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Beginners guide to effective weight training workouts

Part of our process at Fit to Last is to perform resistance exercises with as heavy a weight as your form will allow. 

This means if you can complete the exercise with the correct form, we’ll keep adding weight until you can’t perform the movement correctly. 

The reason why we do this is because we want the resistance used to stimulate development of lean muscle. To do this the weight must be challenging. If it isn’t you’ll sweat but your body won’t change.

Weight training for beginners

The development of lean muscle mass is beneficial for the following reasons:  

Improving and maintaining your weight

As you build more lean muscle, you burn more calories when training or not. This is because muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain than fat tissue. In short, you’ll burn more calories standing still, which will help you maintain the bodyweight you want to be at. 

Improving and maintaining your body shape

As muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue, your shape will change even if your weight doesn’t.  

Strengthening and maintaining your joints

By building lean muscle and performing exercises correctly with progressively heavy weights, the ligaments surrounding your joints will become more robust also. This means your joints will be more stable when you move and when you stand still. 

As fun and exciting as these benefits are, it doesn’t change the fact that weight training can be daunting. The following five strategies will help you to get the most out of your weight training.  

(Please note: when you train at Fit to Last our coaching team will take you through all of the following steps. These tips will help you when you want to train on your own). 

1. Improve your confidence in the gym with a little preparation

We often hear people talk about ‘gym anxiety’. They feel self-conscious going to the gym. They have no idea what they’re going to do when they get there. They end up wondering around aimlessly and feeling a little foolish. Ever get that feeling? Boost your confidence when working out at the gym by following these tips to prepare:

Have a workout ready to complete

Rather than deciding what to do at the gym. Decide on the exact weights workout you’ll do before you get there. This should help you by removing the pressure of trying to make this decision in front of an audience. Being able to focus on completing a plan you’ve already made will also help you to move around the gym with purpose. Knowing what you’re doing will help you to feel more confident at the gym. You’ll feel less self-conscious about what’s happening around you as you’ll be focused on following your plan.


We’ve prepared a beginners weight lifting workout for men and women. Simply click the button below to download the PDF.

Familiarise yourself with the equipment you’ll use

When you arrive at your gym, read through your workout to familiarise yourself with it. 

Also, familiarise yourself with the equipment you’ll use. Look out for where it’s located in the gym. If you’re not sure, ask a member of staff. You can even show them your workout and ask where each piece of equipment is located. 

2. Warm up with lighter weights

Before lifting heavy, start with lighter weights to get warm. Yes, you’ve completed your warm-up when you started, but make sure you warm up the movement patterns you choose. 

Warming up the movement pattern with lighter weights will help you mentally prepare yourself for the heavier loads you’ll be lifting. It will also remind you of the correct technique under less stress.  

By going through practice runs using lighter loads, your body and mind will be fully equipped for the challenges you’re undertaking. 


The key point to remember when choosing your weights is to select enough resistance to make the exercise challenging but doable.

For example, if an exercise calls for completing sets of 10 repetitions, choose a weight where you can complete 10, maybe 11 of that movement with perfect form.

If you choose too light a weight, you’ll be able to keep doing the exercise all day and not benefit as a result. (Except for getting a little puffed and spending more time in the gym than you need to). If you choose too heavy a weight you won’t be able to complete as many repetitions and/or your form will be compromised, preventing you from completing the exercise as effectively as possible.

It may take a bit of trial and error, but by making the effort to find that ‘challenging but effective’ weight, you’ll get more out of your exercise and see results faster. Remember to start light and build up to a heavier weight. Also, use the mirror to check and make sure your form is good. Upon completing a set, ask yourself if you felt the movement in the right areas of your body. If you did, brilliant. If you didn’t, it’s time to reassess that form and make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly.

4. Become comfortable ‘feeling uncomfortable’ 

There can be a feeling of losing control when you first push yourself more with resistance. You worry you’ll injure yourself; you worry you can’t do the weight you’ve chosen. In general, you doubt yourself. 

Here are a few ways to feel more comfortable as your weights get heavier. 

Focus on your breathing

Focused breathing accomplishes two things. It helps you feel more relaxed and it helps you to brace your spine.  

By inhaling deeply as you prepare for the movement and then exhaling explosively as you execute the movement, you’ll brace your spine so your body is safer as you lift.  Additionally, the deep breathing will trigger a relaxation response will help you stay calm as you exercise.  


Pay attention to the position of your feet. By keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, your entire body will feel balanced before you start with the exercise itself. 

5. Remember why you’re lifting  

Weights are challenging. You’re doing the exercise because you want to improve yourself. So, if you ever start to listen to that little voice in your head saying ‘run…go to the sofa’, remember the reason why you started weight training. 

I always tell our members ‘being a super-hero was never going to be easy’…you haven’t chosen an easy path, but the rewards waiting when you consistently complete the work will vastly outweigh the short-term discomfort and self-doubt you may be feeling. 

So, get to work, and reward yourself for your efforts. 


James Staring

James Staring is a personal trainer based in Clapham, London. His methods have featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Hello, Healthy, Daily Mail, Closer, and many more. After giving up smoking and entering the fitness industry in 2009, James has focused on his passion to help others transform their health and fitness. However, James is convinced most people struggle so much more than they need to in an effort to improve their fitness. Through his company, Fit to Last, James has helped hundreds of men and women make small adjustments in their daily habits to transform their fitness and to love how they look and feel.