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The Ultimate Beginner's Guide To Weight Lifting

19th October 2020

19th October 2020

By Caitlin Bell

We all know the stereotypes. Usually male, often found injecting chicken and brown rice into their veins and lifting twice their bodyweight in the gym morning and evening.

The popularity of weight lifting is on the rise, surging in popularity over the last few years. While the iron-pumping stereotype once affected a small sector of the fitness community, thanks to the growing popularity of the pursuit those who never dreamed they would come into contact with a barbell are rolling up their sleeves to admire their new muscles. 

Weight lifting is highly beneficial if you’re looking to bulk up and build muscle mass, but there are also a number of other health benefits, including improving your posture and bone density, increasing you metabolic rate, reducing inflammation and helping to prevent chronic illness. 

An intense training session can deliver a rush of endorphins like nothing else. There’s even an element of mindfulness to weightlifting, as you focus on your mind-body connection and are present in the moment.

Whether you’ve caught the weight lifting bug for the first time or you’re easing your way back into it after taking a break, we’re here to give you our ultimate weight lifting guide to enable you to get the very most out of your training regime.

Establish your goal

Establishing a goal will be your key motivating factor, and will also determine the sorts of exercises you’ll be doing. For example, if you’re looking to build strength and muscle, you’ll be largely targeting a range of four-12 reps, whereas if your goal is to tone up you'll be looking at 12 reps or more.

Your goal could also determine your workout split. Which areas of your body are you looking to work on the most? You should be splitting your workout sessions into upper body days and lower body days to maximise and improve overall strength. Ever heard of 'Push, Pull, Legs'? We’d recommend looking more into this and then deciding which split best aligns with your objectives.

A great place to start is educating yourself on the science behind training for different goals (YouTube is an excellent resource for this) and then applying these learnings in the gym.

Whether it’s boosting strength, building up to a new personal best or altering your body shape, your goal will be the driving force which motivates you to step through those gym doors time and time again.

Don’t be intimidated

The gym can be overwhelming, filled with strange contraptions and bodies contorted in odd positions. But don’t let this put you off. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Once you get past the grunting noises (and sometimes the less-than-pleasant smells), it's time to turn on into your favourite playlist and focus on you. If you’re worried about people judging you, take our word for it: they’re only paying more attention to themselves and couldn't care less how many reps you managed today.

You should aim to enter the gym with a workout planned out, so you don’t find yourself aimlessly roaming around the weights section. Remember that you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else, so grab some dumbbells and take up space. Own it!

Start low and slow

A common mistake with weight lifting beginners is trying to do too much too soon. It’s easy to feel pressured into lifting as much as you can (or in some cases, can’t) in order to compete with other gym goers. This can be hugely detrimental to your progress and in some instances cause serious injury.

To find your feet, start with bodyweight exercises. This will allow your body to get used to new movements and find the perfect form, especially when it comes to compound lifts, which you should be incorporating into every strength training session. Compound lifts are exercises where you’re using more than one muscle group at the same time and include things like squats, deadlifts and pull-ups.

You’ll even find that an intense bodyweight workout can leave you just as sore as a session with heavy weights. Once you’ve got your squat or deadlift nailed with your bodyweight only, start adding small weights and build from there.

How will you know when to start adding more? As a general rule, do eight-12 reps of the same exercise for four sets, with a minute rest between each set, until it starts to feel easy. Then all you need to do is add a few more kilos of resistance to feel that burn again. Newbie gains are a real thing – so you’ll notice your strength skyrocket within a short space of time when you first get going.

Be sure to warm up and cool down to prevent injury and speed up the muscle repair process. Warming up can increase your range of motion and prepare your muscles for the intense workout to come, while cooling down drains the lactic acid build up that can cause agony when you try walk up stairs the next day.

Top tip:

Consider hiring a PT or purchasing a training plan for when you first get into weight training. Investing more into your fitness at the start can pay huge dividends later on. Getting great tips and pointers from experts in the field who can guide you through a workout has long-lasting positive effects. If a PT or training plan is out of budget, you can pick up equally valuable tips from YouTubers and Instagram fitness influencers.

Eat, sleep, rest, repeat

What you do outside of the gym is just as important (if not more so) than what you inside. Some rules we like to abide by are: hydrate, eat well, sleep, and the Innermost favourite, rest.

The essence of weight training is adding enough resistance to your body during a movement to tear your muscle fibres. You then have to rest so your muscles can repair themselves, and adapt and grow back stronger and bigger over time. 

Although often overlooked, this recovery stage is just as vital as the workout itself. What do you need for a full recovery? Enough sleep each night, enough protein in your diet to repair your muscles (proteins are the building blocks of all your cells), enough water to stay hydrated, and plenty of rest until your bod repaired itself. 

Consistency is key

Last but not least, the golden rule to weight lifting is consistency. This will be the key to progressing in your workout regime. 

You should be resistance training three to five times a week to get the most out of yourself. And this doesn’t mean one maximum effort workout followed by two lacklustre sessions, but giving it your all every time. 

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With everything that goes into a daily schedule, the commitments of a busy lifestyle can mean it’s pretty hard (and sometimes impossible) to make time to exercise. It can also be hard to find the motivation to exercise after a long day even when you do have the time. It can be a really vicious cycle. With that in mind, you may be searching for some tips on how to find time in the day to exercise, correct? Or maybe some tips on how to extend the hours in the day so that you have enough time to get everything done? Well. Whilst we’d be millionaires if we had the answer to the second question (although The Focus Capsules might be able to help with that one), we can definitely help you with the first. Figuring out how to make time to exercise can be pretty difficult, but we’ve got five tips below that might just help you when it comes to fitting in fitness. How to make time to exercise If we could give you just one piece of advice: preparation is key. Planning and scheduling is the only way to successfully stay on track, and staying on track and remaining consistent is absolutely the quickest way to smashing your fitness goals. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, so if you can choose and apply one of our below five tips to fitting in exercise to your life, we promise that after those initial three weeks, making time for exercise will become like second nature.  Here’s our top five tips for when it comes to making time for exercise… Switch up your commute Wondering how to fit the gym in with work? Think about your commute. The average commute is around 62 minutes in the United Kingdom. That’s over two hours a day that we are commuting. Not only is that a huge chunk of the day, but it’s two hours of the day that could be spent exercising… potentially. If you could switch up your commute to walk, cycle or run (maybe all, but even part of the way), this somewhat redundant time can be used to not only get you where you need to be, but assist you in fitting in fitness to your busy day. Granted, if you are commuting over an hour a day, it’s likely you are using a train service or perhaps driving yourself to your destination… but this doesn’t mean that you can incorporate some level of exercise into your day. Park slightly further away, or maybe get off at an earlier stop and walk, run or cycle the rest of the way. Every little helps. Set an earlier alarm (sorry) Whilst this is probably the tip that nobody wanted to hear, a great way of making time for exercise is to set your alarm earlier to give yourself extra time in the day. Getting up earlier not only provides you with a great chunk of extra time to get your workout in, but allows you to avoid the morning rush hour, give your body time to prepare for the day, and allows you to slow down a bit and avoid the awful morning rush that comes with those extra ten minutes in bed. Gym classes start as early as 5am, offering you the perfect opportunity to get an hour of exercise in before your commute and work. If classes aren’t your thing, though, there’s nothing better than a sunrise run or cycle. Seriously! Try it. Make the most of your lunch break Stop using your lunchbreak to just sit and scroll on your social media channel of choice. Make a conscious effort to leave your desk, office or home workspace and get out and about. Go on a walk, run, cycle or even lunchtime swim during your lunch break and really make the most of your lunch hour. The best part about this strategy is no early alarm, no late finish time… just time to yourself in the middle of the work day to not only smash out your workout for the day, but have some well-deserved time to yourself in amongst the office chaos. Sounds good (and productive) to us. Make every task count Waiting for your food to cook in the microwave? Do some star jumps. You may look a little crazy in the shared office kitchen, but so be it. No pain no gain, right? Want to watch your favourite TV show after work? Why not watch it whilst on the treadmill at the gym. Need to take the dog for a walk? Make that lap round the field two laps. Need to grab some milk and bread from the store? Walk, don’t drive. Little changes here and there add up to an overall healthier and more active lifestyle. At the end of the day, fitting in exercise doesn’t strictly refer to going to the gym or heading out for a run. Like we said… every little helps. Be strict with your schedule It’s time to start treating your exercise schedule like your work schedule. Got a gym class booked for 6pm? It’s now non-negotiable, just like that end-of-quarter sales meeting you’ve got pencilled in your calendar. Too often we fall victim to the post-work social calling (aka a trip to the pub), or even just the temptation of our sofa after work, which means that the scheduled post-work workout gets thrown out the window. Not anymore. If you’ve scheduled a workout, stick to it. Don’t sack off your gym schedule for something better (or nothing at all). It’s a commitment you’ve made that is just as important as those daily meetings, only this time, it’s a commitment to yourself. Making time for exercise is just as important as everything else, as it’s key for your health, wellbeing, and overall performance after all! Summary So. You wanted to know how to exercise with a busy schedule… we hope we’ve answered your question. Whilst it can be tempting to cancel, post-pone or even neglect our exercise routines as a result of the demands of work, relationships or otherwise, fitting in exercise needs to become a priority. Period. If you’re struggling or are unsure of how to make time for exercise, give one (or all) of our above tips a go. Find out which tip for fitting in exercise works best for you and start your fitness schedule. Exercise and working out is a hugely important part of your schedule, so it’s time to start treating exercise like a priority. Self-care 101. References SME News. 2021. New survey reveals large regional differences in workers’ commuting experience - SME News. [online]. Click here. Brain Pickings. 2021. Popiva, M. How Long It Takes To Form A New Habit. [online]. Click here. Read more