Photo By: Victor Freitas from Unsplash

Resistance training can be an incredibly beneficial addition to your life and there are really only a handful of things to keep in mind when getting started.

There’s a tendency to overcomplicate or to oversimplify things when it comes to weight training. Of course there are important things to keep in mind and skills to hone, but with working out, as it’s often portrayed on social media, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to approach weight lifting. 

Let’s be clear; there are certainly wrong ways to lift weights. However, once you understand some of the basic concepts, weight training can be a place of creativity where you can sculpt your own routine and goals.

Bracing

This one’s important because it’s a labour of memory and it should become a regular practice outside the gym as much as it is inside. This is something to keep in mind when lifting but also when you’re going to put weights away, leaning over to pet your dog, sitting in a chair all day, etc. Bracing is essentially preparing your spine by lining it up as vertically as possible and keeping it locked in place during the movement or task being performed. 

Here are the main components of bracing: a tucked chin, shoulders peeled back, core engaged (meaning your low back isn’t taking the burden of your upper body weight) and glutes flexed/sucked-in and placed under your low back as much as possible by rotating your pelvis counter-clockwise, A.K.A forward. Here’s a more detailed visual representation of getting into a neutral spine. 

If you can get this ingrained in your mind, you will be saving yourself from injuries as well as being able to withstand heavier loads easier.

Compound exercises

It’s right there in the name, a compound exercise just means it’s hitting a large number of muscles at once. There are a few key compound exercises and you’ve probably heard of them because they tend to be the most popular; bench press, deadlift, overhead press, squats, pull ups, and barbell rows tend to be the main lifts people point to. Learning these movements is extremely important for anyone looking to lift weights because, again, they hit the greatest amount of muscles at once. 

You can learn form for these through the millions of videos on YouTube, but definitely keep in mind the bracing sequence from earlier when performing these because compound lifts are the ones that allow for the most weight and that’s when you want your spine to be properly stacked. 

You don’t need weights, you are a weight

If you’re intimidated by gyms or don’t have access to one, that’s fine. There’s always work arounds, machines and free-weights are not the be all and end all. You are a weight after all. Just understanding this can open up a ton of opportunities for you. 

It’s true that if your goal is putting on major muscle then the barbell is undefeated, but if you just want to increase functionality and get stronger while staying healthier, bodyweight exercises can be extremely beneficial. 

Pushing and pulling

Knowing the difference between pushing and pulling will help tremendously with developing a routine. You can basically break down most movements with weights into push or pull movements. 

Push exercises work the chest, triceps, and front/middle areas of the shoulders. Pull exercises target the whole of the back and biceps. Some people put legs as its own category, but most leg exercises will be a push movement, so that’s totally up to you.

Knowing this is important because you want to group the same movements (push or pull) together for a session so that they can recover when you go to workout the next day. For example, if you push on Monday then you should pull on Tuesday so you can still workout while letting all those major push muscles repair as you workout your pulling muscles. 

Recovery

Stretching is always important, though extensive stretching before lifting can impair performance, so try to stick to static stretches after and dynamic stretches before a weight training session. 

Another important part of recovery is rolling out, which you can read about here. Muscles get tight when they are taking on continual heavy loads and that can lead to inflammation which, if not taken care of, can very quickly become an injury. Breaking up those muscle fibers with a lacrosse ball or a foam roller will make you limber and able to lift more effectively. 

Again, a lot of what’s being laid out here is general on purpose; the internet is your friend for finding specifics. Think of this as a blueprint to start crafting your own weight lifting plan. 

It’s not about one way of doing it the so-called “right way.” Weight training can be highly specialized and it doesn’t have to be the same thing all the time. So enjoy experimenting and try to keep these basic concepts in mind.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Readers are advised to seek professional advice from a trained expert regarding any specific questions they may have about weight lifting or any related activity.