Written by Rita Catolino, B.A. Health and Fitness Expert, Certified Trainer & Best-Selling Author
Photography by Paul Buceta
Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

You know that popular saying, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle”? That totally rings true with training. And while January has a way of making us want to jump into a new routine, it’s important to first make sure it’s the right one. No matter your age, or experience level—there is room for every body at the gym—starting with a solid foundation and establishing a plan with a clear understanding of how to progress will help you find success all year long. With this guide, you’ll be prepared to get going, girl!

1. Start Slowly and Progress Gradually: When starting, it's crucial to ease into your routine and allow your body time to adapt. Begin with two to three weekly lifting sessions, allowing for sufficient rest and recovery between workouts. As you gradually build strength and confidence, consider increasing this frequency to four to five times weekly.

2. Focus on Compound Movements: For beginners, it is advisable to concentrate on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. These exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, and overhead presses. Compound movements engage more muscles, burn more calories, and promote functional strength, making them ideal for beginners.

3. Master Proper Form and Technique: Prioritize learning the correct form and technique from the outset. Consider working with a qualified personal trainer or seeking guidance from experienced weightlifters. Utilizing proper form prevents injuries and ensures that you engage the intended muscle groups effectively, maximizing your results.

4. Incorporate Resistance Training Equipment: Regarding equipment, focus on foundational pieces that offer versatility and allow for proper progression. Essential equipment for weight training includes:

Dumbbells: Ideal for beginners due to their various weight options and flexibility.

Barbells: Excellent for compound movements and progressive overload.

Resistance Bands: Great for enhancing resistance, increasing difficulty, and aiding with stretching and mobility exercises.

Stability Ball: Supports core stability and can be used for various exercises.

5. Gradually Increase Weight and Intensity: Progression is the key to continued growth and improvement. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your strength improves. Aim for a weight that allows you to maintain proper form while still challenging your muscles. Additionally, consider adding progressive sets and reps or reducing rest periods to increase training intensity.

6. Prioritize Recovery and Rest Days: Rest and recovery are vital components of any training program. Ensure you prioritize getting enough sleep, allowing your muscles to repair and grow stronger. Include rest days between weight training sessions to avoid overexertion and the risk of injury.

"It’s crucial to ease into your routine and allow your body time to adapt."

Intermediate and advanced-level weight trainers can focus on different factors such as intensity, volume, complexity of  exercises, and overall workout structure. Here are some key differences: 

Intensity: As women progress from beginner to intermediate/advanced levels, the intensity of weight training typically increases. This can involve lifting heavier weights, increasing the number of reps and sets, or incorporating more advanced training techniques like drop sets or supersets.

Volume: Advanced trainers typically increase their volume by adding more exercises, sets, and reps to their workouts. This helps to stimulate further muscle growth and strength development.

Exercise Complexity: After mastering fundamental movements and building a solid foundation as a beginner, advanced trainers can start incorporating more compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups working together, such as front squats or pull-ups and more complex exercises like Olympic lifts or advanced plyometrics.

Workout Structure: While full-body workouts 2-3 times a week can help anyone, more advanced levels can transition to more specialized training programs. This could involve split routines targeting specific muscle groups on different days (glute/hamstring day or back and biceps) or utilizing advanced training methodologies like periodization.

Rest and Recovery: Adequate rest and recovery are essential at all levels of training, but as women progress, they may need more time for recovery due to higher training intensities and volumes. This could involve structured rest days, reducing workout frequency, or incorporating active recovery methods like yoga or foam rolling.

Specific Goals: While beginners often focus on building general strength and overall fitness, intermediate/advanced trainers may set more specific goals like improving muscle definition or increasing lifting performance. Advanced trainers might aim for specific strength or physique-related goals, such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, or competing in athletic events.

Whatever your level or goals are, here’s to a healthier, fitter, and stronger you in 2024!

STRONG Fitness
STRONG Fitness Magazine is a trusted source of cutting-edge fitness and health information for the modern woman who lives to be fit. STRONG’s sophisticated editorial voice combined with raw, powerful imagery and a modern, athletic design reflect the direction fitness has taken in the last decade.