So you've decided to get stronger. You realize it will increase both your general health and athletic performance. You've debunked the myths about adding muscle. You've decided to ignore social bias. And you know it will pay dividends for a lifetime, helping you age more gracefully (cue the Frankie Chavez video) by counteracting the natural loss of bone density and muscle mass. Here's what you need to do.
Educate yourself. Understand the difference between training for strength versus conditioning (hint: you can only do one at a time). Read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe to grasp the difference between exercise and training, learn the exercises, and understand what a novice linear progression is. Watch the free platform videos and maybe even order the DVD. If you're a climber or want to know how strength training will affect specific sports, read The Map of Athletic Performance.
Eventually you will need to read Practical Programming as you transition from novice to intermediate level. Frequently visit the Starting Strength forums and use Google site search to find answers to specific questions: just type your search term into Google and add the text "site:startingstrength.com" with no quotes. Know that you will make some very predictable mistakes, like squatting too high. Use your phone to take videos of your work sets to keep you honest, and seek out qualified coaches and seminars.
Don't be afraid of gaining weight. Ignore Abzzz. Getting stronger means adding muscle through proper nutrition and recovery. Read Jordan Feigenbaum's To Be A Beast article. Read it again. Download MyFitnessPal or a similar calorie-tracking app, clean up your diet and weigh your food. You'll probably need a protein supplement. You will soon need new pants. We recommend Marmot Pipeline jeans.
Train hard. Run the novice linear progression. Find a black iron gym – not Planet Fitness and not a crossfit box – or if you have the room buy a squat rack: the Impex Marcy Platinum Power Rack if you're on a budget, or the Rogue SML-2 with spotter arms if you're not. Check out Craigslist or your local used sporting goods outlet and get a bar, collars, weight trees and plates. No, you don't have to get bumper plates, but eventually you'll need fractional plates. Get shoes: we like the Adidas Adipower, but they're expensive and there are many other options. Get a belt: a cheapo Valeo or a sweet Best Belt. Understand why you need a belt. Definitely get chalk, but under absolutely no circumstances will you get gloves. Don't be a tool.
Set goals and monitor your progress to diagnose problems and increase motivation. Use a paper training log, an app, or just a whiteboard on the wall of your garage gym. If your bodyweight and your lifts haven't gone up significantly in 3-4 months, you're not doing the program bro. Get an idea of what kind of strength is possible (and even adjusted by gender and age) and check out state raw powerlifting records and maybe even consider entering a competition.
Finally, realize lifting is some seriously hard shit. Like all the most rewarding things in life, it is not supposed to be easy. That's why people rationalize not doing it. As the weights get heavy you will have some very profound conversations with yourself while that third set of heavy squats stares you down. As your confidence grows along with your strength, think about expanding your commitment in the weight room to other areas of your life: use Mark's A to Z Guide to Living a Primal Lifestyle as a rough guide, and for you men thinking about testosterone replacement therapy, the always-readable Art of Manliness.