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Beginners guide to strength training

12 Feb 2024
Beginners guide to strength training

Strength training is an excellent way to improve overall health, increase muscle mass, burn fat and increase your metabolism. Whether your goal is to build strength, size, enhance your athletic performance, or simply train with weights to become healthier, a well-structured strength training program can help you achieve your objectives. Here's a beginner's guide plus some tips to get you started on your strength training journey:

Set Clear Goals:

Define your fitness goals. Whether it's building muscle, losing weight, or increasing overall strength, having a clear objective will guide your training program. It will help you focus on your target and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Learn Basic Exercises:

Familiarise yourself with fundamental strength training exercises. Weight exercises are generally split into two categories: Compound exercises, which use a larger number of muscle groups, and Isolation exercises which aim to isolate a specific muscle group.

Compound Exercise examples: Squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, shoulder press, dips

Isolation Exercise examples: Bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, leg extensions, side lateral raises, hamstring curls

Generally, your training programme should focus primarily on compound exercises, with the addition of isolation exercises to intensify work on specific muscles. So after your warm up, begin with compound movements then progress to isolation exercises.

Legs: squat variations, leg press, hamstring curls, leg extensions
Back: pull ups, lat pulldown, deadlift, row variations, face pulls
Chest: chest press variations, press ups, dips, chest fly
Shoulders: shoulder press variations, side raises, front raises, rear delt flys
Arms: bicep curl variations, tricep pushdown variations

Focus on Form:

Proper form is crucial to prevent injuries and maximise results. Start with lighter weights, focus on your technique, and gradually increase the weight as you become more accustom to the specific exercises. Mirrors are helpful in the gym, enabling you to watch your form. If your gym allows it, filming yourself can also help, enabling you to watch your form back.

Start with a Full-Body Routine:

As a beginner, aim for full-body workouts 2-3 times per week, focusing on Compound exercises. This ensures that you target all major muscle groups and allows for sufficient recovery between sessions. As you progress and become consistent with training you may wish to mix your routine up, splitting up your body parts onto different days depending on your goals.

Progressive Overload:

Gradually increase the resistance or intensity of your workouts to continually challenge your muscles. This could involve adding more weight, increasing repetitions, adding extra sets, or shortening rest periods. As you begin, simply being consistent is key, but as you advance it is important to progressively overload to continue making gains. 

Include Cardiovascular Exercise:

Incorporate cardiovascular exercises like brisk walking, running, or cycling to improve overall cardiovascular health and support your strength training program. It is often an overlooked part of a routine, even easy cardio will improve your health and fitness, and will also help aid recovery. Perhaps include a small amount as part of your warm up to help get the blood flowing. 

Prioritise Recovery & Balanced Nutrition:

Adequate rest is crucial for muscle recovery. Ensure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and rest days will allow your muscles to repair and grow. Support your training with a balanced diet that includes an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Make sure to be eating sufficient protein, each day aim to consume around 1-2 grams per kilogram of body mass you have and try to spread it evenly throughout the day.

Track Your Progress:

Keep a workout log or use a fitness app to track your exercises, weights, and repetitions. This helps you monitor progress and adjust your program accordingly. Its often hard to see results, which can be demotivating, so tracking your results will help you stay on top of your training and remain motivated. 

Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to your body's signals. If you experience pain (other than normal muscle soreness), it's essential to rest and seek professional advice if necessary. Don’t force yourself to do your session if you don’t feel up to it, and if you feel some joint pain then ensure to get adequate rest and enough time to recover.

Invest in a Personal Trainer:

A Personal Trainer can help maximise your progress. Hiring a PT can help you be accountable with sessions, ensure your form is correct, programme your workouts and much more. If you're investing your money, you work with a financial advisor, so work with an expert trainer to help you train safely and maximise your effort.

Remember, the key to success in strength training is patience and consistency. Start with a plan that suits your fitness level, gradually increase the intensity, and celebrate your achievements along the way. If in doubt, seek guidance from fitness professionals to ensure you're on the right track.

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