So you’ve decided to start weight training. Good for you. Weight training improves strength and function of muscle, joints and connective tissue. It has also been shown to improve bone density (we lose bone with age) so we maintain capacity for daily activities over a lifetime, build lean muscle mass and help burn more calories throughout the day. That’s because the body must expend more energy to maintain muscle. Weight lifting isn’t just for body builders, it’s for everybody. Here’s how to get started.
Talk to a trainer
Trainers can offer expert advice about form and routines that fit your goals and fitness level. Alternatively, there are a number of web videos that offer routines to choose from. Switch up every 4 to 6 weeks to prevent boredom and avoid a plateau.
Know where to start
Terms to know
- Reps – the number of times you do an exercise during a set. For example 8 bicep curls.
- Sets – the number of times you repeat the same exercise. For example 8 bicep curls, 30 seconds of rest and 8 more bicep curls would be two sets of bicep curls.
- Rest period – a 30 to 90 second break between sets.
Pick up a few weights to determine how much you can lift comfortably and safely. Experiment with increasing weight until you get to one that is too heavy. Return to a weight that is a few pounds lighter. You should be able to lift it for about eight reps depending on your goal. Lower reps with heavier weights build strength (maybe you can do 2 or 3 reps). You will build muscle with weights you can lift for 5 to 12 reps per set. Go for more reps if your goal is to build endurance. Don’t lift for more than 15 to 20 reps per set because form is likely to deteriorate which can lead to injury and reduced benefit. If you can lift a weight for that many reps it is probably too light. The muscle should be tired after each set of reps.
- Start with single sets for the first two or three weeks.
- Avoid working the same muscle group two days in a row.
- Stay hydrated
- Aim for at least two sessions per week.
- Get a spotter for heavy weights
Once you find the right starting point you can increase weight in 5% increments when you are ready. Use slow, steady movements and avoid swinging weights or rushing through reps. Another strategy is to increase reps rather than weight. Choose according to your fitness goals.