The Beginner’s Guide To Strength Training

Fitness: Get Fit

By: // June 17, 2015

Strength training builds muscle, improves posture, strengthens bone density, and increases confidence and quality of life. Not only does your ability to perform every day activities (taking the stairs, cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc.) become easier but you start to feel stronger and more confident in your capability to tackle things that may have seem intimidating to you before (skiing down a mountain, presenting in front of your supervisor, etc.). Do you have no idea where to begin and you need help on getting started with strength training? Look no further, our Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training will help you build muscle so you can have a stronger and more confident body!

Who Is Strength Training For?

Strength training is for anyone who is looking to optimize his or her health and gain strength. Anyone of a certain age, gender, demographic can start today to reap the benefits! If you’ve had previous injury, are currently experiencing an injury, or have had past health issues, then you should consult a physician first to begin any exercise program. 

When Should I Strength Train?

If you are new to strength training, try 1-2 workouts per week. If you are accustomed to working out, you may try 3-5 times per week (making sure to allow proper rest time depending on which muscle groups you work).

Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Becoming A Runner

Can Strength Training Help With Aging?

Strength training can reduce the risk of degenerative diseases and the overall quality of life. As we age, our strength levels and metabolism both decrease. That’s why it’s so important to stress your body through exercise so it can grow stronger. Plus, the more muscle you gain, the more calories you burn at rest! In addition, strength training builds bone mass and as we age, this is a biggie. Miriam Nelson, author of Strong Women Stay Young, says, “Most people don’t realize that osteoporosis and thinning bones are preventable. And, the good news is that no matter what the condition of your bones, there are things you can do to make them stronger and help reverse the condition.”  One of which is strength training.“Our research shows that a program of strength training not only improves bone density but reduces falls, improves arthritis symptoms, and increases flexibility and strength.” No matter your strength levels or age, it’s never too late to start strength training and improve your life today.

As you age, strength training is one of the MOST important things you can do for your health!

Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?

Unfortunately, there is a common myth that strength training will make you “bulky.” This connotation that strength training makes you bulky is deceiving, especially for women, because hormones in the body play a huge key role on muscle production. First, let’s discuss the hormone testosterone. It is a steroid-mimicking hormone found in both women and men that aids in the production of gaining muscle mass. Since men produce larger amounts, they tend to gain more muscle (aka “bulk up”) when lifting weight than women. This myth has made lifting weights a turn off for some, but in truth, lifting helps with weight maintenance, breaking through fat-loss plateaus, increasing strength, and reducing risk of disease, and common injuries.

Secondly, a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weight the same…they just look different. A pound of fat takes up more space than muscle does; so if you start strength training, instead of getting “bulky” you’ll actually adopt a slimmer, more toned appearance.

a pound of muscle vs. a pound of fat

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How Does Strength Training Work?

When you stress your muscles during a strength training workout, your muscles micro-tear and therefore, need to remodel themselves. This process lasts for 72 hours following a challenging strength training session. This is why we don’t recommend strength training on back-to-back days unless you work different body parts on consecutive days of the week. It is during the rest time that your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger.

Strength Training Vocabulary

Repetitions: The number of a certain exercise you preform within a given set.

Set: The rounds you perform of those repetitions for each exercise. For example, 3 x 12 squats would mean you perform 3 sets of 12 squats.

Load: The amount of demand placed on the body during exercise, whether that be from externally added weight or bodyweight.

Rest Interval: The amount of rest taken place between each set. The heavier the load, the more rest is needed.

Intensity: The effort performed during each exercise. Intensity can be measured by increases in heart rate, a percentage based off a one repetition maximum, or the ability to talk during exercise. The higher intensity you work at, the less likely you are able to talk comfortably.

Strength training newbie? Get the 411 from our Beginner's Guide!

Types of Strength Training Equipment

Think of strength training equipment as a playground, there is a ton of equipment that you can play with until you’ve found your match! Everything from dumbbells, kettle bells, suspension trainers, resistance bands, barbells, machines, stability balls, and sand bags can be used! And if you don’t have equipment, your own bodyweight is extremely effective and fun for a strength training!

Related: The Best Home Gym Equipment Under $40

Safety Tips For Strength Training

  • Always warm-up your body before any type of workout, especially strength training. Your body needs to get blood flowing to the working muscles gradually so that when you begin your actual workout, your body can produce the most force possible to complete each exercise. You may start a warm-up on a piece of cardio equipment for five minutes then perform another 2-5 minutes of dynamic movement like walking lunges, bodyweight squats, high knees, and butt kicks.
  • Start with a weight or your bodyweight in which you can perform 8-12 repetitions, making sure the last 1-2 reps are tough to complete but don’t compensate your form. Some examples of compensating form is over-arching of the low back, chin tucked in, and chest collapsing in instead of facing up right. Complete 2-4 sets x 8-12 repetitions of each exercise dependent upon your current fitness level.
  • You will most likely need to either start with your bodyweight or light weight so you can master proper form before increasing weight. A general rule of thumb is to increase the weight by 5 percent once you find you can do 10-12 reps with little effort and maintaining proper form.
  • Move through each movement with a controlled range of motion. Focus on the main muscles you are working rather than just mindlessly moving through the movement.
  • Allow time for a cool down by gradually decreasing your heart rate. We suggest stretching and foam rolling.

Where Can I Find Strength Training Workouts?

We have a whole strength training exercise library for you! Plus, you can do one of our GHU workouts for free. Do you get started, click on any of three favorite strength training workouts below to get the how-to!

This Busy Woman Strength Workout will get you in and out of the gym (or your living room) fast!

Save time strength training with this 20-Minute Total Body Medicine Ball Workout!
Save time strength training with this 30-Minute Anywhere Bodyweight Workout

READ THIS NEXT: The Beginner’s Guide to HIIT 

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