If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I’m a YUUUGE fan of strength training.
And you also know I make goofy faces...
If you've been following along this month, I've been talking all things strength training.
Let’s face it, you know that you SHOULD be strength training, but if we’re being honest, starting a new way of working out can be daunting...intimidating...and scary. It’s why so many people stick to the same routine (that doesn't work) or just give up altogether.
Today I want to go through the exact steps to help you get started with strength training. No more hours of boring cardio or avoiding the gym.
In the words of Arnold…
STRENGTH TRAINING SECRET #1
DETERMINE WHAT YOU WANT TO TRAIN WITH
Did you know you can strength train a variety of ways? Even with your own bodyweight?
Strength training is simply a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.
Think push-ups, squats, lunges, chin-ups, glute bridges, hip thrusts, etc. All can be done without the use of weights. This makes it easy to get a workout in anywhere, anytime.
I just took all of your excuses away. Again, you're welcome. ;)
Of course, if all you have is your own bodyweight, in order to make real progress, you will need to find a way to make these moves more challenging over time. This can be accomplished through single leg variations, constant tension and/or pause reps.
Plain and simple, dumbbells are the cheapest way to start strength training, after your own bodyweight of course.
In fact, my first piece of equipment was an adjustable dumbbell set. It went from 5-25lbs. $60 and I had my very first “home gym”. BOOM
Dumbbells make it easy to add a small amount of weight to any movement and make it more challenging for you. Plus it takes out the intimidation factor of trying to figure out a piece of gym equipment.
However, just like using your own bodyweight, you can outgrow a set of dumbbells or get to a point where the sheer size of a heavier dumbbell is just hard to manage. The largest set I have in my gym is a pair of 70lb dumbbells. Believe me, those suckers are hard to move around or hold for a squat, etc.
Compared to dumbbells, barbells are much easier to work with simply because of the weight distribution and the fact that you use both hands for it.
For example, if you perform a bench press with a couple of dumbbells versus a barbell, you will find that using the dumbbells make it way more challenging.
Dollar for dollar though, an investment in barbells can be much more costly due to the need for a squat rack and extra weight plates to add to the barbell.
Obviously there are other ways to train such as using kettlebells, machines, etc but let’s keep things simple for now. All of these methods have their pros and cons and one way isn’t better than another. When it comes down to it, the best one is going to be the one you will actually do consistently, but ideally, you will want to incorporate a variety of methods as you gain more experience with strength training.
STRENGTH TRAINING SECRET #2
HOW MUCH WEIGHT SHOULD I USE
The answer to this is always going to be bodyweight first.
Before you run, you have to learn how to walk. The same thought process applies to strength training. You can’t just take a program and start lifting weight all willy nilly like.
That’s a recipe for disaster and a hurt body like this poor soul.
For things such as deadlifts, squats, bench press, hip thrusts, you can always use a broomstick or a piece of PVC pipe to mimic using a barbell.
Take the time to research these moves (and others).
Watch a boat load of videos from a variety of professionals (not amateurs). Then copy them at home. I recommend Bret Contreras, Jordan Syatt, Girls Gone Strong, Jen Sinkler, Dean Somerset, and Tony Gentilcore.
This not only helps you learn correct form without injury, but since it’s done in the privacy of your home, you don’t need to worry about anyone watching you at the gym.
And then once you feel comfortable, you can start adding a little weight.
STRENGTH TRAINING SECRET #3
ADD SOME WEIGHT
But only a little bit. Let’s not get crazy.
I know you’re excited to finally add some weight or use a real barbell, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach additional weight.
Right way - start light and practice progressive overload
Wrong way - let your pride get in the way and use the same weight as Hercules who’s working out next to you
Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.
In the meantime, I’ll discuss progressive overload.
Progressive overload is simply a fancy term for increasing the volume of weight you’re lifting over time. It is a safe and manageable way to progress the weight you lift. It can be accomplished in one of two ways:
1) Increase weight in small increments until the last 1-2 repetitions of a given set are a challenge with proper form.
2) Increase the amount of reps performed in a set.
For example, your workout calls for 3 sets of 10 repetitions of a squat.
Set 1 you do all 10 reps easily with good form using 10lbs.
Set 2 you will increase it to the next highest weight (usually 15lbs) and only get 8 reps.
Set 3 you will stay at 15lbs because you did not get all 10 reps.
Set 1 you do all 10 reps using 10lbs but struggle on the last couple of reps.
Set 2 you continue to use 10lbs but this time you get all reps easily.
Set 3 you’re not sure about going up in weight, so you just do as many reps as you can with 10lbs and proceed to bust out 15 reps
Both examples above are using the basic concept of progressive overload. This is something you want to practice with during your workout. It’s how you continue to challenge your body and make progress.
Don’t be the person who is always using the same weight, for the same amount of repetitions, week after week. If you’re not consistently challenging your muscles, your body will not change.
STRENGTH TRAINING SECRET #4
FINDING THE RIGHT PROGRAM
A quick Google search for “free strength training programs” will quickly yield over 36 million results. I guess that means my work here is done. That will give you plenty of workouts to do for the rest of your life.
But Michelle, how do I know which one to do?
Which one is going to work for me?
See, you do need me. ;)
Don't worry, I've got your back.
I am a wife, mom, grandma & former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after having children & the damage repeated sense of failure can cause to your confidence and self-esteem.