercise. It involves placing a bar bell on your upper back , squatting down till your hip and knee are parallel and then coming back up.

See how to squat for form advice.

Muscles worked include Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lower back, and arms and back to stabilise the weight.

2. Hip Hinge:Deadlift

The Deadlift is predominantly a lower body exercise but given how any muscle groups it works ,it is really a total body lift. See how to deadlift for form advice.

Essentially it involves lifting a weight off the floor and standing up with it.

It targets what is known as the posterior chain(the back portion of your body) which is very important in athletic endeavours and keeping healthy.

3. Pressing movement (Chest dominant)

Pick one of either the Dip or the bench press.

The dip and the bench press target your chest, anterior deltoids and triceps.

See how to dip for form advice.

The bench press involves lying on a bench ,unracking the weight from the rack ,bringing it down to your chest and pressing it back up till your arms are locked out. See bench press for form.

4.Pressing movement (Shoulder dominant)

The military press targets your shoulders and triceps predominantly.

It starts off with the weight at the top of your shoulders, you then press the weight till your arms are fully locked out at the top.

See how to military press for form advice.

5. Vertical pulling movement


This should be done by everybody as it is a very functional movement. It also builds a great back, especially the lattismus dorsi.

6. Horizontal pulling movement

Bent over row or dumbbell row .

Videos on form here –how to bent over row

These targets the back in a slightly different way then pull-ups ,focussing on the middle and upper back.

They are also essential for shoulder health and to balance out all the pushing movements that tend to pull your shoulders forward.

So in summary

You need the squat,deadlift, a press that is chest dominant(dips or bench press) and a shoulder dominant pressing movement.

Then a vertical pulling movement the pull-up (not the lat pulldown machine)- if you can’t do this see my article on how to progress to doing your first full pull-up here Pull-ups:Beginners guide

and lastly a horizontal pulling movement bent over row or dumbbell row

So 6 exercises in total.

Not 30 different exercises like most would have you believe you need to do. Just 6.

If you focus on these and getting stronger at them, that is all you really need as a beginner or even at more advanced be strong,athletic ,more muscular and defined.

What are some strength standards you should aim for to start attaining the results above.

Lets take each lift in turn

  1. Squat- 1.5 times your bodyweight
  2. Deadlift – 2 times your bodyweight
  3. Dip- At-least 15 repetitions with your bodyweight
  4. Bench press- At least bodyweight for 1 repetition
  5. Military press- 0.75 times your bodyweight
  6. Pull-up- 10 Perfect, controlled full range repetitions
  7. Bent over row At-least bodyweight for 3 repetitions

The numbers above are quite attainable and not impressive by any means in a strength training realm. But attaining these will stand you in good stead.

Some of the standards you may obtain faster than others , others may take more time.

To some of you this may seem lofty, to others too easy but it is all individual.

There are many great beginner programs around to set up your weekly routine such as starting strength or stronglifts 5*5.

What I share below are all ideas that I have amalgamated from these great beginner routines and my own experience.

If you adhere to guidelines below you should be golden

  1. Train 3 times a week to start
  2. Squat/Bench or dip and pull-up one day- Day A
  3. Next day deadlift/military press and row the other- Day B
  4. So A-B-A One week, then B-A-B the next
  5. Keep increasing the weight on the bar by at-least 5 pounds for upper body lift each week
  6. Increase by 10 pounds for lower body lifts each week
  7. Watch YouTube videos on proper technique for each lift to avoid injury
  8. If something hurts ,stop
  9. Warm up throughly, start with just an empty bar and progress up in small jumps of weight till you working set of the day
  10. How many repetitions and sets A good place to start would be 3 sets of between(3-6 reps)
  11. Progression can be by increasing weight or getting more reps. For example one week you got 3 reps with 90 kg on the squat, next week add weight or attempt for more reps or if your feeling really good go for more weight and more reps.
  12. If you are trying to gain muscle ,ensure you are eating a balanced diet and you are in a calorie surplus .

This is a very brief article on the huge world of strength training. It gets more complicated the more advanced you get and the longer you train.

However for the majority of people who are not in it at an elite level this should suffice.

To a strength purist reading this article ,they may get offended due to its simplicity but I feel that over-analysis of strength training is what leads some to make no progress in the gym for many years.

So if you stick with these 6 exercises and the principles outlined above and progress consistently and smartly you will be better than the majority who go to the gym without a plan for their weights session.

I hope this was helpful , please feel free to comment on your experiences with strength training

And as usual

Thanks for stopping by




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