The Beginners Guide To Free Weights: Part Two

The gym is an intimidating place at the best of times, no doubt. Even the most seasoned gym-goer can still feel a little uneasy and uncomfortable when walking into a packed gym.

And if you’re a beginner, that “I don’t know what I’m doing” feeling along with concerns about being watched and judged can increase that level of anxiety even more.

While the gym may feel like a terrifying place, your training doesn’t need to be. Many free weight exercises may look complicated and may give you the fear, but they are actually fairly simple.

Of course, the first few times you give them a go it may feel a little tricky, but that’s always going to be the case when learning a new skill; but given practice, things will quickly begin to feel easier and more comfortable.

In this article, the second part of the two-part series on beginners free weight training, we’re going to work our way through the six key free weight exercises that will help you build full-body strength most quickly and efficiently!

Why These Six?

Before we get into the specifics of each exercise, let’s briefly consider why these exercises have been chosen.

Firstly, each of the six exercises are compound exercises. The vast majority of resistance exercises can be considered either “compound” or “isolation”.

While isolations are exercises that require movement through one joint only, compounds require movement through more than one joint. 

An example of an isolation would be the bicep curl where movement occurs only through the elbow joints whereas an example of a compound would be the squat where movement occurs through the hip, knee and ankle joint.

Due to the multi-joint nature of these exercises, compounds place a demand on many different muscle groups at the same time. This is evidently going to be beneficial when it comes to developing strength in a quick and efficient way.

Secondly, there is research to indicate that performing heavy lifts may be best when it comes to developing strength.

Because these compound exercises use many muscle groups simultaneously, you’ll be able to lift heavier in comparison to certain other compound lifts or isolation exercises.

Lastly, if we want to develop full-body strength then it’s important that all major muscle groups are targeted in our training.

Out of the six exercises, there are three upper and three lower body exercises all of which primarily work a different muscle group or groups (as demonstrated below)!

ExercisePrimary Muscle Group Worked
Lower Body Exercises:
Back SquatQuadriceps
(Front of thighs)
(Back of thighs)
Hip ThrustGlutes
Upper Body Exercises:
Bench PressPectorals
Overhead PressDeltoids

By sticking with these six exercises, you ensure that each muscle group is being worked equally; this will lead to a well-rounded and comprehensive increase in full-body strength.

A final note on these exercises, although they’ve been categorised into either “upper” or “lower” exercises, these exercises are really full-body exercises.

Remember that the above table highlights the primary muscle group only; there are a whole range of muscles throughout the upper and lower body that are worked as a result of performing these exercises.

The Six Exercises

As mentioned in the first part of the guide, one of the best things about free weight training is that you have options.

Although all of the exercises below are demonstrated with a barbell, it is possible to perform these movements with dumbbells instead.

The benefit of this is that dumbbells tend to be more accessible, less challenging and perhaps less daunting than the barbell.

Therefore, if you’d feel more comfortable beginning with dumbbells rather than a barbell, feel free to!

To help you get to grips with the technique of each lift, make sure to check the below tutorial videos out before giving them a shot!



Hip Thrust

Bench Press


Overhead Press

Coaches Corner

So there you have it. Six free weight exercises to kickstart your free weight training journey.

Before finishing up, I want to use this final section to run through a few things that you should know and aim to keep in mind during the early stages of your training.

  • Don’t Worry About How Heavy You’re Lifting

Don’t make the mistake of going too heavy too soon. The goal in the early stages should be to get a hang of the technique, it’s not to see how much you can lift. Lifting beyond your capabilities isn’t likely to end well.

  • Feeling Shaky Is A-Okay

You’re learning new skills and your nervous system needs time to adapt and get used to the new movements. As a result, you may feel a little shaky and unsteady for the first wee while – totally normal.

  • You’ll Likely Be Sore

Another thing that is very normal is feeling sore after training sessions. This is a phenomenon known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS).

As someone who is new to this form of exercise, it’s possible you may feel DOMS often and fairly intensely early on, however, as your body becomes more accustomed to free weight training it’s likely to become less of an issue.

  • Progress Each Week

When it comes to physical training, there is an important training principle known as progressive overload. This is simply making things harder over time.

Therefore, each week look to try and make some progress with each lift. The simplest ways of doing this are to increase the weight or the number of sets and / or reps.

  • Be Gradual

Although it’s crucial to progress things, you still must be sensible. If adding weight, avoid big jumps.

Instead, focus on adding just a little bit more each week. As with lifting heavy, trying to progress things too quickly often doesn’t end well.

Thank you so much for checking out The Beginners Guide To Free Weights. I trust that you found it to be incredibly helpful.

If you require any further help with your training, make sure to get in contact with me directly – always happy to help!