17 Training Tips For Beginners

When you start going to the gym or training regularly for the first time, it can be daunting, intimidating and confusing. There is a ton of information out there, and everyone has a different idea of what is the right or wrong way to train, how to get 6 pack abs, how to get bigger arms, how to get a bigger chest.

So what we wanted to do is help simplify things for you with the 17 key training tips a beginner such as yourself should know. Don’t worry about anything else or anything more complicated until you can get your head around these.

1. Don’t Waste Your Time On The Treadmill

If you’re just starting out then the best thing you can be doing in the gym is lifting weights. Resistance training strengthens muscles, tendons, reduces injury risk if done correctly, strengthens bones and continues burning calories for up to 48 hours after the end of the session.

2. Write Down What You’re Going To Do Before You Get To The Gym

You don’t need to know the exact weight you’ll use but make sure you have a clear idea of the muscle groups you’re wanting to work (could be as simple as “legs” or “upper body”) and the exercises you intend to do. If you end up doing extra that’s fine but having a plan stops you from floating around the gym with no direction.

3. Stick To Compound Exercises

Movements like Back Squat, Front Squat, Bench Press, Dumbbell Row and Deadlift. If you’re just starting out then you don’t want to be isolating your forearms with wrist curls, the best muscle mass builders are the exercises that recruit the largest muscles in the simplest way.

Beginners should focus on compound lifts like the back squat

4. Opt For Simple Exercises

Don’t worry about attempting a hack squat when a regular squat will do. Some people get dragged into the latest quirky new exercise and needlessly over-complicate things, don’t be that guy.

5. Stay In The Higher Rep Range

Start off aiming for 8-12 reps per set, get used to the movement and engaging the right muscles. Don’t worry about attempting any 1 rep maxes. Most newbies don’t have the mind-muscle connection to get 100% out of their body anyway.

6. Record Your Results

One of the most motivating things about strength training is lifting a personal best, so make sure you have a training log either on your computer or in a notebook and keep track of your progress each session. Start to find that progression and you should see that you can handle an extra rep or a little more weight each week.

7. Don’t Use A Weight That’s Too Heavy For You

Be honest with yourself, try and leave the macho behaviour behind and forget what anyone thinks about you. Too heavy a weight will not only lead to injury and excess strain on joints that aren’t ready to handle it, but it also tends to mean you’re compromising your movement and not getting the most out of the exercise.

8. Look At Proper Form And Technique On Videos

Doing the exercise correctly is hugely important, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you attempt an exercise. Remember not everyone on the internet knows what they’re talking about, so look at a few videos of each and take note of the coaching points.

Want to train your arms? Here’s a top 20 for the biceps

9. Don’t Worry About What Everyone Else Is Doing

90% of the people in the gym are probably doing an exercise wrong, so just try to focus on your own workout and don’t pay attention to them. If they’re lifting twice what you are with poor form the chances are you’re actually working your muscles harder.

10. Get The Right Tempo

Try not to rush through reps, avoid any jerking motions or using momentum to finish the reps. Keep in control at all times, it will work your stabiliser muscles harder if you take your time.

11. Consistency Is Key

Make time for the gym several times a week, every week. You lose your gains twice as fast as you get them, so do your best to not skip any sessions and you will reap the benefits.

12. Stick To The Program

Once you’ve established your weekly routine, try to keep doing those exercises and seeing progression with them. Is easy to get distracted by the latest new workout in a magazine or to feel like your program isn’t working, but give it at least 8 weeks before changing anything.

5/3/1 calculator
Programs like 5/3/1 are good for beginners if you don’t rush to increase the weight

13. Get Some Post-Workout Food In

There are various ideas about a “window of opportunity” after a workout, but as a general rule you want to be eating a meal containing some protein ideally within 1-2 hours of finishing your gym session.

14. Learn To Eat What You Need And Not What You Want

You’ll start to see the importance of nutrition as you get consistency. My coach used to say “Sh*t in Sh*t out”, which means you eat poor quality food and your performance will suffer. If you go out drinking most nights and eat doughnuts and pizza you could still make a tiny bit of progress but I promise it won’t be anywhere near what you’re capable of achieving.

15. Get Adequate Sleep

A key piece of the muscle building puzzle is getting at least 7-8 hours sleep every night. It speeds up the recovery process and makes sure your muscles are well rested for next time.

One of my recommended reads is Sleep Smarter

16. Include Some Flexibility Work

Far too many gym-goers don’t do any stretching, leading to tight muscles that are more prone to injury. Spend at least five minutes after a workout doing some static stretching, holding for 15-20 seconds for each muscle group that you worked.

17. Keep Your Body In Balance

If you do bench press every day you might develop a decent chest, but that needs to be supported by a strong back. Think about pairing up exercises, so every time you do bench press (pushing motion) do a dumbbell row (pulling motion). Remember to work all your muscles optimally, not just the ones you want to see in the mirror!

So there in a nutshell are the key 17 tips that you, as a beginner, should follow when you start training. When you can apply all of these to a fitness program that suits you, you’ll be well on your way to great results.

If you have any questions or feedback, just drop me a message in the comments below.

About Fraser_9to5 277 Articles
Site owner. I'm a graduate in Sports Science and have an MSc in Sports Biomechanics. I set up 9to5strength in 2015 as a resource for people interested in strength training, nutrition and fitness. I consider myself a fitness blogger and enjoy creating YouTube videos and trying out workout programs.