We’re well into the new year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have health and fitness goals. No matter where you are in the continuum of physical fitness, there’s always room for improvement and this strength training for beginners guide can help you get back on track. Perhaps there are a couple of pounds you’d like to lose, or maybe you are just hoping to tone up a bit.
For a lot of people, these goals of getting fit and toning muscles never materialize because they don’t know where to start. There are a million different self-proclaimed weight training gurus on the internet all telling you different things. It can be so overwhelming that you may even be tempted to give up before ever getting started.
We get that. You need someone that you can trust with the information and answers that you need to reach your fitness goals.
That’s why we’ve put together this one-stop guide with everything that you need to know about strength training. We’ve even got a bunch of specific workouts and nutrition/meal information to make this process as simple as possible.
Why is Strength Training So Great for Your Body?
Strength training isn’t just for the bodybuilder or the personal trainer who wants to outmuscle others. A decent balance of strength training should be a part of every fitness routine. Heck, even runners head to the
Here are just a few.
Improve Your Strength, Improve Your Energy Levels
Research has continually shown that strength training releases a good flood of endorphins which boost your sense of wellbeing. Besides, the lean muscle you put on gives you all kinds of functional everyday benefits. Enhancing your standard functionality may seem mundane to some, but the fact that your body has that extra ability means you are straining yourself less throughout the day.
Lean Muscle=Less Fat
The more muscle you put on, the less physical space there is for fat on your body. If you have fitness goals that include the aesthetic, this is excellent news! Having more lean muscle on your body increases your base metabolic rate (BMR).
Stronger Muscles=Stronger Joints
When you do consistent strength training with proper form, you inevitably strengthen the surrounding joints that complement your muscles. Doing this will help you withstand more stress on your bones when you do strength training because you’ll be reinforcing those bad boys.
Strength Training for Beginners is the Fountain of Youth
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit there, but there is some truth to it. Numerous studies have linked strength training to reduced risk of disease. What diseases do you ask? Things like diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer. Other benefits include improved HDL (the right kind of cholesterol), blood pressure, and better triglyceride levels. So, strength training for beginners does more than help your aesthetic; it’s an investment that helps you in the long run for sure.
Strength Training for Beginners Nutrition
We have spoken at length about how to get nutrition right at Fitness Fahrenheit. I have a comprehensive guide here. If you are a beginner however it might seem daunting because there seems to be a new diet craze spun up every couple of months that claims to be the latest breakthrough. The supplement industry is enormous in its hype as well, and it can be easy to get drawn away by the grandiose claims.
Here I’ll give the lowdown on the very foundational things you need to know to get started. These are well-established rules of thumb in the strength training discipline that you can count on to get you results.
Note: Check out our Intermittent Fasting benefits for Fitness after you're done reading this guide.
Get 1 Gram of Protein Per Pound You Weigh
As you work your body into a good, hard-working strength training for beginners routine, you’ll subject your muscles to stress and fatigue. Your body then repairs itself naturally and, in the process, builds lean muscle. What you need nutritionally to aid in your body’s natural repair process is protein. Try to get one gram of protein for every pound that you weigh per day. That is, if you weigh 180 pounds, try to get 180 grams of protein in your diet per day. Your go-to sources for protein should be foods like eggs, chicken, fish, and beef.
Multivitamins Make Your World Go Around
Everyone ought to be taking multivitamins. It’s just one of those things that’s a good idea for all members of species homo sapien. But if you’re going to be taking your strength training for beginners routine seriously, a multivitamin is a must. It’s going to aid you in just about every way.
- Maintaining good energy
- Maximizing your bodies use of all nutrients
- Support bone health
- Support joint health
- Aiding your bodies recovery
- Support cardiovascular health
- And the list goes on.
You get the point. Take the pill.
Hydrate with Plenty of Water to Fuel Yourself
Your body is made mostly of water, you probably already know that. But if you are getting into strength training for the first time, you’ll be needing more than usual. Try getting in a gallon of water a day to fuel your energy, aid your recovery, and prevent your muscles from cramping when you are lifting weights. The last thing you need is a lousy muscle cramp that hampers your ability to workout at all.
Carbs Aren’t the Enemy If Controlled Properly
The carb craze has been around for a while, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away. It’s not that people advocating low carbs are dead wrong; it’s just that context matters. If you are transitioning into a strength training for beginners routine, your carb needs are different from a person who is living in a more sedentary manner. You have additional energy needs in the form of glycogen to fuel your workouts.
Here is a good strength training for beginners rule of thumb to keep in mind:
- When you are looking to build lean muscle get 2 grams of carbs for every pound that you weigh per day.
- When you are looking to lose fat get 1 gram of carbs for every pound that you weigh per day. Note: See our post on how to curb your hunger cravings for tips on keeping your hunger pains in check.
- Your sources of carbs should be foods like sweet potatoes, rice, fruits, green vegetables, and sprouted grains.
Eat Every 2-3 Hours to Keep Your Body in Muscle
When you are strength training your body has higher needs for nutrients. You know that. But you should also know that the three meal a day breakfast, lunch, dinner paradigm isn’t ideal for the severe strength trainer. Having only three real meals a day puts too much time in between your meals. To keep your muscles fed continuously with the macronutrients, it needs for both energy and lean muscle synthesis you should be getting small to medium meals every 2 to 3 hours. Doing this will keep your muscles in lean muscle building mode as well as raise your metabolism.
Here is What the Strength Training for Beginners Meal Plan Looks Like
Below is a typical strength training for beginners meal plan. Keep in mind that this is not set in stone but is merely a guideline to get you in the right direction. Using the foundational principles, I outlined above; you can adjust this meal plan to fit your daily needs of protein, carbs, and fat.
1 cup oatmeal
297 cal, 57g carbs, 12g protein, 6g fat
1 tsp. sugar
16 cal, 4g carbs, 0g protein, 0g fat
1 cup low fat 1% milk
100 cal, 12g carbs, 8g protein, 2g fat
Eight egg whites
136 cal, 1g carbs, 28g protein, 0g fat
One whole egg
75 cal, 1g carbs, 6g protein, 5g fat
One scoop whey protein
114 cal, 3g carbs, 22g protein, 1.5g fat*
One scoop casein protein
120 cal, 4g carbs, 20g protein, 1g fat*
858 cal, 82g carbs, 136g protein, 15.5g fat
6oz flank steak
264 cal, 0g carbs, 36g protein, 13g fat
One medium yam
281 cal, 69g carbs, 6g protein, 0g fat
545 cal, 69g carbs, 42g protein, 13g fat
4oz oven roasted turkey breast
124 cal, 0g carbs, 20g protein, 4g fat
Two slices whole wheat bread
140 cal, 24g carbs, 6g protein, 2g fat
1 tbsp fat-free mayo
10 cal, 2g carbs, 0g protein, 0g fat
3 Fig Newton cookies
165 cal, 30g carbs, 1g protein, 5g fat
One scoop whey protein
114 cal, 3g carbs, 22g protein, 1.5g fat*
553 cal, 59g carbs, 69g protein, 12.5g fat
Post Strength Training for Beginners Workout Meal
Immediately after workout:
Two scoops whey protein
228 cal, 6g carbs, 44g protein, 3g fat*
30-60 minutes after the workout
416 cal, 0g carbs, 48g protein, 24g fat
2 cups pasta
394 cal, 80g carbs, 14g protein, 2g fat
1038 cal, 86g carbs, 106g protein, 29g fat
Three scoops casein protein
360 cal, 12g carbs, 60g protein, 3g fat*
*These nutritional values are typical for protein powders found on the market. They will vary depending on which brand you buy. Just be sure to doublecheck what the values are depending on which brand you choose to buy.
Alright now that we have the nutrition stuff out of the way let’s talk about how you should be going about your actual workouts. If you’re a beginner, there are a handful of things that you should swear by if you want to see consistent results and avoid nagging injuries.
Getting the Right Form Is Exceedingly Important
If you’re getting into lifting weights for strength, your body is going to need some time to calibrate itself to pumping gravity regularly. When you lift weights, you must understand that it isn’t just your muscles that are doing work, but your joints as well. Your bones and muscles are tandem partners in getting things done in the weight room. Those joints that you are going to be putting a new form of stress on need good practice for them to do the job safely.
So, what I’m saying is you need to take things one step at a time. Don’t try to swing around heavyweights in the first few weeks to pump up your ego. Each exercise you are doing you should be trying to execute with perfect form.
I recommend that your first six workouts for each body part you should focusing primarily on form and not maximum weight. Once you’ve done that start to increase the weight and intensity level as you get more confident in the exercise movements.
A Note on Stretching
Never start working a cold muscle. Before you start any strength training session, you should always warm up the muscle groups that you are going to work that day by giving them a good stretch. Doing so prepares your muscles for the exercise stress you are going to put them through and prevents them from getting strained or cramping up.
Stretching after your workout is just as important. It also helps keep the muscles from cramping up and gives them a good dose of blood flow which aids in recovery.
Avoid Acclimating to Ensure Consistent Results
One of the keys to getting consistent results is to change your workouts periodically. One of the fundamental principles to spurring muscle growth is shock. That is, you must give your muscles a decent amount of exercise stress for them to grow.
So, a good rule of thumb is to change your workout approach every 8-10 weeks.
Some variables you can change are:
- Rep range
- Rest time between sets
- Order of exercises
- The speed of your repetitions
Employ Progressive Overload to Keep the Gains Coming
Progressive overload is another way of keeping your muscles challenged. A basic definition of progressive overload is steadily increasing the amount of weight you are lifting. So, if you are bench pressing 135 for ten reps. You challenge yourself and increase the poundage to 140.
Progressive overload can be a mental challenge as well as a physical one. If you are going to climb the strength ladder, you are going to need to embrace a warrior mentality. Remember, training for strength is not meant to be a walk in the park, so don’t defeat yourself by avoiding the inherent challenges.
What Strength Training for Beginners Exercises Should I Be Doing?
Before you start diving into your strength training for beginners workouts, there is some foundational knowledge on what exercises you should be doing and how you should be doing them. These guidelines will help you fine-tune your path on your way to whatever goals you have.
The main strength building for beginners exercises in your regime should be compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises that work for more than one muscle group at a time. They are generally the more challenging and physically taxing moves, so do them first. They also tend to be the exercises that build the most strength and lean muscle. Below is a list of compound exercises for each major muscle group.
Note: Make sure to also check out our Strength Training Exercises for Women  while you're here.
- Quads/Glutes: Squat, Lunges
- Back: Pullups, Barbell Rows, Deadlift
- Shoulders: Barbell Military Press, Dumbbell Military Press
- Chest: Bench Press, Pull-ups
- Biceps:/Forearms: Barbell Curls, Dumbbell Curls
- Triceps: Close Grip Bench Press, Close Grip Pushups
Generally, once you have done your main exercises, you follow it up with one or two isolation exercises. Isolation exercises focus more on a muscle group and will increase your muscular endurance.
- Quads: Leg Extension
- Back: Back Extension, Inverted Row
- Shoulders: Lateral Raise, Front Raise, Rear Delt Raise
- Chest: Dumbbell Flyes, Cable Crossover
- Biceps: Concentration Curl
- Triceps: Triceps Extensions, Dumbbell Kickbacks
How Many Sets and Reps Should I Tackle at Once?
The rep range that you choose will depend on what you are trying to achieve. Here are general guidelines for your sets and reps.
If you want to build dense lean muscle and maximize strength: You should use a weight for each exercise so that you can complete between 3 to 6 reps. 2 to 3 sets per exercise with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.
If you want to lose body fat and build muscle: You should use a weight for each exercise so that you can complete 15+ reps. 3 to 4 sets per exercise with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets.
If you’re looking to build lean, sculpted muscle: You should use a weight for each exercise so that you can complete 8 to 12 reps. 3 to 4 sets per exercise with about 2 minutes rest between sets. Doing this a couple times a week.
These are general guidelines, but always keep in mind that changing your workouts along the way is one of the foundational principles of all strength training. So be sure you don’t stagnate your guidelines.
Strength Training for Beginners Workouts
This first workout is what’s called an upper/lower split. This kind of exercise is excellent for a beginner because it works a lot of different muscle groups in one workout. It will probably be a sore fest for you, but it’s healthy. Using this as a base gives your mind to muscle connection a good jolt when you’re a beginner. You’ll get comfortable with a lot of exercises in a short period.
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My Favorite Workouts
Strength training for beginners has a ton of amazing benefits. Not only will you increase and tone muscles throughout your upper body and lower body, but you will also have more energy, stronger joints, and reduce your risk of some diseases.
Today, we’ve given you the science behind strength training for beginners, full workouts, and the nutritional information you need to eat right during your strength training. With this information, you will be able to confidently add strength training to your fitness regime and start reaping the amazing benefits it has to offer!