How To Start A Resistance Training Program

Starting a resistance training routine can be overwhelming for a beginner—especially someone who has never used one of those machines with levers and pulleys.

But the benefits outweigh any discomfort.

With resistance training, you’ll build more muscles, increase your calorie burn, strengthen your bones and joints, improve your endurance, cut your risk of overuse injury.

In today’s post, I’ll share with you the basics guidelines for starting a resistance training routine without breaking your back

With some familiarity with basic weight lifting, you’ll be able to design a routine targeted toward helping you achieve your fitness goals.

What Is Resistance Training?

Also known as weight lifting, strength training, or pumping iron, resistance training is any training that causes the muscles to contract against external resistance to increase strength, mass, tone, or endurance.

So if even the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘strength training’ is back-breaking weights and complicated machines, there are many ways to create the resistance that require minimal gear (or not at all!).

The resistance can be created by a dumbbell, kettlebell, a barbell, or your body weight—think push-ups, squats, press-ups, lunges, and so on.

Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s dive into some of the guidelines for starting a resistance workout plan.

  1. Begin with the Warm-up

You don’t want to start picking up heavyweight cold, nor for your muscles and joints to tighten and be in pain.

Start with a 10-minute warmup of brisk walking, light jogging, and dynamic stretches, such as inch worse, lunges, high knees, and the sort.

When you’re done, take the time to cool down. Stretch your body, and perform a few mobility drills to help increase your flexibility, improve your flexibility and mobility in the specific area, and speed up recovery.

  1. Nail Proper Form

Before you progress to more challenging resistance exercises, nail down proper form first. I’d recommend that you start with no weight or very lightweight.

Just like other exercise programs, there’s a right way and a wrong way to perform almost every resistance movement.

Do it right, and you’re making the most gains. Do it incorrectly, and not only you’re wasting your time but also putting yourself at higher risk of injury.

To build proper form, do the following:

  • Engage your core, stand tall, and head your head in a neutral position.
  • Focus on smooth, slow lifts and equally controlled descent.
  • Move slowly, ensuring that you’re relying on muscles, not moment, to do the lifting.
  • Protect yourjoints by gripping properly
  • Keep your body well aligned and move smoothly through each exercise. Don’t use momentum to swing the weight around.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. Do not shrug. Avoid aligning your ears with your shoulders.
  • That’s where power comes from. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

Consider hiring a personal trainer to teach you proper form for the get-go and learn how to properly complete each exercise.

Can’t afford one?

Study online videos and tutorials to learn proper lifting techniques—there are plenty of sources around.

  1. Start Simple

Perform a routine that targets all muscle groups on two non-consecutive days a week. This will help build a strong base and allow you to get stronger from week to week.

Focus on equipment-free routines first. Practicing different movement patterns before you add extra load, like a dumbbell or barbell, is the priority when starting resistance training.

This helps reduce your risk of injuries and will help you lift more weight down the road.

Practice the following five movements patterns:

  • Squatting
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Hinging, and
  • Core work.

Once you master these, add some resistance. Here are the exercises I’d recommend you start with.

  • Deadlifts
  • Glute bridges
  • Reverse lunge
  • Overhead press
  • Hammer curls
  • Chest presses

As you get fitter, progress to using tools like TRX bands, medicine balls, resistance bands, slider disks, kettlebells, barbells, and weight machines.

Don’t worry if that sounds too technical. Bodyweight exercises are the perfect stepping stone to the world of strength training.

  1. Find the Proper Amount of Weight 

Determining the amount of weight for a given resistance exercise requires trial and error—you’ll also keep adjusting your approach as time passes.

Different exercises will require different loads, but few signposts will help you find the right resistance, whether you’re using your bodyweight, dumbbells, barbell, or kettlebells.

Make it a rule always to start lower than your current ability and build on that. Using momentum or swinging the weight around means that the load is too much, thus, you need to scale down.

If you’re doing three sets of 16 reps of chest presses, your chest and arms should feel fatigued by the last rep and on the brink of breaking point—past the fatigue level—by the last two reps. Control the weight throughout the exercise.

Increase the load when you start breezing through all your reps with good form.

Proper weight choice differs depending on the exercise. If you rely on momentum to finish the last two reps, opt for a lighter weight.

  1. Keep It Consistent

Progress happens the more often you practice.

To make the most out of your resistance training routine, complete three 45 to 60-minute sessions each week. This is the minimum amount of sessions per week required if you’re focusing on total-body exercises during those sessions.

It’s that simple. Show up, work your ass off, and stick to the plan.

I’d suggest that you break your resistance training program into upper and lower body components. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you perform each component two to three times a week.

  1. Don’t Forget to Rest 

Resistance training, as well as other forms of exercise, breaks muscle tissue, causing tears in the fibers. These tears serve a purpose, but only if you grant them time to heal properly. This is one of the main reasons behind post-workout soreness.

As a matter of fact, it’s during the off period that your muscles will get stronger as the tears knit up. In order to reach the full recovery, you’ll need 24 to 48 hours of rest to fully recover between sessions.

Plan one day of rest following a total-body strength session and rest the specific muscle group for up to 48 hours before you hit the same muscle group again.

For example, if you target your chest hard on Tuesday, you should not exercise the chest again until Thursday at the earliest.

I’d recommend that you break up your strength training routine by focusing on your upper body one day and your lower body the next.

And if you don’t want to rest during your non-resistance training days, try doing some form of active recovery, like going for a light jog or taking a yoga class. That way, you keep your body moving without taxing your muscles.

  1. Allow your Routine to Evolve

As you master basic movement patterns (some of which I have already shared with you), start adding new challenges to your routine. 

You can make your resistance workouts more challenging by changing up your weight or reps, choosing different exercises, or switching the order in which you do them.

Feels too easy? Then either add another set of repetitions to your routine or add more resistance, but never both at the same time.

Strive for progress each week. But don’t lose sleep over not making giant leaps overnight.

This is when you start leafing the newbie camp and start calling yourself a true strength training aficionado—maybe after 9 to 12 months of consistent training.


There you have it!

The above beginner resistance training guidelines are all you need to get started on the weight lifting path without injuring yourself nor looking like a complete fool.  Now you just need to show up and do the work. The rest is just detail.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Keep Training Strong.

David D.