A Beginner’s Guide to Weightlifting

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Weightlifting as a sport differs from just going to the gym every now and then. While it does require hard work and dedication, anyone can do it. There are the intricacies of weightlifting competitions, but ultimately in weightlifting your main competitor is yourself. This article will give you the basics of how to succeed in heavy lifting and gaining strength.

Going to the gym can be intimidating. You don’t know where to go or what to do. That’s why the biggest mistake people do is not following a programme. Even if you plan a workout prior to entering the gym, if you don’t maintain those same exercises over a prolonged period of time, you won’t see much strength gain. In order to build muscle we need to achieve progressive overload, i.e. the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. This is achieved by ensuring that over time you are either adding more weight or more volume to your workouts. If you don’t, you will plateau and just maintain the muscles you have. By following a programme for 6-8 weeks, you ensure that your workout split stays the same each week so you can monitor your progress and add more weight when necessary. There are great workout programmes to buy online, or you can create your own.

I structure my training as a five day split. I do three lower-body days and two upper-body days. During more stressful times of the semester I recommend training three days a week, full body. Begin your workout with a cardio warm-up to increase body temperature and do a few dynamic stretches to ensure proper blood flow. Once you begin the workout, start by doing one or two compound exercises, such as the bench press, overhead press, deadlift, squat and hip thrust. Compound lifts work multiple muscle groups and are the main focus in weightlifting, as these are going to be your heaviest lifts. In order to do your best in these lifts and to gain overall strength, adding accessory work through isolation exercises is a great tool, so add 3-4 isolation movements once you have completed your compounds.

Recovery is essential to weightlifting. Besides having rest days, it’s beneficial to split your programme into two phases: accumulation and deload. During a deload you still move your body, but at a lower rate of exertion, allowing your body to recover from the phase of intense progressive overload it has just experienced. A deload phase is one or two weeks where you might hit the gym as many times as before, but do your exercises at 40-60% of your one rep max weight. A deload may also consist of volume reduction and incorporating more bodyweight movements.

The most important thing you can do to avoid injury is ensuring a focus on form over weight. It doesn’t matter that you’re lifting heavy weights if you don’t do so with proper form. Film yourself if you have to.

Everyone has to start somewhere, just remember that consistency is key. Nobody stays motivated forever, and weightlifting isn’t a means to an end. While it can get you into amazing shape, it’s important to focus on incorporating the gym into your everyday routine if you want to stick with it.

Lastly, be careful of who you follow. Just because someone on Instagram has big biceps or a perky butt that doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing. Some of my personal favourite influencers who base their advise in science are Brett Contreras, Jeff Nippard and MegSquats. Not to mention, there’s both a powerlifting and an Olympic weightlifting society at the university, if you’re want to get involved.

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Opinion Editor 19/20, Features Editor 18/19. Third year BA English Lit student with a passion for intersectional feminism, dogs and iced coffee, currently on a YA in Hong Kong.

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