penny barnshaw garage fitness girl

7 Fundamental Strength Exercises to Master for Beginners


When it comes to strength exercises for beginners, it’s important to know that you really don’t need to do anything complicated to get strong. There are some fundamental moves that are excellent for getting good results from your workouts, and once you have the basics covered, you’ll be able to build upon them and confidently incorporate new exercises into your routines.

Below I’ve listed what I believe are the 7 most fundamental strength exercises to master for beginners.

Bodyweight Squats

Whether you’re trying to build muscle, gain strength, or lose weight, one of the most fundamental exercises has to be the squat. We are designed to squat, and this move will help counteract the health consequences of sitting all day, which isn’t really great for our bodies.

A simple bodyweight squat, which I’m demonstrating below, uses almost every muscle in the lower body. Squats are particularly good for working your glutes (butt muscles) and quadriceps (front of thigh), and they activate the hip and knee joints, which reduces our chance of injury when doing athletic movement or when doing everyday tasks.

To do a basic squat correctly:

  • stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips
  • Make sure your toes are pointing forwards and slightly outward, so that your knees track directly over them
  • Look straight ahead and keep your chest up, and your spine in a neutral position (don’t round your spine)
  • Make sure your weight is in the heels and balls of your feet (you should be able to wiggle your toes)
  • Send your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend. You may like to let your arms float out in front of you for balance.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your squat (aim to get your thighs parallel to the floor, but that can take time), push back up and squeeze your butt muscles as you return to your starting position.


Pushups are such a simple but effective compound movement! They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders, and when done correctly, they even strengthen the lower back and core by engaging the abdominal muscles.

Pushups are a fast and effective exercise for building strength, and they can also help protect your shoulders and lower back from injuries, burn calories, and improve your posture.

To do a basic pushup correctly:

  • Get down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulders
  • Straighten your arms and legs (don’t let your butt sink down!)
  • Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor
  • Push yourself back up

If you’re not strong enough to do a pushup yet, try doing one on your knees. Or better still, do an elevated pushup with your hands on the stairs or a steady block, with your feet remaining on the floor. This takes some of the weight off your upper body while you’re building the strength you need.


Deadlifts are definitely an underrated exercise, and one of my personal favourites.

Some benefits of performing deadlifts include improving posture and strengthening the muscles in your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s really important to keep your lower back strong, because we rely on it for pretty much everything. If you’re using dumbbells for your deadlifts, as I am below, they improve your grip strength, too.

To do a deadlift properly:

  • Pick up your dumbbells with an overhand grip and hold them at your sides
  • Stand with your knees slightly bent, and your feet placed shoulder-width apart
  • Bend at the hips and knees, lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor
  • Make sure you keep your back in a neutral position, taking care not to round it
  • From this position, stand up straight and squeeze your glutes, pushing through the ball and heels of your feet. That’s one rep

Bentover Row

The barbell bentover row strengthens your upper and lower back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and grip. It’s definitely a key exercise to include in your fitness regime!

To do a bentover row correctly:

  • Have your feet hip width apart and hinge at your hip, keeping your back straight (in a neutral position) and knees slightly bent. This is where you’ll begin your movement
  • With your chest up and shoulders back, hold your dummbells with an overhand grip and row the elbows straight back behind you
  • Pause at the top position of the row and then slowly lower the weight back down

Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunges are an excellent training exercise for people wanting to strengthen, sculpt, and tone their legs, while also improving overall fitness and enhancing athletic performance.

Essentially, whether you’re doing a reverse lunge or a regular lunge, you’re targeting the same muscles – the quads and glutes – but a reverse lunge tends to hit the glutes and upper hamstrings a bit more, while taking some of the pressure off the knees.

To do a reverse lunge correctly:

  • Stand upright, with your hands beside you holding the dumbbells with a overhand grip
  • Take a large step backward
  • Lower your hips straight down so that the knee on your back leg touches (or almost touches) the floor.
  • Return to standing by bringing your back leg forward to complete one rep.
  • Keep your abs switched on to support your lower back.

Plank Hold

The plank is a simple exercise that works the entire core, while also improving your posture and strengthening your shoulders and back.

To do a plank correctly:

  • Plant your hands directly under shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder width) like you’re about to do a pushup. Or, you can rest on your elbows as I’m doing below.
  • Ground your toes into the floor stabilize your body. While many people say you should keep your body perfectly straight while you’re doing a plank, it’s actually more effective (and safer) to lift your butt very slightly
  • Neutralise your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor
  • As you get more comfortable with the move, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising your form (and don’t hold your breath!).


Crunches are great for working the abdominal muscles so that you strengthen your core, which includes your lower back muscles and obliques.

To do a crunch correctly:

  • Lie down on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground
  • Place your hands behind your head
  • Lift your head and shoulder blades from the ground without pulling on your neck. Exhale as you rise
  • Lower, returning to your starting point. Inhale as you lower

It won’t take you long to master these 7 basic strength moves! Once you do, you can continue doing them to make those strength gains. If you want a little variation, mix things up with my free follow-along workout videos.

Happy strength building, have an awesome week!

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