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A Beginner's Guide to Resistance Training

Beginner's guide to resistance training (Image via Pexels/Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)
Beginner's guide to resistance training (Image via Pexels/Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)
Shuvangi Sen Chaudhury

Familiarizing yourself with the basic do's and don'ts of resistance training is essential before you actually start doing it. One of the primary reasons for this is to ensure injury-related risks are minimized and you squeeze the most out of each session.

Now, before diving into the guide to resistance training, it is important to understand the concept of resistance training.


What is resistance training?

Resistance training is a form of physical exercise that requires the muscles to move against an external resistance. In layman’s terms, it’s strength training. The goal with resistance training is to increase strength and endurance, and it assists in weight loss as well.

There are various ways to go about resistance training, but as a beginner, it’s advisable to stick to some basic movements that will help with foundation and form. Once the form is mastered, you can move to advanced movements.


New to resistance training? Here are some basic tips

Always stretch before resistance training

Every guide to resistance training will double down on stretching. There are several benefits to stretching and one such is that it gets the blood flowing. Additionally, it opens up the joints and relaxes any type of stiffness around it. This reduces the risk of injury and allows you to weight-train better.

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Start with body weight training

When you begin resistance training, you do not immediately need equipment. In fact, the first few days should be utilized to habituate your muscles to external force.

To do this, perform certain bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, etc. It will take a few days for the muscles to get used to your own body weight.

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Switch to dumbbells gradually

Once you’re performing the body weight exercises with ease or without breaking a sweat or losing all your breath, you can move to weights such as dumbbells and kettlebells. Even resistance bands are useful.

Use dumbbells or whichever type of equipment you’re using to perform basic exercises such as:

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Dumbbell flys
  • Bend over dumbbell row
  • Dumbbell rear delt flys
  • Overhead shoulder press
  • Front raise and lateral raise
  • Bicep curls & hammer curls
  • One arm/double arm dumbbell extension
  • Dumbbell squats
  • Dumbbell lunges

Keep in mind that you do not need to do all the exercises on the same day. A good split is push movements on Day 1, pull movements on Day 2, and Legs on Day 3. Use the following day to rest your muscles and allow them to recover from soreness.

The focus should not be on lifting heavy weights during the initial days. It should always be on perfecting the form. If the form is correct, there is a lesser chance of injury and the exercise’s complete benefits are acquired.


Progressive overload

When you start lifting weights, you will become stronger and your muscles will be able to lift heavier weights. Always focus on progressive overload, which means increasing the weight you're lifting slowly and steadily.

Pro tip: Start by increasing the reps by one weight and then increasing the weight.


Resting the muscles

Finally, it is important to rest your muscles between sets. Ideally, you should rest for 45 to 60 seconds before beginning the 2nd set. However, as you move to higher weights, the resting period will increase.

The reason behind this is as you lift heavier weights, your body uses more energy. It takes the body excess time to recover from that depleted energy before beginning the next set.


Time your workout

A beginner should not weight train for hours at a stretch. The muscles are just getting used to the weights, and there is no reason why you must over-exhaust them.

Ideally, the workouts should last for 45 mins to 1 hour, inclusive of the rest between sets. This is a crucial element in the beginner's guide to resistance training.


Stretch after

Once you’re done with your workout, stretch. However, you can focus on static stretches after resistance training.

The idea is to reduce any lactic acid accumulation and relax any sore or stiff muscles as much as possible. This is post-workout 101.

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What exercises to expect during resistance training?

As a beginner to resistance training, you will be introduced to the basic exercises for each body part.

Chest

For chest exercises, it is ideal to begin with a light weight to get the form correct. The idea is to always push with the chest muscles, but the triceps will get some amount of pressure. Arching the back helps as one moves to heavier weights.

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Dumbbell flys
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press

Back

It is essential to keep a neutral back when doing lat exercises. This reduces the risk of injury significantly. Additionally, when moving to heavier weights, ensure to protect the lower back.

  • Lat pulldown
  • Close grip lat pulldown
  • Bent-over dumbbell rows
  • Seated cable row

Shoulders

Always begin shoulder exercises with a lighter weight, even if you can lift heavier ones. Considering it's a joint, it's better to warm up first and get the ball-and-socket joint used to the movement before using a heavier weight.

  • Dumbbell shoulder press
  • Lateral raise and front raise
  • Upright row
  • Rear delt flys

Biceps

Whenever you do bicep curls, keep the elbows steady. This is how the muscles feel in the stretch, which sends a signal for them to pull up the weight.

  • Dumbbell curl
  • Hammer curls
  • Spider curls
  • Preacher curl

Triceps

Similarly for triceps, keep the elbows steady and push down with the tricep muscles. It's important to have a muscle-mind connection during arm workouts.

  • Single arm/double arm extension
  • Tricep pushdown
  • Skull crusher
  • Tricep dips

Legs

The first rule on the guide to resistance training is never to miss leg days. Not only do leg days help the lower body, but it also helps in burning significant calories. Also, you don’t want twigs as legs with a lean upper-body!

  • Squats
  • Leg curls
  • Leg extensions
  • Leg press

Bottom line

A beginner’s guide to resistance training is something you must go through before picking up the weights. Additionally, it’s imperative to not ego-lift at the gym or rush yourself through the process. Everyone has their own pace at the gym and with the weights, and it’s crucial to give yourself the time and have the patience.


Edited by Sabine Algur

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