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A Beginner's Guide to Lifting Weights

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Male barbell bench press

Lifting weights can help you reach your goals of increasing muscle mass or getting a fitter, more toned body.

Weight training, commonly referred to as resistance or strength training, builds you lean, stronger muscles, strengthens your bones and joints, and can help maintain a healthy metabolism, which means you'll burn more calories even while you're at rest.

And not only young people can benefit from lifting weights. As we get older, lifting weights can help prevent the loss of muscular strength and mobility and improve our mental health.

Therefore, it's never too late to start lifting weights, even if you've never done it before.

Furthermore, you don't even have to be a member of a gym. For many exercises, you can just use your own body weight, or you can certainly achieve great results with free weights, resistance bands, or other home fitness equipment.

You will learn how to begin weight training in this article, which also offers beginner-friendly workout suggestions.

What do you need to begin lifting weights?

Consider beginning with a certified personal trainer's assistance if you have never lifted weights before. They'll be able to design a strength training program specifically suited to your requirements and instruct you on the correct form for a variety of exercises.

Many gyms and fitness facilities provide free or inexpensive first training sessions, or they have trainers on hand if you have any queries. Numerous personal trainers also instruct their clients online via video platforms.

While most gyms feature both free weights like dumbbells, barbells and resistance machines, you may also obtain a thorough weight training workout at home with minimal equipment.

Options for equipment

Weights are not required to develop lean muscle mass and tone your body. For instance, all you need to generate resistance for some strength training activities, like pushups or lunges, is your own body weight and gravity.

Dumbbells give you more possibilities for at-home workouts. The cost of a beginner's set of adjustable dumbbells starts at about £30, but it increases in price as you add more weight.

Another popular choice is kettlebells, which are weighted balls with handles. Kettlebell movements frequently target multiple muscle groups at once, making them good for a full-body workout, especially if you're pressed for time.

Another useful addition to your training equipment is resistance bands. When tugged and stretched, these coloured elastic bands give various levels of resistance.

The cost of a set of resistance bands ranges from £5 to £40. They are lightweight and portable, so you can bring them on trips as you travel too.

Female dumbbell bicep curl

What you should know before starting

As soon as you're prepared to begin a weight training program, keep the following in mind.

Beginner's weightlifting advice

Get warm. Your muscles will receive more blood flow and be prepared for a challenging workout if you engage in some aerobic activity, such as a fast 5-minute jog or walk. Other effective warm-up exercises include a few minutes of jumping jacks or skipping.

Begin by using lighter weights. Starting weights should be something you can lift 10 to 15 times with good form. Start with one or two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, then gradually increase to three or more sets over time.

Increase the weight gradually. Increase the weight by 5 to 10% after you can complete the recommended number of sets and reps with ease. Before beginning a full workout, be sure the weights are appropriate for you.

At least 60 seconds rest in between sets. This prevents muscular fatigue, particularly when you first start out.

Do not exercise for more than 45 minutes. In this amount of time, you can complete the necessary exercise. Longer sessions could have the opposite effect of improving results while also raising your risk of burnout and muscular weariness.

After your workout, gently stretch your muscles. Stretching can increase flexibility, relieve muscle tension, and lower injury risk.

Between workouts, take a day or two to recover. Before your next workout, rest to allow your muscles to heal and replenish their energy stores.

Beginner exercises

The greatest resistance training program works all of your body's major muscle groups, even though you might be particularly focused in developing specific muscles such as your biceps or toning your legs.

Actually, overusing one set of muscles at the expense of others can increase your risk of becoming injured.

The following exercises might be a good place to start if you want to get a good all-round workout. The majority of your body's large muscle groups will be worked when you incorporate these exercises into your weight lifting program.

REPS AND SETS Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise to start. Initially, aim for 1 to 2 sets. You can increase the weight and add more sets as your strength improves. What is a rep? One whole exercise movement is referred to as a repetition (rep). What is a set? A specified amount of reps make up a set. One set, for instance, consists of 10 to 15 reps.

Dumbbell Chest Press

Dumbbell bench press

Targeted muscle: Chest

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand then lie down flat on a bench with your palms facing forwards and elbows angled slightly in towards the body.

  2. Push the weights up until your arms are straight and hands above your upper chest area.

  3. Slowly control the weight back down to the starting position where your elbows will be slightly lower than your shoulders. This is one rep.

  4. Do not allow the elbows to flare out.

Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row

Dumbbell bent over row

Targeted muscle: Back

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Have your feet spread evenly apart while standing at the end of a bench/seat, then by bending at the hips, lean on the bench by placing one hand in front of you to create stability. Your back should be parallel to the ground.

  2. Pick a dumbbell up with the other hand then hold it with your arm straight and completely vertical.

  3. Begin to row the dumbbell up by bringing your elbow towards the side of your body and squeeze the back and shoulder blades as you reach the top of the movement.

  4. Slowly control the weight back to the starting position. This is one rep.

  5. Remember to swap arms and do the same on the other side when finished.


Barbell squat

Targeted muscle: Legs (quads, glutes, hamstrings)

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a barbell on your back or dumbbell/kettlebell in your hands held up in your palms close to your chest.

  2. Slowly bend the knees, keeping your back straight throughout and lower yourself until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground.

  3. Using your legs muscles, imagine pushing the floor away with your feet and stand back up to the starting position. This is one rep.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell shoulder press

Targeted muscle: Shoulders

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand and held out at about 90-degrees to your sides.

  2. Push the weights up with the force coming from your elbows until they are over your head and your arms are almost straight. If standing, do not arch your back or lean backwards.

  3. Slowly control the weight back to the starting position. This is one rep

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges

Targeted muscle: Legs (quads, glutes, hamstrings)

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Stand up tall (with or without a dumbbell in each hand).

  2. Take a big step forwards with one leg and your heel touches the ground first.

  3. Lower your body so that the front thigh is parallel to the floor.

  4. Stand up again moving forwards using the muscles in that front leg.

  5. Repeat again but this time with the other leg. This is now one rep once you have completed both legs.

Pull Ups

Pull ups

Targeted muscle: Back and biceps

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Stand under a pull up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your palms facing forwards.

  2. Pull your body up as if you are trying to bring your elbows down towards the floor.

  3. Slowly control your body back down again by straightening your arms until you they are fully stretched out. This is one rep.

  4. To make this exercise easier, wrap a resistance band to the bar above you and place your feet inside the dangling part of it to assist you with the pull up. Otherwise use a bench/chair to lightly place your feet on as you do it to also give you that added assistance without placing too much tension on your legs.

Tricep Extensions

Overhead tricep extension

Targeted muscle: Triceps

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Either sitting on a bench or standing, grab a dumbbell with both hands and hold it above your head using your palms.

  2. Slowly control the dumbbell down using your elbow joints only until your hands are behind your head and elbows bent to 90-degrees. Keep your biceps next to your ears the entire time.

  3. Lift the weight back up until your arms are fully straight again. This is one rep.

Bicep Curls

Bicep curl

Targeted muscle: Biceps

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Stand with either a dumbbell in each hand, or holding a barbell. Keeping your elbows by your sides.

  2. Begin to curl the weight up towards your shoulders (both at the same time if using dumbbells) by bending your elbows while keeping them locked by your sides the entire time.

  3. Slowly control the weight back down to the starting position again. This is one rep.

Calf Raises

Calf raises

Targeted muscle: Calves

How to perform the exercise:

  1. For this you can use either a calf raise machine, smith machine, or even just some dumbbells in your hand while standing on an elevated platform like a step.

  2. Keeping your legs straight throughout, lower yourself by using your ankle joints only so that your heels are pointing downwards and you feel a stretch in your calves. Hold it there for one second.

  3. Begin to lift the weight by, again, using your ankle joints only, lifting your heels up so they are above your toes and you feel a contraction in the calves. This is one rep.



Targeted muscle: Core

How to perform the exercise:

  1. Start with your elbows bent to 90-degrees and directly under your shoulders and your toes planted on the ground.

  2. Straighten your legs, keeping your feet about hip-width apart, your back straight, bum tucked in and core engaged.

  3. Hold this for about 10-30 seconds to begin with, and progress as time goes on.

  4. To make this easier, you can place your knees on the floor.

Scheduling for weight training

Three weight training workouts per week will likely produce the results you require if your primary goal is to increase strength.

A 2019 study found that strength training three times per week was just as effective as strength training more frequently.

However, you'll need to perform more repetitions and work out more frequently if your goal is to increase muscle mass.

Performing 1 or 2 sets of each exercise to begin with and progressing to additional sets or heavier weights as the exercises become easier allows you to work all of your muscle groups during a workout.

You could also concentrate on a single muscle group on a given day. An example of this would be:

Weekly plan for weight training Monday: Back, biceps and core

  • Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row

  • Pull Ups

  • Bicep Curls

  • Plank

Wednesday: Legs and core

  • Squats

  • Walking Lunges

  • Calf Raises

  • Plank

Friday: Chest, shoulders, triceps and core

  • Dumbbell Chest Press

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • Tricep Extensions

  • Plank

Exercises for each muscle group can be changed as you get more familiar with weight training. As your strength increases, be sure to add weight and more sets gradually over time.

Safety advice

When beginning a weight training program, it's essential you concentrate on safety. Be aware of your body giving you signs and resist the temptation to use too much weight too quickly.

When lifting weights, keep these things in mind:

  • Put on appropriate clothes for weight training, such as closed-toe shoes and, if necessary, weightlifting gloves.

  • Exercises should be done slowly, paying close attention to appropriate form.

  • When lifting heavy weights, especially those that are over your head, use a spotter to assist you.

  • Keep yourself hydrated when working out.

  • Before lifting, inhale, and during the lift, exhale. Breathing should never be held while lifting weights.

  • If you experience a sharp or stabbing pain, stop exercising. Consult a doctor if the pain persists after you stop exercising.

Consult your doctor about a weight-training and fitness program that is safe for you if you have a medical problem.


Weight training is another name for resistance or strength training. It comprises of m Moving different parts of your body against resistance, such as weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or even just your own weight, is what it comprises of.

Weight training is a great method for increasing your muscle mass and strength. Additionally, it can help you burn more calories, maintain your health as you age, strengthen your bones and joints, and improve muscle tone.

Start with smaller weights at first until you develop the proper form to get the most out of your weight training program. To prevent injury, very gradually increase the weight or resistance after that. For maximum strength and fitness, make sure to work all of your muscle groups.

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