A beginner’s guide to strength training

Image by: Kendra Pierroz
Bateman recommends making a schedule and staying consistent.

So you want to get big and strong? It’s a simple process: lift, eat well, rest and repeat. Continue this routine for approximately four years or so and you’ll be golden. 

While this may seem a little intimidating, if there’s one key to success in the gym, it’s consistency. Each training session is of the utmost importance; it takes a lot of small steps to make big changes.

However, for beginners these small steps can be unclear. To follow is a simple routine that has been proven effective on individuals starting out in strength training. 

The routine I’ll be recommending is a variation of “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe, a full body routine that you’ll do three times per week. Each exercise has three  sets of five repetitions, unless otherwise specified. Between each set you should rest as long as you need, but usually around one or two minutes is good. 

As for the weights used, it’s best to start with just the bar on all lifts in order to learn the form. For lower body lifts (Deadlift/Squat) advance by 10 lbs every week and on upper body lifts advance by 5 lbs. It will feel too easy when you start, but in a few months you’ll be working for it. Make sure to eat enough food to facilitate the necessary growth. When the lifts stop progressing, try decreasing the weight by 10 lbs or so and then working your way back up. Once you’ve stopped progressing entirely, then it’s time to start a new routine. 

Workout A and Workout B are very similar, but it’s important you alternate between them each training day. Make a schedule for the week that will include a minimum of three training days with rest days in between. 

Workout A (#sets x #repetition) 

  • Squat – 3 x 5
  • Bench Press – 3 x 5
  • Deadlift – 3 x 5
  • Pull Ups – 3 x failure (as many as you can) (If you can’t do a full bodyweight pull up, then use the pull down machine instead. Pick a weight you can do for about 10 reps)

Workout B (#sets x #repetition) 

  • Squat – 3 x 5
  • Overhead Press – 3 x 5
  • Deadlift – 3 x 5
  • Pull Ups – 3 x failure

SQUAT: Keep your feet a little over a shoulder width apart and make sure your knee travels over your middle toe. Point your feet outward slightly and stick your butt back as you squat. Make sure to put your weight on your heels, rather than the balls of your feet.

BENCH PRESS: While lying down, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down as you bench and always keep your feet planted firmly on the floor. Keep your butt firmly on the bench, creating an arch in your lower back. Touch the bar to the bottom of your sternum.

DEADLIFT: Keeping your back straight is essential. Drive through your heels and lift the bar off the ground. This lift is both the most simple and complex in terms of technique. Don’t overthink it. Back straight, drive through the heels.

OVERHEAD PRESS: Squeeze your glutes and also squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Stay balanced on your heels.

To learn the form of all these exercises, never be afraid to ask for guidance from fellow gym goers. Those with lots of experience will gladly help you out and show you how to improve your form. Videos of powerlifters are also a great resource.

If there’s one thing to remember: regardless of what program you’re doing, consistency and discipline are the real keys to success.


Fitness, gym, strength and conditioning, weight training, Workout

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Queen's Journal

© All rights reserved.

Back to Top
Skip to content