A physiotherapist approved strength training routine for beginners


Jared Bruce PT, MScPT

Registered Physiotherapist

It is common knowledge that exercise and physical activity is vital to maintain and improve your health and prevent diseases. Canada’s physical activity guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise per week for adults aged 18-64! This includes running, biking, swimming, and organized sports. Did you know there are also recommendations for muscle strengthening? The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiologists (CSEP) recommends engaging in strength exercises using major muscle groups AT LEAST twice per week! A Statistics Canada survey completed in 2016 reported that only 17% of Canadians are meeting these activity guidelines.

So why aren’t people engaging in weight training and strengthening sessions? I think that people underestimate the value of weight training! Everyone knows that getting your heart rate up is important for your physical health, but so is lifting weights!

Other than improving your strength, weight training has been shown to have the following benefits:

  • Reduce risk of injury
  • Improve pain
  • Improve metabolic rate (burn more calories throughout the day)
  • Regulate insulin and reduces inflammation
  • Improve strength of bones and joints
  • Improve your mental health
  • Improve your sleep and increases energy levels
  • Increase testosterone (needed for men and women)

Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly where to start in a strength training program. People are often nervous because they are unsure if they’re doing the right exercises and doing them correctly. Also, lets be honest, the gym can be an intimidating place! I’ve designed this program so that it can be completed in any gym (condo, home gym, or commercial gym). It can also be done at home with light weights or bands. This is an example 2-day per week plan that will hit all the major muscle groups!

Prior to beginning any exercise program, including the activities depicted in this article, individuals should seek medical evaluation and clearance to engage in activity. This can be done at our clinic with a physiotherapist or chiropractor, or by speaking to your doctor.

Here are some general guidelines (in no particular order) when beginning weight training:

  1. Each strength training session should begin with at least a 10-minute warmup (jogging, skipping, jump rope, cycling, etc.)
  2. Volume: Complete 2-3 sets per exercise to begin. Aim to complete anywhere between 5-12 repetitions. If you are easily able to perform more than 12+ repetitions, you need more weight! Take 1 minute between sets, or more if needed.
  3. Control the movement. The lowering (eccentric) movement is just as important as the lifting (concentric movement).
  4. Maintain proper form. Avoid swinging and using momentum. Do not sacrifice quantity of reps for quality of movement.
  5. Breathe. Exhale as you lift the weight, inhale as you return the weight to the start position. DO NOT hold your breath.
  6. Progress each week. You can progress by modifying the weight, rest periods, number of sets and reps, and changing your exercises. To prevent overtraining (burnout), progress slowly but steadily.
  7. It is normal to feel some soreness for 2-3 days after your workout. This as known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). You will learn to love the feeling!
  8. Hit all the major muscle groups: core, arms, legs, shoulders, back, chest.
  9. Perform compound exercises first, and isolation exercises last. Compound exercises have multiple joints moving at once. For example, a squat is a compound movement that requires movement in the hip, knee, and ankle. A bicep curl is an isolation exercises that only requires one joint (the elbow) to move.

Day 1:

  1. Goblet squat (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)
  2. Two arm row (2 sets of 8-12 repetitions)
  3. Shoulder press (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)
  4. Deadlift (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)
  5. Push up (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)
  6. Front plank (2 sets, hold for up to 60 seconds or until you cannot maintain form)
  7. Optional: bicep curl (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)

Day 2:

  1. Walking lunge (2 sets of 8-12 repetitions per leg)
  2. Chest press (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)
  3. Pull-up or lat pulldown (2 sets of 8-12 repetitions)
  4. One arm dumbbell row (2 sets of 10-12 repetitions per side)
  5. Single arm carry (2 sets of 50 steps per arm)
  6. Deadbug (2 sets of 20 repetitions)
  7. Optional: tricep extension (2 sets of 5-12 repetitions)

I hope this article gives you some motivation to start! If you still have questions, feel free to email me at jared@foundationphysio.com. I am also happy to see you in the clinic, we have all the equipment needed for a weightlifting assessment and together we can create a program that is specific for you!