Let’s get this out of the way up front: Weight training isn’t just for 300 pound football players.
Adding weights to your exercise routine makes you stronger. That’s obvious. What isn’t quite as obvious is how important lean muscle mass is to your health.
More muscle makes it easier to keep down body fat, and improves the strength of connective tissues and bones. Both of these become priorities as we age, especially for menopausal and post-menopausal women.
The added strength also makes the activities of daily living seem that much easier. The net effect is a body that is more energetic, and up to whatever life throws at you.
And aren’t you ready to get off that treadmill anyway?
Here are ten weight training exercises for beginners:1. Leg Press
Don’t let the leg press machine intimidate you. It may be one of the bigger pieces of equipment in the gym, but before the weight goes on, it almost moves itself.
Sit back in the seat, and press it a few times with no weights to get comfortable with the motion. Then add some weight to the issue. Leg presses are a great way to get the dynamic leg work of squats, in a controlled and simple motion.2. Lunges
Lunges are another great leg workout. Simply swing one foot forward in an ambitious stride, and allow your opposite knee to drift to the ground. The float back up, and switch feet.
As you get stronger, you may want to hold onto dumbbells to increase the difficulty. But your own body weight should be plenty at the beginning.
Lunges should be a part of any complete workout routine. They do an amazing job of working every muscle of the legs and rear.3. Machine Bench Press
The bench press is a staple of weight training; and it’s not just because it looks cool. There are few exercises that work the chest, shoulders, and arms like the bench press.
But getting underneath that unsecured weight can be intimidating, and even dangerous if you haven’t spent a lot of time in the gym. Get rid of the risks, and keep the benefit with the machine bench press.4. Machine Shoulder Press
This exercise is great for developing practical strength. Similar to the machine bench, the machine shoulder press takes all of the risk out of an upwards pressing motion.
What does the the shoulder press work? The shoulders, of course. There are few exercises that add strength to this pivotal joint quite like the shoulder press.5. Dumbell Curls
Curls are one of the only free weight exercises on this list. That’s because curling with machines fails to give you the strength in the stabilizing muscles of your arms, minimizing your practical strength gains.
And curling with dumbbells is relatively safe. Just make sure to pick a weight that is right for you, and get a full range of motion with each lift.6. Light Weight/Body Weight Squats
Squats are the centerpiece of weight training for the legs (maybe the centerpiece of everything). We had to add them, even in a list for beginners, but weighted squats are prone to form errors.
With weights on your shoulder, mistakes in form can lead to injury.
Skip the risk at the beginning by using only body weight, or light dumbbells. Keep your head and neck looking forward, and your feet at shoulder width for a great lift.7. Pull-ups
Don’t click away! Yes, this is still the workout for beginners.
We know pull-ups are hard, but the motion of a pull-up is a perfect exercise for the crucial muscles of your back. There are several ways to add this lift to your workouts even if you’re not a Green Beret.
Weight assisted pull-up machines are featured regularly in modern gyms. You can also use a pull-down bar. Mix up the distance between your hands to work the back in different ways.8. Push-ups
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of fancy equipment at the gym, but for a complete upper body workout, the old-fashioned push-up is still one of the best options available.
This exercise can be difficult at first. Moderate as needed to add it to your workout. You can spread the distance of your feet, or do them from your knees to make them easier.9. Bent-over Rows
The second free weight exercise on our list, bent over rows are another great way to work your back. And the motion is completely functional, providing you extra strength when you go to pick up items in real life.
Keep your back as straight as possible, and use dumbbells that are light enough so that your shoulder can remain stable throughout the motion.10. Planks/Leg Raises
Crunches and sit-ups do a great job of working the abs, but they can be stressful on the neck and back. Strengthen your core with these two moves that capitalize on a more natural range of motion.
Leg raises can be performed with straight legs, or bent knees, to change up the difficulty.
There are a ton more lifts that you can do. In fact, variety is one of the biggest draws for weight lifters.
But these ten are a great place to start. Just doing the lifts in our list is guaranteed to give you a full body workout, with proportional development and strength gains.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. In a few weeks, you’ll be glad that you did!
Need another reason to work on your strength? Check out our article "Strong Body Strong Mind".