I’m a coach, I own a gym, and I’ll be the first to admit that the gym can be a scary place! It’s easy to default to the elliptical and machines with obvious uses–or just avoid the gym altogether! But, if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone and into that scary part of the gym with the sweaty dudes (spoiler alert: it’s not actually scary!), there are amazing results to be had. Here are 6 quick tips to demystify the world of strength training and to get you started on the road to the results you’re looking for.
1. It’s not scary! Seriously. One of the most common misconceptions about people who lift with barbells and metal plates is that we’re scary and mean. I’ll admit, I used to think that too. It turns out that not only are lifters not scary, they’re some of the nicest people around. The strength training community is small, and virtually everyone in it loves it and wants to share that love with others. So, go pick up those dumbbells, say hello to the other strength junkies, and do your thing!
2. Meet yourself where you are. It might look like everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and always have. But guess what? Most people are just like you, and they were all new at one point, too. It’s important to start your strength journey in the right place for YOU. As one of my clients put it, “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” Strength training really is a journey. Check your ego at the door, start small, and build a good foundation for all the gains to come.
3. Squat and deadlift. I always tell my clients, “If you only do 2 things, squat and deadlift.” These are movements that show up literally everywhere in life. Picking up a bag of dog food? Deadlift. Getting up off a chair? Squat. It’s important to learn these movements with good form first, then add weight. The better you move in the gym – and the more weight you can handle – the easier everyday life will become. Strength training creates a fantastic base for a healthy lifestyle, which should include moving well during everyday activities. Also, squats and deadlifts work your entire body, so you can get a great full-body workout in just one movement.
4. Set specific goals, and be patient. Take some time to think about what you want to achieve through strength training, and choose a program that will help you reach those goals. Then remember that results take time. So many people are looking for a quick fix, but the real results – the ones that last – take time to achieve. When you first start strength training, you’ll get “newbie gains,” which are rapid increases in weight on the bar as your technique improves to match your body’s strength. Once your technique matches your strength, the gains come more slowly. This is where many people quit or switch programs because they think their program doesn’t work. But, this is the reality of strength training. Give any program a minimum of 3 months (6 is even better) before you decide if you like it or it’s time to move on.
5. Eat, Lift, Eat Some More, Sleep. This should really be #1 on the list. Strength training demands a lot from your body – which is part of what makes it such an effective workout. But, you have to make sure you’re eating and sleeping to support that activity. A balanced diet – containing a healthy mix of protein, fat, and carbs – is essential. Also, make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The gains don’t happen while you’re lifting; they happen while you recover. Set yourself up for success by providing your body with adequate fuel and rest.
6. Find a good coach. If you’re still not quite sure about this whole strength training thing, find yourself a good coach. Even if a full-time trainer isn’t in your budget, it’s definitely worthwhile to find a local accredited trainer to walk you through the basic movements and help you get started. Try searching for trainers from the American Council on Exercise or National Strength and Conditioning Association. Strength training isn’t scary, but it is technical. Building a good foundation is the key to lifting safely and effectively, and getting the results you want.
Go forth and be strong! Though it might seem intimidating, strength training is actually very accessible, and nearly everyone can benefit from giving it a shot. You’ll build strength, confidence, and a great foundation for an all-around healthy lifestyle.
Katie Feeley, Fabletics Master