- Anyone can start strength training; you don’t need to be a certain level of fitness, experts say.
- If you’ve only tried cardio or yoga workouts, those skills can translate to weightlifting, too.
- Important factors to start strength training are a good coach and a welcoming community to encourage your growth.
Lifting weights has a ton of benefits for your mind, body, and overall wellness — but it can be difficult to know where to start if you’ve only done cardio or yoga.
But it’s not as hard as you think to move from the treadmill or mat to the weight room, two experts told Insider. The key is a comfortable learning environment and a welcoming community, so you can stick with it.
“From a beginner standpoint, I think we over-complicate and let intimidation get in the way,” Dominick Fortino, owner of Dutch Kills Fitness, told Insider. “It’s about getting someone into what they can keep doing with some staying power.”
It’s ok to start at any level of strength or fitness background
Weightlifting is less intimidating when you realize the exercises are similar to natural movements all of us perform every day, according to Dr. Lady Velez, head coach and owner of Red Hook Strengthworks.
“Everyday activities are weightlifting. You’re picking up groceries, that’s a deadlift, you’re getting out of your chair, that’s a squat,” she told Insider. “You’re already strong enough, the concept of not being strong enough is a myth.”
Even if you’ve never picked up a weight, you might be stronger than you think, Fortino said.
“Any type of workout, you’re using muscles, putting them to strain, and developing stronger muscles, even if you don’t think you are,” he said.
Exercises like running, yoga, and dance can translate into crucial skills for strength training, like better body awareness and the ability to control your breathing and brace your core, according to Fortino.
Find a gym or trainer that makes you feel welcome
The first step in strength training is learning the basic technique from someone who helps you feel capable of success.
Velez recommends finding a coach who’s knowledgeable and encourages questions and doesn’t make assumptions about your goals or ability.
“If you feel comfortable somewhere, you’ll feel comfortable doing things that are challenging, which is what weightlifting is,” she said.
One indicator of a good gym is if they offer training barbells (so you don’t have to start with the 44-pound standard bar) and scaled difficulty options, so the exercises are accessible to beginners.
“The workout that works is the one you do, and the one you’ll do is the one you feel like you can do. You’re going to get stronger because you want to go back to a space that makes you feel good,” Velez said.
Find a community and workout with friends
One barrier to entry in weight lifting is people don’t see themselves in pop culture depictions of strength training, Velez said.
“The reality is the images you’re seeing, women are on the treadmill and men are dominating the barbell,” Velez said. “If people you identity with aren’t doing that, why would you?”
But people of all genders, body types, and backgrounds can excel at weightlifting. As a beginner, it can be helpful to seek out people who you can identify with, and develop a community that encourages you on your strength training journey.
To start, it can be helpful to go the gym with trusted friends, Velez said.
Go at your own pace
Strength training doesn’t have to mean massive barbells or superhuman muscles (unless you want that), Velez said.
Building physical strength is just one benefit of weightlifting, alongside boosting mental and emotional wellbeing, and confidence.
“You don’t have to be able to lift 1,000 pounds,” Velez said. “When people realize what their bodies can do, it’s incredible. Strength training is freedom, it’s transformative.”