If you want to build muscle and power, there’s nothing better than weight training. The thing is, you’ve seen those muscle-bound weightlifters in the gym doing all kinds of complex-looking exercises, and it’s easy to be intimidated.
But don’t be! Anyone can lift weights. It’s all about taking it slowly, using the correct techniques and not pushing it too far, too fast. Here’s a guide to weight training for beginners to help you get started so you can begin to enjoy all the benefits.
Why Weight Training?
Weight training – also called strength training or resistance training – has so many benefits. Perhaps the primary reason people use weights is to build stronger muscles, while many people also want to increase their muscle mass.
But at the same time, weight training can help to strengthen your joints, get leaner muscles and increase your metabolism, helping you to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout.
Getting started with weight training is relatively easy. You might want to start by using some of the machines in the gym, but if you want to move onto free weights, you really don’t need much. In fact, you can even start lifting some kinds of weights at home with very little equipment.
Two popular types of weights for beginners are dumbbells and kettlebells. Dumbbells are versatile, affordable and easy for beginners, making them a great option if you want to work out at home. Kettlebells help you to work out several muscle groups at the same time, making them a great choice for a full-body workout.
Whatever you choose to get started with, invest in high-quality products (or just use the weights in your local gym), and make sure you get some instruction. A personal trainer, or an instructor in your gym, can help you to get set up safely and learn the basics.
You should also become familiar with the lingo. A ‘rep’ is a repetition, and it means one exercise movement. A ‘set’ is a certain number of reps (e.g. one set could consist of 10 reps). A good starting point is to do 2 sets of 10 reps for each exercise, which you can increase over time.
How often should you work out? If you want to build strength, aim for about three weight sessions a week, which gives you a chance to rest your muscles in between workouts. More than this won’t actually do that much for building strength. However, if you want to build muscle mass, you should work out more frequently.
General Tips to Remember
It’s important to not only stay safe but to make sure you’re getting the most out of your weight training, so there are a few tips to remember when you’re getting started.
Always warm-up before you start lifting weights. Go for a fast walk or jog for five minutes or so, which will help to reduce the risk of injury. Likewise, when you have finished your session, spend a few minutes stretching your muscles.
Start slowly with weights, and don’t go too fast. Progress gradually by increasing the amount of weight you lift and the number of reps as you get stronger.
Start with shorter workouts of no more than an hour, and take regular rests of about a minute between sets to reduce muscle fatigue.
If you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to know exactly what to do. There are lots of potential exercises, so here are a few to get going.
The dumbbell shoulder press – is one of the easiest exercises that will work the shoulder muscles. To do this exercise, stand up, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows at 90 degrees, and press them up above your head until your arms are nearly straight. Then return to the starting position.
Bicep curls – this exercise works the biceps, and you do it by sitting down with a dumbbell in each hand and your elbows at your sides with your palms up. Bend your elbows and curl the weights into your shoulders, but keep your elbows in the same position and don’t lift them up. Then return to the starting position.
Squats – these work the leg muscles, and you can do them using a kettlebell. Hold the kettlebell between your hands to your chest, stand up with feet shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees until your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor, then rise slowly to return to your original position.
What About Barbells?
Once you have become familiar with weight training using dumbbells and kettlebells, you might want to experiment with barbells. Barbells provide you with a way to carry out moves like presses and deadlifts with a lot more weight, making them a good way to challenge yourself further and increase your strength.
There is no set amount of time before you are ready to use them, but you should be familiar with the basics of weight training first. That means carrying out the foundational moves properly like benches, squats, and deadlifts.
There are several types of barbells to choose from. The most common are Olympic barbells, which you’ll find in most gyms. You can use these by adding different Olympic plates to the ends according to your needs.
But there are lighter options too, like the shorter and lighter women’s Olympic bar. Pre-loaded barbells are another option, but they are not suitable for all types of lifts.
When you get started with barbells, get some help from a trainer or someone in the gym who has experience. You’ll need to set up the racks, which can be confusing because they are slightly different in all gyms.
Power racks and squat racks are the most common, and they come with safety bars or safety pins to catch the weight if you drop it. It’s important to set them up properly, so always get help until you know what you are doing.
There are also different techniques to become familiar with. The most common hold is the pronated grip, where the palms are down, but it is not the strongest. The supinated grip is where the palms are up, and this is good for targeting the biceps.
Give Weight Training a Go
Weight training may look intimidating, especially if you are new to the gym and working out. But it’s a fantastic way to build strength and body mass, so try to make it a part of your regular gym routine.
Experiment with dumbbells and kettlebells to start with, and try the machines in your local gym too. When you are ready, move onto barbells if you want to. There are lots of benefits to enjoy, and it’s fun too, so give weight training a go.