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How to Start Lifting
Six tips for the true beginner
It’s intimidating to walk into a gym and start a fitness program for the first time. Sometimes I even get nervous going to a new gym, and I’ve competed in strength sports for a decade.
Here’s what to do when you’re at the very beginning:
Have a purpose for training. The number one mistake people who start going to the gym is that they have no purpose, no goals. They go because that’s what they’re supposed to do. These people are destined to be tourists. Your goals can align with those of a Highlander, or you might just want to lose some weight or bench 300 pounds. Whatever it is, have a goal and a program to help you reach that goal.
Find a plan and stick to it. Find a plan that aligns with your goals. If you want to lose weight, find a weight loss plan. If you want to bench 300, find a bench program. Don’t change and tweak anything in the program, at least for the first two months. If there are certain exercises you can’t do, learn them.
The Highlander Program is built for the beginner interested in longevity with exercises almost everyone should be able to do. Subscribers get it delivered daily to their inbox:
Show up everyday. Most of the battle of fitness is just showing up. A lot of people think they want to get fit, some of them join a gym, and a few of them show up everyday. Only the last category meet their goals. Not every workout will feel great or fun, but if you show up everyday, your goals will fall to persistent effort. Most of life is about outlasting when others give up.
Learn to brace your core. All lifting exercises are a transfer strength or power from your body to the world. To do that, you need a stable base off of which to transfer that power. Imagine squatting with a bar on your back. If your midsection were a steel girder, you’d have an easy time transferring all your leg strength to the bar. If your midsection were an ice cream cone, it would tumble over and deliver no strength to the bar no matter how strong your legs. Learn to create a “belt” with the muscles around your stomach and back to lift safer and heavier.
Start light and get heavy. When you’re lifting for the first time or first time in awhile, start with light weights to get comfortable. I forget this often after coming off of injury. When you get comfortable with movements, then you make them heavy. To get progress from lifting, you must progressively overload your muscles meaning add weight or add reps. If you used to squat 300 for 5 and now you can do it for 10, you got stronger. If you used to squat 300 for 5 and now can squat 365 for 5, you got stronger. In the Highlander Program, the exercises and sets are programmed for you, so weight should be the variable that you focus on increasing over time.
Make friends. The gym is a community. Everyone at a gym is there with the same general purpose of improving fitness. It creates an environment that is usually friendly and supportive. I’ve made a lot of friends at gyms over the years and found a lot of great training partners. Yes, starting is intimidating, but it’s the entry price for the community. Once paid, you’re in. Just keep showing up.