“I want to start lifting weights, but I have no idea where to start.”
I hear this all the time. Squats and bench press and those dumbbells look intimidating and nobody wants to embarrass themselves. I get it!
But, they are actually the simplest and most versatile things in the gym. You just need to know a few things to get started safely and successfully, so here are the basics for beginning weight lifting.
1. Balance the Bar – Anytime you use a barbell, you must balance the weight on both sides of the bar. If you put a 25-pound plate on one side, you need to put a 25-pound plate on the other side. That’s it. Pretty simple. You don’t want to try to lift a bar that’s unbalanced. That’s the stuff serious injuries and accidents are made of.
2. Use the Collars – To keep the weights secure on your barbell, you always want to use a collar on each side. This is especially important as a beginner because you may be a little wobbly until you get familiar with the lifts and develop the strength needed to move the weight in a steady and controlled fashion. Here is what collars look like:
Notice the collar is snug against the plate. It is distracting when you’re weights are moving around on your bar and can be dangerous if they slide out too far, so push those collars all the way to the weight. Unfortunately, these things seem to be notorious for disappearing, so you may need to go looking on another piece of equipment for them, but do what you have to do to find a pair and use them!
3. Always lift equal weight when using dumbbells – So your left bicep is not as strong as your right. What to do? Some beginners make the mistake of using a lighter weight with their weaker arm, so they’ll curl a 20-pound dumbbell in one hand and a 15 in the other. Never do this. This will only keep your weaker side lagging behind. You really want to bring it up to speed, so lift the same weight with each arm. If your left arm can’t pull that 20 pound dumbbell, then go with a pair of 15s (or whatever weight you can lift) and let your arms gain strength together. Same goes for any other muscle group.
4. Always, always engage your core – Draw your navel into your spine, hold a slight arch in your back, slightly bend those knees and don’t let that stance go until you finish your set. An engaged core is your best tool for preventing injury and for ensuring good form and technique, meaning you won’t throw out your back by letting your body swing back and forth with every rep and the muscle you intend to exercise will actually do the work!
5. Ask for a spot when attempting a heavy lift – Beginners should always start light when starting a weight-lifting routine to get their form worked out, but if you’re ready to go for a heavy lift, ask for a spot. This simply means asking another gym-goer, or the friend you came with, to be available to support you during the lift. A spotter gives you just enough assistance to successfully finish the lift. For instance, if you are doing a dumbbell shoulder press, a spotter would stand behind you and when it appears you are unable to lift the dumbbells all the way through, the spotter would help push your wrists up just enough for you to be able to complete the rep. It’s an easy job and most any gym-goer will be willing to assist you.
Now that you know the basics of weight lifting, go ahead and get in there! You’ve got nothing to lose and all kinds of gains awaiting you!