Step Into Weight Training with Confidence

You’ve taken everything you’ve heard about the importance of strength training to heart, but are still a little intimidated because you haven’t done much of it, if at all.

You don’t know how much weight is not enough to make you stronger or enough to injure you. And you may not have enough room for all the stuff you think you need to buy to get started down the right path.

There is a right way to launch your journey to greater physical strength, and it involves patience and persistence, two tortoise-like characteristics easy to overlook but important for sustained progression toward your strength goals.

1. Warm up before each workout with dynamic stretches and such. Light cardio movements as a fast walk/slow jog around the yard, a quick ride on your stationary or road bike; jumping jacks or jumping rope are good examples of the kind of activity that gets your body temperature, blood flow, oxygen level and mental attitude all in the right zone.

Cooldowns of 5 to 10 minutes, of either the same kind of exercises or more static stretching, help you to bring your heart rate down gradually and relax.

2. Start with bodyweight exercises — squats, pushups, lunges, planks and the like — which are great for fitness on their own, require little to no equipment and are also the right way to start learning about proper form that will help you when you start working with weights.

For example, you can learn how to a squat correctly, without your knees caving in or chest falling forward, from an online video or personal trainer before loading up your first squat rack at the gym.

3. After you’ve put in a little time focusing purely on bodyweight, maybe a month or so, start assembling some weights you can work with at home. You don’t need to get six separate pairs or a weight bench; most experts advise getting three sets of dumbbells within a range (around 5 to 15 pounds for women and 10 to 25 pounds for men), so you can have lighter, mid-range and heavier options.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the dumbbells, you can start experimenting with different weights to suss out exactly what level you should be training, finding out what can exhaust you after 10 reps or so without breaking down your form and increasing the risk of injury.

You will probably want to have some resistance equipment such as looping or mini-bands or suspension trainers for variety.

4. Give yourself enough rest time between workouts. Everyone from beginners to pros needs to allow time for their muscles to recover after being shredded, so start with two to three days a week, no matter how excited you are about pursuing your strength regimen.

A good way to approach weight training as a beginner is to focus on full-body workouts instead of upper and lower, for balanced toning, and later add another day for focusing on a localized area that could use a little more attention.