Resistance Training For Beginners

Unfortunately, for most beginners the thought of starting an exercise routine either at home or at a gym can be one of frustration and intimidation not motivation. What exercises should I do? What is the proper form? How many times a week should I workout each muscle? What foods will help me the most? These are just a few examples of the many questions beginners deal with. Hopefully, I can help answer some of these questions and make the process of exercising less stressful.

Before we get started, here are a few basic rules that any beginner needs to follow.




Rule #1 – Low and Slow

In the beginning you have to take it easy. The worst thing a beginner can do is attempt to lift too heavy a weight too soon. This will lead to injury and could set you back months. Once you’ve been doing resistance training for about 6 weeks, you can then begin to add more weight.

Rule #2- Form > Weight

Form is more important than how much weight you are lifting. This is the #1 problem I see with most beginners. Think about it this way. What if you went to your job, worked hard all day but did everything the wrong way? What would happen? Well two things 1) Your boss would be pissed 2) You’d probably get fired. Just think of lifting the same way. Improper form can lead to injury and can hurt you in the long run. I always say, “Work smarter not harder”.

Rule #3- Consistency

You don’t have to work out every day but staying consistent is the key. Taking weeks off can set you back big time.

Rule #4- Switch Things Up

No matter what, you need to switch up your routine every 6-8 weeks. Changing up your basic exercises doesn’t “trick” your body like most people think but it will make it less mundane and hopefully help avoid the dreaded “plateau”. Example: instead of 3 sets of 15, increase weight and try 5 sets 5.

Rule #5- Rest! Rest! And More Rest!

Though being consistent is important, allowing your body an adequate amount of rest (or recovery) is very important. I take a week off every 10 weeks. I also allow 2 days of rest at some point every week. This is important whether you are lifting heavy or light.

So what exercises should a beginner start with?

For those just starting out, I believe working out three times a week and doing an Overall Body Workout is best. Why? Well, for one it eases you into resistance training and allows the “stabilizer muscles” to gain strength before progressing to heavier weight.

An Overall Body Workout is great for those not looking to gain mass. Why? Because it attacks just that…the ENTIRE body. It’s designed to burn a lot of calories and tone your muscles. You are also not lifting heavy weight so the idea of building mass doesn’t apply here. You will gain muscle but not the amount body builders have. I break the entire body into 4 major categories: The Chest, Back & Shoulders, Arms (bicep and tricep) and Legs. You only need 2-3 exercises per group to maximize your workout.

Here are some examples:


 Barbell Bench Press (click for video)

 Incline Bench Press (click for video)

Dumbbell Flys (click for video)

Back/ Shoulders


Seated Cable Row (click for video)

Lat Pull Down (click for video)

Machine Row (click for video)

Shoulders/ Traps

Barbell Upright Row (click for video)

Seated Dumbbell Press (click for video)

Machine Lateral Raises (click for video)



Cable Curl (click for video)

EZ Bar Curl (click for video)

Alternating Standing Bicep Curl (click for video)


EZ Bar Extension (click for video)

Standing Tricep Pull Down (click for video)

Bent Over Tricep Kickback (click for video)


Barbell Lunge (click for video)

Leg Extension (click for video)

Leg Curl (click for video)

Calf Raises (click for video)

Note: If you are not comfortable with free weights you can supplement with a Machine or even resistance bands. Bands are great for people not looking to lift heavy weight and only want to get tone. They are inexpensive and typically come with examples on how to perform each work out.

For each exercise, perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps  with about a 45- 90 second rest in-between sets.  Try and keep your “rest period” as short as possible. Your muscles recover typically within 30 seconds of finishing a set. How much weight is up to you but make sure the last rep is difficult. Once you can complete each set of 15 reps, increase weight by 5-10 lbs. If you aren’t having to strain at all, then you are doing too light of weight. Just make sure you are pushing yourself. Remember, it’s not about how much weight you are lifting but perfect form.

Again, after about 6-8 weeks of these exercises you can progress to a more advanced routine but this is certainly a great place to start.

If you have any questions or want a more personalized routine, email me at

Be well,





6 thoughts on “Resistance Training For Beginners

  1. […] Circuit Training- This is a routine that will cover the entire body, moving from one exercise to the next.. Most gyms have certain machines or areas designated just for “circuits”. They typically start with the chest (bench press, incline press and flys), move to biceps and triceps, then to Shoulders, Back (lats, shoulder and Traps) and finally end with legs. The goal is to complete 3-4 “circuits” in one workout. This great for new comers who don’t know which muscles to attack each day. EXAMPLE […]

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Beginner’s Guide to Fitness”. The introduction of the various factors that should be considered was nicely ordered, progressing from the most basic to the more complex, and paralleled my own experiences in working with the Richmond Marathon Training Team in preparation for my first marathon at age 71. I wish that I had read this book before I started my training. It would have made it easier to get this old body back to the necessary amount of strength and endurance necessary to run 26.2 miles. I’m impressed both by the simplicity and the thoroughness of the advice in this book. I’m recommending it to all of my friends!

  3. I don’t want to have to pay to go to the gym every month. I’m thinking about ordering one of those work out programs I’ve seen on TV… Like the Brazil Butt Lift videos.. . I’m 128lbs right now and want to get down to 110lbs or so. That’d be good enough for me.. . What else can I do? . . I already have a diet plan in mind..

    • I actually think those “Brazil Butt Lift Video” infomercials are only good for those who can’t fall asleep at 3am in the morning. Simple exercises like running, pushups and pull ups and get you where you need to be. Probably, if you only wanting to lose 18 pounds, eating right, starting a jogging routine and doing some pushups and sits ups is all you need.

      If you want additional help let me know.


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