fitness for Beginners

Did you know that a strong body is a healthy body?

Strength training is something you should be doing regularly. However, choosing a new workout routine when just starting out in the wonderful world of exercise can be more than daunting. This is one of the main reasons why people stick with old exercise habits that get them nowhere. However, strength training for a beginner is not hard and does not have to be scary.

This article will explain how to start strength training and the most effective method to get the most out of all your workouts.

What is a Good Workout for Beginners?

There are several options you can choose from for strength training. These include bodyweight training, dumbbell training and barbell training.

Bodyweight training

Bodyweight Training is one of the cheapest options for strength training, as you will need either minimal equipment or none at all. You can also use this method to train anywhere, from the breakroom at lunch to your bedroom when you first get up at the hotel during a trip. As long as you have sufficient space to move around, there is no reason why you will not be able to get your workout in every day, even with a busy schedule.

If you are bodyweight training, you can use a pull-up bar or a pair of gymnastics rings to start. If you want to go really slow, consider a resistance exercise band to help start with pull-ups or dips. However, it is not strictly necessary to invest in any equipment at all. Working against your own body weight is a sufficient way to get started with strength training in a non-scary fashion.

As long as you have sufficient space to move around, there is no reason why you will not be able to get your workout in every day, even with a busy schedule.

Barbell training

Barbell Training is beneficial in that it allows you to progress quickly and easily. If strength is your main goal in starting a strength training program, this is your best bet. Barbells allow you to progress in your fitness level weekly by adding small increments of weight on a regular basis. Barbells are very stable, as you are using two hands instead of one. They are much easier to use with heavier sizes, especially for lower body exercises such as squats or deadlifts. For certain exercises, such as squats or presses, you can also use racks to help safely load and de-load heavy weight configurations.

The main downside to barbell weight training is the need for additional equipment. For a home exercise program, you will need to invest in a squat rack, a barbell, weights and enough space in your home or garage. While these are not expensive investments, not everyone has the space to accommodate them. If this is the case, you may want to consider a gym membership if you choose to pursue a barbell training program.

An illustration showing barbell bicep exercise

Dumbbell training

Dumbbells are another great option when starting with a weighted strength training program. Most gyms have quality dumbbells for patrons to use. This includes basic gyms in apartment complexes. If you want to train at home instead, you can invest in adjustable dumbbells that do not take up a lot of space.

An illustration showing An illustration showing dumbell chest exercise on a bench

Dumbbells are easy to add small increments of weight to and can seem less intimidating than training with barbells. Dumbbells are also good for stabilization and can help pinpoint muscle imbalances and weak areas you need to work on. If you cannot complete a set of reps, it is much simpler to put down a dumbbell than a barbell. As a beginner to the strength training regime, this might be a factor to take into consideration.

The downside to dumbbell training is the fact that you will most likely outgrow the set you purchase at a fairly rapid rate. Heavier dumbbells are expensive and take up a significant amount of space in a home gym. Having a gym membership at a gym with barbells that allow you to go up to 100 pounds or more will help solve this dilemma.

Which One is Best?

What’s the Best Program to consider?

The one you think you will actually do. Barbell training is ideal if building muscle is your main goal. However, if you just don’t think you will be driving to the gym three times a week, chose a plan that you will actually follow. For some people, bodyweight training might be their ticket to success. However, not everyone can motivate themselves to exercise at home. If this sounds like you, a gym membership might be the way to go.

How Can a Beginner Start Working Out at Home?

If you are having a hard time deciding which program to follow, consider choosing the workout that will fit your situation. If you are traveling, bodyweight training can help you stick to your fitness goals without needing to look for a gym or even leave your hotel room. When you are at home, you will be able to take advantage of your home gym and start your workout as soon as you wake up. There are programs you can use that take advantage of a combination of all three options: bodyweight, dumbbell and barbell training. A combination of all three will help build a well-balanced and functional body that can take you through life with easy and grace.

One of the first things I would recommend that you do before even signing up with a gym or purchasing your equipment is to formulate a plan. Just walking aimlessly from machine to machine at the gym or performing random reps and sets at home is not the best way to jumpstart you exercise program.

When choosing a program for a beginner, you will be best served by selecting a routine that involves a workout three times a week with a day of rest in between each workout. As with anything else in life, you exercise program will depend on your goals and reasons for exercising. If you are a powerlifter, you will have a different routine than a bodybuilder or an endurance athlete.

The number of sets and reps you do will change the outcome of your workout. In general, the fewer the reps, the denser the resulting muscle. Reps in the one to five range will build extremely dense muscles with high strength levels. Reps in the six to 12 range will build similar levels of muscle strength and endurance. Twelve reps or more are designed to build muscular endurance and size.

An illustration showing proper deadlift form

How Long Should You Work Out as a Beginner?

Beginner programs often include five sets of five reps each to help optimize the results of muscular strength. Using a circuit program, you will be completing a set of each exercise in order, followed by a repeat. Here’s an example circuit-style workout for a beginner.

An illustration showing proper body weight squats form
  • 20 bodyweight squats
  • 10 pushups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows
  • 15 second plank
  • 30 jumping jacks

Repeat three times.

For a more traditional style workout for the intermediate strength trainer, you will complete a single set of each exercise and rest before completing another set of the same exercise.

Here’s an example.

10 squats


10 squats


10 squats



Which Type of Exercise Program Should I Choose?

And which one is better, you may ask?

It depends on your purpose in strength training. If you are looking for general fitness and to lose weight over strength, a circuit style workout is your best option.

The circuit style workouts will get you in and out of the gym faster and will keep your heart rate elevated for a longer period of time. If your main goal is to get stronger and to put on more muscle while you are at it, a traditional workout routine will get you where you want to go.

As a final step when choosing a workout program, you will need to ensure that your routine increases in difficulty on a regular basis. Getting stronger should be written into your fitness plan. It will do you no good if you are working out without increasing the level of weight you are lifting/pushing/pulling. Increasing the demands on your schedule can be done by adding one more squat, lifting five more pounds or completing a circuit 10 seconds faster.

An image showing different circuit style workout illustration

Your goal from week to week should be getting stronger and faster.

How Should a Beginner Start Cardio Workouts?

Cardio workouts elevate your heart rate and help develop better stamina. If you are a beginner to the cardio workout world, you will want to start out a t a level that you are comfortable with. You can use a treadmill, a stationary bicycle or an elliptical trainer.

Consider working at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) between three and 10 for optimal results. However, don’t overdo it. If at any time you feel dizzy, find it difficult to speak or feel sharp pains, stop and rest. If discomfort continues, seek the advice of a medical professional.

What is “5BX?”

5BX stands for “Five Basic Exercises” that were defined by the Canadian Air Force in the 1950s. The idea behind these exercises to is to perform them in the same order each day to reach a certain fitness level that is dependent on age.

The program lasts for 11 minutes at a time. After you reach your target fitness level, you will need to perform them three times a week to maintain it.

There is also a more modern version of the 5BX. These are: the high plank, the body weight squat, the pushup, the reverse lunge and the burpee.

How Do I Start Working Out?

As a beginner to the strength training routine, launching yourself into a program where you lift sixty pounds the first day will not be beneficial. In fact, it could even harm your body by forcing it to do too much too soon.

Never start a program without learning the basic movements first.

For any exercise program as a beginner, always start out with your body weight. If you are practicing a barbell movement, use a broomstick or a PVC pipe. If practicing a dumbbell movement, use two PVC pipe scions or something else that is both light and small to simulate the motions you’d be performing with a dumbbell.

An illustration showing proper sitting posture

When performing certain motions such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses that require a certain form to avoid injury and to maximize the routine, developing a good form is the most important thing you can do. Remember, constancy is better than intensity. Developing good habits with light weights will save you from injury later and will give you the best opportunity to build muscle.

To help ensure that you are following the proper form, you can do the exercises in front of a mirror while watching a YouTube video. You can also record yourself and compare your work to videos from a trusted fitness channel or website to ensure that you are doing it right. If you are still not sure you are doing it right, consider hiring a coach from a local strength and conditioning gym for a couple sessions to go over basic movements.

As long as you have sufficient space to move around, there is no reason why you will not be able to get your workout in every day, even with a busy schedule.

Tips for Beginners

What to wear

When working out, wear something you will feel comfortable exercising in. Don’t worry about what everyone else is wearing. This is about you and your body, not who is wearing the hottest trends. When choosing shoes, purchase a pair that features a hard sole (no memory foam or gel soles, please!).

Multipurpose shoes such as Vibrams or Merills are good options to start with. There are few things more frustrating than getting all pumped up about your workout routine after leaving your job for the day, getting to the gym, and realizing that you left your workout clothes at home. Bring basic shower supplies with you as well, including soap, shampoo, deodorant and a change of clean clothes. To help avoid excuses, consider keeping an extra gym back filled with supplies in your car in case you leave your main pack at home.

What to Bring

Hydration is necessary to ensure that you are working at your peak levels. You will be losing a lot of fluid through sweating, especially if you are doing a circuit-type workout.

A Notebook or Note Taking App:

This will allow you to track your progress, such as how many reps/set you did in a certain amount of time. Tracking your progress is a great way to help you stay motivated.

An Mp3 Player or a Youtube Playlist

An mp3 player or a YouTube playlist can be helpful tools to “get in the zone” and motivate your body. Gyms can be noisy places and may feel overwhelming at times. Having your own music to listen to can help you stay focused on your goals and make the most out of your workout.

What Should a Beginner do at the Gym?

Always Warm Up

A proper warm-up with dynamic stretching is critical toward getting your body warmed up and ready for injury-free workouts. Always take time to stretch before and after your workout to minimize soreness and risk of injury

Focus On You

Don’t worry about how you will look when exercising. In other words, don’t judge yourself. The goal here is progress, not instant perfection. If you are working in a group environment, don’t compare yourself to others in the room.

Those who have the movements down pat and seem to perform them effortlessly and seamlessly all had to start somewhere, just like you. Your chapter one is not necessarily going to look like another person’s chapter nine.

A workout is also an act of self-care, something that not enough people do these days. The mental battles you will face will be the hardest things you will be faced with in the beginning stages of an exercise program. Keep in mind that the benefits you will reap will far outweigh any difficulties you have in the initial stages.

Consider Using A Heart-Rate Monitor

If you are the type of person who gets motivated by seeing numerical results, consider investing in a heart rate monitor to help you see how your body is responding to the physical stress of the training routine. Working out can be more fun if you can see tangible results of your efforts.

Create Goals To Work Toward

To help ensure that you do not wimp out with excuses, take steps to make it easy to workout. Lay out your gym clothes the night before. Signup for a class at the beginning of the week before your schedule gets full. Plan your meals for the week to ensure that you are not going for the nearest fast-food restaurant and negating the effects of your exercise program.

Advance Preparation

To help ensure that you do not wimp out with excuses, take steps to make it easy to workout. Lay out your gym clothes the night before. Signup for a class at the beginning of the week before your schedule gets full. Plan your meals for the week to ensure that you are not going for the nearest fast-food restaurant and negating the effects of your exercise program.

The All-important Diet

Although working out is a critical component to a successful weight training program, how and what you eat is responsible for up to 90 percent of your success. If you eat a healthy diet with minimal sugars/carbs and plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and protein to fuel your body’s demand for muscle building nutrition, you will lose weight and build muscle no matter what program you choose.

Even the best exercise program in the world will not get you anywhere if you are eating a poor diet full of junk food and sugar. Here are a few guidelines you can follow to help ensure that your diet supports your fitness goals.

Eat natural, whole foods whenever you can. The more processed a food is, the less nutritional value it provides to your body. Fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats are critical toward maintaining a healthy body.

Omit sugar, candy, soda and other junk food from your regular diet. These things are okay to have as an occasional treat, but don’t make a habit out of consuming them.

Omit sugar. This one tip is so important that it’s worth repeating. Sugar and liquid calories are the top two enemies of a healthy body. Avoid them like the plague if you are really serious about your weight.

Eat enough protein. Protein is the fuel that your body uses to build that muscle and to make any needed repairs. Lean meats, fish and free-range poultry are all quality sources of protein that you can take advantage of.

An image showing healthy diet food pyramid pie chart.

Your eating habits will be at least 80 percent responsible for the success of your workout routine. The actual fitness training is only responsible for up to 20 percent of your success at the most. The worst thing that can happen is to do a workout routine for months and fail to see results because of poor eating habits.


In this article, you learned about the different types of exercise programs you can choose from: the bodyweight program, the barbell program, the dumbbell program, the cardio program and the 5BX.

You learned about how to start out as a beginner to the world of regular fitness training and the best ways to motivate yourself to do your best.

You learned about a healthy diet and the absolute importance of it to ensuring a successful end result.

However, don’t let all this information get you feeling overwhelmed! You don’t have to start with every single item listed here. Pick one that strikes you the most and get started, building up little by little until you reach your goals. Remember that planning is the key to success. See you at the gym!

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