In our last newsletter, I explained the benefits of weight lifting and I got a great response! So now I’m going to give you everything you need to know to get started with strength training. If you’re a beginner and not sure what to do when you’re standing in front of the weight rack, this is for you.
When I ran cross country in high school, having a good coach was key to success. When I got to practice, I didn’t have to stand around wondering what to do. She’d give me my workout, and off I’d go. The workouts weren’t easy, but at least I knew what to do. When I graduated and had to figure things out on my own, though, I stopped running. A lot of people go through this, so if you’re feeling lost, you’re not alone!
Deadlifting before I started Rose Fitness
The very first step is to pick good a plan (or just use the one I recommend.) Picking a well-designed plan gets you a lot of the benefits of having a coach without spending the money on a personal trainer. As a beginner, you want a plan that will tell you exactly what to do when you get to the gym each day. There are a lot of options out there, but for pure simplicity, I recommend StrongLifts 5x5. Alternatively, if you want a more complex, women-focused workout, Strong Curves is a great option.
There are a few reasons I like 5x5 for beginners: It’s simple, it uses compound exercises, and it strengthens all of the major muscle groups. The simplicity is obvious: there are only two different workouts and with a total of five exercises. Even so, it hits all of the major muscle groups in your body. Even better, it focuses on compound exercises (which means they target multiple muscles at once.) For example, the center of this program is the barbell squat, which focuses on your legs but also requires core strength for stabilization. (Squats are also great for building that booty!) As an added bonus, there are nicely designed apps that tell you exactly how much weight you should be lifting and help you keep track of how many sets you’ve completed.
Once you’ve picked a plan, stick with it. Consistency is key ladies! Just like everything in life, if you're not doing it on a regular basis, it's probably not going to help. Believe me, I've been there. On a Monday afternoon after school or work, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. Here are a few tips that I use to hold myself accountable:
- Go to the gym at the same time every day. At first this may be tough, but over time it will become habit and you’ll start to notice that your day won’t feel complete without it.
- Find a workout buddy. It’s much easier to stay on track when you have someone else holding you accountable. Even better, you won't have to worry about being the only woman in the weightlifting area. And you can always go to your favorite smoothie shop together after a good workout and have a bit of fun.
- Track your progress. Write down (or use an app!) to record how much you lifted. This way you can track where you’re at. By the way, this is why I love 5x5. With just a handful of lifts, it’s easy to see when you’re making progress. There is no greater feeling than when you notice that you’re getting stronger!
The next key to success is setting yourself up to recover. Recovery doesn’t start when you finish your workout. It starts when you pick and follow a well-designed plan. A good plan will give you variety in your exercise regimen. Even if you get to the point where you’re going to the gym every day, you won’t be bench-pressing every single day. Your body needs time to recover in order to prevent injury and grow. A combination of rest days and a rotating schedule (like 5x5 or almost any other plan will have) is the key to this.
Nutrition is also a key factor to recovering well. Protein is the building block of your muscles and is essential for recovery. A salad with light dressing and grilled chicken breast is a great post-workout meal. Even if you're trying to lose weight, cutting back on protein is not going to help you. One general rule of thumb is ~0.8 gram per lb of body weight. Although you may be able to get away with less, a sure sign that you’re getting too little protein is staying unusually sore. If you want to know more you can read here.
My final tip is to listen to your body! There is a very big difference between a good burn that you should push through, and a sharp pain that means you need to stop. If you’re hurting to the point that you can’t continue an exercise, you should stop. Take recovery days seriously, and don’t try to lift too much weight too quickly. (This is why I’m recommending 5x5: It keeps things simple yet effective while providing ample recovery time.)
Lifting is a really great activity for women, and I love how it's both toned my body and built my confidence. If you decide to check it out, let me know how it goes!