Weights are not just for people who want to build serious muscle mass. Perhaps you’re just looking to get into shape and drop a few pounds, and you’re not fussed about strength training. If so, you’re missing out!
Weight training plays an important role in any comprehensive workout. But how should you get started? Here’s what you need to know to start using and benefiting from weights.
Benefits of Weight Training
Weight training has a lot of benefits that anyone can enjoy. For a start, regular training leads to bigger and stronger muscles, which is ideal for anyone who wants to boost their muscle mass.
However, the benefits go beyond the aesthetics of building larger muscles. Weight training can also lead to other benefits including stronger joints and increased metabolism. This leads to more calories being burned off after you have ended your workout, which is excellent for anyone attempting to lose weight.
Types of Weights
There are various types of weights to choose from, and this is where many beginners get stuck. So where should you begin? Here are a few of the main options to consider.
For many people, their first encounter with weight training is via the weight machines at the local gym. There are many types of weight machines, some involve sitting, some standing and some lying on your back.
You can set the exact amount of weight to lift and then increase the weight according to your comfort level. Machines tend to work very specific muscle groups, but they are easy to use.
Dumbbells & Kettlebells
Free weights are often seen as suitable for more advanced weightlifters, but this is not strictly true. You can easily start using free weights even when you are first starting out.
Two of the most popular free weights, especially for beginners, are dumbbells and kettlebells.
Dumbbells consist of pairs of small weights that can be held in each hand. They come in different weights, starting at very light weights, and different types, including hex dumbbells. They are very versatile because there are lots of ways you can incorporate them into your workout. They are also easy to get started with, and you can start with light weights and work your way up to heavier weights over time.
Kettlebells are also popular. They consist of a single weight with a handle, and they come in a wide range of weights, from relatively light to much heavier. They are also incredibly versatile, and there are endless workouts that you can incorporate them into to enjoy a full-body workout.
The next step up is to move to barbells. These are not usually recommended for complete beginners, but you don’t have to be an experienced weightlifter to use them either.
Barbells consist of a bar with a weight plate on each end. These are the weights you see being lifted in competitions, and they are popular with people looking to build serious amounts of muscle mass. This is because you can lift a lot more weight with them compared to dumbbells and kettlebells to increase your strength.
There are two main types of barbells: standard barbells and Olympic barbells. While they are similar, they have some important differences.
Standard bars are thinner, with a one-inch diameter, and they are used with standard weight plates. Olympic bars are longer, stronger and have a two-inch diameter. They are used with Olympic weight plates, and they also have rotating sleeves.
Standard weights are more suitable when you are first starting out. Olympic weights can be used to add more weight, making them suitable for serious strength training. The rotating sleeves provide a very smooth lift with less torque, which is good for making faster movements and reducing strain on the wrists.
Quick Tips for Using Weights
Whichever type of weights you decide to start using, there are a few basic tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your strength training.
The first is to take safety seriously. Always get assistance from a qualified instructor when starting out. Your local gym should have instructors who can help, or you could hire a personal trainer.
Using weights safely means warming up before you start lifting with a quick jog and a bit of stretching, then warming down afterwards too.
You should also start with lighter weights. Don’t do too much too fast because that’s how injuries happen. Start with short workouts with a few reps and light weights, and work your way up to heavier weights gradually and more reps.
Start with simple exercises too. For dumbbells, there are some basic exercises you can do like the dumbbell shoulder press. This is one of the easiest and it involves standing up and holding one dumbbell in each hand with your elbows at 90 degrees. Then press the weights above your head and return to the starting position to complete one rep.
You should also start with a few basic techniques, especially when you are using barbells. For example, there are different holds you will need to learn. The pronated grip, with palms facing down, is the most common, while the supinated grip, with palms facing up, is used to target the biceps.
Take rests regularly when using weights. Do a set of reps and then have a break for a few minutes so that muscle fatigue does not set in. You should also aim to use weights about three times a week, which gives you time to rest your muscles. Over time, you may want to increase this to build more muscle mass.
Ready to Try Weight Training?
As you can see, while weights may seem a bit intimidating, they don’t have to be. It’s easy to get started, and you can quickly build strength and body mass even if you have no experience with weights.
You may want to start with weight machines or go straight to dumbbells or kettlebells. Once you’ve built up some strength and you feel more confident, and you can think about moving onto barbells. However you go about it, try to make strength training a part of your regular routine, and enjoy all the benefits of incorporating weights into your workout.