A Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training

Master the weight room with tips from Equinox's Kristy DiScipio.


Weights photo via istock.com/Bliznetsov

As countless Instagram posts and workout tank tops have proclaimed, strong is sexy. Strength training is in, no matter who you are or what you look like.

But if you’ve never touched a dumbbell in your life, heading straight for the weight room can be downright terrifying. Here to help is Kristy DiScipio, East Coast regional group fitness manager for Equinox, which will soon roll out Pure Strength, a new weight-focused class.

Below, DiScipio breaks down some strength training basics. Get ready for your new muscles.

1. Start (really) small.

DiScipio says it’s crucial to master major movements before you go anywhere near a weight. This may feel pointless at first, but it’s the safest and smartest way to work up to strength training.

“If you can’t walk down the stairs normally, would you expect to be able to do it with a 50-pound suitcase in your arms?” DiScipio says. “You’d end up hurting yourself.”

The same mentality should apply at the gym. Leave the weight rack alone at first, opting instead for a PVC pipe, a mop handle, or even simple body weight until you get the hang of seven movement patterns: knee-dominant, hip-dominant, vertical pull, vertical press, horizontal pull, horizontal push, and core rotation and anti-rotation. (Visit the following pages for detailed instructions on how to do these movements.)

2. Adjust your diet.

If you’re following any kind of strength training regimen, DiScipio says getting your diet under control will help you see results. Her best diet tips include:

  • Eat a small snack, containing more carbs than protein, before you get to the gym. DiScipio recommends an apple with peanut butter.
  • Up your protein intake, but don’t forget about carbs. Protein “will help build and maintain your precious muscles,” but carbohydrates “help increase your blood sugar level, which will give you energy.” Turn to lean sources of protein including chicken, fish, beans, and nuts, and healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and yogurt.
  • Try to eat a meal containing fast-digesting carbs and protein after your workout, even if it’s just a smoothie. “Aim to eat within a half hour of working out, as your muscles are primed for recovery, repair, and rebuilding and [you’ll] ward of the hangry beast that will emerge later in the day if you avoid it,” she says.

3. Shake off your fears.

You know that old notion that weight lifting makes you bulky? Forget it, DiScipio says.

“The more muscle mass on your body, the smaller you will appear, as muscle is more dense than fat and in turn more compact,” she explains. “Strength training, in all actuality, will lean out the female body and make it more sleek and defined.”

Ahead, how to master the seven main movement patterns necessary for strength training.