Weight Training For Beginners
Starting a weight training regimen not only helps you look better, but it also gives you the strength and endurance necessary to live your best life. No matter what age you are, beginning a weight training program will improve your condition and create a stronger body and mind.
Perhaps you’re looking to increase your muscle mass, decrease body fat, improve your health, or just tone your body. No matter the reason, starting a weight training program will help you achieve all of these goals.
Your body is made like a machine and thus you must know how to well maintain it. There are many exercise programs, fitness philosophies, and countless pieces of equipment. It can get confusing at times with the flood of information in the fitness industry.
Keeping it simple is the key to success. It doesn’t have to be a daunting undertaking, with proper knowledge and a support system you’ll be on your way to a proper routine that will give you the body you have envisioned.
Most importantly, you want to stay safe. Incorrect weight training can lead to injuries and may harm instead of benefiting you.
This article will explore the basics of weight training to help you design a beginner’s exercise program that will help you achieve your personal fitness goals.
What is Weight Training?
Weight training has also been named strength or resistance training. It focuses on building lean and strong muscles, which help to also strengthen the supporting joints and bones. In addition, weight training helps you speed up your metabolism and burn more calories. This is why it is also an effective method if you want to decrease your body fat.
It is an appropriate exercise for all fitness levels at any age. Having strong muscles protects your bones, which is essential for athletes or the elderly who can suffer an injury.
Resistance or weight training is the type of exercise that improves strength and endurance by doing a variety of repetitions that target all muscle groups. It may be performed with resistance equipment such as weights and resistance bands, or it may just involve your own body weight.
To summarize, strength training is explained by these two things:
1. Movement of any type of weight, including your bodyweight: Working your muscles as you resist against any type of weight is considered strength training. As your muscles are worked outside their comfort zone, it forces them to adapt and rebuild to endure a higher level of resistance. In this rebuilding is where the muscles’ structure changes making them grow and become stronger.
2. Progressive overload: as you increase the resistance placed on each muscle, you’re forcing it to adapt to the new load and thus helping it become stronger. As you consistently increase the resistance or the number of reps, your muscle is building more mass and strength.
A strength routine can be completed at home or anywhere you choose, a gym is not necessary to achieve great results.
Benefits of Weight Training
A strong person will have an easier time doing just about anything! If you think about your everyday activities, you’ll find that most of them would become easier if you’re in better shape. This can be anything from playing with your kids, carrying groceries, or even dealing with life’s unexpected situations such as changing a car tire.
Let’s review some of the many benefits this type of training offers:
- Increase Muscle Mass: The more muscle mass you have, the more your bones will be protected. This is especially important with age. Some people suffer fractures from a fall because their muscles were not strong enough to help them endure the incident. The stronger you are, the more pressure your body will be able to handle.
- Burn Fat: Surprisingly, weight training helps you shed the extra pounds you’ve been carrying around. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day.
- Avoid Injury: As previously mentioned, injuries are not as likely to occur, or not with the same severity when your muscles and connective tissues are strong. Your body will be able to withstand more stress.
- Rejuvenates Your Body: Having good muscle mass keeps you young and healthy. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce aches and pains, improve symptoms of chronic diseases such as arthritis, increase bone density, improve cardiovascular condition, and helps you sleep better along with other invigorating outcomes.
- Provides Greater Level of Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption Compared to Aerobic Exercise: Studies have shown that resistance training boosts your metabolism for up to 38 hours after you complete your exercise routine. A higher metabolism allows your body to recover from exercise faster.
- Improves Your Mental Health: Exercise gives you a sense of well being. Endorphins rush through your body, and you intake more oxygen. Anxiety levels decrease, you feel relaxed and more energetic. Your cognitive function improves, you’ll feel more confident, it promotes better sleep, and you’ll fight off depression and feel more optimistic about life.
- Entertains You: Weight training is a lot of fun. You’ll have quality time for yourself and will be able to engage in constructive challenges. Seeing the results as you progress is especially gratifying. A strength training routine can create a support network with other like-minded people. It is the gateway to other sports that can help you stay active and amused for the rest of your life. Your whole life can improve from the positive effects this endeavor provides.
You’ll start seeing changes very quickly because your body will immediately notice the difference in activity and provide feedback. Your workout program must be challenging, but not exhausting.
The point is to feel better, not to fatigue yourself. Proper rest and nutrition are necessary for your recovery.
Weight, Sets, and Reps
As with any type of exercise, you’ll want to start with small steps and move progressively towards your goals.
What is a rep? One rep (repetition) equals one full movement, from start to finish.
What is a set? A set refers to a certain number of reps. For example, 12 reps make up one set. You may perform two sets for a total of 24 reps, taking a short break in between.
The combination of sets and reps you choose for your routine depends of your fitness goals. Let’s review some sample goal and guidelines:
- If your goal is dense muscle and strength, you’ll want to keep the weight heavy and the reps low (1-5 reps).
- If your goal is to build a larger muscle size, you’ll want to increase the number of reps (8-12 reps) and use a lighter weight.
- if your goal is to increase endurance and improve your cardiovascular condition, you’ll want to perform a higher level of reps (12-20 reps) with moderate weight.
Keep in mind that the number of reps doesn’t determine the exact results. You’ll still build muscle and strength regardless of which program you choose. All individuals have to explore what works best for them.
Make it challenging! Arnold Schwarzenegger, seven-time Mr. Olympia said: “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not a champion.”
The amount of weight you choose depends on your ability to perform the appropriate amount of sets while maintaining good form. Making it too easy will not give you results, you’ll want to keep it challenging without exhausting yourself. It’s up to you to experiment and choose the weight amount that feels right.
Something to guide you can be paying attention to the difficulty of the last rep. It should be hard to complete, but not impossible. You may use this as a guideline as you explore the possibilities and limitations of your routine.
Remember that breathing is the key to proper exercise. You should be able to maintain a good rhythm and the exercises should never compromise your breath.
General Tips Before Getting Started
Knowing how to exercise properly will give you the desired results and help you avoid unnecessary injuries. Do your homework and create a plan that makes sense to you.
Keep these tips in mind before getting started:
- Always Warm-Up: To prep you for weight training, you should stimulate your body with a short warm-up session. This can be as simple as walking for five minutes. You’ll increase the blood flow to your whole body and get your muscles ready for a workout. Choose any type of aerobic activity for your warm-up such as jumping jacks. Start to pay attention to your breath and start to consciously take in more oxygen.
- Begin With Light Resistance: Keeping good form, meaning paying attention to ergonomics and posture as you perform the exercises is key. Don’t compromise your form to reach a higher level of resistance. Start with light weights at two sets of 10-15 reps. If you can properly perform these, then you can increase to three sets. Be sure to progress slowly.
- Increase Weight Gradually: Once you can do three sets with proper form, you can consider increasing the resistance by five to ten percent. Make sure it feels good and you’re not compromising your form or breathing.
- Rest in Between Sets: Proper recovery between sets allows your muscles to endure. Avoid muscle fatigue by resting at least 60 seconds between sets. This is especially important as a beginner. Later, you will find a pace that is comfortable and effective for you.
- Exercise For a Maximum of 45 Minutes: To get better results and avoid burnout keep workouts to less than one hour. This is plenty of time to get a proper workout session.
- Establish a Stretching Routine: Before and after your workout be sure to spend some time stretching all muscles. It increases your flexibility and helps you avoid injuries. Stretching also makes you feel better as muscles relax and release lactic acid.
- Wait one or two days in between workouts: Letting your muscles recover will give them time to rebuild, which is what helps them grow. Resting at least one day in between workouts will give your body the downtime it needs for your workouts to be effective.
“The single biggest mistake that most beginners make is putting 100% of their effort into the positive (concentric) part of the rep while paying no attention to the negative (eccentric) segment.”
– Dorian Yates (Professional Bodybuilder)
Choosing a Program
Now that you’ve prepared yourself to start your weight training program, you’ll have to choose a workout routine. It is recommended to work with a personal trainer or physical therapist.
A professional will be able to give you a proper assessment of your fitness levels and abilities. They will be able to teach you the proper way to perform the exercises and will observe and correct your form. You’ll receive a customized exercise program.
If hiring a personal trainer is not an option, you may gain knowledge by going to a group class, watching video tutorials, or working out with a friend that has received proper training.
Regardless of how you start your program, be sure it includes your whole body. It’s not effective to spot train, meaning targeting certain body parts. You’ll be able to focus more on certain muscle groups, but the whole body must be exercised.
Below is a list of the body’s muscle group and sample exercises:
- Biceps: Hammer curls, bicep curls.
- Triceps: Dips, tricep extensions, kickbacks.
- Back: Lat pulldowns, back extensions, rows.
- Shoulders: Lateral raise, shoulder presses.
- Chest: Push-ups, chest press, bench press.
- Abs: Pelvic tilts, abdominal crunches, wood chops.
- Legs: Lunges, squats, calf raises, leg press.
You may choose the order in which you want to exercise your whole body. Be sure to target large muscle groups and eventually move to smaller muscles. Alternate the muscle groups making sure that you give each the same time and attention. Do not ignore any part of your body.
Frequency of Workouts
In a basic weight exercise program, you should aim for working out 3-4 days per week, every week. As you progress, you may choose to modify the frequency considering various factors. However, 3-4 days per week is plenty of activity for your muscles.
Remember that you need to give them time to recover. More is not necessarily better when it comes to strength training.
You’ll be alternating your workouts between muscle groups. The general rule is to let the muscle group exercised to recover for approximately 48 hours. This recovery period may vary for each person according to their age, fitness level, nutrition, hydration, quality of sleep, stretching routine, massage options, and the intensity of the workout itself.
Your muscles rebuild and grow during the recovery phase. This part of the program is just as important as the exercises. The more quality self-care you give yourself, the faster you will recover.
It is normal to experience soreness for 24 to 72 hours after a good workout. The technical term for this is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The soreness results from small tears your muscles experience after unusually exerting themselves during weight training. It’s a good sign! It means your muscles will rebuild stronger.
As you stick to your weekly workouts, you’ll begin to notice that you won’t become as sore as you did at the beginning. This proves that your muscles are developing strength and endurance. Perhaps you’ll reach a fitness level where muscles don’t get sore afterward or that the soreness goes away very quickly. It means you are progressing!
Some soreness is good, but it’s not smart to overexert yourself so much that you can hardly walk after. Remember that weight training is a long-term process. It is counterproductive to destroy your muscles and feel miserable.
Find a balance from the beginning, listen to your gut that tells you when you’ve had too much. Adjust your workouts according to how you feel after lifting.
Drinking plenty of water, receiving a massage, and plenty of stretching will help you avoid soreness. To aid in recovery, your muscles need oxygenation. Movement is the best cure for sore muscles. As much as you think it’s better to lay still, doing gentle motions and staying active with light movements is the best way to recover from the soreness.
Your body weight provides enough resistance for you to train all your muscle groups. An example of these types of exercises is squats and push-ups. However, you may use a variety of equipment to give you more options.
A great addition to your routine is dumbbells. You may get a set that has detachable weights for home use. There are a variety of dumbbells in the market to fit your preference.
Another common option is weighted balls with handles known as kettlebells. These are great for whole-body workouts as they permit you to exercise more than one muscle group at the same time. They could be convenient if you’re short on time and want to combine different muscle groups into a single exercise.
A fun addition to your workouts are resistance bands that are color-coded depending on the level of difficulty. You’ll pull and stretch these to perform a variety of motions that will target different muscles. These are especially useful for traveling. You can fold them and stash them anywhere, plus they practically weigh nothing.
As you become familiar with your new routine, it is wise to pay attention to safety precautions. You can cause a serious health issue or injury if you ignore your body’s signals and push yourself too hard and too fast.
Remember these points as you start to practice your new exercise program:
- Do each exercise slowly paying close attention to your form. Remember that good posture will allow you to breathe properly and engage your muscles correctly. Performing the exercises in front of a mirror will help when you’re alone. Starting the program with a personal trainer or physical therapist will help you establish good habits. Ergonomics are very important even in our everyday activities.
- Use the buddy system when possible. Working out with knowledgable people will help you stay on track. Use a spotter for heavyweights, especially for overhead exercises. Only do very challenging weights when you’re with someone. Performing exercises that are too challenging is dangerous to do alone.
- Maintain excellent hydration. It is extremely important for you to replenish your fluids throughout the day. It is also a good idea to have plenty of water available during your workouts. Dehydration is a serious condition that can cause major health emergencies. Plus, your muscles need the proper amount of fluid to grow.
- Learn proper breathing techniques. Breathing is the one factor you should not compromise. It is the most important exercise you can perform. With proper oxygenation, your body will not benefit from the exercise. Inhale before you lift the weight and exhale during the lift. Don’t ever hold your breath under any circumstances.
- If you feel pain of any kind stop exercising. If a stabbing or sharp pain continues without relief, you must seek immediate medical attention.
Anyone can engage in a weight training program. Your fitness level, age, gender, disabilities, or other factors. The only restriction would be for people who are injured and are dealing with a current health condition that is contraindicated.
Speak to your doctor before starting the weight training program if you have a health concern.
According to Kelly Plowe, MS, RD, nutrition for weight training should be built around plenty of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, healthy protein, good fats, and plenty of water. Avoid sugary and processed foods, alcohol, salt, and saturated fat.
It is said that 90% of your results come from proper nutrition. The amount of food you consume depends on the intensity of your activity. Each person is different and must have a customized meal plan that adjusts according to the change in their workout routine.
There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to nutrition. You’ll have to explore which foods feel good and the amount that satisfies you. As your muscles break down and rebuild, having nutritional support is crucial to avoid the muscles from eating themselves.
You have to refuel as you take on the new extraneous routine. An appropriate meal plan will be based on your current state and your fitness goals. A personal trainer can guide you, plus complementing your team with a nutritionist is ideal.
Your eating schedule is important as you engage in this new challenging activity. It is recommended that you have small pre-exercise and post-exercise meals. Generally, it is better to eat six small meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones.
“Sell yourself short on nutrition and you’re selling yourself short on maximizing your physique development.”
– Ernie Taylor (Professional Football Player)
Everyone is different and there is no cookie-cutter formula. You’ll have to examine all your factors and preferences to establish a meal plan that is appropriate for you.
Weight training programs can be a fun and healthy addition to your life. You can exercise at home or a gym – alone or with other participants. The exercise routine involves engaging in motions that push against the resistance of your own weight or various types of equipment.
This type of routine boosts your metabolism by building muscle, which automatically helps you lose fat. It supports your bones and joints by making them more sturdy, helps you burn more calories, and increases your strength and endurance.
Master your routine by doing your proper homework and working with a professional to start you off on a good path. Starting slow and progressively increasing the difficulty of the exercises is a safe way to practice a routine and avoid injuries. Pay attention to your whole body by working all muscle groups.
Practice good form and safety precautions to achieve maximum results and enjoy the routine. Staying hydrated and fueling with proper nutrition will give you the necessary power to become your best self. The benefits of a strength training program will surely improve many aspects of your life for years to come!