Weight Training: How to Get Started and Build Resiliency

If you are new to weight training and not sure where to begin — or even if you are familiar with it, but continuously have an ache or pain — there are tips and tricks to help. Weight training offers many benefits. But limitations in the understanding of technique, appropriate loads, volume and frequency can hinder your performance and fitness goals.

Weight training involves applying a resistance to your muscles and joints using dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells and medicine balls. It can also involve body-weighted activity, exercise bands and isolated machines you see at gyms. The benefits of weight training outweigh the injury risks. People of all ages can perform resistance exercises within their own abilities to help reduce their risk of disease, and improve mortality and mental and physical health. If you are unsure if you are fit to begin lifting weights, consult with your medical provider.

Once you are ready to begin or continue your journey into weight training, here are a few tips.

Start Slow

There is no need to rush the process of building strength, losing weight, or feeling and looking good — whatever your goal may be. It is important that you understand the movement, how to coordinate your body and target the right muscle groups for specific exercises. If you struggle with bigger movements (i.e., squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups), start with smaller isolated movements (i.e., leg lifts, leg press, hamstring curls, row machine, lat pull down).

Select Lighter Weights for Resistance and Perform Low-Intensity First

When performing any weighted exercise, start with lighter weights. This approach will help you complete the movement with good technique. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends starting with eight to 10 repetitions of two to three sets per exercise. Additionally, it suggests a selection of eight to 10 multi-joint exercises. Resistance should feel a little more challenging by the end of each set.

Rest Between Sets and Exercises

Rest breaks for resistance training can be anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes long depending on your goal. Even if you don’t feel like you need a rest break, take them. Breaks help you finish each repetition per set, which allows you to perform at higher volume.


Train specific muscle groups at least two to three times per week.

If you have a current injury or one that comes and goes, consider seeing a physical therapist (PT) who can give you a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan. Find a PT who can identify any limitations in strength, range of motion, flexibility and stability. Communication between you and your therapist will aid in developing a tailored plan of care to help you safely meet your goals.

Weight training is a great way of improving your health and wellness. When you start or continue your journey into weight training, just remember: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It is OK to take a few steps back in order to get to where you are going.

About the therapist:
Jayme Alambra, DPT, SCS, CSCS, is a Physical Therapist at Penn Therapy & Fitness Media