So, you’ve decided to brave the “scariest” corner of the gym – good for you. But weight training can be a vulnerable space with men competing on how much they can lift, taking gym selfies, and overflowing with a whole lot of testosterone.
So we wouldn’t blame you if you’re not quite there yet, but one thing that can make you feel more comfortable is knowing what you’re doing. Not knowing what you’re doing won’t only make you appear as a hot mess in the background of expert’s gym selfies, but it’ll seriously increase your chances of injury.
Let’s enter the wonderful world of weight training with Nick Peters, Personal Trainer at QuickHIT Fitness Labs, to teach us a thing or two about building muscle.
What Is Weight training?
“Weight training, or more accurately resistance training, is any type of exercise that’s performed against an external force or load that affects any muscles involved,” says Peters. But it typically involves dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. “It’s a very beneficial and effective exercise if it’s done correctly.”
How Does Weight Training Build Muscle?
Building muscle is the ultimate goal of weight training. Peters explains that, ultimately, weight training causes micro-tears in the muscle to appear. Then, during your recovery period, your body rebuilds these muscles bigger and stronger to help avoid this from happening again.
But despite what most people think, you don’t need to become a complete gym junkie to build muscle. Weight training for just 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times a week, is more than enough to see results.
Can Weight Training Help You To Lose Weight Also?
Weight training can absolutely help you lose weight, says Peters, and it’s often a more efficient way to lose weight than doing cardio exercises. “When muscles are out under a load like they are when you weight train, they use extra calories than they normally would,” he explains. “In turn, weight training helps to burn more calories than even cardio does.”
And the effects of weight-training calorie-burning continue even after your workout. Because weight training builds more muscle than cardio, and muscles burn more calories at rest than most other tissues (like fat), the more muscles you have, the more calories you end up burning even when you’re in rest mode. So if you’ve been busting your butt over cardio and still not seeing the results you want, give weight training a try.
Other Than Building Muscle and Losing Weight, What Other Benefits Can Men Get From Weight Training?
Weight training isn’t all about losing fat and bulking your muscles, though that’s often the main attraction. “Weight training can help with mental health, mental clarity, as well as improve confidence and energy levels,” Peters explains. But that’s far from all it can do.
Peters says that weight training can even help improve mood, sleep, and posture, increase bone density, boost metabolism, and more.
What Muscles Should You Aim To Work?
If you’re new to weight training, it’s easy to get intimidated by all of the machines and exercises (since there are literally hundreds). So, while you may fall into just focusing on the major muscle groups at first: arms, abs, and legs, Peters stresses the importance of working out all of your muscles to prevent imbalances that could ultimately lead to pain or even injury. As well as looking super out of proportion – everyone knows if you’ve skipped leg day.
How Do You Build Up Your Strength Safely From Weight Training?
It’s not wise to jump full force into lifting heavy weights, especially if you’re new to weight training or have taken some time off from the gym. “Start slowly with weights you are comfortable with and can control safely,” Peters suggests.
“Aim to increase either the number of repetitions or weight used by 5-10% weekly.” By taking it slow, you will significantly reduce your risk of injury. Plus, it’ll give you more time to acclimate and feel more comfortable with what you’re doing.
What Weights Would You Recommend for a Beginner To Start With?
Everyone is a beginner at some point in their fitness journey, so don’t feel discouraged if you’re feeling a little lost on where to get started. “Start with weights that you can safely lift in order to prevent overuse or other injuries,” Peters says. “You should be using enough where you feel fatigued at the end, but not so much that you could become injured. That would only set you back even further in the long run.”
No matter where you are on your fitness journey, says Peters, whether you’re looking to get in shape or to stay in shape with weight training, it’s vital that you keep several things in mind so you can have a successful workout without unnecessary, preventable injuries.
First thing’s first – get your warm-up in. “This is a quick and critical step people often forget,” Peters says. “It’s important to properly loosen up your muscles and get your blood flowing.” So how do you warm-up? There is no concrete routine. The important part is that you get your body moving and ready for more strenuous exercise.
Stretching and tending to those muscles is another vital step to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout. “Take your time to move around and stretch before and after your workouts – not only does this help you avoid injury, it also helps you maximize your workout and trigger muscle recovery,” says Peters. “And, if you’re feeling sore after a tough workout, a foam roller can also be really useful.”
Top 6 Weight Training Tips for Beginners
1. Watch Your Form
Peters advises that for weight training, it’s critical that you keep an eye on your form. “People can injure themselves by not bracing their core or by lifting with their back instead of hinging at the hips,” Peters explains. And there’s a reason why most gyms are lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
“Using a mirror is really helpful when it comes to this step because you can check to make sure you’re using the correct form,” (as well as checking out your newly packed on muscle of course).
2. Every Pound Matters
And no, we don’t mean how much you weigh, but how heavy the weights you’re using are. “If you use weights that are too heavy,” Peters explains, “your form will suffer and you won’t get anything out of your exercise.” Lifting more weight than you’re ready for can be extremely dangerous, Peters says.
Different exercises will require different weights, but generally, the ideal weight should build challenge and tension with each rep. “Ideally, you want your last two reps in a set to be really challenging. On the other hand, it’s important to increase weight as well,” he advises. “Consistently using the same weights means you’ll start to plateau. A good rule of thumb is to gradually increase the weight you are using every four to six weeks.”
3. Make a Schedule
While it may sound silly, having a workout plan for the week will provide much-needed structure to your fitness regime. Having a specific plan for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on will ensure that you’re not under or overtraining any muscle group, you can set goals, and you have a plan for when you head to the gym, so you’re not aimlessly walking around looking lost and out of place. It doesn’t sound so silly now, does it?
Having a weekly schedule also allows time for muscle repair and recovery. Let’s say you work out your chest and triceps on Tuesday, well then on Wednesday, you’ll want to let those areas rest and focus on other muscles such as your legs instead.
4. Take Rest Days When You Need To
We get that this may sound counterintuitive to building muscle and getting lean, but the truth is your muscles are going to be sore, especially if you’re just starting out, which is perfectly normal. The soreness is kind of a great thing since it’s an indicator that you succeeded in making microscopic muscle tears, and your muscles are working on rebuilding and growing stronger – no pain no gain after all.
But to do that, your muscles need some time off. If your body is screaming at you because you’re so sore and could use a rest day, listen to it. But if the soreness isn’t that bad and you can still work out, just focus on a different body part. For instance, if your legs are super sore, maybe don’t work out your glutes the next day and focus on upper-body moves instead.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help
Though it may seem embarrassing seeking the counsel of a professional trainer, they’re there to help you learn, evolve, and get the best experience from the gym – leave your ego at the door. “Personal trainers are a great asset to have when it comes to weight training,” says Peters. “It’s helpful to have a critical eye checking on your form and make sure every move is being performed safely and correctly to maximize the effectiveness of your workout.”
Plus, personal trainers can also help keep you accountable and striving towards reaching your fullest potential, Peters explains. And they’re there for you even after the gym. “We also make sure you’re eating right and drinking enough water – both of which are important to getting the most out of your workout.”
Certified trainers are also beneficial if you have something specific you’re training for, need someone to hold you accountable, or have an upcoming event (such as a wedding) that you want to look your best for, as they know how to maximize your gym time for the best results.
6. Practice Proper Nutrition
Stepping up your exercise and weight training routine coincides with stepping up your nutrition. After all, you don’t want to lose those gains you work so hard for in the gym by not fueling your body with the proper food it needs.
While everyone’s bodies and workout routines are different, a general rule of thumb if you want to build muscle is to refuel your body post-workout with a healthy source of carbohydrates and protein. This will increase muscle growth and recovery, prevent muscle breakdown, and restore those helpful glycogen stores that are needed for muscle regrowth and repair.
This is why you see all those people drinking protein shakes right after a gym sesh. So find a protein powder that suits your nutritional needs (whether that’s whey or plant-based protein), pair it with some healthy carbs like oats or fruit, and blend it with a liquid of your choice for the ultimate post-workout quick refuel juice.
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