I dabbled with lifting in high school but with little coaching I shutter to think about what my form looked like. In college I was lucky enough to play softball where I had more than qualified coaches teaching me the ins and outs of strength and conditioning exercises and it's in college where my love for lifting began.
Today, walking into the weight room and lifting is second nature to me but I realize it's not like that for everyone. I get emails almost on a daily basis asking for lifting workout suggestions/programs.
Of course my first suggestion would be to find a personal trainer (who lifts. Yes, not all personal trainers lift) to help you with form and programming but I realize this isn't in the budget for everyone.
If you have to have a go at it on your own, I'd encourage you to keep it simple and not over think strength training. Daniel Duane, an author for the NY Times wrote in the article "Fitness Crazed", "There’s no percentage in teaching clients independence by showing them basic barbell lifts and telling them to add weight each time. Better to invent super-fun, high-intensity routines that entertain and bewilder clients, so they’ll never leave you. "
(I hope you picked up on the sarcasm)
The so-called "basic" strength exercises have stuck around for a reason- they're effective! And while they may be simple, they're not necessarily easy. The workout below is built on fundamental movements that can be performed at the beginner level with just body weight or challenge seasoned lifters with additional resistance.
Following a dynamic warm up, complete each exercise allowing ample time to recover between sets. Try to pick a weight that is challenging and allows you to complete the specified number of repetitions with one or two left in the tank. Taking any of these exercises below to failure is not necessary. If you are completely new to resistance work and finding the moves challenging stay on the lower end of the recommended sets/reps. If you have more experience feel free to work towards the high end of the recommended sets/reps and/or add additional resistance.
Here are some links to videos showing proper form for each of the exercises mentioned above
Barbell back squat (body weight squats are always an option)
Dumbbell walking lunges
Push ups on toes
Push ups on incline
tricep dips (on bench) add weight to lap for additional resistance
Your turn: What's your favorite "basic" strength training exercise?