No one said building a strong, sculpted body was going to be easy. But the many benefits of weight training (besides donning svelte arms in sleeveless shirts this summer!) have convinced you to start lifting. With dumbbells in hand and many reps ahead, who doesn’t stop and think, there must be an easier way? Sadly, there are few shortcuts to gaining strength and muscle. But there are some things you can do to make the journey a little less stressful.
- Lift proper poundage
If you use weights that are too heavy, you’re not only going to become discouraged quickly, you may also injure yourself. I reassure my clients that there’s nothing wrong with picking up the lightest dumbbells in the gym, if that’s what’s best for them. Choosing proper pounds will help you to keep good form and strengthen your muscles at an appropriate pace, leading to moving up to the next size weight in no time.
- Mirror, mirror on the wall…
Checking out yourself in the mirror while lifting weights doesn’t mean you’re on an ego trip. In fact, it’s ideal to exercise in front of a mirror whenever possible. Watching yourself will help promote good form, proper pace and contraction and relaxation of your muscles. It also improves the mind-to-muscle connection, letting you achieve greater focus on the activity at hand.
- Fuel up
Eating 30 to 60 minutes before heading to the gym is a must! If you haven’t eaten before weight training, 10 pounds can feel more like 20. You’ll likely feel tired, sluggish and barely able to complete your workout—or, worse, you may become lightheaded and feel sick. Choose a snack with carbs and protein, such as plain Greek yogurt with granola, to support energy and muscle growth. A good-quality pre-workout drink 30 minutes before exercise may also help with focus, strength and stamina. I like ALLMAX Nutrition Muscle Prime Core Factor because it gives me all of this, without jitters, and has the BCAAs I need so I don’t have to take a separate supplement.
- Get your gloves on
Two important accessories to hand on hand for lifting are gloves and straps. Gloves can help you maintain a better grip on weights comfortably while also protecting your hands. Straps will keep you safe when lifting heavier weights, allowing you to better perform the exercise. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that these accessories make you look a little tougher. Who couldn’t use that boost of confidence when lifting heavy weights in the gym?
- Rethink rest
When you’re on a roll, it’s easy to forget that resting between weight lifting sets is important. Finishing one set, then resting for 2 seconds before moving onto the next isn’t the way to go. If you’re performing a high number of reps, 45 to 60 seconds of rest is recommended. If you’re doing a lower number, rest for 1 to 2 minutes minimum between sets. Keep your eye on your watch, smart phone or the gym clock, and it will be time to move forward before you know it.