Beginning your journey into the weight lifting world can be extremely nerve-racking if you don’t know where to start… With so much advice out there it can be hard to know what to do once you actually get to the gym.
Body part splits, crossfit, kettlebells etc, etc. Most routines have one thing in common – they involve free weights – and rightly so!
Free weights are great for beginners and even more so to the advanced trainer!
Advantages of free weights
Free weights hold higher place over machines and the like, as machines work in a very specific movement pattern and can very easily neglect your stabilizing muscles and also secondary muscles that would normally be included in free weights exercises.
Not to mention you are limited in the long run to the amount of weight you can use in machines and also being forever bound to that machine for progression.
1) Increased Energy/Calorie burn
Training with free weights inevitably requires higher energy input than using weight machines. Although effective, weight machines do not give you the flexibility to train several muscle groups at the same time like free weights do. Training more muscle groups = more effort = more calories burnt etc…
2) Muscle strengthening versatility
Although weight machines can help increase your overall strength, using a variety of freeweights can target a number of specific muscles at one time. The versatility of free weights allows an individual to literally adapt their training to whatever body part(s) they wish, rather than working one body part using a single movement on a machine.
3) Improved balance and strength to support further training
Training becomes that bit more difficult when there isn’t a machine to lean on – it’s almost impossible to cheat with free weights. Balance can only increase when individuals get into the habit of relying solely on their body for 100% support.
According to “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” (Jan 2008) it was indicated that balance and strength increases for those who train with free weights – 58% greater strength and 196% increase in balance to be exact!
As free weights don’t use a set moment pattern like machines, it can be harder to nail technique with exercises, but don’t let this worry you – there’s enough exercise guides out there to guide you along the way.
Take any of our ambassador videos on our YouTube channel for example, they’ll have you lifting perfect in no time because form is everything when it comes to weight lifting – this is even more paramount when it comes to free weights.
As a beginner that doesn’t want to bombarded with tons of controversial information, I’ll keep this simple – base your whole routine around these three exercises:
✓ The Squat
✓ The Bench Press
✓ The Deadlift
These are what’s called compound movements, meaning that they primarily work many different muscles at the same time – and incredibly effective at doing so! This is what mainly sets apart free weights from machines – the ability to utilise many different muscles in one exercise.
Best done in a squat rack or power rack as these usually have safety pins or a guard to save you in the event of you not being to stand up again with the bar!
The squat predominantly works all of your leg muscles… and I mean all of them! As an added bonus, it also works your back and your core too but as secondary muscles – a must for any trainee!
Set your self up, facing a bar about eye level in a rack.
a) Grab the bar at just outside of shoulder width, whilst holding the bar here, duck under the bar and place it on the meatiest part of your upper back to act as a cushion (usually around the traps).
b) Unrack the bar by taking a couple steps back and place your feet just outside of shoulder width with your feet pointing towards 11 and 1 o’clock
c) Brace your core tight, keep your chest up, neck in a neutral position and then imagine there is a chair behind you and you are going to sit on it.
d) Lower yourself until your hips are parallel with your knees and then stand back up by pushing through your heels.
The Bench Press
The Bench press has it’s very own apparatus and they are usually in every gym (they’re very popular!) The main muscles it works are the Pecs (your chest), the triceps and your shoulder. But you do also work your core and your back slightly too.
The Bench Press – muscles worked:
a) Lie down on your back on the bench and position your self so your eyes are directly underneath the bar.
b) Grip the bar over hand just outside of shoulder width and unrack the bar keeping your arms straight. Position the bar so it is inline with the bottom of your chest.
c) Brace your core, dig your shoulder blades into the bench and bend at the elbows whilst lowering the bar all the way down until it touches your chest.
d) Push up in a controlled motion until your arms are straight.
Arguably one of the best lifts, the deadlift works all the muscles in your posterior chain and even your quads and abs so what’s not to love! T
echnique can be hard to master for some but for others, they’re a natural.
With the bar on the ground, make sure you use weights on either side that are the same size as a typical 20kg (45lb) Plate as we don’t want you bending down further then you have to.
a) Stand in front of the bar with feet shoulder width apart and turned out ever so slightly – grab the bar overhand with both hands just outside of your legs and lower your bottom till your thighs are in between parallel and straight.
b) Retract and depress your shoulder blades, this is where you will be pulling from; Chest up, neck neutral
c) Start to drive up, instead of pulling the bar off the ground, you want to visualize your heels pushing off the ground
d) Stand up until your body is straight making sure your legs straighten up as your back does – In a controlled fashion, slowly return the bar back to the ground in the same path you used to bring it up
Diet and rest
Remember: You don’t grow in the gym – all growing is done outside of the gym when you’re resting from all of the hard work you put in at the gym!
Eating is part of resting; if you are coming from doing nothing in your spare time then it’s more then likely you will need to eat slightly more than you were to make up for the extra activity and workload on your body.
Keep it simple with recovery nutrition.
Take home message
I hope this helps any of you who are thinking of taking the plunge into the weight lifting world – keep us updated of how you get on!