Whether you run, take yoga or Zumba classes, or have some other fitness goals, there’s one thing all of us need to add to our routines: strength training. But getting stronger can feel like a daunting task for beginners, and the results of a muscle-building workout can be slow to show up in your day-to-day life. It’s important to get the right moves down first, and also have an expert on your side to help you avoid injuries and maximize progress.
A personal trainer or certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSC) can teach you the basics, make sure your form is spot-on, and adjust your exercise tempo so you’re working at a level that’s challenging but not dangerous. They’ll also suggest different exercises for every muscle group, and as you become more comfortable with each movement, you can increase the weight and number of repetitions, and try advanced variations or new exercises.
If you’re a beginner, experts agree that it’s best to stick with basic, low-impact movements for the first few weeks. “The focus should be on using a moderate amount of resistance that is challenging to your muscles, but not so hard that you can’t perform it with good form,” Sivan Fagan, ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, tells SELF. If you haven’t lifted before, start with body weight exercises or a few sets of lightweight dumbbells. It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting, especially if you have any health conditions, or are middle-aged or older, and to stop lifting an exercise if it causes pain.
In addition to building muscle, regular strength training can improve balance and reduce the risk of injury. Plus, it helps prevent the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with aging, known as sarcopenia. And, as a 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found, those who regularly participate in strength training have lower rates of mortality than those who don’t.
Once you’re confident with the fundamentals, you can start to add in more advanced moves or a variety of different equipment like barbells and dumbbells. But remember, it’s still essential to stick with your routine and give your muscles the rest they need between sessions. “Resistance training can cause tiny tears in your muscles, and they need time to heal so they can grow stronger,” Fagan says.
In between your strength workouts, rest 2 to 5 minutes before moving onto the next set, says Yellin. And always finish your session with a light activity and static stretching for your muscles to cool down.
Milena Estêvão is a YouTuber passionate about sharing her experiences (challenges, successes and motivations) in the fitness activities she is involved in.
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