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Lifting Weights requires motivation, time, and practice. You will not be able to walk into a gym and start curling 50 pound dumbbells for 3 sets of 10 reps with perfect formation. Everybody starts and moves at their own pace. Do not compare yourself to other people in the gym and do not expect to move at the same pace as your friends or family who are lifting with you. Focus on you and do what feels comfortable for you.
1. CORRECT FORMATION
The main tip for someone who is a beginner in weight lifting (and even a tip for many veteran lifters) is to make sure you are using the correct form when lifting. I have seen people doing tons of weight with an exercise, but using the wrong form. If you are concerned that you are not feeling an exercise where you should or you just do not know if you are doing something correctly, ask someone who would know. It is pointless to move up in weight if you are not doing the exercise accurately. Incorrect form could potentially cause pulled muscles or worse damage to your body.
I live by this tip. If I am moving up in weight, but my form is dropping, I drop the weight and fix my form before continuing on. I want to make sure I will not hurt myself and that I am working my muscle correctly.
2. PICK THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WEIGHT
For whatever exercise you are doing, start with a weight that is not too light, but also not too heavy. Usually when I am working on a muscle group, I do 3-4 sets of 8-12 (depending on the amount of weight I am using). I start with a weight set that I can feel, but where I know that I can also move up in weight for my next set. I try to move up 5-10 lbs. Per set (this could be more or less depending on the exercise and machine I am using). This means I do not want to max out on my first set. I want to feel my muscle working each set, but be able to move up in weight. This takes trial and error until you find what works. I keep a workout log book to keep track of how much weight is working for me.
3. GETTING LEAN VS. GETTING BULKY
If you want to focus more on getting lean rather than gaining bulkier muscle, then you will need to use lights weights and do more sets. However, you still do not want to use a weight that is too light for you. Use something you still feel is working your muscle and do 12-15 reps for about 3-4 sets. This is a more cardiovascular based regimen which is why it helps lean out your muscles rather than making them bulkier (like heavier weights with less reps does).
Also, the other day I overheard a gym coach try to say this is incorrect. That more reps will make you gain more muscle. Well he was partially right. I think he just was not taking into account the amount of weight. For example, if you are doing leg press with 80 pounds (which lets say is on the heavier side for you) then more reps of that same weight would cause muscle gain. The key is to find a weight that is not too light, but also not super heavy. You want to feel your muscle working harder the more reps you do rather than having to struggle on the first few reps.
4. KEEP A WORKOUT SCHEDULE
Find an exercise regimen that works for you. Personally, I love doing legs twice a week (quadriceps and calves one day and hamstring/glutes another day) meaning I have to space those two days out. I do this because trying to get all the leg muscles working in one day can be difficult and time consuming. It may even cause you to overwork the muscle group.
- My personal regimen usually consists of:
- Monday: Quads/Calves
- Tuesday: Shoulders
- Wednesday: Cardio/Forearms
- Thursday: Hamstring/Glutes
- Friday: Back
- Saturday: Bicep/Tricep
- Sunday: Chest
Since Chest and Back are two big muscle groups, I like having a little gap between them. Also, I do a little bit of abdominal workouts everyday because it is a muscle group that is okay to work on often as long as you are not over doing it. I only do weighted abdominal exercises every other day (at the most). Some people choose to put abs on their own day of the week which is just fine. You will also want to make sure you have a rest day set aside. My “Rest” day is Wednesday. I do easy cardio just to get my blood pumping and easy forearm stretches so I am not overworking myself. You can have more than one rest day a week if that better suits what body type you are going for. Sometimes people enjoy just working out 3-5 days a week to maintain their weight and get an exercise in. Choose something that feels right for you.
5. MAKE SURE TO STRETCH
Find time for yoga or stretching everyday. I enjoy doing yoga either in the morning or right before bed because it relaxes me and helps prepare me for the day/night. If yoga is not for you, just do some stretches so your muscles don’t tighten up (I will explain pre- and post- stretches in a different article later on). Usually I stretch whatever body part I worked that day plus any body part or muscle that feels tight. If you have someone to help massage any knots or help you stretch, that is always a plus.
6. DIET AND NUTRITION
Focus on your diet as well. You do not have to go on some crazy diet to be healthy. You need to at least try eating more greens, veggies, fruits, and protein though. I love keeping a calorie tracker (which I give for free to people who subscribe) to help track my calories, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and sodium. Not everyone likes to track their pace. They just want to eat healthy foods. Which is okay. As long as you know how to tell what is truly healthy from the fraud foods, then you do not necessarily have to track your progress. Depending on whether you are looking to maintain weight, gain weight, or lose weight, you will need to try towards a different amount of calories per day.
7. AT HOME EXERCISE
Do at home exercises if you cannot make it to a gym or cannot afford a gym. There are multiple at home workouts that you can do if you cannot make it to a gym. Try buying a couple sets of dumbbells to have with you at home if you prefer at home workouts to a gym. Plus, investing in a pair of dumbbells may be more in your price range than investing in a gym depending on what gyms are around you. Most gyms have tons of equipment that you just can’t afford to get yourself and that help you work the bigger muscles. If you can invest money towards a membership, then do that! It is worth it! If not, at home body weight exercises are better than nothing at all.
If you have any fitness or new mommy questions, feel free to contact me (contact information is in the Contact page). I will be happy to assist you! Good luck in your workouts and diet! Keep up the hard work, I support you!