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A Beginner’s Guide to Weight Lifting

6 minutes to read

Have you ever walked into the gym and peeked around the corner to check out the weights room? Do you get a whiff of testosterone and think to yourself, ‘Yeah nah’? That is exactly what I did during my first year of going to the gym. I wanted to lose weight and thus, I believed cardio was the best answer. The sight of vacant treadmills and cross trainers was a relief because it meant I could just go on the one machine for half an hour then call it a day.

But I was curious about the weights room – while it was intimidating I still wanted to do what they did. Why couldn’t I lift a 60 kilo bar over my head or bench press my body weight? The only person stopping me was me. Weights aren’t for everyone,but if you’re interested, here are a few steps that got me there and where you can always find me today.

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First off, think of weights as your friend.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. They will give you lean, strong muscles and a nice ass if you work hard. #gains

Weight lifting is not gender-specific. Ladies, you will not get bulky. It’s what you do with them and what you eat that will determine how your body reacts. The more muscle you have on your body, the more fat you’ll burn while inactive.

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Research muscle groups you want to target and some weight lifting exercises before you try them out.

Fitness magazines and websites have exercises and programs written for different fitness levels and muscle groups. I personally used bodybuilding.com – it’s not just for bodybuilders, I swear. Their database is full of exercises you can pick and choose for your own routine.

They also have a Find a Plan system that allows you to filter through programs and find one best suited to you. My favourite workout plans are Erin Stern’s Elite BodyAshley Conrad’s 21-Day Clutch Cut, and Superset your Way to Super Legs by Alex Silver-Fagan. While these are run by women (I personally prefer female trainers) the exercises are universal.

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A great way to learn is watching weight lifting video tutorials – it may sound sad and boring, but I can’t tell you how much they will benefit you. Weight training is visual and you have to see it to know what you’re doing. They teach proper form and technique so you don’t injure yourself.

Also, do those exercises in front of a mirror while checking yourself out. Try not to get caught up in selfies though.

Start light and work your way up.

Know how strong you are and work around that. Weight machines such as lat pulldown, chest press, leg press and seated row are a great way to kick start your strength training, especially for those of you reluctant to use dumbbells. They provide a more guided approach to the exercises and generally include a how-to on the machine. Fair warning though, these babies are popular and they don’t target a lot of other important muscles.

However, after you’ve developed some strength and confidence, I recommend using dumbbells. There’s more variety in exercises and they improve mobility, strength, coordination. Take some time learning the feel of them and how much you can lift. Some great upper body exercises include: bicep curlsshoulder presseschest presses and back rows. My favourite lower body exercises (gotta build that ass, you know) are: walking lungessquatspile squats and Romanian deadlifts.

Aim to do two exercises per muscle group, and I recommend doing supersets (two exercises back-to-back). They’re effective and intense, especially when you’re short on time. For example, do 3 sets of bicep curls and shoulder presses for 10 reps with no rest in between sets and let me tell you, your arms will burn. Once you can easily do more than 10 reps with the same weight, go heavier – but not too much.

Aim to include weight lifting to your workouts 2-3 times a week – it’s manageable and you’ll see some steady progress. Also prioritise sleep and eat well. Your body will thank you.

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Ask a personal trainer for help.

They don’t bite, I promise. Personal trainers are more than happy to pep talk you and help if you’re finding it difficult to know where to start. If you can afford it, taking a couple of sessions with a PT is incredibly beneficial.

Weight lifting at first is scary and strange, but it’s incredible for your body and self-confidence. Pick up that dumbbell and lift it!

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For more, check out this awesome article if you’re someone that loves wearing active wear, or if you can relate to some damn awkward moments at the gym, there’s something here for you.