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10 Things Beginners to Weight Training Must Know

Succeed with the Right Information


Updated October 03, 2012

Weighted Lunge

Weighted Lunge

(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness

If you've decided to do some weight training at the gym or at home with free weights or a home workstation, there's a lot to know. Even so, you can get started quite quickly and build on your knowledge over time. Here are 10 important pieces of the puzzle that you must know to make a good start and build that strength and conditioning you want.

Decide Where to Train

Gyms are probably the prefered training venue because of the range of equipment and the guidance available. However, a home gym or a simple set of dumbbells and a training bench can provide a sufficient platform for highly effective training. Economics, time and proximity to gyms also have to be taken into account.

Set a Target for Success

There's nothing too wrong with being a casual gym user, walker, runner, cyclist or utilizing any form of physical activity for general fitness, but you are more likely to achieve definitive goals if you describe goals in some detail at the beginning. For example if you want to lose weight you should nominate your goal weight (don't make it too demanding to begin with), or if you want a flat belly you might set a goal waist circumference.

Understand the Four Basics of Weight Training

The four basics of weight training are exercises, sets, repetitions and rest between sets. An exercise is any discrete movement practiced for performance purposes. A 'repetition' is one performance of an exercise - one arm curl for example. A 'set' is one or more (usually) repetitions of the same exercise - 10 arm curls for example. Rest time is the time between sets - 30 seconds to 2 minutes for example. Various combinations of repetitions, sets and timing make up weight training 'programs.' A program could include 10 exercises of 3 sets and 12 repetitions with 60 seconds rest between sets.

Know Your Limits

When setting goals or even when exercising and weight training on a casual basis, you need to have a good feel for the volume and intensity of exercise you can cope with at any time in your fitness program. Don't lift too heavy or train on too many days starting out, or indeed at any time in your fitness workout schedule. Illness or injury can set you back months.

Mix it Up

Don't get too entrenched in one program of exercise type or exercise prescription in a discipline like strength training. Mix it up, change exercises, change programs, take a short break. Cardio training should always be included in general fitness training even if you goals are bodybuilding or body shaping. Cardio keeps you heart in good condition. Try running, walking swimming, biking, rowing, circuit training.

Understand Machines and Free Weights

Resistance training can utilize free weights like dumbbells and barbells, machines like pulldown and leg press machines, resistance bands, and even body weight exercises without any of the above. However, your main 'tools' will be either free weights or gym machines. When initially joining a gym, get an instructor to show you every single piece of equipment and how it works, even if you have to pay for that session. It will be worth it in time and performance over the course of your workouts.

Learn Some Anatomy

Anatomy is the science of body structure. Learn the basic muscles and bones of the body and how they react to training forces and exercises. You don't need to get too expert, but it does help to know that certain exercises activate particular muscles.

Understand the Dos and Don'ts of Supplement Taking

Supplement taking is a big subject area. Certain supplements may be worthwhile (not many), some may be a waste of money, and others can be unhealthy and even dangerous. Don't trust every advertisement, web site promo, or even the advice of your friends.

Know When to Seek Medical Advice

If a muscle, bone or joint hurts and doesn't go away within a few days or so, see a doctor before continuing to exercise. If you get acute pain during exercise, stop immediately. If you have an existing health condition, check with your doctor first before undertaking a new or more strenuous workout program.

Warmup, Cooldown and Rest

Prepare for weight training with a warmup, and cool down gradually after exercise, including strength training. Here's how to do it. Don't be afraid to take a week off if you feel tired and a little overworked. You body will probably appreciate it.

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