30-Day Beginner’s Weightlifting Program

Shana Verstegen
by Shana Verstegen
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30-Day Beginner’s Weightlifting Program

It’s no secret there are hundreds of benefits to strength training. Whether it be for injury prevention, building bigger muscles, strengthening bones or boosting metabolism, everybody has something to gain from a regular weightlifting routine. But with so many exercise choices, levels and tools to use, even the most experienced weightlifter can feel overwhelmed at times. This 30-day program goes back to the basics with simple moves that reap all the benefits desired from a weight-training routine.

THE PROGRAM

This routine includes three days of weightlifting per week, doing just five exercises per workout. The three days are broken into different movement focuses to ensure all muscles and common movements are targeted every week. As the weeks progress, the load (weight) increases, reps decrease, and sets increase. The overall goal is to maintain proper movement patterns, and only increase weight as you have earned that progression.

Give yourself at least 48 hours of rest in between each workout day. For example, choose a Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule. These rest days allow for muscle recovery, resulting in strength and neurological gains.

Most importantly, start simple and be proud you are incorporating resistance training into your life. All great accomplishments come from small beginnings.

30-Day Beginner’s Weightlifting Program

THE EXERCISES

SINGLE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW 

How to do it: Hold a moderate to heavy dumbbell in your left hand and place your right hand and right knee on a bench. Establish a neutral spine, gaze forward slightly, engage behind the left shoulder blade and pull the dumbbell up to the rib cage. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side.

GOBLET SQUAT

How to do it: Hold a heavier dumbbell or kettlebell against your chest. Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes turned out slightly. Drop your hips straight down to the floor with your chest open and shoulders anchored down and back. Sink as low as you can into the squat position. Pretend you are separating the floor with your feet and engage your glutes as you power back up to the starting position.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, complete it as a bodyweight exercise without dumbbells.

SEATED CABLE ROW

Seated Cable Row

How to do it: Sit facing a low cable machine; most of these will have a bench to sit on. Grab a double handle attachment and sit with tall posture. Engage behind your shoulder blades and pull both hands to your ribcage. The only movement should be happening in the arms; your torso and legs stay stable and stationary. Slowly extend your arms and repeat.

Trainer’s note: This can be done with a cable machine or as pictured above with a resistance band. 

SIDE BAND WALK

Side Band Walks

How to do it: Place a miniband just above your knees. Press your knees outward over your middle toes and resist the band as it will try to pull your knees in. Start in a quarter-squat position and step to the side with your left foot into a wider stance. Next, bring your right foot back to shoulder-width distance without dragging it on the ground. Ensure your toes stay pointed forward, your knees press outward and your posture remains upright at all times.

SIDE PLANK WITH BAND ROW

Side Plank with Band Row

How to do it: Attach a long resistance band about 1 foot off the ground. While facing the anchor point, place your right forearm on the ground with your elbow directly under your right shoulder. Press up into a strong side-plank position, maintaining a straight line with your ears, shoulders, hips and heels. Grab the end (or handle) of the resistance band with your left hand. Avoid rotation or slack in the band and pull your left hand to your ribcage. Return your left hand to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps. Repeat on the other side.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, it can also be done with your knees on the ground.


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DUMBBELL ROMANIAN DEADLIFT 

How to do it: Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keep a neutral spine with only a slight bend in the legs as you press your hips backward and hinge forward, keeping square with the ground. Once you can no longer keep your torso straight, come back to the starting position and extend your hips as if you are pulling your pants up.

Be sure to keep your spine neutral throughout the movement. Rounding your back not only takes away from the exercise, but also puts excessive strain on the lumbar spine.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, complete it as a bodyweight exercise without dumbbells.

DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS

Dumbbell Bench Press

How to do it: Lie on a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders. Brace your core and press both dumbbells toward the ceiling. Stop just before your elbows lock, and lower them with control to about 1 inch above your chest. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps. Keep your core and glutes tight during this exercise to avoid arching your back.

STABILITY BALL GLUTE BRIDGE 

Stability Ball Glute Bridge

How to do it: Lay on your back with your feet flat on top of a stability ball, knees bent and rear end close to the ball. Press through your heels and drive your hips up to the point where your knees, hips and shoulders make a straight line. Lower your hips with control and tap your rear to the floor. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps. Your arms can be extended to your side for more stability.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, it can be done without the stability ball with your feet flat on the floor. To make this exercise more difficult, place a weight plate or dumbbell on your hips.

PUSHUP

How to do it: Begin in a strong plank position with a tight core, and your ears, shoulders, hips and heels in a straight line. With your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, bend your elbows and lower your body about 5 inches from the floor. Press hard into your hands to return to the starting plank position.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, it can also be done from your knees. Rather than decreasing reps and increasing weight for this bodyweight exercise, try completing more reps off your knees when an increase in load is requested.

DEAD BUG

Deadbugs

How to do it: Lie flat on your back and extend your arms straight upward toward the sky. Lift your feet and legs off the floor, bending your knees at 90 degrees. Lower your opposite arm and heel toward the floor while keeping your back pressed down and braced. Return them to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. That is one rep. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, begin with your feet planted. Focus on lifting one leg and at a time and lowering it while keeping a strong, braced core. To make this exercise more difficult, try adding ankle weights or holding onto light dumbbells. 

DUMBBELL STEPUP

Dumbbell Stepups

How to do it: Select a box, bench or any safe step that is about knee-height. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang straight by your sides. Plant your right foot flat and firm on the box with your toes pointing directly forward. Squeeze from the glutes on the right side, keep your right knee tracking directly over the middle toes and press up to a stand on the box or step. Hold your balance on top of the box/step for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, complete it as a bodyweight exercise without dumbbells.

BAND TRUNK ROTATION

How to do it: Attach a long resistance band to a stable object at about shoulder-height. Stand sideways to the band anchor point with your left shoulder closer to the anchor. Hold the band with both hands and step away from the anchor point until there is tension on the band. While bracing your core and keeping your body straight and strong, rotate toward the right like a cylinder. Pick up your left heel in a pivot for proper movement mechanics and to protect the knees. Avoid slack on the band as you return toward the anchor point. Complete the prescribed number of reps, and repeat on the other side.

DUMBBELL REVERSE LUNGE

How to do it: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step your left leg back into a lunge stance. Lower your body until both knees form a 90-degree angle. Drive into the right foot and come back to a stand. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps, and repeat on the other leg.

Modification: To make this exercise easier, complete it as a bodyweight exercise without dumbbells.

ALTERNATING LATERAL LUNGE 

How to do it: Stand upright with your feet together. Step to the side with your right foot, wider than hip-width apart, keeping the toes of your right foot pointed forward as you land. Immediately upon coming into contact with the floor, bend at the knee and sink your right hip down and back. Think “elevator not escalator.” Press through your right foot to return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side. Continue until the prescribed number of repetitions are completed on each side.

Modification: To make this exercise more difficult, hold a dumbbell in a goblet position under your chin.

BIRD DOG

BIrd Dog

How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Maintain a neutral spine and gently brace your core. Extend your right arm above your head and your left leg behind your body, keeping your hips and shoulders square with the floor. Hold for three seconds, and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Complete the prescribed number of repetitions on each side.

Modification: To make this exercise more difficult, add wrist and/or ankle weights.

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About the Author

Shana Verstegen
Shana Verstegen

Shana is a TRX and American Council on exercise master instructor and a six-time world champion lumberjack athlete. She holds a degree in Kinesiology
- Exercise Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is a certified personal trainer through ACE, NASM and NFPT. An energetic and personable speaker, she is also the National spokesperson for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

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