How to Get Stronger As a Beginner: 3 Key Rules
All right so today we're going to talk about how to get stronger as a beginner, specifically, I'm going to give you three key tips to improve your strength as quickly and simply as possible. If you're a beginner weightlifter, powerlifter or just someone that's a
beginner to strength training in general, this is the article for you. We'll be covering:
This article is also available in video form if you prefer...
Who Am I To Tell You How to Get Strong As a Beginner?
All right, so professionally I'm a strength & conditioning coach and I've been lucky
enough to work with a lot of performance pathways, including hundreds of adult beginners plus junior athletes all the way from 11 up to 18.
So I have a lot of experience getting people who are brand new to the gym strong. Plus, loads of these folks were also training 18 to 20 hours a week for their
respective sports (tennis, gymnastics, swimming etc) so they were likely FAR more fatigued and tired than most people.
Get Stronger As a Beginner Rule Number 1: Recognise that you ARE a beginner
The biggest mistake that I see beginner strength trainee's make is training in a way that is just not appropriate for their level. You need to start where you are at and acknowledge that you are not an intermediate or an advanced athlete yet. That means you don't just go and copy some random online strength program that has an absolute tonne of training volume. You really don't need loads of sets, loads of reps and loads of different exercises. Best case scenario, you do loads of extra unnecessary work that doesn't actually get you any stronger. Worst-case scenario all that extra 'strength work' gets you injured and you end up weaker. Keep things simple and appropriate to your training level.
Get Stronger As a Beginner Rule Number 2: Use Only A Small Handful of Strength Exercises
As a beginner, your best results are going to come from choosing a small selection of compound, multi-joint exercises. These are going to give you the biggest
bang for your buck.
Think about it, if you're just getting into strength training why would you need 10 different leg exercises to get stronger? Plus, wouldn't learning 10 exercises be a massive waste of time? Instead, what you really need is to pick a small handful of key exercises, learn the right technique, and start adding weight as safely and as often as possible.
Beginner Strength Squat Exercises
Barbell Back Squat
I also like variations such as Goblet squats with a dumbbell, as they're a good way to reinforce a solid upright squat position.
Beginner Strength Upper body Pushing Pattern Exercises
I'm also a fan of other simple pressing exercises such as press-ups, overhead presses and dumbbell bench presses. Just pick whichever you prefer.
Beginner Strength Upper Body Pulling Pattern
Other great exercise options include pull-ups, as well as dumbbell rows. Just choose whichever exercise you prefer and stick with it.
Beginner Strength Hinge Pattern
Another option I like to recommend are Romanian deadlifts (RDL's) Just like with the other exercise selections, feel free to pick the one you prefer and stick with it.
Sets and Reps to Get Stronger As a Beginner
Again, this is another area where beginners tend to mess up by overcomplicating things. All you need to do to get stronger as a beginner is to pick a set and rep scheme that isn't completely bonkers and stick with it. Generally speaking anything between 2-5 sets of 4 to 10 reps will work great for a beginner. That could be...
Genuinely, it doesn't matter. Personally, I've coached hundreds of people using all of these set and rep schemes in some form or another, and every single one of them has gotten significantly stronger.
This brings me to my third rule...
Get Stronger As a Beginner Rule Number 3: Consistency Above All Else
Another huge mistake that I see beginners do in the gym when they're
trying to get really strong is just being way too inconsistent.
One week they're training six or seven times a week or doing double day
sessions and screaming "no pain no gain"
And then the next week they're sat on the couch not even training.
If you really want to get stronger as a beginner then you need to cut silly stuff like that out.
"Instead, just pick two or three days a week and commit to consistently completing those sessions."
Then, if you want to move up to training four days after a few months of training that's
completely cool, but you've got to earn the right to do that. And you earn that right through consistently following your programme for a good few months.
I can guarantee you that you are gonna get stronger, as long as you are consistently
hammering the basics. So don't get distracted doing all this sexy stuff and these crazy exercises and programmes you see all the advanced people doing because there's time for that later.
Right now, you can make the best progress of your life simply by committing to consistently training the same selection of compound exercises for the next few months.
Example Beginner Strength Programmes
Bench Press 3x6
Exactly the same but with slightly more weight.
Another approach could be...
Goblet Squat 3x10
Dumbbell Bench Press: 3x10
Dumbbell RDL: 3x10
Exactly the same but with slightly more weight.
You get the idea.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Get Stronger As a Beginner
How much strength can a beginner gain?
Beginners can get stronger really quickly. In the squat many beginners can increase the amount they lift by 2.5kg per session for months in a row. In the bench press many beginners can increase by 1.25kg per session for months in a row. This means that beginners can add 40-80kg to their lifts within 12 to 16 weeks.
How long should a beginner do strength training?
I've found that most beginners do best with workouts that last no longer than 60 minutes. Much more than that and fatigue starts to set in really fast.
What is the fastest way to build strength?
Simple, by following the 3 rules in this article. Perform a small selection of compound exercises for 2-5 sets of 4-10 reps two to three times per week. Do so consistently for the next few months, avoiding all distractions and shiny objects.
Can a beginner do strength training at home?
Absolutely, press-ups and pull-ups are great options. As are things like goblet squats with a dumbbell, as well as dumbbell RDL's.
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'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc
Alex's experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.