Strength Training Exercises for Beginners

Strength training for beginners in sports need to focus on technique, performance based exercises, and overall athletic fitness. Strength training programs are designed to develop not only strength, but several other abilities needed in sports. Strength is one of the three major athletic performance abilities, along with speed and endurance. Strength is defined as the ability to produce force.

Strength Training for Beginners

Strength training programs for beginning athletes or younger athletes are designed to improve competition performance by developing the physical qualities needed in athletics, improving event related abilities, and enhancing the distinct needs of each individual, including preventative exercises to minimize the risk of injuries. The key to a quality program is converting the gains in strength to the specific demands of sports.

Benefits of Strength Training

More strength benefits go beyond just getting stronger; the movements improve intermuscular coordination, intramuscular coordination, kinesthetic awareness, body stabilization, balance, and flexibility. Strength training for beginners improves muscular strength and allows the athletes to withstand training demands and can hold the positions required during sporting movements. 

To increase strength, the athlete must have challenging loads during an exercise. The load is based on the amount of resistance represented in a percentage determined by testing such as a single or multiple repetition performance efforts. 

The stress placed on the body during training is called the load or stimulus. Improving strength requires an overload; this is done by increasing intensity or increasing volume during training over time.

Strength Training for Beginners Design

Mike Gattone

USA Weightlifting Head Coach - 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games

This is a 12 week introductory plan designed with younger athletes in mind, especially 7-9th grade athletes.  It is designed to address many common needs for this age group, and sport.  It could also be used for older athletes that don’t have a background in organized athletic performance training.

Focus on Technique

Since the athletes performing this program are probably somewhat new, the strength training for beginners program seeks to address several variables.  First of all, every strength training session must stay focused on the mechanics of important exercises and movement patterns are approached using step by step teaching progressions.

Since the ability to demonstrate good exercise mechanics is compromised without proper movement, the improvement of basic healthy movement patterns are also constantly addressed throughout the cycle and especially stressed in the early phase.

Adjust Training Loads in the Strength Training Program

Finally, as many programs do, strength training for beginners eventually becomes more specific as it nears its conclusion through a transition to more intense exercises and loading patterns which translate to the needs of the events, and attempt to achieve a physiologic peak specific to track and field throwing; particularly strength and power.

For this age group and experience level repetition is important.  This program uses a small battery of basic, simple, and effective exercises with the philosophy of getting the young athletes to do them really well.

Focus is on developing important physical qualities and developing the psychology of working hard, smart, and doing things right.

As coaches we would not want athletes to do the techniques of their events poorly, so they also should learn and embrace using good form when they stretch, lift, run, jump, etc.

It’s very difficult to assign loads according to percentages with athletes new to strength training exercises. The coach must be the decision maker here, allowing weight increases when technique looks stable. Strength training for beginners especially younger athletes may use the same load for a few weeks but will still benefit greatly from repetition with proper mechanics regardless of this.

12 Week Strength Training for Beginners Program

  • Cycle 1: Work capacity
  • Cycle 2: Strength Development
  • Cycle 3: Power

Strength Training Cycle Goals

Cycle 1 – Work Capacity: Weeks 1-4

Goals of Cycle 1

  • Improve mobility and stability typically lacking in athletes this age
  • Teach mechanics, build proficiency, and gradually build loading in key strength and power development exercises for throwing; Olympic Lift Related, Squat Related, Press Related, and Hip Hinge Related.  A small battery of basic strength exercises will be covered in this introduction to assure proficiency.  From these base strength training exercises many other lifts and variations can be added in future programs. Strength training for beginners need to start with simple exercises in the program that can progress to more complex movements.
  • Provide “regressions” to major exercises for athletes that need them, allowing them to learn and strengthen movements while controlling overload.
  • Address and develop the base of General Physical Preparation in the strength training plan.
  • Teach basic mechanics of speed-strength/jumping movements and prepare the athletes for gradual ramp up of intensity throughout the program.
  • Teach basic sprinting patterns and prepare the athletes for gradual ramp up of intensity throughout the program.

Cycle 2 – Strength: Weeks 5-8

Goals of Cycle 2

  • Continue to address mobility and stability with strength training for beginners.
  • Progress loading in the same key strength and power development exercises; Olympic Lift Related, Squat Related, Press Related, and Hip Hinge Related.  Change exercises to allow for greater loading or to become a more explosive variation where applicable.
  • Continue to provide “regressions” to major exercises when programming strength training for beginners
  • Increase the volume of strength and power sessions and decrease work capacity sessions as the competitive season draws nearer.
  • Progress volume and intensity of speed-strength/jumping movements.
  • Progress volume and intensity or speed work in the strength training cycle.
  • Decrease volume of general physical development work and create longer technical throwing sessions.

Cycle 3 – Power, Weeks 9-12

Goals of Cycle 3

  • Achieve a physiologic “peak” allowing the athletes to express the greatest strength and power during this final competitive period.
  • Continue to progress loading in the same strength and power development exercises, while continuing with exercise progressions allowing for greater loading or explosiveness where applicable.
  • Continue providing “regressions” to major exercises for athletes that need them; the athletes need to have proper technique when performing the strength training exercises.
  • Decrease the volume of strength and power sessions along with work capacity sessions allowing for maximum technical preparation during the final phases of the strength training cycle.
  • Continue to progress volume and intensity of speed-strength/jumping movements.
  • Progress volume and intensity or speed work.

Strength Training for Beginners Review

Strength training for beginners is a progressive system, don't rush the process. In addition, the focus should be on overall athletic fitness and the abilities to improve sport specific performance. An organized strength training program should be planned out over several months with different cycles that will progressively increase intensity and challenged the athlete to achieve better technique and lift heavier weights faster. When developing a strength training program, technique and proper teaching progressions are a must with the exercises.

Special thanks to Mike Gattone for his dedicated work on this article.

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