A weights training program can be one of the best things you can do for yourself! You'll gain strength, tone your muscles, become more functionally able, burn energy, increase your metabolism, improve your posture, help prevent osteoporosis, and gain many other health, mental, and physical benefits! But where do you start with weights? How much should you lift? Do you isolate or lift compound movements? Reps? Sets? Overload?! The following are some of the key tips for getting started and making good gains in the gym!
If you’ve never done any weight training the most important advice is to take it nice and easy. Similarly, if you haven’t trained for a while it is important to take it slowly and allow your muscles to gradually become accustomed to the exercise. Too much too soon and you'll wake up feeling like you've been beaten all over by a baseball bat!
Start by lifting lighter weights for 1-2 sets. The weights should be light enough to perform at least 12-15 reps without reaching muscular failure (when it really hurts!). After a few weeks you will be able to increase the number of sets and also work with heavier weights, but always gradually increase the amount of weight lifted and ensure your form is good. Do this gradually and over a period of time your muscles will adapt to the increasing loads and become stronger.
The most important thing when you’re starting out is to perform the exercises correctly and not to get injured as this will obviously hamper your progress. You should seek advice from a personal trainer or an experienced friend who can show you how to lift correctly.
A poorly written program or no program at all is like performing a play without any script - not much happens! The way a weight training program is designed will largely determine how your body will adapt, and the program should be designed by an personal trainer with your specific goals in mind. For example, a program to increase muscle mass will be different from one to primarily increase sports specific power or speed.
Although most weight training exercises are designed to isolate specific muscle groups called "isolation" movements, and there are also exercises which involve more than one group called "compound" movements. Performing a barbell curl, for instance, will just target the biceps muscles of the upper arm and is an isolation exercise. A bench press will work the muscles of the chest as well as the arms and is a compound exercise. Compound movements are more functional and give you a bigger "bang for your buck" than isolation movements so we recommend doing these exercises in your program.
In order to have some variety and keep your program fun, it’s often a good idea to change your routine now and then by iincorporating different exercises and different rep and set protocols. Following the same program over and over again is one of the main reasons people reach a plateau with their resistance training. Beginners should look to alter their program every 2-3 months, but more experienced trainers should be changing things every 3-6 weeks. This will ensure your muscles and your mind don't get bored of the same routine.
When you’re starting out you should consult with a qualified personal fitness trainer. We are all differnet so don’t look at a training program written by a Mr Universe and expect it to work for you. If you are new to this form of exercise then you will need a specific program that addresses your needs, abilities, aims, and limitations.
In addition to providing a personalised weight training program with the correct number of sets and repetitions of each exercise, a personal trainer can show you how to perform the exercises with good form, correct posture, and the right speed to minimise the chances of injury and greatly increasing the results you get from your training. Also see our article on resistance training guidelines.
To find out more about strength training, weights training, a weights program or starting weights training contact us!