10 Full-Body Strength Exercises Every Beginner Needs to Know

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You know that strength training is an important part of any well-rounded fitness program, but somehow it hasn't made it into your routine just yet. You've been having that reoccurring nightmare where you finally decide to try the weight room at the gym, only to be met with a room filled with experienced and toned lifters whose heads all turn and stare, judging you as you walk through the door. Although this nightmare is more fantasy than reality, the weight room can still be an intimidating place.

For many, the fear of the unknown is what keeps them from lifting weights. How heavy should weights be to start? What kind of moves should I be performing? How do I know if my form is correct? Is that guy with the massive biceps judging me? The good news is that you can get an effective strength workout, right in the comfort of your own home, with an audience of just yourself. Creating a balanced routine that targets all of your major muscle groups is easier than you might think.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends two to three sessions of strength training on non-consecutive days each week. Each exercise should be performed for one to three sets, with eight to 12 repetitions per set. The last rep in the set should be the last one you're able to perform with proper form. If you can easily keep going past 12 repetitions, the weight is too light. If you can't get anywhere close to eight before sacrificing good form, the weight is too heavy, so you always want to be somewhere in between. Be sure to do a three to five minute warm-up before starting any strength routine.

The exercises below are designed to give you a total body workout, targeting each of the major muscle groups. They are all simple to perform, requiring just a set of dumbbells and your own bodyweight. You can go through the list in order, or rotate by doing one lower-body exercise followed by one upper-body exercise, for example. You can also swap these exercises for different ones in SparkPeople's Exercise Library if they are too difficult or you're ready for some variety.  

Lower Body

Dumbbell Squats: The great thing about squats is that they target multiple muscle groups at once, including your quadriceps. Strengthening your quads will improve your performance in a variety of cardio activities, including walking, running, biking and more. Be sure to lean from the waist like you're about to sit in a chair and don't let your knees come out past your toes. 
Seated Dumbbell Squats

Lying Leg Curls: Strong hamstrings provide stability to the knee joint, reducing your risk of injury. Your body relies on your hamstrings for many daily activities, such as getting into and out of a chair or walking around the grocery store. Lead with the heels and keep your feet flexed during each curl.
Lying Leg Curls Exercise

Bridges: The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body. Your glutes keep you standing in an upright position and provide power and stability during a wide variety of activities. Weak glutes can cause your body to fall out of proper alignment, increasing your risk of injury. For this exercise, try not to let your backside touch the ground in between repetitions.
Bridges Exercise

Calf Raises: You can do this exercise with a chair (as shown) or on the edge of a step. When you climb stairs or even walk around your house, your calf muscles are engaged and help perform the movement. Keep the heels off of the ground in between repetitions. Do one leg at a time for an added challenge.   
Calf Raises with Chair Exercise

Upper Body

Chest Press: When you push a lawnmower, pull grocery bags out of the car or push yourself up off the floor, your chest muscles are the ones providing the power. Keep your back flat with the spine in a neutral position throughout the entire set. 

Dumbbell Chest Press Exercise

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: A strong back helps provide good posture, which makes you look and feel your best. The back connects the upper- and lower-body muscles, and is essential for most daily movement. Remember to squeeze at the top of the contraction, keeping the spine in a neutral position.
One-Arm Dumbbell Rows Exercise

Dumbbell Lateral Raises: Strong shoulders provide the power for overhead movements, such as putting a box on the top shelf of the garage or hitting a ball over the net. The shoulder is potentially the most unstable joint in the body, so strength training is especially important to prevent injury. Stand tall and keep the movement controlled—no swinging or letting momentum take over.     
Dumbbell Lateral Raises Exercise

Dumbbell Hammer Curls: When you lift something off of the floor, your biceps assist in the movement. Strong and defined biceps also add to the look of your upper arm, so you can "make a muscle" with pride while looking awesome in those tank tops. Keep elbows in close at your sides, palms facing inward while standing tall.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls Exercise


Planks: The great thing about planks is that they work your abdominal muscles in the same way they are used in everyday life—as stabilizers in every movement. For this reason, planks are the perfect core exercise. It is essential that you pull your abs in and keep your back flat with your head, back and lower body all in line.
Modified Plank Exercise

Swimming: A balanced core includes not only exercises for your abs, but your lower back as well. Low-back exercises can help reduce back pain, reduce the risk of injury and help stabilize and support your spine. Don't let your arms or legs touch the floor until the set is complete. 
Swimming Exercise

A well-rounded strength training routine includes exercises that target not only the muscles you see when you look in the mirror, but also those muscles you can't see. It's important for opposing muscle groups to have balance to prevent injury and improper body alignment. For instance, if you regularly do exercises for your quadriceps but ignore your hamstrings, you could be compromising your posture and gait, while greatly increasing your risk of a hamstring injury. The best strength training focuses on your entire body, not just specific parts, so be careful to treat every muscle group with the same TLC.

When you're ready to banish those nightmares for good, start with this routine and after a few weeks, you'll feel like a stronger, more confident version of yourself.

Are you ready to get started? Try this routine and let us know how it goes!  

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PAULA3420 4/24/2018
This is one of my favorite articles. Saving the majority of the exercises to my FAVS for future reminders. Report
PEGGY-BEE 12/14/2017
feels good, Thanks Report
JANET552 12/13/2017
Great exercises. Report
PELESJEWEL 11/26/2017
Good info to start off right. Report
KATONTHEMAT 11/16/2017
Great workout session ideas Report
VHAYES04 11/16/2017
I’m going to try these Report
DJ4HEALTH 11/2/2017
Thanks Report
ROBBIEY 10/31/2017
Great exercises to do; quick and easy. Report
ETHELMERZ 10/22/2017
I remember doing these back when I was 14, decades ago, in high school. Report
ALABAMASUSAN17 10/16/2017
Great information! Thank you! Report
EO4WELLNESS 9/21/2017
Thanks. This is useful info! Report
IRONADONIS 9/18/2017
Thanks! Report
ROCKS8ROX 9/16/2017
I can't wait to try these exercises! Report
PATRICIAANN46 8/31/2017
Great group of exercises...............Thank You. Report
PLATINUM755 8/30/2017
Niice! Report
MBPP50 8/8/2017
Great ideas. Thanks. Report
Good article, and loved the photos showing the proper way to do the exercises. Do most of them daily already, but will now do all of them while I watch the news. Report
Good, except I will have to find an adjustment for all those on the floor exercises, Getting up is a workout by itself. Report
COASTERB 8/2/2017
going to do this Report
MBPP50 8/2/2017
Great for a whole body routine. Report
RETAT60 8/1/2017
Great overall exercises. Thank you. Report
Great ideas for a fully body routine! Report
LBSPOERL 8/1/2017
I incorporate a lot of these into my exercise routine, and after a month I really do notice a difference and improvement in strength and ability! Report
J38850 8/1/2017
I've done these on a challenge I done a few months ago. Report
AZMOMXTWO 8/1/2017
thank you Report
AZMOMXTWO 8/1/2017
thank you Report
NEWT787 8/1/2017
Excellent!!! Thanks Report
RO2BENT 8/1/2017
Great start Report
great routine Report
ICECUB 7/28/2017
MJADAMS1942 7/28/2017
How can I print these exercises? Mary

SHOAPIE 7/27/2017
Great. Report
How can i print these in a printer friendly manner? Report
KEEPFIT14 7/27/2017
Sit & stand exercise without using arm of chair to strengthen my legs. Getting up & down is most times difficult & embarrising. Knees buckle and I have fallen. Working through strength training has shown improvement Still need to talk myself into doing movements & in time will surprise myself and others

CECELW 7/27/2017
I do these exercises every other day. Sometimes, i'll do upper body one day, lower body the next Report
EMGERBER 7/27/2017
Good information to know. Report
PLCHAPPELL 7/27/2017
Good set of starters. Report
TNONTE 7/27/2017
How do I print article? Report
CIENACREE1 7/27/2017
Very useful. Would be elated to see an sample program for beginner witht his exercices. However the last 2 ones could be impossible to do for very overweight persons like me. Report
NASFKAB 7/1/2017
very useful post thank you Report
DARLENEK04 6/30/2017
These actually look like something I could do. I have back issues, and
would like to strengthen up. I am no way near as strong as I used to be.
ILOVEROSES 6/28/2017
Great ideas! Report
CECELW 6/27/2017
Planks are my favorite core workout. Report
I wish there were a couple more core exercises, but I love the variety! I'm going to have to try this. Report
KARENK1024 6/27/2017
how do i save these exercises ? Report
NASFKAB 6/22/2017
great ideas must do them Report
REEDSKI 6/17/2017
I saved this. Now I have to remember how to find my saved items! Report
Okay strength exercises, but too much floor work for someone who has trouble with her knees. Report
LOSER05 6/13/2017
great! Report
ROSEANNE208 6/9/2017
How do I save this so I can access it easily? I supposedly saved it under my sparkfavourites but I can't find it. Report
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