Weight lifting can seem intimidating, especially for newbies. If you don’t know how to operate those strange machines with the levers and pulleys, it can be difficult to take that first step into the weight room. However, strength training is an essential part of a comprehensive fitness program that should not be ignored.
Some level of weight lifting is beneficial, no matter your age or gender. The Center for Disease Control recommends strength training to those with arthritis, heart disease, and many types of back pain. In conjunction with a cardio routine, strength training can also have positive effects on one’s mental and emotional health. By intentionally putting stress on your bones and using the proper techniques, lifting weights can help you to avoid osteoporosis and develop stronger bones. Researchers have even shown that strength training improves balance, which reduces fall-related injuries, helping many maintain independence as they age.
As you gain muscle from consistent strength training, you body will begin to burn calories more efficiently, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Weight lifting can also assist your other fitness efforts by boosting your stamina as you get stronger. But in strength training, it’s important to be safe, especially when lifting heavier weights. Follow these tips and you’ll be lifting in no time.
Getting your heart rate up is essential to any fitness activity, so don’t skimp on the cardio before weight lifting. Start with a five minute warm-up of walking, light jogging, or dynamic stretching to get your heart going. You may even want to incorporate some lunges, squats or other leg and groin stretches to ensure your muscles are prepared for the work ahead.
Consider Your Options
Though many see strength training as an exercise exclusively for the gym, you definitely have options other than the classic dumbbell or barbell. In fact, by using your own body weight, you can train in the comfort of your home by doing push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches. You can also invest in resistance bands or tubes to add a level of strength training to your stretches. Most gyms do offer weight and resistance machines that allow you to vary your routine more, however.
Learn Proper Technique
Before you begin your weight lifting program, you must be prepared to use proper form and technique. If you are training incorrectly, not only will you miss out on the incredible benefits of a weight lifting regimen, you could potentially injure yourself. If you have chronic health issues, be sure to ask your doctor before starting a program. If you are a true beginner, it may be worthwhile to schedule a training session. A professional trainer can help you learn the proper form regarding positions, grips, and motions, find the right weight for you to lift, and even get you started with a basic routine.
Vary Your Program
In time, you will become more comfortable with your routine, but as with any fitness regimen, it is important to incorporate new exercises and equipment. Don’t let your body get bored with your workout! Continue to build your muscles by adding in new movements and increasing the weight as you get stronger. Also, try to avoid working the same muscles every day.
If you only plan to weight train 2-3 days per week, it’s okay to work more than one muscle group in each session, but if you find yourself in the gym every day, plan sessions for specific muscle groups.
The reason strength training builds muscle is the same reason you must take a day off to rest and heal. These exercises create small tears in the muscles, which allow them to grow back stronger, but you need to allow time for them to heal properly before working them again. Be sure to allow your body a day or two to heal so that you don’t overdo it and cause harm. It’s okay to feel sore, but actual pain from injury or strain is never a good sign.
Strength training is a crucial part of your fitness routine, so remember to stay safe and take care of your body by following the proper techniques and weight lifting guidelines. Cardio workouts are wonderful, but don’t sell yourself short by avoiding this essential tool for complete fitness. By dedicating some time to strength training each week, you will do wonders for your health and body composition.