If in-person training is not an option for you, many personal trainers now offer virtual sessions. If you decide to go that route, make sure the trainer can catch your form from various angles so it can better mimic what they’d see in person. “From the front, their form can look amazing with a squat, but then if you say, ‘Okay, show me a side view,’ you’d be able to tell their torso is leaning too much forward,” says Fagan.
A personal trainer can help you master those basic movement patterns, which set the stage for many of the exercises you’ll be doing, says Fagan. Because they’ll be able to suggest real-time corrections to your form, you’ll be better prepared to progress safely.
If a personal trainer isn’t right for you, online tutorials can help you learn what a proper move should look like, and working out in front of a mirror (or videoing yourself on your phone) can help you make sure you’re executing it correctly, Holly Roser, a certified personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness in San Francisco, told SELF previously.
3. Invest in some equipment.
While starting with bodyweight moves is key, you will want to eventually add weights to your weight training plan. Weights, like most other kinds of at-home fitness equipment, have been difficult to find online during the coronavirus pandemic, but have slowly been coming back into stock.
If you can find them, dumbbells are the most user-friendly weight option for beginners—more so than kettlebells or barbells, which have more of a learning curve to use properly and safely, says Fagan. Ideally, you’ll have three sets: a light, moderate, and a heavy (perhaps, 5 pounds, 12 pounds, and 20 pounds, she says). Another option is to invest in an adjustable set of weights, which can be a real space saver if you know you’re going to want access to heavier weights too.
Other nonweight equipment—which tends to be easier to find available than actual weights—can be great to mix up your workout too. This includes things like mini bands, looped resistance bands, sliders, or suspension trainers (like TRX), says Fagan.
4. Prep your muscles before you start.
A proper warm-up is an important part of an effective strength workout. One good way to do that is by waking up your muscles with a foam roller. “Foam rolling loosens up tight muscles so that they work the way they’re designed to,” says Davis. If you have a percussive massage gun (like a Theragun), that can also help your muscles warm up before a workout, according to research in the Journal of Sports Medicine.
A dynamic warm-up is another important part of your preworkout routine, since it preps your muscles for the work they’re about to do and helps increase your range of motion. A dynamic warm-up essentially means you’re moving through various gentle movement patterns to help get your muscles ready for the work they’re about to do. Increasing your range of motion allows you to go deeper into those squats and fully extend your arms during those biceps curls, which means more muscle recruitment and better results.
5. Schedule regular workouts—but don’t go overboard.
One of the most intimidating parts of starting a beginner strength training routine is knowing when and how often you should be working out. The key here is to start slow. “Start with two days for two to three weeks, then add a third day,” says Davis. “Ideally, you should strength train three to five days per week, but work your way up—starting off at five days a week might shock your body.” In fact, doing too much too soon is one of the most common mistakes Fagan says she sees with people starting out.