Starting a Weight Training Regimen
Bretton Curtis TOBS
Strength is never a weakness, weakness is never a strength! - Mark Bell
It seems crazy to some people that being considered "skinny" could ever be thought of as negative but some of us may feel insecure with our slimmer build and desire to pack some muscle on to our frame for a more athletic looking body. Some of us may have recently lost some significant body fat and realized we don't have as much muscle tone as we would like or would like to fill out the space left behind from losing the weight we lost. Some of us just want to be stronger. No matter your case, if you're new to the idea of weight training and don't know where to begin, here's some tips to help you get started!
Starting a strength training regimen is going to have you doing movements with muscle groups you aren't used to using, with ranges of motion under load that your muscles and connective tissues have never had to do before. This will cause DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and for a newbie, it can be quite painful! If you go too hard too soon you run the risk of injury as well as just being so sore you won't be able to train adequaetely and may lose your progress and motivation to continue. Beginner lifters should stick to around 30 minutes of moderate intensity 2-3 times a week to get a feel for the movements and the weights until they aren't feeling the muscle soreness and fatigue as much. Beginner lifters should always err on the side of caution when it comes to the amount of weight used and can use RPE (rate of perceived exertion) as an indicator of what a "good" weight is.
Rate of Perceived Exertion? Huh??
Rate of perceived exertion is exactly what it sounds like, it's basically a sliding scale of how heavy the weight you're using is based on how it feels to you personally. It's a great way to make sure that you aren't overdoing it and are staying in the perfect zone to get the best results from your workout. Check the table below for how it works:
Using this table can help you throughout your lifting career and can also improve your longevity in the gym, remember we want to be able to do this for a long time! Beginners should not exceed an RPE of 7 when getting started to help avoid feeling too sore or injuring themselves while their body becomes accustomed to the new routine and movements. It's going to take some time for your body to learn how to move the way you want it to. Don't be afraid to look awkward when you first start, we are all trying to improve here no matter where you started from. It's always good to leave a few reps in the tank to avoid form breaking down, greatly increasing your risk of injury. The biggest step is getting started!!
So what should my workout look like?
Since you're just getting started, there's no need to overcomplicate it. We just want to hammer the basics and get a good rhythm in the gym going. There are endless programs online and it's honestly not very hard to create your own routine, following a basic outline of a warm up, 1-2 compound movements and 3 accessory isolation movements. Here are some great resources for finding a good beginner routine Wendler 531, Stronglifts 5x5 Bodybuilding.com also has endless workout programs you can download for free.
A good warm up gets blood and oxygen moving to the muscles you are about to exercise, this can be done with very light weights and high reps, using light bands, or just some plyometric movements like jumping jacks, push ups, air squats or using a rowing machine for upper body or incline walking on a treadmill for lower body.
A compound movement is any exercise that requires more than one muscle group to perform the movement ie (benchpress; chest, triceps shoulders)(squat; quads, hamstrings, glutes, core)(Deadlift; back, hamstrings, glutes, core) others include shoulder press, back rows, lunges, good mornings, straight leg deadlifts, etc.
Always start with a few warm up sets on your compound lifts, dropping reps as you go. Example chest; bench press 45x25, 95x15, 105x12, 135x10 inc bench press 75x15 95x12 115x10
Isolation movements are the best for feeling the beloved "pump", they are just as they sound, isolating just one muscle and working that at a higher rep range and lighter weights than your compound lifts. With these you should be focusing on squeezing the muscle at peak contraction, getting a full extension at the end ROM.
I like to do 3 complimentary iso movements after the completion of compound movements, usually staying within the same rep range but moving the weight up at each set. Example back;
db rev fly 45'sx10, 60'sx10, 75'sx10 db biceps curl 15'sx10 20'sx10 25'sx10 lat pull down 105x10, 125x10 135x10
Helpful Hint; get a note book or print your workouts in excel format to track your progress. It's also helpful to at the bare minimum to track how much protein you're taking in daily. It's recommended that you consume around .7 G protein per lb body weight when weight training to help your body repair the tissues you're trying to build.