Here's a bit about myself: I'm a 30 year old woman who's been in decent shape most of my life (I definitely like to train hard but LOVE my wine, cheese, chocolate and pasta!). I play soccer and enjoy hiking and running although have always felt my best when doing boot camp style classes that bring my heart rate up while building strength and muscle. I'm currently doing about 2 days a week of light weight training (using 10-15lbs dumbbells).
So! Here's my issue: I'm looking for a new fitness challenge and noticed that a successful way of getting results and a change in your body type is lifting heavier weights. I'm hoping you could help me get started and provide some tips or resources for someone who's new to the lifting scene.
Here are a few specific questions I have:
- Would you recommend getting a trainer for form?
- How do you find out the best weight level to start at?
- Should you be working on a full body workout each day or focus on different muscle groups each day?
- How many days a week should you be doing heavy lifting?
Any other guidance that you can give would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you :)
Many things play a role in seeing a change in your body composition, and the number one thing is your diet. So before you embark on this new fitness journey you need to take a close look at exactly what it is you are fueling your body with. You do not need to give up everything, but you need to start making the right choices. Cut WAY back on your sugar intake, and add in more healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables. Challenge yourself to have a serving of vegetables in every single meal, even breakfast. I do this by throwing some kale into my morning smoothies.
Once you have your diet cleaned up and you are only allowing yourself a few glasses of wine on the weekends (ok, you can start this after the holidays are done) you can begin to clean up your workout routine.
Definitely start with a personal trainer to make sure you are doing the movements properly. It kills me when I see people working out with incorrect form. Personal trainers are not cheap and the good ones are hard to find and cost a pretty penny, but it is worth the investment. I would suggest you see your trainer one time per week and then do your own workouts the other 2 or 3 days. Also, try and do your other workouts in the gym where your trainer works so they can keep an eye on you and quickly correct your form if they see you need help.
If you are new to weight training you should start with lighter weights and higher reps. Pick a weight that allows you 20 repetitions with perfect form. If you feel you could do another 5 or 10 repetitions your weight is too light so on the next set, increase your load. If you can barely make it to 20 your weight is too heavy so lighten the load. It is ok to switch your weights up half way through your set if you need to. You want to start with light weights and high reps (with short breaks between sets) because you are in a phase called muscular adaptation. Think of this as waking up your muscles and getting all parts of the muscle to fire. After about 6 weeks you can increase the weights and decrease the repetitions. To build muscle size, stick with a weight where you reach voluntary fatigue after 10-12 repetitions and try to increase your load by 3% every two weeks. Take longer breaks between sets (2 minutes) and do 3 or 4 sets of each exercise.
If you are a beginner, 2 or 3 workouts a week is enough, and plan them with a day of rest in between so you can work your entire body in each workout. Be efficient in your workout planning and keep your workouts to less than an hour. An example of a routine would be something like this:
Dumbbell chest presses followed by a 30 second planks, repeated 3 times.
Then move into the lat pull down followed by a set of squats with bicep curls, again repeated 3 times.
The next group of exercises, do 12 bench step ups (with weights) followed by 12 shoulder presses. Do 3 sets on one leg then switch to the other leg, doing overhead triceps extensions in between each set of step-ups. The shoulder presses and triceps extensions are your break.
Finish with stability ball hamstring curls with bicycle crunches for rest between sets.
As you become stronger, add in another day or 2 and split your body up in each workout. Day 1 focus on back and biceps, which are called pulling exercises. Day 2 do chest and triceps, which are pushing exercises, day 3 do legs and shoulders, and day 4 you can do a high intensity cardio day with a focus on core.
Again, this is just a guideline and your workouts can be split up in so many other ways but if you are training more than 3 days a week you should not be training the entire body each day.
Take a “day off” each week and get yourself into a yoga or Pilates class. Also, try to get outside once a week to enjoy some fresh air while you get your heart rate pumping. It is important to use exercise to build strength and endurance but it is also to take time to relax your mind, and give back to yourself.
Attached - Reese Witherspoon out for a jog with a friend earlier this week.