One of the most daunting things about weight training (or getting back in shape!) is that first time you step into a crowded gym. Everyone seems like they know what they’re doing – people are loading up machines with weights, half of the dumbbells on the rack are being used for about 10 different things. 

home workout with dumbbells for women

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You may even feel a little confused, thinking you just accidentally stepped foot into a Zoo as you watch people jumping off things and hanging from stuff. So how is one to fit in with all this craziness? By mastering this beginner workout with weights.

By showing up PREPARED! One of the worst things about starting a new gym or workout program is having no idea where to start. You know there are about a billion different exercises, but how in the heck do you put together an effective routine that’s tailored to your goals?How do you learn which exercise works which muscle group and how to have proper form for every single one of them?

Whether you’re a complete newbie or just looking to change up your routine, this is the workout for you. I’ve put together 12 exercises to help you target every muscle group with proper form, as well as some tips to help you put together your very own workout plan. You don’t have to watch from the treadmill, staring off into the weight room wondering how you’ll ever get the confidence to walk over there. Master a few of these exercises and you’ll walk strut over there looking like a straight-up pro like it ain’t no thang. Pretty soon, people will be asking you for workout advice.

This workout is proof that you can sculpt and tone your entire body without having to worry about how to use the hundreds of different machines from the get-go. I’m not a huge fan of machines because they aren’t build to suit the needs of every individual person, and many of them fail to work your stabilizing muscles which are so important for proper form and preventing injury. You need these for balance as well as a back-up when the primary muscle you’re working needs some help carrying the load, which is why I think free weights are the absolute best place to start. And an added bonus?

That means you can do this workout anywhere.

If you’re really ready to transform your workout routine, you can check out my three week Home Weight Lifting Series right here:

Weight Training Week 1: Core

Weight Training Week 2: Upper Body

Weight Training Week 3: Lower Body



Beginner Workout with Weights: What areas will you be training?

  • Biceps & Triceps
  • Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
  • Back, Shoulders, Deltoids
  • Chest
  • Core

So pretty much all the muscles.

Tips for Noticeable Results:

– Proper form is SO much more important than increasing the amount of weight you use. Start with light weights and completely master the form before moving to a higher weight. Begin with an amount of weight that you can complete 10-12 reps with, with the last few reps feeling pretty challenging. Once you’ve mastered that, considering upping your reps or increasing the weight.

– Learn just 3-4 exercises at a time. You don’t have to go to the gym trying to bust out all of these at once – just work on a few each week until you’ve tried them all and are ready to start increasing your weight. Do 3 rounds of 4 exercises and you’ll have yourself a full workout anyway.

– Don’t SWING the weights! This is very tempting for certain exercises, especially bicep curls. Controlling the weight as you pull the weights up and again as you lower them back down is key. Avoid using a swinging motion that uses the weight to help you complete an exercise. If something is too heavy, try lighter weights.

Examples of goals you can set for long term success:

1. Learn a new exercise each week in addition to these! If you prefer to work out at the gym, you can do research online to learn how to use certain machines or pulley attachments. Watch videos and educate yourself and you’ll be surprised how quickly you start seeing results.

2. Couple your new weightlifting exercises with some changes in nutrition, too. If you feel you’re not getting enough fruits and veggies, start aiming to get 5-6 in per day. Find yourself snacking on unhealthy treats too often? Make a small grocery list just for snacking, and pick up some things you can have on hand for when hunger strikes.

3. Get stronger! Set a time period, 3 weeks for example where you’d like to start increasing your weight by. You can do this with both weight or reps so by 3 weeks in, maybe you want to increase your bicep curl by 5 pounds. Or after 3 weeks, you’d like to be able to perform 15 reps instead of 10. Be realistic and do what works for YOUR body!

Grab a set of dumbbells and let’s pump out this beginner workout with weights!

Beginner Workout with Weights: Biceps & Triceps

Beginner Workout with Weights

Dumbbell Curl 

Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand at your side, palms facing forward. You can curl both weights at the same time, but I prefer to alternate sides. Keeping your arms at your sides, bend your elbow to curl the dumbbell up toward your shoulder. Pause for a second at the top, squeezing the bicep muscle. Slowly lower the weight back down, being mindful to control the weight all the way until your arm is straight before curling it back up. Avoid using a swinging motion to curl the weight back up.

Overhead Tricep Press

Hold the end of one dumbbell directly behind your head, gripping it with your palms pointed toward the ceiling. Your elbows should be bent and tucked in toward your head, forearms perfectly parallel to the ground. Pushing through the tricep muscles, press the weight upward with both hands until your arms are straight. Make sure you do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement. Begin to slowly lower the weight back down, keeping your elbows tucked in toward your head the entire time. Continue lowering the weight until your forearms are once again parallel with the ground. If you’re having trouble keeping your elbows tucked, consider using a lighter weight. 

Tricep Extension

This exercise is best performed on one arm at a time and in front of a mirror to watch your form. Grip a dumbbell in one hand, and bend forward at the waist while keeping your back flat and neck neutral (don’t strain your neck by looking up or down). Pull the weight up so that it’s about hip height until your upper arm is parallel to the ground. It’s important to keep your arm parallel the entire time to encourage proper form. Using your triceps, extend the weight straight back behind you, straightening the arm out. A good frame of reference is to make sure that your upper arm doesn’t move the entire time. Slowly lower the weight back down, focusing on keeping that upper arm parallel as you control the weight.

Beginner Workout with Weights: Lower Body

Weight training for beginners

Weighted Squat 

Grip a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing the body. Begin to lower down into a squat position, bending at the hips and pushing the glutes behind you almost as if sitting in a chair. Continue lowering into the squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Ensure that your knees do not extend past your toes the entire time. Pushing through your heels, stand back up, squeezing the glute muscles all the way back into standing position.

Calf Raises

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing the body. Roll your weight up onto the balls of your feet, and hold the position for 5 seconds. Be mindful of controlling your weight as you slowly lower your heels back to the ground.


Holding a weight in each hand at your sides, step forward with one foot and begin to lower your body to the ground until your front thigh is parallel. Your leg should form a right angle with your knee positioned right above your heel and your back knee should almost touch the ground. Push through the front heel and engage your back foot as you pull your body back up to standing position. You can either continue stepping forward with the same leg, or alternate sides.


Beginner Workout with Weights: Back, Shoulders & Chest

Workout with weights for women

Shoulder Press

Grip a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward at ear height. Press both weights up above your head at the same time, being careful not to lock your elbows at the top. Slowly control the weights as you lower them back down, continuing to lower them until they are back at ear height.

Lateral Raise (bent over and out to the front, too)

Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand and arms at your sides with palms facing the body. At the same time, lift both weights out toward your sides, stopping when your arms are perfectly parallel to the ground. Continuing to control the weight, slowly lower the weights back down to your sides. You can also do this exercise front-raise style, bring the weights out in front of you instead of to the sides. You may find that you need to use lighter weights for these exercises to get your arms perfectly parallel, so don’t be afraid to drop the weight down from what you’ve been using for the other moves.

Bent over Row

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with palms facing the body. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back flat and neck neutral. Bending at the elbows, pull the weights up toward your body until your upper arms are in line with your upper body. Flex the back muscles as you pull the weights up, and pause for a second at the top of the movement. Slowly lower the weights back down.

Shoulder Shrug

Stand holding a weight in each hand, palms facing your body at your sides. Pull the weights up by shrugging your shoulders, being sure to keep your shoulders back with correct posture. Keeping the trap muscles engaged (the muscles on the tops of your shoulders), slowly lower the weights back down to starting position.

Chest Press

Lie on a mat or bench, holding a weight in each hand above your shoulders. Brace your core to keep your abs engaged and press both weights up above your chest, stopping just before your arms are straight and being careful not to lock the elbows. As you press the weights up, you should feel the muscles in your chest driving the movement. Slowly lower the weights back down toward your shoulders.

Chest Fly

Lie on a mat or bench, gripping a weight in each hand above your chest, palms facing each other and the weights touching. Brace your core as you open your arms, slowly bring the weights out to the sides and lower them until your upper arms are in line with your upper body, keeping the elbows bent slightly. Keeping the core and chest braced, pull the weights back up above your chest to the starting position.

That’s it! While this beginner workout with weights may be just the thing you need to gain confidence in the weight room, you can continue to use these same exercises in your own workouts as you become stronger.

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