If you’ve never done any strength training before, it can be darn scary to get started. There are a seemingly endless number of exercises to do, some of which target this muscle group but not the other—so on and so forth.
But the benefits of resistance training are too good to pass up.
Research has found that regular strength training increases muscle mass, boosts up metabolism, improves boost density, fixes postural issues, and will get you in the best shape of your life.
In other words, strength is key to living a healthy, pain-free, and functional life.
If you’re serious about reaping some of the benefits (then some more) today you’re in the right place.
In this post, I’ve rounded up the best guidelines on how to get started with strength training without breaking your back—nor looking like a complete fool.
After going through this handy guide, you’ll have both the knowledge and confidence to start strength training and a plan to follow.
But first things first, let’s define what strength training is.
Strength Training Explained
Also known as resistance training, weight lifting, or pumping iron, strength training refers to any training that forces the muscles to contract against external resistance. This is done for increasing strength, tone, mass, or endurance.
The resistance can be kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, but can also include your bodyweight—think push-ups, lunges, squats, and the sort.
When you’re strength training, you’re conditioning your muscles to overcome either a heavier load or certain resistance for an extended period.
Start with the Warm-up
Whether running, doing yoga, or lifting weights—the first step you to take is the proper warm-up.
A good warm-up increases your body core temperature loosens up your muscles and prepares your body for intense activity.
Here’s how to get started.
Start with a 5-minute warm-up of brisk walking or light jogging then followed by another 5 minutes of performing dynamic exercises, such as walking lunges, inchworms, jumping jacks, and the sort.
These moves are exactly what your body needs to loosen up the muscles and boost your range of motion.
Choose a challenging weight, but make it a rule to have good form instead of lifting heavier or faster.
There’s always the right way and the bad—and a quite harmful—way to do things. Opt for bad form, and you’re putting your body at risk for injury and burnouts.
On the other hand, proper form allows you to get the most out of your workout sessions without breaking your back.
To improve your weight lifting technique, do the following:
- Stand tall, activate your core, and keep your head in a neutral position.
- Do not shrug your shoulders nor align them with your ears. Instead, keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
- Keep your core tight that includes your entire torso, not just your abs.
- Keep a strong alignment form your tailbone to your head.
- Focus on slow and controlled movement, relying on muscles, not momentum. Never swing the weight around.
If you’re a total beginner, I’d recommend that you start with bodyweight training. This should help you master basic movement patterns first and instill good form without risking injury.
This type of training builds strength by forcing your body to complete different movements that support the weight of your own body.
Here are the primary movement patterns to practice:
- Pushing exercises such as push-ups, tricep dips.
- Squatting exercises such as squats, lunges.
- Pulling exercises such as pull-ups.
- Core exercises such as planks, sit-ups.
Find The Proper Amount of Weight to Use
Finding the proper amount of load for any given exercise requires testing. You’ll also have to readjust your approach as you get stronger.
It’s not something you pick up overnight—no pun intended.
Various exercises call for different weights and resistance and reps, but as a rule, I’d recommend that you start lower than your current strength level and build on that.
That said, your current fitness level is the ultimate measuring stick when it comes to determining how much weight to lift and how many reps and sets you complete.
As a rule, you should feel as if you be able to eke out a couple of reps at the end of each exercise. That means working out around the edge of your fitness ability—the last few repetitions should be difficult but not impossible to complete.
For example, if you’re doing three sets of 10 reps of bench presses, your chest and arms should get fatigued by the last set and super exhausted by the last few reps.
Let your Routine Evolve
As time passes (usually after a couple of months of consistent training), force yourself out of your comfort zone by making your routine more challenging.
Once you find your weight lifting sweet spot, it’s vital to make training more challenging if you want to progress.
Make it your goal to make some progression each week. But don’t drop the towel because your routine is not evolving as fast you want it to be. This helps force your muscles to work at their maximum potential.
There are many things you can do to make your routine more challenging. These include:
- Increasing the weights, generally by 5 to 10 percent at a time.
- Increasing the number of reps
- Trying new moves—or advanced variations of the previous ones
- Switching the order in which you do the exercises.
There you have it! If you’re serious about giving resistance training a try, then the above training guidelines should set you straight. All you need to do is start slow and work within your fitness limits. The rest is just detail.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
Keep Exercising Hard.
About the author:
David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.