In the past, lifting weights was something few outside the world of professional body building would do. Even professional baseball players of yesteryear shied away from the weight room, a fact that might be hard to believe when looking at today's pro baseball players, many of whom look more like professional wrestlers than those who earn their money playing America's pastime.
But the appearance of today's baseball players brings to mind more than the sport's recent steroids epidemic. In fact, today's ballplayers are a small reflection of society's shift toward accepting weight lifting as an integral step to achieving optimal health. Lifting weights helps improve metabolism and build lean muscle. But those new to weight lifting should note that it is not a hobby that can be jumped right into. Instead, consider the following tips to ensure your workout goes smoothly, and consult with a personal trainer whenever you have a question.
*Get your heart pumping first and foremost. It's not ideal to walk straight to the bench press and start hammering away when you get to the gym. Instead, do some light cardiovascular activity to get your heart pumping. Five minutes of mild to medium cardiovascular activity should be the first thing you do, followed by some stretching to make sure your body is loose. Once you've finished your mild cardio and stretching, you can then begin to work with weights.
*Keep your movements nice and easy. When lifting weights, your movements should be as smooth as possible. Also, take your time between repetitions, allowing your movements to remain smooth from rep to rep. Any jerky movements or working too quickly is just putting unnecessary strain on your muscles, possibly even taxing a muscle you're not working out. It's not uncommon for novice weight lifters, for example, to pull a muscle in their back when they're not even working their back. That's most likely due to fast, jerky movements that should be avoided.
*Remember, you're not underwater, so don't hold your breath. Beginners to weight lifting tend to think they're underwater, holding their breath during sets. This is potentially very dangerous. When you hold your breath while lifting weights, you are denying your muscles much-needed oxygenated blood. If the muscles are denied this blood, blood vessels can burst and you might even suffer a hernia. So it's important to remember to breathe freely when lifting weights.
*Don't get fixated on how much you're lifting. While your ultimate goal might be to be as big as a professional wrestler, you must realize this will certainly not happen overnight. Beginners should take it easy when starting a weight lifting program, first lifting light weights and getting the correct motions down pat before adding any weight. You should be able to feel the muscles working, but don't get too preoccupied with how much you're lifting until you've mastered the correct motions and feel ready to add more weight.
*Work all muscles equally. The body has many muscles, all of which can benefit from weight training. Ignoring one for the benefit of another is not only unhealthy, but it will manifest itself physically as well, with your body eventually looking disproportioned. Pay equal attention to all muscle groups, balancing your workouts so your whole body is benefitting from your new lifestyle.
*Give your body a chance to recover. Muscles need 48 hours to recover after they have been worked out. What that means is you cannot do biceps on Monday and then do them again on Tuesday. Muscle development occurs during the 48-hour recovery period. However, you can workout other muscles while certain muscle groups are recovering. For instance, in the aforementioned workout where you work biceps on Monday, you can come back and work your back or another muscle group on Tuesday. If possible, consult a trainer at your gym and ask him to write up a workout schedule for you. This will help you keep track of what you've worked out and the progress you're making.
*Eventually, switch things up. When you have gotten accustomed to lifting weights and you've begun adding weight to your workouts, don't forget to change your workouts from time to time. This helps you avoid having muscle memory negate the effects of your workout, essentially keeping your muscles honest and ensuring they keep being challenged.