Strength Training for Beginners - Here's How You Get Started

Your First Six Weeks

Women doing yoga in the living room
Women doing yoga in the living room. Hero Images/Getty Images

Though your mind may be ready to plunge into a weight loss program, your body may not be on the same page.  Sure, you want to make up for lost time, but that never really works, especially with exercise.

One of the biggest mistakes we make, whether we're new to exercise or back from a break, is doing too much too soon. If you've ever done that, you probably spent a miserable week trying to move without actually using any muscles.

You can easily avoid the pain and misery by easing into it.  Learn how to prepare your body for strength training and how to progress over six weeks of workouts.

The First Six Weeks

Think of the first six weeks of your program as your prep-time; a pre-fitness period in which you concentrate on learning proper technique and form, which exercises to do, which muscle groups to work and how much weight to use.

Remember that your body needs an adjustment period so don't worry about losing weight or building huge muscles.  At his point in the game, you probably won't see any significant changes.  That takes time, so focus on doing it right and getting the most out of each workout.

Below is a six-week look at how to condition your body without killing yourself.  These are just general guidelines, but should help you map out a basic program to start with.

Week 1

  • Start with a basic  full body workout to condition your entire body
  • Choose one exercise per body part (see Strength Training)
  • Perform one set of 10-16 reps of each exercise using no weight or light to moderate weight
  • You will probably be sore the next day, so take an OTC anti-inflammatory, soak in a hot tub and/or get a massage
  • If you're so sore, you can barely move, take an extra rest day and back off of your workout next time.  You may have done too much
  • Rest for 1 or 2 days before working out again
  • Do your full body routine 1-2 times a week

Week 2

  • Continue with your chosen exercises, now performing 1-2 sets of each
  • Add more weight (3-5 pounds) to each exercise until you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps (usually between 10-16)
  • Do your workout 2 times with at least 1 day of rest in between

Week 3 - 6

  • Each workout, perform one extra rep of each exercise. When you reach 16 reps, add weight (3-5 pounds for upper body, 10 pounds for lower) and drop back to 10 reps. Repeat this cycle of adding reps then adding weight each time you get to 16 repetitions
  • In week 3, add one more set of each exercise, so you're doing a total of 2 sets
  • In week 4, add one more workout for a total of 3 total body strength training sessions (with at least 1 day of rest between workouts
  • In week 6, add one more set of each exercise, totaling 3 sets

You'll learn more later about what to do in the next six weeks but, for now, you have a general idea of how to begin.  For more information on choosing exercises, weight and scheduling workouts, see Weight Training 101.

If you're ready, get started with this Full Body Strength Training Workout for Beginners.

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