Weightlifting, how do I get started?

by Kelly Colobella

I had a friend mention to me the other day that she wanted to start lifting weights and that she wasn’t really sure where to start. I remember that feeling all too well… walking into the gym and looking at all these machines, weights, treadmills and starting to panic. Seeing the large, muscle shirted men flexing their pecks in the mirror and chatting at the drinking fountain. I always felt like they were judging me. I was lucky enough to have a friend show me the ways of the gym so I could learn how and what to do (and not do).

I now love lifting weights, I think everyone should do it! Not only does it help you tone your body but building muscle mass increases your metabolism (the more muscle you build, the more you will be able to burn fat more efficiently while you are not working out). It also increases your bone density (resistance exercise helps your bones suck up the calcium in your body like a sponge and helps strengthen those bones).

When I first started working out, I stayed as far away from the weights as possible, and when I started lifting weights I stayed VERY far away from the free weights. I’ve always lived by the idea that if I am going to do something, I want to do it RIGHT and I would like to share with you ways for you to confidently build a workout program and get comfortable using weights. By using resources that are available to you for free.

This is where YouTube and search engines are your friend. You can begin by searching for a plan, “Workout plan for toning”, or you can search for exercises specific to body parts, fat, loss, or whatever your goals are. I like Bodybuilding.com to help create workouts (there are many other sites similar this). You can enter your age, gender, goals, and it will give you some great workout plans for free (I never follow their nutrition plans because they are NEVER vegan friendly). If there are exercises you come across that you are not familiar with do a quick search on YouTube or watch the video they provide for you, “How to do a back squat” for example… there will be 50 different people teaching you how to do a back squat. Watch a couple different videos (because getting a different take on the lift is always a good idea) and practice the movement until you feel comfortable. Write down that workout plan (or find your own exercises to combine) and take it to the gym with you. While you are at the gym make sure log how much weight you used, reps you did, etc. so you can track progress. If you have a plan to follow it will help you be able to stay focused and not get frustrated.

Now, when you get to the gym here’s a few things to remember…
– The long straight bars at the squat rack and bench are usually 45 pounds… if you are using a barbell, take that into consideration when adding weight. Lift light (or even just the bar) until you feel comfortable with your form. Nobody is judging how much you are lifting, trust me, people are only thinking about what THEY are lifting.
– Use clips, a lot of experienced lifters don’t even do this but I (personally) think it’s really unsafe. I see people lifting without clips and the weights start sliding to one side, their form gets messed up and the whole thing looks like an injury waiting to happen.
– If someone leaves the squat rack or bench with the bar loaded with a lot of weight on it unload both sides equally (when I started lifting I took all the weight off one side and the bar fell over, I felt like an idiot) I’m telling you these things (even though they are obvious) so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
– Check your form in the mirrors. You may feel silly for this but it will help you improve and keep you from injuring yourself. Good form is SO important and you can’t be too careful. You can also take a video of yourself doing the lift so you can correct any mistakes after watching it.

Etiquette- These are the do’s and don’ts of the gym..
– Use the equipment for what it’s meant for… don’t be the jerk off who is curling the bar standing in the squat rack. You can find another station for that, let someone get their squats done.
– If someone is using something that you want to use, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them how many sets they have left (while they are resting, never talk to someone mid lift) if they have a bunch of sets left move on and come back to it.
– Do your lifts then put the weights away, and then move on (PLEASE put your weights back when you are done, it’s so annoying to have to go searching for something).
– If you got the bench sweaty and gross, please make sure to wipe it off. There should be disinfectant at the gym that you can use, you wouldn’t want to be lifting in someone elses pile of sweat would you?

Hopefully these suggestions will help you get started. If you still don’t feel comfortable starting lifting on your own, try to find a friend to help you, a GOOD trainer, or try some group lifting classes (like a body pump type workout) these are also great ways to gain some confidence in weight training. You can find A LOT of information online, but remember… there are also a lot of conflicting opinions out there so do a lot of research and figure out what works best for you. Happy lifting!

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