This is a small guide to give you a foot up in your training regimen. Hopefully we can open your eyes to a couple of things that you didn’t know (and help you not to look like you don’t know what you’re doing) when you are sharing the gym floor with the so-called veterans of the gym.
Before you actually start training it is important to familiarise yourself with the words and phrases you will hear around the gym.
Reps – This is short for repetitions, which refers to the amount of times an exercise should be completed.
Sets – The amount of times you are expected to do the reps of an exercise.
Intensity – This refers to the level of difficulty that should be experienced in an exercise.
If you do not have the time to warm up, you do not have time to train. The fact of the matter is that warming up is crucial and without it you risk injury and poor performance in training. Warming up allows the body to prepare for the physical exertion you are about to put it through.
I would not suggest doing any static stretches when warming up to train as it is counter-productive, you are holding the muscles in a stretched position which is not what you’ll be doing while training. Rather use dynamic stretching methods (e.g. Lunges or squats).
What to do if you are lifting for the first time?
It is important to remember that everyone who has ever trained has been where you are and there is no shame in lifting light weights in order to keep the form of the lift optimal for overall growth (e.g. Not swaying back and forth during a bicep curl, keeping the core stiff and maintaining proper breathing rhythm). Pacing yourself is often tough because you want to challenge yourself, but it is important to remember that you are trying to build something and that requires foundations!
When speaking about form, you are talking about holding the proper technique required to perform an action with stability and concentration. This is something a lot of people tend to take for granted. Holding a stable body position by flexing your core and controlling your breathing during reps is a great way to strengthen the trunk of your body, core and lower back. Setting the scapulas (located in the upper back) before a lift is also very important because it sets up the shoulder in the best position to lift the weight you are trying to move.
Weight is always something that people worry about. How much of it they can lift or how much of it they need to lose. But in order to be able to do the movements we do in the gym correctly, it is better to familiarise yourself with the movement using light weights and higher rep counts at first and progress further, adding weight when you feel comfortable in your ability to lift more weight.
As mentioned above, when you are lifting light weights it is better to do a lot of repetitions as you are working muscle endurance and encouraging the ability of the muscle to work under light tension for longer periods of time. This eventually changes with a direct correlation to weight added to the bar and changes the system you will be taxing (e.g. Heavier weight and lower reps will be more for an explosive movement and would only require six reps).
Lastly, we’ll just touch on some etiquette so that you don’t bump heads with anyone while you’re trying to train. Always have a gym towel (to clean up after yourself), always re-rack your own weights and don’t leave shared spaces in a mess for someone else to clean up. Remember to bring water bottle in order to hydrate while you are training.