By Myprotein Writer Hugh Thompson
It’s fantastic that more and more of us are hitting the iron to get in shape – it beats the days of when people would bang out hours and hours on ab cruncher’s bought off a late night shopping channel. However, when starting out it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of programs and exercises on offer.
Even worse, most folks embark on a program with either too much volume, intensity or frequency. This dramatically increases the risk of physically burning out or getting injured.
So, why not follow the basic tips outlined below and feel confident – not confused – when you set foot in the gym.
1. Start slow and keep it simple
Many beginners think that they need to hammer every body part with multiple exercises from multiple angles for multiple sets – that just isn’t the case. In fact, these strategies which are often employed by bodybuilders are highly advanced and can only be safely handled by experienced lifters who have the prerequisite work and recovery capacities.
Instead, beginners should focus on compound exercises and movements which hit all the major muscle groups and train the body as a whole. These include:
✓ Bench Press
✓ Overhead Press
✓ Barbell/ Horizontal Rows
✓ Press Ups
✓ Pull/Chin Ups
2. Fuel your body
Weightlifting places significant physical stress on your body. In order for you to recover adequately, you need to fuel your workouts.
Beginners need to focus on following the basics of eating a balanced, varied diet as well as consuming sufficient calories and protein to fuel muscle repair and growth.
This means eating plenty of complex, slow release carbohydrates such as:
✓ Brown rice
✓ Sweet potatoes
✓ Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Combined with sources of protein to aid the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass. For example:
✓ Lean meats
✓ Fish; salmon, tuna, etc
Supplementation is a convenient way for beginners to make sure they get sufficient protein in their diet. Protein powders are incredibly common, yet perfect sources of direct protein, e.g: Impact Whey Protein
3. Rest and listen to your body
Many beginners fall into the trap of believing that they have to hit the gym every day to see results. In fact, the opposite is true; muscles are broken down in the gym but actually repair and recover during rest.
To this end, you should train no more than three to four times per week for no longer than an hour and aim for eight hours of decent sleep every night (as cliché as that may seem!)
Numerous studies have shown that the growth hormones required for muscular repair are highest during sleep and so this time is when all the hard work in the gym really pays off.
In addition, learn to really listen to your body. Just because it’s Wednesday and your programs says you have to train doesn’t mean you have to train. If you’re feeling exhausted, you’re ill or you have other stresses going on in your life then leave the gym bag at home and focus on eating well, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.
Remember, listening to your body and missing the occasional workout doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it means you’re sensible and will more often than not benefit your goals tremendously in the long run.
4. Warm-up – correctly
Arrive at the gym, hop on the treadmill for ten minutes, do some static stretches and then head over to the bench press – How familiar does this sound?
Well, not only is this kind of warm-up ineffective, it actually increases rather than decreases your chances of injury.
A proper warm-up is crucial not only for preventing injury, but also preparing your body both physically and mentally for the workout ahead. Now, whilst beginners don’t necessarily need to follow the same warm-ups as Olympic athletes, they should:
✓ Raise their core body temperature by performing some dynamic stretching drills
✓ Practice the movement patterns for each exercise to be performed during the workout.
Warming-up correctly doesn’t have to take all day either; ten to fifteen minutes will do the trick and leave you both prepared to train and less predisposed to injury!
5. Consistency: track your progress
Many beginners fail to realise that nobody achieved their long-term weight lifting goals, be it deadlifting 200 kg or sporting 24 inch arms, in just a few short weeks. These kinds of results take time, dedication and consistency.
Get into the habit of recording what you do in the gym, for example keeping track of weight lifted, sets and repetitions performed for each exercise during each workout. Not only will this allow you to gauge your progress over the weeks and months, it will also highlight if and when you do stop progressing.
6. Buddy up
If you struggle motivating yourself or suffer from a touch of ‘gymtimidation’, training with a friend with similar goals and abilities to yourself can be huge plus.
Not only can you motivate one another during workouts, but many weight lifting exercises like the squat or bench press are much safer when performed with the aid of a spotter. Moreover, training with a friend can make going to the gym much less daunting.
Take home message
For a lot of beginners, going to the gym and lifting weights can be a real challenge. However, follow the advice outlined above and you’ll be more likely to achieve both your short and long-term weightlifting goals!