Strength training should be part of any comprehensive workout, but weight lifting can be an intimidating prospect.
Even if you look past all the equipment and confusing terminology - just what is a Romanian deadlift? - there are the weights themselves.
And few things are more intimidating than a heavy dumbbell.
But weight lifting doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s something that everyone can do, and enjoy. It’s all about doing it the right way.
By following these 6 rules, you can find a weight lifting routine that works for you, and avoid the common mistakes that leave many a barbell abandoned.
1. Give It Time
The first few weeks of your new weight lifting routine are unlike any other. You’re likely to feel tired, sore, and unprepared for what weight lifting can do to the body.
After a few days of struggling, you decide to ditch the entire thing.
The first weeks are nearly always going to be difficult. Your muscles, and your body as a whole, are having to adapt to a new routine, and they may take a while to react to the challenge.
It’s also possible you’ve made the classic beginners' error of going too hard, too fast, and you’re struggling with an excess of fatigue.
You must remember that this won’t last forever. Eventually, you’ll gain strength, balance, and confidence.
Things that once seemed impossible will become a standard part of your workout. If you’re struggling with motivation, consider hiring a personal trainer.
They can help you with your confidence, and to push through on those difficult days.
2. Prioritize Form, Not Speed Or Weight
Proper technique and form has to be the priority of any weightlifter, or you’ll find yourself plagued with injuries.
Although it’s tempting to speed through a workout, especially when the aches set in, form must always come first.
Begin slowly, with lower weights and basic exercises. Work on your form so you have a solid base for future improvements.
At the time, it may seem tedious, but you’ll soon discover the benefits.
Better form also leads to a better workout. As you move smoothly through the exercise, you can begin to add weight, and gain strength.
3. Listen To Your Body And Don’t Ignore Pains
An ache after a weight lifting session is often a sign that you’ve worked hard.
But although many weightlifters like to brag about working through pain, they might be doing themselves more harm than good.
Pain is typically considered a necessity for gaining strength. It’s a sign our muscles are damaged, and will build back stronger.
However, it’s important that you can recognize the difference between expected pain, and something excessive, which may cause serious damage.
Standard aches from a workout should disappear with a day or two of rest.
Pushing too hard through pain will only set you back in the future.
When you finish a workout in huge pain on Monday, you’re unlikely to get much done when you head back to the gym on Thursday.
Rather than measuring by pain, measure how good a workout it was by effort. Consider 0 as sitting down, and 10 as the most effort you can give.
A workout should finish around 8, and shouldn’t push any harder.
4. Keep To A Schedule And Remember Your Rest Days
Setting a schedule is one of the best ways to keep to your weight lifting goals, but be careful not to overwork yourself.
For the first three weeks, aim to do weight training two days a week. Then, you can add another day. As you build up strength, you can begin to add more days, or start mixing in more cardio.
It’s vitally important to remember your rest days. If you don’t, you won’t gain any strength, as the body never has any time to heal. Instead, over working will potentially lead to injury.
There should be roughly 48 hours of rest between each weight lifting workout. No matter how motivated you may feel in those first few weeks, going too hard too fast will lead you to burn out in the long run.
5. Stick To Your Routine (But Don’t Be Afraid To Change It)
These first few weeks are all about building a routine, and building strength. At this point, you need to be increasing your fitness level overall, and perfecting your form.
What this means is: don’t come up with complicated schedules for leg day, arm day, etc. Instead, focus on total body workouts, which will increase your basic fitness level.
With that said, you don’t have to stick to a routine you hate just because you think the repetition is important. You want to be forming a habit, and that won’t happen if you don’t enjoy it.
Try a few different routines until you find something you want to stick to. Then it will be much easier to keep to the schedule you’ve designed for yourself.
6. Alter Your Diet To Fit Your New Routine
Diet and exercise really do go hand in hand, and you’ll need to eat food that will keep up with your new weight training routine.
Healthy eating will not only provide you with energy, but it is a vital part of building muscle.
On the other hand, a bad diet will leave you feeling lethargic, and can undo all the hard work you’ve put in at the gym.
If you’re training regularly, but can’t kick the junk food habit, that might be why you aren’t making the progress you need.
Protein is essential for any weightlifter, as it helps to build muscle. Healthy fats and carbohydrates are good before and after a workout, giving energy, and aiding recovery.
Eat plenty of green vegetables, for nutrients.
And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
It’s tempting to jump straight into your weight lifting routine, but that’s likely to lead to painful muscles, unshakable fatigue, and a hatred for your new weight training.
Instead, go slow and steady, and build up your fitness level. By emphasizing form and listening to your body, you’ll be better prepared for future challenges.