The Beginner's Guide to Weight Training
You’ve decided that it’s time to put on some muscle and chase that superhero body you’ve always wanted. And that’s led you down a very specific path in the gym: You’re now about to start lifting weights.
Welcome to the world of weight training. There are several ways to add the muscle, size, and strength that you may crave (more on that later), but there may not be a more common way to get started doing so than weights. To make gains in size and strength, you need to challenge your body with loads greater than what it can handle, whether you do so at your local gym, in your high school weight room, or with a pair of old dumbbells from your garage. But somehow, you need to push beyond your comfort zone if you really want more muscle.
Not that weight training is always easy or intuitive. Sure, it makes sense that a few dumbbell curls for your biceps will grow big biceps, but why the heck is it taking so long? How do you make it happen faster? And what’s the best starter’s workout if you’re into weight training?
Read on, and we’ll answer all those questions (and more).
What Exactly Is Weight Training?
Simply put, weight training is training your body with weights, typically dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells. Doing exercises with these weights forces your body to adapt to loads greater than those it faces on a regular basis, and the adaptations your body makes to move those loads leads to better muscle and strength.
Worth noting, though: Weight training isn’t the only way to challenge your body to new loads. Any form of resistance training offers a chance for you to expose your body to new loads. Weight training is just one form of resistance training; bodyweight training and resistance band training also offer opportunities to challenge your body to pack on size.
Will Weight Training Build Muscle?
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At its core, weight training will primarily help you build muscle. As you build that muscle, you’ll reap other benefits, too. First off, you’ll insulate your body against injuries; the more muscle you build, the more you’ll help tighten and stabilize your joints. This is especially true for two of your largest ball-and-socket joints, the hip and shoulder. Building muscle in the right places can help stabilize both joints, which often grow brittle with age and lack of use (which happens frequently in today’s desk job-driven culture).
You’ll also enhance overall body coordination as you gain increased control over the muscles you train.
Will Weight Training Burn Fat Too?
It depends on how exactly you’re integrating weight training into your routine. In general, though, it won’t burn as much fat as a workout whose sole purpose is to ramp up your heart rate, such as a running workout. But weight training is increasingly blended into high-intensity interval circuits; these ramp up your heart rate while also challenging you to move weights
Additionally, while weight training alone may not speed fat loss, the gains that come with weight training will indirectly assist in your fat loss. A more muscular frame will have a faster metabolism, speeding regular calorie burn and helping you burn more fat throughout the day.
How Long Before I Notice Progress?
It depends on many factors, including your starting point, your age, and your nutrition. Don’t expect to look like a superhero in a month, no matter what the Internet tells you, because building muscle takes time, and the aesthetics are often the last thing to come.
You’ll see progress in other regions too. Expect to see your coordination and body control improve just a few weeks after you start weight training, and you’ll see yourself moving heavier weights rather quickly. Eventually, however, you’ll hit a plateau.
What’s a Plateau and How Do I Beat It?
A “plateau” occurs when you stop seeing rapid progress in your training. This can occur in weight training or in any other brand of training in the gym. Plateaus are hard to get past, even for seasoned lifters.
Generally, they occur because the body has grown too familiar with the current training protocol and needs a new workout, so often, changing the order of exercises, the training style, or even the tempo of each rep can assist you in crushing a plateau.
How Many Reps Should I Be Doing?
Depends on the goal. If you’re aiming to add pure strength and power, so that you can move more weights or pick up your couch more easily, you want to think of doing 3 to 6 reps of each exercise. If you want to build muscle, aim to do 8 to 12 reps per set. If you simply want to hone muscular endurance, think of doing more than 12 reps per set.
Your rep count also depends on the exercises you’re doing. Exercises like bench presses and squats are easily trained in low-rep ranges, taxing the body after just a few reps. More detail-focused exercises, like lateral shoulder raises, are often best done in sets of 10 to 15 reps to protect your joints.
What Muscles Should I Train?
All of them. Don’t fall into the trap of only training the muscles you want to “grow” or only training the muscles that respond to training, or skipping out on training certain body parts (skipping “leg day” will get you on a meme very quickly).
A well-rounded training program has you hitting all major muscle groups, which is key to long-term health and will also help you build a truly noticeable beach body. Not sure how to build that? Aim to do at least three things in your workouts weekly: Train legs, push some weight (think bench press), and pull some weight (think of dumbbell or barbell rows).
So What Does A Good Three-Days-Week Total Body Weight Training Routine Look Like?
We thought you’d never ask. Do this routine three days a week. Rest at least one day between workouts. You’ll be focusing on key exercises to build total-body muscle.
Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per side.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Do 4 sets of 8.
Do 4 sets of 8 to 10
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