When it comes to nutrition and fitness, knowing what’s the “best” approach can feel confusing. Especially because so often there are opposing, even controversial opinions. It can get overwhelming. Thankfully, there is one subject that most every health expert agrees is beneficial. That is strength training.
If you’re new to, or a bit intimidated by the idea of weights, but desire to add strength training to your exercise regime, you’re in the right place! Today, I’m going to help lay out a very basic strength plan for beginners. Following this plan will help get you on your way to increased physical strength without anxiety, or suffering the results of doing too much, too fast.
Before we begin though, it’s important to understand why strength training is such an important component of a well-balanced exercise plan. Beyond the aesthetic benefits, strength training has significant health benefits including:
- Functional strength! This is the improved ability to do day-to-day activities. A strong body is more easily able to lift groceries, and heavy things around the house. Functional strength makes it easier to chase little ones, enjoy vigorous yard work, or any of the daily tasks your life requires!
- Building and maintaining muscle mass as you age are so important! We naturally lose muscle mass as we age. Strength training helps counter muscle loss to help keep you strong, stable, and at less risk of injury due to muscle loss and decreased bone density. Strength training can reduce your risk of Osteoporosis, and high-blood pressure! That’s a big deal!
- Leanness! Strength training contributes to a leaner body and makes you more efficient at burning calories. Strength training is one of the most effective ways to tighten and tone the body. While you can’t target fat-loss, you can target muscles in order to increase leanness. And, as an added benefit, strength training “ups” the body's metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. This helps with overall weight loss over time.
With all these benefits it’s easy to understand why most health professionals agree that it’s good to “embrace the weights.” With that in mind, let’s create a simple but effective beginner’s approach to strength training!
Determine the type of strength training that makes sense for you!
Begin by asking yourself what kind of strength training makes the most sense for your season of life. For instance, maybe having a baby or little one makes going to the gym a difficult and less practical option for you? Strength training at home with simple equipment might be perfect. Maybe you’re recovering from an injury or other physical limitation that might be exasperated by lifting weights? Body weight resistance training may be just the place for you to start increasing strength.
The most common options for strength programs are:
- Bodyweight resistance training
- Dumbbell/Barbell training
- Gym machine equipment training
Choose your program!
Once you’ve decided what type of training makes the most sense for you, you’ll choose a program that fits within that style. Most beginners will feel most successful using a full-body strength plan done three to four times per week. There are many beginner strength training programs available to you on Dashing Dish. There are also good, free programs you can follow on Bodybuilding.com.
To get you started, I’ve provided three sample beginner strength training programs below. Whatever style of strength training you choose, you can feel good knowing that you’ve taken the first step to a stronger, healthier, more agile body that will help keep you safe, strong and healthy for the wonderful years you have ahead of you!
(Though I’m not a certified personal trainer, I do have years of experience in both nutrition and fitness. You are welcome to reach out to me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Beginner Body Weight Strength Training Program
For this program all you need is a chair, bench, or step!
Complete the following movements one after another without resting if possible. Take a 30 second to 1-minute rest, then repeat the sequence 3-4 times. Increase speed and number of times you complete the sequence as you gain strength and endurance.
- 20 body weight squats (Proper form matters big time! If you’re unsure, google an example of a proper squat. Your knees will thank you!)
- 10-15 push-ups (modify to your level by choosing to do them on your knees or toes)
- 20 lunges (again, form!)
- 15 tricep dips on a bench/step/chair
- 30-60 second plank hold
- 30-60 seconds high knees/jumping jacks/or wall sit
Quick rest, repeat!
Beginner Dumbbell Strength Training Program
For this program you will need a set of dumbbells. Preferably, have a set of lower weight (5-8 lbs.) and one heavier set (10-20 lbs.). To help you determine an appropriate weight, my recommendation is finding a weight that requires you to exert effort to finish, but still allows you to maintain good form. If you’re not struggling to finish the set, try adding weight. Start low while you get comfortable with the movements, you can always add weight. If your form suffers, you may be using too much weight. On the other hand, while you do want to be safe, if you can easily perform 30 reps with the weight you’re using, it's likely time to increase it a bit.
Terms: Reps or repetitions are the number of times you move the weight. One complete squat is one rep. Sets, are the number of times you complete a series of reps. If your goal is to complete one set of twelve reps, you will complete twelve complete squats one after another to finish one set. You may be instructed to complete 12-reps of multiple, different movements. In this case, completing all the movements one after another is one set of those exercises.
Complete movements one after another with little to no rest between to complete one set. Repeat the sequence for 2-3 sets. As you progress, consider adding weight at the beginning of each new set.
- Weighted Squats (10-12 reps)
- Bicep Curls (10-12 reps)
- Alternating Lunges (10-12 reps)
- Seated dumbbell Shoulder Press (10-12 reps)
- Deadlifts (10-12 reps)
- Dumbbell Rows both arms at the same time, or one arm at a time (10-12 reps)
Gym Machine Beginner Strength Program
This program is designed to be done at a gym. If you’re new to the weight floor, I recommend finding each machine first, before beginning the program. This will allow you to move more fluidly through the workout. If your gym doesn’t have one of the machines listed, you can ask a trainer or staff member to recommend an alternative.
- Leg Press Machine (12 reps)
- Lying Leg Curl Machine (12 reps)
- Lat Pulldown Machine (12 reps)
- Bicep Curl Machine (12 reps)
- Military Press Shoulder Machine (12 reps)
- Standing Hamstring Machine with Rope Attachment (12 reps)
- Tricep Pushdown with Rope Attachment (12 reps)
(With these, or any strength training program, it’s wise to begin with 5-10 minutes of light cardio warm-up, and to stretch at the end of your workout.)