Taking up a new exercise can be a scary and intimidating process. It’s hard to know where to start, and there are usually a million and one pieces of advice, often conflicting. If you are looking to take up weight training, we’ve broken down the benefits and the best way to get started so you can increase your strength without getting injured.
Why Weight Train?
While cardio exercises like running, swimming and HIIT workouts are a necessary part of a workout plan, lifting weights has a plethora of benefits. Cardio certainly burns a lot of calories and improves heart health, but weight training does both of those things and more. Adding weights to your routine a couple days a week will help you build more strength, which will improve your cardio workouts. Increased muscle mass also protects your bones, lowers your BMI and fat percentage and boosts your metabolism. In fact, increased muscle that comes from weight lifting helps your body burn more calories after you finish a workout, even when you’re sitting still. Strengthening your muscles will help prevent injury by protecting your bones and tendons. Not to mention, that increased muscle will tone your body and make your progress even more noticeable.
Now that you’re convinced to start weight training, you need to know how to go about it safely. First, decide what kind of weight lifting regimen you want to do. Do you want to use weight machines at a gym or would you prefer using hand weights at home? Once you figure that out, read up on some basic exercises that target the major muscle groups, such as your legs, glutes, core, arms, chest and shoulders. Many machines work to build these muscles, but there are also basic body weight exercises you can do for them as well. After you’ve made a plan to incorporate some of those moves into your routine, make sure to learn proper form and alignment. Proper form will help you avoid an injury and make the exercises more efficient so you can get stronger faster. If you’re unsure of how to perform an exercise, ask a trainer at the gym to demonstrate or even watch a how-to video online.
When you’ve done your research, figure out how to incorporate weights into your routine. Start with two days a week, and then increase to three once your body adjusts. You can even do more days a week by splitting up muscle groups. You can add a few minutes of weight training at the beginning or end of your normal cardio workout. For example, you can do lower body one day, core one day and chest and arms on another day. If you’re doing a full body strength workout, try to stick with two exercises per muscle group.
As with cardio, you should always warm up before a strength workout. When you do various exercises, figure out how much weight you can handle for each move. You should be able to complete two reps of any given exercise while maintaining good form, but it should still feel like a workout. In order to get the full benefits of a strength workout, it should be intense enough to raise your heart rate, but not so intense you lose proper form. Make sure to stretch after a strength workout, and get plenty of rest. If you’re muscles feel so sore you’re in a lot of pain, ease up and take a few days off.
Weight training can look like a scary, intense workout only for body builders and serious gym rats, but with the right tools and mindset, anyone can add strength training to their workout routine.