HELP… Where do I start?!
This is the most common question I get on the Weights 4 Women Facebook page. After receiving another one this week I decided to turn it into a blog post.
Please bear in mind that this answer will NOT suit everybody. This does not take into account injuries, illnesses, motor control and movement patterns etc
However, this answer does HELP a lot of people!
First of all – I would see if the gym has an instructor who can show you how to use the machines in the gym safely and effectively. This should be available in most gym.
Bonus – if you can afford to hire a good coach (do your homework), this will be the biggest return of investment you can make in terms of understanding movement patterns, muscles, exercises and programming
The reason I say machines first instead of free weights is to initially build some level of strength and stability against resistance in a controlled way (machines are fixed, less chance of injury).
Because you`re new to training, stability will be difficult under load. For example, the shoulder and hips are two of the key players here. So as a beginner I always try and get someone to use AS MANY machines as possible.
Although standing shoulder presses, squats, deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, split squats etc are fantastic exercises, they are also complex. Because they are complex there is a higher risk of injury due to you being new to weight training / instability. Because the machines take the stability control out of the lift you can start to feel where different machines target and how your muscles contract. For a beginner, this is quite important as many people don’t have the awareness of how a contracting muscle feels under resistance.
Practice contracting muscles WITHOUT any resistance and get use to what it feels like, where contracts as you shorten and lengthen muscles. If you can’t contract a muscle with no resistance, you will find it very hard to contract effectively with resistance.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
So initially get use to as many machines as possible. Stick to around 8-10 reps and focus on getting stronger first. Because you`re new to training and won’t be lifting heavy loads you can have very short rest periods and recover well, around 45 seconds. 2-3 sets per machine should be adequate.
Once you have built some strength over a few weeks, months – I would then have someone show you free weight exercises with dumbbells and barbells. You would have built some strength and stability by then and you can execute the exercises properly and safely. This means you can now continue to learn and progress.
As a few months pass you can then start looking at more complex exercise planning as you will know have all the tools in the box!
The most common new year goal we hear at Weights 4 Women is to lose body fat / lose weight.
This time of year there are many companies trying to capitalise on this. People trying to sell you a quick fix, detoxes, juice cleansing and the rest of the rubbish our social networks are spammed with.
If you haven’t read my article on the myth of detoxing, this is for you – http://www.weights4women.com/should-i-detox-weight-training-for-women/
You need to remember there are no magical drinks or no magical foods that are going to answer your new year problems.
Losing weight is both complex and simple, and it has to do with our energy balance.
There are 3 options – stay at maintenance , calorie surplus or a calorie deficit.
If you want to lose body fat / weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. In simple terms, you need to expend more energy than you are taking in (food & drink).
This is where tracking what you eat and drink is EXTREMELY important.
Apps such as MyFitnesPal are brilliant for this!
If you don’t know what your consuming on a day to day basis then the task becomes very difficult. It`s like trying to throw darts at a target whilst wearing a blindfold. Track your calories and try to be consistent daily, this will give you the best chance going forward.
So how will I know if I am in a calorie deficit?
By tracking what you are taking in each day you should be consistent with what ever number you are hitting in terms of calories. Once you are at a point that is consistent, are you losing weight or gaining weight? Or are the scales staying the same?
If the scales are staying the same then decrease your calories by 100 and monitor and track again. A good guide is to lose 1 to 2lbs per week. Any more then you risk losing muscle tissue (which is the last thing we want – more muscle = a higher RMR = more fat burnt at rest). You are looking to make long term sustainable changes that are maintainable after you have reached your goal weight.
Whilst weight training will amplify your results and progress, it is not needed. You just need to move a little bit more (walk instead of taking the car, use the stairs instead of the lift, stand instead of siting etc) and eat a little less.
If you are using a gym this new year, I wish you the best of luck! Although at times the gym can seem a scary place, it`s a community of friendly, like minded people who have similar aims and goals. Every one started out somewhere and we all remember that!
Any questions, feel free to send me a message. If this helped you, please share with others!
Mechanical Advantage Set – Squats
Some of you may have heard of mechanical advantage sets, however I will presume a large percentage of the reader’s haven`t.
I will try to break down the information as simply as possible, so you will be able to implement it straight into your training.
A mechanical advantage set works on the basis of overload using 2 very similar exercises / the same exercise but with the manipulation of angles / strength curve so you are able to complete more reps in a set. For this example, I am going to use the front and back squat – targeting the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
If you are not sure what a front squat is / the benefits, please have a read of this article before you continue – http://www.weights4women.com/3-squat-variations-for-you-to-try/
So how do you do it?
So you are going to start with the front squat, for this example we are going to use 8 reps as the goal for the working set. The weight you choose should be specific to the 8 rep target. If you are able to 10 reps, the weight is too light.
Once the 8 reps are completed, you re-rack the weight and then get in position to do a back squat. As we are generally stronger on the back squat vs the front squat, you should be able to produce more force and subsequently add some extra reps to the working set. Going from a mechanical disadvantage (front squat) to a mechanical advantage (back squat).
It is as simple as that.
Be sure to use a spotter on this for obvious safety reasons!
Let me know how you get on, if you have any questions – please feel free to send me a message on social media or through the website.
Functional Training? ……….
The fitness industry on the whole is FULL of “buzzwords”
They often sound fancy, attractive in the hope that it leads you to buy their product or invest your money for their time.
BUT do these words actually represent anything in relation to training and performance.
A popular one at the minute is …… FUNCTIONAL TRAINING
The idea around functional training is that exercises are chosen that promote certain functions of joints and muscles. This is often many joints working in sync to produce a certain movement pattern.
For example, a back squat requires the hip, knee and ankle joint to work together to produce the lower body movement. There is also stabilization of the upper body and associated joints and muscles, but on a whole, it is a lower body exercise.
However, what is a DYSFUNCTIONAL exercise?
Surely all movement involves certain joints and muscles working together to produce a specific outcome?
So by definition ALL movements that require joints and muscles to work together to produce ANY movement is therefore functional.
Lets look at an example……..
If the sport you play / perform in requires a large degree of shoulder movement, having strong stabilizers around the rotator cuff and scapulae will in turn improve the function of the shoulder joint. If we look at one exercise such as the “face pull” many would not class this as functional.
The face pull will improve the stabilizers around the shoulder, improve the upper and lower traps which in turn will help to keep the shoulders back and avoid internal rotation. This will improve the function of the shoulder, so in turn is classed as functional training.