Beginner Strength Training
The first option is bodyweight training. With bodyweight training you need minimal equipment (or none at all), and you can train from anywhere. It doesn’t matter, as long as you have enough space to move around, you can get your workout done (and fit it into a busy schedule).
If you’re bodyweight training, grab the pull-up or the TRX Straps (these can help you make exercises both easier and harder depending on your level). If you’re just starting out, pushups and squats or use an exercise band to help assist you with movements such as pull ups or dips.
However – none of these are necessary, you can easily do bodyweight training without any equipment. The downside to bodyweight exercises is that you will need to consistently modify the exercise’s difficulty in order to ensure you are levelling up and progressing.
Dumbbells make it easy to add a small amount of weight to a movement, and dumbbell exercises can seem less intimidating than barbell training. On top of that, starting with a 20kg barbell might be too much weight at first. Dumbbells also have an added stabilisation challenge, and point out muscle imbalances pretty easily.
If you can’t finish a rep, it’s much easier to drop a dumbbell than it is to drop a barbell. As a newbie learning the movements, this might be helpful.
If your goal is strength above all else, this is the option that we recommend. Barbells allow you to progress clearly and quickly, allowing you to add small increments of weight each week.
Because a barbell is incredibly stable, it’s also much easier to go heavy – especially for lower body movements like the squat and the deadlift. For exercises like the squat, you should use a rack to safely load and unload heavy weights.
So, let’s get you a beginner program!
When looking for a program, most beginners will be best served by choosing a full body routine done two to three times a week, (with a day rest in between each workout). Make sure the program you do choose serves your goal: A powerlifter will have a very different routine than a bodybuilder or endurance athlete.
The number of sets and reps you do changes the outcome of the exercise.
Here’s a quick overview:
• Reps in the 1-5 range build super dense muscle and strength.
• Reps in the 6-12 range build a somewhat equal amounts of muscular strength and muscular endurance.
• Reps in the 12+ range build muscular endurance and size
Many beginner strength programs end up doing 5 sets of 5 reps each, in an effort to optimise progress as a beginner interested in strength gains.
With a circuit, you’re completing one set of each exercise in order and then repeat the process again.
For example you complete one set of each exercise and then moving directly onto the next exercise.
• 20 body weight squats
• 10 push ups
• 20 walking lunges
• 10 dumbbell rows
• 20 second plank
• 30 jumping Jacks
• Repeat for 3-4 rounds
In the more traditional strength style workout, you complete one set of an exercise and then rest, and then another set of the same exercise, and so on.
3 x 10 Squats would look like this:
• 3 x 10 Squats
• 3 x 10 Leg Curls
• 3 x 10 Calf Raises
• 3 x 10 Bench Press
• 3 x 10 Chin-ups
• 3 x 10 Seated Row
• 3 x 10 Shoulder Dumbbell Press
• 3 x 10 Barbell Curl
• 3 x 10 Tricep Pushdowns
• 3 x 10 Swiss Ball Crunches
• 3 x 10 Hanging Leg Raises
So, which one is better?
If your main goal is general fitness and fat loss and you don’t care as much about strength, a circuit style workout will likely be slightly more beneficial.
It gets you in and out of the gym a lot quicker, and keeps your heart rate up longer.
If your main goal is to get stronger and put on muscle, hop into a more traditional strength style routine.
Honestly though? How you eat will account for 80-90% of your success or failure. So, with a quality diet you will lose fat and build strength in either style.
Finally, when you’re choosing a strength routine, make sure the difficulty increases over time. Getting stronger should be written into the plan. This could be by doing one more squat, lifting five more kilograms, or completing your circuit faster.
The main goal should be to always do better than you did last time; this will ensure you are continuously getting stronger.