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Lifting weights is a great way to build strength, improve posture and maintain a healthy lifestyle but it's important that you are mindful of being safe to prevent injury.

To ensure you are lifting safely and effectively, the first and one of the most important things to do is to warm up before your workout.

A warm-up should involve at least 5 minutes of cardio, also known as aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise means “with oxygen” so a brisk walk or star jumps, where your breathing and heart rate increase, are good examples to get your body ready for lifting weights.

At the end of your weights session, remember to take another 5 minutes to “cool-down”. Light jogging or walking will again help to deliver oxygen to your muscles, or a series of stretches will relieve any tension before you continue with your day.

All warmed-up and ready to start?

Begin on a low, comfortable weight

Starting on a low weight that is comfortable allows you to firstly focus on getting each movement (the ‘form’) right. As a beginner, select a weight that allows you to complete 15 repetitions (reps). At around repetition 12, your muscles should be feeling a fair amount of fatigue.

Always increase your weight by the lowest increment

Slowly building the amount of weight that you lift is not only the safe way to train, it is also the most effective for gaining muscle.

When 15 reps begin to feel ‘easy’, increase your weight by the lowest amount until you feel that same fatigue around rep 12.

Keep your focus on form rather than weight

The word ‘form’ refers to the technique. The better your form, the better your results, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. Each exercise is different but as a rule, you should make your muscles do the work, avoiding ‘swinging’ the weight to complete the lift. If you are having to swing the weight, it is too heavy for you. Decrease your weight and try again, slowing down the movement to ensure that you are using your muscles and not momentum to complete the lift.

Pay attention

Whilst you are lifting, focus on the particular muscles that you are working and ensure you are reaching or tensing these effectively.

Remember to breathe

During exercise, breathing maintains blood pressure and oxygen levels. Proper breathing also makes it easier to perform the exercise.

It is best to exhale whilst exerting energy, and then inhale when you release. So, in the case of lifting weights, breathe out when you are performing the hardest part, the lift, and breathe in when your body is moving back to its resting position.

Have regular rest days

It can be easy to get carried away, especially if you have specific goals, but it is vital to take rest days to allow your muscles to rest and repair. It is during this ‘rest’ time that your muscle mass increases so you will reach your goals quicker and more safely by ensuring that you leave 48 hours between training the same muscles.

Don’t rush!

Control is more important than performing exercises quickly. Take your time and enjoy the experience. And remember, your local club or gym is a fantastic place to learn more.

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