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Want to start working out with weights?

July 17, 2019
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Want to start working out with weights? Here’s everything you need to know

Nothing can make you feel more intimidated at the gym than the scary rack of weights. How heavy do you go in the beginning? What do you do with them? What is a “rep”? Is it just me or is that guy totally judging? Fear not. Here’s everything you’ve always wanted to ask a PT about working out with weights:

GoSweat | Working out with Weights

What’s the big deal about weight training anyway?

Many people are comfortable with cardio, so it remains their go-to workout, however research has shown that a combination of weight training and cardio helps to shed more pounds and boost metabolism, much more than cardio on its own due to the lean muscle that you build as you go. Whether you want a workout to help you lose weight or build muscle, introducing weight training sessions can prove to be very effective.

Do I use weights on the same day as my cardio workout?

It’s a common misconception that weight training takes less time than a cardio workout. In fact, done correctly a workout with weights can take a lot of time and focus, so it’s best to devote a whole workout session to this. Save cardio for another day.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

Wear clothing that allows you to move easily, just as you would for a cardio workout. You’ll want to make sure you bring a sweat towel too, to wipe down benches. Working out with weights is deceptively sweaty, so this will come in handy. Also, remember to bring plenty of water. Just because you’re not jumping up and down doesn’t mean you won’t sweat enough to need your hydration replenished. Remember, muscle is made up of around 75% water!

How do I warm up for weight training?

Work up a light sweat with a 10-15 minute jog on the treadmill to get going, and then stretch out a little before you begin. The real stretching should come after your weight training to stop you feeling tense the next day.

What if someone asks me to “spot” them? I’m not ready for that kind of commitment!

Sometimes you can’t avoid being asked to be someone’s “spotter”, but don’t panic, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Essentially, it’s just helping the other person to stay in control of the weight they have. As a beginner, you should definitely let the other person know that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that they should tell you what they require. As long as you are capable of lifting the weight that they are working with, then you shouldn’t have any problems. And remember, you can ask them to do the same for you.

How much weight should I be using?

“Go hard or go home” is great and all, but going for the heaviest weights you can find straight away can cause damage to your muscles. Always begin with the weight that’s lower than you expect you can lift, and work your way up during your first workout. If you see your form alter during the workout, or you end up using momentum to swing the weight rather than lifting it manually, then you’re probably using one that’s too heavy for you. Swinging the weight like this can cause injury, and isn’t an effective way to build muscle. It’s always better to play it safe, but if you can do 30 reps with a specific weight then you may be using one that’s too light. Work up to heavier weights by increasing no more than 5% at a time.

What are “sets” and “reps”?

A set is a collection of reps together. It’s when you do one specific exercise a certain number of times without a break in between. During your workout you will most likely repeat a “set” of an exercise between one and five times. A rep simply means a repetition, so within a set, you will repeat the exercise a certain number of times. As an example, you may want to begin with 3 sets of 15 reps, meaning you would repeat an exercise 15 times over without stopping, rest, then begin the process again, rest, then begin the process for a third time. Remember to rest between sets for 30-90 seconds to give your muscles a much needed break.

How on earth do I start?

If you’re feeling anxious to walk into the weights section of the gym, the dumbbell is a great place to begin. You don’t need a spotter for this one, and there are usually lots available. Choose how many sets and reps you will do, and then begin by concentrating purely on controlling the weight and not letting it swing. Sometimes it can make you feel more at ease by asking one of the gym staff to recommend a starting weight for you.

What about my posture? I don’t want to hurt myself.

Again, asking one of the gym PTs about this will be the most effective way to start thinking about posture and safety, but if you’re using light weights to begin with, then the most important thing you need to think about is keeping your back straight and not hunching over when the weights start to feel heavier. For almost every exercise you do, you should be thinking about keeping your shoulders back and chest out, and your core engaged.

Anything else I should know?

Always be careful not to overload your joints, as it’s easy to put excess strain on them and cause damage. Also, remember that you don’t need to rush through your reps. Go slow and keep your weights controlled to build muscle and avoid injury.Want to find a weights class near you? Search for your local class here.

* When working out with weights, we always advise that you seek professional advice from a PT or gym trainer before you begin. The advice in this blog is intended only as a guide to help you get started.

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Caitlin is a freelance writer based in London, and spends her time enjoying mid-week fitness adventures and regular travel. She loves bouldering, good old fashioned walking, and dreams of one day running the Rome Marathon. You can read her blogs about freelance life on Desk Life Project.

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