Basic Weight Training for Men & Women


If you’ve focused on cardio exercise and diet exclusively in your fitness program and neglected weight training, now may be the time to stop hesitating and start learning the difference between a curl and an extension. Many women as well as some men may be reluctant to try an activity associated with bodybuilders, but lifting weights is “one of the most important things you can do for your body,” notes the University of Illinois.


Basic weight training can start with a 20-minute workout three times a week on your gym’s fitness circuit. Perform one set of 12 repetitions on each apparatus, which will work the legs, core and arm muscle groups. Set the machines so the muscles are worked to the point of fatigue, the American Council on Exercise recommends, while you maintain normal breathing. Lift the weight blocks on the machine to a count of four while inhaling, and lower it to a count of four while exhaling. Every two weeks, attempt to increase the weight dial on the machines by 5 lbs. to progress.


If you don’t belong to a health club, begin weight training by using your body weight to do lunges, pushups, situps and squats. Use light dumbbells and similar free weights as well as a bench to perform biceps curls, bench presses, hammer curls, triceps extensions, flat dumbbell flys and leg curls, Georgia State University’s Department of Kinesiology and Health recommends.


Weight training makes you stronger—not just your muscles, but your bones and connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments, notes ACE. You’ll also increase your muscle mass, combating the aging effect where most adults lose 1/2 lb. of muscle each year after the age of 20. These benefits are particularly important to help women fight osteoporosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Weight training increases your basal metabolic rate, as the resulting muscle burns more calories, even at rest, than does fat, which burns no calories. This increased metabolic rate makes it easier for you to maintain a healthy body weight and thus enjoy daily routines more as they require less effort.

Time Frame

Georgia State University recommends that you keep your weight training light the first week. Try for at least two workouts of moderate intensity per week, and ideally three. The more days per week, sets, repetitions and weight resistance you undertake, the more gains you will see. You should keep your strength training session to 1 hour per week, and it is important to rest trained muscle groups one or two days before exercising further to allow the muscle to rebuild.

Expert Insight

The authors of “Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults” at Tufts University, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend that older men and women buy two sets of dumbbells for a home exercise program, with women buying sets at 2 lbs., 3 lbs. and 5 lbs. and men at 3 lbs., 5 lbs. and 8 lbs. Start with a 5-minute warm-up walk, and proceed to squats, wall pushups, toe stands, biceps curls, step-ups and the overhead press.

About this Author

Rogue Parrish has written two travel books and edited at the “The Baltimore Sun,” “The Washington Post” and the Alaska Newspapers company. She began writing professionally in 1975. Parrish holds a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.