I've always wanted to lift weights and honestly have no idea where to begin.

How do I get started? Do I need to join a gym? find a personal trainer? buy a book and weights? find a friend who weightlifts? What's the best way for me to get involved in the weightlifting community and start lifting weights myself?

Is this something I can do by myself (at home), or is it a good idea for me to train with others (at a gym or club)?

Goal details: My goal is mainly to gain muscle. I've been focusing on cardio a lot recently (running, zumba), and have lost quite a bit of weight from eating healthily. Now I'd like to define my muscles a bit more and get stronger (especially upper body).

  • Pick up a weight. Put it down. There you go. :p Seriously, Dave's answer is a great one.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 14:32
  • Lesson number one: Start slow and with VERY light weights.
    – user 85795
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


Pick a goal

Why do you want to lift? To look good, to be healthy, to improve athletic performance, to win a bodybuilding competition, to challenge yourself? Your goals determine the kind of lifting you'll want to focus on. I'll assume that you want a basic combination of health, fitness, and looking good.

Beginner weightlifting

Any beginner program should be fairly simple and focus on whole-body lifts. This means you'll use free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells) to do compound (as opposed to isolation) movements. These lifts include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, chin-ups and pull-ups, overhead and bench presses, cleans, snatches, dips, and rows. Programs, gyms, and trainers that avoid these exercises might not be the best fit.


Stumptuous is a solid resource for people, especially women, new to weightlifting. However, as far as I know they're light on specific programs.

For that, get a copy of Starting Strength (the wiki is a good overview and quick-start guide; the book is a full description of the program, including excellent instructions on the lifts) and start lifting. Take it easy at first. After after a month or so, find a trainer or gym that does these lifts (a CrossFit gym is usually a good bet) and have them check your form in a private lesson.

  • Goal added to OP :)
    – user5376
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 15:01
  • 2
    I agree with everything here. Starting Strength has been a great program for me.
    – user4644
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 22:41

Dave has given you some good points. It seems like you have 2 goals here regarding weight lifting:

  1. Gain muscle mass
  2. Gain strength

However, as a Sports Physical Therapist, I would like to recommend you for one more goal - injury free when starting out any program. I have seen too many immature weight lifters trying to do too much too fast, then only to learn that they have to stay off or take off a few weeks, sometimes a few months because they did not follow a golden rules of weight training for beginners due to suffering an injury (shoulders, back, knee, etc.).

Here are the golden rules of weight training for beginners:

  1. Learn the basics by doing body weight exercises (squat, push-ups, chin-ups, dips, lunges, etc.) until you can master the form and technique for a few sessions, then you can try resistance training with similar movement patterns (barbell squats, weighted push-ups, pull-ups, dumbbell lunges, etc.).
  2. It might be forth it if you have some friends with great experience regarding weight training to help you in the beginning to make sure you understand the basics (proper form and technique, breathing patterns, dosage, frequency, duration and simple eating plan).
  3. If your friend(s) cannot help you with this, I recommend you to find a local CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) to work with you for a few weeks, perhaps months. But you do not have to meet every single day. You might want to start out training and learning with a CSCS once per week for 4 weeks, then once per month for another few months until you are comfortable to be on your own. This will ensure your goals are met!

Most of us are just like you. We have to start somewhere, and some of us learned the hard way in the past (doing it ourselves). With this being said and because of my work and my extensive experience of treating many injuries related to immature or beginner weight lifters, I strongly recommend you to find a local CSCS and give it a try. I understand that you might have to spend some money in the beginning, but trust me, your program is more specific and individualized to your goals.

I'm not against Cross-Fit or any other group fitness/training programs out there, but shouldn't all fitness programs consider your fitness level, the time you have, your goals and of course your finance? This is why I think it's important to understand the difference between an one-on-one training session versus a group setting, especially in the beginning.

Good luck and I hope you find this answer helpful.

  • 1
    You make an interesting distinction between gaining muscle mass and gaining strength. I assumed (probably incorrectly), that they were the same thing, however it seems they are not. I asked this question about this particular distinction: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/11889/….
    – user5376
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 1:14

like the guy said pick a goal first, personally when your first join the gym your going to see some quick changes to your body. So in my view I will just start off by going to the gym and doing some exercises. Personally go with someone with experience, who knows HOW TO LIFT! Remember learning the exercises are key!

  • I added my goal to the OP :)
    – user5376
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 15:01

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