By Ben Singh |
UK Personal Trainer
Despite a few understandable reasons, weightlifting can be difficult for some men and women to get into – such as not knowing what you should be doing, or feeling intimidated by the environment. However, this should never stop you from reaching your goals!
By learning how to lift weights you’ll not only begin to lose fat but also gain strength and reap health benefits!
Here are some more reasons you’ll love to lift weights:
✓ Allows for higher calorie consumption.
✓ Improves bone density.
✓ Builds muscle to sculpt curves.
✓ Weightlifting can boost your confidence.
✓ It’s fun and empowering.
Click to read more benefits!
Starting a weightlifting journey is more than worth your time and effort and you’ll definitely thank yourself for it!
It may have been off-putting previously as you’d heard it’ll make you bulky – which isn’t the truth. Differences in hormones between men and women have a large say in that (men have higher natural levels of testosterone than women, which helps to build muscle – and I’m sure you know a lot of men who weight train without gaining as much muscle as they’d like to!)
Some of the female bodybuilders you might have seen images of usually train most days, if not twice a day, have an extremely strict diet, and in some cases supplement heavily in order to achieve the desired look.
Here’s a deal I like to make with any of my female clients who worry about this (and there’s been a LOT!):
“We’ll keep lifting weights until you get too bulky; the minute you don’t like the way you look at it we’ll stop adding extra weight”
SPOILER: In over three years no one has taken me up on this yet!
So now we’ve briefly gone through why weight training will benefit you, let’s move onto how to start.
First of all, you need to decide how many times you can really train every week based on your busy life. That’s consistently fitting it in around your job, kids, family, friends, etc.
A good target is 3-4 times per week!
Weekly Workout Split
The next step is to decide what to include in your workouts on which day.
One very popular way of training is to split the body into muscle groups and train one or two each session e.g. chest and arms, or back and shoulders. However, this will only mean targeting each muscle group around once per week, whereas studies have shown that 2-3 times is much more effective.
So here are two better options for you based on training either 3 or 4 times per week:
3 times per week – 3 x full body workouts
4 times per week – 2 x lower body, 2 x upper body workouts
Now you’ve got an idea of how to set up your workouts, it’s time to decide which exercises to include. Let’s go through the different categories of exercises you need to include in your full body workout, with a few examples, along with an explanation for the technique of one exercise from each!
Lower Body Exercises | Hip Hinge
Example exercise: Glute Bridge
Targeting: Glutes (butt muscles), calves and hamstrings
Exercise Technique – begin with just the bar
a) Roll a bar onto your hips – you might want to use a foam pad around the bar, and a mat on the floor for comfort, and position your upper back on the floor.
b) Place your feet flat on the floor with your heels close to your butt. If you feel your hamstrings working in the top position (on the right), bring your feet slightly closer to your bum.
In terms of foot width, start around shoulder-width and adjust from there. Again, due to people being different, some people will feel it better with a wider stance, and some with a narrower one. Trial and error is the best approach here. You may also want to try comparing how it feels with your toes pointing forwards, or out at 45 degrees.
c) From here, tense your abs and squeeze your glutes. Now push as hard as you can through your heels and lift the bar up with your hips until you’re hips are fully extended and your shin is around vertical. Make sure you squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top, rather than using your lower back and over-arching.
d) Do the reverse to lower the bar back to the ground under control.
✓ Cable Pull through
Lower Body Exercises | Knee-Dominant
Example exercise: Squat (Dumbbell = Goblet)
a) Hold the dumbbell with your palms facing up (hence the ‘goblet’ part of the name), with your feet around shoulder-width apart and your chest forward, shoulders back.
b) Keeping a straight back, bend your knees and move your bum back and down, so your weight is on your heels. Aim to get your bum as close to the ground as possible.
If you have a logo on your T-shirt, it should be parallel to the wall, not the floor (i.e. keep your chest facing forward).
c) Tense your abs and push back up through your heels to your start position.
✓ Bulgarian/Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat
✓ Reverse Lunge
✓ Walking Lunge
✓ High Step/Reverse Lunge Combo
Example exercises: 1-Arm Row
With any one-sided exercise, such as the 1-Arm Row, use your weaker side first. So if you’re right-handed, use your left hand first. We’ll use a right-handed person as the example here:
a) Place your right knee on a bench, directly below your right hip, and your right hand directly below your right shoulder. Now place your left foot on the floor out away from the bench (see images A & B).
b) Pick up a dumbbell with your left hand and pull your elbow up to the ceiling, keeping it close to your body, instead of ‘flaring’ it out to the side (image B). Squeeze the muscle around your left shoulder blade, and then return the dumbbell back to the starting position (at arm’s length), under control.
✓ Seated Row
✓ Inverted Row
✓ Bent-Over Row
Example exercise: Incline Press-Up
Use either steps, a bench, or a bar in a squat rack/Smith’s Machine. The higher the surface the easier the exercise, and the lower the surface the harder it’ll be.
a) Line your sternum (breastbone) up with the edge of the surface, place your hands on it around shoulder-width apart, and walk your feet out until your body is in a straight line from your head to heels.
b) Keeping your elbows tucked in towards your body at around 45 degrees (rather than flared out to the side), push through the heels of your hands until your arms are fully extended. Pause briefly at the top and return under control to the start position.
✓ Dumbbell Bench Press
Example exercises: Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
a) Get a solid grip on the bar with your hands outside shoulder width and place your legs under the cushioned support (front image) with your feet flat on the floor.
b) Keeping your body in an upright position pinching your shoulders together, pull the bar towards your sternum. Focus on getting your elbows down towards your hips and squeeze your lats. Return the bar to the starting position with your arms fully extended under control.
✓ Band-Assisted Pull-Ups
Example exercise: Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
a) Sit on a bench with the back completely upright, supporting your back, and place your feet just outside shoulder-width for stability.
b) Starting as pictured in image A, with a dumbbell in each hand push straight up, directly above your shoulders. Pause briefly at the top and return under control to the start position.
✓ Shoulder Press Machine
✓ Barbell Shoulder Press
Example exercises: Farmer’s Walks
a) Pick up a relatively heavy dumbbell in each hand and stand tall (image A).
b) Hold the dumbbells with a tight grip and slightly out from your sides, so you’re not resting them against yourself (this takes some of the strain off your core), and walk. Put the dumbbells down at the end or at any point you feel like you might drop them (for example, if your grip starts to tire).
✓ Battle Ropes
✓ Sled/Prowler Pulls/Pushes
Building Core Strength
Example exercise: RKC Plank
a) Get into position on your elbows and balls of your feet (image A). Now squeeze your glutes (this will shorten your abs [abdominals] so they contract harder), and your thighs.
b) Imagine pulling your elbows and toes together and hold for the most intense plank you’ve ever done! This is much more about how hard you squeeze than holding it for a long time – think of it as more of a sprint than a marathon!
TIP) Try not to fall flat on your face when finished!
✓ Pallof Press
✓ Swiss Ball Ab Rollout
✓ Dumbbell Hammer Curl
✓ Tricep Pulldown & Tricep Dips
You can achieve success without using supplements, but they can definitely help you with your goals – especially when convenience is high on your priority list.
The one that’ll have the biggest effect on your goals will be whey protein.
Again, many clients worry that they’ll become huge if they have protein – however, like mentioned above, unless you’re taking extreme measures to pack on muscle mass – it won’t happen! Protein powder is simply convenient for pre or post-workout – and any time of day for that matter!
It’s available in a ton of flavours and can be used on its own or used to create protein smoothies or protein cakes for a sweet tooth!
Benefits of protein:
✓ Help you feel fuller for longer (so less likely to feel hungry and need to snack)
✓ Improve muscle recovery time.
✓ Reduce soreness/aching.
Read more on supplements for specific goals, e.g. building muscle to tone up!
Take Home Message
There you have it! A beginner’s guide to weightlifting.
Let Myprotein know if you find it helpful and if there are any further questions!