Beginner’s Weightlifting Program


There are a million workout plans out there both free and for purchase--here’s a great way to start off!


It’s tempting for sure--but you GOTTA do it! It’s sort of tradition to warm up on a cardio machine for 5-10 minutes and that’s a great general warm up (esp for lower body), but we also recommend you add in some mobility drills or dynamic flexibility exercises:

Arm circles

Trunk circles

Leg swings

Spider man steps


Body weight lunges

High knees

Good mornings

To increase your performance and decrease risk of injury do at least one or two light non-fatiguing sets of each exercise before moving on to your heavy works sets.

When you are working with a specific rep range, it sure helps to choose the right weight! If your target rep ranges is 10-15 reps (like the movements below), you should be able to do at least the lower number (10). If you can only do 6 reps, for example, the weight is too heavy. If you can hit the upper number (15) and it was easy, that’s your signal that the weight was too light and you should increase it.

The rep ranges below are a little higher to give you opportunity to practice proper form and ingrain new movement patterns BEFORE adding heavy loads.

1. Dumbbell Split Squat: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward into a lung (split) position, with one leg in front and one leg in back. Squat dwon, lowering your back knee until it almost touches the floor. Stand back up, keeping a slight bend in your front leg so you maintain tension on your thighs

2. Romanian Dead Lift with dumbbells: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing your body (pronated). Stand up tall with your feet no wider than shoulder width apart. Slowly bend forward, hinging at the waist. Keep your knees slightly bent and the dumbbells close to your body as you bend forward and lower the weights toward the floor. Keep your entire core tight and maintain a neutral back position, which means a flat back or a slight arch in your lower back; do not round over your back. Return to standing-straight-up starting position.

3. One-Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 setx x 10-15 reps

Grab one dumbbell with your right hand and place your left hand on a bench, chair or ledge for support. Step back with your right leg so you have a stable support base. From arm’s length, pull the dumbbell up to your waist. Keep your palm facing your body and keep your head up and back flat throughout the exercise. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down until your arm is straight and you feel a stretch. Switch arms and repeat.

4. Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Grab a set of dumbbells and lie on your back on a bench. Begin with the dumbbells at arm’s length over your chest, palms facing your feet. Lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest, then press them back up to the starting position. If you train at home and don’t have a bench, you can substitute push-ups. Since it’s a body weight exercise, you can keep increasing your reps beyond 15 each week instead of adding weight.

5. Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Grab a set of dumbbells and sit on the edge of a bench or chair. Begin with the dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing away from your body. Press the dumbbells up unitl your arms are straight overhead. Slowly lower back to the starting position. You can also do this exercise standing.

6. Overhead Dumbbell Extension: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Standing or sitting on the edge of a chair, hold a single dumbbell between both hands, cupping the weight so one side of the bell rests in the palms of your hand. Start with the weight over your head and your arms fully extended. Lower the dumbbell behind your head by bending at the elbows. Push the dumbbell back over your head (extend) until your arms are straight again.

7. Dumbbell Curl: 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, or seated on the edge of a bench or chair, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing up. Curl both dumbbells up together to shoulder height. At the top of the movement, your palms should be facing upward. Hold the contraction briefly and squeeze the biceps, then slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position. Keep your torso vertical and avoid leaning back.

8. Single Calf Raise with Dumbbell: 3 sets x 15-20 reps

Stand on the edge of a step, a block of wood, or a thick book with the ball of your right foot on the edge. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, rise up on the ball of your foot as high as you can go. Drop your heel below the edge until you feel a slight stretch in your calf. Repeat for the desired number of reps; then, without stopping, switch to the left leg and repeat.

9. Plank: 3 sets x 30-60 seconds

Lie on your stomach on an exercise mat or carpeted surface. Prop your body up on your forearms and position your body in a straight line from head to feet. Hold the straight line position with your body several inches off the floor for 30 seconds. Increase your hold time by 10 seconds each week until you reach 1 minute per set (hold longer if you’re an overachiever).

10. Crunches or bicycle crunches (a.k.a. “Air bike” crunches): 3 sets 15-20 reps

Lie flat on your mack on a mat or soft surface with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (or your heels on the edge of a bench or chair). Raise your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor in a curling motion, contracting your abdominals. To involve the oblique muscles on the side of the waist more heavily, perform the bicycle crunch variation, where you perform the crunch with a twist, touching your elbow to the opposite knee.

Where to go next?

Changing exercises and other program variables every few months gives your body new challenges and keeps training interesting!

There are a handful of very important basic movement patterns including squats, lunges (split squats), dead lifts, rows, pull-ups, chest presses, and shoulder (overhead) presses. Master these! They will always be a major part of your training plans. There are countless variations on each of these movements: barbell and dumbbell versions, different stances or grip positions, different bars etc. You can use these variations on the basics to mix things up without getting away from the primary movements.

The “big lifts” --multi joint, compound exercises such as squats, dead lifts, rows and presses are the most challenging movements. But they also have the highest calorie burn and are the most effective muscle builders.