Picture this: you’re in the gym and you see big, burly guys repeatedly picking up and putting down heavy objects. Maybe you’ve accidentally wandered over to this side of the gym in search of a foam roller or you intentionally ventured over there out of curiosity. This has happened to most regular gym-goers at some point and the unfamiliar can be quite intimidating at first for beginners. Weightlifting is on the rise, though, and most active people have incorporated some form of structured strengthening into their regular workout routine. This is fantastic news because there are umpteen health benefits one can reap through strength training! But before we get to the lifting tips, let’s start with some definitions:
- Strength- the amount of weight one can lift one time (aka: 1 rep max)
- Endurance- the ability of muscles to perform repeated contractions
- Power- the resistance of a given force in the shortest period of time
With this in mind, weight training is merely a type of exercise that aims to improve the above components. This can include a variety of tools including therabands, cables, machines, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or even bodyweight calisthenics. With so many options to choose from, how does one begin? Well, if the goal is to enhance strength and muscle development, adding load to the tissue with barbells and other free weights is going to give you the most bang for your buck. And good news- the American College of Sports Medicine reports that lifting weights even just 2-3x/week will result in moderate health benefits!
Strength training is not just for big, burly guys. It truly is for everyone regardless of their age, gender, or current fitness level. Most people are aware of the influence weightlifting has on muscle mass and body composition, but did you know that it can also improve and maintain bone density? What about energy metabolism, flexibility, balance, or even reducing the effects of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes? The list goes on and on!
What exercises should you try first? I would recommend the big 3, otherwise known as the main lifts in powerlifting: squat, bench, deadlift. Squat and deadlift are easiest to justify because whether your currently lift or not, you are doing these motions each and every day. Whenever your sit down on a chair, you are squatting. When you hinge forward to pick something up off the floor, that is a deadlift. Now imagine adding some weight to this. If you can do these motions with an extra 50 lbs, your body will find them effortless to do with just your body weight! The bench is also a beneficial exercise to practice because it works on key muscles including triceps, pectorals, and the latissimus dorsi which are crucial for maintaining upper body strength. See the videos below for tutorials and self-cues for form. See videos below for demonstrations.