Strength Training for Beginners

Strength training is one of my favorite things to do and everyone can benefit from it! If you grew up doing it or had some guidance along the way then you may agree with me, but if you’re brand new to lifting weights, you may find strength training a bit intimidating. It’s okay if you don’t know where to begin or how to use the equipment — today I’m sharing some tips about strength training for beginners to help you get started!

My Strength Training Journey

Sometimes I like strength training even more than I like running. It’s just such a satisfying activity and I love being able to lift heavy and feel strong. I started lifting weights regularly in 2012 when I started rowing in college. Going from not lifting weights at all to working out in a college weight room was quite the adjustment! 

Weight room days were always my favorite. I loved when our team was in the weight room all sweaty and strong! It was a really fun, challenging environment and deserves the credit for my current strength training habits.


Strength Training Over Time

online running coachIt has taken me 10 YEARS of training to get to my current levels of strength and there have been many ups and downs in between. I was probably strongest at the end of my rowing career, back in the spring of 2016. That summer, I moved to a new state for work andfor the next 6 months I only had access to the tiny gym at my apartment complex. I still had plenty of good workouts in there, but in comparison to the workouts I hadbeen doing up until that point, it wasn’t much. I was probably a bit burnt out physically at this point as well, so I didn’t take my training very seriously or have a real plan going into my workouts. I certainly didn’t get as much out of those sessions as I could have, but that’s okay — there will always be some phases of training that are more effective and engaging than others.

I finally decided to join the local gym in January of 2017 and started having two designated days for just weight lifting. I started taking my training more seriously again. Then I slowly added more strength training that summer when I started attending a strength-focused group fitness class two days a week. In January 2018 I added yet another day of strength training to my weekly routine for the simple reason that I was enjoying it so much.

Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer

In 2019 I earned my personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) so that I could be an educated and reliable resource for others and help people find their own passion for strength training and fitness. There are SO many people who share their workouts (or workout tips) online, and many of them are NOT certified and do not have any qualifications. If you are seeking out fitness guidance, workouts or a trainer online, I recommend finding someone who is educated and trained as a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).

How many days per week should you lift weights?

There is not a one size fits all approach to strength training and there is no one “correct” answer to how many days per week you should lift weights. Everyone will respond differently to the same training and what works best for one person may not work for another. Currently I strength train 5 days per week and run 4 days per week, which means I do double up on a few days. While lifting weights 5 days per week works well for me, that may be way too much for someone else, especially if they are just starting out. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much strength training is sustainable for you and gets you moving toward your goals.

There are so many benefits of strength training and you don’t need to go to a gym to do it! One common misconceptions about strength training is that you have to go to the gym or use heavy weights. Bodyweight exercises are also a form of strength training and can be done anywhere. While my preference IS to lift heavy weights, I do love doing bodyweight or band workouts when I’m traveling or on vacation— there is no need to hunt down a gym and you can still get a great workout.

If you’re just starting out with strength training or are planning to get back into it after some time away, I’ve shared a few tips below to help get you started.

Note: Remember that I am not a medical professional. What I share is based on my own experiences and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Strength Training for Beginners

  • online personal trainer for runnersConsistency is key
  • Overload your muscles over time
  • Be patient
  • Embrace the DOMS
  • Start slowly
  • Form is more important than weight
  • Find a type and method of strength training that you enjoy

Let’s dive into each of these a bit deeper!

Consistency is key

You can’t expect to start strength training and make progress if you don’t do it regularly. That does NOT mean you have to do it 5 times per week. But if you lift weights once or twice and then don’t do it again for several weeks, you cannot expect to get stronger. Progress comes from consistency over time.

Overload your muscles over time

If your goal is to build strength, you’ll need to progressively overload your muscles. This does not mean grabbing the heaviest weights you can! Building muscle happens when more stress is put on a muscle and it must grow to adapt. This might be done by increasing the number of repetitions, adjusting the rep range, or increasing weight, among other ways.

Be patient

Results don’t happen over night! This goes back to point number one about being consistent. It takes time to build strength — it won’t happen suddenly. It’s taken me 10 years of consistent training to get to my current levels of strength.

Embrace the DOMS

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. When you first start strength training, you’re likely to feel some soreness in your muscles for a few days following your workout. I know some people who have done one strength workout and never went back to it because they were so sore! As your body adapts and gets used to the workout or just to lifting weights in general, you will likely feel muscle soreness much less frequently.

Start slowly

Build up your weights slowly — there is no need to go to the gym and lift as much as you possibly can right away — this will only increase your risk of injury and probably decrease your likelihood of returning because you’ll be so sore or discouraged. Start with lighter weights and fewer sets and slowly increase over time as you get stronger. Remember — it’s a process.

Form is more important than the amount of weight that you’re lifting

Learning proper form is probably the most important thing you can do for your strength training. Not only will you decrease your chances of getting injured during a workout, but you will also learn correct movement patterns so that you can get the most out of the work you’re putting in. Hiring a personal trainer to help with technique and workout program development is a great option to ensuring your workouts are safe and effective.

Find a type and method of strength training you enjoy

If you enjoy your workouts, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it. Give group strength classes a try or workout with a friend if that will help you feel more comfortable or motivated. Find what works for you and be willing to try different things.

online personal trainer for runners

Strength training is so empowering both in the gym and outside of the gym. When I’m feeling strong I notice myself standing a little taller and more confidently as I go about my day to day life. It’s satisfying to see how your weights and form can progress as you continue to put in the work! Ask for help if you need it — getting started is the toughest part, but once you get into a routine with it, you won’t want to stop.

*This post was originally published on my old running blog, HappyJoRuns. It has been adapted and updated for my current website.