Do you want to get into weight training but you don't know where to start?
Keep reading for 5 tips to help you start a weight lifting program.
I wanted to write this post because I know so many of us want to go to the gym and we want to lift weights but we feel uncomfortable about it which leads us to never start. I know many females (and of course some males as well) feel this way. Starting something new is always a little bit scary and I hope with these tips it to eliminate some of the fear associated with weight lifting.
I know how you feel because I have felt uncomfortable at the gym in the past as well. I am a trainer and a physical therapist so I wasn’t totally scared of the gym but there were areas of the gym that I would avoid. I would go do cardio and I was ok with using the weight machines but I avoided going into the free weight area to use the squat racks even though I desperately wanted to use them to squat and deadlift.
I guess I felt uncomfortable about how to use them because we didn’t have them where I worked as a trainer. I think in my head I thought that people would be looking at me and be like “what is this girl doing?” At the time, there was also barely ever any females in this section of the gym so this also made me uncomfortable. Now, there are definitely more females in this area as I think weight training has been becoming more popular for women.
Looking back at these thoughts now, I can see that it is probably unlikely that anyone around the gym really cares that much about what other people are doing and if they do that is really their problem.
These thoughts were limiting me from improving my fitness level, stopping me from doing something that I wanted to do, and it was teaching my mind to be ok having these limited beliefs.
Finally, I got the courage to go use the squat rack and do the exercises I had been wanting to do.
I’ll be honest, I did not go squat for the first time when the gym was super crowded. I may have done it at a quiet time but I still did it! And you know what I learned, it was no big deal. Why did I limit myself all that time?
Pushing myself to train the way I wanted to led to amazing benefits for me. Not only did I feel like my body was looking better but I physically felt better. Some chronic recurring injuries I had been dealing with started to really improve for me. So with my story, I hope you see that you are not alone in your worries and that you really can do it!
With these 5 tips I want to help build your confidence to go to the gym and to encourage you to do what you want to do when you are there.
1. Start with LIGHT weight
There are three types of people at the gym. The ones who don’t push themselves enough, the ones who over do it, and the ones who know how to properly progress themselves. I want you to be the last type of person. It’s even a good idea to maybe start out as the first type of person and under push yourself to see how your body reacts. If you start by over pushing yourself and lifting weights that are too heavy, this has a high likelihood of leading to an injury.
You need to give your body time to adjust to this new activity. It is great to have confidence in yourself and to think that you can do more but just remember to take it slow and start with light weight first. This is something new for your body and we need to be kind to it and give it the proper time to adjust.
You can even start with bodyweight exercises to introduce your body to this type of activity. This also gives you the opportunity to start weight training at home if this is something you feel would help motivate you. Starting at home can help build your confidence to get you into the gym. It is a way to become more comfortable with exercises without the pressure of being around people. In the beginning, you also will be able to still get a great workout with just bodyweight.
If you are serious about weight lifting, you will at some point need to invest in weights or go to a gym but you can totally start without weights.
Also, starting at home is just an option. If you are ready to go to the gym then by all means go for it!
2. Remember that your FORM is most important
When we want to do something successfully we really need to take the time to learn about it. This is especially true with exercise because there is always a risk of injury. Dedicate yourself to learning different exercises and to learning proper form. If you learn proper form from the start it will be much easier for you. If you start with crappy form then you start to build that habit and have to break it.
There are plenty of free resources online to help you learn about weight training. I have videos on my youtube channel that teach you proper form with certain exercises as well.
If you feel like you need more personalized help, there is also the option of working with a trainer (virtual or in person) in the beginning to help you with your form.
Kind of back to point one, don’t compromise form for increasing the weight. If you need to do a lighter weight to keep proper form then do so.
Performing exercises with poor form can lead to injury in general and when you add weight and poor form together this is a recipe for injury.
3. Start with general days
My recommendation is to start with general days when lifting instead of being too specific in the beginning.
Start by separating your days into upper and lower body days. I usually recommend 2 days for upper body and 2 days for lower body for people just starting out lifting weights.
You can even start with 1 day lower, 1 day upper, and 1 day total body if you want to start with less days. This is your journey so find what works for you.
If you want to get more specific later on in your training and do like a shoulder day or a chest day that’s fine but in the beginning it will probably be too much for your body to only focus on one body part each day.
4. Start with 3-4 days per week
Kind of like we don’t want to push the weight too much in the beginning, you don’t want to over do the amount of days you’re working out.
If you are totally new to exercise I would start with 3 days per week and work your way up to 4 days per week.
Eventually you can progress up to 5 days per week.
Always remember though that our body needs rest even when you get into more advanced stages of your training. Weight training is essentially breaking down the muscle in order for it to adapt and become stronger and increase in size. Basically this means we need rest to allow this process to occur.
An example is, if you weight train your lower body every day those muscles will never be able to go into recovery which leads to overtraining which has numerous issues that go along with it.
5. For your exercises, aim for 8-15 reps and for 3 sets of each exercise
8-15 reps is a good range to be in if you are wanting to build muscle. This rep range should help you determine how much weight to use. If you can bang out 20 reps of an exercise no problem, you probably will want to increase the weight. If you can only do 2 reps of an exercise, you will probably want to decrease the weight.
I would start with 3 sets of each of your exercises and progress to 4 sets when you feel ready.
When I weight train, I typically will choose 4 different exercises to do that day and then I mix in either a little bit of cardio or abdominal work.
I hope you found these tips helpful. Don’t let your fear hold you back from something you want to try. As with anything, the beginning is always the scariest and most difficult. As you go it will only get easier. Remember that everyone is on their own path so do what works for you!
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