Posted on 25 June 2018
How does a toned, muscular, lean and strong physique sound to you? Keen to achieve the same honed results as your Insta influencer of choice? Us too!
If this is you, it’s about time you stepped away from the ol’ cardio machines and picked up a barbell. Weightlifting is the answer to gaining your optimum physique, so let’s have a look at the things that newbies need to know, with a beginner's guide to the weightlifting workout. No, you won’t suddenly look like Arnie overnight…
Men dream of suddenly gaining mirror muscles and popping out of their shirts. Women fear the same results from a few chest presses or dumb-bell curls. But the fact is that it takes time, effort and focus to look like a bodybuilder. Women especially are not genetically designed to look that way and need to overcome their genes to some extent to create those exceptionally ripped physiques that you see in figure competitions. What a weightlifting workout can give you is a lean, muscular physique that is low in body fat and high in beautiful shape – the look that everyone is going nuts for at the moment!
Types of Weightlifting
Olympic lifting focuses on two movements – the snatch, and the clean and jerk. They are explosive power movements that owe as much to speed, mobility and technique as they do to raw strength. Powerlifting, on the other hand, is your ‘strongman’ or strongwoman of old. Powerlifters work on bench press, squats, deadlifts and other accessory or compound moves. They often have fun with atlas stones, tyres, weighted sleds and other pieces of functional kit too. CrossFitters focus on Oly lifting moves and do weightlifting-accessory techniques with barbells, kettlebells and dumb-bells. Strength training workouts at the gym will take their own format, but may use lighter weights and higher reps. Some people will use fixed weight machines and others will use free weights, so that they train stability and micro-muscles at the same time as the main muscle groups. Ultimately, there is no ‘right’ kind of weightlifting, but you will see the best results from consistent training, an expertly coached programme of learning, the right accompanying nutrition, adequate rest and heavier weights over time. The key is a progressive load. You will read lots of theory about reps for hypertrophy versus reps for lean muscle mass and so forth, but ultimately, full-body barbell work with increasing weight loads for one to five reps is your key to building a lean, strong body – and even a ‘ripped’ body, if you really work at it and adjust your lifestyle to maximise your gains.
The Strength Scene
Forget the old image of meaty men grunting in a dirty gym. They’re totally still there, happily training away, but today’s weightlifter is just as likely to be a female millennial in branded athleisure wear doing a kettlebell and barbell workout at the gym.
CrossFit has also played a huge part in the take-up of weightlifting and your local box is a great destination to get into coached weightlifting – absolutely essential for techniques that will help you to progress faster and avoid injury. Many CrossFit boxes also have dedicated Oly lifting and strongman classes, so that you can really focus on your technique and mobility, and dial-in lifting drills on repeat. It’s always humbling to know that competitive weightlifters who have been winning medals for years will say that they still learn something new every time they train. The social scene can be excellent, despite the sport being individual, and there is often a great community of supportive, helpful and experienced weightlifters who are delighted to help beginners of both sexes. As you progress, you’ll also find opportunities to compete at all age categories, giving you new goals and extra focus to your training – alongside the fact you will be looking and feeling superb!
Making the Most of Your Training
When you start to regularly weight train, say three to five times a week, you will rapidly see gains and are likely to find that you need to drop your cardio work down to avoid ‘burning off’ your muscle gains. Remember that if you do Oly lifting or lifting at high intensity, you will also gain a cardio workout. To make the most of your training, make sure you eat a high-nutrition diet with adequate protein and minimal junk. Cut out or cut down on alcohol and sugars, which will do nothing for your gains. Sleep for seven to nine hours a night to maximise muscle recovery and repair (when they grow bigger and stronger) and supplement wisely with BCAAs, whey, magnesium, creatine and other helpful extras that can make the most of your new-found passion.
Tempted to start weightlifting? Take a photo of yourself now and another in three to six months’ time. You won’t believe the difference!
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