Strength Training for Beginners

Your First Six Weeks

A young athletic man raises a heavy barbell above his head during a gym training workout in Hamden, Connecticut.
Strength Training for Beginners. Christopher Beauchamp / Getty Images

Though your mind may be ready to plunge into a weight loss program (eager to reach our goals are we?), your body isn't. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make 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. To avoid burning out, you need to prepare your body for building muscle by starting small.

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 the scale--you probably won't see any significant changes just yet. Below is a six-week look at how to condition your body without killing yourself.

Week 1

  • Start with a 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 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
  • Rest for 1 or 2 days before working out again
  • Do your full body routine 1-2 times

Week 2

  • Continue with your chosen exercises, still performing 1 set 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 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 2 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 lifting weights.

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.

Remember, strength training is just one part of a complete exercise program. Stay tuned for more beginner articles that will cover cardio, flexibility, yoga and more.

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