The weight room; a foreign and intimidating part of the gym for some. Machines, free weights, benches of all shapes and sizes, enough to make a newbie run the opposite direction. Believe it or not it’s not as hard to get started as you think. Let me walk you through some of the basics of weight training:
It gets better
Like with everything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. The first few times will be awkward, the weights will feel weird, your coordination will be off, you’ll try to copy what the veterans are doing only to find out that you are nowhere near that level yet. But it’s ok. You’ll notice that you will progress a lot faster than you thought. Muscle memory kicks in, you pick up more moves, and start getting the form right. In a few months the lifts will feel better, in a year or so you’ll feel confident and pump right along your peers. Make sure you get the proper form down from the beginning and build on a solid foundation.
Don’t sweat it
Lifting and circuit training can be two different things. If you’re used to circuits, you’re more likely to keep going and not rest. Recovery is an important part of a good lifting session, the length will depend on the movement and muscles used. For isolation work, usual rest time is between 60-90 seconds, for upper body movements such as curls it’s 90-120 seconds, and finally for the bigger muscles of the lower body you want to rest anywhere from 120-180 seconds. Fear not, you will sweat, but our goal here is to build a strong body, not to keep the heart rate elevated the entire time.
To sore or not to sore
We all love a bit of soreness the next day, that feeling of “yeah I crushed it yesterday”. But it should not be your only goal. If anything you should avoid it. Soreness doesn’t always mean muscle growth, it could very well mean exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). The muscle is not activated, it’s stretched and eventually damaged. Moreover excessive soreness can prevent you from working out the next day…or next couple of days, and warrants a dreaded ice bath to cool things down. As a rule of thumb, if your workout hammered specific muscle groups, let them rest and recover for at least 48 hours. Use split workouts instead of full body.
Easy on the cardio
Beginners often think cardio is the best way to go. They add lifting, but don’t decrease the amount on the treadmill. In order to improve your physique, you need to reverse the ratio and work on putting on muscle using progressive overload (increasing the weights over time). Too much cardio will lean you out and get rid of the muscle you were building with all your hard work. It can also negatively impact your bodyfat %. You may drop pounds, but go up in % in the process.
I see so many people do the same routine, same weights, same reps, and yes, they still look the same. You have to push yourself, up your weights, up your reps, change things up. The body gets used to things rather fast and it no longer affects it the same way. If things feel easy, they most likely are. Time to add another plate!
Stick with it!
Consistency is key. Yes, it is easy to get discouraged, it’s easy to get bored and lazy about it, but remember why you started in the first place. Adaptation takes much longer. Weight training creates a denser body and bones, strengthens tendons, but it takes a while for the aesthetic to follow. Going overboard isn’t going to work either. Spending 4 hours at the gym 7 days a week will not get you the body you want faster. Quite the contrary, you risk overuse injury. Your muscles don’t get a chance to rest and recover, they become too tight and snap more easily. Your form can also suffer, which might lead to compensations, imbalances and a host of other issues that could take you out of the game for even longer. Try to get in 3-4 weight training days, keeping all under an hour per session.
The visual will come
The first month or two most of the changes will not be visible, but you will definitely feel them. Neuromuscular adaptation will start to kick in, the body will catch on, the muscles will find the optimum way to activate and perform, you will feel stronger, then finally it will start to show.
There’s a huge misconception about hypertrophy, especially among the ladies. The minute I mention weights training, they’re worried I’ll turn them into a linebacker. Again, women just can’t bulk up the same way men can. Hypertrophy simply refers to muscle growth. Your diet will mostly determine whether and how much muscle your gain. If you use calorie partitioning, eating 10% more quality calories than you’d normally would on days you lift, the excess will go towards repairing and building muscle. You want to maintain your muscle mass since it amps up your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the higher your burn.
Mind your food
And finally, you can lift all the weights in the world, if you have a lifetime membership to McDonalds, it’s just not going to work. You can’t out exercise a crappy diet. You have to make sure you get the right amount and quality of foods. A lot of women don’t get enough protein in, yet it’s an important component of muscle building.
See, it really isn’t that bad. Now hop off the treadmill walk through the looking glass and start weight training!