How to Start Strength Training

KALB

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KALB

Besides walking into the gym for the first time, starting to work out with weights can be one of the scariest, most intimidating, and overall confusing parts of your fitness journey. What should I lift? What machine should I do? How many sets? How many reps? What is a set? Is working out with weights even safe? There are so many questions that it is hard to know where you should start. But contrary to what you might see on social media, lifting weights does not have to be complicated. A lot of people (including me sometimes) tend to overthink the process. It’s completely normal for even the most experienced people to not know what to do next.

FOLLOW A WORKOUT PROGRAM

Not having a plan of what to do next or walking into the gym and thinking of something to do on the spot is stressful and will not be successful long term, considering you need to have progressions in any good program. Now add in the stressors of your daily life and it makes skipping the gym that much easier. However, choosing a program is easy considering most gyms and/or personal trainers have their programming online, and social media makes the search very easy. Look up programs online and see what they offer, there’s something out there for everyone (my programming is at DraperFit.com), but the most important thing, is to find one that you will stick to long term. That means finding a program that is in line with your personal goals and where you are currently in your fitness journey. For instance, do not do a program that only uses machine weights if you want a stronger barbell squat. Also, make sure to keep track of the amount of weight you’re lifting. This will allow you to keep track of where you started and progress throughout the weeks. It’s very easy to forget the amount of weight and reps you did for particular exercises 3 weeks ago. I’d encourage finding a program that prioritizes full-body training with lots of compound and functional movements (movements like squats, overhead presses, lunges, push-ups, etc, that you might have to do outside of the gym).

MAKE SURE TO WARM UP FIRST

This might seem like it is common knowledge, but warming up gets overlooked a lot even by the most experienced lifters. It is never a good idea to just jump straight into lifting a lot of weight as soon as you walk in the doors of the gym. If you would like to maximize every workout, lower your risk of getting injured, and feel more confident lifting, be sure to warm up first. This could be something as simple as walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes first, and then doing some sets at a light weight to warm up the specific muscles you plan on using, or a more complex warm-up routine of a few dynamic stretches that engage the muscles you plan to use. Either way, do not skip this step.

FOCUS ON FORM

Form and technique are extremely important when you are weight training. Using incorrect form could lead you to work incorrect muscles, or cause a serious injury. Taking the first few weeks or months to nail down your form could not only improve your life inside the gym but also outside of the gym by strengthening your posture and making you less injury prone. If you’re concerned about form, hiring a fitness professional would be the easiest way to make sure you’re learning everything quickly and correctly.

FUEL YOUR BODY

Lifting weights takes a lot more out of you than you might think. You might not realize it at first, but later in the day or the next day, you’ll see what I mean. So it’s important to eat enough food, preferably lots of protein (helps recovery and muscle synthesis), fruits, and vegetables. Everyone’s caloric and macronutrient intake for the day will be different, but just to start, try to add in a little bit more lean meat and vegetables throughout the day. After your workout, about two hours or less, you’ll want a good mixture of protein and carbohydrates (restores muscle glycogen and gives you energy). Post-workout carbohydrate intake will vary depending on who you are, your medical history, and workout intensity, but most people fall in the range of 20-60 grams of carbohydrates after their workout. As for protein, 15-30 grams should suffice for just about everyone. Always remember to ask your doctor about any changes in your diet, or get with a dietitian to see exactly what you might need to be eating.

GET SOME SLEEP

The most underrated fat-loss and muscle-building advice of them all. No, seriously, get some sleep, you need it and your body will thank you. Your first-week strength training will probably lead to some sore muscles. Sleeping well in conjunction with proper recovery is the only way to get over it faster and make the most out of your workouts. Shoot for 7 or more hours a day of sleep to maximize your muscle recovery. On your off days from the gym, consider stretching, walking, cycling, or anything that gets your body moving and your heart rate up. You should be able to have a conversation while doing these things, so nothing super intense.

Getting stronger and gaining muscle has more benefits than just the appearance of looking “tone”. They’re a lot more than just show muscles. Here are a few things they do....

• Muscles help burn more calories at rest

• Muscles help regulate blood sugar and hormone levels

• Muscles help lower systemic inflammatory levels

• Muscles help maintain bone density

• Muscles help improve immune function

• Muscles help reduce the risk of falls and injury

Muscles quite literally maintain the quality of your life and make life better, inside and out. Strength training for the first time is intimidating, but you’ll never regret doing it. It takes years of hard work and consistency to build muscle, and I’m happy you’re getting started!