Weightlifting will improve your muscle strength and endurance, increase your metabolism, and enhance your overall health. Lifting weights is also an excellent way to care for your bones, joints, and make them stronger as you get older.
Anyone can get into weightlifting to build muscles and improve their musculoskeletal health, but as a beginner, this guide will show you everything you need to know about lifting heavy or light weights.
At the end of this guide, you will have learned the things you need to do before, during, and after every workout session. You will also learn the recommend compound weight lifting exercises that will get you fast results as a beginner; and how to prevent weightlifting injuries.
2 Things To Do Before Your Weightlifting Session
Two critical things you should do before lifting weights:
Aerobic exercise such as strolling, jogging, skipping ropes, and others will help stimulate blood flow to your muscles and prep them for a workout. It is advisable to engage in warming up before lifting weight to avoid fast burnouts and prevent injuries.
Stretching will prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise routine they are about to undergo. Add stretching to your pre-exercise routine, it is best immediately after warm-up to loosen up and prepare your muscles and joints for the strenuous activity ahead – weightlifting.
According to many studies, it is better to do dynamic stretching and not static stretching before lifting weights.
4 Things To Do During Your Weightlifting Session
Take note of these as you proceed with your lifting weights session:
1. Start small
After doing some aerobic exercises as your warm-up, you should start with small weights before moving to heavier weights to prevent muscle or joint injuries. “Small weights” are free weights that you can lift for 8-12 reps without losing proper form. Starting small will reduce your risk of burnout, early fatigue, sprain and strain.
2. Increase the weight gradually and focus on good form
When you comfortably complete your startup lifts with small weights, then you can increase the weights gradually by twenty percent or more. Be very careful with free weights, ensure you can lift the weight properly before taking it off the rack to avoid accidents.
If you can’t lift a specific weight correctly, it means you need to reduce it – focus on lifting weights with good form for optimum performance. Once you get the proper form for each weightlifting exercise, you can start to make a progressive overload via an increase in reps, sets, volume or intensity to stimulate muscle growth.
3. Take a minute break between sets and do not exceed 55 mins per workout session
Taking 1-2 minutes rests between each set will avoid burnouts and early muscle fatigue, especially when you are just starting your fitness journey. Fatigue or injury will reduce your chances of optimum productivity.
Schedule your training and make a mental vow to call it a day after 55 minutes of working out. Staying too long in the gym doesn’t mean you will get a fast result.
4. Cool down after your session
After the workout session for the day, a cool down will help your body kickstart its recovery process. Ensure to add some gentle static stretching to improve your mobility and flexibility. Some studies have suggested that stretching may reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and heal your body heal faster.
5 Things To Do After Weightlifting Session
After taking your body through the physical stress of weight lifting, it will initiate it’s recovery process immediately after your last rep. Here is where you need to assist your body for optimum recovery.
Remember that a good recovery phase means more strength for your next session. Here are some of the things you should do:
1. Replenish with water
Water boosts muscle flexibility and reduces soreness in them; after lifting weights, drink up to replenish the water you lost during your workout sessions. Be careful of taking too much sports drink if you’re looking to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss because they contain unnecessary calories that will add to your overall daily calorie.
2. Take a cool shower
A cold shower will help accelerate the healing process and reduce inflammation of the muscles. To relieve muscle soreness, regulate your shower temperature to a cooler level; this will reduce your chances of getting sore the next day.
3. Get a massage
A body massage is an effective way to put your body in a state of harmony after the stress of weight lifting. Whenever you can afford a professional massage session, it is worth it. You may also employ the help of a close friend or family to massage your muscles lightly for increased blood flow to these recovering tissues.
4. Eat more protein at each meal
Muscles are made up of protein, and your body needs this nutrient to repair the tissue damage caused by weightlifting. Each recovery process makes your muscles stronger and ready to take on more weights or more reps, but the lack of nutrients can slow down your recovery and results.
Experts recommend that you take about 0.8g to 1g of protein per pound of your body weight. It means if you weigh 180lbs, you should be taking about 180g of protein daily for optimum recovery and muscle growth.
Your sources of protein can include eggs, chicken breast, fish, tuna, broccoli, peanut butter, and other healthy high protein foods.
5. Have 7-9 hours of sleep and rest days
Your body does a lot of its repair work and releases human growth hormone when you sleep. 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily will improve your body’s protein synthesis, brain cell restoration, muscle recovery, and growth. Avoid alcohol, looking at the computer screen at bedtime or other things that can affect your sleep and recovery.
It is advisable to take one or two days break in between your workout sessions or train different muscles each training day. When you do this consistently, it gives your body enough recovery period to repair tissues and build up energy for your next gym session.
Recommended Weightlifting Exercises For Beginners
Some people only want to lift weight because they want to improve their biceps or have their dream abs, but a good workout program takes care of all the body muscles. Moreover, consistently giving one muscle attention over another in your workout plan may increase the risk of getting injured or burnouts.
If you want to have a complete and all-encompassing weightlifting session as a beginner, you should consider these weightlifting programs:
1. Bench Press
Start this by lying on your back with your feet rooted well to the ground. Ensure your hand is facing the bar for good vision. Grab the bar, lower it to your chest level, raise it, and repeat this process for 6-10 reps. Take short breaks in between each set to replenish your energy.
2. Chest Press With Dumbbells
Lie down on the floor, and then pick up the dumbbells to lift towards the ceiling. Do this slowly and in a controlled way, and concentrating on your chest muscles. Take two minutes rest in between the sessions and do some push-ups afterward.
Squats exercises are great for working your core muscle and several large muscles in your body. Ensure to squat with barbell or dumbbells of considerable weight and avoid common squat mistakes like leaning too far forward. There are several variations of the squat like sumo squats, goblet squat, back and front squats – use these different variations to target different muscle groups around your lower body.
Deadlifting is popularly referred to as the king of all muscle-building exercises. It works most muscle groups in the body and it is highly recommended for stimulating muscle growth and fat loss. The deadlift increases your real-life lift, it gives you the strength you need to do your regular liftings likes carrying those heavy grocery bags.
Use bands or dumbbells for curls, slowly and coordinated. Ensure to maintain good form through this session – make sure your elbows are at your side and don’t bank on momentum to keep you going in your curls.
Try to do the dips with both hands behind you on a chair or bench. You can begin with putting your legs on the ground and as you grow in strength and endurance, put it on the chair to increase the resistance.
7. Shoulder Press
Shoulder press entails holding the dumbbells at shoulder level and raising it above your head. Pick up the dumbbells and push it above your head countless till your hand is fully stretched. Stick to weights you can push for 8-12 reps for a start.
Compound Lifting Or Isolated Lifting?
Compound lifting is referred to as weightlifting exercises that work several muscle groups simultaneously, while isolated lifting only focuses on building a muscle group per time.
Both exercises are deployed by fitness trainers to build up muscle strength and endurance. Isolated lifting is particularly useful because its impact will reach muscles that are difficult to work using compound lifting.
However, compound lifting is recommended for beginners; it will help you gain muscles fast. It is also effective if you’re looking to lose weight. With exercises that work out several muscle groups at the same time, you will spend less time in the gym as a starter – less fatigue and fast result.
Compound lifting such as deadlifts, squats, bench press, overhead press, barbell curls will develop your muscle strength fast and raise your testosterone production for muscle growth.
Precautions And Signs Of Injury To Watch Out For
As a beginner, you should take precautions like an adequate warm-up before weightlifting and watch out for early signs of possible injuries to your muscles, tendons, or joints.
Severe injuries don’t naturally occur when proper weightlifting guidelines are followed or when you’re under the supervision of a personal trainer.
Injuries may be challenging to manage because some take months to heal and may require surgery. This is why you need to know the early signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Here are some injuries popular with weightlifting and the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
1. Tennis Elbow
This injury is mostly caused by too much gripping. It stays in the body for some time like other tendon injuries. Symptoms to look out for include pain on the outside elbow and feeling of a tear when moving the arm back and forth.
2. Hamstring Pulls & Tears
You should always look out for sharp pains around the back of your thighs after a workout session. You need to be particularly careful in dealing with hamstring injuries as it can drag on for years.
3. Patellar Tendonitis (& Knee Pain)
A prevalent injury amongst weightlifters – most feel pain at the back of their knee after their sessions. Ensure you rest well after your training to avoid the knee getting sour and over-stressed.
Weightlifting And Your Nutritional Plan
Weightlifting and fitness training go hand in hand with the kind of food you take or leave out of your diet. If you work out well in the gym and ignore your nutritional plan, you may not achieve your fitness goals.
It is recommended to take a meal rich carbohydrates and protein a couple of hours before your workout session; this will give you the glycogen (energy) you need to lift weights.
After the weightlifting workout session, it is advisable to take foods that rich in protein for a quick recovery; you make also use a protein shake or supplement. Generally, fruits, eggs, chicken breast, green veggies, yogurts are ideal for people working out.
As a beginner, it might be challenging to keep up with the dos and don’ts of weightlifting, diet, and fitness programs. It is recommended that you consider hiring a personal trainer to assess your present fitness level and create a workout guide for you.
Find out the 9 reasons why you may need a personal trainer and how to know an excellent personal fitness coach.