Home >Science >Health >Weightlifting workouts at home: How to get started

My gym reopened but I’m not ready to venture back. How do I start a weightlifting routine from my home?

The bottom line

Truth is, you don’t need much. Dumbbells, a barbell and a bench are enough to start. The key is to create the time and space for your new routine. Pick a spot in your home, and a time of day that is off limits to everything else—kids, work, chores, or other potential distractions. Make sure everyone in your household knows that these 30 minutes are yours and you don’t want to be disturbed.

The details

To save space, consider buying instruments that are weight-adjustable—such as these dumbbells from Powerblock or barbell from Bowflex—which allow pounds to be dialed up or down in increments. The alternative—multiple sets of different weights—can take up more room.

Next, set yourself up for consistency: Aim for a half-hour of weight training, three or four times a week, in between rest days. Think about splitting up the workout by muscle groups: One option could be legs on one day; then shoulders; back and biceps another day; then chest and triceps on the fourth day. Or, you could alternate days between lower body and upper body.

Former national and world champion powerlifter Warren Fahrenfeld suggests starting by picking just two exercises per body part: For legs, that could include squats (hoisting barbell on shoulders) and walking lunges (holding dumbbells). For the upper body, examples include bicep curls and bench presses which can be done either with a barbell or holding dumbbells. Mr. Fahrenfeld says to aim for five sets for each exercise; 10 to 15 repetitions per set; with 45 to 60 seconds of rest between sets. Before working out any new body part, pick one exercise at a low weight, 15 to 20 repetitions. “Just to get the blood going, and joints and tendons warmed," says the nutrition coach and personal trainer based in Township of Washington, N.J.

He says many clients feel they have to do lots of cardio activity before hitting the weights. “Do the opposite," he recommends. If cardio is desired for fat burning, do it afterward. That way, you’re not hitting the weights sapped of energy, he says. And keep things uncomplicated. “Cardio can be as simple as just walking around the neighborhood," he says. In fact, he says it is best to start working out at an easy pace and work your way up to a more rigorous one. “Most people start out overtraining," he says, and then burn out.

Don’t get discouraged by beachside YouTube videos or complicated equipment. If you’re not even ready to invest in equipment, try simple things around the house. Gallon jugs filled with water or grocery bags filled with canned goods can be used instead of dumbbells. Stick to old-school, tried-and-true exercises such as squats, dead lifts, bench presses and curls. Check YouTube or fitness websites for proper form and technique.

Write to Anne Marie Chaker at

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