8 Strength Exercises All Beginners Should Learn How to Do

If you’re just starting an exercise routine for the first time, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions. It’s always exciting to try something new, but it can also be equal parts confusing and daunting. But the thing is, when it comes to working out, the best place to start really is at the beginning, with simple and effective exercises that’ll let you build a sturdy base you can use as a jumping off point as you get stronger and stronger.

Trust me, I know it can be tempting to try and tackle a workout that you found online that seems challenging, or a circuit that your favorite trainer posted on Instagram. But if you’re new to this whole exercise thing (welcome!), it really is absolutely essential that you start with the basics. And by the basics, I mean classic exercises that let you practice the foundational movements upon which hundreds of other exercises are created. Most of these movement patterns are also functional, meaning they’re movements you do in everyday life, not just in the gym.

For example, the hip-hinge movement is one important movement pattern. It’s the motion of bending forward from your hips (not your back) and pushing your butt behind you. You do this movement in a squat (and almost every squat variation) and any type of deadlift. Learning how to properly do the basic versions of these exercises is key if you want to safely build on them as you get stronger. If you skip over mastering basic exercises that teach you to do foundational movements properly, you’ll be doing yourself (and your fitness goals) a disservice long term.

20-Minute HIIT Lower-Body Bodyweight Workout With Tabata Finisher

Below are eight basic exercises that are great for many beginners to start with. Of course, exercise is not one size fits all, and you should absolutely speak with your doctor or another health-care professional you trust before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you’re unsure whether it’s safe for you. And as you’re working on these exercises, if you’re having trouble maintaining proper form or feel any sort of pain (other than a little post-workout soreness a day or two after), stop and check in with a doctor or physical therapist. A base level of body control, stability, and mobility are needed for these exercises, so you may need to start by taking a closer look at those things.


When you’re first learning the following moves, use just your body weight. (There are two you’ll need resistance bands for—more on that below.) Adding resistance in the form of free weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, will make them more challenging and it’s best to wait to do that until you’ve fully mastered each movement. You should be able to do 10 to 15 reps comfortably with the great form before even thinking about adding weights, says Jacque Crockford, M.S., C.S.C.S., certified personal trainer and exercise physiology content manager at American Council on Exercise (ACE).

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