Strength training for beginners

When I first started working out, I was all about the treadmill and elliptical–40 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I just wanted to be skinny. My attempts to “tone” were basically doing the triceps push-down machine and the hip abductor machine. Maybe some leg extensions too. I remember noticing that the fittest people in the gym were almost never on cardio machines.

“How do they get away with just doing weights?” I’d say to myself. “If I did that I’d turn into a blimp. I need my cardio or else I’ll get fat!”

Silly, silly girl.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I figured out that strength training is important if you want to change your physique. And it was when I started focusing on getting stronger that I saw the biggest changes in my body. Diet also played a very big role in terms of fat loss, but weights are what gave me shape and definition.

So maybe you’re a complete beginner who’s not too interested in weight training. I often hear newbies say things like, “It seems so boring,” or “I don’t want to bulk up.”

In all honesty, everyone I know who commits to weight training ends up really enjoying it. And as for bulking up? Bro. It’s NOT going to happen. Not without serious, deliberate effort. I WISH it was that easy!

Or maybe you’ve been working out for a bit but haven’t really stuck to any program or seen the kind of results you’d like.

If you’re in either of these camps, and you want to…

-Get definition (or get “toned”, if you prefer)
-Lose inches
-Be able to eat more
-Feel like a bad ass

Then I’d highly recommend making strength a priority and lifting some heavy shit.

So just which program should you try? Well, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Stronglifts 5×5 is an excellent place to start. If you’ve never followed a program like it before, it delivers great results, especially for beginners.

You can check out the link, but basically you are doing five movements with a barbell: squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row.
-You do each movement for 5 sets of 5 reps.
-For deadlifts you will only do 1 or 2 sets of 5.
-Each workout you will alternate between deadlifts and rows and bench press and overhead press.
-Workout three days a week, NOT on consecutive days
-Start off light and add a small amount of weight each workout (5 lbs for squat, bench, rows, overhead press and 10lbs on deadlifts)

It would look something like this:

Workout A:
Squat
Bench press
Deadlift

Workout B:
Squat
Overhead press
Barbell row

You will alternate between workout A & B every session, so your weekly schedule would look as follows:

Week 1:
Monday: Workout A
Wednesday: Workout B
Friday: Workout A

Week 2:
Monday: Workout B
Wednesday: Workout A
Friday: Workout B

Even though it’s only 3 days, full body workouts are great for stimulating growth hormones, which means better results without having to be in the gym every day.

I highly recommend that you keep track of the weight you are lifting in every session on a notepad or in your phone.

Keep in mind that you aren’t going to be able to add weight forever. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you can’t do the full 5 reps. At that point, you may want to look into an intermediate program like 5-3-1.

Doing only squat, bench press, OH press, deadlifts, and rows might be enough for beginners, but if you’re a bit more experienced with working out or you just want more volume, you can add in accessory exercises. Accessories are basically anything that isn’t a squat, deadlift, or press. They can help to build muscle and even assist you in getting stronger in your main lifts.

You’ll want to do them after your main lifts, which are top priority. For accessory work, keep the rep range higher, anywhere from 4 sets of 8 (4×8) to 3 sets of 15 (3×15). Weights should be moderately challenging, meaning that if you are doing a set with 8 reps, by the 8th rep you should feel like you could only do one or two more reps.

I often like to do my accessory work in super sets or as a circuit to save time and get in a little conditioning. There are a ton of options for accessory combinations, but I’ve included some accessory circuits to tack onto the end of your workout. This is just to give you an idea 🙂

Accessories

To perform as a circuit, do one set and move on to the next exercise, resting as needed between sets. Repeat until all sets are complete.

Accessory circuit #1: Do this one on a day you aren’t deadlifting
-Barbell hip thrust 4×10
-Dumbbell row 4×10
-Lateral raises 3×10

Accessory circuit #2:
-Lunges 4×12
-Pull-ups (can use a band or the assist machine) 4×8

Accessory circuit #3:
DB chest press 4×10
Single-leg get-up or pistols 4×10
Curls 3×12

 

I know this can be a lot of information to absorb, but feel free to ask any questions. Now…get to liftin’!

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  1. Pingback: 3 Reasons You Can't Get Pull-ups | Fit Geek

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