This total-body dumbbell routine is the easiest way to ease into strength training as a newbie.
You have probably heard that you should do strength training exercises. And maybe running a few miles or riding a spin bike just suits your personality. That’s nice! But the benefits of strength training are too good to pass up – and crucial to a long, healthy, injury-free life.
“Basic strength training is essential to building a strong muscle base,” says Joel Freeman, Beachbody Super Trainer and creator of the LIIFT4 program. “Bones give structure to our body, but it’s the muscles that allow us to move well.”
It’s not always the most fun or glamorous when you start weight training (hi, DOMS). But if you do it right, you’ll have the strength to really do the things you love, says Freeman. “And most importantly, increasing the amount of muscle in your body also helps increase your metabolism, which means you burn more calories throughout the day,” he says. “This is win-win.” (See: What Really Happens When Women Lift Heavy Weights)
Ideally, a strength training should include eight to ten exercises aimed at the major muscle groups. This total body routine does just that and can be performed a few times a week to maintain and increase strength. (Want a full month of strength programming? Try this four-week strength training plan for women.)
Start small with your weights and increase as needed: “Choose a weight that is heavy enough to complete 10 repetitions, and in this eighth repetition you will be really happy to be almost done,” says Freeman. “This will ensure that you challenge your muscles to grow and grow stronger and burn the most calories in every exercise.” (After mastering the form with your body weight and light weights, see this beginner’s guide on how to lift heavy weights.)
Strength Training Workout for Beginners
How it works: Do 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise. Repeat two or three times a week every other day.
You will need: Two sets of dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 12 pounds) or a set of resistance bands.
1. Dumbbell Chest Press
Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, triceps
How to do: Lie on a bench, elbows bent 90 degrees sideways; straighten your arms up and come back. Keep the weights centered in the middle of the chest. (Make them on the floor rather than on a bench to avoid overextended arms below the chest, which can overload your shoulders.)
Why you should: “Your chest is one of the largest muscles in the upper body, and when it comes to chest training, chest pressure reigns supreme,” says Freeman. “It’s a compound movement, which means it also works the anterior deltoids [the front of the shoulders] and the triceps throughout the movement.”
2. One-arm dumbbell row
Muscles worked: upper back
How to do it: Stand with your legs hip-width apart and place one hand on the bench, the opposite arm holding the weight below your shoulder; pull the elbow up toward the ribs and lower. Stand straight and maintain a 45 degree inclination at the hips.
Why you should: “The one-arm dumbbell row is an excellent upper-body movement, targeting the back, ankles and traps, while the biceps and shoulders help,” says Freeman. “Standing during this exercise is also a great way to get extra extra work. Remember there must be ZERO momentum or sway – slow and steady wins the muscle race!”
3. Curl Biceps
Muscles Worked: Biceps
How to do it: Stand with your arms extended in front of your thighs and a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Slowly roll the weights toward your shoulders and then lower to the starting position.
Why You Should: “This is the best isolation exercise for the biceps,” says Freeman. The key here is nix every moment; do not swing to lift the dumbbell. “Think about trying to attach your elbows to your side and lift your dumbbell completely with your biceps,” he says. “Stop at the top before your elbows get off the sides – which means if the weights touch your shoulders, you’ve gone too far.”
4. Triceps Extension
Muscles Worked: Triceps
How to do it: Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Lean forward from the waist, elbows bent 90 degrees at your side; straighten your arms behind you.
Why you should: “Triceps extension is a great isolation movement where you don’t need much weight to feel the burn,” says Freeman. Similar to the biceps, the key here is to think of your elbow as a hinge attached to your side. “The only thing that must move is the elbow to stretch the arm, tightening the triceps at the top and returning.”
5. Lateral increase
Muscles worked: Shoulders
How to do it: Stand with your arms at your sides, palms facing inward. Raise your arms straight (with your little finger in front) to shoulder height.
Why you should: “Well-built side delts [the sides of the shoulders] are what give you a good rounded shoulder look, and lateral augmentation is the best exercise to isolate this muscle,” says Freeman. “Just like any isolation movement, it’s all under control to execute this movement correctly.”
6. Basic Squats
Muscles worked: legs, butt
How to do it: Keep your feet slightly farther than your hip, toes slightly outward. Keeping the weight in the middle of the foot and heels (not the toes), sit back and down. Keep your knees in line with your fingers and focus on keeping your chest up. Lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor if possible.
Why you should: “Squats have become the most popular of all lower body exercises, especially if you’re looking to increase your glutes!” says Freeman. But remember, “Safety is essential in this exercise to prevent injury, particularly in the lower back. If you are younger or returning to exercise, it is generally best to start with body weight and focus completely on flexibility and flexibility. If you can’t go that low without letting your chest fall forward, keep working on your flexibility. “When your form is ready, you can start adding weight.
7. Front thrust
Muscles worked: legs, butt
How to do it: Stand with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand by the sides. Step forward with your right foot, lowering until both knees form 90 degree angles and the rear knee is hovering on the floor. Push the front heel back and back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Why you should: “Also great for the legs and butt, lunges can also cause knee damage if done incorrectly,” says Freeman. “This is a challenging move and can easily be felt using only body weight.”
Muscles worked: Abs
How to do it: Lie face down on the floor. Bend the elbow opposite the knee and switch sides.
Why you should: “Bicycle twists are great for wrapping various areas of your core, especially the oblique ones,” says Freeman. “The main mistake many people make with this exercise is pulling their neck. To avoid this, try placing your fingertips just behind your temples and keeping your elbows open rather than closing them toward your head.” If you feel any tension in your neck, it means that you are trying to lift more than your core has strength and is compensating in the neck. “Lower your range (which means don’t try to lift the top one off the ground) and slow your twists,” says Freeman. “You’ll still feel it!”
Muscles worked: lower back, butt
How to do it: Lie face down on the floor and raise the opposite arm / leg; sides of the switch. Keep your eyes on the floor to maintain proper postural alignment.
Why You Should: “This is a wonderful exercise in the lower back, essential to help prevent lower back injuries,” says Freeman. When you are on your stomach, consider planting your fingers on the floor and not letting them leave the floor at any time. This will also help you to engage more glutes. By lifting your chest off the floor, you really don’t have to lift very high. Just focus on squeezing your butt as you lift and you will also be engaging your lower back muscles.