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6 Weightlifting Exercises for a Basic Weight Lifting Workout
The fact that you’re reading this means that you’ve already taken a significant step in your journey towards better physical and mental health. Setting time aside to read about various exercises and routines, better nutrition, and the science behind burning calories and building muscle is proof of your dedication to a better way of life. Whether you want to be healthier, lose weight, improve your metabolism, gain muscle mass, or just shake yourself up after a long day at the office, learning what exercises to start with is vital.
The most challenging part of starting an exercise program is determining which exercises to do and how to structure your workout regimen. No doubt you've Googled "basic weight lifting workout" and found contradictory information and shredded fitness models showing you how they work out and stay in shape. It's all pretty confusing.
The following beginner strength program will put you on the right path and help you achieve your ambitions. While it's a basic weight-lifting workout, don't be fooled. This will get you results! And don't forget: a trainer can be invaluable in those early days. A few sessions to help you with form are well worth the investment!
So, what should a beginner weight lifter do?
First things first. You'll need either a gym membership or a workout area at home. You’ll also need some basic equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, and a pull-up bar. It’s best to get adjustable dumbbells, so you don’t outgrow them after a couple of weeks of practice.
Your basic weight lifting workout
Push-ups are an absolute classic, and they don't require any equipment other than your body weight. They develop a large variety of muscles throughout your body. Push-ups target the biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles in your chest and strengthen your core, leading to ab development. If you perform them properly, you’ll get some back development out of them, too.
If you haven’t done push-ups before, do 4 sets of 5 reps (meaning, do 5 push-ups, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat that 4 times). If you have some experience, you can start with 4 sets of 10 reps.
After that, with each training session, increase the number of reps by 1 or 2 until you feel discomfort.
2. Chest press
Lay on the floor on your back, pick up a set of dumbbells, and push toward the ceiling. Slow and controlled motions are essential, as is maintaining focus on your chest muscles.
The chest press is excellent for pectoral muscle development and forms an essential part of a basic weightlifting workout.
If you’re completely inexperienced, start with 3 sets of 8 reps. A recommended starter weight is 4 kilograms (9 lbs).
After one week of training (rest days included), try increasing the working weight to 5 kilograms (11 lbs). You can progress further from there once you can repeat the sets easily.
3. Dumbbell row
The single-arm dumbbell row is a basic weight-lifting workout that will never go out of style. It’s very simple to do — just kneel on a bench and row your arm at your side — as if you're rowing a boat. All you need is a dumbbell! It's also a unilateral workout, which means it only works one side of your body at a time. Single-arm routines serve to smooth out muscle imbalances and burn more calories over time.
While your upper back and lats strengthen, your lower back and core will work hard to keep your torso stable.
You can start by performing 3 sets of 8 reps. Again, start with a dumbbell that weighs 4 kg (9 lbs).
Just like with the chest press, increase by 1 kilo per 1 or 2 weeks of training (i.e., use progressive overload techniques, which are vital in muscle development).
Any beginner strength program should include this exercise, and in due time, you’ll start doing goblet squats and then — barbell squats!
Squats improve the strength, endurance, and power of the lower body muscles. And they’re fantastic for leg development.
For now, start with your own body weight. Do 4 reps of 8 squats and try to add 2 more squats per rep each training session.
The bicep curl is a popular weight-training exercise that targets the muscles of the upper arm and, to a lesser degree, the lower arm. You simply hold the dumbbell in one hand, sit or stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and with your palm facing up, lower your arm (the one that's holding the dumbbell) until fully outstretched, then lift it back up again so your elbow is completely bent. That's one curl! It’s an excellent workout for increasing strength and definition. Our basic weightlifting workout would be incomplete without it.
Choose dumbbells that you can lift 10 times with good form. Good starting weights for curls are 2 kilograms (5 pounds) or 4 kilograms (10 pounds) depending on your current fitness level. Adjust if you have some experience with a basic weight lifting workout already.
6. Shoulder press
One of the greatest workouts for developing your shoulders and upper back is the shoulder press. The front section of your shoulder muscle (anterior deltoid) benefits the most from the shoulder press, but you’ll also be working out your deltoids, triceps, trapezius, and pecs. Again, no beginner weightlifting workout would be complete without them!
Doing a shoulder press is simple: stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold the bar, machine, or dumbbells (there are several ways you can do a shoulder press!) at shoulder height. Makes sure your elbows are at a 90-degree angle so you don't overstretch them. With control, lift the weight above your head until your elbows are nearly straight. Pause at the top for a second or two, then — again with control — slowly bring the weight back to the starting position.
Everyone is different, but standard advice is that beginners start with 3 sets of 8 reps with a weight of roughly 25% of their body weight.
So, that's it! A basic weight lifting workout that you can get started with today. Shrug off those office blues and get into something with minimal equipment requirements and great opportunities for weight and rep progression. And don't forget those health benefits!
PS: Thinking about doing the famous Starting Strength program? It's a great beginner strength program. With the squat and bench press being 2 of the 5 core exercises there (the others are the deadlift, military press, and barbell row), you're well on your way to leveling up and getting serious about this powerful exercise type.