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Weightlifting for Beginners

Updated January 13, 2020
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Hope Kleine

SDSU Extension Health Education & Food Safety Field Specialist

Written collaboratively by Hope Kleine and Maggie Kringen.

Resistance training or weightlifting is one of the four components of fitness. It can be scary to start resistance training if you have never lifted weights before, but these tips and tricks will set you on the right path for the weight floor! To learn about the other components of fitness, check out the article, "The Four Components and How to Accomplish Them."

Tip 1: Proper Form

Ankle, knee, hip, and spinal alignment are all key components for performing proper form while lifting weight. In any type of squat, lunge, or deadlift, always have the knees stalked right over the ankles or slightly ahead of the ankle—but never over the toes. Also, with any type of squat, lunge, or deadlift, always have your weight in your heels or your weight evenly distributed throughout your feet, this helps with knee and ankle alignment. For any bent over movement (bent over row, triceps extension, reverse fly) always have the shoulders pinched back as if you are squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades and keep a flat back (never let the spine curve in or out). Keep a strong core at all times to strengthen any exercise while lifting, having a tight core will prevent your back from giving out.

Tip 2: How Much Weight

Dumbells sitting on a rack in a gym.

Each individual will need to determine their own weight to lift, and the weight will vary with each exercise you do. Start off performing 8-12 repetitions with a weight of your choosing. If you were able to complete the full set of 8-12 easily, increase your weight. If it was difficult to complete the set of 8-12 repetitions, decrease your weight. If you are just beginning to add resistance training into your routine, don’t be afraid to start off with body weight exercises before adding weight, proper form is your first concern!

Tip 3: How Much to Do

Recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine is for healthy adults to resistance train for 2 days per week (with at least one day in-between!) with 8 to 10 exercises, 2-3 sets per exercise, and 8 to 12 repetitions per set.

Tip 4: Recovery

Allow at least one full day before resistance training again for your body to recover properly. Make sure to stretch each muscle group by holding each stretch for 30-60 seconds.

Related Terms

Physical Activity, Health