Are you looking to start lifting weights in the New Year? Here is your quick start guide
But knowing how to start weightlifting can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t been a regular gym user or if you generally don’t like doing other types of exercise, like running.
Here are some tips to help you get started weightlifting this new year:
1. Before you start
If you are completely new to weight lifting, it may be best to book an introductory gym session to learn more about the equipment and how to use it properly. It can also be helpful to research gyms that meet your needs and level of experience – or even consider hiring a trainer.
Another thing to think about when starting out is your goals. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and by when? How much time do you have per day or per week to train? Setting goals will help motivate you and give you something to aim for. Teaming up with a friend or colleague can also encourage you to stick to your goal.
2. Choose your weights
If you are new to the gym, use resistance machines is a good start. These have a fixed position and trajectory, which helps guide your movements. This makes them easier to use than free weights (like a dumbbell) and can help build your confidence and strength. They can also be good for people with limited range of motion. Start with compound exercises, such as using a leg press or a seated rower, that work many muscle groups.
However, free weights can still be an option for beginners. These are good for isolating muscles and correcting imbalance (for example, if one arm or leg is weaker than the other), but require more stability and awareness of your working muscles. Many free weight exercises, such as the squat, deadlift, or push-up, are also similar to movements we use everyday. It may mean that you develop strength it’s more transferable to everyday tasks, like carrying heavy shopping bags.
Since free weights don’t have a fixed path, it’s important to make sure you focus on your technique when using them to avoid injury. Using mirrors, taking a video, or having a trainer or friend watch you can also help with your form.
Whether you are using machines or free weights, you should always try to focus on painless movements and good technique.
3. Progress gradually
While it can be tempting to jump right in, it’s important to make sure you don’t overdo it all at once. Not only can this cause late-onset muscle pain, which may make the exercise more difficult, it may also lead to injury. In rare cases, overdoing it at the gym can cause rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening disease that results from muscle damage and could lead to kidney failure.
To avoid injury and improve your fitness, work out progressive overload which involves adding more reps or weight the next time you exercise. Start with a light load focusing on proper technique, even if that means using no weight first. For a beginner, you can also only work out twice a week for the first two or three weeks as your body gets used to your new routine to avoid injury.
As you start to improve, you can increase the weekly training frequency or try increasing the number of repetitions of the weight you lift gradually. To increase strength and muscles, it is recommended that the number of repetitions you do be always hard. It depends on how much weight do you liftThis can range from eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise, repeated three or four times, twice a week. For beginners, it will take about six weeks before seeing a small increase in muscle.
When an exercise becomes easier to perform, or if you need to do more repetitions to feel the same effect as before, it is likely a sign that the weight you are lifting is increasing.
When you have a goal in mind, like losing weight or building strength, you might want to exercise every day. But take a day or two off every week is important for avoiding injury and allowing your muscles to recover and grow.
Feeling too tired, irritated, lacking in concentration, or not sleeping well are all signs that you need a day off. Light activities such as stretching, yoga, or walking are great ways to recharge and recover. Eat well, nutritious diet is also important in helping your muscles to recover.
Although weight lifting can seem daunting, it is something that can be done by anyone at all ages, and can be easily adapted to suit a person’s abilities. It’s important to note that it may take a bit of trial and error to find the exercises that work best for you and the ones that you enjoy the most.
The article was originally published on The conversation December 31, 2021.
Angus Hunter is Professor of Neuromuscular Physiology and Director of Sport Science at Nottingham Trent University.
Athalie Sequoia-Brun is Senior Lecturer in Sports Performance Analysis at Nottingham Trent University.