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9 Strength-Building Exercises for Beginners in Weightlifting

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

You’ve possibly heard that you should engage in strength training workouts, but perhaps running a few miles or hopping on a spin bike suits your personality more. While that’s completely acceptable, you should keep in mind that the advantages of strength training are too remarkable to overlook, and they range from developing muscle endurance to preventing injury.

Continue reading for a guide to novice strength training and a closer examination of exercises to consider integrating into your workout routine.

What Is Strength Training?

Most individuals think of weightlifting when discussing strength training. Opposing the common belief, though, you can construct muscle strength using diverse methods, including employing your own body weight, resistance bands, cable resistance machines, and yes, weight machines and free weights.

When you incorporate weights into an exercise (whether it’s through free weights or a weight machine at the gym), that is regarded as weight training. When it comes to strength training for beginners (and in general), it’s vital to comprehend that you can introduce resistance and strength train without additional weight. This is particularly useful when you lack access to weights or machines or are unable to utilize them for any other reason.

Benefits of Strength Training for Beginners and Beyond

Unfamiliar with strength training? To begin with, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends strengthening activities “at least two days a week.” Bear in mind, this is in combination with “150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity,” such as a brisk walk or casual bike ride.

“Fundamental strength training is crucial for developing a robust muscular foundation,” states Joel Freeman, architect of the LIIFT4 program and Beachbody Super Trainer. “Bones provide your body with structure, but muscles are what enable you to move, and well.”

It’s not always the most enjoyable or glamorous when you commence weight training, but if executed correctly, you will possess the strength to truly engage in the activities you love, affirms Freeman. “And augmenting the amount of muscle in your body also assists in enhancing your metabolism, which means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day,” he explains. “That can be a win-win,” particularly if your objective is to shed pounds.

How to Incorporate Strength Training Exercises for Beginners Into Your Routine

Ideally, a novice weightlifting regimen should encompass eight to ten exercises targeting the primary muscle groups.

This comprehensive workout regimen accomplishes precisely that and can be executed multiple times a week to uphold and enhance overall power. (Desire a complete month of power programming? Experiment with this four-week power training plan for women.)

Start small with your weights and increase as necessary: “Choose a weight that’s just sufficiently heavy to complete 10 reps, and by that eighth rep, you feel really delighted it’s almost over,” says Freeman. “This will ensure you’re challenging your muscles so they can grow and get stronger.” You will also want to invest in a pair of footwear for strength training to ensure proper balance and stability.

Ready to give it a try? Follow along below to get a fantastic strength training workout that’s completely beginner-friendly.

Strength Training Workout for Novices

How it operates: Do 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. Repeat it two or three times a week on alternate days.

You’ll need: Two pairs of dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 12 pounds) or a set of resistance bands.

Dumbbell Chest Press

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, triceps

A. Lie on a bench, elbows flexed 90 degrees out to sides.

B. Extend arms up and return. Keep the weights centered over the middle of the chest.

Modification: Do these on the floor instead of a bench to prevent hyperextending arms below the chest, which can place a lot of stress on the shoulders.

Why you should do it: “Your chest is one of your largest upper-body muscles, and when it comes to chest training, the chest press reigns supreme,” says Freeman. “It’s a compound movement, meaning that it’s also working your anterior deltoids [the front of your shoulders] and triceps throughout the movement.”

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Muscles worked: upper back

A. Stand with legs hip-width apart and place one hand on the bench with the opposite arm holding the weight below the shoulder.

B. Pull the elbow up toward the ribs and lower. Keep the back flat and stand with a 45-degree bend at the hips.

Why you should do it: “The single-arm dumbbell row is an excellent compound upper-body movement targeting your upper back, lats, and traps while your biceps and shoulders assist throughout,” says Freeman. “Standing during this exercise is also a great way to get some extra core work in as well. Just remember that there should be zero momentum or swinging — slow and steady wins the muscular race!”

Biceps Curl

Muscles worked: biceps

A. Stand with arms extended in front of thighs and one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.

B. Slowly lift weights towards the shoulders then bring them back down to the starting position.

Why you should perform this exercise: “This is the most effective exercise for isolating and working the biceps,” according to Freeman. The key here is to avoid using any momentum; do not swing the dumbbell to lift it up. “Focus on keeping your elbows close to your sides and use your biceps to lift the dumbbell all the way up,” he advises. “Stop when your elbows start to move away from your sides. If the weights touch your shoulders, you’ve gone too far.” (Here are more tips to perfect the biceps curl.)

Triceps Extension

Muscles targeted: triceps

A. Stand with legs positioned hip-width apart.

B. Bend forward from the waist, keeping your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle by your sides.

C. Straighten your arms.

Why you should do this exercise: “The triceps extension is an excellent isolation exercise that does not require heavy weights to feel the burn,” explains Freeman. Similar to the biceps curl, the main focus is to treat your elbow as a hinge and keep it pinned at your side. “The only movement should be your elbow straightening your arm, squeezing the triceps at the top, and returning to the starting position.”

Lateral Raise

Muscles targeted: shoulders

A. Stand with arms hanging down by your sides, palms facing inward.

B. Raise your straight arms (with the pinky finger leading) to shoulder height.

Why you should do this exercise: “Well-developed lateral deltoids [the sides of your shoulders] are what give your shoulders that nicely rounded look, and the lateral raise is the best exercise to isolate this muscle,” says Freeman. “As with any isolation exercise, proper control is key to executing this move correctly.”

Basic Squat

Muscles targeted: legs, buttocks

A. Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than hip-width, toes pointing slightly outward.

B. Keep your weight distributed evenly in the middle of your feet and heels (not on your toes), and lower yourself into a seated position. Ensure that your knees align with your toes and focus on keeping your chest upright.

C. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground, if possible.

Why you should do this exercise: “Squats have become increasingly popular as a lower-body exercise, especially for those looking to enhance their glutes!” Freeman explains. However, it is essential to prioritize safety and prevent injuries, particularly in the lower back area. If you are new to exercise or returning after a break, it is best to start with only your bodyweight and concentrate on flexibility and proper form. If you cannot reach a lower position without leaning forward, continue working on your flexibility. Once you have mastered the correct form, you can gradually add weights. (Make sure to learn how to perform squats correctly before attempting this beginner-level strength training workout.)

Front Lunge

Muscles targeted: legs, buttocks

A. Stand with feet close together and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.

B. Take a step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until both knees are at 90-degree angles and your back knee is slightly off the ground.

C. Push off your front heel to step back and return to the starting position.

D. Repeat on the opposite side.

Why you should include this exercise: “In addition to its benefits for the legs and buttocks, lunges can also put stress on your knees if not done correctly,” advises Freeman. “This is a demanding exercise that can be felt even without additional weights.”


Muscles targeted: abdominal muscles

A. Lie on your back with your face up.

B. Bend one elbow towards the opposite knee, then switch sides.

Why you should include this exercise: “Bicycle twists are a great way to engage various parts of your core, especially the side muscles,” states Freeman. “One common mistake with this core exercise is pulling on your neck. To avoid this, try placing your fingertips just behind your temples and keep your elbows open instead of pulling them towards your head.” If you feel any strain in your neck, it means you are trying to lift your upper body higher than your core strength allows, and you are compensating with your neck. “Reduce the range of motion (meaning, don’t lift as high off the ground) and slow down your twists instead,” suggests Freeman. “You will still feel the exercise working!”


Muscles targeted: lower back, buttocks

A. Lie down on your stomach and lift your opposite arm and leg.

B. Switch sides. Keep your gaze directed towards the floor to maintain proper alignment of your posture.

Why you should include this exercise: “This is an excellent exercise for strengthening the lower back, which is crucial for preventing lower back injuries,” advises Freeman. When in the starting position, focus on keeping your toes planted on the ground at all times. This will also help engage your buttocks more effectively. When lifting your chest off the floor, you do not need to lift very high. Simply concentrate on squeezing your buttocks as you lift, and you will also be activating your lower back muscles.

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