Weight Training 101 – Getting Started
Weight-lifting is one of the best things that you can do to not only change your body but to lose fat. Of course, cardio is an integral part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are truly significant. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest. Think of it as 'cardio' for free.
Weight training isn't just about muscle mass. The many benefits include improved posture, better sleep, avoiding injury, strengthening joints, boosting metabolism, lowering inflammation and staving off chronic disease, among a laundry list of others.
"If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous."
Starting out with strength training can pose many questions; Which exercises are best? How many reps and sets should I do? How do I know if I have enough weight? This is why we've put together some basic strength training tips for beginners so you can start your journey today.
Strength Training Tips For Beginners
1. Lift 2-4 times a week
When you are starting out begin with two days for two to three weeks, then add a third day. Then work your way up to 4-5 days. If you start off at five days a week might shock your body. Aim to complete 20-minute sessions, then gradually add on time in ten-minute increments until you're working for 45 to 60 minutes.
2. Prep your muscles
Warming up is essential before you do any type of weight lifting. The best way to do this is by starting with a light set of cardio or bodyweight exercises. You can also use a foam roller or massage gun if you are lacking in time.
3. Opt for full-body workouts
So you've heard of things like "leg day" from your gymrat mate, but when it comes to a beginner strength workout that's only a few days a week, a full-body workout is often the way to go. The best way to do this is to pair one upper body exercise with one lower body exercise. Aim for a balance between movements that feel like pulling and ones that feel like pushing. Eg. Romanian Deadlifts and Overhead Press or Climbers and Bench Rows.
4. Reps and Sets - Keep It Simple
Performing 12-15 reps (repetitions of the movement) and three sets of each (doing those 12-15 reps three times) is a good place to start. For example, suppose you complete 15 reps of a bench press. You would say you've completed "one set of 15 reps."
5. Choose your weight
Different exercises will require different weights, but there are some ways to help guide you towards the right resistance, whether you're using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. Go for a weight that feels heavy enough to challenge you, but not so heavy that you sacrifice your form. For example, if you're doing 15 reps, you should feel pretty fatigued by the time you hit rep 15. If you can breeze through all your reps, though, that's a sign you should up the weight. The sweet spot is to start feeling the effects of the weight at rep 8.
6. Lift and Repeat
When you're new to lifting and strength training you can stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength endurance. Great results can be made by repeating the same workout but increasing weights as you become stronger. Switching things up can help you avoid a training plateau, but when you are starting out you want to build those fundamentals and get in the habits, physically and mentally.
7. Form First
Good form is always more important than lifting a lot of weight. Slowly raise and lower your weights. You should never have to gain momentum to lift the weights. If you find that you have to do this then you need to lessen the amount of weight, you are using. Don't arch your back, strain your neck, or rock your body to generate momentum. Not only can these maneuvers cause injury, but they also make the exercises less effective. You should always breathe through each movement and be sure to use the full range of motion.
Stretching tired and sore muscles after a workout is essential as it enhances flexibility and reduces muscle tension. Stretching helps the blood flow back into your muscles at a more regulated pace, allowing your heart rate to come back to normal, your muscles feed on oxygen and nutrients brought in by the blood. It also reduces lactic acid helping in post-workout recovery.
Physical activity uses a lot of energy. It is difficult for the body to recover if energy levels are not replenished within 15 to 30 minutes after finishing a workout. Eating even a little snack shortly after exercising can help to restore energy levels. Consuming carbohydrates, proteins, and some fats after exercising helps to encourage muscle protein production, and promote recovery with the best results. Also, remember to replace fluids and electrolytes by drinking water before, during, and after exercise.