For many gym-goers, the goal isn’t 20-inch biceps. It’s more likely about getting in great shape— and feeling great along the way. While cardio’s killer for building endurance and shedding pounds, there’s a big case for weights, from the classic dumbbells and barbells to kettlebells and beyond. Studies suggest weight training at least three days a week not only builds muscle, but can also help reduce body fat, boost metabolism, and build bone density better than aerobic exercise alone Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.Kraemer, W.J., Volek, J.S., Clark, K.L., et al. Department of Kinesiology, Noll Physiological Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 1999 Sep; 31(9): 1320-9. The impact of exercise and diet restriction on daily energy expenditure.Poehlman, E.T., Melby, C.L., Goran, M.I. College of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. Sports Medicine 1991 Feb; 11(2): 78-101. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Layne, J.E., Nelson, M.E. Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 1999 Jan;31(1):25-30.. Lifting weights has also been linked to improved cardiovascular health Concurrent resistance and aerobic training as protection against heart disease. Shaw, I., Shaw B., Brown G., et al. Department of Marketing and Sport Management, Vaal University of Technology, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. Cardiovascular Journal of Africa July 2010..

But when it comes to hitting the weights, getting started is often the biggest obstacle. With seemingly countless training styles for a range of goals, just knowing where to begin can easily turn off any weight room rookie. To help take the edge off jumping in, the Greatist team headed over to Crunch Fitness, where trainers Anja Koschak and Damien Bourbeau took our testers through two fully-body, beginner-friendly resistance workouts. Read on to get their programs, tips, and takeaways for a smoother introduction to hitting the weights.

Program A With Anja Koschak

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Emphasis: Overall toning/fat loss

Warm Up: 4-minute jog on the treadmill, followed by a 5-minute heart rate-boosting series of walking lunges, partner resistance band sprints, and medicine ball throws.

1. Step-ups x 12 reps each leg 2. Dumbbell lunges x 12 reps each leg Repeat superset 3 times through with minimal rest Rest 2-3 minutes

3. Seated machine shoulder press x 10 reps 4. Dumbbell burpee with overhead press x 10 reps Repeat superset 3 times through with minimal rest

Rest 2-3 minutes

5. Cable woodchoppers x 12 per side

Adjust height from high, middle, to low for a total of 3 sets

Rest 2-3 minutes

6. BOSU ball planks on forearms, 30 sec

7. BOSU ball planks on hands, 30 sec 8. BOSU ball side planks, 30 sec

Full-body stretch

What our Greatist tester, Kate, had to say: “The moves were simple and self-explanatory, which I think can be a concern for beginners who want to make sure they don't look like they’re beginners.” While the burpee/shoulder press supersets were "brutal," Kate loved the BOSU ball planks and woodchoppers. “Anja set the weight about 10 lbs heavier than I would have myself and I did it with very little problem, which was a super rewarding feeling.”

What our Greatist tester, Max, had to say: “The most rewarding part of the workout was completing the burpees. The speed necessary to do the exercise was grueling, and was killer on the shoulders— but I could tell it was doing a lot for my entire body.”

Program B With Damien Bourbeau

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Emphasis: Functional strength training

Warm-Up: 4-minute incline walk on treadmill, followed by a 6-minute heart rate-boosting series of jumping jacks, planks, cross jacks, side planks, low jacks, and knee-to-elbow planks.

1. TRX (or bodyweight) jump squats, max reps in 30 sec

2. TRX row, max reps in 30 sec Repeat superset three times through with minimal rest Rest 2-3 minutes

3. Kettlebell swings x 20 reps

4. Push-ups x 10 reps Repeat superset three times through with minimal rest *On the last set of kettlebell swings try 5 reps with two arms, into 10 reps (each arm) Rest 2-3 minutes

5. Single leg bridge x 15 reps (each leg)

6. Mountain climbers, 60 sec Repeat superset two times through

Full-body stretch

What our Greatist tester, Kate, had to say: “I love the fact that most of the exercises we did were body weight only. I think that makes it a little less scary for beginners. I think there is a misconception that if you aren't using added weight you're not really working hard— but I have learned quickly in the last few weeks that you absolutely are! I think Damien said it very well— 'you have to earn the right to lift weight.'”

What our Greatist tester, Max, had to say: “The most rewarding portion of the workout was the back-to-back sets of the rows and jump squats. It was good to feel the alternating burn in the upper and lower body.” And while Max admits that hitting the gym isn’t his favorite to-do, he “liked that the workout involved no machines, so it could be done anywhere.”

Tips From Our Experts

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Keep these quick tips on hand for a safe and effective weight training session:

  • Warm it up. While it may be tempting to jump the gun, a warm-up is key to increasing heart rate and blood flow— and ensuring a safe and injury-free workout. Try some light cardio followed by dynamic stretching and/or dynamic exercises (as suggested above).
  • Mix n’ Match. Lucky for us, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to strength training. Varying workouts to include a mix of dumbbells, barbell movements, kettlebells, resistance bands, and body weight exercises is one of the most effective ways to stay challenged and engaged.
  • Triple Up. Ready to skedaddle after the first set? Think twice— or thrice, that is. Studies suggest completing at least three sets of each exercise is the magic number to seeing strength improvements and increased muscle tone Three sets of weight training superior to 1 set with equal intensity for eliciting strength. Rhea, M.R., Alvar, B.A., Ball, S.D., et al. Exercise and Wellness Research Laboratory, Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2002 Nov; 16(4): 525-9..
  • Go Naturale. While machines have their place, compound movements (including free weights and body weight) work multiple joints and muscles and are generally more effective at engaging the core.
  • Multitask. Now here’s a win-win. Supersets (read: back-to-back exercises with little to no rest in between) not only save time, they’re shown to blast more calories The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adultsKelleher, A.R., Hackney, K.J., Fairchild, T.J., et al. Musculoskeletal and Human Performance Laboratories, Department of Exercise Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2010 Apr; 24(4): 1043-51..
  • Add Aminos. Among the many pros to protein shakes? Studies show a post-workout chug can help decrease fatigue, maintain exercise performance, and hasten the muscle recovery process Effects of an amino acid carbohydrate drink on exercise performance after consecutive-day exercise bouts. Skillen, RA., Testa, M., Applegate, EA., et al. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 2008 Oct;18(5):473-92..
  • Toss the Scale. While it can be a good motivator for some, not everyone will see that number budge quickly, despite their progress.
  • Find Balance. For a 5-day-a-week workout schedule, try making strength training a priority for 2 to 3 of those days.

How did you get started on your strength training journey? Share your favorite routines and tips below!

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