I'll be honest and say I really hated lifting and doing strength training at first. I really preferred cardio because it seemed like more fun. Also, I didn’t understand why I needed to lift weights. After all, weren’t weights for people that wanted to get all beefy? This was completely the wrong attitude to have! I now really enjoy lifting and challenging myself on the weight machines. If you are new to strength training and need some help, here are my strength training tips for beginners so you don’t feel intimidated anymore.
Start slower and don’t over-do it- Everyone wants to hit the machines and lift heavy. You may even make this mistake once or twice. The problem with lifting too much too fast is it will hold you back from getting to that level by damaging your muscles. You could also seriously injure your joints.
Learn the proper form- I see so many people using a form when doing weights at the gym that is easy to do, but not going to get you anywhere fast. The issue is they lock their joints when they lift. This is putting too much pressure on your joints to do the work when you want your muscles to be doing it. Instead, try to have controlled, smooth movements and stop and go back right before you flex your joint. Use your muscles to guide you back.
Begin with 2-3 days a week max- Strength training is a marathon, not a sprint. Doing more than this at first won’t make you toned any quicker. Instead, it may make you have super tired and injured muscles. Also, don’t get too caught up in ‘leg day’ or ‘arm day’. Instead, focus on both or strength training exercises such as barbell squats that tone both when you are first starting out. This will build overall strength.
Ask how to use a machine if you don’t know- If you are in the right gym, the people behind the counter should have no problem at least showing you how a machine is used. It is much better to ask than risk injuring yourself or skipping a certain machine that may benefit you because you are afraid to simply ask how to use it.
Figure out how much weight you should add with this simple trick- If you are unsure how much weight you should be lifting, try to do 15 reps (movements of the machine) with a low amount. If you can easily do this and not be powering through the last couple, you need to up your weight.
Do Cardio AFTER weights- Many people do their 20 minutes of cardio right before weights. This is not necessarily the best way to do things. For one, you are potentially fatiguing your muscles before you get a chance to lift. I started doing my cardio after and I found I perspired more and felt more energized after when I did it this way.
Always do a warmup and stretch after you lift- Just because you might not want to go full-throttle with your cardio before you lift does not mean you should skip it altogether as a warm-up. I like to walk on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes to warm up my muscles and get them ready. You can also use foam rollers to wake your muscles up pre-workout.
Stay well hydrated- It only takes one (or maybe two times if you are bull-headed like me!) time to not be hydrated enough and get an awful charley horse or leg cramp that wakes you out of a dead sleep to know how important hydration is when it comes to strength training. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. This is especially important if you have upped your protein intake or use pre-workout powders.
Up your protein- Speaking of upping your protein intake, you definitely should be doing this if you workout and want to build muscle. You do not have to eat meat, but you should supplement extra protein sources. To find out exactly how much, check with a personal trainer or your doctor as everyone’s goals and needs are different.
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