The Beginner’s Guide To Strength Training At Home

This guide outlines strength training at home for beginners, and goes into more detail than any issue of men/women’s health. 

When you apply the details of this guide to your training, I guarantee you will get stronger & feel more confident in the gym, too. 

Before going any further, I want to let you know that everyone was a beginner at some point.  

Beginner strength training

Being a beginner isn’t bad. 

Being a beginner is pretty damn freeing.  

You can expect to make many mistakes & no one will judge you for it. Ironically, once you have some knowledge, you can still make mistakes, and no one cares. 

For argument’s sake, define your fitness age as a beginner if: 

  • Most of your workouts are group fitness classes. 
  • You primarily perform short yoga classes on YouTube.
  • You stick with a training program for only one week and then jump to the next one. 
  • You can’t convert Pounds to Kilograms
  • You have never had a gym membership
  • You’re afraid of getting too bulky from lifting weights. 

Any of these makes you a beginner, and there’s nothing wrong with that! 

Strength training at home can be convenient.

  • Work From Home 
  • Are a stay-at-home parent
  • Worry about being judged

As mentioned earlier, everyone was a beginner at some point.  

The gym can be one of the most supportive environments and a great place to learn. Nobody wants to see you fail; however, everyone is on a different fitness journey. 

If you are uncomfortable because of your weight and feel embarrassed, it’s okay. Use this guide, get ridiculously strong, and try to join a gym when you feel ready. 

No matter where you are training, the same principles will apply.  

In essence, there are five parts to a well-thought-out training program. 

Every athlete has done a variation of the 5Ps, even if they are unaware of it. 

If you were to create a strength training program, the 5 Ps would look like this: 

Prepare: Preparing the body for the specific training session. Think of warming up the body and practicing dynamic movements to ready the joints for your lifts. 

Practice: The skill that requires the most strength and is the most taxing of the day. It all depends on your current focus because it could be the front squat for one person or a weighted chin-up for another. 

Play: Consider this further conditioning your ability to move. Play is the easiest thing to add to various sections of your training. 

Your prep might be someone else’s play and vice versa. 

You can challenge yourself to explore strengths and weak links and to experiment further.

An example would be Preparing for your deadlifts by performing kettlebell swings. 

Later in your training session, you might perform lateral lunge kettlebell swing. They are all variations of the hip hinge and allow you to explore your strength, flexibility, and control.

Push: This is what you traditionally think of when lifting weights. Think of it as your “pump” section. For my online clients, this is the conditioning section of their training plans. 

You have Accessory Compound Lifts, such as Bulgarian split squats, B-stance RDL, TRX Rows, and incline DB press.  

You have Accessory Isolation Lifts (single joint), such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, calf raises, glute bridge, and leg curls. 

Accessory movements are a way to target specific muscle groups or movement deficiencies.

Ponder: You most likely have overlooked your ponder section, a moment to sit and reflect on the training session.  

Reflecting can happen while performing a few stretches or sitting down for your post-training meal.  

If you can’t think about what went well and what needs improvement, how can you expect to make any progress? 

When talking about a traditional strength training program, there are several terms that everyone should know. 

Completing several repetitions of a specific exercise in a row is called a set.  

Strength Training at home explanation of sets

In this example, the first number indicates you will perform three sets of 10 reps for your front squat. 

Rep is short for “Repetition,” a single execution of an exercise.  

Using the same example, you can see that you will perform ten squats in a row or ten reps. 

Strength training programming explanation of repetitions

A few considerations exist when setting the rep ranges in your strength training program. 

In general, you can look at rep ranges in the following way. 

Strength training at home rep ranges

Hypertrophy is a focus on developing muscle size through exercise. 

Interestingly, a cross-over exists between strength, hypertrophy, and endurance rep ranges.  

Around 6-12 reps, tough repetitions are a safe bet for hypertrophy.

Rest periods are the time you rest between sets of specific exercises.  

If you want to get strong and build muscle, resting will impact your ability to lift an adequate load using a full range of motion. 

Rest periods might be a new concept if you primarily train by attending group fitness classes. In certain classes, the goal is to keep you moving & sweating the entire time.

If you love group fitness, rad, but it’s essential to consider you aren’t using hefty weights or a full range of motion during class, both of which are vital for strength training. 

If you want to save time, you will be a fan of supersets.   

A superset pairs two exercises that work opposing muscle groups with little to no rest between exercises. 

For instance, you might see something like this: 

You would perform the goblet squat and then immediately switch to the row. Once you finish performing rows, you will rest for the prescribed time, anywhere between 120-90 seconds. 

You can pair an exercise with a mobility drill. 

The adductor rock will further mobilize your hamstrings and hips. By practicing that mobility drill, you can increase the range of motion used during the RDL. 

Of all the clients I have coached, no one has ever said they wished they were less mobile. 

Tempo is the speed at which you perform each phase of an exercise. 

By adjusting the tempo, you can increase or decrease the difficulty of a movement. The numbers indicate the speed of a movement’s eccentric and concentric phases. 

Eccentric are slow, lengthening muscle contractions that are for a specific muscle.

Concentric is the muscle tension rising to meet the resistance and then remains stable as the muscle shortens. 

The Eccentric portion of an exercise allows you to take on more weight than you can push or pull back up.  

Imagine how easy it is to squat down with a heavy load and how much harder it is to stand tall from the bottom of your squat.  

Practicing slow eccentrics is a great way to improve your strength; however, you can expect to be more sore than usual. 

It would help if you filmed yourself performing your lifts because no matter how slow you think you are moving, I guarantee you are moving 3x faster. 

Before going any further, let’s clearly define mobility, shall we? 

When you think about mobility, you’re most likely thinking of passive flexibility. 

Think of doing the sit-and-reach test in middle school gym class. 

You relax into your current range of motion…passively. 

What you want is mobility, which is a combination of strength and flexibility/control. 

Passively flexible individuals who lack mobility tend to get injured more quickly because they have little control over their flexibility. 

The goal is to control your entire range of motion, such as a dancer can hold positions like the one below. 

Mobility for strength training at home

The secret to developing your mobility is strength training using a full range of motion.

To truly get the most out of your training, it is vital to create proper time under tension and train your muscles in the lengthened position.  

Consider decreasing the weight you are using and increasing the range of motion. You will get stronger & your mobility will improve. 

Mobility for strength training at home

Bonus: Superset your lift with a mobility drill to increase your range of motion and then train that range of motion. 

Ultimately, your training split comes down to the time you have and your goals. 

Ideally, you could train 3-4 times per week.  

Here are a few examples: 

3 days per week 

  • Upper pull 
  • Upper push 
  • Lower Body 
  • Upper Body 
  • Lower Body 
  • Full Body 
  • Full Body 
  • Full Body 
  • Full Body

4 days per week

  • Upper Body 
  • Lower Body 
  • Upper Body 
  • Lower Body 
  • Upper Body 
  • Lower Body 
  • Upper Body 
  • Full Body 
  • Upper Body Pull 
  • Lower Body Push (knee dominate movements: Squats)
  • Upper Body Push 
  • Lower Body Pull (Hip dominate movements: Deadlifts) 

Something that will influence your training split is your training goal.

Most men that I have trained wanted to improve their upper body composition, and therefore, the preferred split would be: 

  • Upper 
  • Lower
  • Upper 
  • Full Body (upper emphasis) 

Most women I have trained were more concerned with their lower body while leaning out their upper body. 

  • Lower Body 
  • Upper Body 
  • Lower Body 
  • Full Body (Lower emphasis) 

Exercise Tool Box

Knowing your training splits is pointless without knowing what exercises to do.

Compound LiftAccessory LiftsCore
Squats Vertical Pulls/PushesExtension/Anti-extension
DeadliftsHorizontal Pulls/PushesLateral Flexion/Anti-Lateral Flexion  
Bench PressUnilateral Knee/Hip Dominate Rotational/Anti-Rotation

To take it further, here are a few exercises that fall into each category. 

Exercise Tool Box 

Knee DominateHip Dominate Horizontal PushHorizontal PullVertical Push Vertical PullUnilateral
Goblet Squat Deadlift Dumbbell Bench PressTRX RowIncline Dumbbell Bench PressChin-upBulgarian Split Squat 
Kettlebell Front SquatHip ThrustPush-upBench Supported RowInverted PressResistance Band
Staggered Stance RDL 

Core Tool Box

ExtensionFlexionLateral FlexionRotational
SupermansReverse CrunchSide Plank Hip DipsRussian Twist
Dead Bugs (Anti)Good MorningsSuitcase Carry (anti)Pallof Press (Anti)

You can choose from the programming toolbox when you create your next strength training program.  

Do you need cardio in your strength training program? 

Is cardio necessary for strength training

As a new personal trainer, I truly believed cardio was pointless.  

Cardio was squatting heavy; that was all the cardio you needed. 

If you have ever completed a heavy set of squats, it certainly does feel like you have run a marathon; however, it’s not the same. 

Cardio enhances endurance, efficiency, and cardiac and respiratory function. 

Lifting weights increases muscle size and strength & improves coordination.  

In other words, a well-balanced strength training program would include both cardio and lifting weights. 

Improving your cardiovascular health will only further enhance your strength training.  

Think of it this way: the more you improve your conditioning, the less rest you require between sets. 

In other words, if you improve your cardio, your recovery time improves, too. 

The trouble with cardio is that most folks are running as hard as they possibly can or trying to do daily marathons.

Cardio for strength training

Now, does this mean that running is terrible? Heck, no, but if getting faster is your goal, that is separate from improving your lifts. 😉 

One of the best things you can do for your general health is practicing Zone 2 cardio. 

Cardio in zone 2 feels like it would require work to sustain for a multiple-hour session, but it could be done—no gasping for air— for the duration of this workout. 

You should be able to converse, getting at least 14 words out before needing your next breath. 

Someone would know you were working out if they talked to you on the phone.

For specific individuals, zone 2 will be hit by walking.  

Your conditioning will improve quickly with a few weeks of consistent work. Aim for 3-4 weekly sessions at 20-30 minutes of work. 

Fun fact: You can recover quickly from zone 2 work, meaning you could technically do it daily and be peachy keen. 

To determine your heart rate zone for zone 2 work, you can use the following formula: 

180-AGE = Zone 2 HR target OR the assigned heart rate range given. 

For well-trained individuals, add + 5 to that number.  

If recovering from a MAJOR illness or injury, -10 from that number. 

If recovering from a minor illness or injury – 5 from that number

An RPE 4-5 or 60 – 70% of your max heart rate. 

If you want to be sure you are in Zone 2, I suggest wearing a heart rate monitor. Not the one on the treadmill or elliptical because those are NOT ACCURATE. 

Common ways my online coaching clients train their Zone 2 cardio:

  • Walking the stairs
  • Walking on an incline on the treadmill
  • Elliptical 
  • Spin Bike 
  • Rower 
  • Ruck Walk 

I suggest using low impact for zone 2 because it will require less recovery time, and you still want to properly strength train, too. 

For those reading this article, attending HIIT group fitness classes four times per week, you’re not doing High-Intensity Interval Training. 

You are doing cardio, but if you were doing a HIIT session four times weekly, you wouldn’t feel great. 

A proper HIIT session requires a day or two for full recovery. 

A High-Intensity Interval Training session involves several rounds alternating between several minutes of high-intensity movements to increase the heart rate to at least 80% of your maximum heart rate, followed by short periods of lower-intensity training.

“For HIIT workouts, aim for 3-10 intervals of 30 seconds – 4 min each, with 0.5-1.5x as much rest. The shorter the intervals, the more you can do. The longer, the less you should do. Aim for ~10-15 min of ‘hard intensity minutes’ (zone 3-5) during these. Such as 10 rounds of 1 min on 1 min of = 10 min hard effort. 4 rounds of 4 min on and 3 min off is 12 hard minutes.” 

For the most part, you will be training in Zones 3,4, & 5 for a HIIT session. 

Burning legs and lungs would identify zone 4. You can only keep the effort up for 15-30 minutes.

It is pretty much torture.

Difficult 1-3 words at a time are possible if talking. 

Zone 5 are short bursts for a few seconds up to 10 minutes. 

Talking is nearly impossible here. 

Remember, Zone 2 cardio can be performed frequently due to the short recovery time. 

You would perform HIIT 1-2x per week at most for general health. 

Remember that lifting weights will achieve a different cardiovascular effect than performing actual cardio.  

So, all those random plank jumping jacks, squats, lunges, and med ball passes in your HIIT class…aren’t cutting it, pal.  

No judgment because you are still moving your body, which is fantastic; however, now you know.  

Ah, the age-old question: should I switch my program? 


The answer is no.  

Okay, it could be more complicated because there are certain factors.  

A proper program will be at least four weeks long and ramp up someone to increase their strength. 

Progressive overload is involved in any strength training program and is how you get stronger. 

The simplest example would be increasing the weight you lift every session. If you are new to lifting weights, you might increase the weight from session to session; however, there is a cap.  

For instance, if your goal is to increase your bench press by 5 pounds every week, the likelihood of injury increases..and if it were that easy, we would all be bench pressing 350lbs. 

With a proper training program, you will see progress in different areas of your training.  

  • Number of repetitions completed
  • Amount of weight lifted
  • Number of exercises completed
  • Length of rest periods needed

If you look at four weeks of programming for the Deadlift, you might see something like this. 

Week 1: 3×5 

Week 2: 3×5

Week 3: 4×3

Week 4: 4×3 

In weeks 1 and 2, you will lift 15 total reps for the Deadlift. 

In weeks 3 and 4, you will lift 12 total reps for the Deadlift.  

While 15 reps might be more than 12, the weight used for the 12 reps will be heavier.  

Ladies and gents, that is progressive overload.  

Progressive overload for strength training.

As for the programming phases, you could stick with the same program for 4 – 8 weeks before needing to change things. Of course, this all depends on training frequency and experience level.   

Every time you get a new training program, you shouldn’t see a 💩 ton of new exercises. Slight progressions in tempo, rest intervals, range of motion, and reps completed can all increase the difficulty of a program. 

“What equipment do I need for a good workout at home?” 

There are a few considerations that you need to make. 

  • How much do you want to spend? 
  • How much space do you have? 
  • What do you truly need? 

Let’s assume you have a space in the garage for some training equipment. 

Also, let’s assume you are on a budget because life is expensive. 

Here is precisely what I would buy: 

  • Power Blocks are convenient because they are adjustable dumbbells that go from 10-50lbs. It saves you space and money.  
  • Adjustable Bench to perform a variety of exercises. Bonus points if you find one that is collapsable for storage. 
  • A TRX is a solid piece of equipment allowing rows, pushing movements, lower body exercises, and core work variations. Also, you can roll it up and throw it in a bag while traveling. 
  • Resistance Bands are cheap and are a great addition to any gym. 
  • Doorway Pull-up Bars are self-explanatory for chin-ups and vertical pulling exercises.  
  • Stationary Bike for cardio, low impact & cheaper than a treadmill. 

If you get an excellent tax return, consider purchasing these, too. 

You don’t need to buy everything all at once. 

My home gym started with two dinky kettlebells from Modells and a used doorway pull-up bar. It got the job done; you don’t need anything fancy. 

Here’s a sample of a strength program you can complete at home. 

Lower Body: 

Movement Prep

A1. Goblet Squat 3×6-8 

A2. Adductor Rock 3x8ea 

Rest 90-120 seconds 

B1: Dual Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squats 3×8-10

B2: Couch Stretch 3×30 seconds ea

Rest 90-120 seconds 

C1. 1.5 Dumbbell RDL 3×10-12

Rest 90 seconds

D1: Single Leg Hip Thrust 3×12-15

D2. Russian Twist 3×10-12

Rest 60 seconds 


Upper Body: 

Movement Prep

A1. Dumbbell Chest Press 3×6-8 

Rest 120 seconds 

B1. Chin-up 4×3 

B2. Rocking 3×10 

Rest 120 seconds 

C1. 3-point Dumbbell Row 3×8-10

C2. Push-Up 3x MAX

Rest 90-120 seconds 

D1. Lateral Raises 3×12-15

D2. Zottmans Curls 3×12-15

Rest 60 seconds 

You could perform a short zone 2 session or stretch at the end of these sessions.  

Every Minute On The Minute: 

  • 10-15 rounds: Every minute on the minute 20 seconds MAX effort sprint. Rest for 40 seconds (FULL REST) 
  • Perform on the Bike, elliptical, or rower

Zone 2 Sessions 2-3x per week 

  • Minimum 20 minutes 
  • Maximum 90 minutes

This article was quite a bit of information, and I hope you found it helpful. If you made it this far, I am sure you did. 

Honestly, this scratched the surface of strength training & program design. 

If your interest is piqued, I recommend checking out the following books: 

A final word on programming.  

Less is more.  

If you want to build muscle, get strong, and improve your health, it takes time and effort.  

Notice how I didn’t say anything about being perfect. 

3 responses to “The Beginner’s Guide To Strength Training At Home”

  1. Lots of great info. The exercise tool box is very helpful

    1. Ah, I’m glad you like it! Any moves you’re going to try adding

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