New to the world of weightlifting?
Weightlifting is a great exercise regime that can improve cardiovascular health, concentration and brain function, bolster body confidence, help you lose weight, and make you more productive.
But to fully enjoy the benefits of weightlifting, you need to start on the right foot.
Weightlifting is much more complicated than simply curling dumbbells. There’s a lot to learn about this beloved workout practice if you want to achieve the best possible results.
But what exactly are you missing?
Today we share some expert tips designed for weightlifting beginners. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll soon start to see your muscles bulge.
The Power of Full Body Workouts
You may have heard of the split-workout plan. The idea is you perform different exercises on different days to avoid overworking a muscle group. For example, a weekly schedule might be:
- Monday — Back and Arms
- Wednesday — Shoulders
- Thursday — Legs
- Friday — Chest.
But here’s a great tip for beginners. The frequency at which you work your muscles is more important than the volume on the day. Studies have shown that working your muscles multiple times per week is more effective for muscle building than a single high volume session.
For example, if you were to do a bicep curl three times per week, you’d see more benefit than if you did three exercises for your biceps on just one day.
This means the full-body workout is actually a great way to grow muscle. You can easily fit in two or three full-body sessions per week, which stimulates your muscles more frequently, which encourages more growth.
Take Plenty of Recovery Time
There is an old saying amongst weightlifters: Muscles aren’t built in the gym.
When you work out, you tear your muscle fibres. During recovery, muscles not only repair themselves but grow and get stronger to meet the new demands put upon them.
Notice the word here — recovery.
It takes around 48 hours from the time you’ve lifted weights for your muscles to fully repair themselves. If you engage these muscles during their recovery period, you’ll impair the body’s ability to heal and harm your results.
It might seem counterintuitive to rest. It feels like gaining muscle should be all about getting to the gym and exercising every day. But that’s not the reality. Do the work, and work hard when you exercise, but then give yourself ample time to repair, recover and grow.
You should also do your best to get plenty of sleep. Good sleep is essential for muscle development and repair.
Manage Your Protein Intake Carefully
The basic building block of muscular structure is protein. Protein is a micronutrient found in many types of foods, commonly meats, fish, dairy, beans and nuts. It’s also available as a protein shake or protein bar, which are very popular with weightlifters. When you workout and tear your muscle fibres, your body needs protein to repair and rebuild.
If you don’t get enough protein, it doesn’t matter how much you workout, you won’t gain muscle mass. Your body just does not have the fuel it needs to regenerate its tissue.
So how much protein do you need?
The most widely-accepted consensus for muscle gain is to consume at least 1g of protein per day for every pound of bodyweight you have. However, the amount you need also varies depending on other factors, like age, sex and the intensity of your workouts.
You won’t gain muscle if you don’t get enough protein, which is why it’s a great idea to use protein intake calculators to learn the exact amount of protein you need to eat.
Don’t go overboard, though. At a certain point, your body can no longer process and synthesise the protein you’re ingesting and it just passes through your body unabsorbed. You can optimise your diet to grow muscle at the fastest possible rate. You can’t just consume mountains of protein and expect to go beyond the limits of your body.
The Holy Trinity of Weightlifting: Progressive Overload, Lifting to Failure and Time Under Tension
Muscle growth happens because your body is trying to get better at dealing with the challenges it is facing. But what that means is, to keep growing, you need to keep challenging your body.
Let’s say you’ve just started working out. You do a chest press exercise and it’s difficult. Two weeks of training later, and it’s getting easy. It’s time to step things up.
Here we introduce the first important workout principle: lifting until failure — the idea being you want to lift weights until you can’t physically finish another repetition. Do that, and you’ve pushed your muscles to breaking point, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.
Once you’ve trained to the point you can finish your current routine without failing a repetition, you can develop the next technique, progressive overload, by increasing the amount of weight you are lifting.
More weight requires more strength. More strength requires more muscle, which means your body needs to bulk up. If you can bicep curl 25 pounds and complete your normal routine without struggling, then it’s time to add weight and bump the dumbbell up to 30 pounds.
You progressively overload your muscles, adding more weight as soon as you get used to the new level of resistance. Keep challenging your body by lifting to failure. Sure, you’ll do fewer reps, to begin with, under this new and heavier weight, but that’s how you grow muscle.
Just don’t make a common mistake, and lift too heavy, too soon.
This point brings us to our final weightlifting technique, time under tension (TUT).
TUT is the principle of exerting your muscles for the optimum amount of time to stimulate muscle growth. So what is this magic number? It’s around 30-60 seconds per set.
Without incorporating time under tension into your weightlifting, you face a problem. You can lift until failure doing 100 bicep curls in a row. But that isn’t going to help you grow your muscle because it’s not tearing the muscle through exertion; it’s just fatiguing it.
You can also up your weight to something extremely heavy and do just one or two reps with progressive overload. But that’s not enough time to really challenge your muscles and stimulate the growth needed to make them stronger than they were before.
Progressive overload and lifting until failure are powerful techniques for gaining muscle, but only when used with time under tension. You need to hit all three factors to see the best results.