Exercise is good for your health, we all know that. But a lot of people, especially women, neglect one important type of workout: strength training. In fact, a federal research suggests that only 6% of adults do the recommended minimum amount (2 or more days) of weight training.  This is a huge mistake! Neglecting building strength can lead to muscle loss and loss of bone density.
Starting a strength training program can be intimidating, especially when you're a beginner and not really sure where to start. But there are various benefits of strength training; it increases your metabolism, burns fat and calories even after working out, reduces your risk of health diseases, and more.
We created a beginners guide that details three levels of strength training. Following these three levels will help you properly start your strength training journey and start reaping the benefits!
Three strength training workout levels
The first mistake people make when starting a training program is they go too hard, too fast. Strength training is a journey. Building muscle takes a lot of time and consistency. The worst thing you can do is start lifting heavy weights without practicing proper form. Good form is extremely important when weight training because if your form is wrong then you're most likely not hitting the targeted muscle groups and risking injury.
To start training with proper technique you should follow these three levels of workouts: bodyweight, dumbbells, and barbell workouts.
Level 1 - Bodyweight workouts
If you're completely new to weights then the first level of strength training exercises you want to nail are bodyweight workouts. This just means that you use your own body weight as the weight you're lifting. The reason why beginners should start with this form of workout is because your muscles are most likely not adapted to certain movements yet. So if you put your muscles under too much stress all at once it can lead to injury. You want to build up strength gradually, and the best way to do is by performing bodyweight movements before adding more weight.
Bodybuilders and avid gym-goers all start by using their body for resistance training, it's common practice. It really is a great way to build strength, and the best part about it is that you can do it anywhere and requires no equipment!
Here are a few examples of bodyweight exercises:
- Pull ups
- Push ups
- Jumping jacks
Once you've perfected your form and these exercises are easy to complete you can move on to the next level.
Level 2 - Dumbbell workouts
Once you can perform body workouts easily with proper technique, you can start lifting actual weights! Dumbbells are the best piece of weightlifting equipment to start with because they are less intimidating then barbells, every gym (even apartment and hotel gyms) has them, and you can scale your weight up easily. They are also easy to incorporate in bodyweight workouts that you've been practicing. Like adding dumbbells to each hand when performing lunges or doing goblet squats with one. Once a weight starts feeling easy to lift you can increase it by five pounds and so on.
Here are a few examples of dumbbell workouts:
- Goblet squats
- Walking lunges with dumbbells on each hand
- Dumbbell rows
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
- Chest press
- Overhead press
There are so many more dumbbell exercises you can perform that work out your full-body and target every muscle group. Targeting every muscle group is important to avoid any muscle imbalances. Dumbbells are an excellent tool for finding muscle imbalances. It's easy to figure out which arm is stronger when performing a shoulder press with dumbbells.
Level 3 - Barbell workouts
Bodyweight and dumbbell workouts are an excellent way to build muscle, but once you're comfortable you can level up to barbell workouts. Barbell training will take your strength to the next level!
This type of training allows you to pick up heavy weights and do movements that use almost every muscle in your body. So you can build powerful, strong muscles in your core, lower body, and upper body.
Here are a list of the most important barbell exercises:
- Back squats
- Bent-over row
- Bench press
- Overhead press
- Power clean
These types of exercises are known as compound lifts. They create tension through different muscles and movement patterns. Your body gains overall strength because these lifts simulate thousands of nerves all of which are a part of getting stronger.
Just remember, the barbell itself weighs 45 pounds (20kg) so don't add weight when beginning these types of workouts. To get to this level you must be able to perform dumbbell exercises that equal the weight of the bar. So you should be able to do goblet squats with a 45 pound dumbbell or romanian deadlifts with 20 pound dumbbells in order to start training with the barbell.
Tips before getting started
Once you understand the three workout levels, set your goals, and then start at the level that best fits your fitness level.
But before you get started, here are a few extra tips:
Create a workout plan. If you're new to lifting weights then start by doing 2-3 full-body workouts a week. By doing this you are working out your entire body and hit all the major muscle groups to help you build muscle effectively. Gradually work your way up to 2-5x a week. If you need help with planning workouts, check out the Fit With Iulia app! Iulia's fitness app is an excellent tool to have if you need help figuring out which type of exercises are best for your goals.
Warm up your muscles before lifting! You should dedicate 5-10 minutes to stretching and warming up before doing any type of training. There are a few different ways to do this. The best way is foam rolling your muscles to loosen them up, then doing a dynamic warm up. If you don't have a foam roller then just do a try dynamic warm up. Dynamic warm ups help prep your muscles for the work they're about to do and help increase your range of motion. A few examples of exercises are: high kicks, knee to chest, hip stretch with a twist, bodyweight squats. You can even incorporate long and short resistance bands to fully stretch your upper and lower body.
Stick to the same moves for the first few weeks. Experienced lifters already know how to plan their workouts, know what exercises they need to do, and can choose to do different exercises every day. Don't start with a program like this if you're a beginner. Stick to the same, essential exercises 2-3 times a week so you can start building a basic level of strength.
Refuel your body! Have a post-workout snack or protein shake ready to go. Choose a post-workout snack or that contains carbs to refuel your glycogen stores and 10-20 grams of protein to help repair and build your muscles.
Take a rest day! People sometimes forget how important rest days are. Training with weights causes small amounts of damage to the tissue that will be repaired, that is how strong, lean muscle is built. But if you're not taking rest days you're not giving your muscle fibers enough time to repair and build back stronger. So remember to listen to your body, if you're feeling burnt out then skip the gym. If you're too sore take a rest day or work on another body part that isn't sore.
Weight training combined with cardio is the best for weight loss, building strength, and sculpting your body. So don't be afraid to pick up the weights, just make sure you follow these tips!
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