The weights section of your local gym can be really daunting, especially if you’re new to strength training.
We’ve previously talked about the benefits of strength training and the common do’s and don’ts. In this blog we will focus on where to start.
Approach strength training like learning any new skill. It will take time, you will make mistakes, it will feel strange and you will be unsure. But if you persevere, take small steps forward and follow the advice below you’ll start off on the right foot.
1. Get a coach
Not all gyms have experienced and qualified staff so when considering starting to weight train ask the gym you’re thinking of training at what staff they have and their qualifications. A good coach who works with you individually can make all the difference.
2. Sets and reps and why they matter
Like any new hobby or interest, strength training has its own language which can be very confusing. Fundamental to your understanding is ‘sets’ and ‘repetitions’ (or ‘reps’ for short). A ‘set’ is the term used to describe the cluster of ‘repetitions’. Therefore, a ‘rep’ is the number of times you execute a specific movement. For example, if you do push-ups for three sets of 10 reps you will be doing three groups of 10 efforts, totalling 30 repetitions. By manipulating the sets, reps and recovery between them you can elicit different stimulus in the body. As a general rule when starting out, try to leave two reps “in the tank”; this way you won’t train to complete fatigue.
3. Weight machines aren’t all bad
In this day and age with the growing popularity of CrossFit and Olympic lifting, strength training machines are not quite as popular, but they are very useful for beginners. These machines are typically focused on multiple joints and muscles groups which allows you to focus on large muscle groups and build base strength. Strength training machines are typically set in a fixed range of motion which reduces the technical difficulty and are therefore relatively safe.
4. Speed of movement – time under tension
This refers to the time the muscle has to work. If you move a weight quickly the time under tension will be short. By slowing the movement down you place greater strain on muscle tissue and set yourself up for greater improvements. Try a count of three moving a weight up and a count of three moving the weight down.
5. It’s not all about the weight
It might seem a little ironic but the most important part about strength training is not the weight. It is the quality of the movement. Make sure you can control the movement with a slow and smooth execution. Learn to move well first then add weight. Never compromise your technique for increases in weight. This will only lead to injuries and stagnation in your development.