The clanking of weights, the grunts, the sweat… the intimidation of the weightlifting area for those who don’t know where to begin. We get it – weight training can be scary if you’re new to this form of exercise. However, if you’re looking to create a balanced workout routine for yourself, your body is going to need a combination of cardio and strength training. But you probably already knew this. Let’s jump right into it then – where to begin?

First, ask yourself what muscle areas you want to focus on:

  • Lower Body
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core

We’ll get into specific machines or body weight exercises you can do to tone each of the areas above a bit further on. Next, you should determine how much weight you want to be using. This varies depending on the results you’re looking for. Always remember this –

If you’re looking to tone, but aren’t necessarily looking for bulk or noticeable, muscle, then it’s best to stick to lighter weights at higher reps.*

If you’re looking to build muscle and bulk up, you should look to increase your weight (safely, over time) use heavier weights at lower reps.

*Reps – Short for repetitions. This is how many times you will be repeating the exercise.

Sound good? Great, but how many sets** should you be doing? This varies too, and really is based on personal preference. A sample workout may consist of 3 sets of ‘x’ exercise, comprised of 10-12 repetitions of that particular workout. For example, you would do 10 biceps curls, then you would rest. Then do a second set of 10 biceps curls, then rest again, before doing a final third set of 10 biceps curls.

**Sets – A group of exercises performed.

This is a good starting point, but perhaps you’re looking to build muscle. Some people enjoy increasing their weight with each set and then lowering the amount of repetitions they do. An example of this would be to start off with a 20-lb. barbell for your bicep curl, complete your 10 reps and then rest. For your second set, you may want to increase to a 30-lb. barbell, this time only completing 8 reps, and if you’re feeling strong enough for the third and final set, you can increase your weight to 35 lbs. and decrease your rep again to only 6.

Make sure you’re listening to your body, because the amount of weight, the number of reps, and number of sets you choose to do will vary from person to person depending on what you’re looking to accomplish, level of experience and strength level.

Body Weight vs. Machine/Equipment vs. Free Weights

When it comes to strength training, you have options. Some people prefer using their body weight to build strength, others enjoy using the machines, while some prefer training with free weights. Is one necessarily better for you than the other? We break down the pros and cons of each of these exercises so you can determine the best option for you.

Body Weight

Pros – This is a great way to truly understand the proper form of an exercise while allowing your core to be engaged and obtain the full range of motion of the movement. You’ll be able to perform a high number of reps doing a body weight exercise which will generate an increase in heart rate producing both strength and fat burning.

Cons – Once performing these exercises for 2-3 weeks, the amount of strength gains plateaus resulting in primarily fat burning. You will eventually need to upgrade to either machines or free weights to obtain more solid strength gains.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.


Pros – Another great tool to understand the form of an exercise. These exercises will provide some good isolated muscle strength gains while also allowing your joints and muscles to stay in line with the exercise. They will help keep your body out of harm’s way while you are still early in your weight training program.

Cons – Although strength gains will be more than with body weight exercises, with the limited range of motion for machines the amount of strength gains won’t result in as much as free weights. The limited range of motion will also not allow your joints and muscles to maintain their flexibility. It is also tougher to engage your core resulting in only the isolated muscle group being worked.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Free Weights

Pros – This is the optimal strength gain exercises. They allow for the most range of motion and increase in resistance as you progress through a program. With a program centered around free weights, the strength results will typically happen faster than the other two forms. These exercises also require the core to be engaged during the duration of the exercise so more muscles are being worked during the movement.

Cons – This form requires the most knowledge and understanding of the movement of the exercise, as they have the tendency to produce the most injuries of any of the three types. It is best to utilize the first two forms and then work into free weights if you are entering into a beginner’s weight training program.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Our suggestion? Mix it up! Not only does that help keep the work outs fresh and fun, but it’s actually going to help build the optimal body. Check out how body weight exercises combined with heavy weight exercises act as a power duo for the body, here!

How Many Days a Week Should You Focus on Strength Training vs. Cardio?

Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F., suggests a balanced routine of strength training anywhere from 3-4 days per week, and cardio between 4-5 to maybe 6 times week, depending upon what your level is when you first start out. Check out the full Ask A Trainer video below for more info on how to maintain a balanced workout routine.

!! Trainer Tip: Cardio after weightlifting can help release lactic acid built up in the muscles and can help you feel better in the long run. Check out why, here.

Sample Beginner’s Weight Lifting/Strength Training Guide

It’s important to note that the videos below only touch upon a very small fraction of what’s available to you when it comes to weightlifting in one of our clubs. In order to know what weightlifting routine would work best for your body and your goals, set up a fitness assessment with someone in your club’s personal training department. They will be able to help target what exercises should be done to help you reach your goals.

Lower Body




!! Tip: Like these videos? Many more of these Premium Fitness Tips can be found on our LA Fitness YouTube channel and help break down how to properly use the equipment found in a typical club.

Nutrition’s Effect on Strength Training

Weight training needs to be fueled properly in order for all that hard work to be effective.  As opposed to cardio which burns more fat, strength training uses available carbohydrates because it is rapidly oxidized for those quick, intense muscle bursts. Consuming easily-digestible “simple” carbohydrates before and during your workout can keep that supply running.  But that’s not the only thing. Adequate muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is also used, and this reserve is built up by a consistent diet of complex carbohydrates, complemented by lean protein and healthy fats.

The protein provides the needed amino acids for building new muscle fibers while the fat gives both energy and structure. So why not load up on all of the protein you need before or after strength training? That’s because it (along with fat and fiber) slows down the delivery of those quick carbohydrates. Also, you don’t use that much protein at once and without a reserve for it you need a more constant supply throughout the day. In other words, save foods like beef loin, broccoli, baked potato, nuts and avocado for meal or snack time, but have an egg white with a banana or white toast before your workout. When you provide the right nutrients at the right time, your muscles can do more work for a bigger result.

Nutrition advice above provided by LA Fitness registered dietitian, Debbie J.

Pro Results® Training

If you’re still feeling like you may benefit from an in-club, hands on approach to learning what equipment would be right for you, set up a consultation for personal training at your local club. There are a variety of Pro Results® packages available to you, so whether it’s a short-term helping hand you’re looking for, or having someone on a longer-term basis to help you reach your fitness goal, LA Fitness is here to help you succeed.

Already have a personal success story you’d like to share with us? Click here to submit it for a chance to be one of our featured Member Spotlight stories!

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