"I want to lift weights!"

But you have no idea how to start, right?

I lift weights. I love the challenge. I love the effort it takes. And I love what it does to my body. 

This could be a post about the benefits of weight lifting, how to work it into other cross training workouts, or safety tips... but it's not. This post talks about A FEW WAYS you can organize exercises into an effective workout. So here it goes.

Of course no recommendation is right for EVERY BODY and there may be differences depending on your fitness level, knowledge of biomechanics and familiarity with the gym equipment. Please be sure to get clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise program!


Don't just walk into the gym and do whatever you see the guy or gal next to you is doing. First you have to decide what your goal is. If you are just starting out lifting weights and you want to condition your body for the demands of weight lifting, I say consider 2-3 full body workouts per week (for the time being) in order to wake everything up. 

If you are off-and-on in your weight training and are trying to become more regular, maybe start with 1 full body workout, 1 push workout and 1 pull workout for a while until it's time to change it up. 

If you are trying to sculpt and/or chisel, you'll want to do 4-5 days of lifting and break those days into various muscle groups. 


You should be familiar the names of basic exercises and what muscle groups they target. You could divide the muscle groups by location:

UPPER: Shoulders, Chest, Biceps, Triceps, Upper Back, Lower Back, Lats

LOWER: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves

CORE: Abdominals, Lats, Lower Back

Or you could divide muscle groups by general function: (though not every muscle group has ONLY 1 job)

PUSH: Shoulders, Chest, Triceps, Quads, Glutes, Calves

PULL: Upper Back, Lower Back, Lats, Biceps, Hamstrings, Glutes

STABILIZE: Abdominals, Lower Back, Lats

Once you divide your muscle groups into categories, learn what basic exercises target each of those muscle groups. I have a personal trainer certification from ACE (American Council on Exercise), so I like to recommend their website as a valuable resource. You can go to: https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-main/ to see the many exercises they have in their library and learn proper form!


Want to do a Full Body Workout?

If you are doing a full body workout and have 1 hour to commit to strength training, I suggest using 'active recovery' (meaning alternate between 2 exercises that target completely different areas; i.e. lower/upper) OR use 'supersets' if you're on the more fit side (meaning alternate between 2 exercises that utilize some of the same muscle groups for a greater challenge).

Reps/Sets/Weight??? How do I choose?

If you are doing a full body workout, chances are you are at a fitness level that would benefit from 3 sets, 12-15 reps with a weight that really challenges you by rep #8-10.

Want to do a Push Workout?

If you are doing a push muscles workout, look back at your library and fill your workout with exercises that target only those push muscle groups. You can create a long circuit (5-10 exercises where you perform one set of each exercise until completion then go back and repeat that 3-5 times) or use active recovery (alternating between 2 exercises; 1 lower and 1 upper push exercises).

Reps/Sets/Weight? How do I choose?

If you are doing this more concentrated Push workout, chances are you could do less reps and a little heavier weight because you are more fit and your muscles, tendons and ligaments are all conditioned for the workload. 

4 sets, 10-12 reps, with a weight that really challenges you by rep #6-10 should be affective. 

Want to do a Pull Workout?

Same idea as a Push Workout, but create your workout with exercises from pull muscle groups. Again, a circuit (5-10 exercises in a row repeated 3-5 times) or active recovery work quite well. 

What about ABS?

You could throw Abs into a workout anytime, every time or throughout the workout if you want to. I think it's always best to challenge the core as much as possible. The only time you shoulder consider NOT doing abs is if they are sore, fatigued from a past workout or if you've already worked them specifically two times that week. Working abs more than 3 times in a week is a little overkill and you probably aren't giving them an affective workout if you could target them daily. 

I think in one workout 3 different exercises for abs, 3 sets each, and at 15-30 reps per set is a solid workout. 


These are just my rudimentary suggestions based on 12 years of certification as an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and an avid weight lifter - notice I did NOT say body builder. Always make sure you are working in a way that benefits YOUR specific needs and that you only compare yourself to yourself from yesterday, nobody else!

Thanks for reading! Now go pick up a weight!


Photo Credit: Brandon Showers
Wardrobe provided by: Yummy and Trendy (look for their awesome workout gear straight out of NYC!)