I remember the first time I set eyes on a barbell. I was freaked out. I had no idea what to do with it — and it just looked so heavy. I was afraid I'd fall over if I tried to pick it up. But today, there's hardly ever a gym session when I don't cozy up to that barbell, and not only has weightlifting completely changed my physique for the better, but it's also my favorite form of exercise.
I know what it feels like to be totally lost at the gym, but there are so many positive benefits to be had from lifting weights — better sleep, lower risk of injury, weight loss, enhancement of natural curves — that it's worth working through that awkward phase and coming out on the other side victorious.
I spoke with Elisabeth Akinwale, a CrossFit competitor and U by Kotex Fitness partner, who started exactly where you are today. And now she's a weightlifting expert. She shared a few tips that will help you get started in the weight room.
Follow an Organized Program
You can't expect to see results if you just walk into the gym with no plan in mind. "Follow an organized lifting program that is consistent with your goals," Elisabeth told POPSUGAR. Whether that means working with your own trainer, purchasing an online weightlifting plan, or just using workouts you find online (we've got plenty you can choose from!), you have to find something you can stick to in the long run.
Focus Primarily on Learning the Correct Form
The most important thing in the world of weightlifting is "learning and executing proper technique," according to Elisabeth. If you squat with your knees turning inward or you deadlift with your back rounded, not only will you not see results, but you'll also put yourself at risk for injury. If you can't afford to work with a personal trainer in the beginning so they can show you the proper form, there are so many free resources online. Watch YouTube videos on proper weightlifting, read articles about strength training, and order books on Amazon.
Don't be scared to take pictures and videos of yourself performing each exercise. This allows you to go back and see how your form looks. Seeing how far you've come will also give you a confidence boost!
Lift Weights 3-4 Times a Week
Elisabeth recommends setting aside three or four sessions each week to lift weights. A good way to break that up is to focus on upper body one day, lower body another day, and then total body the last day. However, don't do these days back to back. You need rest days "to allow your body to begin to adapt to the training." Allow at least one day in between each session for your body to recover and build up your muscles.
Don't Get Freaked Out by the Soreness
"Expect that you may experience some soreness," Elisabeth advised. "That's a normal part of the process." If you're sore (we're not talking excruciating pain, though, as that could indicate something worse), that means what you're doing is working! Don't get freaked out by it or convince yourself that you need to stop. Your body is doing something brand new, so it's going to take some time to adjust. Give yourself a post-workout self-massage or take a long, hot bath.
You can admit it: picking up that barbell for the first time is a bit scary. "Being new in the weight room can feel intimidating," Elisabeth confirmed. "Carrying yourself with confidence and committing to each lift or movement will go a long way toward helping you make progress and get your bearings." Stand up tall, remember everything you've learned, and let your confidence shine through.