Getting Started With Weight Lifting – Your How-To Guide

This is a guest post by Shannon Clarke, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

If you’ve recently made the decision to put in some time and effort to improve your body, weight lifting is definitely an exercise that you should be doing to see optimal results.  No other exercise form is going to be as effective for changing your body as weight lifting will be so if you’re looking to make a transformation, this is the solution for you.

Getting started with weight lifting can feel slightly intimidating at times however, so by having a solid game plan in place, you can make sure that you get off to the right start.

Let’s go over the basic things that you must know to get going.

Get Your Doctors Approval

The very first thing that you should do before you even begin weight lifting is to make sure that you get the go-ahead from your doctor.  It’s vital that you make sure that your body is physically ready to begin such an intense workout program and you don’t have any pre-existing health concerns that you need to look after.

You’ll gain a huge sense of peace of mind by getting yourself checked out first before beginning.

Begin With No Or Very Little Weight

The next thing you should be doing is starting with no weight or very little weight as you begin with the workout program.  This will allow your body a chance to get used to the nature of strength training movement patterns and ensure that you understand proper form.

If you go loading up weight too quickly off the start, that’s going to put extra stress on the body that you are not prepared to deal with and could lead you to move into a movement pattern that puts you at a severe risk for injury.

Start with no more than 10 pounds if you must use weight and focus on perfecting your form first.  Once you feel completely comfortable that you are using proper form at all times, then you can begin to increase the weight level.

Sequence Your Exercises Correctly

Next, it’s also important that you pay attention to exercise sequence.  Note that there are two main types of exercises that you will be doing in your strength training routine, compound movements and isolation movements.

Compound movements are going to be those that work more than one muscle group at once.  So this would include exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, shoulder presses, the bench press, and bent over rows.  These exercises should be the foundation of your workout program as they will offer the most benefits overall and should come at the very start. You’ll need the most energy to complete these movements, so placing them first ensures that you aren’t in a fatigued state.

Then after the compound exercises are completed, you can move into isolation exercises.  Isolation exercises are those that only work one muscle group at once.  So this would include movements such as the bicep curl, the tricep extension, the lateral raise, the front raise, the leg extension, and then hamstring curl.

Do these later on in the workout when you are just finishing up to reach a final point of fatigue.

Machines Versus Free Weights

One question that many people who are new to weight lifting ask themselves is whether they should use machines or free weights to complete their exercises.  The answer at this point depends largely on personal preference.

Many people who are new feel far more comfortable using machines since they will guide them through the action pattern, ensuring that they use good form.

On the flip side, some people find machines to be uncomfortable and would rather self-direct the movement, therefore free weights is the superior choice.

Over the long haul free weights do tend to have more advantages than machines, so in time that’s what you want to gravitate to, but when first starting out, don’t feel bad if you’d like to start with machine weights.

It’s a perfectly acceptable way to begin your weight lifting journey.

Remember To Rest

Rest is a very commonly overlooked element by many beginners.  You’re excited to get your new program going and as such, think the more often you workout, the better.

Avoid this train of thought.  While it’s important that you are maintaining good consistency in the gym, if you’re strength training too much and not resting enough, very little progress will be made.  Remember, the body is being broken down in the gym with each and every exercise that you perform.

It’s when you’re out of the gym resting that you’re building yourself back up stronger so that when you enter the gym again, you can lift more weight.

If you don’t give yourself sufficient time to get this rest in, you aren’t going to be growing back stronger and could risk overtraining.

Take at least 48 hours between working the same muscle group again and then also make sure that you aren’t going any more than two days in a row without a day off.

As a beginner, you must give your body that recovery time it needs.

Think Nutrition

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of nutrition.  Once you start weight training, your body is going to be demanding more nourishment than what you may have given it in the past, so start paying attention to the meals you’re consuming.

Your protein requirements will go up slightly, so focus on plenty of lean protein sources, and make sure that you aren’t shunning carbs.  Carbohydrates are what will supply the energy the muscles need to build themselves back up and to also get you through each workout session that you do.

If you find that you’re going into each workout session feeling very depleted and low in energy, this is a clear signal that you aren’t eating enough carbs and need to increase your intake.

So there you have the main need-to-know facts about strength training.  If you can be sure that you follow this information as you design your first training plan, you can feel confident that you’re stepping forward to success.

Shannon Clarke,  is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist for over 8 years with a With a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta in Canada.  She writes for many professional publications including,, and, where her focus is on writing a weekly in-depth blog post with tips and tricks to help you live a healthier life.

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