Strength Training Tips for Beginners

New to weight training? You don't have to start big. Even 5-lb weights are enough to start building strength and muscle.

Woman holds two barbells over her shoulders as she uses strength training steps for beginners as part of her exercise plan.

Medically reviewed in January 2022

Sometimes it's hard to know how much weight is enough when you're a beginner trying to start a strength-training program. 

Rule of thumb: Don't start with anything higher than 5 lbs. But are 5-lb weights enough to make a difference? The answer is yes. Starting with lighter weights will help protect you from injury. Ultimately, you want a weight you can lift at least 8 times, but no more than 12. Adjust the weight as you get stronger. 

Train to threshold 
Here's the RealAge approach to strength training: Do two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, resting for about 45 seconds between sets. The muscles worked should feel pretty tired at the end of the set, as if they can't lift the weight one more time. This is called training to threshold, and it makes your RealAge younger! 

Prime your posture 
Form, too, is important for beginners starting weight training. Your head should be in line with your spine, and you should have a natural arch in your lower back. Don't lock your knees. Keep your wrists straight and firm. Pull your shoulder blades slightly toward each other and down. Lift your chest up and out. You should be able to steadily lift the weight while keeping your form. And remember to breathe! This helps keep your blood pressure in check.

More On

Standard Push-Up

video

Standard Push-Up
Learn how to do a proper standard push-up and tone your arms with celebrity fitness trainer Holly Rilinger.
6 Reasons Why Women Should Weight Train

article

6 Reasons Why Women Should Weight Train
When we think of muscles, we think of Popeye, not twiggy Olive Oyl. But building and maintaining muscle mass is even more important for women. We all ...
Modified Push-Up

video

Modified Push-Up
Build upper body strength with the modified push-up. In this video, celebrity fitness trainer Holly Rilinger shows how to take this exercise and turn ...
Forward Lunge

video

Forward Lunge
In this video, celebrity fitness trainer Holly Rilinger demonstrates how to improve your form with the forward lunge.
Lateral Lunge

video

Lateral Lunge
Learn the proper way to do a lateral lunge with celebrity fitness trainer Holly Rilinger.