An Easy-to-Follow Upper-Body Strength Routine for Beginner Weight Lifters

So, you want to start lifting weights. You've come to the right place.

Progressing your bodyweight workouts by adding resistance, like a set of dumbbells, is a great way to further challenge yourself and build stronger muscles. Plus, you'll continue to reap the endless benefits of resistance training, like strengthening your bones and maintaining muscle mass as you age.

We know that figuring out where to start can be nerve-racking, so we asked Alyssa Expósito, certified personal trainer in New York City, to put together a strength-training workout that's perfect for the beginner lifter. The workout includes just four basic exercises that will help you master fundamental movement patterns and get stronger over time.

The exercises in the upper-body workout below focus specifically on pushing and pulling movements, Expósito says. And even though they primarily target muscles in the upper body, "they will also engage your core," she adds. Pushing and pulling are two types of functional movements, which means they are motions we perform in everyday life; just think about pushing or pulling a door open. So focusing on them during your strength training workouts will not only help you lift more efficiently in the gym, it will also simply help you move better in everyday life. While it's cool to do fancy, complex lifts and exercises every now and then, it's the stuff that reinforces basic functional movement patterns that's worth spending the most time on.

Before getting started, Expósito stresses the importance of doing a dynamic warm-up to get your body ready for the work ahead. If you need an idea, here's a five-minute one you can try.

Demoing the moves is April Nicole Henry, a strength athlete, mother, and wife who was born and raised in New York. Henry started her fitness journey about 10 years ago after giving birth to her daughter and soon after, discovered powerlifting. She wanted to be able to do amazing things with her body and figured that training to pick up super heavy weights was a good place to start. She now has competed in three powerlifting meets and recently brought home her first gold medal.

The Workout

What you'll need: One set of dumbbells, and either a set of gliders or two towels.

"Pick weight that is challenging," says Exposito. "You don’t want to go too heavy, but you also do not want weight you can perform 30 reps with. You shouldn’t be able to exceed 15 reps with the weight chosen. All movements should be performed with full range of motion, in a slow and controlled way."


  • Body saw—12 reps
  • Alternating single-arm chest press—12 reps
  • Bent-over row—12 reps
  • Shoulder press—12 reps
  • Do 3 sets.

Here's how to do each move:

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