Weightlifting 101: What You Need To Do, Wear, and Know Before You Start Training

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If you've been slacking on your New Years resolution of getting yourself in the gym, don't worry, you still have nine more months to turn that all around. Unfortunately for those with a slow start, there's only two months until beach season. But have no fear, if you're looking for a program or regiment that can kick your ass into shape before the shirt has to come off, than it's time you got off the elliptical and started weightlifting.

Weightlifting can be defined as lifting barbells and dumbbells for sport or strength training in a way that constitutes muscle growth and weight loss. As opposed to cardio based training or using machines in the gym, weightlifting burns more calories, raises testosterone levels, builds muscles, raises cardiovascular endurance and speeds up fat loss.

If you're looking to get started, here's a guide loaded with videos and advice for Weightlifting 101: What You Need To Do, Wear, and Know Before You Get Started.

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What You Need To Know Before You Start

Before starting your weightlifting there are a few things you should know.

Proper form during each exercise – Remember, it’s better to use light weight, get the form down perfect, and then slowly work your way up in weight.
Injuring yourself because the weight is too heavy isn't worth impressing anybody, take your time and gains will be made.

Have a solid knowledge and understanding of where you are in the realm of everything – know your body, know your limits/max’s and set realistic/obtainable goals. Setting a small string of easily achievable goals in the beginning will help you in the long run. If you set your standards too high, frustration and defeat will overcome the desire to be fit.

Always warm up and cool down - Before getting into your workout, it’s imperative that you properly warm your body up. Breaking a sweat before you start your workout is a good indicator that you’re warmed up. Lifting with or stretching cold muscles is a recipe for an injury. You want to slowly activate your muscles and prep them for serious training. Some quick and easy warm ups to do are: 2 min jump rope, body squats, elliptical, pull ups, and push ups.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

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Have Some Gym Etiquette

Don't be the guy everyone hates on in the gym; you won't last long that way. If you're the new kid on the scene, it's better that you have an understanding on what to do and what not to do while you're getting your lift on. Firstly, DO NOT be the person talking on their cell phone in between sets or while running on the treadmill. Nobody around you wants to hear your conversation, or wait while you take your time dealing with something irrelevant. Second, ALWAYS re-rack your weights and dumbbells. It's just the polite thing to do, and it makes it easier for the next guy. Lastly, wipe down any equipment you use when you're finished. You can either carry your own towel, or gyms usually have plenty of paper towels and disinfectant spray conveniently located around the machines.



What's In Your Gym Bag?

Some things you should have in your gym bag at all times are:

1) iPod – Forget listening to the Top 40 station or BPM with the rest of the gym. Put your headphones in, blast something angry, and lift heavy weight.

2) Jump Rope – Jumping rope is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do. Studies have shown that a daily ten minute jump rope workout is equivalent to a daily thirty minute jogging program. With that being said, a jump rope is one of the most useful tools in a gym. They get your heart rate up, help you break a sweat, and work wonders on the calves.

3) Proper Shoes – Weight lighting is a sport and it should be treated as such. You have the right shoes for basketball, soccer, running, football, so why not weightlifting. A weightlifters ideal shoe is one with a flat bottom.

4) Pre-workout – Pre-workouts are an iffy subject. Some people love them, some people hate them; it’s all a preference thing. One thing is for sure though...working out with a pre will bring out the animal in you.

5) Wrist straps – Wrist straps are great for anyone with weak wrists or tendentious. They help with any type of overhead lifts like the press, the jerk, or even the bench press. They offer great support and definitely something you want to have when the weight starts getting heavy

6) Pull straps – Pull straps are used when the weight your attempting to lift is just too heavy for your grip to handle. Pull straps are great for lifts like dead lifts, shrugs, DB row, lat pull downs, and even pull ups when your grip wants to give out.

7) Foam Roller - Weightlifting with heavy weights, especially in the squat and deadlift department, really knot up and stress your legs and lower back. One of the best things you can do for yourself after a heavy day is roll everything out. These foam rollers are essentially a personal deep tissue massage that works out any kinks and knots that may have built up throughout a workout. Check out this foam rolling routine video here.

8) Lacrosse balls and sports tape - LAX balls go where the foam roller cant. They work out the tiny muscle deep in your glutes, feet, back, and hips. It's also great for a tiny muscle known as the piriformis. This small muscle has the tendency to knot up when you have a lack of flexibility and can lead to painful syndromes like sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Sit, lay, and stand on this ball to really dig out those knots. Check out this lax ball rolling routine video here.

Next time you talk with an avid weightlifter, check out their gym bag and see how closely the list matches up.

Photo by Chris Randise

What To Wear

When you walk into the gym, you have to be dressed for the part. Lifting in jeans is unacceptable. Lifting in a button up is unacceptable. Lifting in a pair of Sperry's is unacceptable. You need to be in solid flat sneakers and breathable loose fitting clothing that will allow you to go through the motions without getting in the way or restricting your movements. It's also important that you're wearing clothing that is going to help you break a sweat and get warmed up. Whenever you walk out onto the gym floor, you want to have a sweatshirt and sweatpants on. Once your blood gets moving and your body temperature rises, you can begin to remove the layers.

As far as shoes go, you want a nice pair of flat soled sneakers that give you a solid contact with the ground. Two of the best shows for weightlifting are a simple, cheap pair of Chuck Taylors or a powerlifting shoe designed for the sport. For example the adidas Powerlift 2.0.

Hugh Jackman
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If you're one of those people who never get hooked on training because you simply just don't know what to do when you're in the gym, fear not. It's very simple. First, think of it this way - Your body can be broken down into five muscle categories for the five days of the week:

Day 1: Legs - Get them out of the way early. Mondays suck as it is, might as well follow the pattern and throw in some squats. Here are some exercises to keep in mind: Lunges, Leg Press, Squats, Step Ups, Box Jumps

Day 2: Chest - Since Monday is national chest day, you'll have no problem finding a bench on a Tuesday. Dare to be different:

Exercises: Bench Press, Decline Press, Incline Bench, Dumbbell Press, Cables Flys, Push Ups, Dumbbell Pull Overs

Day 3: Back - Your back is one the most important and strongest muscle groups in your body. It's key to your core, and helps everything stay in a nice straight line. Be extremely careful with your back, especially your lower back. It's very easy to injure and these injuries can potentially last a lifetime. No bueno.

Exercises: Deadlift, Cable/Dumbbell/Barbell Row, Lat Pull Down, Pull Ups, Hyperextensions

Day 4: Shoulders - Shoulders are a great Thursday workout. They tie in closely with the chest so the rest period between chest day and shoulders is much needed. Here's a tip, nothing makes your arms look bigger than a solid set of softball sized shoulders.

Exercises: Barbell/Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Military Press, Shrugs, Face Pulls, Front/Side Raises

Day 5: Arms and abs - It's Friday night and you probably have huge plans, so whats better than a nice swell to get the night started? Pick out a nice shirt and get ready to show off the guns.

Biceps: Hammer Curls, Strict Curl, Preacher Curl

Triceps: Triceps Push Down, Overhead Extensions, Skull Crusher, Dips

Abs: Weighted Sit Ups, Medball Russian Twists, Hanging Leg Lifts

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Cool Down and Stretch

Just like warming up is important to getting a good workout, cooling down and stretching is important for getting the most out of your workout. Flexibility is a huge part of weightlifting and strength gains. Remember, if the muscle can't fluidly move the exercise, you can't perform to the best of your ability.

A good cool down to add into your daily routine - A five minute treadmill run or elliptical session. Just something to warm everything back up in preparation for stretching. In the picture above are some great stretches to do once your cool down is complete. Don''t forgot to roll out!

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