With a new year comes the prospect of working with new clients, people who may – or may not – have had recent experience with regular resistance exercise.

An understandably common concern among fitness trainers is dealing with individuals who are essentially newcomers to resistance exercise. Perhaps the most common issue is a supposed awkwardness of a beginner’s performance of movements and presumed vulnerability as a result. While it is true that a newcomer to resistance exercise should take care not to overexert him or herself, and that prescribing relatively low intensity levels of resistance exercise should be a standard practice, beginners are not as vulnerable to injury as some might believe.

Given proper instruction at the outset and the assistance of an experienced and attentive spotter, a beginner’s risk of injury needn’t be any greater than that of those who are more experienced at resistance training.

There are two main contributing factors to the beginner’s risk of injury that can be avoided easily and effectively:Resistance Training

  1. A general disregard for proper movement instruction altogether. Even before spotting, proper movement instruction and demonstration is essential in order to minimize the risk of injuries. This should emphasize strict form both before and during exercise performance. The extent and degree of the initial instruction must be demanding of the beginner in terms of applied fundamental correctness in biomechanical positioning. That is, the basic fundamental positioning and movement performance must be explained clearly by the fitness trainer and grasped fully by the new resistance exercise participant. A spotter’s most fundamental responsibility is to “spot” improper form and to make sure it is corrected.
  2. Poor spotting technique or a complete lack of spotting. For the beginner, either of these conditions can lead to a loss of balance when using free weights. What starts out as a loss of balance can escalate quickly to a total loss of control. It is this loss of control that is most likely to result in acute injury among beginners. While using free weight pieces of equipment, which do not have the benefit of machines to provide for “groove” movements, there is a built-in need for synergistic muscles to provide balance. Before the conditioning of these synergistic muscles in the beginner, a spotter should make it a point to make small corrections in balance before they can become larger issues.

Safety should be a fundamental concern for both client and trainer. Correcting form and balance errors while they are still minor prevents loss of control and injury as a result and sets the trainee off to a good start.


  1. The National Federation of Professional Trainers. Personal Trainer Certification Manual. 2nd Ed. Lafayette, IN: NFPT, 2006.

NFPT Staff Writer

NFPT Staff Writers contribute in various ways to the NFPT blog