Katie Bulmer-Cooke: So you want to lift weights? 

September 8, 2016

Katie Bulmer-Cooke tackles a weighty issue in her health and fitness column this month

The world has finally realised that lifting weights and resistance training doesn’t make you big and bulky. In fact, it plays a crucial role in weight loss and improving muscle tone. Lifting weights has also become rather cool and ‘the thing to do’, but for many it can still seem a little scary and a step too far outside of their comfort zone.

Often, taking the first step away from your trusted cardio machine and into the world of free weights can be quite daunting! Naturally you don’t want to get it wrong, from a safety point of view, but also because you want to get the most out of your gym session.

So, with that in mind, here are my top tips when starting to lift weights. 

Always dead lift your weights from the floor or the rack. As you pick up your weights, look straight ahead, keep a tall back and bend your knees.

Add weights to exercises you already feel comfortable with. For example, if you are already incorporating squats into your workout, then keep doing so but try using dumbbells too. Hold one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms straight down by your sides and perform the squat as normal.

Quality over quantity. It can be tempting to reach for a heavy weight, especially if those training around you are lifting big dumbbells and barbells – no one wants to feel left out, right? Instead, opt for a light weight to start off with just while you are learning the correct technique and form for new exercises.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Once you’ve got to grips with the technique of some new free weight exercises then it’s time to start challenging yourself and upping the weight you lift. If you’re performing a bent over row, for example, and doing a set of 12 repetitions, you should choose a weight that feels like a real challenge (but allows you to maintain good form) for the last three to four reps.

Keep it simple. The gym is filled with a range of fantastic equipment and it’s so tempting to want to give everything a shot, but take your time and don’t try to over-complicate the things that don’t need to be complicated. A squat is a squat after all. Try adding some dumbbells initially, then once you’ve mastered that you can move onto barbells and kettle bells, for example.

Choose big, compound exercises. These are movements that utilise more than one joint. For example, exercises such as squats, rows, shoulder presses, lunges and chest presses. These will help you to increase your heart rate and burn more calories than exercises like a bicep curl.

So give it a go and don’t be put off by those around you who may look like pros – they all had to start with the basics, too.


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