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Weight Training For Beginners

As a personal trainer, I’ve seen some funny things in the gym. Every beginner or “newbie” to the gym is under common belief, that to get big muscles you must train exactly how the pros do and use ridiculously high volumes of reps, and sets, as well as hit each individual muscle group from every known angle. This perception could not be further from the truth. One must realise that the principles and training techniques adopted by professional bodybuilders, are not for everyone. The average trainer simply could not handle the high volumes and training frequency without some form of injury or negative effect on the body, such as over training. Most professional bodybuilders are also under the influence of illegal and somewhat dangerous anabolic substances. Unfortunately when beginners to the gym do choose to adopt the same principles, they also inherit the poor exercise technique that comes as part of the package. There are a lot of good resources available in order to learn safe, and proper exercise technique. These resources should be utilized by anyone looking to start a bodybuilding program, or by anyone that is unsure of a particular exercise technique. Some potentially dodgy training articles and “how to guides” pollute the internet, as well as magazines, so if it doesn’t look or feel right then chances are it isn’t.

Training to Build Lean Muscle Mass

Start by selecting one compound movement and one isolation exercise for each muscle group. Take chest for example, select the bench press, followed by the pec deck or chest fly. The biceps don’t have a designated compound movement, however they are worked during almost every back exercise, so you may want to perform for example a supinated or hammer grip chin-up/pull-up before following up with the barbell curl (just an example). Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Ideally, to start off find a weight that you can perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions with. By the tenth rep of each set you should reach fatigue and be unable to complete another repetition without assistance. From there on increase the weight and adjust repetitions accordingly. Initially for the first 2-3 weeks, use a single set of each exercise per workout. Depending on the rate of recovery, an increase in sets may be made in the second week. Complete this workout routine 3 days per week with a rest day in between. E.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. Remember to always stretch after every workout, and always warm up sufficiently with 5-10 minutes of light cardio. Never stretch a cold muscle as this does more harm than good and is a major injury risk.

Sample Weights Workout - Weeks 1 & 2

Quads:

Barbell squat

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Leg extension

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 

 

Back:

Lat pull-down (wide-grip)

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Straight arm pull-down

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 

 

Hamstrings:

Lunges

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Lying hamstring curl

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 

 

Chest:

Bench press

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Pectoral fly machine

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 

 

Shoulders:

Dumb-bell shoulder press

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Lateral raise

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 

 

Biceps:

Supinated inverted row

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Barbell curl

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 



Triceps:

Bench dip

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Tricep cable pull-down

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 



Calves:

Burpees

1 set

10-12 repetitions

Machine calf raise

1 set

10-12 repetitions

 

 



Abs:

Plank

1 set

1 Repetition (Hold for 30-45 seconds)

Lower leg raise

1 set

10 reps

 




Training Tips For Beginners

  • Use this program for the first two weeks, in week three, increase the weight and sets. Adjust repetitions accordingly.
  • Execute each exercise in a slow and controlled manner and aim to keep the muscle under tension for 45-60 seconds per set.
  • Use proper form and technique as to avoid injury.
  • Eat frequently.
  • Consume foods high in protein for muscle repair and growth.
  • Consume low GI carbohydrates.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Stay hydrated. 1 litre of water per 25kg of body weight + 1 litre of water for every additional hour of exercise.
  • Always stretch.
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