Weight lifting can be for three different goals:

  • Strength training, which is to increase muscle strength- the amount of weight that can be moved- and muscle endurance- the number of times the weight can be moved. Strength training is used to enhance athletic performance, occupational performance,  prevent musculo-skelatal injuries, and for everyday functional strength.
  • Power lifting involves moving as much weight as possible one time- typically for competition purposes.
  • Body building is for developing muscle mass, to enhance the aesthetics of the human body, and present the human body as  a living work of art. This may be for competition purposes, or just as an end in itself.

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Ladies- a special note to you: don’t be afraid of weight lifting. When are you going to realize muscular women are beautiful sexy women. There is a huge difference ( pun intended) between mass from fat, vs. mass from muscle. Unless you have the genetics of one woman out of several tens of thousands, you cannot develop big muscles anyway. And if you get big muscles and absolutely hate them, when you stop lifting, or lift lighter, the muscle will atrophy to it s previous levels anyway in a month or two. Generally speaking, men are genetically built for developing  upper body muscle in particular. Women are more suited for developing lower body muscles As a leg man, I can tell you that there is nothing more beautiful than a woman with sculpted, chiseled, and yes- big- muscular legs.

Set Goals

What do you want to do? Get stronger? Build bigger muscles? Or move a huge amount of weight? This will determine your focus. Go into the gym with a plan.

Go Light

Go with the lightest dumbbells, and the smallest plates, and the lowest setting on a machine when you are first starting out. There is absolutely no shame in this, and no one in the gym will think less of you unless they have their own issues. When you can move the weight with good form through 15 reps- than add 5% more weight, or use the next heaviest plate or dumbbell available,and repeat this process.

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Go Slow

Count two seconds for a push or pull or raise- this is called the positive movement- and two seconds for the negative movement- when you lower the weight to the starting position., Do not allow gravity to grab hold of the weight on the negative movement- you are fighting gravity throughout the movement- this is how you will build muscle and strength, and the first lifting session, expect to be so sore you won’t be able to go the gym until the following week. That is normal. This is also called good pain– it let’s you know you worked, and your body is responding and changing. Rest, and if in doubt, see a physician-a beginner may not be able to differentiate between the pain of an injury and normal muscle soreness. When the soreness abates, it is time to go back of more.

Use Good Form

Do not use momentum to get through a movement, If you have to use momentum, you are going too heavy, or you are at the end of your set. Put the weight down and rest. You must use good form to prevent injuries, and to maximize growth and strength. This is also a good way to develop balance and coordination, as you watch your movements in a mirror and become more aware of your body’s position in space.

Eat Right

Not even bodybuilders need huge amounts of protein.  Your body can only use so much protein for muscle building and tissue repair. The rest is stored as fat or excreted in urine. Focus on moderate amounts of protein  and small amounts of healthy fat. The rest of your caloric intake should come from carbs.  You need carbs. Forget about these low-carb diets- they are complete horseshit. You will deprive your body of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and energy on a low carb diet, and stress your kidneys from all the protein. And when you pee, it will look like soap suds. Seriously. Eat carbs. They are good for you. Carbs should be complex – unprocessed, and loaded with fiber Whole grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables are what you need for energy, vitamins, and minerals.  ( For more information on what to eat to support you workouts, see Eating For Energy).

Hydrate

Drink lots of water. Then drink more water. Drink water until your pee is almost clear- that tells you that you are properly hydrated. If you are working hard, you should be sweating. Replace lost fluids with water. Electrolyte drinks should only be used if you have been sweating profusely in very hot weather for about an hour. Otherwise, you really don’t need them.

Don’t work through injuries

An expression you will hear frequently is no pain, no gain. This refers to continuing to crank out another rep when your muscles are burning and tired. This refers to the muscle soreness you may have for several days after a lifting session. No pain no gain does not mean continuing to train a muscle which is injured, or putting an injured joint through full range of motion. This can result in serious injury, which will prevent you from lifting for a long time. When in doubt, see a physician.

Ask for advice and help

The best part of a weight lifter’s workout is when a beginner approaches them for advice. It is a very high form of a compliment- you are conveying that they are in the condition you are striving for. Wait until someone is through with their set and resting, don’t interrupt when they are concentrating on their lift.

Keep a Record

Record your routine, milestones, and goals. This will help you to track your progress and stay focused on your goals, and also to make adjustments to your routine as needed.

Expect  slow, gradual results

You will not see quick results if you are a beginner, unless you are blessed with a mesomorphic body type, and other genetic advantages. For most people, you may not see any changes in your body for at least  a month. If you are an ectomorph- long arms and legs, hardly any fat, and small muscles- it will take even longer- you may not see results for two or three months. Stick with it.

Conclusion

Lifting weights for strength, power, or appearance is a very rewarding activity. The benefits are numerous- from improved appearance, fat loss/weight management,  improved strength for athletic activity, work, or everyday function, to improved mood and self esteem. Get started, and stay with it. You will like the results.

By DA Porter
dkroast@sover.net