My first experience of weight Training was back in 1987. I was very fortunate in that my first introduction was from my exercise Physiology professor at the University of Limerick in Ireland. To say that I got a great start was an understatement! So if you are new to weight training and you are keen to start but don’t know how to go about it here are some tips from an (almost!) 30 year veteran who still loves nothing more than to pump iron!
1: Get Assessed.
Weight training involves subjecting the body to progressively heavier loads through wide and varied ranges of motion. In order to do this safely and correctly you need a minimum standard of flexibility, stability and postural health (see my blog: Is Your Body in Alignment?). If you get assessed in the beginning then your trainer will be able to pin point your areas of weakness and your initial programs can be designed to start correcting these imbalances.
2: The Corrective Phase
In my experience most people require an initial corrective phase of training to tackle flexibility issues and get a minimum standard of core control. Do not be tempted to skip this step! There is no point in throwing a loaded barbell on your back and trying to do squats if you can’t achieve a FULL RANGE OF MOTION body weight squat!
3: Invest in proper coaching
Weight training is technical and if you try to teach yourself you may end up with injuries or at the very least your progress may be painfully slow. I have had many clients who have come to me supposedly having lifted weights for years who demonstrate poor form, lack of body awareness and very limited range of motion in exercises. You see your body remembers what you teach it 1st more than anything else. So if you learn excellent technique in the basics then this excellence will be your default mode. If you learn shoddy technique in the beginning then it’s much harder to unlearn.
4: Do not get one of your mates to teach you how to lift!
Does anybody remember the show ER that was out in the late 90s? It starred George Clooney as a surgeon. Now as George was dressed up in his scrubs all covered in blood wielding a scalpel he looked like a damn fine surgeon! Would you hire him to do open heart surgery on you? I hope not! Acting like a surgeon versus being an actual one are two VERY different things! Curiously it’s the same thing with trainers. Just because you can wear a pair of lulu lemon leggings does not make you qualified to instruct people safely or intelligently.
5: Get some clarity on your Goals.
What would you like to achieve with your training endeavours? This question is very important as it will illuminate the path to achieve your goals in the most efficient way. Many newbies come in thinking that they want to get fitter. This notion of getting fitter is way too vague. Fitness is a very relative phenomenon. Do you wish to be fit enough to run a marathon or fit enough to perform a rhythmic gymnastics routine or fit enough to enter a powerlifting competition? Fitness is very specific to the task at hand. So if you have a sports specific goal at hand this will dictate how your weight training is structured.
Do you wish to be healthier? Now this is something we can work with. Healthier people tend to live longer, have greater independence as they age and need little to no medication. There are biomarkers of longevity that if we look at them leave clues as to what we should be focusing our training on. The top 5 biomarkers of health are as follows:
1) Muscle Mass
3) Basal Metabolic Rate
4) Body Fat Percentage
5) Aerobic Capacity
So if you wish to get healthier, lifting weights in a planned and progressive fashion (with focus on building muscle and getting stronger) will give you far greater benefits than going for a jog. Sure, if you have extra time you can do some sprints, maybe even the occasional jog to work on your aerobic capacity. However the greatest bang for the buck health wise will always be lifting weights.
Looking great Naked!!
Continuing on with the goals theme 99% of people simply wish to look better naked! There is nothing wrong with this as it affects ones confidence. Its normal to want to feel good about yourself and increasing your confidence can contribute to this.
What constitutes looking good? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The desire to “look beautiful” at the most basic level boils down to the intrinsic drive to attract a mate. What we find beautiful are all markers of health. A healthy body is more likely capable of reproducing and those offspring are also more likely to be healthy. Universally in both sexes a symmetrical body is deemed more attractive. Lifting weights in a program that’s tailored for your bodys unique requirements is the single best way to achieve body symmetry. Skinny legs can get bigger and more muscular. A female with a pear shaped body can balance herself by building her upper body. This is only possible with weight training.
The Waist to Hip ratio
One of the top predictors of our overall health is a marker called the Waist to Hip Ratio. The lower ones waist to hip ratio the lower ones risk of heart disease for example.
The waist to hip ratio is not only an excellent predictor of overall health it is also one of the best predictors of attractiveness to the opposite sex, especially when it comes to female desirability.
In one study Men were tested to see where their gaze goes when checking out a Woman for attractiveness. The women in the study were of varying sizes and poses but what universally stood out was the women deemed most attractive had a waist to hip ratio of 0.7 or less.(1)
Weight training helps increase basal metabolic rate making fat loss a lot easier. It allows one to create a smaller waist practically by assisting fat loss and via the optical illusion of a smaller waist by building your buttocks, lats and shoulders.
So if you wish to look good and feel attractive your weight training should focus on hypertrophy for the most part. This is lifting weights in roughly the 8-12 repetition range whereby the last couple of reps are challenging to complete. This hypertrophy range seems the most effective to build muscle and burn fat. You will not stay in this zone all of the time sometimes you will be lifting a little heavier and sometimes you will work more in the endurance zone. So if you spend most of your time in the 1-5 low rep zone of the powerlifter or the high rep zone of 30 reps plus of some programs don’t be surprised if your body composition/shape is not moving in the direction you desire.
Do you wish to get into weight training for any of the above goals? If you answered yes then check out my new ONLINE PERSONAL TRAINING PROGRAM. Working with a coach who has years of experience lifting, coaching 100s of other people and knows the science of correct program design takes the guess work out of your journey. You also get the added benefit of ongoing support and a system of accountability.
1:Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Linklater, W. L., & Dixson, A. F. (2010). Watching the hourglass: Eye tracking reveals men’s appreciation of the female form. Human Nature, 21(4), 355-370. doi:10.1007/s12110-010-9100-6