Weight training can be difficult.
Especially for girls. Even more so if you’re a girl who thinks lifting weights will make you bulky because then your mind can play tricks on you….
First of all, girls, don’t worry, weights will only shape you, they don’t change your hormones and make you grow big muscles like a man. Men can’t even get the big muscles they’re looking for and they have the hormonal support for muscle growth, so you have zero worries if that’s what you’re thinking. 😉
Now that we have that cleared up, I can get into helping you begin a new weight training program.
Weight training has many different benefits, not just for your body but for your overall lifestyle. It can seem difficult at first when you’re new to lifting, and if that’s you, you’re in the right place because this post will give you all you need to help you get started with weights!
|| weight training 101 ||
One thing every person should know and understand when it comes to lifting weights is the rep range.
Depending on your fitness goals, different rep ranges should be used during your workouts. Rep ranges could also be used to change how you perform your workout, you can read more about that here.
In the beginning, when you’re brand spanking new to weight training you need to train your body and muscles to work with the weights. Simply put; lift a lighter weight load, with a rep range of around 10 – 15 reps to help your muscles and body increase strength without putting too much stress on the muscles and body.
When someone is new to exercise it is especially important to ease your way into weight training, while not going too easy on yourself. Only you can judge this, and you need to be realistic and honest with yourself. Lifting too light for a long period of time will only cause injury when you do finally move into a heavier weight, but at the same time if you lift too light for too long, you won’t develop the needed strength in order to move into the heavier weights.
Sound confusing? This is why it is important to listen to your body and understand what you’re feeling when you’re lifting weights.
In the beginning while lifting weights, you will feel a burning sensation in your muscles and that is totally fine. This is lactic acid building up within your muscles, and this is a good thing! This means you’re working your muscles and your body has used up all the oxygen supply so it reacts by releasing lactic acid within the muscle and into the blood stream.
Lactic acid is known to help contract the muscle more effectively and also is known to increase endurance within the muscle. From my experience, a person who is new to exercise will usually find the feeling of lactic acid to be difficult. People tend to feel the lactic acid and then believe something is wrong. A little burning within the muscle is completely fine, but if you feel pain or a tearing, then you have a problem and you need to see your doctor.
Another very important thing that you should know about weight training, or any exercise for that matter is knowing when to breathe. I have done a post specifically about this, and you can check it out here. Along with breathing, another important factor is weight training tempo. Tempo is the speed at which you lift and lower a weight. For example, think of a barbell squat. As you bend your knees and lower the weight, you should use a tempo of about 4 seconds to get to the bottom of your squat, inhaling on your way down. As you’re about to lift the weight, exhale, while pushing the weight up over a 2 second tempo back into the starting position. To change it up, you could lower at a 4 second tempo and lift at a 4 second tempo. Tempo can be adjusted according to your goals. Read more about tempo here.
Another important factor, which people often confuse is resting during your workout. How long should you rest between exercises? Or between sets? Well, it totally depends on your fitness goals and what you’re trying to accomplish with your workouts. For most girls, usually fat burning and muscle-building are the top priorities. These two call for a resting phase from anywhere between no rest to 30 seconds rest between sets. Read more about resting during your workout here.
|| periodization ||
It is important to always change your workout program every couple of weeks. Most people aim for the 4 – 8 week range. For a beginner, I always recommend working through the first workout phase for at least 6 weeks. This would mean anyone who hasn’t worked out at all for at least 6 months or more prior to beginning a new workout program, should be working in a beginner’s phase.
For myself, I usually go by the 4 week rule. Some times this may stretch to 6 weeks, but only if I feel I really need to work on a specific area of my body. Normally I choose a specific area or muscle and will have a full workout dedicated to that area. Such as back and biceps, hamstrings and glutes, shoulders and calves.
Spreading different muscle groups over different days is an excellent way to enhance results. Not everyone can always do this because this would mean you should be working out 5 – 6 times a week. Some people can only get in a workout 3 times a week. This is totally understandable and if you’re that person I would still suggest splitting muscle groups. You just need to be a little more creative, such as;
3x a week Workout Plan:
Workout #1: Chest, Triceps, Biceps & Calves
Workout #2: Back, Hamstrings & Glutes,
Workout #3: Shoulders, Abs and Quads.
You can split the muscle groups any way you like, but usually a good rule of thumb is to place a large muscle with smaller muscles. If you’re unsure where to start, a good way to plan for yourself is to strip naked in front of a mirror, and really take a good look at your body.
Where to you need work?
Do you see a specific area that is smaller, larger, toned, less toned?
Study your body to create what you need to enhance.
If it’s your arms and butt that you feel need the most work on your body, do a bicep workout one day and work triceps two days later. During both of those workout days, add glutes to your workout too.
See what I’ve done there?
|| how to know what weight to start with ?? ||
Over time as your muscles build strength you can begin to add a little more weight. You will know when you get there because you’ll start to feel like the reps aren’t really working the muscle any more. That’s when you know you’re lifting too lightly.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced when it comes to working out, you should always use a weight that is a struggle for your final 2 – 3 reps. Obviously in the beginning you aren’t going to grab the heaviest dumbbells on the rack. Start off slow, especially if it’s your first workout or two, ignore the “struggle rule” and focus on form and technique. Be sure you are properly performing each and every exercise correctly before adding more weight to your load.
Again, over time as you develop strength, you can increase your weight while focusing on the struggle rule.
|| some common mistakes to avoid ||
SKIPPING THE WARM UP
Ok, so I’m that girl who goes to the gym and jumps right into the weights. I do not use a cardio machine (elliptical/treadmill/rower) as a form of a warm up. Although I do recommend this to any client, I prefer to use a warm up weight set, rather than spend time on a machine. That’s just me and if you like using the machines, do so. Spend about 3 – 5 minutes working on the machine to get the whole body moving.
The best machines for a warm up would be the treadmill (running), the elliptical and the rower. These get the whole body moving, which ultimately warms your muscles faster than if you were to use the stairmill.
When I workout at home, I usually do a bunch of dynamic stretches to get my blood flowing. Check out my Quickie 9 Minute Warm Up.
NOT STICKING WITH THE BASIC EXERCISES
Basic exercises have been around for many years for a reason. They work.
You don’t have to get all fancy with your exercises, although it’s fun sometimes, the best way to get results is sticking to the basics.
What are the basics? Squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, pull ups, etc. Think, what did Arnold do? 😉
WORKING WITH AN UNBALANCED WORKOUT PROGRAM
For any and every workout plan, there should always be balance. If you’re going to be completing 5 workouts in a 7 day period, each workout should evenly be balanced with how you’re working your muscles.
For example, if you’re working shoulders, you don’t want to go in to the gym and do military presses, arnold presses, front raises, and shoulder push ups for your entire workout. All of these exercises are targeting the anterior deltoid and using the lateral deltoid as a synergist. (a muscle that assists another muscle to accomplish a movement) Neither of these exercises work the posterior deltoids. So now you have an imbalance.
If you did not know or understand this and continued to workout this way for several weeks, or months, over time you will develop muscles in the front of your shoulders, while barely developing anything in the back. (I say barely because I’m assuming the general back would also be another workout for the week, and there are many back exercises which work the rear delts.)
Now, let’s say your main focus was to spruce up the front of your shoulders because your rear delts are already a little larger. The above workout would work perfectly to help you achieve these goals, while using your back workout day to include two rear delt exercises.
There we go balancing things out. Was that too much information?
Ok, next common mistake;
NOT KEEPING UP WITH VARIATION
Doing the same exercises or workout, over and over is something you should avoid. Doing so could cause your body to “remember” and basically not really work the same way it would when an exercise or program is new.
Always stick to some sort of periodization. (As mentioned above) As you change your periodizaion (4 weeks, 6 weeks, so on) change your exercises. If you go to the gym, make use of all the different equipment. Use the kettlebells, stability ball, machines, dumbbells, and bust out some bodyweight exercises for fun! Keeping a variety in your workouts also keeps them more fun. And when you’re having fun you’re so much more motivated to keep going!
LIFTING TOO LIGHT
I’ve briefly talked about this already, but again, using the same weights will not stimulate your muscles for further improvement. It doesn’t matter if your goal is fat loss, improving health or strength or muscle-building, always increase the weight as you progress in your program.
INADEQUATE OR NO RECOVERY TIME
Not resting is a big problem. Have you ever seen #NODAYSOFF on twitter? Oh my. I have to admit, I do not go by this, nor do I suggest this to any one! Rest is super important and needs to be done in order for body development.
Progress is made through periods of recovery. Each muscle needs time to relax and recover before moving into the next workout. For my recommendation, I always suggest the 4 day rule. After your workout, you need to wait 3 full days before you can work that muscle again. Minimum. Most of the time, my muscles get about 5 – 6 days of recovery because I do a 5/6 day split and take the weekends off.
|| workout plans just for you! ||
I have an awesome six-week workout plan which is perfect for beginners and intermediate fitness levels and women of all ages. This workout plan is designed using basic exercises, and it created to improve strength, increase endurance within the muscle, promote healthy weight loss, all while toning and tightening your body!
For further details see: The Best Beginner Weight Training Program
I know this is a lot of information but if you are serious about weight training take these points into consideration. Although I’m always here to help and answer any questions you may have, this post outlines to key points to training.