Free Weight Training Tips

You may have noticed these 8 Weight Training Tips in the Full Body Circuit Training Workout I created for you. Because these weight training tips are so important, I had to create a separate post that goes into more depth about each tip.

I want to emphasize these weight training tips reflect 15 years of my experience working out along with spending countless hours training people of various ages and exercise levels. Burn these tips in your memory and you will always have safe, effective weight training workouts.

The image on the right is a tear sheet with all these weight training tips so you can easily reference them.

1. “Active” Rest

While you are in between sets or exercises, it’s important to use the time wisely by “actively” resting. This means stretching the muscles you are targeting in between sets, fine tuning your form for a particular exercise, or drinking water to help prevent dehydration. Don’t sit around watching the football game on TV; it’s a lot more comfortable to do at home.

2. Focus on Form

There are a variety of exercises that target different muscles in your body in different ways. Each exercise has a specific form for targeting the desired muscle, or muscle group. Never use any momentum (i.e. throwing up a bicep curl by using your lower back) when lifting weights unless you are completing sports specific exercises with supervision. A momentum style of strength training is typically reserved for seasoned athletes and powerlifters.

3. Quality of Contraction

As you are working out, focus on the muscle group that you are training, the so called “mind-muscle connection”. Every single rep, you should concentrate on the quality of the contraction to make sure the targeted muscle group is being stimulated. If you are completing an exercise and don’t feel the targeted muscle working intensely, then the exercise is most likely ineffective.

4. Complete Set to Failure

The amount of weight you choose is critical in determining the quality of your workout. If you use weights that are too light, you will not be challenging your muscles to increase their strength. If you choose weights that are too heavy, then you are at greater risk of injury and the quality of the set may suffer. For the targeted amount of reps chosen, use a weight that makes you “fail” (i.e. can’t perform any more reps) while still using proper form.

5. Keep up the Pace

In order to keep your heart rate elevated and get aerobic benefits during a weight training workout, you should try to rest for as little as possible, basically just enough to catch your breath. Short resting periods of as little as 20 to 30 seconds are usually adequate for recovery and allow for another quality set of training. The amount of time you rest between sets is dependent on a number of factors, including most importantly, your fitness level.

6. Remember to Breathe

A lot of people make the mistake of holding their breath while they lift weights. Breathing in during the negative phase of the lift and breathing out during the positive phase will give your body more energy to complete those extra few reps.

7. Listen to Your Body

At the end of the day, only you know how you feel and if something doesn’t feel quite right. If you are completing an exercise that causes you a “bad” pain (vs. “good” pain of muscle burn), don’t do it. If something doesn’t feel right, stop exercising immediately. It’s not worth seriously injuring yourself because getting surgery on a muscle or ligament tear will put you out of commission for months. That extra rep or set when you’re feeling unusual pain is NOT worth it.

8. Rest and Recover

After an intense exercise session, the body needs to rest and recuperate. In fact, working out too much can be counterproductive. Generally speaking, you should allow at least two days of rest between intense full body lifting sessions, preferably three days.

I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you want me to go into more depth about any tip, then let me know in the comments section below. Also, if you have any extra tips to share that I did not touch upon, please leave a comment!



  1. profile avatar
    Robert Brooks Mar 26, 2010 - 11:16 #

    Hi Marc,

    Love your website, and of course always looking to get better.. most folks would say I am pretty lean..6’1” 160lbs. I work out 5-6x a week, one of them being yoga… legs are probably my biggest strength upper body pretty thin from all the cardio i do… am your Dad’s age… and i assume you train clients in NYC?

    All the best,
    Bob Brooks

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Mar 26, 2010 - 20:10 #

      Hey Bob, I would definitely say that you are very lean. I think it’s awesome you are able to stay in such great shape and you are definitely an inspiration to many men in your age group (and even younger of course). I’m still training a handful of clients in NYC, but most of my time is spent developing products that can help potentially millions of people get in better shape in less time and with less hassle. Maybe we should talk about making a product together to target the baby boomer market!

  2. profile avatar
    Carolyn Mar 26, 2010 - 13:12 #

    Number 3 is SO important!! It’s so easy to get distracted or to just be going through the movement without REALLY trying… must concentrate.

  3. profile avatar
    Leila Mar 26, 2010 - 16:21 #

    Yes the breathing component is key and easy to forget. Incorporating breathing exercises can make the experience feel meditative, too, which adds incentive.

  4. profile avatar
    Hank Mar 26, 2010 - 16:43 #

    I am glad you put active rest first. This is important since you are wasting 0 time during your training session.

  5. profile avatar
    greg g Mar 28, 2010 - 13:18 #

    marc – re: working to point of failure, what tips do you have for doing this without a spotter or partner? i find its difficult to do on my own. great article

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Mar 28, 2010 - 14:45 #

      Hey Greg, that’s a great question. My first recommendation (if you don’t consistently have a spotter) is to complete each exercise to “fatigue”, not failure. Your results will still be solid. In addition, I use DB’s versus barbells if I can’t get a spotter. I never will use the flat or incline barbell bench without a spotter, because I think it’s too dangerous and I have found myself in some dangerous situations over the years.

      Another idea is to use the Smith Machine if you are looking to get in some barbell work. While it’s not as great as using a free weight barbell, it’s much safer without a spotter. One more quick point, for some exercises, there may be guard rails you should use in case you fail. A good example is most squat racks have some type of guard rails. I’m definitely going to do a blog post in the future about this topic, so thanks for bringing it up.

  6. profile avatar
    RJ Mar 28, 2010 - 16:24 #

    right now i’m doing major cardio, and sometimes not enough time/energy to lift. but i want a good balance of both. what is advisable re the frequency of weekly workouts if i want to achieve this? for example, i’d like to run some 10-15mi each week…

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Mar 28, 2010 - 22:17 #

      Hey Richard, that’s a very good question. I definitely have trouble balancing cardio and lifting sometimes as well. If I don’t have that much time, I would lift first (always before cardio when I have the most energy) for 20-25 minutes, then finish off with the cardio if that’s what you want to emphasize. In my opinion, lifting takes precedence over cardio from a body composition perspective, but there’s nothing wrong with emphasizing steady state cardio sessions if that’s what you enjoy, which will certainly help improve your aerobic capacity and burn that extra layer of fat.

      I think 2x per week lifting sessions is the minimum that you should shoot for. That might sound daunting depending on your schedule, but again you don’t have to spend much more than 20-25 minutes lifting weights if you are keeping up the pace (I know you are advanced so you can handle this). And if you can only hit the weights 2x per week, I would suggest two full body workouts, or upper body/lower body split to hit a lot of large muscle groups.

      I have an entire blog series that I will add soon about increasing your strength training efficiency, so stay tuned. Thanks for the question!

  7. profile avatar
    Saurabh Mar 28, 2010 - 18:09 #

    Thanks for the simplified tips. I work out regularly, and tips 3,4, and 5 are making a vast difference. Tip 4 (Complete Set of Failure) can be a bit hard; suggest gradually incorporating in your workouts (as you increase your fitness level).

  8. profile avatar
    Mary Mar 29, 2010 - 02:12 #

    I agree with Saurabh, tips 3, 4, and 5 really make a difference in the quality of my workout: although I tend to workout to fatigue vs failure. Also, resting less between sets seems to give me much better results. Thanks for the tear sheet!

  9. profile avatar
    Arianne Mar 29, 2010 - 09:56 #

    #6 Remember to Breathe: has helped me a lot. It seems like a no-brainer but I have to constantly be mindful of my breathing and it has helped me finish sets when I’m nearing failure.

  10. profile avatar
    Brian Apr 04, 2010 - 12:06 #

    nice article, here’s an interesting article that suggests music boosts workout performance

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Apr 05, 2010 - 13:33 #

      That’s interesting about music effecting performance, Brian. Have not come across a study like that before. I think I need to create a blog post about the 10 best workout songs pretty soon.

  11. profile avatar
    Gaurav Gaur May 05, 2010 - 10:13 #

    Great article Marc.
    I am aware of Active Rest and concentration,but remember to breath is new thing.Also knowing your body is useful tip for beginners.One must know about his/her body type and the limits.Anyway enjoy the process.

  12. profile avatar
    Daksha Jul 16, 2010 - 18:10 #

    Thank you for the great insight and tips-it has helped me a lot during my workouts. I work out 7 days a week alternating between different dvd cardio/strength workouts at home. Do you recommend this or should i take a break as you mentioned in your article? I’m afraid that if I stop working out for just one day then I may not keep up with the exercise routine and get lazy again.
    I’m currently experiencing difficult areas that i can’t slim or tone. I would like to slim my thighs and belly below my waist (2 kids) and I just don’t see results. I do target these areas but it’s very hard to slim these areas for me. I also can’t give up my glass or two of wine which doesn’t help either.
    Thanks again,

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry Jul 16, 2010 - 18:29 #

      HI Daksha, thanks for the kind words! That’s a great question and I hope this answer is straightforward. If working out daily is what you enjoy and motivates you to stick with exercise, then by all means there’s nothing wrong with daily exercise. In fact, I exercised just about every day for 4 years when I was a college athlete, and many athletes also exercise every day.

      I do believe however, that some days your exercise can be very intense, whereas other days will be “recovery” days. So let’s say 2-3 days a week you are doing full body strength training workouts, then on the other days you can do cardio, or maybe some Yoga, or Pilates to help recovery. Athletes perform recovery workouts all the time. One of my favorite recovery workouts is swimming. It’s important to listen to your body and make sure your muscles are recovered before you start working them intensely. The main drawback if you exercise too much and too intensely is (1) burnout, and (2) higher cortisol levels, which is a hormone that can cause muscle loss, among other undesirable effects.

      Regarding what sounds like those last 10 pounds, changing one’s body is challenging. I’ve been working on a fitness program for almost a year and it’s frustrating to not have it ready yet. It has motivation, nutrition, and exercise components, which are all necessary. If you bear with me, I’m going to be posting more nutrition articles that may be helpful for you. Typically speaking, assuming you are exercising effectively with strength training/cardio, and getting enough sleep, the difference between staying at the same body fat level, or getting lean is nutrition. Again, I’m going to be putting up a lot more helpful, more detailed nutrition articles in the future.

      I hope this is helpful!

  13. profile avatar
    Toni Jul 05, 2011 - 13:45 #

    The breathing thing is so important to remember. If you suck in a big breath, it can actually hurt and make it worse whereas if you blow out the breath slowly then you can push through to arrive at the next hurdle. You should never be panting or gasping for air when you exercise. Your breath should speed up slightly but always be somewhat controlled. Can you tell I practice yoga and pilates?

  14. profile avatar
    pepe Apr 20, 2012 - 19:45 #

    hi I m so skinny I want to gain pounds what you recommend

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Apr 23, 2012 - 10:16 #

      Eating more food and strength training is the very short answer. I hope to add a more detailed article on how to build muscle in the not too distant future!

  15. profile avatar
    Jordan Jun 04, 2012 - 18:07 #

    Hey I’m 15 I’ve been doing full body workouts for about 5 months I am 152 pounds 5’10” I have a good build but I usually workout every other day and in your article you say I should have 2-5 days of rest inbetween workout sessions will I lose muscle mass if I don’t? I just started the supplement c-4 extreme which increases my lifting by about 10-20 pounds per exercise so should I rest an extra day imbetween workouts? Ps I eat about 3500-4500 calories a day

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 07, 2012 - 09:53 #

      @Jordan – I would definitely recommend at least 1 day of rest between your full body strength workouts. Generally speaking, your muscles should not be very sore from a prior workout as you are about to do another workout. Your muscles grow while you sleep and are resting, not while you are working out. I prefer more rest rather than less when trying to build muscle.

  16. profile avatar
    Corne Henning Jun 19, 2012 - 03:15 #


    I am 27 years old, 123kg and 184cm.
    When I was younger(18-22) I used to do alot of cardio after weight training. But being the person that I am, I just dont want to do cardio any more. It bores me to death. I really enjoy weight training. I normally focus on one muscle group each day of the week.

    I do have alot of muscle mass, but I also have quite alot of fat around the hips and back. Can you reccommend an exersise program with weights that could help me? Im sure that there is alot of people out there that feel the same way I do.


    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 21, 2012 - 14:13 #

      @Corne – I’m not a huge fan of “slow and steady” cardio either. If I do cardio, it’s High Intensity Interval Training. With that said, you absolutely do not need to do traditional cardio to get in great cardio shape – Get Cardiovascular Benefits WITHOUT Doing Cardio.

      I think the style of lifting you should explore is not focusing on one muscle group per day, which is simply inefficient and certainly isn’t helping you burn many calories. First, I would join the BuiltLean Newsletter where you are sent my Get Lean Guide for free, second, I would read the first email I send out when you join my newseletter (i.e. the perfect fat burning workout), and third I would consider my BuiltLean Program if you are looking for a structured program that emphasizes lifting. I don’t have any other programs to support at this time, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t have spent three years creating mine in the first place. Good luck!

  17. profile avatar
    Corne Henning Jun 22, 2012 - 01:36 #

    Thank you very much marc, I will join as soon as possible. I really like the advice you give and I reccommend your website on a daily basis to other people. Your site has already started helping me.


    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 28, 2012 - 10:33 #

      @Corne – That sounds great! Thank you for the kind comment.

  18. profile avatar
    Zila Jul 17, 2012 - 18:29 #

    Hey there, I have been reading quite a few articles on this website for a while now…I have been trying to work out whether it’s a fad or not – no offence, as too many websites publish false information – but yur advice seems more than genuine.
    Actually I was wondering if you could shed some light on my own fat loss….
    I am 6foot 176lbs and 20% body fat.

    Currently I train everyday, with push pull and legs as three separate days consistently rotated.

    Push day; flat bench, db fly’s, pushups, dips, French press, kick backs.
    Pull day; pull ups, bent over row, rear delt row, chin ups, curls
    Leg day; donkey raises, squats, deadlift, lateral raises.

    – all 3×10 with a minutes break between sets, and finished with 5, 2 min rounds of shadow boxing.

    All in all it takes me around 30-40min each day.
    I intend to work in cardio, but unsure whether it should be long distance or hiit.

    My question is with a strict diet how long it would take to be 10% bf?
    and is it really as simple as intense training with a good diet in a caloric deficit?
    Also, I am told 5×5 workouts where you rep 5 heaviest for 5 sets is better for getting ripped…?

    Sorry for a long post, I figured the more info you have the better you can make a judgement, anyway thanks for any help in advance – and keep up the awesome work!

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