My 5 Favorite Weight Training Exercises

Take anything popular, and you are likely to find hundreds of different takes on the same idea. The ideal weight training exercises are no different! Weight training builds strength and loses weight, so every trainer, guru, and fitness pro out there wants to put their spin on it.

The good news is that weight training that works isn’t that difficult. A good routine focuses on just five simple exercises. You don’t need to know every exercise and every muscle that bodybuilders or extreme athletes work on. For most people looking to get fit and drop a few pounds, a simple routine works best.

The Benefits

Adding a little weight training is good for anyone. The added strength will help with mobility issues, and beefing up muscle mass will help with weight loss. Muscle injuries are common and painful, so start simple with no weights and be modest about adding weight into your routines. Focus on the correct posture for each exercise first.

  • Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so building muscle mass helps you get rid of more fat.
  • Resistance training keeps you healthy in a variety of ways, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Lifting weight can release endorphins and make you feel happier.
  • You will gain confidence and self-esteem along with strength.

The Equipment

Even better, you don’t need a ton of expensive or complicated equipment to start a weight training routine. If you have access to a gym, you can use their equipment. If not, any weighted object will get you started. 

The Routine

As mentioned before, there are five simple exercises that can deliver an effective weight training routine. To build an entire workout, complete ten reps of each exercise and work through the routine three times for a full thirty-minute workout. The five exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Hip Hinges
  • Overhead Presses
  • Rows 
  • Chest Presses


A squat is a natural movement that provides excellent lower body strengthening. A basic squat begins with your feet spaced shoulder-width apart, comfortably underneath your body. Your back is straight and tall. You lower your hips from a standing position to a squatted position and then raise them back up. 

Variations of squats include a wide-leg squat, single-leg squat, narrow-leg squat, plie squat, and Bulgarian squat, to name a few. You can keep your workout fresh by incorporating different styles.

Hip Hinges

The hip hinge is another lower-body exercise. This one targets the back, butt, and hamstrings. A hip hinge focuses on keeping the lower leg, from the knee to the ankle, stiff. Performing this exercise, you will raise and lower your upper body by hinging your hips, thus the name. 

Variations of the hip hinge include barbell deadlifts, single-leg deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, and lying hip extensions. These exercises help strengthen your back for improved function with bending and lifting. 

Overhead Presses

Overhead presses work your shoulders for improved upper body strength. The same move is also called a shoulder press. This exercise works your shoulders, surrounding muscles, and abdominal core. Unfortunately, it is also the exercise that causes the most injuries, so just be careful not to lift more weight than you are ready for.

Variations of the overhead press include the dumbbell press, barbell press, military press, and handstand pushups. You can do presses from a sitting or standing position as long as you use good form with equal weight distribution.


This exercise is good for the upper body, focusing on the often-neglected back muscles. Weak upper back muscles are responsible for poor posture and may cause pain as you age. Rowing exercises are the perfect solution.

Variations of this exercise include the barbell row, bent-over row, and machine row. Some variations, especially machine-assisted rows, can work all of your back muscles, including those that extend into the legs.

Chest Presses

Chest presses are probably the most iconic strength-training exercise. This exercise works the frontal, upper body, including the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. This is why novice bodybuilders and men that want to beef up head straight for the bench press. 

Variations of this exercise include barbell chest press, dumbbell chest press, machine chest press, inclined chest press, and cable chest press. A proper chest press requires a straight, flat spine and even pressure of the shoulders, hips, buttocks, and soles of the feet.

Misconceptions About Weight Training Exercises

Many people avoid weight training because they think it is only for bodybuilders. Contrary to this misconception, modest weight training activities won’t cause you to have disproportionately large biceps. 

You also don’t need to join a gym or know how to use expensive weight training machines. Anything that provides counter-resistance will do the job. This could milk jugs at home. If you like the community of working out at a gym or you want access to a personal trainer, gyms can provide this. But you don’t need a membership to get fit.

Tips to Get Started

If you are a beginner at lifting weights, the most important thing is to choose appropriate weights. For most beginners, performing the exercises with your bodyweight alone is sufficient. Once your form is mastered, you can add light weights (between 1 – 5 lbs for women or 5 – 0 lbs for men.) As you build more strength, you can add more weight. You will know that it is time to increase the weight when you can complete all of your reps with ease.

The Takeaway on Strength Training Exercises

There are many variations of the same exercises, which makes it much more complicated than it should be to get acquainted with weight training. The complicated workouts can be condensed down to five key exercises: squats, hip hinges, overhead presses, rows, and chest presses. Each exercise focuses on a different muscle group, adding up to an effective total body workout.