Strength Training for Beginners
Time to Read
- Strength Training Goals
- Common Concerns
- How is Muscle Built?
- Bodyweight Workout
You’ve decided you want to get stronger, congratulations!
If you’re new to strength training, you probably have many questions...
What goals should I make? How do I do it? When will I see results?
This blog will get you started on your journey.
Strength training goals
Depending on your age and lifestyle, your goals for getting stronger can widely vary.
- Are you an athlete who needs to improve your performance?
- Are you putting on weight and want to get leaner?
- Are you aging and want to prevent problems due to muscle loss?
- Do you just want to life a more active lifestyle?
The good news is, regardless of your goals for strength training, the starting point will be very similar. As your training progresses, it will become more specific. This blog focuses on how to get started.
Common questions about strength training
You need to take a well-balanced approach to strength training. Whether young or old, athlete or couch potato. When you start strength training don’t think about focusing on specific muscles. You need overall strength, which means you need to exercise all your muscle groups.
What if my goal is to get bigger biceps, or visible abs?
If you’re just starting out, you need to forget those goals and increase your overall strength first. Aesthetic improvements will occur over time if you are focused and consistent.
Do I really need to strength train? Can’t I just walk, jog or do some other kind of cardio training and get the same results?
If your goal is to get stronger, then the only way to do that is to strength train. Your muscles must be put under a load for them to get stronger. Cardio activities are great for exercising your heart, burning some extra calories and increasing your muscular endurance but they aren’t a substitute for strength training.
What if I don’t want to bulk up like a body-builder?
Unless that is your goal, there is absolutely no chance of your body looking like that of a body-builder. They focus on a specific training program over years to achieve their results. Your objective is to get stronger. You’ll just end up looking like a healthier, fitter version of yourself.
Should I avoid strength training if I’m older?
No. Strength training can begin as early as the teenage years. It’s beneficial to men and women regardless of their age. As we age past our 20’s, we naturally begin to lose muscle – this is called Sarcopenia. To keep your muscle mass and avoid many of the issues associated with aging, it is important for everyone to do some form of strength training.
How does strength training help me better perform as an athlete?
Strength training helps athletes perform better in their sport. The type of training you do depends on the kind of sport you do. You can train for muscular endurance for sports like running or rowing, or you can train for explosive power for sports like sprinting or CrossFit.
How is muscle built?
There are three primary steps to building muscle:
- Load – muscles must be put under load or stress through training
- Damage – muscles are damaged as a result of training
- Repair – muscles repair and cross-sectional area increases to better support future load. Repairing and muscle growth happens while you sleep and rest, thus it is important to get enough sleep.
Another term for this process is called Hypertrophy.
This process, if done consistently with gradual increases in load, results in increased overall muscle strength.
This is called Progressive Overload.
If you’re out of shape or just starting out with strength training, bodyweight training is a great place to start.
You don’t need any special equipment other than your body, and you don’t need to go to a gym.
Many fitness professionals promote bodyweight training as a great way to keep physically strong, regardless of your fitness level.
As stated above, your objective is to train all your major muscle groups, so you’ll need to do a variety of exercises, targeting your upper body, your lower body and your core.
Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the following exercises:
1. Pushups (works the chest, arms, shoulder, triceps, back, and neck)
Click here for a video on how to do a proper pushup.
Depending on your fitness level, this might sound easy or hard. The great thing is that you can adapt pushups to any fitness level.
There are MANY advanced variations to pushups. You can do the standard pushup, you can elevate your legs on a chair or ball. You can vary your hand placement from wide to narrow. Check out this site for more ideas.
For beginners, you can lean against a wall and push yourself away. Then you can work up to doing pushups off a chair for support, or just from your knees.
2. The Plank (works all your core muscle groups)
Click here for a video on how to do a plank.
There are many variations to the plank as well, but even a standard plank can be demanding for someone who is already fit.
A beginner can start at 15 seconds, more advanced can take it up to a minute or longer. To make it harder, simply hold the position longer.
3. Dips (works your arms/triceps)
4. Squats (works your legs)
Squats are a great lower-body exercise.
Click here for a video showing proper form for a body weight squat.
5. Mountain Climbers (works your core, including abdominal, lower-back, and hip muscles)
Mountain climbers are a great core exercise, plus they work your heart and cardiovascular system as well. They can be a bit challenging for a beginner, so watch this video on the form and do what you can.
6. Burpees (works most body muscles)
Burpees are an intense fully body exercise, they burn calories fast. Plus, research shows that high intensity exercises like burpees burn up to 50% more fat than moderate exercising. These will be a challenge for beginners, so you should start out extremely slow. Click here for a video on how to do a burpee.
To introduce hypertrophy and progressive overload into your bodyweight workouts, you’ll want to increase the number of sets and repetitions you do over time.
You can also incorporate more advanced versions of each exercise.
The basic idea is to keep pushing your body and not acclimate to a specific workout.
- Use weights. As you progress, you can begin to incorporate dumbells and free weights into your workouts.
- Consider hiring a personal trainer. I know, you're thinking that personal trainers are only for rich people and are harsh taskmasters. When I had 75 pounds to lose and didn't know where to even start, I turned towards a personal trainer a friend had recommended. He taught be the basics of healthy eating and exercise. He continually changed up my exercise routine so that I could continue to progress. It was nice not having to worry about how to put together my own workouts. And the money I spent was far less than the money I would have spent on medications and health complications.
- Don't be afraid to go to a gym. Gyms aren't for the skinny and fit people although it sometimes seems that way. There are many kinds of gyms geared towards all levels of fitness. Chances are there is one where you will feel comfortable not too far away.
- Use YouTube. YouTube has thousands of videos on exercise. The quality varies greatly, but spend some time looking through them and you'll more than likely find something that gives you the instruction you need. Click here for a place to begin.
- Don’t forget nutrition. As you go through the damage/repair cycle of hypertrophy, you want to be providing your body with plenty of nutrients to repair itself, including enough protein.
- Be patient. You won’t see results overnight. But if you are consistent and dedicated, you will see results. More than likely you’ll notice real changes in 6 to 8 weeks, although you’ll want to keep improving for the rest of your life.
- Consult other web sites. Here are some more web sites for you to read for further information on getting started:
It isn't hard to get started with strength training once you have the mindset to get going.
With the right information, consistency and a workout plan in place, you'll be able to get started and soon start noticing the many benefits that strength training has to offer.
This article was written by Tim Powell, fitness blogger for Shrinkinguy.com. He promotes tips for eating well, exercise and healthy living.