So you’ve read this post and want to know how to start lifting weights. Let us take the guesswork out of it by teaching you when, where, and how to lift weights.
Firstly, let's revise the cornerstones of any training plan:
- Effort - you have to be pushing yourself to make gains
- Consistency - gains are best when you do it regularly
- Progress - ask a little bit more of yourself each time (reps/weight)
When to Lift Weights
I would advise starting with 2 days a week, maybe adding a 3rd day if you want - this gives you enough work to progress quickly without the risk of overdoing yourself. Also, train whichever time of the day is most convenient so you don’t skip sessions for stupid reasons (although I, like most, tend to feel stronger in the afternoon vs morning).
Where to Find Weights
Picking a gym is like picking a date - decide what you value and go find it. If you want decent equipment and comfort with relative anonymity, choose a Virgin Active gym. If you want a pro-active and competitive attitude with a more inclusive community, choose a CrossFit gym. If you just want to do some pushups and pullups, find a jungle gym.
What to Do with Weights
You’re going to want to have a balanced program from the start. What is balance? It means you don’t just do bicep curls for 40mins like far too many boets seem to enjoy. Use all your muscles front to back and top to bottom - it makes you all-round stronger and less injury-prone. To make this easier, divide your muscles into movements and pick exercises that mimic them**. The main ones we humans use are:
- Squat (works legs/lower back): e.g. squat, lunge, leg press
- Bend (works lower back/hamstrings): e.g. deadlift, back extension
- Push (works chest/shoulders/triceps): e.g. pushup, shoulder press, chest press
- Pull (works back/shoulders/biceps): e.g. pullup, pulldown, row
- Twist (works core/shoulders/hips): e.g. barbell twist, cable twist, woodchoppers
- Carry (works grip/shoulders/core/hips): e.g. farmer's walk, suitcase carry
A good starter strategy could be to work your whole body each workout: pick one exercise from each category for your 1st weekly workout, then pick a different exercise per category for your 2nd workout. If you don’t have any experience resistance training, start by picking the machines first - they require less stability (and come with instructions). The key is to get very, very good at the movement before you start pushing yourself hard - when we get tired, we get sloppy. And sloppy form = injuries.
How to Lift Weights
Start your session with a decent warm-up to get the blood pumping and your muscles ready - jump on a cardio machine for 10 minutes then do a few stretches, or do some simple yoga postures, or even just dance to the YMCA for a bit.
Now for the weights: pick a stupidly easy weight to start with, and do 5 or 6 repetitions (reps) while focusing on perfect form. Rest for 30-60 seconds. Now up the weight a little bit, and do another 5-6 easy enough reps while focusing on perfect form. Rest for 30-60 seconds. Now: pick a weight that you imagine you can lift for about 10-12 reps. Start the set and only stop when it starts getting difficult to keep your perfect form. You’re now done for that exercise. Easy peasy, right? Do the same for all the remaining exercises.
The next time you do that exercise (perhaps next week), again do two “warm-up sets". But on your third set (the “work set") take the weight you used last time and try to do more reps - push yourself a bit more. Once you can do 15 reps with a weight, increase the weight slightly on the next workout. After 3-4 weeks of this, you can add a 4th set (a 2nd “work set") per exercise (but you don’t have to). Switch up the exercises you use every 6-8 weeks for variety and balance.