How to Start Strength Training: A Guide for Beginners

by | Read time: 4 minutes

Hoping to get stronger in 2023? A strength-training program can help you build muscle and boost your health in other ways.

Strength training forces your muscles to work against a weight or other force.  The result is larger muscle mass and increased muscle strength and endurance.

Woman in Workout Gear Lifting Dumbbells in Living Room Learning How to Start Strength Training

Dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands and even your own body weight can be used during strength training.

People from all walks of life can benefit from this type of exercise, says Meggan Berg, a personal trainer with Life Time Champions in Houston.

“Strength training is important because it helps to improve your quality of life and ability to do everyday things,” she says.

How strength training helps you

Most people know that strength training can make you look buff. But other gains may be less obvious.

“There are so many benefits to strength training,” Berg says.

For example, she notes that strength training boosts your metabolic rate. “That allows you to burn more calories when resting,” she says.

Berg says strength training also:

  • Helps protect joints
  • Increases bone density
  • Improves heart health
  • Manages blood sugar levels
  • Builds muscle strength that helps prevent falls

“It also helps to boost self-esteem and improves mental health,” Berg says.

For example, a 2020 analysis of 21 studies found that strength-training helps alleviate symptoms of depression.

Some research has even found that lifting weights may at least as effective as antidepressant medications when it comes to combatting depression.

How to start strength training

Many people are intimated by the thought of starting a strength training regimen for the first time. But there is nothing to fear if you do it correctly.

“Take it slow and start light ,and build your base first,” Berg says. “Building strength happens over time, not overnight.”

During your first few workouts, your body will need time to adjust to the new routine.

“It can be challenging, and you might feel tender or sore a day or two after, and it can last several days,” Berg says. “Don’t let it deter you. It takes time to acclimate.”

Women should keep things simple at the start and focus on getting stronger, Berg says. “Take the time to learn proper form from the start,” she says.

Also, Berg says women sometimes fall into the trap of focusing too much on the lower body, when in reality they should also work the upper body.

“Don’t be afraid of lifting heavy weights,” she advises women. “You won’t get bulky, even if it feels like it at first.”

Meanwhile, men should resist the temptation to skip a proper warm up, and should avoid going overboard, Berg says.

“Add in a post workout stretch — or even yoga — and take rest days,” she says.

Whereas women sometimes overemphasize the lower body, men can be guilty of giving too much attention to the upper body. “Never skip leg day,” Berg says with a chuckle.

How soon does strength training produce results?

Being patient is an important component of starting any strength-training program.

“Some results can be seen rather quickly,” Berg says. “However, most are seen after six months to a year.”

Not all results are external, and you may notice other improvements first, she says.

“One of the first things one will notice is better sleep, better circulation, better brain function,” she says.

Once you have settled into your routine, you can begin to tweak it. “Work on increasing weight, and find challenges that keep you excited about training,” Berg says.

One example might be setting a goal to lift a specific amount of weight and establishing a timeline for getting there, she says.

“It’s a process, and consistency is key in seeing results,” Berg says.

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