Incorporating weights into your training can be the change that makes the biggest difference to your body. While intense cardio sessions will help with fitness and yoga will increase flexibility, weight lifting helps with everything from stamina to joints.
But getting it right is crucial. Lift badly and at best you'll create bad habits, while at worst you could do yourself a serious injury. Head trainer at Sweat It London Melissa Weldon shared the biggest mistakes clients making when beginning weight training:
1.Not getting it right in the beginning
The most important thing for anyone lifting weights is to make sure there's someone guiding you from the start to correct mistakes early on.
“One of the things people do is they get a programme, go into the gym,start thrashing it out and no-one's really checking their form or technique,” Melissa says. “That can lead to injury and bad movement patterns – long term it can be really bad for things like the back and knees.
“It's about making sure the spine is aligned properly. Things like lunges, for example – if your knees go over your toes then you're putting a lot of pressure onto your knee joints which can lead to injuries. In squats, if the weight's on your toes then again, that's going to go to your knees. Deadlifts, if your back is hunched-over you're going to hurt your back.
“It's not only about injury; if you're not in the right positions you're not going to work the muscles that you're trying to. People lift heavy, really quickly, with lots of repetition because they're enthusiastic, but they end up hurting themselves even more.
“Build it up gradually, slowly start adding a bit more weight every week, then you'll see results.”
2.Thinking they can do it solo
There's no harm in enlisting a little help, and in this case even the most experienced gym goers will want to double check their workout with a professional.
“There's a wealth of information online, but just get somebody to check that you're doing it right – even if it's just a couple of times, to get the basic moves like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges and rows down,” says Melissa. “Say you spent two hours with a personal trainer at the beginning to show you to do those properly, that would set you up in a much safer way.
“If someone can't afford a trainer, a group fitness class can also be helpful. It's not going to be as one-on-one as with a PT, but you will have someone checking your form and showing you what the moves look like.”
3.Taking inspiration from Instagram
Influencers can be full of good ideas, but Melissa warns that it's always best to take their advice with a pinch of salt.
“A lot of fitness influencers aren't qualified PTs,” she explains. “They haven't done the education, they're showing people what to do but there's no real foundation to their knowledge. If you are going to take inspo from Instagram, make sure it's from a qualified user and not just someone who looks good.”[instagram]https://www.instagram.com/p/BraH97XH36P/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_medium=loading[/instagram]
4. Training only in the gym
You might think that you need to be in a gym environment to get fit, but if you've have good training Melissa says there's no reason why you can't continue at home.
“All you need is a bench and a set of dumbbells,” she explains.
5. Focusing only on weight training
It might sound counterintuitive, but if you want to be good at weight training you might want to put them down occasionally.
“If you want to have good, balanced fitness you need to look at the whole picture; weight training, cardio, mobility, flexibility,” Melissa explains. “If you're not looking after your heart and lungs you're going to have trouble.
“Weight training is great for your joints, especially for women in the long-term. But it's not the only option. You still need to make sure your heart rate is going up, even if it's only going for a good walk three times a week.”
6. Trying to match everyone around you
No matter how competitive you are, remember that you don't need to compare your training to anyone except yourself.
“I'm a feminist, but I do accept the fact that men are stronger than me – and that's okay,” Melissa says. “They're physically built with more muscle density and more bone density, so I don't need to compete with a man. At all.
“Women don't have to prove anything, except to themselves.”
7. Being afraid to lift heavy
On the opposite side of that is those of us who worry about going up in weight. Understandable, but it won't get you anywhere. “A lot of women think they're going to get bulky, but it just won't happen,” Melissa says. “We're not built to do that. Going for the really tiny weights won't help progression.
“The only way that women can build a lot of muscle is if we train really heavy, and really regularly, but that's powerlifting. You won't get that from training three times a week, because we just don't have the testosterone for it. Don't be afraid of the bigger weights; that's where the results are.”
8. Not embracing failure
Just like anything in life, sometimes you've got to embrace the ups and the downs with your weight training. “A lot of the time people are scared to lift heavy as they don't want to fail – but you should be getting to the point where you feel like you need a break. Your body sends a message to the brain to get stronger, and if you don't find it tough you just won't.”
9. Not eating enough
Why put pressure on yourself with a strict diet and exercise plan? Melissa says it's best to make changes one step at a time.
“My suggestion, if people come to me and say they want to lose weight, is to tell them not to touch their diet in the first month,” she explains. “Of course you can make small tweaks, but the focus for the first month should be getting into training three to four times a week.
“When you've got to the end of the month and got into a routine, then you can switch up the diet, because making huge changes to both in the beginning is pretty much setting yourself up for failure. It's just too much.
“Focus on the one thing, get training regularly, make that part of your habit, then the next thing you have to change you only have to alter one habit. You'll probably find that what happens, as a result of training regularly, is you actually star making better choices with your food naturally rather than forcing it.
“Give yourself realistic targets and you won't feel the guilt.”
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