Weightlifting is something everyone can benefit from, whatever sport or activity you are training for, or if you just want to shift a few pounds.
But how do you create a great weightlifting plan, especially if you’re new to the gym? Follow these rules, and you’ll get the very best out of your time lifting weights.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight about weightlifting. Everyone should do it, and the exercises you need will be different to that of the next person. There are no lists that provide the exercises to fit all your needs – what you do in the gym will depend on your body type, fitness level, goals and lots of other variables.
But the one thing that is constant about weightlifting is that everyone should do it as part of their fitness regime. Runners, for example, will benefit from a strong chest and arms just as much as building up their legs, because the upper-body acts as a counter-weight to the activity in the legs.
Here are a few rules to live by when creating a weightlifting plan.
- Get the timing right
You should aim to do between two and ten exercises in your session and not take any longer than an hour. Once you get past the hour mark, you are on your way to sending your body into an unhelpful state which is not only counter-productive, but also increases the chance of injury.
- Get the knowledge
We see so many people jumping on to random machines or picking up free weights with no plan or knowledge of the muscles they’re working, which is essential for step three in the plan. Our advice? Get your hands on a copy of ‘Strength Training Anatomy‘ – hands down the best book we’ve ever seen for understanding what each piece of gym equipment will do to your body. It explains exactly what muscles will come into play on every machine and major exercise you’re likely to do.
- Balance your workout
Now you’re armed with the knowledge of what muscle groups you’ll be working, make sure you balance them across your body. Many men tend to work the upper body alone; the ‘vanity muscles’ such as the biceps, pecs and triceps. We’ve already explained in the past that if you want great abs, you need to work your legs. Do an equal amount of upper to lower-body moves, and do an equal amount of chest and back moves to ensure balance and effective muscle building.
- Do the big stuff early
Make sure that the biggest, most difficult moves are early in the workout. You need to be full of beans and ready to tackle them, so don’t leave them until the end when you might cause yourself an injury. Deadlifts, presses and snatches should be done first, abs last.
- Start with full body, move to groups later
Professional bodybuilders commonly work one body part at a time, but you shouldn’t follow their lead. You will get much more from the weightlifting plan, both in terms of muscle building and fat burning, if you make it a full body workout to begin with. Later, you can start to split your workouts into ‘A’ and ‘B’ sessions; chest and back for the ‘A’ session with legs and shoulders for the ‘B’ workout, as an example.
- Tick the right boxes every session
A full weightlifting session should always start with a warm-up. Not because you absolutely have to warm-up before the session begins – it is quite common for people to get straight into the session – but because of the benefits of doing so. A simple 5-minute cardio session before you start weightlifting will switch on your afterburn effect, for starters. And research shows that if you warm up to an exercise before doing it ‘for real’, you’ll be able to lift more weight. So, follow this check-list; warm-up, workout, cool down, [stretch]. Why is ‘stretch’ an optional component? The jury is out on whether it offers any benefit post-workout, and doing stretches pre-workout is a definite no-no.
- Calculate the weight you can lift
We’ve covered exactly how to do this before, but the first time you take your plan into the gym, you need to work out your One Rep Max (1RM) so that you can determine the weight you’ll be lifting when you do it for real. Calculate your 1RM using our simple method and then determine what you’re lifting by taking a percentage of that weight. Beginners should aim for 60% of 1RM for upper body, 70% for lower-body.
Information! Weightlifting is great for everyone, regardless of ability, gender, goals, sport, activity or body type. Follow our guidelines above and you can great a great weightlifting plan that will help you move to the next level.