Using weights is one of the best ways to get back into shape. But what happens if you have been out of the game for a while and you’re not really sure where to start? Well, there’s plenty of beginning weight lifting workouts out there. Too much in fact.
You might try to look up the best workouts and come across hundreds of weight lifts to do.
All of that has probably left you swimming a bit, which is exactly why you need to look for something a bit more streamlined.
We’ve got that for you right here.
We’ll get into some basic weight lifting workouts that you may even be able to do at home.
This way, whether you have picked up some weights off of a local garage sale or you just signed up for a gym membership, you’ll have everything you need to begin right here.
Before we dive into some of the weight lifting workouts, let’s consider the best workout schedule.
A workout schedule is necessary to follow as it both keeps you hitting all of your muscles, and it helps prevent you from overworking other muscles.
You want to regularly engage your muscles but you also don’t want to overwork groups. This prevents full muscle recovery and growth, stunting your ability to recover and perform.
There are a few schedule options, which you can perform based on the kind of lifting you’re doing. We’ll go over each briefly and then you can decide which works.
Traditional Weight Lifting Workouts
First, there’s the more traditional weight lifting workouts. This is where you train your upper body on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and your legs on Tuesday and Thursday.
This is an okay workout if you’re only doing one or two lifts per muscle group and you’re not lifting heavy.
For example, perhaps you’re using lighter weights to tone your muscles and not build strength or size. If that’s the case this workout can work for you.
This is because you’re not doing much in the way of damage. It’s more along the line of intensive cardio.
Either way, if you’re lifting light, this schedule works.
Modern Weight Lifting Workouts
The second option is the more modern weight lifting workouts. This is where you train a different muscle group each day.
This is a great option if you’re hitting each muscle group with five or more lifts.
This way, you can do chest on Monday, legs on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, cardio on Thursday, arms on Friday and shoulders on Saturday.
Of course, you can mix and match those days and slip in cardio days when you need a break or when certain muscle groups are still sore.
By hitting your muscles hard and then giving each a week to recover, you’ll help increase size and strength size.
The problem with lifting big and then returning two days later is your muscles will not recover.
If you’ve ever done a heavy squat set one day and then attempted to do it two days later, your body is still recovering and you not only lift less, but it hurts to do it.
The Push, Pull, Leg Weight Lifting Routine
The third option is breaking the lifts into a push, pull, leg routine.
This means on one day all of the lifts you’re doing is pushing the weight away from your body.
This includes a bench press and shoulder press. A pull day includes lifts where you’re pulling the weight toward you, such as a lat pulldown or a curl.
You won’t have as much rest and recovery time with this schedule, but it’s a great way to hit different muscles on a given day while organizing the lifts by how your joints move while you’re lifting (Harvard Health, 2015).
Sets And Reps For Weight Lifting Workouts
This is a general rule you can use for most of your lifts.
You will break down the number of reps per set based on whether you want to increase in size, increase in strength, or just tone your muscles.
First, if you’re lifting to increase strength you want to go with the heaviest weight and the fewest reps of any of the other two lifting methods.
Ideally, you’ll shoot for around four to six reps per set (perform the major lifts four times and secondary lifts two to three times).
However, if you can do more than six reps doing a given set keep going.
Always lift until failure. It just means you need to increase the weight the next set.
The second option is if you want to increase your size.
You’ll still increase strength (and with the other rep numbers you’ll increase size as well, there’s just an emphasis on the other benefit), but this is when you want to build size.
Here you’ll shoot for eight to 12 reps per set.
Again, if you can do more, continue to failure, then increase your weight. If you can’t hit eight you’re lifting too heavy and reduce the weight.
The third option is if you want to tone your muscles but don’t want to gain strength or size.
When this is the case do each exercise twice and shoot for 15 to 20 reps.
You don’t need to go until failure here (as you can probably do many more than 20 reps). It’s more about keeping your muscles engaged than anything else (Medicine Net, 2017).
The chest is one of the easier weight lifting workouts to hit.
That’s because the muscle is front and center without much in the way of curvatures.
However, there are a few angles you need to hit your chest in to make sure you maximize the impact of your chest workout.
First, there’s the traditional bench press.
If you only do a handful of lifts, this is one of the best to do. Ideally, you’ll do it with a barbell and plate weights.
If you’re at a chain gym like Planet Fitness where there isn’t such an option you can use the Smith machines, although using free weights is desirable because it forces you to work stabilizing muscles.
But if it’s not an option you just have to use what you have access to.
You also need to perform the incline and the decline bench press. The incline hits the top of your chest while the decline hits the bottom.
Your chest muscles are broken down into three different sections, so performing the bench press at varying angles helps hit these areas.
If you want any improvement in chest definition (both for men and women) these lifts are a must.
Outside of the bench presses, you can go with a chest fly to finish it off.
There are two ways to do the chest fly.
One, you can use one of the machines where your arms are stretched out and you pull the bars to center.
You can also use dumbbells, lay on a bench, start with the weights extended out to your side, and swing them forward as if you’re doing a fully-extended hand clap.
Do this lift at the end of the routine to finish off your chest day.
While building your chest and biceps might be more fun, you need to target your legs.
You have larger muscles in the legs, which means you’ll burn more calories faster.
There are also all kinds of leg lifts you can do and even more variations of the leg lifts.
First, there is the classic squat.
With the standard squat, you want to start with your legs about shoulder width apart and lower your body down, keeping your back straight.
Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel with the ground, then push yourself back up.
Again, ideally, you’ll do this with a barbell for maximum weight.
You can use a dumbbell and hold it with both hands in front of you (this will work your arm grip as well), although if you’re going for strength or size gains, the barbell is the way to go.
There are tons of variants to this lift. One of the best is the sumo squat.
The sumo squat is where you spread your legs out wide (like a sumo wrestler).
When you squat down you’ll really hit your butt with this lift. So if you want to improve your glutes at all, this is one of the very best lifts.
Other leg exercises include the front and backward lunge.
This works both your quads and your hamstrings and is a solid lift if you don’t have access to leg extension machines.
Out of all of the weight lifting workouts, biceps are probably the easiest muscles to work.
However, the main issue is no matter what lift you do, it’s basically going to be some kind of a curl.
For maximum muscle growth you want to force your muscles to move in different ways, but with the bicep, you need to find ways to change up the curl.
First, there’s the regular curl.
Make sure to keep your back straight with this (you can rest your back against a wall if it helps).
Now, do a wide curl. This is where instead of holding the weight right in front of you the weight will be slightly off to each side as you curl to your shoulder.
You’ll also want to do a cross body curl, which is where with your right hand you’ll curl the weight across your left pectoral up to your right shoulder.
Why do all of these different curl movements?
Your bicep is made up of two heads (if you flex you’ll see it forms almost a tear shape moving toward your forearm.
The point of this tear is where the heads split).
By hitting each head you’ll help expand the width of your arm and the peak of your bicep.
Adding in an incline curl is great as it increases the stretch on your bicep.
For this just sit on an incline bench and curl.
You can also do a hammer curl if you’d like. This is where you curl the plate to your shoulder instead of the handle. This works a small muscle under your bicep that can help increase size.
For your forearms, if you curl slowly and lower the weight down slowly you’ll increase the impact on the back of your arms.
You should also do a tricep extension (start in the top position of a hammer curl and slowly lower the weights with your arms fully extended) (WebMD, 2015).
Shoulders And Back
These are closely knit together so you can hit both if you’d like on the same day.
With the back, you’re going to focus on your lats, which is a butterfly-shaped muscle group on your back.
The lat pull-down is one of the best exercises for this, as is the row.
You can do both of these using the cable machine (this is where having a gym membership can help as these are lifts you can’t do at home).
For the traps, which is the area above the lats moving into your neck, heavy shoulder shrugs is a great exercise.
With this, hold heavy weights in each hand and round your shoulders.
You can also do a farmer’s walk, where you hold the weight to your side and walk for as long and as far as you can until you need to put down the weight.
The delt muscles are your shoulders. They’re a couple weight lifting workouts for your delts.
The shoulder shrugs and farmer’s walk will help hit these muscles. Shoulder extensions are good as well.
This is where you take a weight, hold it by your side, then, without bending your elbow, extend the weight out in front of you.
This hits the front delt. Now do it to the side. This hits the side delt.
To maximize the front delt lift you can bring the weight all the way up overhead.
There’s never a wrong time to get back into shape and to begin working with weights.
Whether it is a New Year’s resolution or you just find it’s time to begin working out again, weightlifting is great for the body and the heart.
By following these tips and suggestions you’ll have a number of weight lifting workouts at your disposal.
Many of these lifts you can do at home.
Wherever you decide to get your lifting in, now is the perfect time to begin working on a better you.