Weightlifting for Beginners | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Weightlifting for Beginners

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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Get the Basics...
  • Weightlifting is important for a strong, balanced, lean, and healthy body.
  • A medical checkup is a precursor to any weight lifting or exercise routine.
  • You’ll need the right gear and equipment for weight lifting.
  • It’s crucial to learn the proper form first.

Weightlifting for beginners doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s an important part of improving strength, getting the body balanced, and creating a lean and healthy body. When weightlifting is combined with cardiovascular exercise, the body becomes much healthier.

The problem is that beginners need to learn the basics before getting into an advanced routine or adding weight.

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Ask Your Doctor

A medical checkup is the first part of starting any weightlifting or exercise routine. Beginners should always get a full medical checkup and discuss their exercise plan and goals with a doctor before getting started. You want to make sure you don’t have any complications that could put your safety at risk.

Doctors will want to run tests for high cholesterol, diabetes, or other health problems that might make exercise dangerous or require specialist advice to make the exercise as safe as possible.

Women who are concerned about pregnancy should not lift weights until after determining they are not pregnant. If you are pregnant, discuss exercise options with a medical doctor to ensure the health of both mother and child.

Health concerns that might require special instructions or medical supervision in the beginning include:

  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia

Getting Appropriate Gear

Beyond checking your health, take some prep time when beginning to use weights to get the right gear and equipment. Using the gym will be easier with the proper shoes, clothing, and a water bottle. These are simple but can make a big difference in the quality of your time at the gym.

The shoes are one of the most important aspects of weightlifting. The best shoes are lifting shoes, but it is not necessary to invest in new shoes if the current sports shoes have a firm grip and do not have any added height in the heel. Newbies don’t need to show up to their first workout in hundreds of dollars of professional-looking gear, but they can think about what pair of shoes they already own is best.

The best shoes are anything designed for sports that are also non-slip. During weightlifting, it is important to avoid slipping or even the potential of slipping. That means getting a shoe that has a firm grip, regardless of the style.

Other clothing needs to feel comfortable and provide ease of movement, but it should not contain any loose parts that can end up trapped or caught on a machine.

Otherwise, any comfortable clothing is great! Bringing a water bottle is suggested while weight training because the body needs to remain hydrated for optimal performance. Don’t ever underestimate how much water your body needs to keep going.

Learn Proper Form

There’s nothing quite as emotionally painful at the gym as sitting in a machine nervously trying to move parts in the right direction while gym veterans wait their turn. Beginners should never start lifting until proper form is learned and understood.

Lifting weights with improper form is a major reason the body ends up injured during basic exercise.

The proper form varies based on the particular exercise. It might range from keeping the back straight while working on those pushups to that silly-looking sitting position commonly seen during squats. Newbies shouldn’t be afraid to look foolish by asking about the right form; you’ll look foolish using the equipment the wrong way!

All beginners should learn proper form to ensure that they are able to properly manage it without weight before starting the exercise with weights.

Learning proper form requires more than simply looking at the exercise on a television or computer screen. It will require getting someone else involved and asking whether the form is correct. The spotter will notice any potential problems and explain where improvements are necessary. When the form is consistently correct, it’s time to get started with additional weight.

Start With Light Weights

Hold on, champ! Don’t go for the max weights to impress your friends right away. As a beginner, it is important to start with light weights while focusing on getting the form right before working on adding heavier weight. The goal of the beginner is learning the form and ensuring that the proper form is maintained during the entire exercise. Form a habit of lifting weights correctly.

Once a habit is formed and the proper form is always observed, it’s time to consider adding more weight. Starting with light weights might not seem important, but it will have an impact on the body and will make proper form a habit.

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Find Help

A spotter can ensure your form is correct. Unfortunately, a spotter might not be able to offer much advice about creating a personalized routine that meets individual goals. That might be a little more complicated.

Getting help in motivation and long-term goals is the next part of improving weight training. Help comes in a few potential forms, such as a personal trainer, websites, and books. The best form of assistance, in the beginning, is a trainer.

A personal trainer or teacher is able to give immediate advice, work out a plan based on personal goals, and fix problems immediately when they occur to prevent the formation of poor habits.

Websites often offer tips and advice about creating a routine. Workout plans and accountability (and even friendly competition in one of our fitness groups) are now available online to make your workouts easier and more goal efficient.

Books offer another method of getting the exercises down, but books are limited to the type of information specialized in them. They might give advice about making a personal routine or about the exercises, but they usually will not provide both.

The Routine

After getting through the beginning details of getting the form into a habit and making a routine, it’s time to get started. As a beginner, it is best to plan weightlifting two or three times a week in the beginning and increase as the body adjusts to the new exercises.

The ultimate goal is increasing weightlifting to three to four days a week and increasing the difficulty. Nobody wants to be the newbie at the gym, but with a quality workout and some commitment, you can quickly become a respected veteran.

Here’s an outline of our Beginner Workout Plan:

Workout 1 (Chest and Triceps)

Workout 2 (Back and Biceps)

  • Machine-assisted Chin-Up: 3 sets of 8
  • Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 8
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets of 8
  • Seated Cable Row: 3 sets of 8
  • Elliptical Trainer: 6 minutes

Workout 3 (Legs, Shoulders, & Abs)

  • Squat: 3 sets of 8
  • Seated Military Press: 3 sets of 8
  • Narrow Stance Leg Press: 3 sets of 8
  • Calf Press: 3 sets of 8
  • Crunch: 3 sets of 8
  • Step Mill: 6 minutes

Weightlifting is important for building muscle and keeping weight in a healthy range. The body needs weight training as part of a normal, healthy exercise program. The key to getting started is taking time to learn as much as possible and then starting the exercises slowly to build a long-lasting habit. Make sure to have a quality plan to keep yourself motivated!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I weight train in the morning or evening?

Some studies have shown that lifting weights in the early evening is more beneficial because cortisol levels are lower. With that being said, the best time to weight train is when you feel the most energized and/or have the time to do so.

Are free weights better than machines?

Free weights are better for an overall workout than machines as they require the use of more stabilizer muscles; however, machines are a great addition to a well-rounded exercise routine.

When should I go up in weight?

If your last couple of reps can be done easily and quickly (with good form), then it’s time to increase the weight of your lifts.

Is a weightlifting belt necessary?

A weightlifting belt should only be worn when it’s absolutely necessary — like when you have a very heavy load on your back.

Here at Exercise.com, we want to see potential turn into muscle. If you’re new to the gym, don’t let inexperience or intimidation stop you from engaging in a more active and healthy lifestyle.

Use our forums and workout logging to stay motivated and sign up for our PRO plan to get where you want to be. Get started today!

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