10 Weightlifting Exercises for Beginners

The hardest thing to do when you start to workout is decide what you need to do and how to set up your workout program. If you look at magazines and websites on the Internet, you see people who are huge and ripped telling you how they workout. You're not going to look like that without many years of working out. It doesn't make sense that you can start with the workout that these guys do. You must start out smaller and work toward them.

This workout will get you started in the right place and help you reach your goals.  If you try to start out with more advanced workouts, you will likely get frustrated and your plans for building muscle will fail. Be patient and persistent and you will see results. As long as you are able and your doctor says it's OK, weightlifting should be a good option for you. 

To get started, you will need a gym membership or a place at home to work out. You will also need some basic equipment, such as a pair of dumbbells or exercise bands or both. Some exercises work better with one or the other.  You also need a pull-up bar of some sort.  For the dumbbells, get a pair of 20 or 25 pounders to start with.  It's better to go a little heavy so you don't outgrow them in two weeks.  If you are going to use bands, check out Bodylastic. They have the best selection of bands that I have found.

This is a full body workout that you should do three times per week with a day of non-weightlifting in between. More is not better; your body needs to recover after a workout. You can also do cardio on the opposite days.

Following the exercises below, do three sets of each exercise and eight to twelve reps each set, when you can do 12 increases the weight.  These are combination exercises that work more that one muscle group per exercise, so you get more bang for your buck.


Do the push-ups slow and controlled. Go two seconds down and two seconds back up.  After you finish set one of push-ups, get your back on the floor and do the press.

Chest Press

Lay on your back on the floor, pick up the dumbbells, and do the press toward the ceiling. Go slow and controlled, concentrating on your chest muscles and what you are doing.  Rest for two minutes and do the next push-up chest press set.


Start with no weight when you start out.  After you get used to it, use the dumbbells. Push your butt back as you squat down to keep the pressure off your knees.

Dead Lift

Go from set one of the squat directly to dead lifts with weight. Keep control of your body and go slow.  Go back and do the other two combo sets after resting for two minutes.


This is one of the hardest exercises for a beginner. Do as many as you can.  If you need help, use bands or use a chair to get you to the top and slowly let yourself down then repeat. Go directly to rows after the first set.


If you are using dumbbells, do bent over rows.  If using bands, do the rows in a seated position. Stay slow and controlled so you get the most benefit for your effort.


Use the dumbbells or bands and go slowly.  Keep your elbows against your sides and don't use momentum to aid you in your curl.  When you finish set one, go to the dips for the triceps right away.


Do the dips with your hands behind your back on a chair or bench. Start with your feet on the ground.  As you get stronger, put your feet up on a chair to add resistance.

Shoulder Press

You can do these seated or standing.  Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level and push them up high over your head. Do the same if using bands. 


Get into push-up position on your elbows instead of your hands, keep your body strait and hold the position for 30 seconds for each rep.  Rest 15 seconds and do another rep.  Do five reps and you're done.

Do the workout for 12 weeks, increase the weight as needed and stick with it three times per week.  You will notice some very impressive changes after 12 weeks and that will be motivation to keep going.  When you get there, your ready to go into some more intermediate workouts.   Give the workout a try and let me know what you think.

Minneapolis Cardio Fitness Examiner Steven Pease is a freelance writer living in the Twin Cities.

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