Weight training at home for beginners is a very difficult endeavour. That’s why it’s important you do everything in your favour to surmount this challenge and build a consistent movement practice.
Humans are very susceptible to their environments, it plays a key role in the ability to work, relax and exercising is no different. Thats why if you create a space that you associate with exercise you will be much more likely to build a consistent weight training routine. I will discuss in detail the specifics of which exercises to use, how many sets and reps to do but none of this matters if you can’t show up consistently to perform the sessions.
Everyone will have different budgets, different amounts of space to build their at home training set up, but that doesn’t change how intentional you can be about building your space. Everyone will needs the essentials, a mat, some exercise clothes and some form of weights(if your goal is to do weight training at home). It’s important you build a space that you like, that you feel like you can make your own, a space where you can move towards your goals.
If you limit the amount of equipment you buy to create the most minimal set up possible, you may be shooting yourself in the foot with how much you can progress and how much you enjoy your training. Most people struggle with motivation when training from home, so if you don’t have enough equipment to create a training set up that allows you to vary your exercises regularly it can make it even more difficult to stay motivated.
Motivation aside, if your trying to use dumbbells and kettlebells for your weight training at home and only have access to very limited weights, say one dumbbell, you will not be able to increase the amount of weight your lifting, this will drastically hinder your progression. Obviously one form of weight is better than nothing, but if thats all you have when you could get a few more pieces of equipment you will be holding yourself back. If its budgetary limitations, be sure to have a look out for second hand weights that gyms are trying to get rid of, they might not be pretty but they will allow you to get the results your striving towards.
I know this isn’t particularly fun, but it’s a crucial part to building a sustainable training plan. Without it you will simply be loading bad positions, leading to injury or limiting your ceiling of progression. Learning the technique of the key movement patterns for weight training can take some time, especially if you are struggling with mobility. Being patient for the first few months of your training journey is essential to your long term success, if you jump into complex exercises your not technically proficient at you will pick up bad habits that will be hard to get rid of. Technique should never be something that blocks you from movement, but you should be very intentional about learning the movements you’re going to be using to lift weights, they can be the difference between long term consistent results and a two month stint of training and dropping off.
Learning the technique of each movement category is a challenging ask if you’re training by yourself but it can be done. You’ll need to find the simplest movement in each movement category and ensure you can do it with good technique. Then slowly find more and more complex versions of the movement and train them until you can do them with good technique. Good technique can be something that is hard to judge yourself, so you will need to use videos of other people performing the exercise perfectly and strive towards that. Videoing yourself can help to see if you’re performing them correctly, or you could hire a personal trainer and in 10-15 hours of technical coaching you can learn the broad strokes of technique in all the key movements.
Imagine you wake up at 6am to get your at home weight training session in before going to work. You’ve created a space you like, that makes you motivated to move. You’ve got your pre-training morning routine down and flow through it like you planned. You’ve spent some time learning the technique of all the key movement patterns for strength training at home with weights and now its time to get moving. You show up to the training mat and you don’t have a plan of what session you’re going to do, so you chose not to train today. This is exactly what will happen if you don’t have a detailed plan of what your training is going to look like. Creating a training plan can be done by you, an application or a coach you pay to make it. Whatever the case, it needs to be made before you start training otherwise the training simply will not happen.
The plan needs to include the details, the ins and outs of what exercises you are going to be using, how many sets and reps etc. This will allow you to flow into your training but also help you buy into what you’re doing. If you don’t believe that the behaviours you’re doing will have the desired effect then you will not complete them. You need to believe in the programming (training plan) so you can follow it to the best of your ability.
It’s so much easier to overcome the hesitation to exercise when you know precisely what you’re doing (the training programme) and why your doing it (the physical adaptations your striving towards). This is one of the key things that will help you create a consistent practice so invest some time into how you’re going to surmount this task.
Most beginners want to skip the stage of being a beginner, it’s tough not being able to do press ups, or being able to do a full depth squat, you’ll need to look for regressions and make sure you’re doing exercises that match your current ability. The good thing about using weights instead of bodyweight exercises is most of the exercises that create a lot of adaptation are very simple to learn.
That being said, you’ll still need to ensure that you are picking exercises that match your current technical and physical abilities. If your technically proficient, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to physically perform all the exercises in a movement category. Picking exercises that allow you to both demonstrate your excellent technique whilst creating a stressor on the body to cause adaptation can be a very challenging task and a skill in of its self. This is why you might need to get outside help when designing your exercise programme, as you may not know where to start with session design, exercise selection, progressive overload etc.
As a beginner who is weight training at home, you’ll want to pick the simplest exercises that can create a lot of adaptation. For example a DB Bench Press and a Wall Assisted Squat in Lunge may be perfect primaries (exercises that start a session) as they are low skill and will effectively challenge the desired movement category. Compare this to picking an archer press up and a barbell back squat and you’ll see why exercise selection is important, especially if you’r a beginner.
Building habits takes time and more than time, it often takes multiple attempts. You might need to try out multiple different training plans, training at different times of the day, different training frequencies, different session lengths etc. You can play with a large variety of variables to ensure that you eventually turn weight training at home into a consistent practice.
If making new habits was easy, there wouldn’t be new self help books on it every year. Our bodies seek homeostasis and resist new behaviours especially ones like exercise that are so metabolically taxing. That’s why you need to be kind to yourself when you fall of the wagon multiple times. The trick is to learn from your mistakes, review why this particular form of exercise didn’t work, intentionally change something about it and ensure you fix it next time you attempt to bring in a new form of exercise.
Having a visual representation of your consistency is such a good way to review your behaviour. It doesn’t really matter where this visual representation is stored or what tool you use whether its an excel spreadsheet, a notion page or a physical calendar, as long as you review it on a weekly or monthly basis so that you have an accurate view of what your actual training behaviour looks like. Self report is often very inaccurate, we feel as if we do more than we actually do so seeing a visual representation of how much you exercise can be a great way to help you build a consistent practice. This technique can be used for any behaviour or habit you’re trying to introduce, if you’re interested in learning about this topic, read or listen to Cal Newports work.
Weight training at home for beginners is going to be a difficult endeavour, but it is for sure surmountable and if you are able to build a consistent practice you will see a lot of progression. It’s important to celebrate your wins every so often as you learn to enjoy the process. Congratulate yourself with a mental note after every physical practice, as if to thank yourself for practice, this form of gratitude towards the self for performing difficult behaviours can result in good long term decision making around all things health and fitness, doing whats best for yourself is often very difficult and you should be grateful that you made decisions that moved you in the right direction.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.