Doing Gains Right: A Beginner’s Guide to Weightlifting

Updated on December 16, 2020
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How should a beginner start lifting weights? How many days a week should a beginner lift weights? Read on to discover a beginner’s guide to weightlifting here.

Imagine this: you walk into the gym down the road and scan your member card. You stride into the locker room, drop off your bag, and head to the weight room. As you scan the equipment, you feel confident about your ability and routine. 

If this sounds like a description of someone else’s gym visit or seems too good to be true, don’t fear. This beginner’s guide to weightlifting will equip you with all the tools you need. Before you know it, you’ll feel more confident in the gym and start getting stronger.

Knowing the Lingo

There are some terms you’ll need to know if you’re going to succeed in the gym. The first term you may hear someone use is rep. This stands for repetition and refers to the number of times you perform a particular move in a given set.

set is simply a group of reps followed by a period of rest. So if you’re doing lunges for three sets of 12 reps, you’ll perform 12 lunges and then take a period of rest. And you’ll repeat that a total of three times. 

PRstands for personal record. It often gets used when someone lifts an amount of weight they’ve never lifted before. 

AMRAP is an abbreviation that means as many reps as possible. That means you’ll perform a movement until you cannot do another rep with proper form.

There are a lot of weightlifting terms to know, but you’ll get the hang of them quickly. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask someone. Everyone had to learn these terms at one point or another. 

Understanding Your Body Type

Different body types respond better to different types of exercises. If you are lean and struggle to put on weight, you may have an ectomorphic build. Ectomorphs should train with medium reps (5-10 ), using heavier weights. 

If you tend to put on muscle fast and your shoulders are broader than your hips, you could have a mesomorphic build. Mesomorphs should try to vary their training as much as possible. Mixing up the intensity, the number of reps and sets, and the weight is key.

Finally, if you have a rounder, more pear-shaped build, you may be an endomorph. Endomorphs should focus on combining 30 minutes of low-impact cardio with sets of 8-12 repetitions.

Getting Familiar with the Equipment

It’s important to know what kinds of equipment you will find at the gym. Each one offers something unique and can be used for different purposes.


Dumbbells are the standard equipment of choice for moves like bicep curls and tricep kickbacks. Useful when doing more intricate movements, dumbbells are compact and very versatile. 

If you’re not sure where to start or how much weight you can lift, start out with low-weight dumbbells.


Picture the strongman at an old-fashioned circus. What comes to mind? A mustachioed man in tights, gripping a bar with two round weights on the ends above his head?

The barbell is a long, heavy bar that can be used on its own to start or loaded with weights. They offer more stability when performing classic exercises like cleans, presses, and jerks. 


Weight machines can help familiarize you with different movements as you get started. They do a great job of isolating particular muscle groups.

So let’s say you have an injury in your glutes. Your glutes help stabilize you when you do free weights. So, continuing to do so could cause them more harm.

Using a machine that targets your upper body, though, allows you to workout without engaging your glutes.

Cardio Equipment

The standard cardio machines at a gym are treadmillsellipticalsstair machines, and stationary bikes. Each can be learned fairly easily. For bikes, be sure to adjust the seat and handlebars to an appropriate height and distance for your body. 

The seat of the bike should be at hip-height when you stand next to it. The handlebars should allow you to have a slight bend in your arms as you use them. 

Beginners Guide to Weightlifting

Now that you know the basics of the gym, let’s get into the specifics of weightlifting.

What to Wear

The right weightlifting gear can improve your confidence and performance.

Bring a weightlifting belt with you to stabilize your back and core. This is particularly helpful if you’re starting to lift heavier weights. Use gloves to protect the skin on your hands from tearing and give you a better grip. 

How to Warm Up

The best weight training warm-ups mimic the exercises you’re going to perform in your main set. So if you plan on squatting with 150lbs, warm-up with bodyweight squats or squat with less than 150lbs. 

Just remember that you want to warm up the muscles you will be using. If you spend twenty minutes running on the treadmill before you do bicep curls and shoulder presses, those upper body muscles may not be sufficiently warmed up.

Exercises for Beginners

The pull up rig or deadlift is a great movement to work your back, glutes, hamstrings, and abs. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grip your barbell or dumbbells.

Keep your abs engaged and your back flat (with no curve). Bend at your hips to lower the weights just below your knees. Keep a slight bend in your legs to protect your knees, and return slowly to a standing position.

Second, the squat is a must-learn. It even acts as a foundational movement for other exercises, like the clean!

With a barbell, find out which squat hold is most comfortable for you. With dumbbells, hold them on top of your shoulders or down by your sides.

The key with squats is proper form. Never let your knees pass over your toes and never round or over-extend your back. It should feel almost as if you’re sitting down into a chair. 

To move onto the upper body, practice the barbell or dumbbell chest press. Lying flat or at an angle, bring your bar (or dumbbells) in towards your chest. Press them up over your chest (do not lift them over your head or neck) and return for one rep.

Get Lifting

Once you’ve practiced these basics, you can try moves like the clean and jerk! Work at it day by day, and you’ll be a weight-lifting veteran in no time. 

If you found this beginner’s guide to weightlifting helpful, be sure to check out our other health and fitness blogs.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.