Lifting weights doesn’t have to be complicated.
Lifting weights for the first time can be a really intimidating prospect. There’s a seemingly endless list of strength-training exercises you can do, and often, trainers we follow on Instagram like to demo impressive, fancy moves that seem totally impossible to do if you’re picking up dumbbells for the first time. (Even if you’re not a beginner, some of those complicated exercises can make your head spin.) But lifting weights doesn’t need to be complicated—in fact, mastering the simplest, most straightforward moves is all you need to do to establish a really solid, effective routine.
To help you do that, Jason Pak, NASM-certified personal trainer, USA Weightlifting certified sports performance coach, and co-founder of Achieve Fitness Boston, created the below total-body workout specifically for beginner weight lifters. It hits all your major muscle groups in just five moves. “When putting together a total-body workout, the goal is to incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in as few moves as possible by utilizing compound exercises,” Pak tells SELF.
Compound exercises are simply exercises that work more than one muscle group at once, which makes them really efficient. They’re also functional—meaning, “they closely resemble movements that a person might experience in everyday life,” Pak says. “Exercises that incorporate squatting, pushing, pulling, balancing, and stabilizing all challenge the body in very natural, functional ways.” By training these types of movements in the weight room, you’ll be able to efficiently build strength that translates to every aspect of your life.
It’s important to always start slow, and focus on proper form above all else. If you’re unsure if you’re doing an exercise right, consult a trainer, and if an exercise ever causes you pain, stop doing it. Before starting this or any other new exercise program, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor to make sure that the exercises are safe for you.
Ready to get lifting? Below, you’ll find details from Pak on how the workout is set up, followed by a demonstration of each exercise by Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records.
- Goblet Squat to Box
- Three-Point Row
- One-Dumbbell Suitcase Lunge
- Single-Arm Floor Press
- Supine Marching
Start with 3 sets of 8 reps of each exercise. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between each set, and up to 60 seconds between each exercise as needed.
When you feel comfortable with the moves, progress to 3 sets of 10 reps with the same weight. Then, to 3 sets of 12 reps with the same weight. When you are ready, increase your weight by about 5 pounds and go back to 3 sets of 8.
Start with a weight that feels like you’re giving an effort of 7 out of 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10), says Pak. “This serves as a sweet spot where the weight challenges you, but doesn’t make it so difficult that form becomes compromised.”