New to the Gym? Your Strength Training Questions Answered


Photo by Maximus_W via Flickr


When people walk into a gym for the first time, they often have a bit of a deer in the headlights kind of look.

Think about it, if you don’t really know what to do in the gym, you walk in and see all manner of equipment being used by people of a variety of shapes and sizes. There are probably a number of folks lifting free weights in one area, people sweating it out on the treadmill/elliptical/stair-master in the cardio area, and still more working with the machines.

And all of them look like they know exactly what they are doing.

So what is the fitness center newbie supposed to do?

For many, they just head to the treadmill and walk for an hour. Since many new exercisers are there because they want to loose weight, they figure they need to focus on cardio to drop the pounds. This bit of “conventional wisdom” isn’t as sound as it once was.

As it turns out, strength training has many benefits besides just building muscle, and loosing weight is one of them.

Below, find some common questions that people new to working out may have when told that they need to do some strength training on a regular basis.

  • Why is Strength Training Important?

Strength training isn’t just important, it’s imperative! It can easily be argued that strength training is the most important kind of exercise for any and all individuals to participate it. Building muscle through resistance training helps to burn fat, regulate blood sugar, and control cholesterol levels. Muscle also helps to improve your posture and strengthen bones. And if you do any type of physical activity, from running 5ks to playing with your grandkids to climbing Mt. Everest, improved muscular strength will improve your ability to complete those tasks.

  • What Kind of Exercises Should I Be Doing?

It depends on your goals. Are you training for anything specific? General health? Increased muscle mass? Weight loss? Coming up with an exercise plan for anyone requires the health professional and his or her client to spend time talking in order to establish goals and a game plan. In general, though, the kinds of exercises that are best for most individuals are multi-joint, multi-muscle exercises like squats, lunges, push ups, and pull ups. And depending on your goals, many other exercises can be incorporated as well.

  • How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting for Maximal Benefit?

This is another question that the answer will very depending on your goals. For those who are new to strength training, however, it is probably best to err on the side of caution. I recommend most first timers to do exercises with little to no weight, and focus on learning and perfecting their form for each particular exercise. Since proper form is about the best way to maximize strength gains while minimizing injury risk, it needs to be made a priority for all lifters, novices and long term lifters alike. (Too often I see big strong guys lifting a lot of weight but sacrificing form. It makes me wonder how much stronger they would actually be if they used a lighter weight and proper form.) Once proper technique has been mastered, begin increasing the weight a little bit at a time, as long as good form is maintained.

  • How Many Sets and Reps Should I Be Doing?

This may be the single most divisive question among exercisers and fitness professionals alike. In reality, there is no magic, absolute right combination. The old standard answer is that 3 sets of 10 reps is a great place to start. However, depending on your goals, experience, and preferences, you can do more or less of either or both and still see positive results. Personally, I think the biggest general key is not letting your muscles get used to one distinct pattern. By regularly switching up the amount of resistance you are using, as well as your set/rep combination you are confusing your muscles and encouraging them to grow.

  • What Is Better, Free Weights or Machines?

Which do you like better? While there are benefits to both free weights and machines, for those just getting started I’d encourage you to do whichever you like better. The common stereotype is usually that machines are for women and free weights are for men, but feel free to disregard that. In general, machines are safer since you don’t have to worry about dropping the weight on yourself, but both forms of resistance training can give you a great workout. If you are more comfortable with one way, start there. But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by incorporating some other types of exercise in a few weeks.

  • What Should I Expect After Introducing Weight Lifting to My Routine?

You will start to notice some changes shortly after you begin lifting weights, both physically and mentally. Physically, you may notice some soreness in your muscles after workouts, especially a day or two later. This is an entirely normal phenomenon known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. It is the result of your body repairing the damage you have done to your muscles while working out, and the repairs result in your muscles getting stronger. Mentally, you may start to feel more determined to accomplish tasks to achieve your goals, since pushing through good strength training workouts requires determination and perseverance.


Photo by pasukaru76 via Flickr


Making the decision to start lifting weights is scary for some, but beneficial for all. I hope that those of you who are considering adding strength training to your routine will feel confident enough to commit to that decision, and not be afraid to ask for help from gym staff or other lifters.

If you have further questions about how or why you should start a resistance training program, feel free to leave me a comment or you can contact me directly.

And for those of you who are seasoned weight lifters, what other bits of advice can you offer those who are thinking about starting the practice? What were your concerns when you first started lifting weights? What benefits of strength training have you noticed in your life?

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


1 Comment

Filed under Physical Activities

One response to “New to the Gym? Your Strength Training Questions Answered

  1. Pingback: Resistance Training–Skip It and Regret It | DK FitSolutions

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