How to Start Weightlifting: Life Kit: NPR


Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

Colored weights are arranged on a light blue background.  There are 5 pound hand weights and bar weights.  There are also exercise bands and a bench.

Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

Strength training is a great way to exercise effectively while preventing injury. But it can be intimidating to venture into your gym’s strength zone if you don’t know what you’re doing. What if I do it wrong? What if everyone laughs at me? What if I hurt myself?

Gyms can seem especially inhospitable if your body doesn’t meet super-gendered (and unrealistic) standards for what an “athletic” body looks like. A 2019 Penn State study found that women were significantly less likely to participate in muscle building activities than their male peers.

It turns out that getting started in strength training isn’t that hard, but it takes careful planning and willpower to tackle the ingrained social messages about who strength training is for – and to whom it is not intended. We asked experts for their advice on getting started, and here’s what they had to say:

Start by restoring your exercise goals

“The narrative we have around strength, or rather fitness, is that fitness and weight loss are one and the same,” says Poorna Bell. Bell is a powerlifter and author of Stronger: change everything I knew about the strength of women. She started weight training after the sudden death of her husband in 2016. She felt lost and weak, and she started training with a personal trainer to help her build her strength, both physically. and mentally.

If you can connect with other reasons for exercising – getting stronger, having mental health benefits, joining a new community – it can help you start from a more positive place. Bell recommends tackling this change by reframing any exercise you do as work you do. with and for your body – to build your strength, to achieve your goals, to improve your mental health – instead of the work you do to sculpt your body into the ideal shape, size or weight.

Find the support system that’s right for you

It starts with defining what you need, whether it’s a community of people with similar goals, a routine that suits your needs, or equipment that you can actually lift. It will be different for you depending on where you live, how much money you feel comfortable spending, and what you prefer. Maybe you want to work out with a personal trainer or take a class. Maybe you just want to follow some workouts on Instagram or YouTube!

Judge Roe Williams is the Founder and Executive Director of Fitness 4 All Bodies, an organization that combines activist work and fitness. He said it’s possible to tell pretty quickly if a trainer, class or gym community will align with your goals and ideals: “I always say if coaches are pushing their perspective on diet culture or health. weight loss, which coach you want to go to. “

Remember, you can take the lead in your relationship. You can ask trainers not to frame your progress based on your weight or BMI, and if you have specific training goals, share them!

Make a plan and start small

A calendar with hand drawn icons showing weightlifting activities every other day.

Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

A calendar with hand drawn icons showing weightlifting activities every other day.

Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

There are many strength training plans for beginners available online! Casey johnston, the author of She’s A Beast, recommends following a workout plan that will encourage you to lift heavier weights gradually.

“A beginner strength training program can be like three movements, three days a week, sets of five, and that’s it,” she says. “Three movements and you’re done.”

Johnston recommends the Beginner Programs StrongLifts, Barbell Medicine, and the r / fitness subreddit as good starting points for beginners.

Familiarize yourself with compound movements

The reason why beginner plans use so few movements is that they often consist of compound movements, which are effective exercises that use your muscles. together the way they are meant to be used. For example: during an arm workout, you can work your way through the bicep machine, tricep machine, shoulder press machine, and side raises Where you can do a bench press and push-ups, both of which use your arm muscles together.

Finally, don’t forget that you are already very strong!

A bar with three brightly colored weights stacked on one side - a 2.5lb purple, 5lb lime, and 10lb light blue weights.

Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

A bar with three brightly colored weights stacked on one side - a 2.5lb purple, 5lb lime, and 10lb light blue weights.

Illustration photo by Becky Harlan / NPR

While we were talking to these experts, the thing that kept coming back as a barrier for people who were starting to weight training was fear – fear that they would hurt themselves, fear that people would judge them, fear that they might be judged. ‘they look stupid.

“Fitness or bodybuilding is not a [more] special than walking around. It’s a process that we all build, “said Roe Williams.” Even navigating a world where we find love for ourselves is revolution. It is strength. ”

When you get your relationship back with your body and start working with it rather than against it, you are working to heal a lifetime by believing that you are fundamentally bad and need to be fixed or improved in some way. .

Of course, strength training isn’t a substitute for therapy and medication if you’re really struggling with your mental health, but if you’re healing your mind somehow, working with your body can and should be part of it. process, too.

Poorna said that strength training “has proven to me many times in the past that I am stronger mentally and physically than I ever thought I was. And this is something I will never have. need.”

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Janet W. Lee, with technical support from Neil Tevault.

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