15 Basic Lifting Tips
Are you new to weight lifting? If so, here are some lifting terms and 15 tips for beginers that may help you along your journey.
Some basic weight lifting definitions:
Rep: every time you lift a weight is one repetition.
Set: refers to how many time you will repeat that exercise for the set number of repetitions.
Lifting to failure: repeating an exercise to the point of momentary failure (the point where you can’t do another repetition without compromising good form).
4-7 reps: considered heavy and associated with strength workouts- to get strong
8-12 reps: considered medium and associated with muscle workouts- for muscle growth
13-20 reps: considered light and associated with endurance- to get a “pump”
Some random lifting tips:
1. Tracking your progress is important. I like to keep a journal that shows just how far I have come. I can also look back to see what weight I used last week for a particular exercise. Half the trouble of starting a new routine is trying to figure out which weight to use.
2. Tracking your progress is important, but try not to focus on the scale. The scale can tell you how much you weigh but that’s about it. It can’t track your overall health and conditioning. I have often weighed more while in better shape than when I weighed less and had some extra pudge. Weight loss isn’t always a good thing. It is possible to lose weight and become unhealthy. BMI (body mass index) is a widely recognized way of measuring overall health in the healthcare industry, but I believe it is a bad joke. My husband is considered obese with a BMI of 31.7 yet he is very fit. Most NFL players are considered overweight according to their BMI. Please, don’t waste your time with this body measurement. Try using a tape measure. Do you just love the way your clothes feel on you? Then good job, keep up the good work. When I first started lifting and eating clean I used a measuring tape to track my progress. It was very motivational to see the inches fall off. Now that I am maintaining I rarely track my measurements. But this is a great way to track your progress as you begin your weight training journey. Before and after photos are also a fun way to track your progress.
3. Have a plan. Having a written plan helps me to not only know what you want to do, but if I have a goal written down I am more likely to do it.
A good way to plan is:
Have a long term goal: Set a goal for a year out.
Set a 3 month goal: a LOT can happen in 3 months.
Set weekly goals: Plan out what you will do each day for an entire week. If I write that I’m going to do 5 different lifts one day I will do them all. If I go into the gym having no idea what I plan to do, I may slack off and only do 3 avoiding my least favorite lifts. If you are looking for a beginner’s lifting routine check out this post which includes a basic lifting plan.
Also, tell people your goals. Tell at least one good friend what your goal is. Pick someone who will encourage you rather than discourage you or make excuses for you.
4. Lift with intensity and effort. I can’t tell you how many years I wasted lifting weights by just going through the motions. Yes, any resistance training is beneficial, but if you are lifting high reps and not fatigued at the end of a set you most likely aren’t reaching your full potential. If the last 2-3 reps are difficult you are lifting the correct amount of weight. Finding the correct amount takes trial and error. Be patient and write down what weight you use for each exercise and how you felt when you did it (was it too easy? too difficult so you form was thrown off? just right?- write it down so you know where to start next time).
5. Women- don’t be afraid to lift heavier weights. I often hear the advice ” Just lift high reps and low weight to get toned.” I could go on and on about how this is not true, but I will save that soap box rant for another post. I realize that everyone is different and some people build muscle easier than others, some lose fat easier than others as well. However, as a woman you don’t have the testosterone to look like a bodybuilding man. And the women that do look incredibly muscular didn’t get there by accident. They took supplements, ate massive amounts of food, and worked incredibly hard to get that way (and the “freakish” cases have an added boost of PEDs-performance enhancing drugs). You wont accidently bulk up if you lift hard. I am an example of this. I rarely lift more than 15 reps and often lift to failure and I have not developed man like muscles. I also eat a lot of protein and quality carbs (surrounding my workouts). I’ve never bulked up like a man, even when skimping on the cardio. Lifting weights has gotten me better results than I’ve ever gotten from my days when I was a “cardio queen”. In fact, it’s very possible to burn more calories weight training than with cardio (especially if you are doing demanding compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges). You also get a metabolic boost from lifting. There is a long-term boost in metabolism as well as when you increase your lean body mass.
6. Don’t ruin your work with what you eat: I used to think I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I worked out that day. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t splurge at the Chinese Buffet after my 10 mile Saturday long runs. I mean, I just burned 1,000 calories right? Well, while calories in calories out is part of the equation there is SO much more to nutrition than that. My stomach had been my “trouble zone” as long as I can remember. But once I stared cutting out the processed sugar, eating real whole food in healthy portion sizes (paired with lifting weights) I began to see amazing results. Lifting alone would not have gotten me these results but paired with good nutrition I have better abs (after having 2 kids) than I did in my high school years.
7. Please, please don’t diet: Dieting may just be ruining your metabolism. A diet is a temporary change to your eating in an attempt to lose weight. If you “go on a diet” you are implying that at some point you will be going off of it. Rather than diet, try to make simple lifestyle changes. “Eating clean” is a lifestyle for me. I don’t eat “perfect” by any means (I’m not even sure what perfect eating looks like). But I try to make quality food choices in every day situations. Then, I don’t sweat it when I splurge a little because I know it’s a treat and that I will be eating better normally so I can spurge every now and then.
Consistency is the key to seeing positive results from both eating AND lifting.
8. Don’t look for a quick fix from magic pills or shakes: Yes, the right supplements are beneficial to a good whole food diet (and by diet I mean lifestyle). Here are some of the supplements I take. Good nutrition and training are all you really need to get results. Pills that rely on appetite suppressants, thermogenics, or stimulants may help a little but they are not as amazing as advertisements claim them to be, and there are potential dangers if they are abused. At the very least they are most likely just a waste of money. If there was a magic pill to make us all lean and fit we would all be looking like super fitness models by now.
9. Don’t be afraid to eat: Starving wont help (just like diets) because most likely you will eventually binge to make up for starving yourself or you will mess up your metabolism. I eat 4-6 small meals/snacks most days (less on non workout days, more on resistance training days). Everyone has a different relationship with food so different approaches work best for different people. I however, have found that if I eat small meals throughout the day I never feel deprived and I have better portion control. This also ensures that I get enough protein each day to support muscle growth.
10. Eat protein with every meal but don’t be afraid of carbs. It’s best to eat protein at each meal with some sort of carb (preferably not processed junk). Vegetables are a great carb option. I like to eat oats or sweet potatoes (a starchy carb) after my workouts. I don’t avoid carbs, I avoid processed carbs and too much fruit. Fruit is a great carb option but one can easily overdo fruit. If you are making baby steps and substituting fruit for cake, great. But if you are trying to get amazing results from eating healthy and you are gorging on fruit all day you may not get the results you are looking for.
Pre workout meal: Typically 1-2 hours before training be sure to eat some sort of lean protein accompanied by a slow burning carb.
After workout meal: Typically within 30 minutes after a workout be sure to eat some sort of lean protein. This would be a great time to eat more carbohydrates. I often eat my protein brownies after a resistance workout to give me my chocolate fix for the day. This is also one of the few times I may have a protein shake. I prefer to eat real whole food over shakes but if I am in a pinch and want to get my meal in before 30 minutes are up this is a good substitution. If you do opt for a shake, be careful what kind of protein powder you choose. Read the label to see if it has any questionable ingredients.
11. Plan meals ahead of time: Plan you meals ahead of time when you can. If you can, cook in bulk and prep each meal so that when you are in a pinch you will stick to eating clean. I like to make a batch of these turkey meatballs for when I’m on the go. They are great in salads or paired with a vegetable or over brown rice.
12. Don’t compromise your form. Not only does poor form increase your risk of injury but you wont get the full benefits of the exercise you are performing if you don’t use quality form for each exercise. Check out bodybuilding.com if you would like to see videos of correct form for each lift. They have a library full of videos of different exercises.
13. If in between weights, do a drop set. If 20 lbs is too heavy but 15 lbs is too light, do a “drop set”. Lift as many as you can at 20 lbs then drop to 15 lb to finish up the set. Doing this can help you get over a strength gaining plateau.
14. Don’t be afraid of fat. Adding the right kind of fats can increase your energy, help you burn more body fat, improve blood sugar control, boost muscle-building hormones, strengthen your joints, and enhance your skin tone. You need some fats-even saturated- to maintain normal anabolic hormone levels. And most people don’t get enough Omega-3 fatty acids. I like to put a TBS of ground flax seeds or chia seeds, or some walnuts into my oatmeal each morning (good sources of Omega 3s).
The fats you want to avoid are hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated, and trans-fatty acids. These are usually found in fried foods and store bought baked goods. Avoiding processed foods is a great way to avoid these bad fats.
15. Stretch! Static stretching (where you hold each stretch) is for increased flexibility, not for warming up. Most athletes do warm-up and mobility exercises (or dynamic stretches) before a workout and static stretches after a workout. Static stretching before a workout can actually cause injuries.
There you have it… some tips to get you started. If you have any questions or advice feel free to comment below.