You have your sights set on booty gains! Or a six-pack. Or chiseled arms of steel. You've heard so much about how weightlifting is a must, and you're finally ready (although a little nervous) to get your hands on a barbell. If this sounds familiar, follow these 10 rules to make weightlifting fun, burn the most fat, reap muscle gains faster, and prevent getting hurt.
1. Thou Shalt Use Proper Form
Whether you work with a personal trainer or take a class, proper form is the absolute most important thing when lifting weights. Proper form ensures that you're not only doing the moves correctly to get the most out of them, but also lifting the most amount of weight you can, which will make you stronger, faster. Proper form will also prevent injuries that could sideline you from the gym. Whether exercises are old or new, have someone critique your form, perform in front of a mirror, or take a video so you can check form for yourself.
2. Thou Shalt Commit to Three Times a Week
Three times a week is the minimum amount of days you should strength train if you're focusing on total-body moves during those sessions. If you like working one part of the body at a time, fitness instructor John Kersbergen says to aim for three to five sessions per week. The same with running, cycling, or dancing — the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.
3. Thou Shalt Work All Parts of the Body
Maybe you're all about growing your booty, but that doesn't mean you should forget about your arms! Or your back, or your abs, or your legs. Your sessions should address all parts of your body. Lucky for you, moves like thrusters, deadlifts, and overhead squats work multiple parts of the body, so they're great to do if you're short on time.
4. Thou Shalt Use a Variety of Equipment
Barbells are essential for lifting heavy and doing basic, effective moves like squats and deadlifts, but they're not the only piece of equipment in the weightlifting sea. Explore using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and machines if you have access to them. You can also use other types of equipment, like pull-up bars and rings, for moves that involve your own bodyweight. Or use weights in conjunction with a box or resistance bands for a double whammy.
5. Thou Shalt Perform a Variety of Exercises
The basic squat may be the perfect, basic move to target your legs and butt, but don't forget about other moves that work your lower body, like squat variations, lunge variations, hip thrusts, and step-ups. Make a point to try one new move every week to challenge your muscles in different ways, which will make them stronger and prevent weightlifting burnout.
6. Thou Shalt Push Thyself
Don't worry about getting bulky! Women have way less testosterone than men, so it's impossible for us to get huge muscles, unless we train for hours and hours a day and take extreme supplements. That means you can push yourself to lift heavy — that's where you'll see the fastest results when it comes to losing body fat and gaining muscle. Record your progress in a notebook and celebrate every time you hit a new PR (personal record).
7. Thou Shalt Not Eat Like Crap
While weightlifting burns calories and puts on calorie-burning muscle, if you eat unhealthy foods or too many calories a day, you won't be able to perform your best, and you could end up gaining fat instead of losing it. Exercising once a day doesn't give you the liberty to go nuts in the kitchen, so make sure you're still keeping tabs on your diet, whether you prefer tracking your portions or your macros. If you keep in mind that you can't out-train a bad diet and that food is fueling your workouts, it'll inspire you to stay on track.
8. Thou Shalt Take Rest Days
Weightlifting technically doesn't build muscle; it tears up your muscle fibers — it's the rest days that help them repair and get stronger. So rest days are essential! A beginner may need three rest days, while a more experienced lifter may only need one per week. Rest days don't have to mean sitting on your butt binging on Netflix. Do active recovery, like going for a walk or taking a yoga class.
9. Thou Shalt Not Give Up Cardio
If you're trying to decrease your body-fat percentage, cardio is still a must to burn more calories and offer faster results. Huffing and puffing is also essential for the health of your heart and brain, so include cardio a few times a week as a complement to your strength-training sessions (sorry if you hate it!).
10. Thou Shalt Stretch and Foam Roll
After all your hard work pumping iron, take time to take care of your newborn baby muscles. Stretch, foam roll, and massage — make this a priority so your muscles will heal well and avoid injury.