You’re never too heavy, never too fat, to begin strength training with weights.

Do you weigh 300 pounds and want to start lifting weights (strength training), but don’t have the tiniest clue how to begin, how much weight to lift, how many sets and reps, etc.? I’m a certified personal trainer.

Being 300 pounds or morbidly obese is not a contraindication to strength training.

No matter how heavy or “fat” you are, this is not a medical reason to avoid strength training.

In fact, if you weigh 300, even 400 pounds, the way you would strength train would be no different than if you weighed half this much. Lifting weights does not require a thin or light body.

Weigh 300 pounds?

Now is better than ever to begin strength training.

Obesity significantly impacts the ability to move swiftly. Strength training for fitness, fat-burning and better health does not require swift movement.

Being obese also interferes with one’s wind during cardio activities. Strength training is not a cardio activity; the work demand is primarily on the bones and muscles, not the cardiorespiratory system.

Weigh 300 pounds? Don’t wait till you lose pounds to begin strength training.

Strength training burns fat. Waiting around does not. Get started now. That’s the first step. Just get through the doors of the gym, health club or rec center.

“Help! I weigh 300 pounds and wouldn’t know what to do in a gym!”

Not knowing what to do is not (or should not be, anyways) a function of one’s body weight. Imagine you weigh 150 pounds and are setting foot in a gym for the first time.

  • Would you feel as helpless?
  • If not, why? You’d still be doing the same thing for the very first time: pushing and pulling against resistance.

So pretend you weigh 150 pounds, because weighing 300 or 400 will not make performing most strength training routines more difficult than if you were smaller.


Novices, regardless of their size, should start out with light resistance. Do not complicate things or else you’ll be setting yourself up for confusion.

Give yourself permission to take a while to figure out how a machine works.

Sit in the machine and take some deep breaths and relax. There is no deadline.

The machine should have an illustration of how it is used. Many machines are very self-explanatory.

As for how much weight to lift, it won’t hurt to just start out with the lightest possible, to get used to the machine.

Do 15 to 20 repetitions at this light sample weight. 

Take your time in between routines for various body parts. Spend 30-60 minutes sampling various machines.

If you weigh 300 pounds, don’t let this stop you from walking into the free weight area and picking up some light dumbbells.

Lie on a bench and press them over your chest.

Or sit against a back support and press dumbbells over your head.

Sample the cable machine for back routines (pulling actions).

Being very heavy will not make it more difficult for you to do most strength training routines.

Stick to the basics to work the major muscles: seated leg press machine, pull-over or pull-down machine, and seated chest press.

Ask a personal trainer to identify this equipment for you. Also ask about the seated row, shoulder press, leg extension and leg curl machines.

You will continue weighing 300 pounds unless you make some changes. Get into comfortable clothes and head to the gym right now!

Once your body begins acclimating to strength training, make a point of increasing the amount of weight that you’re lifting — gradually over a period of time. This is called progressive resistance.

This is crucial for significant improvement in body composition (ratio of fat to lean muscle tissue) and fitness.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/New Africa