I am writing this article with a passion because these are the beginner weight lifting tips I wish I knew when I first started out as a young and skinny 16 year old.
If you are brand new to weight lifting and want to start working your way into the gym, feel free to sit tight and learn from the mistakes I made growing up so you don’t make the same ones.
It can be very intimidating at first especially because you see people doing different things and you read or watch different videos online, yet what is actually accurate.
Not only what is accurate but what is actually helpful information you can take with you to set yourself up for a healthy, productive, and sustainable weight lifting career.
I am here to give you my top beginner weight lifting tips here to save you from making the same mistakes I did.
Sit back and enjoy me talking about all of the things I did wrong but more importantly all of the things you can avoid doing wrong.
Let’s dive in.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
The Most Important Piece Of Advice I Can Give You…
Before we dive into my 5 beginner weight lifting tips I want to offer this one over arching piece of advice for you.
That piece of advice is you are going to make mistakes. We all do.
I am about to write a 2-3000 word article just on the 5 mistakes I have made from the beginner and trust me that isn’t even 1/100th of the mistakes I have made in my life.
To this day I still make mistakes, even though I am the “coach” and “professional”.
Yet the point I want to make sure I drive home to you is making mistakes is not only going to happen but it is not a bad thing.
It is actually a very good thing because in my humble opinion, making mistakes is the best way to learn.
Yes of course winning and doing everything right is great but if you don’t make mistakes you can’t learn from them.
When you made a mistake and touched your hand on the hot stove, you learned not to touch the hot stove again didn’t you?
It sucked while it happened and a little bit after but I’ll be damned if you didn’t learn from it.
Same principles apply here.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes because they are going to happen.
You are going to make a fool of yourself in the gym at times.
Literally the day before I wrote this article I set up to go sit down on a machine to do some lat pulldowns and didn’t realize the seat wasn’t fully set up right.
Plopped my 250 lb self down onto it and down I went. People looked at me and laughed as I laughed right along with them, because it was damn funny!
You are going to have the wrong form on an exercise when you first learn it.
There will be plenty of days where you thought you were doing something right only come to find out it was waaaaay wrong (may or may not be speaking from experience…).
Either way, mistakes are going to happen and they are normal. No one is perfect or a professional at these when they first start off, including myself.
Therefore have some grace on yourself, realize you will not be perfect, and take every mistake you do make as an opportunity to learn and grow more.
Now, with that being set in place, let’s cover my top 5 beginner weight lifting tips.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
#1 – Form is really, really important
Instinctively I think you know this.
Of course form is important. You don’t want to blow your back out doing deadlifts or you don’t want to injure your knees doing squats.
Yet I would challenge you to really understand this because it took me a good while to understand it.
I wanted to lift the most weight in the entire gym and make the fastest progress possible, duh.
As I am sure you are feeling right now. You want to start your weight lifting routine and make the best progress you possibly can, which I absolutely love because I was there too.
Yet I caution you to truly understand how important form for exercises truly is.
Let’s talk about two main components of form.
First is going to be the injury side. I brought this up a bit earlier and here first because most people get this part.
You don’t want to injure yourself working out, duh.
Just make sure you truly understand it because the body is an amazing piece of work.
Even if your form is kind of, well bad, you are still going to find a way to get the exercise done.
You will round your back during a deadlift to get the weight up or have your knees cave in when you do a squat to stand back up.
Truthfully, it may not even be that big of a deal in the short term. You might completely blow your back out, but honestly probably not. I have only seen that happen a handful of times in my coaching career.
What is more likely to happen is over time you will develop these incorrect movements patterns which can lead to big trouble long term.
For example let’s talk about your knees slightly caving in when you squat.
If this happens over and over this means the muscles in your hip are not doing their work properly. Even if your hip muscles aren’t working properly, your body is still going to find a way to get down and up from the squat.
If your hip muscles aren’t doing their work the next in line picks up the slack, which is either your knees or lower back.
Therefore over time your knees and lower back continuously take a beating when they are really not supposed to but since your form is not all the way there you leave them no choice.
In 6 weeks, 3 months, 7 years, you develop these bad movement patterns that lead to long term injury in your knees or lower back all due to the fact you had incorrect form.
Now you are injured, can’t workout, and can’t make any progress at all, all because you wanted to continue lifting without having proper form set in place first.
It won’t be a good time I promise. Been there done that 1 hip surgery later.
Take your time now to nail your form down and safe yourself long term.
The second reason is talking about how you change your body.
For you to change the way your body looks you have to work your muscles, we can agree on that yes?
Yet here is the thing, form is not only about preventing injury to certain areas of your body, it is also about making sure certain areas of your body are doing the work it is supposed to.
Let’s take a bicep curl for example. You are using 15lb dumbbells.
If you are using momentum to swing the weight up, using your shoulders to kind of jerk it up for it, and using your hips to swing it forward, are you really putting 15lbs of stress on your bicep?
Or are you putting say 5lbs of stress on your bicep, 5 lbs on your shoulders, and 5 lbs on your weird hip thrusting sex move?
As opposed to if you took the time to slow down, control the weight, keep your shoulders back, and put all of that 15lbs of stress on the bicep.
Which do you think would lead to greater change in your physique?
Clearly the second. Yet again, if you are like myself and you want to make the quickest progress possible, that can easily be blinded by going to lift heavier and heavier weight even if form suffers.
I would urge you to understand the true importance of form and use it as a barometer of success. If you finish a set with tremendous form, that is amazing progress and should be celebrated, especially early on.
My top advice would be either hire a professional to help you with your form or spend a good amount of time on the internet or YouTube to study exercise form.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
#2 Recovery is just as important as the workouts
Man oh man did 16 year old Eric close his ears whenever this was brought up. This may have been the hardest tip to grasp for me out of the 5 beginner weight lifting tips.
Recovery? Pft. No pain no gain. Go hard or go home. No days off.
Yea, all of those stupid cliche sayings.
The fact is working out is only half the battle.
When you workout you tear your muscle fibers apart. As in you actually rip them apart, crazy right?
You do this so you can then recover those torn muscle fibers to grow into stronger and more defined muscles!
Yet that is the point, if you are not recovering your torn muscle fibers you cannot grow stronger more defined muscles.
You will simply just have torn muscle fibers which doesn’t really help anyone here.
You can workout as hard as you want to in the gym and you should!
Anyone who knows me knows I am an advocate for putting forth your best effort any time you go into a training session.
Yet something that I had to learn the hard way was no matter how hard you workout, if you are not recovering from those hard workouts, it will be all for nothing.
You are probably wondering what I mean when I talk about recovery so let’s chat about it.
I will talk about rest periods between sets, rest days during the week, and deload weeks (rest weeks).
Rest Periods Between Sets
If you are looking to have optimal rest time I would suggest taking anywhere between 60-180 seconds between each set to allow for proper central nervous system and muscular recovery.
Here is the deal, if you are not recovering between sets you won’t be able to push yourself as hard as you can. You not pushing yourself as hard as you can means you won’t have the appropriate intensity required to change your body.
Rest times are important. I know hiit cardio is what is cool now and people think you need to be taking 15 second breaks. It is simply just inaccurate and not the most optimal way to change your body and lift weights.
This notion of “no days off” is just silly and trust me that is coming from someone who worked out 7x a week for 2+ hours a day.
I get it you want to workout more either because you love it or you want to see faster results. I was there too.
Unfortunately that is just not how this works. When you allow your body to get optimal rest you will allow your body to see optimal results.
If you are always so run down and beat up from training every single day you are A. Not going to be able to recover but also B. Again not be able to put forth your best effort during your workouts.
These two things combined lead to a lot of frustration and exhaustion with little to no results to show for it.
Trust me, been there done that.
I would strongly advise having anywhere between 1-4 rest days per week.
I personally train 4-5x per week leaving 2-3 rest days.
The next question is “well what do I do on rest days?!”.
That is the point of a rest day isn’t it?
Allow your body to get proper recovery and I promise it will be a game changer for you.
Simply put a deload week is going to be a week of time where you back off the intensity and volume for a bit to allow yourself to recover physically and mentally.
The 16 year old Eric laughed in the face of deload weeks. Who needs them? Let’s just keep lifting and keep the progress coming.
The 24 year old Eric relishes them now because boy do I realize how important they are.
It can be exhausting going into the gym day after day week after week pushing yourself as hard as you can.
Think about it, you can’t just linearly progress forever. You don’t just get infinitely stronger each week. If you did we would all be lifting cars and buses.
At some point you have to take a step back from the intensity and volume (volume = sets and reps) to allow your body to recover.
A deload week is simply a week where you still workout and follow a plan you just lift a bit lighter than usual and maybe do a bit less sets and reps than usual.
For example let’s say you squat 100lbs for 4 set of 8 reps normally.
On a deload week you might squat 80 lbs for 3 sets of 6 reps.
You are slightly decreasing intensity, volume, and load. This will allow your central nervous system and muscular system to recover then then after the deload week you come back stronger and more refreshed ready to kill it again.
How often should you take deload weeks? It depends.
My online coaching clients get a new program every 4 weeks and the first week of their new program is always normally a deload week.
That being said I have found for me going 6-8 weeks without a deload is better for myself as that is about the time I can start to feel my body really fatigue.
No matter what I would say at the very max don’t go 12 weeks without taking a deload week, but normally in the 4-8 week range.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
#3 The Less Exercises The Better
I would walk into the gym with my hoodie on and tank top underneath for a nice arm day.
I waited to get a pump going and then unveil the pythons. ( Mind you I was like 17 there was no pythons but I would be damned if you told me otherwise).
2 hours later and 69 exercises later I would be done, totally toast.
Not seeing much progress in my arm development I started to question why.
Number one it was probably due to what we just talked about above in the second beginner weight lifting tips and that is improper recovery.
Number two I realized, why am I doing all of these exercises?
I would easily crank out say 10 exercises for biceps and 10 exercises for triceps on my arm day (which having an entire day for just arms is nuts but that is a whole separate mistake).
Why? No clue really I thought I had to.
I would also go on instagram and see body builders doing certain exercises and thought “oh how I have to try that!”.
One of the biggest mistakes of my career by far. I talk all about how you need to stop doing random instagram workouts in a podcast HERE
It wasn’t until later I realized that less is more.
It is much less about doing 10 different exercises and not getting much out of any of them as it is much more about doing 3-6 exercises and absolutely smashing them.
My advice to you would be pick 3-6 movements say for your legs where you know you feel them great. You have really good mind muscle connection. They just overall feel good.
For example I absolutely hate back squatting. Never liked it and never will. It feels awkward and awful on my hips.
Yet I love front squatting. Feels much more natural, I can get proper range of motion and keep proper form (going back to the first beginner weight lifting tips!).
That is an exercise I will do because it feels great.
I would find those exercises for you and ride them out until the wheels fall off. Put all of your effort into those exercises. Make sure you get stronger at those exercises either by adding weight or adding reps.
I promise if you do that you will not need all of these different exercises because you will be seeing phenomenal results.
This actually leads me into my next tip which is, track your freaking workouts.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
#4 Track Your Progress
It is one thing to go into the gym and exercise. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.
Yet it is another thing to go into the gym and follow a training program to ensure you are seeing progress and results.
If you can read my chicken scratch above you will see I have my lower body quad dominant leg days written out in my training log.
The workout on 11/16/20 I did barbell front squats with 225lb for 1 st of 5 reps and 1 set of 4 reps.
The workout on 11/23/20 (the next week) I did the same exercise yet this time with 10 more lbs and 3 sets of 5 reps.
Now will your or my progress look like this every week? No absolutely not. The workout on 11/16 was my first week into this new program and I was feeling out the movement. The second workout I was able to be more confident and push myself a bit more.
Yet the overall theme here is I did more on the second workout than I did the previous one. That is what you need to be aiming for. Even if it is just one rep on one set of the day.
When it comes to changing your body you need to provide a stress great enough for your body to adapt to.
This can be done in the form of adding more weight, doing more reps, getting better form, to name a few things.
Yet the issue here is most people, myself included when I first started off, do not track their workouts.
You don’t track week to week how much weight you lifted on a certain exercise and how many reps you did, you just go in and workout.
Again, nothing wrong with that, but if you want to see the most maximal and optimal results possible, tracking your workouts is an absolute must.
Remember what gets tracked gets improved upon.
If you start tacking your weights you used, the sets you did, and the reps you did, guess what, I have a funny feeling all of those things are going to improve over time.
Guess what! If all of those things improve over time you will effectively grow stronger, more defined muscles and change your body.
If you want to know a bit more in depth on this topic I did an entire podcast HERE talking about the importance of why you need to track your workout progress.
Point being if you want to see the best results, start tracking your workouts, now.
Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
#5 No One Cares How Much You Bench
How much do you bench, brah?
Every 16 year old boys dream to have them get asked that and their answer is something absurd.
“Yea… just kidding… 135”.
The real point of this last tip of my beginner weight lifting tips is no one cares what weights you lift.
When you are at Walmart no one is going to judge you for whether you squat a 30lb dumbbell or a 300 lb barbell.
It doesn’t matter wether you curl 15 lbs or 50 lbs.
All of that is irrelevant. What matters is you bettering yourself.
This weight lifting journey is one that is supposed to be uplifting and bring a positive light to your life.
Don’t go into this journey doing this for anyone else but yourself because I promise if you do, you will not only make the mistakes I mentioned above but probably a whole lot more.
This journey is for you to gain self confidence and strength.
This is for you to feel more bad ass and improve your health.
This is not for anyone else but you.
Therefore do what you can.
If you can’t barbell back squat yet (or ever because I told you I hate them!), use a dumbbell and do a goblet squat.
If you can’t do a push up on the ground, do a push up with your hands elevated to a bench or box.
Point being, go in and do what you can to make yourself better.
This journey is yours and it is for you, nobody else.
Go kill it.
5 Beginner Weight Lifting Tips
Well that’s a wrap.
Trust me those are just of the 5 short mistakes I have made during my weight lifting career. I could go on for days about all of them but I will spare you the time and spare myself the embarrassment.
I hope this article gave you some beginner weight lifting tips that you can take with you and implement for a healthy, sustainable, and productive weight lifting career.
Remember, this is a career. You want to still be lifting weights 5, 10, 50 years from now, right?
Follow these tips and I promise they will help.
If you have any questions or concerns feel free to leave a comment below I would love to hear from you.
Talk soon, -E.