While weightlifting has never been the number one choice when it comes to starting an active lifestyle, strength is the main ingredient to maintaining an active lifestyle. In any activity including running, hiking, soccer, football, baseball, etc, strength is what determines certain factors of your fitness. Those factors include endurance, power, stamina, and flexibility. If you’re new to weightlifting, there are a few things you should know before you start loading up weight racks and begin. Listed below are the top 4 basics of lifting you should know.
Know the movement patterns for your lifts:
Not every movement when you lift will involve every part of your body. The body has three natural functions: bending, pulling, and pushing. An exercise such as squats will improve the natural bending of your body, but not the pulling function of your body. An exercise such as lateral pulldown will improve the pulling function of your body, but not the pushing function of your body. While there is no single exercise with one movement that will work all functions of the body, combining different functions that work different functions of the body will ensure you get a complete workout and strengthen all the functions of your body.
Learn what repetitions and sets work best for your body:
Repetitions, or reps for short, are the amount of times you repeat a movement or exercise within a given set. A set is the number of reps you perform, with breaks in between each number of repetitions. To further elaborate, if you do 6 squats repeatedly then immediately stop and take a break, those 6 repetitions counts as a set. To maximize your result and optimize your results, it’s essential you perform at least 3 sets. However, everyone’s skill set and physical strength is different. For some individuals, doing more than 3 sets and less reps in between each set helps to increase strength and muscle mass, while doing 3 sets and doing more reps helps to increase endurance and stamina. Also note, the amount of sets and reps depends on the weight you are doing on the exercise. If you are going for a “maximum” weight, going for less reps and including that maximum weight towards the end of your sets will increase your power.
Learn the different functions of each equipment in the gym:
Often, there is so much equipment scattered around the gym that it can be overwhelming to remember the function of the machine and use every machine all the time. However, there are four main pieces of equipment you should be using in the gym to its full potential: free weights, fixed machines, resistance bands, and cable machines. Free weights refer to weights that are not restricted to a specific location or by an object such as a cable, and allow for free range of motion. Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, and kettlebells. Fixed machines work a bit differently, as there is a prefixed direction for your movement. This movement occurs in either one or two directions. While it may seem that fixed machines are limiting compared to free weights, they help more with isolating a certain muscle and improving the strength and endurance of that muscle. Cable machines and resistance bands go hand in hand, as they allow free range of motion like free weights. To note, there is a key difference between free weights and cable machines/ resistance bands: direction and tension. The cables on the bands or the machines add more tension than a free weight, offering improved training for power. As for direction, the force is either applied horizontally or diagonally in lieu of straight up and down.
The trio of the best compound exercises:
Before you start your weightlifting journey, there are three compound exercises that you must attempt before you start any other weightlifting exercise: squats, deadlifts, and bench press. These exercises not only test your strength, but will set the foundation for your weightlifting journey. When it comes to performing these 3 compound exercises for the first time, start with a light weight and doing moderate reps while sticking to the traditional methods of performing these exercises. Once you are more comfortable with these exercises, there are differing variations including stiff leg deadlifts, hack squats, and close grip bench press that you can attempt to change your routine and increase your strength even more.