The truth is, that there is no real optimal way for a beginner to train. It all depends on what your goal in the gym is. What is recommended for anyone just starting out, though, is to utilize higher repetitions to build awareness of your body and its muscles. Unless you have a trainer, gaining knowledge and awareness on how to activate your muscles correctly through good form is best achieved with a higher number of controlled repetitions. Focus, control and patience are all keys for a beginner in the gym. If you practice these three things, you’ll already be ahead of the game from the get go.
Recommended workout tips for beginners
How many repetitions should I perform?
Start out with lower weights and higher repetitions (reps) to let your muscles, ligaments and joints adapt. Your ligaments take a lot longer to adapt to weight loads than your muscles do, so make sure you practice patience if you want to stay healthy and avoid early setbacks. Staying around a repetitions scheme within the range of standard hypertrophy, 8-12 repetitions with 8 being the lowest, is recommended for the first few weeks (4-6 weeks at least). After this, you can begin gradually moving towards lower repetitions and heavier weight if your interest is more towards for example strength training.
How much weight should I pick?
If you are perplexed as to what amount of weight you should be using for any given exercise, the RM (repetitions maximum) system is a great help. The system is real simple – if you perform 10 reps for a given exercise, the weight you should be using is 10RM. What this means, is that you should pick a weight that you can perform 10 reps with, where the 10th and final rep will be tough but manageable. Make sure you leave the ego at home and ignore the other people at the gym. Your 10RM might be very low now, but remember that even the biggest person in the gym started out just like you. Focus on yourself and let the amount of weight that someone else might be using motivate you, not consume you. Welcome any and all advice, but always try to be critical of it. If someone tells you how you SHOULD do something, they are probably wrong. If someone tells you how they would RECOMMEND you doing something, they are probably more close to being right. You can try to match any one rep for rep and set for set, but never try to match people weight for weight. You’ll just end up getting injured, halting your own progress.
How much rest should I have between sets?
As a beginner, building your workouts around intensity and structure is a good idea, as it will help you maintain focus and kill time-wasting. Use short breaks of 1-1.5 minutes between sets to tire out the muscle and include super-sets in your workout too. A super-set is two exercises performed in succession of each other as one set. Instead of having a rest period between each set of each exercise, there is a rest period between each super-set. They can be used for pretty much all exercises, and are a great tool for upping the intensity of any workout.
How should I perform the movements?
Practice performing the exercises slow and controlled. This way you’ll, slowly but surely, learn how to practice proper form and get the most out of each exercise in terms of muscle gains and awareness. The only time limits you should be worrying about is between each set. Once the set itself begins, take as much time as you need to activate and tire out the muscle as much as possible throughout that set.
Maintain your mobility
Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises post workout. This is a highly recommended beginner tip, as many experienced weightlifters regret not having focused on mobility earlier on in their journeys. If you don’t stretch and work on mobility, you’ll risk ending up with contract muscles that will limit your movement. Once our movement is limited, our ligaments and joints will be affected too. Stay mobile to ensure a safer and healthier fitness/bodybuilding life. If you want inspiration for a lower body stretching routine, check out this post…
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