Weight Training For Beginners, Part 3: 10 Tips For Success

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:34am

By Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD

In Part 1 and 2 of this series we explored basic body movements. Now, you might wonder: "So what to do with all these moving body parts?" You’ll often hear people say, “You have to do X exercise with Y reps at Z weight if you want to grow muscle.” It’s not really that complicated. Here are some beginner tips:

1.   Start slow and have realistic expectations of your exercise programme

Do your homework, learn proper exercise technique, and familiarize yourself with the gym space and equipment. While there are lots of “8-weeks-to-a-better-bod” programs out there, in the real world exercise is a long term project.

2.   Progress through exercise is guaranteed

Beginners will make progress regardless of what program they choose. They don’t have to lift heavy for the first six to 12 monthsthey can see strength gains using as little as one-third of their max.

3.   Use light weights and lots of repetitions

Keep the weights relatively light and the reps relatively highin the range of 12-15 reps per set, two or three sets per exercise. This helps practice good technique, and helps condition that springy connective tissue, which matures much more slowly than muscles and needs a little extra attention in the early stages.

4.   Choose basic movements

Pick good, basic movements such as the pulls, presses. Try to select movements that use as many body parts as possible, and remember that your initial goal is function and integration.

5.   Workouts: go for quality over quantity

You don’t need to spend two hours on your weights workouts. Thirty to 45 minutes of a handful of well-chosen exercises is quite enough.

6.   Quick recovery from workouts - avoid muscle failure

Don’t take any weight sets to failure intentionally. Always leave a few reps left “in the tank” on each set. This will help you recover quickly from workouts.

7.   Stay away from machines and exercise freely

Use free weights and natural movements. Try to stay away from machines that constrain most of your body and lock you into a prescribed track. This isn’t how the body normally moves. Remember, free weights come in every size from teeny to huge, so you don’t have to start with 300 pounds immediately. Even a can of soup counts as a free weight. Often, as in the case of exercises like squats and push ups, you can simply begin using only your own body weight.

8.   Avoid pain during exercise

If you feel pain, stop or modify the movement so that you don’t.

9.   Start with three workout sessions per week

Do a full body workout each time (remember the squat + push + pull formula).

10.   It’s normal to feel sore when you start exercising

You will be sore and walking like a penguin after your first set of squats. Just get through it, and you’ll be fine!

Weight Training for Beginners, Part 4: Building Your Workout