What to Know When Starting Weight Training

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Weight training has been shown to be a beneficial activity for many who want to improve their well-being. Some of the benefits of weight training include increased strength, improved body composition, and simply better overall health. However, there’s many things that everybody should know before starting a weight-training program.

Before beginning any new exercise program, consult with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to complete the requirements of the program. 

group with dumbbell weight training equipment on sport gym

First, it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect and nobody should set the standard of perfection upon themselves, especially when first starting in the weight room. It’s okay to skip a day here and there, and eat some cake if you feel like it! Improving your activity levels for 4 out of 7 days in a week is already 4 days better than before you began.

With that being said, it’s completely understandable to still be intimidated by going to the gym. For beginners, starting with at-home workouts can help you get into the flow of getting your muscles activated without the pressure and distraction of a full gym. There are some great creators on YouTube that provide these types of workouts including Body Project, Natacha Oceane, and Chris Heria.

When you’re ready to get into the weight room for strength training, a proper warm up before lifting is essential to maximize performance and reduce the risk of injury. A good warmup may turn out to be the difference between sitting on the couch with a sling, and smashing PRs (personal records) every week.  When warming up, it’s important to know the difference between dynamic and static stretching:

  • Static stretching is what comes to mind for most people when they think of stretching: pick a stretch, hold it for 10 seconds, and then switch sides. It is best to avoid these types of stretches before workouts – save them for after. 

    Woman stretching on grass. Man stretching leg while standing.
  • Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching you will want to focus on. A dynamic stretch is movement-based and activates the muscles gently to warm them up in preparation for more intense movement. Think high knees, lunges, arm circles, etc. Dynamic stretching has been shown to be beneficial for most exercise routines regardless of what you’re warming up for. 

    Woman doing a deep lunge stretch in a gym.

Now that the warm up is over with, it’s time to pick a weight-training program, or a split, as some would call it. Many popular splits include push-pull-legs, Arnold, or upper/lower. For beginners, I recommend push-pull-legs, or PPL for short. PPL consists of 3 days. The first day would be your push day, in which you would work your chest, triceps, and shoulders. Day two would be your pull day, which would be the back and bicep muscles. And to end it off, a nice leg day to keep your feet under you. After this, it’s recommended to take a day of rest in order to let your muscles recover. As you progress, you can increase to two of these series in a row to turn it into a six day split, with the rest day on the seventh.

After your workout, it’s important to stretch so you aren’t feeling as much pain and soreness the day after. This is where you will want to go back to the static stretching mentioned earlier. If you don’t know exactly what to do, it’s as easy as searching up a 10 min stretching video on YouTube and following along. You’re going to be sore after your first couple of workouts but that discomfort will slowly begin to dwindle away and this small investment of time spent stretching after your workouts will make your weight training journey significantly better.

It’s also a necessity to listen to your body. If you’re feeling pain, or you’re too tired to keep going, that’s okay. Take a day or two off and take the time to recover. Rest and recovery is a bigger part of the process than most think. Listen to yourself, and push yourself as hard as you can, but make sure you take the time to take care of yourself when you need to.

Weight training can be a really fun and rewarding experience. Just remember to start with your comfort level, warm up properly, vary your routine, focus on recovery, and stay committed to your goals. Good luck!

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