How to start weightlifting : Life Kit : NPR

Colored weights are placed on a light blue background.  There are 5-pound hand weights and weights that rest on the barbell.  There are also exercise and seat bands.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Colored weights are placed on a light blue background.  There are 5-pound hand weights and weights that rest on the barbell.  There are also exercise and seat bands.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Strength training is a great way to exercise efficiently while preventing injury. But it can be intimidating to venture into the strength zone of your gym if you don’t know what you’re doing. What if I did it wrong? What if everyone laughs at me? What if I hurt myself?

Gyms can feel particularly inhospitable if your body doesn’t fit the gendered (and unrealistic) standards of what an “athletic” body looks like. A 2019 study in Pennsylvania found that women are significantly less likely to engage in strength-building activities than their male peers.

It turns out that getting strength training isn’t actually that difficult, but it does require careful planning and willpower to combat the ingrained social messages about who is strength training — and who isn’t. We asked the experts for their advice on getting started, and this is what they had to say:

Start by redefining your exercise goals

“The narrative we have about strength, or rather fitness, is that fitness and weight loss are the same thing,” says Burna Bell. Bill is a weightlifter and author Stronger: Changing Everything I Know About Women’s Power. She started strength training after her husband’s unexpected death in 2016. Feeling lost and weak, she began working with a personal trainer to help build strength, both physically and mentally.

If you can connect with other reasons to exercise—get stronger mental health benefits, join a new community—it can help you start from a more positive place. Bell recommends addressing this shift by reframing whatever exercise you do as the work you do With And NS Your body – to build strength, to achieve goals, to aid your mental health – rather than the work you do to break down your body into your ideal shape, size or weight.

Find the right support system for you

This starts with identifying what you need – whether it’s a community of people with similar goals, a routine tailored to your needs or equipment you can actually raise. This will look different to you depending on where you live, how much money you are comfortable spending and what you prefer. Maybe you want to work out with a personal trainer or take classes. Maybe you just want to catch up on some workouts on Instagram or YouTube!

Judge Roe Williams is the founder and CEO of Fitness 4 All Bodies, an organization that combines exercise and fitness. He said it’s possible to see if a coach, class, or gym community will align with your goals and ideals: “I always say if coaches push their view on diet culture or weight loss, that is, in general, it’s not the coach you want to go to” .

Remember that you can take the lead in your relationship. You can ask coaches not to frame your progress around your weight or BMI, and if you have specific training goals, share them!

Make a plan and start small

Calendar with hand-drawn icons indicating weightlifting activities every two days.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Calendar with hand-drawn icons indicating weightlifting activities every two days.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

There are loads of strength training plans for beginners available online! Casey Johnston, the writer behind She’s A Beast, recommends following a training plan that will encourage you to lift heavy weights gradually.

“A primitive strength training program can be like three moves, three days a week, sets of five, and that’s it,” she says. Three moves and you’re done. “

Johnston recommends StrongLifts for Beginners, and Barbell Medicine and the r/fitness subreddit as good places for beginners to start.

Learn about compound movements

The reason beginner plans use so few movements is that they often consist of compound movements, which are effective exercises that use your muscles. together The way it is meant to be used. For example: During the arm exercise, you can work your way through the biceps machine, triceps machine, shoulder press, and lateral raises or You can do bench presses and pull-downs, both of which use all of your arm muscles together.

Finally, remember that you are already strong!

Rod has 3 brightly colored weights stacked on one side - purple 2.5 lb, lime green 5 lb and light blue 10 lb.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Rod has 3 brightly colored weights stacked on one side - purple 2.5 lb, lime green 5 lb and light blue 10 lb.

Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

When we spoke to these experts, the thing that kept appearing time and time again as a barrier to people beginning strength training was fear—the fear of harming themselves, the fear of people being judged, the fear of looking stupid.

“Fitness or bodybuilding are not any [more] Especially from walking. It’s a process we all build on, said Roe Williams. “Even to navigate a world where we find love for ourselves, this is a revolution. This is strength.”

When you restore your relationship with your body and begin to work with it rather than against it, you are working on a lifelong recovery from the belief that you are fundamentally bad and need to be fixed or improved in some way.

Of course, strength training isn’t a substitute for therapy and medication if you’re really struggling with your mental health, but if you’re on a journey to heal your mind in some way, working with your body can and should be a part of that process as well.

Borna said strength training “has proven to me many times in the past that I’m stronger mentally and physically than I admit myself. And it’s something I will never need.”

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Janet W. Lee, with engineering support from Neil Tifault.

We love to hear from you. If you have a good life hack, drop us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Your advice may appear in the next episode.

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