Beginner Strength Training Routine for Weight Loss

How to Use Weights to Lose Weight

man exercising with dumbbells.
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Physical activity has many benefits for mental and physical health. And some people use exercise to help them meet a weight-loss goal. You can use this beginner strength training routine for weight loss, if that is a priority for you, or to build muscular strength.

This routine is based on walking, which helps build cardiovascular endurance and health, and weights, which can help boost metabolism and burn more fat. It also includes one weekly session of circuit training, which combines weights and cardio.

Although it is possible to achieve results with cardio alone, adding a strength training routine for weight loss will make your workouts more balanced and capitalize on the fat-burning benefits of weight training.

Program Schedule

To do this program, walk on 6 days; take one day off. For the strength exercises, use dumbbells, or other weights, at home or the gym.

  • Day 1: Walk for at least 40 minutes at a brisk pace or one that makes you breathe heavily, but does not make you breathless. Split the session up if it suits you, but try to keep up the intensity.
  • Day 2: Choose 8 dumbbell exercises. Together, these strength training exercises work many different muscles to contribute to weight loss and building a stronger body. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise. If doing 8 exercises at once is too much, break it up into 4 exercises over two sessions. Also try to fit in a 30- to 40-minute brisk walk.
  • Day 3: Do a circuit training workout. If necessary, modify it by slowing it down, so that you can complete at least three circuits. If you like, swap in a different circuit training routine on alternate weeks.
  • Day 4: Walk for 40 minutes.
  • Day 5: Repeat the dumbbell program performed on day 2; walk for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Day 6: Rest.
  • Day 7: Walk for 40 minutes, or take a rest day.

This beginner strength training routine gives you three days per week of strength training (the two dumbbell programs, plus strength training in the circuit training workout), which is optimal for losing weight.

You can mix the walks up with slow jogging if you feel up to it, but at least 40 minutes of brisk walking, six days each week should be your goal. You can do this on a treadmill, in your neighborhood, or in the park.

Weight-Loss Basics

An exercise program is an important part of a weight-loss routine, but it isn't the only part. If your goal is to lose weight, you will need to make some other changes as well.

Get Clearance From a Healthcare Provider

Before you start a beginner weight training routine, or any exercise program, be sure you have no underlying medical conditions that mean you should be cautious about your exercise intensity or frequency. A healthcare provider can also help you set personalized goals and help you understand the right nutrition plan for you.

Move More

Extra incidental movement throughout the day, called "non-exercise activity," can help increase the amount of exercise you get outside of your training program. Try parking your car farther from the entrance at work or while running errands.

If you live in a city, take public transportation, which usually requires more walking to get to and from your destination and the bus or train stop. Even simple things like standing on one foot while you brush your teeth can help improve your balance and stability.

Make Weight Training Convenient

If you have a gym membership, free weights and machines are at the ready. But you can use dumbbells at the gym or at home.

Try placing dumbbells in a handy spot so that it's easy to pump out a few dozen repetitions in between other activities or even while watching TV, videos, or listening to music.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Diet has an important role in reducing body fat. But remember: Very low-calorie diets are not suitable, as you will shed muscle (and bone) and your metabolism will slow down, making it difficult to resume normal eating while managing weight. In addition, you'll likely miss out on essential nutrients your body needs.

Still, to lose weight, your diet needs to restrict calories so that you lose fat, while at the same time providing you with essential nutrients and sufficient energy to fuel your exercise routine.

  • Eat a high-fiber diet with healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado.
  • Replace refined carbs like cookies, cakes, sweets, sugary drinks, and white bread with more nutrient-dense alternatives like whole grains, fruits, and plenty of water (if you get bored drinking plain water, try water flavorings).
  • Try low-fat dairy instead of full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Consider plant-based dairy alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk.
  • Choose whole-grain bread and cereals, and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Select lean, low-fat meats, or vegetarian alternatives.

Lastly, eat fast foods rarely, and choose less processed whole foods when possible to minimize your intake of added sugars, excess sodium, and other additives.

A Word from Verywell

Remember to see a healthcare provider as you start to ensure a strength training routine is right for you. Then, get started as soon as possible. It's OK if you don't quite meet your goals for each and every day, to begin with—just aim to start each of the allocated sessions for the week.

Be determined, start slowly and consistently, and improve performance week by week. The goal should be progress, not perfection!

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  1. National Institute on Aging. Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical ability.