Emily Skye holds two dumbbells needed for weight training for beginners.
Emily Skye

Try weight training for beginners with this free workout

Emily Skye

Do you want to feel strong, capable and confident? This is exactly what happened for me when I started lifting weights. I know all that iron can seem intimidating, but I’m here to make it easy with your first beginner weight training routine.

Working out with weights is a great way to burn fat, increase stamina, improve heart health, and build a lean and defined body. It’s also really empowering, which is why I created Start Strong – my 4-week at-home strength training program, especially for women who are new to working out with weights. You can take on the program at any time by starting your free trial on FIT today.

To get you started, I’ve unlocked this 30-minute beginner strength training routine – including a warm-up and cool down – from Start Strong. We’ll do everything from squats for beginners to your very first deadlift! I’ve also included form tips on each exercise to help you nail it.

All you need to do this workout at home is a few key pieces of equipment. Let’s get to it!

Emily Skye, creator of the beginner weight training program Start Strong, holds a dumbbell in each hand.

Can’t wait to Start Strong? Start your free trial now to unlock the complete program.

What beginners need to know about weight training

For any good beginner weight training routine – including this workout – you will need a few basic pieces of equipment:

  • Dumbbells

  • A kettlebell

  • A bench or chair

You can easily find most of this equipment at your local sporting goods or department store, or online. Alternatively, you can try some of these home equipment swaps using household items you probably have lying around.

Once you’ve got the gear, you’ll need to get the lingo down! Strength training has a language of its own, but with these 4 essentials you’ll be ready to get lifting.

Rep: Short for repetitions, as in how many times you repeat a move. For instance, a bicep curl is an exercise where you raise a dumbbell to your shoulder, then lower it back down again – this up and back motion is 1 rep.

Set: Sets in a workout tell you how many times to do a collection of reps. Let’s say you’re doing squats and the workout calls for “3 sets of 5 reps”: you’ll do 5 squats (then rest) three times before moving on to the next exercise.

Round: Rounds are groupings of exercises that make up your entire workout. A round is usually made up of several different exercises, each performed for a certain number of reps and sets.

Rest: Rest breaks in a workout allow you to catch your breath and regain strength, then go into the next exercise with full intensity. A rest break could be anywhere from 10 to 120 seconds, depending on whether it’s between exercises, sets or rounds – my workouts will indicate this for you. You can stop completely or choose to do active rest, in which you keep moving through the break at a lower intensity, i.e. marching on the spot.

Are you ready to sweat and feel strong with me? This workout is taken from Start Strong, a program designed to help you nail the basics of weight training and build up your confidence.

Good form is crucial when lifting weights, so follow my technique in the exercise videos and the form tips closely. Take your time and don’t rush through the moves.

If this workout looks a little intimidating, that’s okay! Before trying Start Strong, you could always take on FIT Foundations, my true beginner program for people who are totally new to exercise. Think that’s the one for you? You can try your first FIT Foundations workout here for free.

Now you’re all set, grab your weights and let’s go!

Your beginner warm-up routine

This quick warm-up will get the oxygen and blood pumping to all those big muscle groups – especially in your lower body – so you're ready to make the most of your time on the mat.

Remember, it is okay if you feel out of breath during the warm-up, that’s totally normal. Just take it at your pace and keep moving. I know you can do it! Check out more form tips for each move in the warm-up sequence:

How to do jumping jacks: You know this move! Start standing upright, with your feet together and arms at your side. Jump your feet out to the side, and swing your arms out wide at the same time – so your body forms a star shape. Then jump your feet back together and arms back to your side. Continue at a steady pace.

How to do standing core twists: Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold your hands together in front of your chest, and engage your core by drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Twist from side to side, driving the movement from your torso (not your legs or glutes).

How to do leg swings: Stand beside a chair, holding the back with your left hand for support. Now swing your left leg forward and back, only as far as is comfortable. After 30 seconds, switch sides and swing your right leg.

How to do mountain climbers: Start in a push-up position, hands on the mat underneath your shoulders, and core engaged. Draw one knee in towards your chest, then return your foot back to the ground. Then draw the other knee towards your chest and repeat. Keep a steady pace to get your heart pumping.

How to do press + push squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, core engaged, and hands held in fists up at your shoulders. As you sit back and down into a squat, push your fists out in front of your body. Squeeze your glutes to push back up, and as you return to standing, press your fists up above your head. Repeat.

How to do a leaning overhead reach: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your hands held up near your shoulders. Drop into a mini squat, and as you do so, reach your right arm up to the opposite side of your head. Return to standing, then squat down and reach your left arm above the opposite side of your head. Repeat.

How to do plank shoulder taps: Take a high plank position, propped on your toes with your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders. Make sure your core is switched on, then lift one hand up to tap the opposite shoulder. Return it to the floor, then lift the other hand up to tap its opposite shoulder. Repeat.

How to do a single-leg glute activation exercise: Lay on your back, with knees bent and your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart. Pull your right leg up to your chest, holding it in place with both hands. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes and push through your heel to lift your hips into the air. Hold the bridge for a moment before lowering back down. After 30 seconds, switch and repeat while holding your left leg up to your chest. If you find this tough, keep both feet on the ground to perform a classic glute bridge.

How to do ankle taps: Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your core, reach your arms out by your sides, and lift your head so that the top of your back is off the floor. (Make sure you’re not straining your neck.) Using your abdominal muscles, reach your left hand down to tap your left ankle, then reach your right hand down to tap your right angle. Continue side to side at a steady pace.

Start your beginner weight training workout

Your lower body is the foundation of your strength, so in this session we're sending your legs, glutes and your entire posterior chain a wake-up call! Focus on getting a feel for the movement and getting your form right.

You can learn about each exercise in this beginner strength workout below:

How to do a modified dumbbell deadlift: In this modified deadlift, you only need to lower the weights to just below your knees – this will help you build up strength and good form before taking on classic deadlifts. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged, and arms straight so you are holding a dumbbell in each fist, in front of your thighs. Now hinge at the hips, lowering the dumbbells towards the top of your feet. Return to standing position with a strong core, and repeat.

How to do a dumbbell squat: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand up at your shoulders. Drive your hips back and down into a squat, keeping your core engaged, then push against the floor to rise back up, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. Repeat.

How to do a kettlebell swing: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and holding a kettlebell handle in both hands. To start the swinging motion you drive your booty back, allowing the kettlebell to swing back between your legs. Then drive your hips forward until your body is straight and the kettlebell swings up in front of your chest. Continue, making sure you’re using your glutes to drive the movement, your arms or momentum.

How to do around the world lunges: This exercise combines lunge variations to work your legs and glutes from all angles. Stand up tall, hands on hips, or braced in front of your chest. You’ll do three lunges on your right side, then flip the sequence with lunges on your left side. Start with your right leg, doing a forward lunge, side lunge into a squat, then reverse lunge – returning your foot to centre between each lunge. Now step back with your left leg into a reverse lunge, side lunge down into squat, forward lunge, and return to standing. Repeat the sequence.

How to do drop squats: Stand up tall, core engaged, with your feet around hip-width apart. Jump both feet out wide and drop down into a squat, then spring back up to standing. Keep your feet and knees soft to protect your joints.

How to do leg lowers: Lay flat on your back on the floor, with your arms above your head to aid balance. Engage your core and, keeping your feet together, raise your legs into the air – forming an L shape with your legs and torso. Lower your legs towards the floor, then bend your knees and draw your thighs back up towards your torso, followed by your feet to return your legs to an upright position. Think about it as a digger action, with your feet shovelling the ground towards your butt. Maintain a steady pace. If your lower back is arching off the floor, try lowering one leg at a time.

Cool-down with this beginner stretching session

Your muscles can be left in a shortened, contracted state after a big strength workout, so let's lengthen them back out with a few key cool-down stretches. The better your recovery, the better your gains!

How to do a thigh stretch: Kick your left heel back, grabbing the top of your foot with your hand, and use it to pull your heel up towards your butt. You should feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. Hold the stretch as long as you can (if it’s less than 30 seconds, reset and go again). After 30 seconds, swap sides and pull your right heel up to stretch out your right thigh.

How to do a shoulder stretch: Kneel on the floor, with your thighs and torso upright. Cross your left arm across your chest to the other side, then bring your right arm up (bent at the elbow) so it is holding your other arm in place. Now pull your right arm in towards your body, until you feel a stretch in your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.

How to do a tricep stretch: Kneel on the floor, with your thighs and torso upright. Bring your arms up above your head so your left hand is touching the back of your right shoulder, and your right hand is gripping your left elbow. Now pull your left elbow to the right, until you feel a stretch at the back of your arm. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch and repeat on the other side.

How to do a back leg stretch: Sit on the floor with your left leg extended, and the other leg bent so your right foot is tucked in near your left knee. Keeping your back straight, tip forward at the hips, reaching your hand towards your left foot. You will feel the stretch through the back of your thigh. Tip as far forward as you can manage, and hold the stretch. After 10 seconds or so, as your muscle loosens, you may be able to lean into it a little more, to increase the stretch. Don’t rush it – you’ll get more flexible as you continue to exercise and stretch. After 30 seconds, swap sides to stretch out your right hamstring.

How to do an overhead lat stretch: Kneel on the floor, with your thighs and torso upright. Bring your hands together above your head, keeping your arms close to your ears. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. While holding this position, lean to the left – you will feel the stretch down the opposite side. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to centre, then lean to the right and repeat.

How to do a neck stretch: Kneel on the floor, with your thighs and torso upright. Keeping your right hand down by your side or behind your back, reach your left to the other side of your head, holding it just above your right ear. Now gently pull your head down towards your left shoulder – you will feel the stretch down the side of your neck. When you feel the stretch, hold it there. If the stretch weakens, pull your head a little further until you feel it again. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Make sure that it’s only your neck (not your torso) leaning to the side.

You did it! You’ve taken the first step in your weight training journey. Are you ready to start building your strongest body ever? Start your free trial and discover the rest of the Start Strong program today.

Emily Skye
Personal trainer • Founder

Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.

Emily Skye
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