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Resistance Training For Beginners: Part 1

Have you recently decided to put on some muscle mass? Perhaps you have decided to just get fit? You may even be walking into a gym for the very first time and probably are baffled by all the cables, barbells, free weights, and benches. You are not the first person to have ventured into the realm of resistance training. The first time is always the scariest, but crucial. Most people make decisions based off their first experiences, and this guide is here to help you enjoy that first experience, and hopefully make resistance training something that is recurrent. This is my Part 1 to Resistance Training where I explain the Do’s and Don’ts to this wonderful realm of exercise.

Firstly, why do we perform resistance training? Maybe you want to get into shape and familiarize yourself with resistance training. Maybe you have been dieting and performing countless hours of cardio, only to view minimal results. Most people find it easier to start resistance training than cardio as the exercises are of shorter duration with more rest in between than 30 minutes straight of cardio.

Before I jump into how to go about your first resistance training program, I want to cover some of the fundamental outcomes of resistance training. A few of the benefits are:

  • Increased muscle fiber size
  • Increased strength
  • Increased joint strength (tendon and ligament strength)
  • Increased bone density
  • Decreased risk of injury (through strengthening joints)

These benefits are just a few of the many benefits of consistent physical activity. Overall, you will be healthier than if you stayed at home and watched TV.

Gym Etiquette

As a part time gym attendant, I have gained considerable first-hand experience of the do’s and don’ts of when you are in the weight room. I also have some personal ‘quos’ that I will add to this following list of simple rules to follow so you’ll be prepared for your first resistance training experience!

  1. Come in proper attire. Be prepared to sweat a bit so do not wear some designer jeans. A plain shirt, short, and athletic shoes is your best call
  2. Do a warm up. Your body is not meant to go from nothing to overdrive so get your body warmed up by doing a 5-10 minute warm up.
  3. Put the weights back from where you got them. Your mother is not going to follow you around so clean up after yourself. It will make the place safer for others.
  4. If you are in the middle of your set, do not rest on the machine as other members might be waiting to use it.
  5. Wipe the machines after you use them.
  6. Please leave your cell phones at home or in your locker. If you are talking on your phone, you are not working out. If you are bothered by a phone, the same workout will not only take longer, but it will probably not be of the same intensity. Additionally, no one else in the gym wants to hear your conversation.

Resistance Training Common Mistakes

My experience as a personal trainer and answering frequent questions from members has given me insight into what common mistakes are for first timers. I see many people who come into the gym for a couple sessions, perform any one or all of the following mistakes, become discouraged, and never come back. Below is a list of common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Lifting light. If you can perform 40+ reps with a specific weight, it might be time to increase the resistance a bit. Safe suggestion is to increase the weight by about 5-10% each time.
  2. Lifting too heavy. If you are lifting heavy at the start, your technique will not be great. If you lift heavy from the start, you will suffer from poor form and complain about frequent injuries. Use an appropriate amount of resistance, not too light but not too heavy, you will be able to concentrate on technique, resulting in the building of proper muscle memory. Additionally, lifting heavy may not give you the same increases in size and strength.
  3. Going too fast. During your first couple sessions, you should not be trying to power through repetitions. By going fast, you may impede on proper technique and you may miss out on some of the benefits of slow and controlled movements (time under tension and force production). A simple tempo to remember is 2:4 ; 2 second concentric contraction with a 4 second eccentric contraction.
  4. Resting. There are two ends to this spectrum – you either wait too long in between sets or you are not waiting long enough. A general rule for beginners is resting about 60-90 seconds between sets.

Conclusion

I hope this simple explanation of gym etiquette and the common mistakes to avoid help you with your start to resistance training. The benefits of exercise far outweigh the consequences of sitting at home. Not only will it increase self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image, you will be healthier too! In Part 2 of Resistance Training for Beginners, I will be going through the terminology of exercise programs so that you do not get discouraged by the language.

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