How to start strength training
1. Start with your bodyweight
It’s easy to go too hard too soon, which can lead to injury and burnout in both the short and long term. Instead of overwhelming yourself and your muscles, start slow and controlled. “If someone is brand new to strength training, bodyweight exercises can be a great place to start as they can help teach you correct form when moving through different types of exercises,” says Kelsey Wells, NASM-certified, creator of the PWR programs on the Sweat app.
“Starting out with bodyweight workouts allows the individual to integrate their way into this new style of training while being able to take things at their own pace and avoid the risk of overtraining,” adds Anissia Hughes, NASM-certified, creator of the Bodyweight Strength with Anissia program on the Sweat app.
In addition to starting with your bodyweight, if you’re completely new to strength training, you can also benefit from having a trainer create a custom program for you, or using a general program created by a certified trainer. “This can help ensure that you’re not overtraining, that you’re training your body evenly, using correct exercise technique, and getting the most out of your time spent training,” says Wells.
2. Add weight slowly
Once you feel comfortable with bodyweight exercises and have nailed down the essential movement patterns, Wells says you can begin to start performing exercises with light weights. She advises beginning with “whatever feels comfortable, yet challenging” and then slowly beginning to increase the intensity as you become stronger and more confident working with weights.
No matter the type of weightlifting you choose to do or how heavy you lift, “it is so important to focus on completing each movement and repetition with correct form to help reduce your risk of injury and gain the physical benefits of this style of training,” says Wells. Yes, depending on your goals, weight is important, but what’s more important is lifting with proper form.
How often you should strength train
How often you should strength train each week will vary based on your skill level and goals. Wells recommends starting with training three days a week. You’ll definitely want to space these days out, especially when you’re just getting started, to prevent extreme soreness and to give your body ample time to recover. Taking a minimum of one day’s rest in between each session should suffice.
Hughes recommends starting with three to four sessions a week if you’ve already developed a base strength foundation. “However, fitness is very personal, so it is important to take into consideration the individual’s schedule and lifestyle when creating a workout schedule,” she says. It’s also important to be realistic about your ability and fitness level and gradually increase the intensity and volume.
In addition to training three days a week, you can do workouts that isolate specific muscle groups, such as the legs or do full-body workouts. And if you aren’t sure where to begin, it’s best to follow a program (both Hughes and Wells have programs available on the Sweat app) or work with a certified personal trainer to get started.
Start increasing your strength with this 10-minute arms and abs workout:
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