If you’ve read our last post about the benefits of weightlifting, or if you’re already enlightened, then you know your workout plan should involve some sort of resistance training. But where do you start? So many beginners, myself included, spend their first few months fumbling around the gym, performing a few reps on each and every machine. Sometimes, this looks more like appliance shopping than serious training. Unfortunately, this lack of focus ultimately leads to disappointing results. To avoid wasting your time, it is important to establish some goals and create a plan. Here are some simple answers to help you make the most of your time.
What Muscle Groups Should I be Training?
Whether or not they express it, people are often aware of the parts of their body that they’d like to improve. You see this most often with ab exercises – where people do hundreds of sit-ups in hopes of sculpting a perfect six-pack. What’s important to understand is that while strength training does help fuel your metabolism, it does not burn fat in targeted areas. Sit-ups won’t specifically attack belly fat and tricep exercises won’t just burn arm fat. However, resistance training will increase the strength and size of your muscles in the areas you target. Ab exercises will make your abs stronger, tricep exercises will make your triceps bigger, and as many women know, booty exercises will make your booty thicc. Keep this in mind when you’re building out your training plan.
But, before you build that chest-chiselin’ or booty blastin’ workout routine, consider the importance of maintaining full-body balance. Ignoring muscle groups can lead to posture issues, joint pain, and weird looks on the street (we’re looking at you, chicken legs). When you’re picking a routine, look for something that targets all of the major muscle groups: legs, chest, back, arms, and shoulders.
What Exercises Should I be Doing?
We’ve established that you should be targeting each of the major muscle groups, and you’ve sworn to never skip leg day. So, now what? The most efficient way to work all these muscles is by performing compound exercises, like squats, deadlifts, and bench-press. These movements activate stabilization muscles across your entire body and are very efficient for training multiple groups. Think of these exercises as the multivitamin of weight training, which is why they are so often recommended to beginners.
You may also choose to mix isolation exercises, like bicep curls and seated leg extensions, into your routine. These are a great way to supplement those full-body, compound movements, especially if you have a muscle group in need of some extra attention.
Many beginners struggle with identifying the muscle group(s) that are activated by a particular exercise. While leg exercises, like squats and lunges, are fairly obvious, upper body movements can be more confusing. Generally speaking, exercises that have you pushing weight away from your body (like bench press or overhead press) will work your chest, shoulders and triceps. Exercises that have you pulling weight toward you (like rows, pull-ups or bicep curls) will target your back and bicep muscles. It is important for your posture and joint health to maintain an equal balance of pushing and pulling movements in your routine.
How Many Reps/Sets Should I be Doing?
The number of reps (repetitions) and sets (groups of consecutive repetitions) depend on your own goals. Most people recommend performing 8-10 reps across 3 sets, and this is a great starting point for beginners. But, depending on your objectives, you may want to adjust up or down. If you perform an exercise with fewer reps, you should be able to lift heavier weight. So, if you’re looking to build strength, aim for fewer reps and heavier weight. If you want to increase your endurance, lower the weight and perform more repetitions of each exercise.
How Many Days Should I be Training?
Like all things fitness, the number of days you train is up to you and depends on your schedule. Long-term consistency is the key to success, so it is important to set realistic expectations. Having said that, most trainers recommend starting with 3 days/week. This allows you to do full-body exercises and leaves plenty of recovery time between sessions. As you progress, you may need to do more to challenge your body, so starting off with a lighter schedule gives you room to gradually progress.
Getting into weight training is a step in the right direction, but your time in the gym is only part of a complete fitness routine. It is important to incorporate rest and give your muscles time to recover and grow. We may be biased, but we recommend shaking up some Suppy whey protein within 30 minutes of each workout.