Strength training has many benefits aside from just aesthetics. It can help improve and maintain bone density, increase your metabolism, prevent injuries, and allow you to have more strength to do non-gym activities from horseback riding to riding motorcycles to golf to chasing after your knee-high mini-mes. If you’re new to lifting weights here are a few pieces of advice.
Make sure you have proper workout clothes. This doesn’t mean you need to head to the mall to drop a few hundred dollars on designer gym wear. Target and Walmart have budget-friendly workout clothes and you can get good athletic shoes at outlet sporting goods stores. You should be able to move comfortably in your clothes without chafing or giving other gym members a free show. You do not have to wear tight leggings but your outfit should not be so loose that it gets caught in machines or gets in the way of training.
Most gyms require closed-toe athletic shoes so please do not try to lift or use cardio equipment in flip flops unless you want to roll an ankle. Proper weightlifting is done with appropriate shoes for numerous reasons, please do not walk around a gym barefoot. If you are going to be learning how to lift using barbells and Smith machines you will probably want to invest in flat-bottom shoes for better stability. If you’re going to be doing more circuit training using dumbbells and kettlebells with HIIT (high-intensity interval training) you will probably want something with a bit more cushion to protect your knees and joints.
Invest in a few sessions with a trainer. Just because it looks like you are doing the movement correctly doesn’t mean you are. You need to know proper form not only to avoid injuring yourself but also to make sure you are engaging the correct muscle group. You may also need to start off with a modification or to swap certain exercises with a different one that targets the same muscle group due to injuries or other current limitations. And most importantly, you need to learn how to breathe while lifting to prevent feeling lightheadedness during lifts. Proper breathing also teaches you how to engage your core muscles to protect and stabilize your back during your lifts.
I know a few of you want to grab your friend that’s a regular gym-goer and ask them to teach you weightlifting versus getting a trainer, but here’s the issue – just because your friend knows how to train for their body does not mean they can train you. It also doesn’t mean that they know what they are doing in the gym. I’m all for having a workout buddy but in my 12 years as a trainer I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned people teach their friends, roommates, or significant others some HORRIBLE form and incorrect instructions on how to use machines. This can lead to injuries, poor results, and fighting as the other person gets frustrated that you are not understanding how to perform the exercise or have a limitation and cannot do the specific exercise.
If you are not on a budget, it may help to have a trainer to meet with a few times a week until you feel comfortable enough to train on your own. If you are on a budget, after a session or two you can always purchase or download a workout plan. There are a lot of great 6-12 week workout plans online. Either way, you need to have a plan to get progress.
Jumping from one clickbait workout to another each session will not get you the same results as following a plan that slowly progresses you over many weeks. It’s through performing the same exercises week after week and slowly increasing the difficulty through weights or tempo that help build strength. It’s not going to be fancy or crazy but the basics are where it’s at when it comes to building strength. (That’s not to say you can’t add in a few fun plyometric exercises in between sets).
Contrary to what you see on social media, strength training takes time so give yourself realistic expectations. It usually can take 6 to 12 months of consistent strength training to see the progress you want, although you will most likely notice composition changes around 3-6 weeks of training.
Oh, and one more thing, step away from the BOSU and Swiss balls. Unless you want to meet your local orthopedic surgeon do not try to attempt heavy lifting on stability balls, especially as a beginning lifter.