Beginners Weight Training Top 5 Tips
Beginning weight training can be confusing. Which exercises should I be doing? How often should I weight train? Do I need them protein shake thingies?
With an ever increasing resource of information available to many on the net, including conflicting advice, and advice which appears to have alternative motives, such as the sale of a product or service, it is little wonder why beginners to weight training find it so confusing. The key is to keep things simple. Beginners weight training programs should neither be complex or particularly difficult. Take a look at our top 5 tips for beginners weight training.
#1 Learn how to perform weight training exercises correctly
This may sound like an obviously point, but a look around most commercial gyms proves not many weight trainers learn the correct way to perform an exercise. Performing a weight training exercise in the incorrect manner can be unproductive at best, and injurious at worse. For optimal results it is best to first master the correct lifting technique for exercises, beginning with a very light weight. Once you are confident with your exercise form the resistance can be steadily increased.
If you do not know how to perform an exercise correctly see if you can have a quick chat to a personal trainer in the gym to show you some pointers. Booking an hour with a personal trainer may be a wise investment, working through the form of the major exercises you will be performing within your routine.
For additional reading online, our muscles and exercise directory, plus the exrx.net exercise directory, may prove useful resources for mastering exercise form.
#2 A simple and effective routine
Following a fancy routine you find in a glossy magazine which promises over night results, or mimicking the routine of a Mr Olympia competitor, will neither be effective or productive for a beginner to weight training. Furthermore, focusing a lot of effort on exercises which target the biceps may seem like the way to go for big arms, but realistically will not be as effective as following a routine which incorporates the main compound exercises which offer stimulus to all major muscle groups.
By compound exercises we mean the multi joint exercises which target a number of muscle groups during the execution of the lift. Examples being, the bench press, squat, dead lift, row, shoulder press and the pull up. Using the shoulder press as an example, the pressing of the barbell above the head calls on the recruitment of the deltoids (the shoulders, also commonly referred to as “delts”), the triceps, and core stabilising muscles.
An example of a routine which incorporates these types of movements may be:
Bent Over Barbell Row
Dumbbell Bench Press
Repetition range would commonly be 8-12, with 3 sets per exercise. That is to say, you would perform the exercise movement 8-12 times in a controlled manner, rest for 2 minutes, and then repeat until you have done this 3 times for the exercise. You would then move onto the next exercise, and so on.
The above routine would be effective, but it must be noted it includes exercises which may prove difficult for a complete beginner. The squat and dead lift for example really need to be executed correctly, with a weight which is not going to cause any risk of injury. It is vital to gain confidence in these movements with a light weight and supervision by someone who knows how to perform the exercises correctly.
Another routine (as advised by Drew Price on the Fitness Uncovered Forums) which may be more suitable for a complete beginner to weight training, for the first 4-6 weeks, may be the following.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Romanian Dead Lift (With Dumbbell)
Glute Side Raise (1set of 15)
#3 Learn the value of food
Heavy lifting and gains in muscle mass and strength requires energy. Carbohydrate and calorie dense meals are needed for the weight trainer who wishes to advance with muscle mass and strength. Protein is also well known as an important macronutrient due to its role in muscle building and repair, hence why many weight trainers choose to take protein shakes.
A beginner to weight training should seek to eat four to five balanced meals throughout the day, composing of wholesome sources of carbohydrates, protein and fat. The addition of vegetables, or fruit for desert will allow for the inclusion of vital micronutrients.
Only once a trainer has a staple dietary intake of wholesome foods which will aid his/her weight training should they seek any form of supplementation. The inclusion of a whey protein powder directly after workout, with also a daily intake of creatine monohydrate may be the next step for a weight trainer, but little reliance should be placed upon such supplements, whole food diets plays a much greater role.
#4 Do not try to do too much too fast
This point could hold true for your supplement intake, and your weight training. As mentioned in the previous tip, many supplements will be marketed in a manner which leaves many uneducated weight trainers hooked in to buying the product, ready for the quick gains in muscle mass and strength. Whilst there are many great supplements out there, they should be only seen as additions to your nutritional intake, and not alternatives. Once you have trained for a sustained period of time, following a suitable wholesome diet which is dense in the nutrients your body craves when weight training, should you take a realistic look at supplements to further aid your progression.
Furthermore, the basic compound exercises which you have been performing should remain high on your priority list as you advance in muscle size and strength. The addition of other exercises, even exercises which isolate the smaller muscles such as the biceps, deltoids or triceps, can be implemented as you become more advanced, but the compound exercises should remain the backbone of your training routine.
#5 Be patient
Whether you are looking for increased muscle mass, increased strength, or just overall greater muscle functionality, progression takes time. Many beginner weight trainers will notice relatively rapid progression in strength when they first begin a weight training program, but as the first couple of months past the gains will start to slow down. The key to long term success is the sustained commitment to training and diet, which will see steady but ever increasing advances in size and strength.