Fitness myths of yore would have us believe that cardio is the key to a lean physique and longevity. And while undoubtedly, cardio offers a number of benefits, the real “secret” to total health and wellness is strength training. If you want to build muscle, improve your body composition, and get your sweat on, strength training is the way to go.
But how can you get going with this type of exercise if you’re a total beginner? Rest assured that you can strength train at home and still get amazing results — no gym membership required. Let’s build a strong foundation and get into some of the need-to-know details.
The Benefits of Strength Training
We know that old habits die hard. And there might be something in you whispering, “Weight training will make you bulky.” But science tells us that strength training (also called resistance training) is the best path to take, for a number of reasons.
For starters, because we know you might still think that cardio is the key to a lean physique, let’s talk about that. Studies have shown that weight training not only increases strength but also your fat-free mass, along with decreasing the percentage of body fat. And this can happen without restricting your food intake. Strength training won’t make you “bulky.” On the contrary, if you’re trying to shed body fat, this is the best way to do it.
Resistance training plays an even bigger role as we age. Strength training exercises build muscle strength and mass and preserve bone mineral density. It can also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, alongside symptoms of chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
And importantly, strength training can work wonders for your mental health. Consistent weight training can improve the sleep quality of individuals with depression, reduce the symptoms of depression, and boost self-esteem. It can also help offset symptoms of anxiety and stress. Caring for your mental health is more important than ever, and weight training is a vital part of your lifestyle, across the board.
This is barely scratching the surface of the research done around strength training. But the findings are clear: Strength training is good for you mentally, physically, and emotionally. No wonder science has found that it can help you live longer.
So, now that you know about some of the benefits of strength training, let’s talk about how you can get going as a beginner with your workouts.
Start with Basic Movements
Strength training can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. If you’re a beginner, we suggest that to start, you keep it simple.
Compound movements — which target multiple muscles/muscle groups simultaneously — pack a big punch. It’s a straightforward way to do a lot of work with one movement. Unilateral exercises are also good for beginners because you focus on only one side of the body at a time. And don’t forget that you don’t even need additional weight to begin performing strength training exercises, although you will eventually. If you’re just beginning, the weight of your own body might be enough. More on this in a minute.
While your resistance training journey will evolve over time, to start, aim to familiarize yourself with the basics. This will help you build a strong foundation (literally!).
Review Equipment Options
Again, we suggest you keep it simple. When it comes to strength training, many beginners can start with bodyweight exercises before adding additional weight. Once you can easily do 15-20 reps with your body weight, it’s time to add weight.
Beyond that, some of the staple equipment you’ll want includes a barbell with plates and dumbbells of varying weights. When you train with Tempo, this is what you can expect. With just a few key pieces of equipment, you can lean into infinite weighted exercises without ever getting bored of the same old workout.
And speaking of which…
Exercises for Getting Started
Alright, now for the part you’ve been waiting for! How can you get started with strength training as a beginner? Here are a few exercises that we’re huge fans of.
1. Dumbbell Single-Arm Rows
Rows offer a lot of bang for their buck. They target muscles including your:
- Back (lats).
Plus, there are endless variations, meaning you have plenty of ways to perform them. Here’s one suggestion:
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand, with your palm facing inward toward your body.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, and soften your knees.
- Fold at the hips so that your torso is almost parallel with the floor.
- Pull your elbow back and the dumbbell toward your chest.
- Lower the weight back down. That completes one rep!
Want to spice it up? Try performing an upright row, where you remain fully standing. You can also do a kneeling row. Athletes will commonly prop one knee/hand up on a bench, and perform a single-arm row on the other side.
Additionally, rows can be performed with a barbell. It’s a different stimulus but equally beneficial.
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Presses
This one targets similar muscles as the previous exercise, but we’re pushing, not pulling. It’s a completely different stimulus that, as a bonus, helps you detect any imbalances in strength or mobility on either side of your body.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Your palms can either face in toward you or out in front of you. With the former, your elbows will be tucked into your sides. With the latter, they’ll flare out.
- Take a breath and squeeze your core, driving the barbells up overhead. At the top, aim to lock your elbows out.
- Lower the weight back to your shoulders. That’s one rep.
Again, there are many ways to change this up. You can do single-arm presses, or to make it extra spicy, try performing them sitting. Any way you cut it, shoulder presses are a smart way to build upper-body strength and stability.
3. Chest Press
You might know the chest press as the bench press. This will build strength in muscles such as your:
Chest presses are an excellent compound movement with countless variations. For instance, you can opt for a barbell or dumbbells. You could perform them laying flat or at a slight incline. You can even do them on the floor if you don’t have a bench (although note that this will limit your range of motion slightly).
Don’t believe the stereotype that chest presses are only for the “gym bros” chugging protein shakes. This is yet another smart compound movement that everyone stands to benefit from.
No matter what type of training you’re doing, squats are likely one of the pillars of your fitness plan. They’re at the core of functional strength training, meaning they prepare you to safely perform tasks in everyday life — like picking up your baby or bringing in the groceries. For every variation that chest presses have, squats have 10 more. Front squats, back squats, dumbbell squats, tempo squats, pause squats, Bulgarian split squats, jumping squats — the list goes on and on.
If you’re a beginner, start with the basics. Front squats are ideal for beginners because you don’t have to worry about your lower back posture and it’s easier to achieve a higher range of motion. Start with a goblet squat using a dumbbell and work up to the barbell.
Back squats are the opposite. You can also opt to hold a dumbbell in each hand or bring the weights up to rest on your shoulders.
The concept is simple: Squat down and then stand back up. But technique still matters! Here are a few simple pointers:
- Keep your eyes on the horizon, meaning straight ahead. Remember, where your eyes go, your body goes. If this feels off, adjust your gaze so you’re looking slightly downward.
- Chest up!
- Try standing with your feet about hip-width apart. This works for most athletes, although you might need to tweak it slightly.
Take a big breath at the top, hold it on the way down, and as you’re standing up again, exhale.
“Wait, push-ups are strength training?” you’re asking. And we get it! Technically, yes, since you’re resisting the weight of your own body.
Push-ups are one of the simplest (and safest) exercises you can do to build total-body strength. Plus, the benefits you receive will translate to many other things you do during your programming. As a beginner, you might need to start by doing push-ups on your knees, and that’s totally okay.
The next step is to perform them on your toes. From there, you can continue increasing the challenge by either placing a plate (or another weighted object) on your back or propping your feet up on a higher surface, like a bench. This will up the resistance that your body is providing.
Once you can perform a standard push-up for a set of 20 reps, you’ll need to move to something with weight in order to make strength gains.
Coming Up with an Effective Workout Schedule
As a beginner, initiating your strength training program can feel overwhelming. You probably have a lot of questions:
Which exercises should I do?
How long should my workouts be?
How often should I exercise?
There’s no one right way to go about this, but here are a few suggestions to get you going:
- Pick a workout frequency. This might be every other day, two days on/one day off, or Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Rest is important, so listen to your body and recover as needed.
- Create a “menu” of exercises. As a beginner, planning ahead helps. Create two lists: one of compound movements (which we discussed in this blog) and one of accessory movements like curls, calf raises, and sit-ups.
- Increase the challenge over time. This might mean performing more reps or keeping the reps steady while increasing the weights. If you ever hear someone mention progressive overload, this is what they’re talking about. If your goal is hypertrophy (meaning muscle gain), then upping the difficulty over time is mandatory.
However you slice it, the goal should be to hit a muscle group at least one day a week in order to maintain strength or mass. If you want to build strength, then the goal is two to three times a week. Feel free to get creative with the combination! This might mean two long, total-body classes, or two short upper-body and two short lower-body classes. There are many effective combos.
We know that there might understandably still be a lot of question marks. That’s where Tempo comes in.
Getting Started with Tempo
Tempo’s smart home gym system is more than some equipment and workout classes. We are your all-in-one solution to reaching your fitness goals. If you’re new to training, search for “beginner” classes and “heavy strength.” These will go at a slower pace with more recovery time in between.
Don’t forget that we’re your ultimate training buddy. Our 3D Tempo Vision is like your own personal trainer. Your smart home gym system will review your form and provide instant feedback so that you can train safely and make progress faster. We’re big fans of training with free weights, and our competition-grade equipment ensures you’re getting a pro-level workout session in. And the whole experience is immersive with our HD touchscreen and stereo speakers. We even help you track your progress so you can better monitor your gains over time.
Depending on your goals and what type of environment you live in, you can choose from Tempo Studio and Tempo Move. With over 1,000 workouts and more being added regularly, you’ll never get bored or lose motivation, and you’ll always discover new ways to be challenged.
We know that strength training as a beginner can feel intimidating. But with the right setup — and the right coach — your goals are within reach. Home fitness is here to stay, and your gym is due for an upgrade. Ready to take the next step? Shop with Tempo today.