What you need to know before starting a weight regimen

You’ve heard about the benefits of strength training, but before you start, there's a few things to consider. Read on to find out what they are.

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We’ve combined forces with Fernwood Fitness to bring you Lift the Nation – a campaign to inspire women to start lifting weights.

Words by Melanie Katz

So you’ve heard about the benefits of strength training and you’re itching to get onto the gym floor and start deadlifting your way to a better physique. But before you start, our experts at Fernwood Fitness have the following advice…

What you need to know before you start a weight regimen

1Get expert advice

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If you’re completely new to weight training, we always recommend the assistance of a qualified gym instructor. A personal trainer, even just for a session or two, will help you learn the correct techniques for the different movements and give you an idea of the sort of weight you’ll be starting off with.

Many gyms also offer Body Pump technique classes – a group fitness class designed to prepare you for Body Pump classes, a 60-minute barbell strength training class that targets every muscles in the body. Following the format of these classes is a great way to start lifting weights, as the set program ensures you’re never left wondering ‘what next?’

2Perform a dynamic warm-up

A pre-weight training warm-up should include movements that activate and elongate your muscles. We recommend a dynamic stretching warm-up, which favours slow, controlled movements over static stretches. Think upper back rotations, arm circles, knee lifts, butt kicks, alternating side lunges, and large, circular movements that mobilise your hip flexors.

3Start light until you have the technique right

The most important thing is getting comfortable performing each exercise correctly. Using the wrong technique with a heavy weight can lead to nasty injuries. The correct starting position for most sitting and standing exercises is shoulders back, chest out and abs tight. Use a mirror to help you.

4Gradually increase the amount you lift

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Once you’re comfortable with the movement, aim to use a challenging weight for each exercise and get stronger each workout. Don’t use a weight so heavy that you need momentum to lift it – you should be able to control the weight during both phases of the movement.

5Avoid ‘locking’ your joints

‘Locking’ your joints – when you fully extend a limb so you can’t straighten it anymore and it ‘locks’ into place – places an enormous amount of stress on the joint, which can lead to joint problems and injury. It also gives your muscles a mini-rest mid-movement, making for a far less effective exercise than if you kept a slight bend in your joints.

6Focus on compound exercises

You don’t need to do a hundred different exercises to work all the different muscles in your body. Compound exercises utilise multiple muscle groups at the same time, minimising the time you need to spend on the gym floor. Try the following eight exercises to work every muscle in your body:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Reverse lunge
  • Glute bridge
  • Push-up
  • Chin-up
  • Overhead press
  • Plank

7Include rest days

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Yes – that’s right, you have permission to rest! Our muscles need time to recover and recuperate to allow your body to create new muscle fibres. Alternate your weight training days with some light cardio, like walking, jogging, dance classes or even yoga.

8Always finish with a good stretch

Stretching afterwards helps avoid aching muscle pain the next day – plus it feels AMAZING after all that hard work!

9Track your progress

We’re all lifting weights for results, right! So if you’re not seeing improvements in your strength and body composition, have a chat to a personal trainer about ways you could change up your workout and nutrition. A little tweak to your eating habits might be all you need to start seeing results.


Try weight training for free at Fernwood Fitness during Lift The Nation, June 20-26. Register online for priority access and your free Lift The Nation Workout Guide at www.liftthenation.com