Strength Training for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know

By Amber Thome

If you’re new to training, welcome! We think that getting started with any type of fitness training is awesome (even though you might be feeling a little nervous). Being a beginner at something is an exciting opportunity to learn new skills, figure out which activities you really enjoy, and to create an active lifestyle that works for you and all your unique needs and preferences.

At Girls Gone Strong we aim to empower women to embrace all that's possible for their lives and their bodies. In your quest to succeed with fitness goals you set for yourself, we hope you find enjoyment in learning more about different types of training. One type of training we often promote (and we hope you love as much as we do) is strength training, which is a core piece to the Girls Gone Strong Fitness Formula.

What Is Strength Training?

Strength training is a form of exercise that challenges your muscles through resistance created by weights, bands, machines, or even body weight.

What Are the Benefits?

  • Increased muscle growth, strength, power, recovery and endurance
  • Increased integrity of bone and connective tissues
  • Increased metabolism
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced rate of injury
  • Reduced lower back pain
  • Slowing of age-related declines like strength and bone loss

Having a base of strength ensures that your nervous system, muscular system, connective tissue, and metabolic processes can handle and recover from additional training loads. It increases bone density and improves connective tissue quality through the forces applied by muscle tissue. This type of training protects against age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia), and improves joint health by strengthening tendons and ligaments, and allowing your muscles to take some load and stress off your joints. Plus, strength training is a potent way to increase confidence in your physical (and mental) abilities, appearance, and presence in the world.

How Often Should You Strength Train?

For most beginners, strength training two to three days per week is enough to gain some muscle and increase strength. By training this often, you should have at least one day of rest between sessions to allow your body to recover and feel fresh for your next workout. If you’re a beginner, it will be important to give yourself time to learn fundamental movements, and starting with two to three training sessions each week gives you room to progress to more in the future.

What Should a Strength Training Workout Look Like?

1. Start With a Dynamic Warm-Up

A dynamic warm-up (check out the one linked here) gets your body ready for more intense training in your workout, and should include some breath work and movement prep. Breath work involves diaphragmatic breathing that helps improve postural alignment, deep belly breathing, and core and pelvic floor connection. Movement preparation involves moving through ranges of motion you’ll do in your workout at lighter intensities, which helps improve mobility, stability, and activation. Your warm-up should take you 5-10 minutes.

2. Perform a Full-Body Workout

Doing full-body workouts is one of the most efficient ways you can maximize your time in the gym. Performing compound movements that involve multiple joints and large muscle groups is not only efficient, but helps you develop coordination and great exercise technique. Start with the largest movements first. These include:

  • Squat – a movement with a lot of hip and knee bend
  • Hinge – a movement with a lot of hip bend, less knee bend
  • Push – pushing away from you: horizontal, angled and or vertical
  • Pull – pulling towards you: horizontal, angled and or vertical

There are a ton of variations of each of these movements, but as a beginner it’s important you start with the basics. Here’s an example of some exercises we’d choose for a beginner:

  • Bodyweight squat to box (squat)
  • Dumbbell Romanian deadlift (hinge)
  • Half-kneeling overhead press (vertical push)
  • Half-kneeling one-arm row (horizontal pull)

3. Pair Exercises Together to Rest Appropriately

In the example above, you’ll also see that we suggest pairing exercises together, often a lower body and an upper body exercise. This allows you to let either your upper or lower body rest while the other is working, and also helps maximize time in the gym.

4. Perform 2–3 Sets of a Moderate to High Number of Reps

A set is how many times you’ll perform each exercise. Reps are the number of repetitions you’ll perform in each set. Starting with a larger number of reps for each exercise (10 to 15 per set) allows you to get more practice with each exercise so you can focus on technique first.

5. Choose an Appropriate Weight for Each Exercise

When choosing your weights or resistance, you want to pick something that is challenging for the number of reps you need to complete. You should feel like the weight is tough, but you could potentially do two more reps with good form.

6. Challenge Yourself Over Time

As you gain strength, the weights you’ve been using for each exercise will start to feel easier. You’ll be ready to increase your load when you feel like instead of completing two more reps, you could do an extra five or more. Increase your weights slowly and in small increments as often as you can so that you’re consistently challenged.

After you’ve performed an exercise for about four weeks, or when you feel confident in your technique with that exercise, it may be time for a more challenging variation. We recommend changing up your workouts every four to six weeks for a beginner.

7. Use Whatever Equipment You Have Available

While having an assortment of equipment and tools to train with, it’s not necessary to have a full gym to get in a great full-body workout that’s appropriate for a beginner. You can start by using just bodyweight, bands, dumbbells, and or kettlebells. If you have access to a gym, you can also use machines, medicine balls, and barbells.

8. If You’re Nervous About Getting Started, Check This Out

As a beginner, there’s no pressure to be great right away. Take your time with getting to know your strength training routine and equipment that’s new to you. Know that each time you workout, you gain valuable practice. Everyone was a beginner at one point. Check out stories from these beginners to hear more about their experience.

If you’re excited but intimidated by the thought of training at a gym, check out this article for more information about how to navigate the gym like the boss that you are.

Want to learn how to get the results you've always wanted — without extreme diet or exercise?

Sign up for this FREE 5-Day course and you'll learn:

  • How to set yourself up for success (not failure) from the beginning
  • Why meal plans don't work (and what to do instead)
  • Why more exercise isn't better (and what to do instead)
  • How to overcome two major roadblocks concerning your hunger and cravings
  • The "secret sauce" for long-lasting, life-changing results — even when you're busy, injured, or unmotivated
Get started today

Top 5 Secrets to Get Better Results in Less Time

Women are tired of spending hours in the gym without seeing the results they want. Fortunately, no matter your goal, we can help. Strength gain, muscle gain, fat loss, more energy—we've got you (and your goals) covered.

This free course includes videos, downloadable tools & resources, and podcast version so you can learn on the go.

About the author:  Amber Thome

Amber Leonard-Thome is a coach, curriculum developer, and contributor for GGS. Since 2008, she has held multiple positions in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, wellness and nutrition coach, a university lecturer, and managed a fitness and sports performance facility. Amber holds a M.S. in Kinesiology, a B.S. in Exercise Science, and is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified.

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram