Strength training is the ultimate body transformation tool. Here are 8 beginner (and not so beginner) tips that will get you started on the right path.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Being intimidated of the gym is one of the biggest reasons people never go. Let me be the first to tell you that it is completely normal to feel intimidated when you’ve never been to the gym before. Not only that, but feelings of intimidation happen for experienced lifters too.
I’ve personally been lifting for over 20 years. I’ve been a member of close to a dozen gyms. I even have my own home gym. You’d think that all this “experience” would put you at ease, but in reality, there’s always a certain level of nervous anxiety, and it’s worse when you haven’t been to the gym in a while.
Don’t let this hold you back. After going to the gym for a couple of weeks, you will start to see the same people there and begin to feel at home. Everyone is in their own little world doing their workouts.
Nail Down Your Form
If you want to lessen the anxiety over going to the gym, you can start by reading up on proper exercise form. You should be doing this anyways. I’d estimate more than half the people in the gym use the wrong form.
This does nothing but work out your ego, and puts you at risk for injury. Putting up big numbers is nice, but not when they’re at the expense of proper form. Using 100lbs with good form through a full range of motion is 10 times better than doing 150lbs in an uncontrolled manner and only squatting down a quarter of the way.
Use Free Exercise Instruction Resources
One of the best ways to learn about proper exercise form (other than hands-on experience from a competent personal trainer) is by watching exercise videos. Go over to YouTube.com and start searching for various exercises like the squat, bench press, row, and deadlift.
Watch these people demonstrate the exercises and explain how to do them and what should be going through your mind as you lift. YouTube is a great resource for workout routines too and it’s all free.
Familiarize Yourself With Human Anatomy
The human muscular system is complex, but it functions with a lot of common sense. In other words, once you understand the action/reaction when a muscle gets worked, you can apply that knowledge to other parts of your body.
This makes it easy to design workouts and to ensure you’re hitting all your major body parts. Do you know what muscles get worked with the bench press? How about the squat?
Focus on Compound Movements
One of the biggest beginner mistakes people make is doing a bunch of isolation exercises right from the start. As a beginner, you should be sticking to the basics. These exercises are going to get you 90% of your results in as little time as possible.
Compound exercises work numerous muscles at one time and involve the use of more than one joint throughout the movement. So, while barbell curls are fun for building your biceps, heavy rowing movements like the pullup or barbell row will be just as effective (if not more) and will work numerous other muscles at the same time.
Make Strength Your Priority
Seems obvious, right? Make getting stronger the priority of your strength training program. Unfortunately, this obviousness isn’t always put to practice. People go to the gym and lift the same weights as they did the last time and the time before that.
If you aren’t consistently getting stronger from one workout to the next, you aren’t doing much more than burning some extra calories. To get your muscle working for you, you must continually get stronger so that you create a stimulus to build muscle. In return, this muscle with graze on body fat at all hours of the day.
Strength training needs consistency to be effective. Going to the gym once one week and then 3 times the next isn’t going to do much for your progress or for developing effective exercise habits.
Ideally you’d be in the gym hitting the same muscle groups the day you are 100% fully recovered. Sporadic workouts create slow progress or no progress at all. Pick a workout schedule and stick with it.
Don’t Wing It
I admit that it can be fun and liberating to go to the gym not knowing what you’re going to do. Thinking about a squat workout all day is mentally exhausting, and sometimes just walking into the gym and winging it feels good.
Unfortunately, without any kind of structure, your progress is likely to suffer. Workout programs are put together in a way to maximize workout volume, frequency, load, intensity, and recovery.
Write down your workouts. Give yourself a base to build on for the next time. Unless you have an incredible memory, remembering a half dozen exercises, the weight you used, and the sets and reps for each is next to impossible.
These 8 tips are core fundamentals for both beginner strength trainers and experienced lifters alike. If you’re lacking in any of these areas, it’s time to focus and make things right.