I’m going to take some flack for this one but I’m going to say it anyways: weight lifting is just lifting heavy stuff. You do it every single day whether you intend to or not. Groceries? Kids? Drunk roommates in wobbly stilettos? All need carrying. I wince every time I hear a person (usually a woman but not always) say, “I can’t lift weights! I wouldn’t even know how to start, it’s all so complicated!” It’s not her/his fault. Between all the machines tattooed with diagrams that make Egyptian runes look like a preschool rebus and the beefed-up lifters talking “super sets” and “rear deltoids” and the signs warning you to not get injured, I can understand why people think they “can’t lift.”
Simplify: First, avoid the machines. Most gyms will steer newbies to those first (I’m guessing since they’re the most expensive equipment?) but not only are they hard to figure out but they are also not the best for you as they hold your joints in unnatural positions and don’t allow your supporting muscles to kick in. Second, go for free weights (dumbbells and barbells) and/or anything “functional” in movement. What to do with them? Just lift them! Lift them in any way that feels natural to you. Try and use your upper and lower body. Copy someone else (it’s only creepy if you stand right behind them and sing along with their iPod). But don’t worry about it too much. Sets, reps, muscle heads, negatives, splits – all these are great and if you decide you want a more precise workout then you’ll learn about them and implement them. The important thing is to just get in there and try it. Another worry I hear a lot is “I don’t want to get hurt!” While you can injure yourself weight-lifting most new lifters don’t lift anything heavy enough to do serious damage. Third, listen to your body. Does your knee hurt every time you lunge? Find a way to lunge that doesn’t hurt or don’t lunge. There are plenty of other exercises for your legs. Fourth, try bodyweight exercises. These don’t use any “weights” except your own and they can be powerful resistance exercises. You can build amazing shoulders with different kinds of push-ups and you’ll never once have to worry about dropping a dumbbell on your head.