How to Get Started with Weight Training
by Emily Neill
Weight training can be a little daunting, particularly when you’re new to it and not sure where to start. Weight training doesn’t mean you’re going to become the next heavyweight-lifting champion with quadricep muscles the size of an average person’s body (unless this is your goal!). In fact, the benefits of resistance training are endless. To tempt you with a few: improved muscle strength can protect your joints from injury; it can help maintain and improve flexibility and balance; and it leads to an increased muscle mass to fat ratio, meaning you burn more energy even at rest.
So, to get you started on your weight lifting journey, I’ve listed my top tips for starting out weight training, so you can feel confident the moment you step foot in a gym.
Always go in with a plan
My absolute number one tip is to plan your workout in advance. If you’re new to weight training, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by stepping foot into the weight training zone and have no idea where to look, let alone which weight to pick up. Making a plan ahead of time means you can go to your session knowing what you’re aiming to achieve (like what machines and weights you might need), and making sure you don’t spend an hour wandering aimlessly.
Depending on your personal goal, you might look to split your sessions into three: an upper, lower and all-over body workout. Or you might simply want to just add 20 minutes of weight training onto each of your typical sessions. Whatever it may be, make sure to plan your workout. Which leads me onto my second tip...
Don’t complicate it
Weight training doesn’t need to be complicated. In its simplest form, you will look to do both compound (using multiple muscle groups, such as a squat) and isolated workouts (singling out one muscle group at a time, ie., bicep curls). Try choosing up to five exercises per session (including at least one compound movement) for the first few weeks. This will allow you to work a variety of muscle groups and try a range of movements without needing to spend hours in the gym.
A circuit of five exercises, each performed for three sets, and aiming for 8-12 reps on each set, would be a great place to get started.
Perfect your form
If you’ve ever had a personal trainer, you’ll know that the most common phrase used is “good form”. And I’m here to reiterate that. The most important thing when weight trainingis to ensure that your form is correct. Simply put, this means making sure you’re performing each exercise correctly. Sounds easy, but this crucial tip is often ignored. Incorrect form not only means you won’t be working the correct muscles in the right way (meaning you won’t be seeing those strength gains anytime soon), but performing an exercise incorrectly can lead to serious injury.
So, leave your ego at the door. Trust me when I say good weight training definitely does not correlate with the number of weights on the bar. Start off with a low weight and work your way up over time; a typical weight-training plan spans over the course of 8-12 weeks, so you have time. Trust the process.
Always warm up
In conjunction with tip number three, my fourth bit of advice is to make sure you’re properly warmed up. And I don’t mean just a five minute speed walk on the treadmill. If you’re looking to train your lower body, make sure you’re doing a lower-body focussed warm-up before you start playing with the weights (resistance bands are super useful for this!).
Ensuring your muscles and joints are properly warmed up pre-session will not only wake up the muscles you’re looking to work properly, making sure your glute-focussed session really will hit those glutes, but it will also protect you from the risk of injury.
Accept that things take time
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were your strength and weight-training goals. So, whatever your personal goal is, it’s super important to recognise that progress isn’t linear. You might pick up a 6kg weight one day and it feels light, but a week later that feels like the heaviest thing in the world. Why? So many different factors impact how you feel and perform in a session, and it’s not just as simple as how motivated you are. Stress levels, energy levels, how well you’ve been sleeping, to name a few, all play their part.
But that doesn’t mean give up! Document your progress, and whenever you’re feeling a little lost for motivation, look back on how far you’ve come. Strength training will have you feeling fitter and stronger in both your mind and body in no time.
If you need help refueling post weight-training session then you’ve come to the right place. Order a box of allplants to have some speedy, nutritious, chef-prepared meals in your freezer waiting for you to get home from the gym.
By Emily Neill
Emily is our Content and Community Assistant by day, and qualified PT by… later that day. She couldn’t live without exercise (makes sense) so can usually be spotted in her favourite spin class, with our Three Mushroom Risotto for afters.