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5 Simple Ways to Start Strength Training

hand weights
Gina Harney - Blogs
By Gina HarneyCertified personal trainerJanuary 23, 2020

If you’ve never done strength training, it can be hard to know where to start. Though it may look intimidating, working with weights really doesn’t have to be complicated - and even simple exercises will bring results. 

With newbies in mind, I’m sharing 5 easy free weight exercises to help you get started. This plan utilizes a pair of dumbbells - that’s all you need! If you don’t have dumbbells on hand, you can use anything for resistance. I’ve used cans of pumpkin puree, bags of rice, and water bottles filled with water. You do what you gotta do!

It’s worth mentioning here that you should always check with a doctor before making any fitness changes, and if possible, meet with a certified personal trainer in your area who can help you with proper form. 

Sample beginner fitness plan using free weights:

Warm up for 5-7 minutes with easy cardio. This can be on any cardio machine of choice, or a walk around the neighborhood. If it’s too cold, try 5 minutes of a dance cardio video on YouTube, or walking or jogging in place while listening to your favorite warm-up song.

Complete 2-3 sets of 15 reps for the following exercises. (For example: You’ll do 15 biceps curls. Wait a few seconds to recover, and do 15 more biceps curls. If you’d like, do a third set. Then move onto the next exercise.)

  • Biceps curls. Hold the weights so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. Keep your elbows close to your torso, a tight core, and a slight bend in your knees. Flex at the elbow, bringing the weight all the way up (aiming towards your shoulder, lifting up through your chest as you go ). As you release, try to resist the weight, and go for a nice full extension at the bottom of the movement.
  • Sit to stand. Hold 1 dumbbell (with both hands, one at each end of the dumbbell)at your chest and stand about 2 feet in front of a couch or sturdy chair. Place your feet just under your shoulders with toes slightly angled out. Keep your chest lifted and a tight core as you sink back and down into your squat. Tap your booty to the chair, like you’re sitting down for a second. Make sure that your body weight is in your heels (you should be able to lift your toes). Exhale to rise.
  • Good mornings. Hold the dumbbells in your hands and cross your arms at your chest. Stand with your feet underneath your hips with a slight bend in the knee. Keep your back flat as your hinge from your hips, like you’re folding your body like a book. Stop when your chest is parallel to the floor. Squeeze your glutes and exhale to stand. 
  • Overhead press. Stand with legs hip-width apart, core engaged. Hold a weight in each hand, at shoulder level, with palms facing inward. Inhale to bring the weights up to 90 degrees and exhale to press up overhead. Lower down with control to 90 degrees and repeat.
  • Lunge. Hold the weights at your sides, palms facing inward, and stand with feet hip-width apart. Take one huge step forward, and keep your feet in line with your hips. Try to keep your torso perpendicular to the floor as you sink down into your lunge. As you lunge, watch the front knee to make sure it stays stacked above the front ankle. As you rise, actively think about trying to squeeze your legs together. Switch sides. For this exercise, you’ll do 8 lunges on the right side and 8 on the left for a full set. 

You can do this workout 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days. In between strength days, feel free to add in some cardio, whether through a class, cycling, walking, or dance cardio (the Fitness Marshall on YouTube is my fave!).

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About the Author
Gina Harney

Gina Harney is the blogger behind the healthy lifestyle brand, The Fitnessista, which reaches millions of viewers all over the world. She’s been featured on Greatist, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Shape, Fitness Magazine, and Well + Good. She’s the author of “HIIT It!” and the voice behind the Healthy In Real Life podcast. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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