10 TOP TIPS FOR STRENGTH TRAINING FOR BEGINNERS
Last month's article, Why Women Should Lift Weights, gained a huge amount of interest. Now that we are all on the same page as to why we should be lifting, lets look at how to get started. So that you don't turn up to the gym, look around and become overwhelmed, here are my top 10 tips on where to begin.
1 Get some advice.
Ideally, book an appointment with your physio who can check your posture and identify the cause of any existing aches and pains. Your physio will then be able to advise you on what exercises you should avoid and areas you should focus on. Personal trainers are also qualified to do a postural assessments and exercise testing to then prescribe a workout plan including number of sets, reps and load.
2 Have a plan.
Don't turn up to the gym without knowing what you're going to do that day. If the equipment you need to use is already in use, don't be afraid to ask the person how many sets they have left. Just be polite, and approach between sets, don't distract them while they're mid rep.
3 Start small.
Keep in mind that muscle takes time to develop. Don't get disheartened by the girl on the next squat rack with 80kg on her back. Remember, it would have taken months, if not years for her to get to that weight. Set yourself a short term plan to start with, a 3-4 week block of doing light weight with high reps. This may just be body weight or a bar with no weight plates. This will give your body time to adjust to your new exercises and develop good form. Doing 3-4 sets of 14-18 reps is ideal for this phase.
4 Warm up.
Imagine stretching a rubber band that has been in the freezer for an hour. It's likely to snap. Your muscles and tendons are the same. Placing a cold muscle under tension can result in an injury. Do some body weight movements or light reps of the exercises you plan to perform. This will also help with obtaining your full range of motion when you start your workout.
5 Focus on form.
Your form always trumps weight. Letting your form suffer to lift heavy is only going to result in injury and delay your progress. Be body aware, use the mirrors in the gym to check yourself, watch your posture and get into the habit of checking that you have your core activated.
6 Progress slowly.
It can be tempting to want to fly ahead quickly. Keep in mind that your muscles do develop faster than your tendons (the tissue that connects your muscle to bone), while you may feel your muscle can take the load, your tendon might not be quite up to the job yet. Keep in mind that progressing doesn't always mean increasing the load. You can progress by increasing your sets and/or reps, or slowing down your time under tension.
7 Don't over do it.
It's impossible to do all of the exercises and use all of the machines, focus on 4-5 compound exercises and do them really well. For example, to work your legs/glutes you could do lunges, back squats, deadlifts and hip thrusts. Your lower half will get a great overall workout with just these four exercises.
8 Repitition, repitition, repetition.
Doing the same exercises, over and over is what is going to help you to progress. Do those same 4-5 exercises every week (or even twice a week) for a block of time, say 8-10 weeks. The only thing that will change in that block is a gradual increase in your weight or an increase in your sets/reps. Once that phase is over, you can begin a new plan with new exercises.
9 Soreness is good.
Listen to your body, you'll quickly be able to identify the difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is the pain you get, usually the day or 2 after a workout, it might be hard to walk up the stairs, or lift your arms. Keep your body moving to alleviate the pain. A light cardio session, a walk or yoga are great ways to reduce your DOMS. Magnesium is also great for muscle soreness.
10 Scheduling and rest.
Plan your week ahead by scheduling workout days for different muscle groups. For example, you may want to do two legs/glutes sessions per week, a back session and a session for chest and arms. Play around with what works best for you. Ensure you add in rest days too, you don't want to work the same muscle group on consecutive days. Don't forget to get a good night sleep, it is so important for muscle repair. Doing something new can be daunting, but everyone else in that weights room was a beginner once too. So just remember to be patient, listen to your body and believe in yourself. You've got this girl.
Stay tuned, next month I will discuss how to Strength Training from home DIY style.
In the meantime, if you are keen to get started on resistance training, you are welcome to message me to arrange a free trial training session. I am available to come to you or can train in a park in Ryde and surrounding areas.
Sarah Hanna Fitness
M: 0405 417 388