Basic Strength Training Tips for Good Form

Woman strength training
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If you are a newbie to strength training or if you think you need a bit of a refresher on good form, you are in the right place. Good form means you can reap all the benefits of your workout and avoid injuries at the same time.

Allow yourself to be a beginner and give yourself a pat on the back if you are ready to add strength training to your routine. Get ready to lose fat, improve muscle tone, and get stronger.

No matter your age, current fitness level or gender, everyone can benefit from weight training with the right technique.

Let’s take a look at some basic strength training principles and how to keep good form.

  • Warm up. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury. Start your workout with five minutes of brisk walking or another aerobic activity to warm up your body.
  • Put your mind into the workout. Don’t just daydream. Focus on the muscle group(s) you are working and work on good form. Perhaps a veteran weight training friend or an instructor at your gym can give you some tips and then stay focused during your workout to maintain good form. I always say form trumps everything. Work on form before increasing your speed of the movement.
  • Make your muscles do the work. Back to the concept of good form. Slow down and don’t use momentum to lift free weights, use your muscle. Make sure you aren’t swinging the weights. You will activate more muscle fibers if you lift and lower weights with control and purpose through your range of motion. If you cannot lift a weight without swinging it, it is too heavy and you should lower the amount of weight you are lifting. As a beginner, select a weight that allows you to go for 15 repetitions. Around repetition 12, you should be feeling a bit of fatigue. 
  • Maintain good posture. Stand tall with your chest lifted and your arms naturally at your side. Don’t hunch over in the shoulders or hold tension in your neck. Hold your abs tight.  The stronger your core, the more effective you will be at lifting weights.
  • Pay attention to the details. If you are going to a muscle pump class, your instructor will likely show you good form and give you many verbal cues as well. As you do your reps, make sure you are thinking of all of these helpful reminders. For example, if you are doing an arm exercise where you supposed to keep your elbows by your sides, doing so will make that exercise more effective.
  • Breathe. Make sure you breathe. You might be tempted to hold your breath when you are exerting effort. Exhale during the hardest part of the exercise to fuel the movement.  If you have questions about form, you may consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions.
  • Learn to pay attention to your body. Never work through intense pain and learn to differentiate between pain and muscle fatigue. Pain is more ouch where muscle fatigue is a feeling of your muscles being tired. 
  • Work all muscle groups. Make sure your weekly strength training routine works all of   your major muscles—abdominals, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms.
  • Use your body weight. Sometimes your own body weight can be the most effective and most challenging.  Make sure to add a least a few to each session. Try some planks, push-ups, squats, and lunges.
  • Use free resources to view proper form.

Here are a few fundamental principles of strength training that are helpful to know:

  • Overload: You have to apply an appropriate resistance to build muscle. The amount of resistance should be above what one is accustomed to in everyday life. You want to add resistance using weight machines, free weights, cable machines, various weighted tools, or even your own body weight.
  • Balance: You should work the entire musculoskeletal system not just the ‘mirror muscles’ or the ones in the front of your body which can lead to postural and strength imbalances, and injury. Be smart and work several muscle groups at once when possible.  
  • Rest: Rest between sets of exercise for about a minute to a minute and a half giving your muscles a chance to recover before you attempt the next set. Also, rest 48 hours between bouts of weight training if you are sore. For example: If you work your legs hard on Monday you should not exercise the legs again until Wednesday at the earliest.

As you strength train, you will naturally get stronger and need to increase the weight you lift. Soon you will be amazed at how regular strength training can improve your cardio conditioning and change how your body looks. Plus, now your body will work for you while you are sitting at your desk. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest! Thank you muscles.

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