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Sculpt and Strength: An Effective Guide to Weight Training

We’ve all been given advice about how to properly exercise, be it from a random gym compatriot or a close friend genuinely concerned. The initiative it takes to do it, however, can only truly come from within. There are ample reasons to do it; exercise is known to improve the quality of life as well as your ability to perform certain tasks. Endorphins flow more freely, relieving stress and releasing a natural high — and, perhaps one of the most important reasons to work out – you look better.

Despite all of these undeniable and almost cliche benefits, 82 per cent of Canadian adults are not active enough, with 34 per cent expected to be obese by 2025.  It’s not too late, and those looking for a healthier routine can find many, simple options, perhaps none simpler than weight training. A recent study from McMaster University suggests that the recommended amount of time one should spend lifting weights is “any amount of lifting.” 

Obviously, weight training is a little more complicated than just picking up and putting down heavy objects. Here’s an effective and safe guide to start weight training. 

Getting Started

Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his career praising bodybuilding with Pumping Iron, but you don’t need to have or want that kind of physique to start lifting. Before you begin, though, there are some precautions you should take as well as some warm ups so you don’t injure or embarrass yourself. Ideally, one should seek the advice of a personal trainer. Newcomers to weight lifting can easily make the mistake of being too eager, and that can lead to muscle strain and tendinitis.

Apart from ensuring you don’t harm yourself, a personal trainer will also help you understand what your goals are in weight training so you can more easily focus on them. Personal trainers can easily be found online, but it can be more convenient to find one you connect with at your local gym.

At this point, naturally, it would help to have weights of your own. Dumbbells are essential, but more complicated training exercises involve:

– Kettlebells
– A Barbell
– Resistance Bands

Doing warm ups before any exercises is critical because it gets the blood flowing to your muscles and gets your body prepared for more difficult work. Without warming up, your body will be more susceptible to cramps.

Reps and Sets

Repetitions (reps), sets and rest intervals are what essentially make up weight training. One lateral raise of a dumbbell represents a rep, then five reps make a set. It’s always important to rest between sets, but how much time between each will depend on how much muscle you need to grow. Rests can last from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The more often you do it, the less resistance the weights will give as your muscle strength increases.  As it gets easier, you can start lifting heavier weights.

Perfecting Your Form

To properly lift, you need to have excellent form. A neutral spine is what a weight lifter wants, straight with a natural curve. A personal trainer can help advise you best, however you can also just get advice from other people at the gym. There are also plenty of online articles that offer excellent advice.

Cooling Down After Training

Cooling down is just as important as warming up during weight training. While there’s no conclusive evidence it prevents injury, doing some stretches will improve your flexibility.  There’s also the option of simple cardio or even massage. Most importantly, throughout training as well as after, remember to stay hydrated.

Don’t Overdo It

Keep your workouts to a tight 45 minutes. Overtraining can do the precise opposite of what a good session is intended to do. You can damage the very muscles you’re trying to build, leave you exhausted and in a bad mood, as well. It helps to have a schedule: book time at the gym or in your personal area and stick to it. Setting a schedule will also help you keep to the plan, as it can be tempting to skip a day.

If you find you’re really having difficulty keeping to a schedule, try weight training with a friend.

Rest Days

As you make your schedule, be sure to include days of rest. You’ll want to be away from the gym at least two or three days a week to lessen the chances of personal injury. It’s also recommended that beginners split their training so that part of the week is focused on one set of muscles and the rest of the week on another.

After your body has adapted to working out, rest can be reduced to just 24 hours, and you can plan a more aggressive schedule.

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer

Spring 2024

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