• Lauren

How to Start Weight Training- My Tips for Beginner Lifters

So, you want to start lifting! Yes, girl, high-five. I’m SO happy for you! 

Though losing 60lbs changed the direction of my life and improved my health dramatically, lifting and building muscle has had an incredibly positive effect on my body composition and confidence. I want that for you too, so let’s jump right in.


First off, let’s do a little self assessment:

The Screened-In Porch Gym AKA "The Dojo"

Where will you be lifting?

-Do you have a gym membership already, or do you need to find one? 

-When looking for a gym, pay attention to the type and variety of equipment. Ideally, your gym will have a wide range of machines, cable stations, and free-weight equipment. You may also want to consider crowding and the time of day you'll be working out. The gyms with less expensive memberships are often packed at prime time (6-8am & 5-8pm), which can make it more difficult to access the equipment you want to use.

-If you already belong to a gym, take note of the equipment available as this will partially dictate the program you decide to follow.

-It IS possible to create a decent home gym, but it requires some space and an initial investment. I put together a nice home gym on my screened-in porch for $1770.00

How many days per week will you lift?

-No, Sandra, not how many days could you possibly squeeze in lifting under ideal circumstances and a full moon. How many days will you realistically and consistently lift? Consider your work schedule, daily commitments, and other sports or physical activities you enjoy. I think 3 or 4 days is great and sustainable. 5-6 days per week can be tough and probably too much for a beginner. Less than 3 days per week is OK, but be willing to manage your expectations as far as results. 

What are your specific goals?

With lifting, we’re typically striving for one of two goals: to get more muscular (hypertrophy) or to get stronger. Yes, there IS some overlap, especially for beginners, but eventually there comes a point where it is more efficient to focus on one goal or the other.

Do you have any injuries or other physical limitations?

-Be smart! If you have a questionable injury, it’s probably wise to consult your physician before embarking on a weight lifting program. Is the injury severe and causing permanent limitation or is it something that could be rehabilitated over time? I’m not a doctor, nor an expert on sports injury, so please seek professional assistance with this if needed.


Once you have that figured out...

Let’s pick a program!

If you are a true beginner, and have access to free weights, these are my top recommendations:

  1. A Workout Routine - Beginner plan

  • This program is 3 days per week and will require access to free weights.

2. Strong Lifts 5x5

  • Also a 3 day per week program and will also require access to free weights. This program focuses more on strength than aesthetics.

3. Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

  • The kindle version is just $9.99. Rippetoe gives thorough instructions and also provides lots of form explanation. This program also focuses on strength.

If you have some lifting experience and your goals skew more towards aesthetics:

  1. A Workout Routine - Muscle Building

  • This program can be done in 3 or 4 days per week and will require access to free weights.

If you have some lifting experience and your goals skew more towards strength:

  1. Madcow 5x5

  • This is a 3 day program and will require access to free weights.

If you are a beginner without access to a rack or barbell:

  1. M & S Planet Fitness Workout- Beginner

  • This workout was designed for Planet Fitness members, as their equipment is limited. It’s a 3-day full body beginner program.

If you have some lifting experience, but no access to a rack or barbell:

  1. M & S Planet Fitness Workout- Intermediate

  • This is the follow up to the M & S Planet Fitness Beginner program. Slightly more challenging and in a 4 day format.

Know that there is no "perfect" program!

What works well for one person, may not be ideal for you. As with diets, there's no magic formula or quick solution. A decent lifting program will incorporate compound movements, progressive overload, and a reasonable amount of volume. Find the program that you enjoy, be consistent, and be PATIENT!

Learn good form and DON’T be intimidated by the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press)

YouTube is a life-saver here. For every exercise known to man, there are probably 10+ videos on correct form. 

MegSquats is an AWESOME resource.

Squat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTEB9jWjjys

Deadlift: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNn7AlPITOw

Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDL5KdrVyis

Jessie Hilgenberg’s channel is also great! https://www.youtube.com/user/jesshilgenberg/featured If you hit “Playlists” you will find the “Exercise Library” which she’s organized by body part (and which makes my OCD Monica Gellar heart sing). 

Record your progress!

Whether your goal is muscular hypertrophy, or strength, progressive overload is required in order to make progress. This means you should be aiming to lift heavier weight, the same weight for more repetitions, or the same weight and repetitions for more sets each time you repeat the workout.

Some people just use the "Notes" app on their smartphone and others prefer to record on a paper notebook. There are also various apps designed specifically for this purpose that you can download.

Most importantly, SHOW UP and be present

When you arrive at the gym, this is what should be happening:

  1. Change into your workout clothes if necessary

  2. Stow your belongings in a locker/cubby

  3. Don your headphones/earbuds and get the pump music thumping!

  4. Warm up! I do 5 minutes on an elliptical followed by a dynamic stretching routine

  5. Start lifting

  6. Leave when you’ve completed the workout- you should feel tired, but satisfied

To get better at the thing, one must actually do the thing. Make a decision, commit, and be consistent!