Weight Training Tips For Beginners – Where Should You Start?

A common mistake I see is when someone decides they want to get big muscles or lose 10 pounds or whatever the goal may be, and they just jump right in to something without the proper understanding.

It’s pretty common knowledge that if you want muscles, you can lift weights to achieve that goal. You could do like some people and look up a workout plan online and hope for the best. Or you could go to the gym and copy someone that looks like they know what they’re doing. However, for most people that is going to produce bad habits, create injuries or not allow you to realize your full potential.

If you take anything away from this whole post it should be this, building muscle takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes hard work, a good plan and dedication! Tweet this

This post is going to cover weight training tips for beginners that have already been exercising or doing body weight workouts and are now looking to take their training to the next level with weights. In a previous post I covered fitness tips for beginners that you can read here, and now with all of those tips in mind it is time to get in to the weight training.

Prep and Plan

First you need to figure out what you are going to do when you get to the gym. If you know what kind of training split you are going to do then you can start planning your workout. If you have no idea and are looking for a place to start check out my post on training splits here. It is probably best for beginners to start with 2 maybe 3 days per week of weight training.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go to the gym on days between and do a HIIT workout or active recovery but make sure you don’t overdo it on the weights in the beginning.

Knowing exactly what you are going to do when you get to the gym will ensure you are more efficient and see far better results than if you go in there and try to wing it. Just cause you see other people in there and they don’t appear to have a plan written down, it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing, they just have it committed to memory.

Trust me. I know what I’m going to do every day next week already. It’s written down in a binder ready to go.

Write Everything Down

If you know what your goals are, write them down. Be realistic, but make it something that is going to take some work to get there. It is much easier to strive for something once you see it on paper and so you can remind yourself from time to time. If you just have a goal in mind it can be easy to forget in a month what your goal was, or in three months to forget where you started.

If it helps take a before picture, don’t be ashamed, this will be something you can look back on and be proud of where you came from. I wish this was something I did years ago, people have a hard time believing me when I tell them what I used to look like, if I could show them a picture then maybe they would realize they can make a change too.

When you start going to the gym take your pen and paper, or write in the notes on your phone, where you write doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s somewhere you can refer back to later. Now every time you complete a lift write down how many reps you completed, what weight you were using and if you lifted to failure. It’s that easy.   

Warm-up

This was covered in my other post but I can’t stress this enough, warm up your muscles before you get in to your working sets. Don’t do static stretches; where you stretch a muscle and hold it for a period of time. This will weaken your muscle before you even begin. Instead do some light sets with weights to get the blood flowing to your muscles.

This will help prevent joint and muscle injury as well as get you mentally and physically ready to start performing.

Nail Down Your Form

You aren’t trying to impress anyone, you are in there for you and to achieve the goals you laid out earlier. So don’t worry about lifting a bunch of weight that you can’t handle with proper form. Go lighter and focus on your form, make sure you are doing it correct before you start adding weight.

Use the mirrors or ask someone for pointers on your form if you are unsure. Most people at the gym would be happy to help someone out, they were the new person before too.

Increase Your Frequency 

When you have started to make some progress and see positive results it is time to start increasing the frequency that you are lifting weights. This is typically after 2 to 3 months of consistently bettering your workout from the previous week.

Try by adding an extra day per week or changing to a split that has you doing weights more often. I like to change my weight routine every 12 weeks. Both by changing the exercises I do within my workouts and also changing the order in which I work muscle groups.

For example if you are doing a push-pull split you could change which one you do first in the week as well as change the exercises you are doing on each day. Just remember to write down any changes you make and start recording the results. If you have reached the goal you set in the beginning then you can create a new one.  

Increase the Intensity

There are 3 mechanisms for creating muscle hypertrophy (an increase in muscle size) Progressive Overload, Metabolic Stress and Muscle Damage. Tweet this

Progressive Overload

There are two methods to achieve progressive overload, with tension or with volume. What this means is you are either increasing the weight you use for each exercise week after week or you are completing more reps with the same weight week after week. This is why we write everything down.

You will eventually get to a point where this is no longer possible, you either won’t be able to add more weight or you will get to a point where you can’t do more reps without failing, and thats where the next two methods come in to effect.

Metabolic Stress

The next mechanism is metabolic stress, lifting moderate to light weights for higher repetitions, often associated with body building. This type of training is where you get the “pump” feeling in your muscles and continue to train through that pain and discomfort. This takes a lot of determination because most people will want to quit when it starts to hurt.

If you can train through the burn and keep going then you will benefit from this mechanism of hypertrophy.

Muscle Damage

This is one of the easiest ways to achieve hypertrophy but it is also the one that causes the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you hear about from people who train with weights. That’s the feeling you get two days after you have lifted weights, and it can also cause some discomfort when you have to get back in to the gym for your next workout, try to work through that pain or make it an active recovery day if you aren’t able to.

The best way to achieve muscle damage is with eccentric overload; to perform this you complete all of the reps in a set by lifting the weight (concentric) in a normal controlled fashion and then lowering the weight (eccentric) as slow as you possibly can while resisting the urge to drop the weight.

The best method is to incorporate all three in to your workout plan. You don’t need to do them every workout but a combination of the three through out the week is a good start.

It isn’t going to be easy, but it can be enjoyable.

I’d love to hear about your progress, or if you have any questions feel free to send me a message or ask in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Weight Training Tips For Beginners – Where Should You Start?”

  1. I really appreciate how you emphasize the importance of going slow in the beginning and giving your body a chance to recover by doing other types of exercises on your recovery days. So often folks want to just sit and do nothing on these recovery days. Thank you for mentioning the importance of making good use of these days. I love the idea of goal setting and keeping a journal/log in. Before and after pictures can be very powerful and motivating. WOW, we were always taught to start with static stretches as opposed to ballistic stretches. Use of lights weights seems like a safer option. Thank you for educating a seasoned ex athlete. Applying the FITT principle (increasing frequency/intensity/time/type) always makes a difference along with the principle of overload. Thank you for this refresher course.

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  2. Thanks for the Post Tyler. For someone who has tried and maintained a whole variety of exercise routines over the years, its always nice to bring it back to basics and focus on the fundamentals i.e. preparation, planning, stretching etc.

    Social media these days can create unrealistic expectations though particularly if you’re not the natural gym type. For the majority of us, ripped abs and popping calf muscles will likely be out of our range so I often think that the biggest challenge can be on setting realistic goals and expectations and then continuing to find the motivation.  

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  3. I like the way you lay out the plans for beginners. It is very important that people write down their plans on paper. This habit can really lead to progress with their goals. I can’t stressed that enough. I have this big desk top calendar which is next to my weight equipment. On the day of working on a specific muscle group, I’d list what I have to do along with the amount of reps. Keeping track helps me to improve myself. There are many different ways to build a specific muscle group and to keep track on what you’ve done today so that you don’t repeat that same form of exercise in any given week is too much. Unless you have super memory to do all that, then by all means do it. I think that beginners will find this article very interesting.

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  4. Hi Tyler, thanks for sharing such an informative post about weight training tips for beginners. I bought my very first dumbell and chest expander at the age of 12 and have been training on and off ever since, so from experience I agree very much with your planning approach. Warming up is extremely important. I’m not sure if you mentioned wearing a belt or maybe I missed it, but I remember getting a lower back injury doing bar bell curls without wearing a belt, so that’s important too. Great post!

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