A woman lies on her back on the floor while doing a weight training exercise with a dumbbell. Share on Pinterest
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Whether your goal is to build muscle mass or achieve a fitter, more toned body, lifting weights can help you get there.

Weight training, also known as resistance or strength training, builds lean, stronger muscles, strengthens your bones and joints, and can help keep your metabolism in a healthy state — meaning you’ll burn more calories even when you’re resting.

And the benefits of lifting weights aren’t just for young people. Weight training as we age can help fight the loss of muscle mass and mobility, as well as improve psychological well-being.

So even if you’ve never done any kind of weight training before — it’s never too late to start!

What’s more, 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. Additionally, there are many personal trainers who train clients online, through video platforms.

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 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.

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 lifting 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, 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. Keeping your elbows by your ears, bend them 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 “downward,” and then slowly return to the starting position.

Lunge

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 (a dumbbell in each hand for the more advanced).
  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 (curling the dumbbells up toward your chest and lowering them again to the starting position for the more advanced).
  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.

The plank works your entire body, but specifically targets your core. It also strengthens your arms, shoulders, back, glutes, and legs.

  1. Start on all fours, with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
  2. Straighten your legs behind you, keeping your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your core.
  3. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  4. As you get stronger, increase to holding it a minute or more

To make this exercise easier, place your knees on the floor.

If your goal is to mainly build strength, three weight training workouts a week will likely provide the results you need.

According to a 2019 study, doing a weight training routine 3 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:

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 resist the urge to push yourself too quickly.

To stay safe while weight training, remember to:

  • Wear proper clothing for weight lifting, like closed-toe shoes and weight lifting gloves if needed.
  • 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 keep your metabolism chugging, strengthen your bones and joints, improve your muscle tone, help you burn more calories, and keep you healthier as you age.

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.