1. Stick to the Basics: Keep it simple, keep it effective
Step away from the bosu ball. Seriously. It can be so overwhelming when you see so many snazzy workout variations doing the rounds on the Gram. What’s right? What’s helpful? What’s just downright stupid/dangerous?
Beginner weightlifting really shouldn’t be so hard. Keep it simple. There’s already going to be a steep learning curve with any kind of new exercise so stick to the movements that have the gentlest curve. Basically, focus on the simplest movements, that can be learned quickly and relatively easily. By getting it right pretty much from the get-go you’re going to feel pretty damn incredible – performing a movement well makes you feel strong, it makes you feel confident and it makes you feel like you’ve achieved something.
But! Remember to keep it effective too. A bicep curl is a super easy movement to learn (especially when you’re not trying to do it balancing on one leg on a bloody bosu ball), but it’s more of an accessory exercise than an effective stand-alone contender. Bicep curls have their place, but lifts working several muscle groups rather than just one small muscle are definitely better to begin with. Focus on learning variations for compound lifts like squats and rows and you are going to see a lot more progress and strength gains far more quickly than you would by sticking to isolation exercises.
Squats are awesome. You should definitely be doing them. But the barbell squat is a fairly tricky movement to master when you’re first starting out, and perfecting your squat form is vital. Therefore, opt for goblet squats to get started. You’re completing the same movement pattern, and you’re 10/10 going to get it right straight away which is going to give you a huge confidence boost. And help you build that squat booty too…
2. Don’t Overdo It
For some reason, one of the insane BS ideas constantly thrown at us women by the fitness industry at large is that we need to be destroying ourselves every single workout. My Pinterest feed is full of nauseating ‘fitspo’ pictures with cringing messages like ‘sweat is just fat crying’ and ‘first you feel like dying, then you’ll be reborn’ and of course, the good old ‘unless you puke, faint or die, keep going!’. Umm…what? That sounds horrendous. No thank you.
The thing is, if you’re pushing yourself to the point where you are going to be sick or feel like you’re dying, then, well, you’re not having a good time are you? Exercise is meant to be fun for goodness sake! Weightlifting is supposed to be an enjoyable activity, not a gruelling punishment. We’ve got to stop thinking that it is.
Furthermore, pushing yourself to that extreme you’re just going to be very, very sore. Now, some soreness when you start out is to be expected. Hell, I still get sore when I up the weights or try out a new exercise. And I won’t lie, I kinda love it. But I love it because it’s there and it’s manageable. I’m not walking around like a decrepit grandma rueing the day I ever stepped into a gym. Getting ridiculously, uncomfortably sore from day one is only going to discourage you. Be sensible. Yes, challenge yourself, but ease into it. There’s no need to go all out in week one and then never visit the gym again!
3. Progress, Progress, Progress
The end goal might be to lose fat and get leaner, but your main focus should be on making consistent progress. Aim to add weight or increase the amount of repetitions you do on an exercise each workout. If you’re starting out with just two sets per exercise aim to increase that to three or four sets over time. This gradual, progressive overload is what is going to get you stronger, and ultimately, leaner. Focus on progress first and foremost and the rest will come over time.
4. Redefine Success
So referring back to notes 2 and 3… weight training is not about kicking your own butt to the curb. It should be about making improvements, progressing and getting better at your new-found hobby. Finishing your workout early because you think you’re going to throw up, or being so sore the next day you genuinely consider throwing yourself down the stairs rather than walk them is not success. Working yourself so hard that you actually hate going to the gym is not success.
What is success? It is improving your performance. Getting better. Getting stronger. Lifting a little more. Adding on that extra repetition. Adding in an extra set to an exercise. Those are your new performance indicators. Use them and congratulate yourself because you’re smashing your workouts.
5. It’s Not A Race
The great thing about weightlifting is it’s a pretty individual pursuit. The only person who you’re trying to impress is yourself. And even if I’m your coach you don’t have to impress me, if you’re working hard you can guarantee I’m already impressed. So take things at your own pace. Obviously, start pushing yourself, don’t coast. But you don’t have to be at the same stage as everybody else in this whole weightlifting game. If the deadlift is taking you a while to master that’s ok. Keep working on it. It’s far better to have good technique nailed down than jump in with bad form and hurt yourself.
Ultimately, consistency is key. Continued persistence on your own ‘journey’ (for lack of a better word) far outweighs storming ahead only to fizzle out. This is a long game, but it’s a good one.
6. Don’t Be Intimidated
I get it. The weights area is always packed with bros staring admiringly at themselves in the mirror while they bicep curl ridiculous weights (often badly). But please don’t let that hold you back. You have a right to space just as much as anyone else in the gym, make it for yourself. If you feel more comfortable grab a friend to go along with you. If you are training solo load up your favourite tunes on your phone and whack those noise cancelling headphones on to shut it all out. And focus on you. I promise you, most people are so busy worrying about everyone else staring at them in the gym that they don’t actually notice anyone but themselves. No eyes are on you, no one is judging, you’ve got to just go for it.
7. Be Proud of Yourself
There are so many reasons to be proud of yourself when you start weight training. Completely changing your usual routine, or just plain starting to exercise is something to be proud of from the get-go. Then, once you get going and start seeing some real progress, be proud of everything you’re achieving. You are strong, and your body is powerful. Relish that.
It’s very easy to just want the end result now. Trust me, I’ve been guilty of that. But change that focus instead, to being about the process, with your goals set on getting stronger and fitter instead. I guarantee you’re going to surprise yourself with just how strong you are. And that is most definitely something to be proud of.