Q and A on Weight Lifting and Strength Training for Beginner Runners and Triathletes

woman Strength training with dumbbells

When you’re starting out, it’s hard to figure out what to do, which equipment to use or to buy, and how to get started. Here are some Questions and Answers on Weight Lifting and Strength Training for Beginner Runners and Triathletes.

What is a realistic weight for a dumbbell to start with? How do you know you are lifting the right weight?

Weight training can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. When starting to lift weights, start small and work your way up as you build strength. There are sets of adjustable dumbbells that enable you to gradually increase the weight you are lifting without having to invest in a new set of dumbbells every time or a full rack of weights. You can start at just 2.5 lbs. and work your way up to 25+ pounds. Gradually increase the weight you’re lifting so you can create a fitness routine that’s challenging but not overwhelming.

The weight you choose should feel challenging but not impossible to do. Depending on your goal you may want to use light weights or heavier weights. For example, if it is about strength training then you would want the weight you choose to be challenging at the 6 rep mark, whereas if it more about toning it should only feel challenging at around the 12 rep mark.

What are some of the best upper body dumbbell exercises for beginners?

  • Triceps Kickback – Holding one dumbbell in each hand, lean forward from your hips and bend your knees slightly. Bend your elbows behind you and then straighten your arms behind you with your palms facing in. Squeeze your triceps, then return to the starting position for one rep.
  • Pullover and Toe Touch Crunch – Lay on your back with your legs up at 90 degrees, then touch the dumbbell on the ground above your head and return with control before reaching for your toes.
  • Plank Pull-Through – In a tall plank position with shoulders over the wrists, keep your hips as level as possible while taking the right hand and pulling the dumbbell towards the right side of the body, place the hand back and repeat on the left.
  • Curl Press – Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Begin by curling the weight up towards your shoulders. Keep your upper arms tight at your sides. Once the dumbbells reach your shoulders, twist the dumbbells to have your palms face out. Then, drive the dumbbells overhead. Slowly, lower the dumbbells to your shoulders. Then, flip them back so your palms are facing you and with arms tight at your sides, lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

What are some of the best lower body dumbbell exercises for beginners?

  • Sumo Squats – Stand with your feet wide, toes pointing out, holding one or two dumbbells in front of the chest. Next, bend your knees, lowering your hips deeply (your thighs should be parallel with the floor). Your weight should be back in your heels. Then, rise back up, straightening the legs completely and squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement to get the most from the exercise.
  • Glute Bridges – Lie on your back (on a mat) with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the dumbbell on top of your lower abdominals (below your belly button and above your hip bones). You can hold the dumbbell in place with your hands to help keep it from moving around. Raise your hips up to the ceiling, while tensing your abs and squeezing your glutes. Hold there for about three seconds. Then, lower down to the ground and repeat.
  • Russian Twists – Sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees. Hold the dumbbell straight out in front of you, while keeping your back straight. Twist your torso as far as you can to the left and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right – that’s one rep.
  • Single Leg Romanian Deadlift – Stand balancing on your right leg and hold a dumbbell with your left hand in front of your thigh. Sit your hips back and allow your right knee to bend slightly. Your left leg should be straight (it’s OK if there’s a slight bend in the knee) and in line with your body throughout the rep. Keeping your back flat, continue to bend at the waist until the dumbbell is at about mid-shin height. Drive through your heel and push your hips forward to stand up to the starting position.

What’s a good weekly starting strength routine for beginners? How many times a week should they work out with dumbbells and should they switch off days for upper/lower body or do a full body workout?

Beginners should start strength training 2-3 times a week, doing a full body workout every time. As you build strength and advance to a more intermediate level, you can increase to 3-4 days of strength training a week, splitting up the workout by body part or upper/lower body. Always remember don’t fret if you miss a workout once a week, you will still see great results.


These tips were provided by Amber Kivett, certified athletic trainer (LAT, ATC, CSCS, FMS, FMT) and official representative at Lifepro, vibration tech products and at-home fitness products.