1. Should I begin weight lifting if I’m a (runner, swimmer, walker, etc.)?
YES, YES and YES. (See this blog post for more reasons why). Weight lifting will make you stronger in your favorite sport or hobby. If you don’t have a favorite sport or hobby, then you’ll want to lift weights to stay healthy as you age (and like it or not, we are ALL aging). Weight lifting will improve your bone density, your hormone levels, and make you look good. Most people are at least interested in looking good.
2. How do I start?
Find a coach or a trainer or join a gym that teaches the fundamentals of weight lifting and focuses on safety. This is the most important step. I highly recommend a CrossFit gym for those that may be intimidated, since there is a community of other students/clients that will support you. Otherwise, find a trainer that specializes in weightlifting, or at least has a lot of experience. This is NOT the time to get the free trainer that comes with your large gym membership. I recommend getting a trainer that trains at a gym where they mostly have weights, not treadmills (nothing against treadmills, you just want someone who teaches other people weights for a living).
Also, this is NOT the time to start looking up weight lifting on YouTube or Instagram videos and doing it DIY style. If you can’t afford a trainer forever, then invest in a month of sessions, learn the basics, then go at it on your own. Do not think you can learn the fundamentals from a random person who looks cute on YouTube. That’s a great way to fast track yourself to injury.
3. How often should I lift?
You should lift weights at least two to three times a week. Three is better, but two is minimum. Also, the more challenged you are during those sessions, the better.
4. Can I lift weights at home?
If you know what you are doing, yes (aka after you’ve hired the trainer I speak of in question 2). I have a home gym that I lift weights in every day, and it’s the best way to make sure I get a lifting session in with a busy schedule.
5. What are some exercises to start with?
Whatever your trainer assesses your needs to be, depending on your mobility and any history of injury. However, generally, any kind of squats and presses are great to start with. However, if I only had to choose 1 exercise for the rest of my life, it would be a barbell squat. Squats will always translate to performance improvement in your sport of choice, no matter what that is.
6. Will I get big and bulky and look like a man from lifting weights?
Nope, nope, and nope. Absolutely not. Those ladies you see pictures of that have amazingly big muscles? Those women are likely bodybuilders, not weightlifters. Body builders specifically aim to grow big muscles and reduce their body fat (and many of them “supplement” their looks, if you know what I mean). Do you know how hard they have to work to look that way? Trust me…. You will NEVER look like that accidentally.
Want further proof? This is Morghan King, who made the Olympics this year in weightlifting. She’s 105 lbs and stronger than any of us women (and many of you men) will likely ever be. Not “bulky” or manly. Strong and muscular and beautiful. And the best in the U.S. of A. for some badass weightlifting.
“But what about those girls you see on the CrossFit Games on ESPN” you ask? Those ladies (like the incredible Brooke Ence, below) also lift really heavy weights FOR A LIVING. They lift weights for up to 6 hours a day every single day, and they are naturally gifted athletes that don’t drink much alcohol (if at all) and have extremely strict meal plans designed for performance. Again, you would have to very consciously aim to look like that. (I guess the flip side is that for those of us who want to look like that, it’s unfortunately a tall order.) Oh and many of those amazing women are in their 20s and don’t have 2 jobs or kids or whatever else you and I have going on. So no, you aren’t going to look like that the second you pick up a barbell.
The good news is that once you start weight lifting, you will likely look better, feel better and perform better than you currently do. You’ll gain some muscle, and likely lose a little bit of fat, which looks good on everyone. My last bit of advice is give it 5-6 months. You’ll start to see changes much earlier than that, but to really gain some strength and see the positive lifestyle changes, you’ll need to stick to it long enough to make it a habit and part of your routine. So if you’re aiming to look good and feel good, get out there and start lifting weights!
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