Adding weight training to your fitness routine has many health benefits, but getting started can seem overwhelming.
If you use kettlebells or weight machines in a gym? How many reps do you need to do? How to start bodybuilding without hurting yourself? Even with all of this confusion, there are a few basics to get you started.
Here are some of the ways that strength training can benefit your health and fitness:
– Improves sports performance if you are an athlete.
– Builds and maintains muscle mass.
– Improves balance, helping to reduce your risk of falling if you are an elderly person.
– Promotes weight loss when combined with a Balanced diet and other physical activities.
– Stops or slows the loss of lean muscle mass associated with age.
— Supports bone health.
[READ: Muscle Recovery After Workouts.]
Types of weights
What Kind Of Weight Should You Use If You Are New To Strength Training? The answer may not be the same for everyone, as it depends on your goals, your fitness level and your budget.
Some options include:
– Items around your home that can be used as dumbbells, like soup cans and gallons of water.
– Resistance bands.
– Using your own body weight.
– Weight machines in a gym or at home.
Fitness trainers will have differing opinions on what equipment you should use to get started. Jessica Mazzucco, Certified Fitness Trainer and Founder of The Glute Recruit in New York City, advises bodybuilding newbies to start with their own bodyweight, as this will help you familiarize yourself with strength training movement patterns and achieve a good workout.
Using your own body weight is what happens with exercises like push-ups and lunges. Once you have a good shape, you can use free weights or light kettlebells. While starting weights may differ for everyone, 5 to 20 pounds is a reasonable range, says Mazzucco.
For dumbbells, you can invest in a set of light, medium, and heavy weights to provide more challenges as you progress, says Jill Weinreb, trainer with the fitness app WeStrive based in Freehold, New Jersey. There are also adjustable dumbbells that allow you to add weight as you wish.
You can also get creative. If you are interested in dumbbells, you can start with a barbell that does not have weights on the sides. If that’s too much, you can even use PVC pipe from a hardware store or a broomstick in your closet to start, says Weinreb.
9 tips to get started in bodybuilding
– Use a trainer at the start if you can afford one.
– Always warm up.
– Learn good form.
– Keep the number of repetitions in mind.
– Start with two to three strength training sessions per week.
– Balance weight lifting with stimulating cardio exercises.
– Change it when you no longer feel challenged.
– Listen to your body.
— To be coherent.
Use a trainer at the start if you can afford one.
There is no substitute for a qualified trainer who can tailor advice to your specific needs and teach you how to use the right form to avoid injury. If you can shell out the cash for a trainer, that can be invaluable, says Tommy Hockenjos, trainer for the High Point, North Carolina-based fitness app WeStrive.
If that’s not within your budget, there are plenty of videos online that can walk you through the basics of weightlifting, says Mazzucco. Some videos are free, while others are low-cost health and fitness apps. The two Mayo Clinic and a company called Athletics catalyst provide free videos for bodybuilding.
Always warm up.
“I think of training as a highway,” says Hockenjos. “The warm-up serves as a ramp where we prepare our body to go from 25 mph to 65 km / h during our workout. Then our cool-down serves as an exit ramp.”
Warm-ups also help you avoid injury because you are more flexible. While both warm-up and cool-down are important, a 5-10 minute warm-up is more important if you’re short on time.
One idea for warm-ups is to start with only half your intended exercise weight and do 10 reps, advises Sergio Pedemonte, personal trainer and CEO of Your House Fitness in Toronto. From there, you can increase the weight by 10% to 15% and perform more reps until you reach the weight you want for the day.
A quick cool-down can be as easy as holding a child’s pose – like the one used in yoga – for a minute, to help bring the body back to a neutral state, Weinreb said.
Learn the right form.
A common mistake for new weightlifters is to lift too much weight and injure yourself. Weinreb started out by lifting clients without any weight, just to make sure their bodies were moving properly. She also asked customers to remove weights if their form was turned off.
Use your video resources or experienced trainers to help you teach proper form when building strength. You can also take a video of yourself performing reps to get a better feel for your form, advises Pedemonte. If you can, shoot yourself from different angles. Compare that to the correct form to see where you need to improve.
Getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet also make a difference in learning good shape and preventing injury, says Hockenjos.
Keep in mind the number of repetitions.
There is no magic number of reps for beginner weight trainers. A common recommendation is three sets of 8 to 12 reps, says Mazzucco. It’s good to do fewer reps and use no weights or a lighter weight while you learn the right form.
Dumbbells and heavier strength exercises usually take a different approach, using fewer reps but challenging you with more weight on one or two of the final reps. Don’t force yourself to do so many reps that you always feel sore and exhausted at the end of a workout, says Mazzucco. This can often lead to burnout.
Start with two to three strength training sessions per week.
If you’re completely new to bodybuilding, even one session a week can shatter some of the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle, says Mazzucco. However, two to three sessions can help you build muscle and lose weight.
Try to schedule strength training programs at least two days apart at first, so your body has more time to recover, recommends Pedemonte. You should still be doing other physical activity in between, but no strength training.
As weight lifting becomes part of your regular workout routine, you can move up to four to five times per week. Some people like to divide strength training into sessions focused on a upper body workout one day and the lower body the next.
Others prefer exercises that work as much of the body as possible during each session. If you have an area of your body that hurts you on a particular day from yesterday’s workout, consider giving it a break to focus on another area of the body for your current workout.
Balance weight lifting with stimulating cardio exercises.
Weightlifting and cardio exercises play a role in improving your overall health. Weinreb, who is a CrossFit trainer, likes to incorporate both traditional weightlifting and cardio exercises like walking or cycling into one workout – combining them is part of the CrossFit approach.
Others prefer to do weight training on some days and walk, run, swim, or other cardio activities on the remaining days. Federal physical activity guidelines currently recommend 150 minutes of moderate cardio activity each week, which comes down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The guidelines also recommend two or more strength training sessions each week.
Change it when you no longer feel challenged.
If you consistently lift the same weight for the same number of repetitions, your body will adapt and not change, says Weinreb. When starting out with strength training, watch out for plateaus that indicate you need to vary your strength training to add a new challenge. If you don’t have access to new equipment, see if you can at least vary the weight you use, she advises.
Listen to your body.
Starting a strength training routine doesn’t mean you’re a robot. Even as you progress in your lift, other factors can affect the amount of lift you can lift on any given day, explains Pedemonte.
These may include:
— A poor diet.
– A change in your training time.
– A new workout.
– Bad sleep.
It doesn’t matter if you lift less on some days than on others due to factors like these.
To be coherent.
Sometimes you can take a day off to have a beer with a friend or hang out with your kids, says Hockenjos. You will still see progress over time if you are consistent in training.
And, adds Pedemonte, “the best way to be consistent is to avoid injury and to enjoy the process.”
Vanessa Caceres started writing for US News in 2017, originally specializing in diabetes. She is a national health, travel and food writer with an undergraduate degree in journalism and psychology from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and a graduate degree in linguistics / bilingual education from the University of Georgetown in Washington, DC In addition to US News, Vanessa’s Health Writes has been published with Everyday Health, Self, Newsday HealthLink, EyeWorld, The Rheumatologist, and various other publications. She is a member of Business Networking International (BNI). Vanessa has lived in Florida since 2009, when she became fascinated with the Sunshine State. This fascination led to Florida-themed articles published in regional and national publications and on websites. Connect with her on Twitter at @FloridaCulture.