Weight Training 101 – Certified Personal Trainer Approved!

The most common of all resistance training, weight training is a great way to strengthen and build up muscles, improving fitness, strength, and overall health.

In the same way that running and other aerobic training improve the strength of the heart, weight training builds up strength in the muscles used when lifting weights. But before you get started, you should check out this Weight Training 101 guide, get the most out of your new hobby!

Are Weight Training and Strength Training the Same Thing?

The best way to think of it is that weight training is a kind of strength training. There are other kinds, including resistance bands or even using fast sprinting techniques to hone the ‘fast-twitch’ muscle fibers.

So, while weight training certainly is strength training, it’s not the only one.

What are Supersets in Weight Training?

Supersets are the process of using two different sets, one after the other, without taking a rest in between. For example, it could be moving immediately from doing a set of 10 bicep curls, to doing a set of 10 dumbbell bench presses, with no rest period between the two.

It’s a challenging way to train and requires stamina, but the gains in both muscle and cardiac strength mean that many find supersets very rewarding.

What are Drop Sets in Weight Training?

The beauty of drop sets is that they take something that could initially seem like a failure and turn it into a productive way to keep pushing forward!

Drop sets work by pushing through repetitions until you can’t possibly do another, and then lowering the weight by around 10-30% and continuing without a break. They help to build strength and stamina, but rather than have you quit when you reach your limit, you lower the bar a little and keep going.

What Does ‘High Volume’ Mean in Weight Training?

It simply means more reps. The volume is the number of reps and sets as opposed to the number of weights on the bar or machine. High volume weight training could mean rarely increasing the weight, but instead sticking with one weight and doing many reps and sets with it.

What is Hypertrophy in Relation to Weight Training?

The term ‘hypertrophy’ means to increase in bulk. This could be applied to any organ or area of the human body, but in weight training, which is where our focus lies, it applies to the increase in muscle size.

Relating hypertrophy to muscle gain is ideal when it comes to weight training, as this method is the perfect way to improve bulk and definition.

How Long Should a Weight Training Session Last?

How long do you want it to last?!

There’s no hard and fast rule on how long each of your weight training sessions should be. Some trainers say that you should keep going until you can’t do a single rep more. Others say just 15 minutes a day is fine.

The general rule of thumb is that anywhere between 15-45 minutes per session will give you time to work for different muscle groups. After all, do you want to just focus on arms, and skip leg day? Nobody should skip leg day!

More isn’t always better. What’s key is consistency, so once per week for an hour is better than nothing, but twice per week at 30 minutes a time is even better. Regularity, increasing the weight as you progress, and getting rest time between sessions are all important things to consider.

Related: Should You Stretch Before Or After A Weight Training Session?

How Much Weight Should I Start Out With?

“Start slow, avoid rhabdo.”

For those in the weight training game, this means avoiding rhabdomyolysis, which is when the muscles tear badly and become so badly damaged that the result can even impact your kidneys.

So, even if that 200lb bar looks tempting, don’t be in a rush to try and lift it when you’ve only just started on your weight training journey. A lot depends on your own weight, and your own lifting strength, which you might not even be aware of until you try.

If you have a friend who knows what they’re doing, or even a trainer or gym bunny acquaintance who can help you out, then all the better. Because it’s not just about the weight, either, but the technique, too.

Start low, and if that feels fine, then begin to increase the weight until it feels like it’s not exactly easy, but it’s not impossible, either. Weight training is about resistance, not refusal to move at all.

Related: Why Am I Having Trouble Gaining Leg Muscles While Running?

What Weight Training System is the Easiest to Start Out With?

What are you training for? Is it for muscle power, endurance, or hypertrophy?

If you’re new to weight training, then a set of dumbbells could certainly be considered the easiest to get started with. Just 12-15 reps will begin to test your muscles and start the strength building.

Once the dumbbells become too easy, then you can try bench lifting. But even then, it shouldn’t be so easy that there’s no progress in your workouts. The idea is that is must be a little difficult so that you push against the resistance.

Pros of Weight Training

As with any form of exercise, there are pros and cons. And the pros of weight training include:

  • Muscle building
  • Burning of body fat
  • Increase in strength
  • Improvement in joint movement
  • Stronger bones
  • Improvement to both overall physical and mental health

Cons of Weight Training

For some, weight training isn’t their preferred choice, but it’s not so much that there are cons to weight training, more than some choose not to do it because of the following:

  • Precision method – you may often need help or a spotter
  • Requires a set of dumbbells or kettlebells, or a gym membership with access to weights
  • Fat burning is not as high as with aerobic training
  • Higher risk of injury

Still, if for you the pros outweigh the cons, then weight training may suit you very well.

Related: Best Body Weight Exercises For Runners

How Many Sets Should You Perform with Each Weight Training Exercise?

According to fitness experts, the magic number of sets per session is around 3-6, but this can also depend on the number of reps per set, and the amount of rest in between sets.

Rather than increasing the number of sets, or reps per set, progress comes by increasing weights. So, whether you’re benching 50kg or 500kg, you may find that you only ever stick to the ‘6 sets per session rule.

Whether you’re building for muscle strength or muscle size (hypertrophy) the number of sets will be around the same. What will change is most likely to be the rest period in between the sets (which we’ll come to shortly).

If you choose to use supersets (see above) in your training, you may find it more enjoyable because it makes your workout more varied as well as targets more muscle groups in the body. Mixing things up will mean that by the time you’ve done 6 sets, you’ll have had a good, all-over workout.

Related: Do Ankle Weights Really Help Strengthen Your Legs When Running Or Walking?

How Many Reps Per Set Should You Perform with Each Weight Training Exercise?

In the same way that there’s no exact figure for sets per session, there’s no specific number advised for reps per set. However, experts in the field believe that between 8 and 12 reps per set are best.

You might find it easy to go for a nice, round 10 reps per set. It’s easy to keep track of and record, but once you’ve found your number, you may find sticking with it in all your workouts is the best way to calculate your progress.

What About Training to Fatigue?

Some might find 12 reps to be too easy, and that their preferred way to train is to skip the break between sets and simply keep going until they can go no further. This is a method that should be treated with caution, of course, because it could lead to injury, but there’s also a good sense in training to fatigue.

Another way to do so is to lift higher weights until you can’t lift anymore. This too isn’t for everyone, but ultimately, fatigue in training is a good thing. It encourages all the muscles to work together and builds more strong fibers in reparation.

Related: Are You Overtraining? Find Out In This Quick Read

How Long Should You Rest Between Each Weight Training Set?

You should rest for as long as you feel is necessary, but no less than 30 seconds, and no more than two minutes. Once again, it’s crucial to know that no two people will have the same workout, but it’s good to categorize your rest depending on your goal, so:

  • Training for strength or power means rest of 2-4 minutes between each set
  • Training for hypertrophy means resting between 30-90 seconds between each set
  • Training for endurance means resting for a maximum of 30 seconds between each set

As you can see, the method used for your workouts depends greatly on your overall goal. How Many Times Should I Weight Train a Week?

Weight training can become a very addictive pastime! It’s such a great way to build strength, endurance, and bulk, as well as being good for relieving stress and pushing away all the troubles of the day. This can mean you might want to hit the weights daily.

But beware daily training, especially if you are using the same muscle groups each time, is the perfect way to cause injury. You shouldn’t be exercising the same muscle groups two days in a row.

So train daily, but mix up your muscle groups, so work the arms one day and maybe calves the next, and alternate so that your muscles get plenty of rest time in between.

Remember that rest times are almost as important as training days: this is the time your body is building the muscles you’re craving.

Related: 10 Kettlebell Exercises Every Runner Should Know

Does Weight Training Increase Bone Density?


You’ll never increase your bone size in the same way you can increase muscle size, but strength training is a great way to keep bones strong, as well as warding off declining bone mass and osteoporosis, which can sneak up on us as we grow older.

How Many Calories do you Burn During Weight Training?

As you’ll no doubt be aware, weightlifting is a high-intensity form of training that burns calories. So, what can you expect to burn in a normal session?

Per Session

How many calories are burned in your session will depend on the number of reps and sets, the rest period in between, and the size of the weights used.

It also depends on your starting weight because those with more weight to lose will burn calories faster, at least at first.

Using the rule of calories burned per hour (below) you can best calculate your session’s approximate calorie burn, depending on your preferred session length.

Per Hour

The general rule of thumb is that someone who weighs around 200lbs (90kgs) and who lifts for a session of around an hour can burn up to a whopping 560 calories. That’s like running for an hour!

Of course, this is an average calculation, but it can be a good way to get an idea of just how good exercise weight training is.

Does Weight Training Help Running?

It doesn’t only help it, it’s vital!

Weight training strengthens your muscles and joints, as well as increases bone density. All factors are invaluable for giving you a greater push in your running so that you can improve your run times, as well as greatly lowering your risk of injury.

Those who are looking to get started in running are often advised to begin with some strength training before they hit the track. Building up body strength is an imperative part of running and lifting for endurance can also help your workouts.

Related: Strength Training For Runners – Hamstring Exercises

Related: Strength Training For Runners – Quadricep Exercises

Related: Strength Training For Runners – Hipflexor Exercises

Does Weight Training Burn Calories After a Workout?

Yes, it does!

Weight training has advantages over cardio for this very reason. When you lift weights, your muscles break down with tiny little tears and your body uses plenty of energy to repair these tears, using up calories and building muscle, all at the same time.

How Weight Training Changes Your Body

The obvious reasons people get into weight training include bulking up and looking better. But there is a whole heap of great ways having a regular weight training program will benefit your body.

These include:

  • Losing weight, including burning calories both before and after a workout
  • Boosting your metabolism, which leads to faster weight loss
  • Improves posture, balance, and core strength
  • Reduces risk of accidental injury from muscle strain
  • Improves sleep quality and reduces insomnia
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease and regulates natural insulin production
  • Boost mental health through endorphin and serotonin production

There are more, too, but many of them are often difficult to put your finger on. Instead, many who get into weight training report feeling like a brand-new person in ways they can’t even count.

Is Running After Weight Training Good?

If you want your workouts with a mix of cardio and weights, then you should run after your weightlifting session, and not the other way around.

Weights are the most strenuous workout of the two, so what you don’t want is to go for a run, and then be so exhausted you either forego the weight training or push through and instead give yourself an injury.

Cardio exercise uses up muscle glycogen, which is important for the strength training of weights. So, you should never run hard before weight training, so that you don’t have to lift on empty reserves. Light jogging as a warm-up routine should be fine but keep it under 10 minutes (aerobic only, no anaerobic)

Related: For a deeper dive into cardio before or after a workout click here

Does Weight Training Cause Inflammation?

Weight training is all about minor muscle damage. We’re not talking major injury (although this can happen if you push yourself too quickly) but instead the breaking down of muscle fibers before they repair themselves, bigger and stronger than before.

For this reason, yes, in the short term you will experience inflammation in the body because of the release of something called cytokines, which are proteins released en masse to boost immunity. Essentially the body notices the muscle damage and releases the cytokines to tackle it, hence inflammation.

But this is only a short-term response and is in fact vital to the repairing and regrowth of the muscles.

In fact, if you’re suffering from long-term, chronic inflammation in the body, then weight training could benefit you greatly.

Strength and intensity training, coupled with adequate rest, both work toward reducing long-term inflammation, giving you greater pain relief and less discomfort.

How Much Protein Should I Eat After Weight Training?

After a good weight training workout, it’s time to top up with the protein that will help to repair and build up the muscles tested during your exercise. And around 20g of protein in your next meal is sufficient.

Experts advise using a 2:1 ratio, with a meal of 2 lots of carbs to 1 lot of protein. This means 20g of protein (boiled eggs, avocado, chicken, fish) along with 40g of carbs (quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, legumes).

But don’t forget the fats, too: snacking on foods high in polyunsaturated fats are idea, so a handful of nuts or seeds in your snacking windows along with the ratioed meals will give you a great, all-around balanced workout diet.

Related: Does Intermittent Fasting Actually Work To Help You Lose Weight?

What is the Best Window of Time to Consume Protein After I Weight Train?

Get your body working to fuel your workout recovery by consuming protein within an hour of completing your workout. Protein, when broken down in the body, releases amino acids, and these are what go straight to work, repairing and regrowing muscles.

You might not feel like eating straight after your workout so allows your body to cool down and rest for 30-40 minutes if that’s what works. You may also not need to eat a large meal, especially if you work out first thing in the morning, which is why you can still add protein to your system without the heaviness of the food.

Do this by preparing a post-workout smoothie filled with avocado, banana, spinach, and berries, blended with protein-rich Greek yogurt.

Failing that, a simple shake made of almond milk with a sachet of protein powder can also give you the boost your body needs without you having to feel obligated to eat a heavy meal.

Related: Best Protein Recovery Snacks For Runners

Should I Eat Before or After Weight Training?

As important as it is to eat after you’ve trained, it’s also important to give your body fuel before you work out, to get you through your session. And, you’ve guessed it! The emphasis is on protein.

Be sure to eat around 90 minutes to one hour before you begin your workout so that you’ve had time to digest the food and won’t feel nauseated during your lifting. A breakfast or pre-workout meal should be lighter than your post-workout meal.

An ideal pre-workout lunch is a take around a cup of lean chicken breast and wraps it in a wholewheat tortilla. Another idea is to toast a couple of slices of seeded or whole-wheat toast and whip up an egg-white omelet.

Related: What Should I Eat Before A Half Marathon?

Don’t Forget the Water!

We can often concentrate so much on getting the food right, that we forget the fluids. But weight-training aficionados are never caught too far from their trusty water bottle.

Fluids are important the moment you wake up, when you have your pre-workout meal, during your workout (a sports drink with added electrolytes will also work well), and then during your post-workout meal.

Keeping hydrated throughout the day, even on your rest days, will ensure you don’t fall into the pit of feeling sluggish, and therefore unmotivated to train.

Weight Training – Are You Ready to Get Started?

By now, you’ll see just how great weight training is, to increase your strength and muscle endurance, bulk up your physique while burning plenty of calories, as well as benefit from a whole host of positive results on your health.

It’s a type of training that you don’t even have to leave the house to perform, and once you begin to see great results, you’ll wonder why on earth you didn’t start weight training sooner!

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Coach Scott's Credentials:
  • Published Author
  • RRCA Certified Running Coach (Level 2)
  • RRCA Certified Youth Running Coach
  • NASM CPT (Certified Personal Trainer).
  • NASM CNC (Certified Nutrition Coach)
  • NASM WLS (Weight Loss Specialist)
  • ACE SFC (Stretching and Flexibility Coach)
  • ACE GFI (Group Fitness Instructor)
He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 22nd half marathon race. 

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  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
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