Weightlifting sounds like a simple choice for anyone looking to build muscle mass, but there’s much more to the practice than merely lifting a barbell a bunch of times and watching your muscles grow. So we created "Weightlifting 101: 6 Tips for Beginners."
Athletes, fitness buffs, and at-home workout warriors are learning what bodybuilders have long known: if done right, there are benefits to adding weight training to most exercise routines.
Below, you’ll find six important tips that every amateur and serious lifter should know. If you haven’t started yet, follow these tips to prepare for your new fitness practice.
Avoid looking like this guy.
1. Choose the Right Brace
While you should definitely experience some muscle soreness after a weightlifting session, sore and achy joints are a sign that you may be doing something wrong. Safety is the most important element in any kind of exercise regimen. Make sure your joints are properly warmed up and protected during intense weight training. Choosing the right sports brace can ensure you are safe and getting the most out of your workout.
Find a weightlifting brace that is appropriate for the exercise you are doing, whether it be deadlifts, squats, bench presses, or step-ups. You can find specialized braces for wrists, knees, elbows, and ankles. A good sports brace will provide the necessary protection along with a moderate amount of compression to keep the blood flowing and stabilize your joints. If you aren’t sure about the best type of brace for your workout, consult with a trainer or experienced lifter.
2. Consider Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre-workout supplements are essential for weightlifting because they create increased energy, promote blood flow and muscle strength, and help you to focus during your workout. High-energy supplements combine protein with caffeine and amino acids for peak performance potential during your weight training routine.
Many lifters and gym rats wouldn’t think of starting a workout without taking their go-to protein supplement, typically a powder mixed with water in a blender or shaker bottle. Taken before you begin your weight training, pre-workout supplements allow you to work out longer enduring those grueling exercises and gaining strength (and confidence) along the way.
Make sure you are familiar with the ingredients in your pre-workout supplement. Some companies like to load up their products with extra caffeine and other unnecessary additives to re-create the same effect (increased energy), all the while causing damage to your body and negating any potential workout benefits. The added caffeine, or other stimulants, can increase your heart rate to dangerous levels.
3. Don’t Forget to Warm Up and Stretch
Stretching after your weightlifting workout is the simplest but arguably the most important part of your routine. You will want to focus on static stretches, which involve extending the muscle fully and holding the position. You don’t want to do static stretches before lifting weights because your muscles and joints haven’t warmed up yet.
Start your routine by working through each muscle group with fluid motions or by taking a brisk walk or a light jog for a few minutes. You don’t just want to start handling heavy weights with cold muscles. You need to warm them up first and increase your blood flow. This will prevent you from overextending your muscles which could result in strains or muscle tears.
4. Add Some Cardio to Your Routine
For the best results from your workout, add cardio to your routine. You burn more calories from the rapid continuous movements of cardio than you do from the slow, deliberate movements of weightlifting. The high energy expenditure associated with cardio allows you to essentially melt the fat from your body. Strength training replaces the fat you lose with muscle for a leaner, more toned figure.
Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out which type of exercise to do first. Some say cardio before weight training, and some say the reverse. You can choose to do each type of exercise on different days (like cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays) or do them at different times on the same day (cardio in the morning with weight training in the afternoon). How you choose to schedule your workouts is up to you. Keep in mind your schedule and your personal fitness goals, and do what feels right for you.
5. Stay Hydrated
How many times have we been told the importance of drinking enough water? Water consumption is linked to dietary health, youthful skin, increased energy, and weight loss. Optimum metabolism is fueled by proper hydration and aids in protein synthesis that helps your body to recover after an intense workout.
Hydration also optimizes your brain power, allowing you to focus better, and increases your energy. By being properly hydrated, you will be more focused and effective in your workouts and you will see results sooner.
6. Schedule Rest Time
Adequate rest, particularly sleep, has the greatest impact on your workout than any other tool or practice. After an intense training session, you must give your body time to recover, and it requires energy to do that. If you expend all of your energy to push yourself to the limit, you don’t leave anything for your body to use to recover properly.
You are still burning calories while you sleep. Getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep lets your body do what it is supposed to do naturally, allowing you to see more progress and faster results. So don’t skip rest days. Look at them as periods of peak muscle-building and enjoy the downtime.
Some of these tips may seem simple, but they are very effective. By following the basics, like drinking water and getting plenty of sleep, you will ensure you get the most out of your workouts. Adding a supplement and wearing proper safety gear allows to turn your reps up a notch.
Whether you are an experienced lifter or just starting out, your ultimate goal is to get results. Start slowly, be consistent, and always practice safe lifting techniques.
By Chris Scalise
Chris Scalise is a freelance writer and fitness enthusiast who writes about health topics for a wide range of publications, including The Livestrong Network and SportsBraces.com. In his spare time, he enjoys training for half marathons and watching cheesy action films.