I'm a personal trainer—these are the three moves you should focus on if you're new to strength training

Build strength and boost your cardio with these multi-muscle moves

Woman doing a squat with light weights in a stylish living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Certain compound exercises crop up again and again in strength training workouts. These tried and tested exercises are simple yet effective muscle-builders, which can be scaled to suit any fitness level.

I've created a simple routine that features three of these moves: the squat, deadlift and reverse lunge. All you need to do the sequence is a mat and a set of dumbbells. 

Commit to doing it regularly and you could see improvements in your strength, mobility, and cardio fitness. 

My three strength training moves for beginners

To do the workout, perform 10-12 repetitions of the following moves, completing three sets in total.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Reverse lunges

Make sure you spend five minutes warming up before the workout. This is a crucial part of training that can decrease your risk of injury. See our piece on how to warm up properly if you need exercise suggestions.

Exercise explainers

A woman performing a bodyweight squat

(Image credit: Getty)

How to squat

  • Stand with feet about shoulder width apart with feet facing forward.
  • Engage your core, hinge at the hips as you push your butt and hips back and down, like you’re sitting on a chair. Keep the chest up and shoulders back.
  • Pause at the bottom, when your legs are about parallel with the floor.
  • Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes (buttock muscles) as you drive back up to start position.

Squat benefits

Squats are an efficient move, engaging all the major muscle groups of the lower body at the same time. Doing them regularly can help with hip and ankle mobility and you can add weight to make the move more challenging.

Woman doing a dumbbell deadlift

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to deadlift with dumbbells

  • Start with feet hip-width apart with dumbbells in your hands, palms facing your thighs.
  • With shoulders relaxed and your core engaged, keep your arms straight. Push your hips back and bend the knees slightly as you slowly lower the dumbbells down, close to the legs, stopping at the shins.
  • Squeeze your glutes as you drive the hips forward and pop back to start position in one dynamic movement.

Deadlift benefits

A classic strength-building exercise, the deadlift hits multiple muscle groups including the posterior chain (those on the back of the body such as the hamstrings and glutes).

Two women performing dumbbell lunges outdoors

(Image credit: Getty / Kali9)

How to reverse lunge

  • From standing with feet hip-width apart, and a dumbbell in each hand, step back with one leg
  • Pause for a second to get your balance, then lower the back knee down towards the floor. Keep the chest upright. Your knees should both come to form a right angle.
  • Drive through the glutes as you push the leg back to the start position. Swap sides and repeat.

Reverse lunge benefits

Reverse lunges are ideal for beginners as they build strength and mobility in the knees, thighs and hips, and improve balance. They also put less stress on the joints than a forward lunge.

Benefits of strength training

Regular strength training can improve your muscle mass, boost your cardiovascular fitness, and increase bone density, which is especially important for women who are more at risk of osteoporosis in older age.

You can also do strength training exercises for weight loss, if that's your goal. Strength training can help you build muscle tissue, which is more metabolically active than fatty tissue. Put simply, the more muscles you have, the more calories your body will burn, even at rest.

Need some new weights for your home workouts? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells can help

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 26 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK. 

She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.