beginning weight liftingTired of your current physique?  Looking to build some muscle?  Burn fat?  Gain Strength?

Done properly, weight lifting is the best exercise for all three goals.  Wanna lose fat while you sleep?  The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest.  Wanna look good in a t-shirt and shorts?  Build some curves by adding muscle.  Looking for extra power in your favorite sport?  Strength training with weights helps almost every sport.

But if you’re just starting out (or if you’ve been just toying around at the gym and need to get your butt into a serious routine), you need to remember these 19 things.

1. Don’t Read The Muscle Mags

Ok.  You’re fired up like a George Forman Grill, and ready to become Arnold Junior.  So where do most guys like you turn for advice?  The muscle mags.  But 50% of the muscle mags are pure ads.  And another 30% are ads disguised as articles.  And another 15% is either flat out bad advice or advice inappropriate for beginners.   That leaves 5% of goodness.  And the sad truth:  as a beginner, you won’t know the difference.  Skip the magazines and go for a serious book (see below).

2. Only Full Body, Compound Exercises For Your First 3 Months (No Curls!)

I know you want to do curls.  It’s ok to admit it.  Guys think big biceps are the sign of a real man.  Stop.  If you can’t do 15 chin-ups, you have no business doing curls. What you want to do – exclusively – for the first 3 months are compound movements.  Compound movements are those that involve more than one joint (and thus, recruit more than one muscle group).  Why?  You’ll burn more fat, you’ll get stronger, and you’ll build muscle more evenly throughout your body.  Plus, you won’t look like a ninny standing there doing curls for your full workout while your chicken legs squawk at all the serious lifters in the gym.  Most guys think the big guys at the gym will laugh if they do too little weight.  What the serious lifters really laugh at are men who think curls are going to do them much good.

3. Pick Somebody’s Program And Stick To It

This article is too short to give you specific routines.  After you read this, go to and pick up a great $10 beginner program.  Or visit a bookstore or online and get a good weightlifting book with a routine that matches these principles.  There are so many good programs out there that follow these principles.  But only get one! As a beginner, just about anything is going to work.  Pick it, and stick to it for at least 6 weeks before changing it (probably more like 10 to 12 weeks).  If you don’t know where to start, get Full Body Attack.

4. Incline Your bench

If I’ve gotten you to skip the curls, the next male impulse is to run to the bench press.  Good news for you – benching is a compound movement!  But I’m going to suggest doing an incline bench – I typically go for a 35 to 40 degree incline.  This will work the upper part of your chest a little better and also bring in some shoulders (front deltoids). But use about 10% lighter weight than your flat bench.

5. Squat All The Way

Yes, you have to do legs.  Big time.  They are the biggest muscles in the body. And yet many guys seem to avoid working their legs.  Plus the guys who do squat, most of them only do half squats – they don’t go down!  Despite what your mom may have told you, it’s totally fine to squat past the 90 degree bend in your knees. There’s not much muscular advantage to go past the 80 degree point, but if you stop at a 120 or even 100 degree bend, you are losing a great opportunity to increase muscle and strength.

6. Deadlift As If Your Life Depended On It

Deadlifts are a power exercise where you lift the barbell of the floor.  Beginners tend to avoid it because they are afraid of getting hurt or looking silly.  And to be sure, done poorly, a deadlift can wreak havoc on your back.  But you need to add this to your routine right from the start.  Learn the proper form (see the next point) first.  And then be ready for the most exhausting exercise of your life, because deadlifts put your metabolism into hyperdrive.  You’ll thank me for it later.  I accept cash.

7. Practice Movements With Bodyweight/Light Weights Until You Are Doing Them Right

As a beginner, you might want to hit the weights hard on day 1 to prove yourself and start seeing results.  Hold on.  Get the proper form down first. Click here for a great resource on proper weight lifting exercises. I don’t care if you are embarrassed because you are bench pressing a broom stick – start out super light.  This is important.  It’s much harder to unlearn bad form later than it is to learn proper form to start with.  For many exercises (like squats), start out with just your own bodyweight.  But be careful of youtube – I have done scans of weight training videos online and most of them are horrible – just because they are lifting a lot of weight doesn’t mean they are doing it right.

8. Progressive Overload

At every workout, you want to advance in something.  Maybe it’s a little more weight on your lunges.  Maybe it’s one more rep on each set of pull-ups.  Maybe it’s one extra set of bent-over rows.  This is called progression and you’ll never progress if you just keep doing the same weights, reps, and sets every week.

9. Go 3x Per Week, Full Body

As a beginner, you want to do full-body workouts three times a week.  Note that full body means you do legs, back, chest, etc. all on the same day.  Everything.  After a couple months or so, you can consider split routines.  But not yet.

Next week – points 10 through 19!

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19 Responses to “The 19 Weight Training Must-Dos For Beginners – Part 1 of 2”

  1. Great post! And I especially agree with #1. I have stopped reading any kind of men magazines after this article that many must remember and learn its lessons:

  2. This is an absolutely excellent resource!

    The points raised here cannot be stressed enough; regardless of age, these points are universal.

    I look forward to the next installment.

  3. Great post! Invaluable resource.

  4. Great Post and thank you very much. Like Dave said these points are the absolute basic and are very important. The foundations need to be strong to build on.

  5. Glad you all are into it. By the way – this would be a great post for you all to share with friends via twitter, or you can submit and vote it up at Digg – that would be great so that more and more people see this! Thanks!

  6. This is some pretty good information, but sadly it is quite frustrating because all the links suck! They point to one website of some book to buy that I’m guessing the author has some affiliation with. Therefore the author is trying to make money off of his readers. If this post really is to short to go into full detail at least point us to something we don’t have to spend money on. There was so much irony in the very first tip that I should have just stopped reading then. The other thing is the real things that make successful body builders is not explored enough here. For instance I have come to realize testosterone plays a big if not the biggest role in muscle development, closely following that would be nutrition. Neither of these are mentioned. If you really want to learn about body building find some one who is a body builder and doesn’t take your money as compensation for the tips they give.

  7. @ Mike – thanks for the views. This is a business, I don’t try to hide that. And everyone should certainly read everything – including stuff from me – with an eye of skepticism. You’re all smart and you could tell if I was being deceitful… Nobody is forcing anyone to buy anything – it’s all free choice.

    One small note – this site is not for “bodybuilders” (one word) but is about body building (two words, building your body into a great physique). Check our our vision at .

    Please stay engaged and share your views in the future!

    Anyone else have thoughts?

  8. Fausto de Paula e Silva
    June 17th, 2009 at 3:53 am


    Great set of rules, and definitely a must for the beginner, specially the advice on compounds, I agree whole heartedly!

    I wanted to give some extra resources from teh HST website, this particular thread has grown tremendously and the advice is great from a variety of guys: http://www.hypertrophy-specifi.....14;t=12541

    Can’t wait to see the rest of the pointers!

  9. it’s totally fine to squat past the 90 degree bend in your knees.
    Totally depends on the person. For some people, going past 90 degrees will just put stress on your joints, and won’t work any muscle past a certain point.

  10. Regarding point number two: I live in a rural area of Thailand. The men have HUGE muscles and are extremely strong. (Same goes for the women, come to think of it!) But, most of them cannot do a single pull up. This is a combination of muscles that they don’t usually have occasion to use.

    My question is: Can’t I just skip the pull ups for now and work on some other things? I can do some moderate weight lifting out of sight of the villagers. But, I don’t really have a place to do pull ups except outside, in full view of others. If you think having the guys in the gym laugh at you is intimidating, you should try the village women around here!

  11. @ Gene – short answer, no, you can’t skip pull-ups/chin-ups if you want to develop overall body strength and a great physique… I don’t know of any substitutions that even come close.

    (An alternate, but sarcastic response, is “sure, you can skip pull-ups/chins; you might as well skip squats too because they’re kinda hard; and don’t put too much weight on the bench press either; and actually, maybe just skip the entire weightlifting thing…” Thank goodness I didn’t write that, huh?)

    Now, if the women will laugh at you because you can’t do many (that is really funny by the way!), then get up early. Or do them after dark. But you really should do them if you are trying to achieve a strong, balanced, awesome physique. Once you start being able to do 5 or 6, you’ll start loving them. Trust me. Next thing you know you’ll be doing sets of 10!

  12. Well, Darrin, I think I like the sarcastic response best! But, I guess that wouldn’t go far towards gaining any lean mass, as we call it in the trade, would it?

    So, I am going to put up my chin up bar tonight (it’s already after dark here) and see if I can sneak in a few minutes of trying. I have an idea it’s going to take some building up to get to where I can do any. But, you have to start somewhere.

    Thanks for the advice and the very motivational site. I can hardly wait to start loving my chin ups/ pull ups!

  13. @Gene – cool! One tip for starting out with pull-ups/chins if you can’t even do 2 or 3: negatives. Jump up and start in the “chin over bar” position and then slowly – as slowly and controlled as you can – lower your body. Then jump up again. Do as many such negatives as you can until you are almost crying. After a couple weeks of that, I’m sure you’ll be up to 5 or 6 regular ones!

  14. Zack

    Can’t agree with you there! The is certainly not true, it does work muscles whether you doing it 90 degrees or full squats, just…different ones! That’s all!

    Some tips:

  15. I guess the last message did not come out right:

    I wanted to say I do not agree with Zack, because doing full squats does indeed work muscles, in this case it activates the hamstring muscles a little more but the tendons involved in this movemenntactually protect your knees, the stress on the knees is worst when doing 90 degree squats, to do these it is better to do box squats, just be carefull with your back, the secret here is touch and go, don’t actually sit as your natural muscle “belt” around your abs and back will tend to relax leaving space for injury.

    One needs to keep the msucles tight all the way while doing squats, the only time one can realx is when you stop and re-wrack!

  16. Nice points Fausto!

  17. Good tips for a help beginners avoid mistakes….

  18. The first step was ironic, I have no idea why I continued reading.
    Full Body 3x a week? Aint nobody got time for that. Either your workouts will be too long and wont do much good for building muscle or you will barely stimulate each muscle group and that wont lead to much growth either.


  1. Beginning Weight Lifting | Weight Lifting Tips For Beginners | Beginner Tips for Bodybuilding | World Fitness Network

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