Stepping into a gym for the first time can be a very daunting experience. There’s a vast array of different pieces of scary looking equipment and people who seem to know what they are doing.
As a beginner to strength training, where is best place to start?
The answer… it depends; it depends on many factors.
In this article I will cover 3 factors that you should consider before venturing into the world of strength training. I will also then show you how to plan, execute and be successful in your training!
The the biggest factor in considering where to start with strength training is your goal(s). If you don’t have goals before you start on your fitness journey, I highly recommend you set some.
Be prepared to break down any long term goal into smaller bitesize goals.
For example, if your goal is to improve muscular strength, your first small goal might be to learn 3-5 new strength exercises in next 2 weeks. Setting this goal will give your training a specific focus and keep you on the right track. Once you’ve hit your first bitesize goal, you can move on to the next one… and the next one… and the next one… Consistently hitting goals will help to keep you motivated and satisfied with your training. Those who fail to set goals tend to fall by the wayside fairly quickly.
The second thing to consider is the type of goal that you have set. For example, take individual 1 and individual 2 – let’s call them Dave and Lisa. Dave is a 35-year old male office worker who’s long term goal is to build muscular size and strength – with a specific upper body focus. Lisa is a 20 year old female rugby player who is aiming to reduce her injury risk through strength training. The methods of training they adopt and their exercise choices should be different and specific to the goals they have set.
Let’s again consider Dave and Lisa. As a result of the nature of his work, Dave suffers from postural issues around the shoulders and the hips and is a fairly sedentary individual. Lisa plays rugby regularly and is naturally very athletic. Both their starting points will be very different.
It is likely that Lisa will be more capable of dealing with the stresses associated with strength training considering that she is already highly active. She will likely learn new exercises quickly and will make fast progress onto more advanced exercises and training methods. Meanwhile, Dave should start and stick with the absolute basics, take time to learn the exercises so he can execute them safely and improve his movement before he can consider progressing onto more advanced exercises or training methods.
3) Likes / Dislikes
One thing that is extremely important and can often be overlooked by Personal Trainers and Gym Instructors, is the enjoyment factor. Training needs to be enjoyable otherwise motivation levels are going to plummet. Perhaps you’re currently not sure what types of exercises you like and that’s absolutely fine. The best advice I can give you, try different exercises and find out what you enjoy. – it’s often a case of trial and error.
Once again, let’s consider Dave and Lisa. Dave hates all things kettlebell, so starting a strength training programme packed full of kettlebell exercises is not wise. Give it a few weeks and I guarantee that programme will have been binned. On the other hand, Lisa loves bodyweight exercises and by incorporating them into her training she now cant wait to get to the gym to perform her favourite exercises.
So, to summarise…
Beginner’s Plan of Action
1) Set goal(s)
2) Consider your abilities
3) Consider your likes and dislikes
4) Draw up a plan
5) Follow that plan
6) Hit your goal(s)!
7) Go back to step 1 and start again
It’s really that simple… Let’s finish by looking at what Dave’s plan of action might look like…
Dave’s Plan of Action…
1) Long term goal: Improve muscle size (specific upper body focus)
Short term goal (bitesize goal): Learn barbell exercises and become competent with them
2) Little experience of strength training and feels quite stiff (specifically shoulders)
3) Enjoy using barbells but not so keen on using machines
4) Focus on learning the movements of 3-5 barbell exercises first before thinking about adding any weight
5) Be patient, spend time and put the work in
6) Success – can comfortably perform 3-5 barbell exercises
7) New Bitesize Goal Set