Lifting Weights: Tips for Beginners
You’ve stuck to your cardio routine and you’ve been on your best behaviour in the junk food aisle, but you’re just not getting the results you need. What’s missing?
Many of us discount the importance of strength training when it comes to achieving our health goals. In fact, it’s common to steer clear entirely for fear of adding unwanted muscle bulk. The truth is, you shouldn’t live in fear of lifting – weight training is actually a crucial part of getting fit! As well as building muscle strength, lifting weights can help increase your body’s resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day.
If you’re just starting out on the weights, these tips will keep you in top shape – and help prevent injuries:
Whether you take a brisk jog or pop off a few lunges, a quick cardio warm-up will loosen up your muscles, increase your range of motion, and get your blood flowing. Strength training with cold muscles may leave you more susceptible to injury.
Start Out Light
There’s no reason to jump straight to the dumbbells – they might not even be your endgame. You’re better off starting with weights that might feel as if they’re too light. Once you’re on your third set of reps, you’ll thank us for this piece of advice. Besides, if you’re going for the strong and lean look, lighter weights are your ticket to success.
Once you’re ready to add weight (if you’re breezing through a couple dozen reps, you’re ready), increase it slowly. The same goes for reps – don’t speed through them; rather, take the time to move mindfully and with control. By going slow, you’ll get better results, and you’ll be protecting both your muscles and joints.
Learn Proper Technique
While there may be several right ways to lift, there is definitely a wrong way – and figuring it out through trial and error (and perhaps injury) is not the way to go.
Proper technique will keep you safe and ensure you’re working the right muscles while avoiding strain. Even just one training session with a personal trainer will help as they’ll show you how to hold the weights, how to stand, and the basic movements that will set you on the right path.
It might feel good to get a little momentum going, but swinging rather than lifting decreases the effectiveness of your workout, and opens you up to injury. It’s also a sign that you’re lifting more than you can handle – for now. Be sure to pause after each lift to ensure your muscles are properly engaged and your form is good.
Once you’ve strengthened, be sure to stretch! Stretching after lifting weights will help reduce muscle soreness the next day.
It’s easy to get carried away with weight lifting, so be sure to give your body time to recover. Many strength trainers rotate which areas of the body they focus on for each workout, but unless you’re working out daily, that might not be necessary. Just be sure you’re giving your body time to integrate each workout before you head back to the gym.
Yes, food is an important part of any exercise program, even weight lifting! A small snack of healthy carbs, such as whole grain toast with jam or a banana, an hour before you exercise, will give your muscles the fuel they need to power through your workout. Eating protein afterwards will help speed your recovery time.