weightlifting beginner routine

How To Start Weightlifting (Beginner Routine)

Weightlifting is a popular form of resistance training that involves lifting weights to build strength and muscle mass. It can be intimidating for beginners, but anyone can start weightlifting safely and effectively with the proper knowledge and guidance.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about starting weightlifting as a beginner, including the benefits, the equipment you will need, and three sample beginner routines to get you started.

Benefits of Strength Training

Weightlifting offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Increased muscle strength and size: Regularly lifting weights, your muscles adapt and become stronger.
  • Improved bone density: Weightlifting is a weight-bearing activity that can help prevent osteoporosis and improve bone health.
  • Boosted metabolism: Building muscle mass through weightlifting can increase your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day.
  • Enhanced athletic performance: Weightlifting improves overall strength and power, benefiting athletes in various sports.
  • Better body composition: Weightlifting can improve your body composition and physical appearance by increasing muscle mass and decreasing fat mass.
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Regular strength training has been shown to lower the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Major Muscle Groups Explained

Before starting a weightlifting routine, it's essential to understand the major muscle groups in the body and how they are targeted with different exercises. Some of the main muscles you will be targeting during weightlifting include:

  • Chest: The chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) are responsible for pushing movements, such as bench presses and push-ups.
  • Back: The back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and erector spinae) are involved in pulling movements, such as rows and pull-ups.
  • Shoulders: The shoulders are made up of three heads - anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (back). Exercises like shoulder presses target all three heads.
  • Arms: The arms consist of two main muscle groups - biceps (front of the upper arm) and triceps (back of the upper arm). Bicep curls and tricep extensions are exercises to target these muscles.
  • Legs: The legs have several different muscles, including quads (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), and calves. Squats and lunges are practical exercises for targeting the legs.

It's also important to note that these are just a few major muscle groups. Many more muscles in the body can be targeted with various weightlifting exercises.

Getting Started

Setting Realistic Goals

Before starting any new fitness routine, it's crucial to set realistic goals. This will help keep you motivated and on track as you progress in your weightlifting journey. Some examples of achievable goals for beginners include:

  • I am lifting a certain amount of weight for a specific exercise.
  • I am gradually increasing the number of reps and sets performed.
  • I improve my form and technique for particular exercises.
  • I consistently stick to a weightlifting routine for a set time.
  • I improve body composition by reducing body fat percentage.
  • I am obtaining an accelerated metabolism for weight loss purposes.

Essential Equipment

Weightlifting requires some basic equipment to get started. Some of the essential items you will need include:

  • Dumbbells: These are handheld weights that come in various sizes and are used for multiple exercises.
  • Barbells: Barbells are long, straight bars with weights attached to either end. They are used for compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
  • Weight plates: Plates can be added or removed from barbells to adjust the weight.
  • Weight bench: This sturdy equipment allows you to perform exercises such as bench presses and chest flies.
  • Resistance bands: These are elastic bands that come in different strengths and can be used for various exercises.

Strength Training Workout Fundamentals

Learning Proper Form

Form and technique are crucial in weightlifting to prevent injury and maximize results. Before adding weight, practicing proper form with body weight or light weights is essential.

Some general tips for maintaining proper form include:

  • Keeping your core engaged and spine neutral.
  • Avoid locking out joints at the top of a movement.
  • Not letting your knees cave in or overextend.
  • Maintaining a slight bend in the elbows and knees during exercises.

How Much Weight to Lift?

As a beginner, starting with lighter weights and gradually increasing as you become stronger and more confident in your form is essential. 

A helpful guideline is to begin with weights you can easily handle, allowing for 8-12 repetitions.

If you can easily do more than 12 reps, the weight may be too light, and if you struggle to do eight reps, it may be too heavy. Adjust the weight accordingly until you find a challenging yet manageable weight for each exercise.

How to Gain Muscle by Lifting Lighter Weights

Contrary to popular belief, lifting lighter weights with more repetitions can still build muscle mass. This type of training is known as hypertrophy training and involves performing 10-15 reps per set with a moderate weight.

While heavier weights are necessary for building maximum strength, hypertrophy training can be just as effective for building muscle size and endurance. Mixing up your training routine to include heavy and lighter weightlifting is essential. This will help prevent plateaus and continue achieving results. 

Bodyweight Training

The best place to start when beginning a weightlifting routine is with bodyweight exercises. These exercises require no equipment and can be done anywhere, making them accessible and convenient. Some of the best bodyweight exercises include:

  • Push-ups: This classic exercise targets several muscles in the upper body, including the chest, shoulders, and arms.
  • Squats: Squats are an excellent compound exercise that targets several leg muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Planks: Planks target several core muscles and are great for improving overall stability and strength.
  • Lunges: Like squats, lunges target several leg muscles while improving balance and coordination.

While bodyweight exercises may not be as effective at building muscle mass as lifting weights, they are still crucial to any weightlifting routine. They can also be used as warm-up exercises or between sets to elevate the heart rate and maximize results.

Your First Routine

Full Body Beginner Workout Plan

As a beginner, focusing on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously is an efficient way to train the entire body. Here is a sample weight training program for beginners:

  • Squats (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Deadlifts (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Bench Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Bent-over Rows (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Shoulder Press (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Bicep Curls (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Tricep Extensions (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Lunges (2 sets of 12-15 reps per leg)
  • Calf Raises (2 sets of 15-20 reps)
  • Plank (3 sets, holding for 30 seconds each)

When starting your workout, it's important to remember to begin with lighter weights to allow your body to adjust and focus on maintaining proper form. This foundational step will help prevent injuries and ensure optimal performance as you progress. As you gain confidence and strength, gradually increase the weight to continue challenging yourself. Additionally, remember to take adequate rest periods of 1-2 minutes between each set to allow for muscle recovery and maximize the effectiveness of your training session.

Upper Body Focus Workout Plan

If you prefer to focus on a particular area of the body, here is an example of a beginner upper-body workout routine:

  • Bench Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Shoulder Press (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Bicep Curls (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Tricep Extensions (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Lat Pulldowns (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Chest Flies (3 sets of 10-12 reps)

Lower Body Focus Workout Plan

For those looking to target the lower body, here is a beginner lower-body workout routine:

  • Squats (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Deadlifts (3 sets of 8-10 reps)
  • Lunges (3 sets of 12-15 reps per leg)
  • Leg Press (3 sets of 10-12 reps) 
  • Hamstring Curls (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Calf Raises (3 sets of 15-20 reps)
  • Plank (3 sets, holding for 30 seconds each)

Progressing in Weightlifting

Increasing Weight Safely

As you build muscular endurance, it's natural to want to increase the weight you lift. However, it's essential to do so safely to prevent injury.

A general rule of thumb is to increase the weight by no more than 10% each week. This gradual progression will allow your muscles and body to adapt and become stronger without putting too much strain on your joints.

Incorporating Variations and New Exercises

You must introduce variations and new exercises into your weightlifting regimen to continuously engage your muscles and avoid boredom. New exercises promote physical growth and enhance your workouts' overall quality and effectiveness. For example, try adding a jump instead of a traditional squat or using dumbbells as resistance.

You can also switch up the order in which you perform exercises or add entirely new ones. This will prevent plateaus and keep your muscles guessing.

Tracking Your Progress

Tracking your progress is essential in weightlifting to see how far you've come and set new goals. You can track your progress by:

  • Keeping a workout journal: Write down the exercises, weights used, and reps performed for each workout.
  • Taking measurements: Measure areas of your body where you want to see changes (e.g., waist, biceps).
  • Using progress photos: Take photos of yourself at regular intervals to visually see changes in your body.

Tracking your progress will not only help you stay motivated but also allow you to make adjustments to your routine if needed. Remember that progress takes time and consistency, so be patient and celebrate small victories. 

Nutrition and Recovery

Diet for Muscle Gain

Proper nutrition is essential to make the most of your weight training routine. Some critical dietary considerations include:

  • Consuming enough protein: Aim for 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight.
  • Eating a balanced diet: Ensure you get enough carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.
  • Staying hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after workouts.

Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are just as important as weightlifting for muscle growth. Get enough sleep (7-9 hours per night), take rest days, and listen to your body if you feel fatigued or experience any pain.

Incorporating stretching, foam rolling, and massages can also aid in recovery and prevent injury. Remember that rest and recovery are essential for progress, so don't neglect them in your fitness journey. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoiding Injuries

To prevent injuries while weightlifting, it's essential to:

  • Warm-up properly: Spend 5-10 minutes doing dynamic stretches and exercises to warm up your muscles and prepare them for the workout.
  • Using proper form: As mentioned earlier, maintaining good form is crucial in preventing injuries. Ask a trainer or watch tutorials online if you need clarification on a specific exercise.
  • Refrain from overtraining: Take rest days and avoid working out the same muscle group two days in a row.

Focusing on Aesthetics Only

Although looking good can be a motivator, it's essential not to focus solely on aesthetics. Weightlifting has many other benefits, such as improving strength, reducing stress, and boosting self-confidence. Remember to enjoy the process and not just focus on the result.

Comparing Yourself to Others

Everyone progresses at their own pace, so avoiding comparing yourself to others is essential. Focus on your journey and celebrate your progress without comparing it to someone else's. 

Weightlifting Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: Weightlifting makes you bulky or masculine.

Many people, especially women, fear weightlifting will make them look too bulky or masculine. However, this is only the case if one specifically trains for it with heavy weights and a high-calorie diet. Weightlifting can help tone and shape the body without making it "bulky."

Myth: Cardio is better for weight loss.

While cardio does burn more calories during a workout, weightlifting can have long-lasting effects on metabolism. Additionally, building muscle through weightlifting can help increase the calories burned at rest. A combination of both cardio and weightlifting is recommended for overall fitness and weight loss goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Weightlifting offers increased muscle, boosted metabolism, enhanced athletic performance, improved bone density, reduced disease risk, and better body composition.
  • Major muscle groups include the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses target these areas.
  • Beginners should set realistic goals, learn proper form, start with light weights, and focus on compound exercises. Routines include the entire body, upper body, or lower body splits.
  • Gradually increase weights by 10% weekly, incorporate variations, track progress, and get enough protein, carbs, fats, water, sleep, and recovery.
  • Avoid overtraining, focusing solely on aesthetics, or comparing to others. Proper warm-ups and forms prevent injuries. Cardio complements weightlifting for fitness and weight loss.


Weightlifting is a beneficial form of exercise that can improve overall health and fitness. By following proper techniques, tracking progress, and incorporating variations and new exercises, weightlifting can be an enjoyable and effective way to build muscle, increase strength, and boost metabolism. Remember to prioritize rest and recovery, avoid common mistakes and misconceptions, and focus on the journey rather than just the result. 


How to do a squat properly?

To do a squat properly:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
  • Engage your core and keep your chest up as you push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat position.
  • Keep your weight in your heels and maintain a neutral spine.
  • Push through your heels to stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the movement's top.
  • Avoid letting your knees cave in or rounding your back during the exercise.

It can also be helpful to practice with a mirror or have someone watch and give feedback on your form. Proper form is essential for preventing injuries and maximizing results from squats.

How to do deadlifts safely?

To perform a deadlift safely:

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and the barbell over the middle of your feet.
  • Bend at your hips and knees to reach down and grab the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Keep your back straight as you prepare to lift.
  • As you start to lift the barbell, push through your heels and straighten your legs while keeping your arms straight. The bar should remain close to your body for the entirety of the lift.
  • Once you've fully extended your hips and knees, lower the barbell back to the ground by pushing your hips back and bending your knees, maintaining those straight arms throughout the process.

As always, it's crucial to maintain proper form to prevent injuries and maximize results. Having a trainer or experienced lifter check your form can be very beneficial, especially when starting.

How to do a bench press correctly?

To perform a bench press:

  • Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back flat against the bench.
  • Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and lift it off the rack.
  • Lower the bar towards your chest while keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your body.
  • Push the bar back up to the starting position, keeping your back and feet planted firmly on the bench and floor.
  • Avoid arching your back or flaring your elbows out during the exercise.

Having a spotter or using safety bars in case you need assistance with the weight can also be helpful. Like squats and deadlifts, proper form prevents injuries while performing bench presses. 

How to do bent-over rows properly?

Stand with your feet hip-width apart to perform bent-over rows and hold the barbell with an overhand grip. Bend at the waist, keeping your back straight, until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Pull the weight towards your chest by bending at the elbows, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weight back down in a controlled manner, keeping your back straight. Avoid using momentum or arching your back during the exercise. As with all weightlifting exercises, proper form is essential for avoiding injuries and maximizing results from bent-over rows. Also, consult a trainer if you need clarification on performing this exercise correctly. 

How to do a shoulder press safely?

To perform a shoulder press:

  • Sit on a bench with back support and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level with palms facing forward.
  • Push the weights up until your arms fully extend overhead.
  • Lower the weights back down to the starting position.
  • Avoid arching your back or using momentum during the exercise.

How to do bicep curls correctly?

To perform bicep curls:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells at arm's length by your sides.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body, and curl the weights towards your shoulders.
  • Lower the weights back down.
  • Avoid swinging your arms or using momentum during the exercise.

It can also be helpful to keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. 

How to do tricep extensions safely?

To perform tricep extensions:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell or cable attachment above your head.
  • Slowly lower the weight behind your head by bending at the elbows.
  • Keep your elbows close to your head throughout the movement.
  • Push the weight back up to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Avoid letting your elbows flare out or using momentum during the exercise.

Using a lighter weight and focusing on the proper form can also be beneficial rather than using heavy weights that may lead to injury. Good form and gradual increases in weight are essential for safely performing tricep extensions. 

How to do lunges properly?

To perform lunges:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a big step forward with one foot.
  • Slowly lower your body by bending both knees until they form 90-degree angles.
  • Push through the heel of your front foot to stand back up and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Avoid letting your front knee extend past your toes or your back knee touch the ground during the exercise.

It can also be helpful to keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Lunges are an excellent exercise for targeting multiple muscle groups and improving balance. Still, proper form is crucial in preventing injuries. Consider consulting a trainer if you have any concerns about performing lunges correctly. 

How do calf raises safely?  

To perform calf raises:

  • Stand on the edge of a step or platform with your heels hanging off.
  • Slowly raise yourself onto your toes and lower back to the starting position.
  • Avoid using momentum or bouncing during the exercise. You can also perform this exercise one leg at a time for an added challenge.

Proper form is critical in preventing injuries while performing calf raises. It can also be helpful to stretch your calf muscles before and after the exercise to avoid tightness or strain. Gradually increasing weight or using resistance bands can also help improve results from calf raises. 

How to do planks correctly?  

To perform a plank:

  • Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly below your shoulders.
  • Step back one foot at a time until your body is in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Engage your core and hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • Avoid arching or rounding your back, and keep your hips level with the rest of your body.

Planks are an excellent exercise for strengthening the core. They can be modified by dropping onto your forearms or performing them on an incline. Proper form is crucial in preventing injuries and maximizing results from planks. It can also be helpful to gradually increase the duration of your plank as you become stronger.