Although walking into the weight room for the first time was one of the more intimidating things I have tackled, it has made me the strong, unstoppable woman I am today.
Trust me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and embarrassed myself on multiple occasions but those instances are what pushed me to learn more and reach higher levels.
They are also what bring me here today to share what I WISH I would have known as I began my strength training journey.
8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Strength Training
1. High reps/light weight does not mean EASY weight!
For beginners, I typically recommend staying in the 12-15 rep range to get your muscles safely accustomed to the movements.
Although you will have to use lighter weights to perform the higher reps, you still need to be challenging yourself.
No matter what your rep range is, always choose a weight that is challenging to get that amount of reps with without losing form.
2. Control your lifts
It’s not a race to see how fast you can get your reps and sets done. Feel the muscle contract through the entire movement.
Also, be sure to rest between sets. Its crucial when trying to gain strength that you give adequate rest time for your ATP stores to replenish.
I recommend giving yourself 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
3. Don’t get fancy
Start with the basics! I understand it’s more excited to try doing unique exercises you see your favorite fitspo do on Instagram.
However, those exercises typically aren’t meant to help you build the foundational strength that you will need to sculpt that lean and toned body you want.
When strength training, perfect the basic movements, build your base and then add the ‘fun’ stuff as you wish. Here are some movements I recommend you start with:
- Walking Lunge
- Goblet Squat
- Glute Bridge
- Elevated Split Squat
- Single Leg Deadlift
- Lateral Raise
- Seated Dumbbell Press
- Push Ups
- Bent Over Barbell Rows
- Bench Dips
- Bicep Curls
- Leg Lift
- V Ups
NOTE: although these exercises will help build your core muscles, you should also be using your core in every other exercise you perform! A strong core is key to injury prevention and overall performance/athleticism.
4. You need to eat to support your strength and performance
No, you will not get ‘bulky’. Don’t believe me? Read : Why Women Should Eat More And Run Less
In order to get stronger and attain lean definition, your body will NEED fuel.
Will a race car that doesn’t have enough gas win the race?
No. Same idea. Food is fuel. Here’s how to figure out how much food to eat to reach your goals.
5. Take progress pictures!
I absolutely wish I had taken more pictures at the beginning of my strength training and weight lifting journey. Not to post online, just to look back and see how far I’ve come.
Pictures can also serve as motivation to keep going towards your goal.
6. Set measurable performance/strength goals!
Instead of having a goal be purely visual, make strides that you can physically measure.
I understand the desire to look a certain way but when there is too much emphasis on that, the pride in your strength and actual progress tends to lose value, which should never be the case.
If you work hard towards your performance goals and take your nutrition seriously, your body will change, I promise.
Take the time to focus on what you are actually achieving in the gym.
For example, getting 10 real push ups or 1 real pull up are two excellent goals to work towards and that can always be intensified as you progress.
7. Focus on you
The more you’re in the gym, the more badass women you’ll see hitting heavy weights and doing challenging exercises.
While it’s great to be inspired and motivated by these ladies, remember that this is YOUR journey and where you are at now is where you need to be at the moment.
For example, don’t attempt to lift a weight that is too heavy so you can hang with the experienced lifters.
Stick with what is right for your body at this given time and focus on small but steady progression.
From someone who seriously injured her back deadlifting weight her body wasn’t ready for, trust me when I say you’ll be glad you took the safe and steady route. PATIENCE.
8. Be smart about who you listen to
Gym newbs are ideal prey for jabronies who think they know everything about strength training lifting.
1. They may think you are cute and believe giving you tips will result in a phone number.
2. They do genuinely want to help (make themselves look cool) but have no certification to do so.
Get to know the trainers at your gym. A GOOD trainer who truly cares about helping people will always give you free advice/tips.
Find that person and make them your go to gal/guy when you have questions or need a form check. Don’t be mean to the jabronies though, just smile and say thank you.