If you’re a smoker or former smoker who’s thinking about taking up strength training, NOW is a great time to start.

Here are guidelines.

I’ve seen people strength training hard and then step outside to have a smoke.

Smoking does not undo a workout. Yes,  you should quit, but smoking is no excuse to avoid taking up strength training, either.

This is why a smoker who works out will get visible results if he or she trains correctly and safely.

The rules for smokers who want to work out with weights are the same for those who never light up.

Lift hard. Lift heavy. Hit the major muscle groups. 

Do routines that work several muscle groups at once. Focus on your major muscles.


Do both free weights and machines; both have their virtues.

Doing “isolation” exercises are fine, too, but if you want to lose fat, and/or grow muscle and get buff, spend most of your time on large muscle groups.

This means seated dips are better than using a sit-down machine that isolates the triceps.

Seated dip. Shutterstock/RomarioIen

  • Warm up.
  • Cool down.
  • Stretch in between sets.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Within an hour of your workout eat a nourishing meal of a high quality protein source and complex carbohydrates.

In short, unless you’ve been diagnosed with a lung disease or have limited cardiac function or some other interferring factor such as impaired knee joints, you can lift weights as intensely as you’d like.

Your biggest issue, then, would be making sure to use good solid form and not overtrain.

The best strength training exercises for smokers are the best strength training exercises in general.

Below are images depicting some of these.

Deadlift. Shutterstock/Everyonephoto Studio


Overhead press


Back squat. Depositphotos.com


Seated row. Freepik.com yanalya.


Bent-over row. Shutterstock/martvisionlk


Leg curl. Freepik.com


Biceps curl. Freepik.com Pressfoto


Incline press. Freepik.com, prostooleh

More difficult routines include pushups, pull-ups and chin-ups. Smokers will also benefit from group fitness strength training classes, if for no other reason that these may be a strong motivating factor.

Just get in the gym and pick up a weight. Sit at a machine and start pulling or pushing.

Start out like any novice should: Go light at first. Don’t overdo anything or try to break records.

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