By William Butler
So you’ve mastered the art of commitment and are walking for at least 20 minutes a night. You’ve scoped out your gym and find the cardio machines to be a breeze. Today we’ll be discussing your next step in the fitness routine, weight training.
A lot of people are intimidated by weights when they really have no reason to be. It’s true that most people who weight train have been doing it for a while but that has more to do with a dropout rate. Many people who start weight training don’t work up to it and just jump right in. When they don’t see the results they want, they become less motivated to go back in the future. The method we’ll go over today will be in line with the principle of progression and help you maximize your time at the gym.
The mental skill for weight training is persistence. You have to be able to accurately and completely work through the beginning, middle, and end stages of your development. Failure at any of these stages will lead to drop out. With that said, here are 5 steps to get your workout started.
- Start off with light weights. Yes, you read that right. Start off with light weights or no weights if at all possible. The benefit of starting off so low is twofold. On the one hand, you can perfect your form. Weight training is virtually useless if you’re doing it incorrectly. If you swinging the weights, bending areas that should be stable, or not following through completely, you risk a wasted effort and possibly injury. On the other hand, you can better gauge where you should start off. Larger muscle groups, for example, can generally carry heavier loads. That being said, you will likely train different groups at different rates.
- Set your goals. You can weight train to either build muscle mass or increase definition. To build more muscle mass, you will want to use heavier weights with fewer repetitions. To define your muscles, you’ll want to use lighter weights with more repetitions. You may also have an ideal weight that you may want to be able to lift and you should be keeping mind on this as well.
- Circuit train. Circuit training is good for two reasons. Firstly, traditional circuit training kills two birds with one stone. Basically, circuit training combines cardio and weight training. These are usually done in classes or groups where everyone will train at one machine until a whistle is blown. They then rotate machines and do this rapidly for a full body workout. Secondly, this set up is very conducive to the beginner even if you’re not enrolled in a class or working out in a group. You don’t need to do them at a quick pace to do cardio. The machines will work out different muscles and are usually arranged in a logical order.
- Keep track of your progress. There is nothing more manipulative than our own minds. Our brains are primed to not like change and will try to slowly return to our set point. In order to make sure that you are actually progressing, you will have to keep a tally of what groups you’ll be working on and at what resistance. For example, if you do your back and abs one day at 70lbs, you will want to make sure you do your arms and chest the next day at 50lbs. After two weeks, you may want to increase back and abs to 80lbs but maybe you’ll be able to do your other group at 70lbs. Keeping track like this will lead to steadier progress.
- Know when to fold them. There are two sides to the argument of how to train. Some will assert that you should work two groups every other day so that your muscles can heal. Others will say that you should do full body workouts and you can most easily build muscle when they are sore. There is support for both arguments and it is ultimately up to the individual. So long as you’re not unable to do a complete set, there is nothing wrong with working muscles that are a little stiff. Obviously, this doesn’t hold for everyone. You should consult your medical doctor and heed their advice and your own judgment. As a general rule of thumb, when starting out a weight lifting routine, you will want to aim for 4-6 repetitions of the machine/weights and 3 or more sets of those repetitions.
If there is any takeaway from this article it should be the importance of baby steps to enforce long-term behavioral change and the importance of our diversity. No workout routine works for everyone. Only your doctor and your own judgment knows what is best for you. Enjoy your time.
William Butler is a psychology and pre-medical student at the University of Central Florida. He works as a receptionist for UCF Health Services at the College of Medicine in Lake Nona, Fl. He also volunteers for the MIT-2 lab, IMAlive suicide hotline, and UCF Counseling and Psychological Services Student Advisory Council. He is interested in neuroscience, music, and spending time with his friends and family. Despite his wide range of interests, William is NOT a medical or mental health professional and all attitudes expressed are opinions and are not intended to be used as medical advice.