Lifting can weights can be a scary concept, but there are plenty of beginners strength training exercises that can introduce you to this facet of working out with minimal intimidation. Strength training is an important step to preventing injury during more intense cardio workouts. Muscle tissue also burns calories at a higher rate than fatty tissue does. And for vanity purposes, strength training will help you achieve the toned, lean, built look you're after in weight loss.
See below for a handful of introductory strength training exercises that together work out your muscles from head to toe. For each exercise mentioned, do three sets to get the most effective results.
1. Bicep Curls
This exercise may seem fairly straightforward, but it's a routine that will carry you from strength training novice to expert. Adjust the size of the weights as you grow stronger, or increase the number of reps per set. Hold either a barbell in each hand or one large bar, with your palms facing the ceiling. Curl slowly toward you then back down. Increase the counts from one second to three seconds on both the up and down for extra resistance. Sculpted, toned biceps are a way to achieve a leaner look overall, even if the other muscle groups aren't in top shape.
2. Tricep lifts
Toning your triceps helps fight the flab that lends to the jiggly upper arms people detest on themselves. Extend both of your arms straight up above your head, with the insides of your upper arms all but squeezing the sides of your head. Hold one barbell with both hands. Bend elbow slightly and lower the barbell to where your forearms essentially perpendicular to your head, then raise them slowly again. Do this and the bicep curls for 12 reps. This exercise has the added bonus of giving your forearms a slight strength workout too.
3. Waist Twists
This exercise will strengthen your abs, obliques and even back muscles. Sit on a bench with you knees bent and flat on the bench in front of you, legs at about a 45 degree angle. Lean slightly back and hold a barbell or other type of weight in front of you with both hands, arms extend as far as possible. Without bending your back or hunching your shoulders, turn your middle towards your left, still extending the weight in front of you. Turn back toward the middle, and then repeat on the right. Do 10 reps on each side.
Integrate hand weights into this basic calisthenic move, and you get a total lower body workout. Extend your left leg in front of you as far as you can and your right leg behind you as far as you can while maintaining your balance. Hold a barbell in each of your hands and bend your left knee while lowering your right leg as far as you can to the floor, with your knee cap pointing down. Do 15 reps and switch legs. This exercise will strengthen your butt, thighs and calves while simultaneously promoting flexibility and balance.