Hey Angels and Alphas!
Now… you know how I feel about strength training.
It’s one of my muses for sure, and with time, more and more people are starting to recognize it. Especially in women’s fitness, strength training went from taboo to widely accepted over the last decades, and I’m really happy that happened.
More and more people are opening their eyes, ears, and mouths when it comes to strength training. And they’re asking questions. Questions whose answer might be the difference between “one day” and “day one”.
As always, I’m here to help. Today, I’ve answered the most common questions that new gym-goers are asking in regards to weightlifting and resistance training.
I’ve focused on answering every question with extreme simplicity because I believe starting with the basics is the only right way to approach this.
You can’t rush into strength training and lifting weights without first taking the time to master the basics and, of course, get all your questions about it answered.
Let’s get right into it!
How do we define strength training?
Strength training is a form of exercise in which your focus is to use your muscles to resist against an outside force so you can stimulate muscle growth and strength gain.
You can also call it weight training or resistance training, but the basic premise goes. You create resistance and put it against your muscles so you can work them to your desired intensity. You can do this with weight machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, hand-held weights, your own weight, and the list goes on.
It can be a class activity but most people approach it individually.
Why should I do it?
Muscle building is the most popular benefit of strength training, but that’s only because the media focuses on it.
Strength training provides a variety of benefits that go way beyond just strength and muscle gains!
- You’ll improve your performance in sports like football, hockey, cycling, martial arts, etc.
- Prevent lifestyle diseases and strengthen your immune system.
- Sculpt your dream body and get in the best shape of your life.
- Improve your balance and functionality.
- Recover faster from injuries and fractures.
- Develop mental resilience and perseverance.
- Burn calories even after you’ve finished your workout and lose weight more quickly.
You can quickly check out my blog post on the four different approaches to strength training. There, you’ll learn how to use strength training to work your power, agility, explosiveness, and endurance.
Who is strength training for?
Everyone. If you’re able to strength train, you should. It’s a lifestyle endeavor that helps you see yourself grow and improve. Who doesn’t want that?!
Young men, young women, adult men, adult women, older men, and older women… everyone can benefit from a form of weight training!
For those of you in cardio-based sports, strength training (and more specifically stability training) is a must! To perform at a high level in your sport, you’ll always need the right balance between strength and cardiovascular work.
Different variations of strength exercises should be incorporated in your regimen, no matter how it currently looks like. Regardless if your end goal is performance, weight loss, a marathon, or Olympic competitions. You need to add strength training to your workout if you wish to see your body and performance grow in a balanced, timely, and productive matter.
Where is the best place to strength train?
Some people prefer starting with strength training at home. And that’s completely okay. All you’re going to need is a little extra equipment as you go.
However, the majority of people who follow regimes and plans often visit health clubs, gyms, fitness centers, or gymnasiums. These places are probably your best bet if you’re already advanced and need to add a variety of equipment and weights to suit your needs.
Both approaches have their ups and downs, to be honest. It’s either one of the two, so I’m not going to convince you which you should try. Just got with your gut. If you want to start at home, do so.
What equipment do I need to start strength training?
If you’re training at home, you can probably get away with a dumbbell, adjustable weight, or two resistance bands. As you start progressing, you’re going to need some essential equipment, but if you’re creative, you can pretty much find it all at home.
Things like yoga mats, inflatable balls, lifting gloves, and other such appliances will sure make your experience more comfortable, but they’re not completely necessary for beginners.
If you’re working out at a gym, the general rule of thumb applies! Always keep a water bottle, a towel, and the proper shoes and clothing in your bag.
Gyms usually have a variety of weights, machines, benches, bands, and so on. There’s often a room or separate area of the gym that’s dedicated to free weights – barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, and everything else you need to hit the right intensity for each exercise.
What should I focus on as a beginner?
As a newbie, you need to focus your attention to mastering the basics.
A few basics movements are going to amount for the majority of your beginner gains. The squat, the bench press, and the deadlift are the three exercises you should always strive to master first.
Developing proper form while using focused reps with low intensity is the best thing you can do as a beginner to guarantee yourself a healthy and productive lifting journey.
To do this, focus mainly on the major compound exercises.
What’s the difference between compound and isolation exercises?
Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that target more than one muscle group. For example, the squat. It targets your glutes, quads, core, and calves. The bench press – targets your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Isolation exercises, on the other hand, focus on, well, isolating a muscle group so you can achieve a higher intensity of work on that specific area.
How do you define good form?
In the broad sense, doing an exercise the way it’s supposed to be done.
It means following the body position and movement to ensure that the lift is productive and safe and the weight is being applied where it needs to be.
Continuing with our squat example, this could mean keeping your feet a little bit wider than shoulder width apart, firm on the ground, with your heels anchored, and your back straight.
But keep in mind – everyone has their own definition of good form. Just make sure that yours grasps the overall concept of safety, efficiency, and proper muscle targeting.
How should I be breathing while lifting?
Advanced lifters have a couple of techniques of their own, but the general rule of thumb is that you should exhale on the active part of the exercise. For example, when you’re doing a squat, inhale when you’re dropping down to the ground, and exhale when you need to push yourself up.
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to forget to breathe right when you’re weightlifting.
This is something that beginners don’t pay a lot of attention to; however, it’s one of the most critical factors of good form.
How many times a week should I strength train?
At the very least, you should dedicate at least one day a week to strength training.
However, that’s just a foundation.
If you want to see real benefits and make strength training a part of your lifestyle, you need to reserve at least three days a week to focus on the weights.
And if you’re had a couple of years under the bar and you’re trying to reach your body’s full potential, you should be training 5-6 times a week on a regimen that allows proper recovery.
How do you warm-up and cool-down after a workout?
Your warm-up should be a basic routine that includes 5-15 minutes of light dynamic repetitions of the exercises you’re going to do that day.
Before you get to the real weights, you always need to get your major muscles and your supporting muscles to be in-line and ready for higher intensity work.
Your cool-down, on the other hand, is here to help you relax and recover. Cooling down is best done with some stretching, foam rolling, or low-intensity aerobic work.
Should I get a PT?
Hiring a personal trainer is an excellent idea if you’re serious about getting results quickly and efficiently.
Most gyms have a set of personal trainers that you can get for each of your workouts, but you can just as well hire a private PT for your training sessions.
They’ll create your training program, help you learn more about your body, and tell you how to behave in terms of nutrition.
The only crux here is that you have to make sure your trainer is qualified and experienced in handling clients who have a similar goal set. More on that in a later post!
What’s a “spot”? How do I spot someone?
If you’re bringing a friend along for your new strength training adventure, you’re in luck. You’re going to have someone there to watch you and assist you while you lift for safety purposes.
When you’re spotting, you may assist someone just as the weight is about to overwhelm them. You can also place your hands on the bar and not apply a lot of force so you can simply guide your friend through the correct form of motion during an exercise.
If you’re a beginner, I suggest always getting a spot for your last sets.
We can conclude this strength training FAQ with the following…
If you’re thinking about strength training and you’re looking into it so you can learn more, you already know it’s right for you.
In this post, I hopefully managed to answer every question that you might face on your beginner’s journey into weightlifting.
No excuses now – it’s time to take the first step. 🙂