Beginner’s Guide to Weight Training Exercises
Don’t let inexperience hold you back from learning the best weight training routine—get on track with our fitness tips for fast fat loss and better core strength.
Q: What exercises should I do?
A: Build your workout around compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, chin- ups, and dips for the fastest muscle and strength gains, as well as fat loss.
And don't think about exercises in terms of "body parts"—that's an outdated approach that often leads to strength imbalances and workouts that train the same muscles on back-to-back days. (For instance, the bench press doesn't just work your chest, but your shoulders and triceps, too.) Instead, plan your exercises around movement patterns: pushing (bench presses, shoulder presses, squats) and pulling (chin-ups, rows, deadlifts). Perform an equal number of push and pull exercises, using the recommendations provided in "How often should I lift?" Do a total-body "push-pull" workout three days a week, or a split routine in which you either do both push and pull movements each session, or push movements one workout and pull movements the next.
Q: What do I wear?
A: Rule number one: Avoid those undersized nylon shorts that show more thigh than a Mariah Carey miniskirt. Instead, keep them long and loose, so they fall somewhere between your knees and mid-thigh. Here's what to put on the rest of your body, along with five of our favorite locker-room essentials to fill up your bag.
Nike ankle socks ($5) and muscle shirt ($45)
Adidas AdiStar Cushion sneakers ($100)
Puma shorts ($35)
Reebok Vector gym bag ($32)
J.Crew flip-flops ($12).
Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio deodorant ($15)
Old Spice deodorant body spray ($3)
Neutrogena Men shave cream ($5)
Armani Mania body shampoo ($25)
Q: Should I hire a personal trainer?
A: You don't need a $60-an-hour rep counter. But finding a trainer who will give you short-term exercise instruction and a long- term plan is worth the money. (The fee should include an initial assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.) The other option: Educate yourself to the level of a trainer with this magazine.
Q: How often should I lift?
A: One of the biggest mistakes guys make is trying to move iron five or six days a week. That's a mentality that was popularized by professional bodybuilders in the '80s. (The same guys who brought us orange skin.) Read: Unless you're receiving regular shipments from a Mexican pharmacy, your muscles need time to recover. So typically, three or four workouts a week is best, depending on your goals.
For adding muscle size and strength, a three- or four-day split routine that works your lower and upper body on separate days allows you to work both areas intensely while providing the extra time needed for recovery. For instance, you might do a lower-body workout on Monday, an upper-body blast on Tuesday, and then rest for two days before repeating. That gives you three full days of rest between each type of workout. Or you could alternate between lower body and upper body three days a week, working your lower body twice and your upper body once one week, and your upper body twice and lower body once the next.
For fat loss, three total-body workouts is the most effective method. That's because you'll work more total muscle—and burn more calories—than you would by dividing your workout into upper- and lower-body routines. Since you're working your entire body in each workout, you'll want to avoid lifting on back-to-back days, resting at least a day between each session.