Whether your goal is to build muscle mass or achieve a fitter, more toned body, weight training can help you get there.

Weight training, also known as resistance or strength training, builds lean, stronger muscles, strengthens your bones and joints, and even helps boost your metabolism. This means you’ll burn more calories even when you’re resting.

Stronger muscles can also improve your athletic performance and reduce your chance of injuries.

Even if you’ve never done any kind of weight training before, it’s never too late to start. Strength training is appropriate for both men and women, and it can be started at any age or fitness level.

You don’t need to be a fitness buff. In fact, you don’t even need to belong to a gym. You can simply use your body weight for many exercises or use free weights, resistance bands, or other home fitness equipment to get results.

This article will walk you through how to get started with weight training and provide suggested exercises and training advice for beginners.

If you’ve never lifted weights before, consider starting out with the help of a certified personal trainer. They’ll be able to teach you the proper form for specific exercises and set up a strength training program tailored to your needs.

Many gyms or fitness centers offer introductory training sessions at little or no cost, or they have trainers available if you have questions.

While most gyms have a combination of resistance machines and free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, you can also get a comprehensive weight training workout at home with basic equipment.

Equipment options

You don’t necessarily need weights to build lean muscle mass and tone your body. As an example, for some strength training exercises, like pushups or lunges, you only need your body weight to provide resistance.

You can expand your at-home workout options with dumbbells. A beginner’s set of adjustable weight dumbbells starts at about $50, but the price increases as you add more weight.

Kettlebells, which are weighted balls with handles, are another popular option. Many kettlebell exercises work out several muscle groups at once, which makes them effective for a full body workout, especially if you’re short on time.

Resistance bands are also a helpful addition to your workout equipment. These color-coded elastic bands provide varying levels of resistance when pulled and stretched.

A set of resistance bands can be purchased for $10 to $60. Because they’re light and portable, you can take them with you when you travel.

Once you’re ready to get started with a weight training program, keep the following tips in mind.

Weight training tips for beginners

  • Warm up. Some aerobic activity, such as a 5-minute jog or brisk walk, will increase blood flow to your muscles and prime them for a good workout. Skipping rope or doing jumping jacks for a few minutes are also good warmup options.
  • Start with lighter weights. You want to start with a weight that you can lift 10 to 15 times with proper form. Begin with 1 or 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, and slowly progress to 3 sets or more.
  • Gradually increase the weight. When you can easily do the recommended number of sets and reps, increase the weight by 5 to 10 percent. Check to make sure this is the right weight for you before doing a full workout.
  • Rest for at least 60 seconds in between sets. This helps prevent muscle fatigue, especially as you start out.
  • Limit your workout to no longer than 45 minutes. You can get the workout you need in this time frame. Longer sessions may not lead to better results and may increase your risk of burnout and muscle fatigue.
  • Gently stretch your muscles after your workout. Stretching can help boost your flexibility, ease muscle tension, and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Rest a day or two in between workouts. Resting gives your muscles time to recover and replenish energy stores before your next workout.
Healthline

You may be especially interested in building your biceps or toning your legs, but the best resistance training program works all the major muscle groups in your body.

In fact, overworking one muscle group at the expense of another could raise your risk of injury.

For a solid all-over workout, you may want to start off with the following exercises. Including these exercises in your weight training routine will work most of the large muscle groups in your body.

Sets and reps

Start off by doing 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Aim for 1 to 2 sets to start. As you build strength, you can add extra sets, and also increase the weight.

  • What is a rep? A repetition (rep) is one complete exercise movement.
  • What is a set? A set is a certain number of reps. For instance, 10 to 15 reps make up 1 set.

Dumbbell single-arm rows

Targeted area: Your back and upper arm muscles.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Place your left knee on the end of a sturdy bench and place your left hand palm-down on the bench for balance.
  2. With your back parallel to the ground, reach down with your right hand and grab a dumbbell with your palm facing the bench.
  3. Slowly bring the dumbbell up to your chest. Squeeze your back and shoulder muscles and slowly straighten your arm to the starting position.
  4. Finish 1 set, rest for a minute, and then switch arms and do 1 set with your right knee and right hand on the bench.

Dumbbell shoulder press

Targeted area: Your shoulder muscles.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand, your palms facing forward, and your elbows out to your side at 90-degree angles.
  2. Without leaning back or arching your back, press the dumbbells up over your head until your arms are almost straight.
  3. Slowly return them to the starting position.

Dumbbell chest press

Targeted area: Your chest muscles.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing forward.
  2. Slowly press the dumbbells upward until your arms are directly over the shoulders. Be careful not to lock your elbows.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Your elbows should be a little lower than your shoulders.

Bicep curls

Targeted area: Your biceps (muscles in the front of your arms).

How to do this exercise:

  1. Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, your elbows at your sides, and your palms facing up.
  2. Curl the dumbbells up toward your shoulders by bending your elbows but keeping them stationary at your sides.
  3. Reverse the curl to the starting position.

Triceps extensions

Targeted area: Your triceps (muscles in the back of your arms).

How to do this exercise:

  1. You can do this exercise sitting on a bench or standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place both your hands around the dumbbell handle.
  3. Lift the dumbbell up over your head so that your arms are straight.
  4. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, lowering the dumbbell behind your head.
  5. Slowly straighten your arms so that the dumbbell is above your head again.

Resistance band pull apart

Targeted area: The muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your arms stretched out in front of you at chest height.
  2. Hold a resistance band parallel to the ground and grasp it tightly with both hands.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band toward your chest by moving your arms outward, away from your body. Use your mid-back to initiate this movement.
  4. Keeping your spine straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and then slowly return to the starting position.

Lunge with dumbbell

Targeted area: Your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, as well as your glutes (buttocks). If you include a dumbbell, you’ll work your biceps, too.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Take a big step forward with your left leg so your heel touches down first.
  3. Lower your body so your left thigh is parallel to the floor.
  4. Pause for a second, then curl the dumbbells up toward your chest and lower them again to the starting position.
  5. Push off your heel and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat, but lead with your right leg.

Squats

Targeted area: Your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Squats can be done with or without weights.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend your knees, so your thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
  3. Slowly rise to your starting position.
  4. To add resistance, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest with both hands.

Calf raises

Targeted area: Your calf muscles (back of your lower leg).

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand on the edge of a step with your feet parallel to each other.
  2. Slowly raise your heels a few inches above the step and hold for a few seconds.
  3. Slowly lower your heels below the edge of the step and hold for a few seconds. You should feel a stretch in your calves.
  4. You can add resistance by holding a light dumbbell in each hand down by your sides.

If your goal is to build strength, but not build up the size of your muscles, three weight training workouts a week will likely provide the results you need.

According to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, doing a weight training workout three times a week is as effective as more frequent workouts for strength building.

However, if you want to build up muscle mass, you’ll need to do more repetitions and more frequent workouts.

You can work all your muscle groups during a workout, doing 1 or 2 sets of each exercise to start, and working your way up to more sets or heavier weights as the exercises get easier.

Or, you can focus on certain muscle groups on specific days. For example:

Weekly weight training schedule

Monday: Chest, shoulders, and triceps

  • dumbbell chest press
  • dumbbell shoulder press
  • dumbbell triceps extension

Wednesday: Back and biceps

  • dumbbell single-arm rows
  • bicep curl
  • resistance band pull apart

Friday: Legs

Healthline

As you become more comfortable with weight training, you can mix up the exercises you do for each muscle group. Be sure to add weight and more sets as you build up your strength.

It’s important to focus on safety when you start a weight training routine. Pay close attention to your body and don’t push yourself too quickly. You could hurt yourself or cause a health problem.

To stay safe while weight training, remember to:

  • Perform each exercise slowly, paying attention to proper form.
  • Use a spotter to help you with heavier lifts, especially those that go above your head.
  • Stay hydrated throughout your workout.
  • Inhale before your lift and exhale during the lift. Never hold your breath when working out weights.
  • Stop your workout if you feel sharp or stabbing pain. If the pain doesn’t go away when you stop exercising, seek medical attention.

If you have a health condition, talk with your doctor about a weight training and exercise program that’s safe for you.

Weight training is also known as resistance or strength training. It involves moving parts of your body against some kind of resistance, like weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or even your own body weight.

Weight training is an excellent way to build muscle mass and make your muscles stronger. It can also boost your metabolism, strengthen your bones and joints, improve your muscle tone, and help you burn more calories.

To make the most of your weight training routine, start with lighter weights until you master the proper form. Then increase the weight or resistance slowly to avoid injury. Be sure to work all your muscle groups for optimal strength and fitness.