The 8 Best Strength-Training Exercises for Beginners

When it comes to strength training for beginners, it’s important to know that you don’t need to do anything fancy to get strong. All it takes are some fundamental moves, consistency, and patience.

When you first start strength training, the exercises can feel hard—which might have you scrambling to figure out how to build muscle ASAP so your workouts don’t feel like punishment (team joyful movement for the win). After all, if every move is a struggle, it can be tough to motivate yourself to even start a workout routine, let alone give it a solid effort.

The key to creating an effective and enjoyable strength training routine is starting with a solid foundation of exercises that work each part of your body. If you focus mostly on this handful of staple moves, you’ll notice that they’ll start to feel easier with time. That’s you getting stronger (heck yeah!). And once that happens, you can start progressing the moves by using heavier or different weights, trying advanced variations, or experimenting with completely new exercises altogether. 

If you want to get stronger but don’t know where to start, we have you covered—from traps to calves. Below are some impressive benefits of building muscle, along with fundamental exercises that every beginner strength training program (even a totally unofficial one) should include.

What are the benefits of strength training for beginners?

Building strength doesn’t just help you in your workouts—it can make day-to-day life easier, too. 

“Resistance training, whether it’s moving your body weight or external weights, is a great way to help your body stay functional and healthy in the long run,” Sivan Fagan, an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, Maryland, tells SELF.

Increasing muscle strength can help make everyday movements less of a struggle, whether you’re carrying a week’s worth of groceries up the stairs, placing a bulky object on an overhead shelf, or simply getting up off the floor. And building balanced strength—by making sure you’re focusing on all muscle groups—is important because it helps prevent weaker muscles from overcompensating, which can lead to injury.

As you get older, maintaining muscle mass and strength becomes even more important for overall health. Resistance training can help older adults improve balance, build bone density, reduce the risk of falls, preserve independence, and even boost cognitive well-being, according to a 2019 position paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

More good news: You don’t have to work out constantly to gain muscle. A 2016  research review in the journal Sports Medicine suggests that strength training twice per week is enough to significantly increase muscle mass. 

How to train to get stronger

The key to getting stronger is focusing on compound movements, which involve multiple joints of the body and, therefore, multiple muscles working at the same time.

“Multi-joint, compound movements employ the most muscle fibers,” Jeffrey Yellin, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., tells SELF. Examples of multi-joint exercises include squats, which involve the hip and knee joints and work the glutes, legs, and core; and push-ups, which use your elbow, wrist, and shoulder joints and work the chest, arms, and core muscles.