Weight Training Basics – An Essential Guide for Lifters

One of the biggest mistakes made by almost all fitness enthusiast would be an improper weight training strategy that is related to their goals. In most cases, people just turn to advice's advocated in various magazines, on the internet or from a workout buddy. This is probably the worst way to start a program as the resources often lack serious credibility, scientific research, as well as solid proof.

Unfortunately, the average lifter is more likely to gear his focus towards a fad workout or program which is most likely overly intense and inappropriate for him, rather than actually searching for the correct and right information.

Luckily we will go over the essential principals of weight training in this article, giving you the helping hand that is going to improve your progress. So hang in there!

Weight Lifting Routine

One of the key components of a successful lifting journey is certainly a great routine. Without a proper lifting routine in place, you won’t make any significant changes towards reaching your end goal.

Speaking of goals, it is imperative to know what your current primary goal is. Are you looking to be extra strong, or are you more geared towards muscle building and hypertrophy? Questions like these will have to be answered in order for you to move further.

Now as far as the weight lifting routine goes, if you are a beginner or intermediate lifter try to use a proven workout routine. Don’t worry about making your own weight lifting routine right now, you still don’t have the needed experience and knowledge that you will gain from going through several proven routines.

Remember the following points for any and all routines you use:

  • Experiment

Don’t be afraid to test several lifting routines in order to see what really works for you. Once you establish this, keep the best methods in your weigh training arsenal.

  • Observe

During the testing phase you will find certain techniques and methods that work great for you particular body type, while others don’t. Try to separate the good from the bad, and use the best training approach for you.

  • Be Open-Minded

Too many lifters find one good approach for them, and all of the sudden they shut down any other idea. Please avoid this wrong and limiting mindset, and continue to widen your knowledge and potential.

Weight Lifting Exercises

There are two types of weight lifting exercises, compound and isolation movements. The main difference between these two are the number of muscle groups that are recruited for performing each given movement.

  • Compound

An exercise that includes multi-joint movements and requires multiple muscle groups in order to be performed is a compound movement. This form of exercise recruits the most amount of muscle fibers when executed, which is crucial for making strength progress and muscle building.

  • Isolation

Isolation movements use only one muscle group, or in some cases two in order to perform an exercise, thereby stimulating less muscle fibers. However, this doesn’t mean that isolation exercises are useless. They can target specific muscles that are particularly lagging or aren’t as development as desired.

You should mostly focus on compound movements since they will provide the most mass and strength gains. Therefore, compound movements should make the majority of your weight lifting routine. Isolation exercises can and should be added at the end of your workout to improve any weak points.

Reps and Sets

The essentials of any weight lifting program are its reps and sets.

But, what exactly is a rep and a set?

Sets represent a combination of exercise repetitions done consecutively.

  • Resting Between Sets

An important thing to keep in mind would be the rest period between each of your sets. This time allows the body to re-energize and recuperate in order to perform the upcoming exercises in a proper manner. The length of rest periods will greatly depend on the exercise, rep range, intensity, and personal goals. However, most strength programs aim for a 2-3 minute rest period between sets, and bodybuilding-focused routines mostly tend to use a shorter break period of 1 minute between sets.

Reps define the number of times an exercise is performed during one set. One full repetition consist of an eccentric phase where you lower the weight, and a concentric phase in which you lift the weight up.

  • Rep Ranges

A rep range refers to the number of reps you perform during a set. Compound movements usually require less reps, and isolation exercises demand for a high rep range.

If your goal is strength aim for low rep ranges of 1-6 reps with a heavy weight. In the other hand, if your goal is to build muscle, aim for moderate rep ranges of 6-12 reps per set. Endurance training utilizes very high rep ranges of 13+.


Weight training tempo is another element of a proper workout routine. Tempo is actually the speed at which you perform a repetition.

Use the following training tempo in order to maximize your results:

  • Eccentric Tempo (Negative phase, Lengthening of muscle, Plyometric)

Is the speed at which you lower the exercise weight. The eccentric tempo should be done fairly slowly (2-3 seconds).

  • Concentric Tempo (Positive phase, Shortening of Muscle)

Is the speed at which you lift the weight. The concentric tempo should be completed as fast as possible while keeping proper form in check.

Intensity, Volume and Frequency

Intensity, volume and frequency are the basics of proper strength training. If your program is lacking any of these components, your results are definitely below optimum.


Defined as the percentage of your 1-rep max for one movement, intensity simply refers to the heaviness of the weight used during a set.

Three intensity levels:

  • High Intensity

Incorporates a heavy load, or in other words a weight that you can lift for a low amount of reps (1-6). Use this intensity if you are aiming for strength gains.

  • Medium Intensity

Uses a medium load, a weight that you could lift for a moderate amount of reps (7-12). This intensity is best for muscle building and hypertrophy.

  • Low Intensity

Refers to a very light load, a weight that you could lift for a high amount of reps (13+). Only use this intensity if you aim for muscle endurance.


Is the amount of work you perform during one workout. Volume is simply calculated as: sets x reps x weight. Therefore you can change the amount of volume by just changing any of these variables.

Three volume types:

  • High Volume

A fairly high amount of sets and reps performed in one workout session.

  • Medium Volume

A moderate amount of sets and reps performed in one workout session.

  • Low Volume

A low number of sets and reps done during one workout session.

A medium volume type would be appropriate for most lifters.


Represents the number of times you work out each muscle group in a week. You should aim to train each muscle group as soon as it recovers.

Three frequency types:

  • High Frequency

Training each muscle group more than 3 times per week.

  • Medium Frequency

Training each muscle group 2 times per week.

  • Low Frequency

Training each muscle group once per week.

The best frequency type for most lifters would be the medium one. This frequency allows proper recovery and maximizes muscle protein synthesis, which lead to muscle and strength growth.

The Golden Rule

Among the many important factors that define a successful training program, progressive overload must be the one you should center on the most. Progressive overload is a simple principal which preaches the necessity of constant muscular challenging overtime as a way to achieve long-term results.

Or in other words, you need to increase the weight you lift or the reps performed during your training journey. This will allow your muscle and strength gains to develop accordingly.

Incorporate progressive overall into your routine by:

  • Bigger Load

Use a higher intensity by adding more weight to your exercises, especially to your compound lifts.

  • More Volume

Try to increase the number of repetitions or sets you perform each workout. This will challenge the muscles to respond.

  • Higher Frequency

Aim to train certain muscle groups more frequent than before. This is another way to induce progressive overload.


It is vitally crucial that you get a lot of rest daily. Weight training and the hectic modern lifestyle tax and exhaust the body and mind, and for this reason you have to recover properly.

  • Sleep

Aim to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours every night. This can be a hard task, but try to form a sleeping schedule that will make things easier overtime.

  • Recovery

Have a minimum of 2 off-days per week or more. This will allow your muscles to recuperate and recover for your next workouts.

  • Deload/Unload

Don’t be afraid to take a week of from all forms of training. Think of it as an earned vacation that is going to enhance your progress in the long run.


Here are the critical points to remember in this weight training guide:

  • Set Goals

Always have set training goals in your lifting journey.

  • Compound Exercise

Focus on compound movements, but don’t forget to add a few isolation ones as well.

  • Strength or Size

Choose the adequate reps, sets, frequency, volume and intensity according to your strength or hypertrophy goals.

  • Progressive Overload

Always strive to make each workout better than the last.

  • Rest

Make sure to get enough sleep and recovery.

Now that you’ve finished reading, you can use this knowledge to get faster and better results than before. So, get to train and achieve those goals!

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