HELP…. I want to start weight training!

new to weight training beginning wight training weights 4 women

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.


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!

New Year….. New You?

Weights 4 Women New Year New You

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 –

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!

Size 20 to Size 12 with Patricia Hurst

Welcome to WEIGHTS 4 WOMEN Patricia! Introduce yourself and give us a bit of background information on how you was introduced to weight training?

I had been a yo yo dieter all my life, I would stick to my diet and then once I had hit target weight I would go back to my old ways. I had also tried every diet known to man including the cabbage soup diet. I hated exercising and would get bored very quickly with cardio; I don’t think any of my exercise regimes ever lasted past a couple of months. Of course every time I put weight on I seem to add another stone, so at the age of 43 I found myself at 16 stone and a size 20 (fast approaching a size 22). I went to see the doctor for a routine check up and was given the message “do something or die young”.

After having to lose weight for about 6 months by doing the usual cardio and eating hardly anything I was starting to lose hope. One day at work I got talking to a guy a work about what I was trying to do after commenting how thin he had got, it later transpired that it was Damian Lees who was about to compete in the UKDFBA competition that weekend (he won his class). Damian said that he was also a PT and offered me a consultation to see if he could help. I had always wanted a personal trainer, although I had no idea what to expect. I remember telling Damian at my consultation that I didn’t want a diet, I wanted to change how I ate permanently, I also said I hated cardio and I didn’t want to lift weights as I didn’t want to look like a man.

I started my eating plan straight away (after commenting that I couldn’t possible eat all that food and lose weight) and started having training sessions with Damian. The first time I turned up to train I nearly ran off, it was the first time I had entered a “proper gym” and it was full of men lifting big weights and was very noisy. Damian had me lifting from my very first session, and as I started to get stronger and see the changes the weights made to my body shape I was hooked, I even discovered muscles that I had never even heard of! My training changes periodically as I change my goals and I also had a go at some power lifting with Tania George, which I also loved.

After getting to my goal and dropping to a size 12 I wanted to see how much further I could push myself and we decided I would have a go at bodybuilding……………..


What`s your greatest achievement to date?

Winning my class at my first bodybuilding competition in May, the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic. To be honest the winning was the icing on the cake, the real win for me was actually getting to a point where my trainer thought I was good enough to put a bikini on and walk on the stage, which is something I never thought I would achieve.

Being able to carry my shopping to the car instead of having to push the trolley over came a close second though!

I understand you made quite a transformation? Can you tell the readers a bit about this?

I went from being obese and unfit with no confidence or self esteem to someone who is proud(er) of who they are and how they look. Before I started on my transformation I was petrified of weights and gyms, being too self conscious to even attempt to train in them. I never shopped as I felt horrible in everything and I wouldn’t even wear a swimming costume. Now I feel at home in any gym and that new found confidence has transferred to all areas of my life. I really enjoy my training and have made a whole host of new friends who have been very supportive of me and my goals. Although my friends and family have supported me throughout I think even they doubted that I would actually wear a bikini on a stage in front of 300 people……………but I did!


Who inspires Patricia?

So many people inspire me, my Mum was always a big inspiration to me, she had some really hard times but she never ever gave up, she truly believed that if you wanted something badly enough and worked hard you could achieve anything. She also had so much faith in me that even though she is no longer with us, I could feel her beside me when I first walked on the stage in Scotland.

Damian Lees is a huge inspiration to me, he is one of those people who deserves to be where he is today because of his dedication to his training and to his clients. His results in my life alone speak for themselves and I know that he has never asked me to do anything that he doesn’t do himself. So many people become arrogant when they are seen as successful in their field, there is none of that with Damian, he is very down to earth and you never feel like all he cares about is making himself look good. Damians results with his clients and in his own bodybuilding career speak for themselves. When I walked into that gym with him hugely overweight and very unfit, barely able to get through the warm up he could have written me off but never once has he made me feel a failure or not good enough. If I could become half the athlete that he is I would be happy.

A strong woman who inspires me is Tania George she is another example of someone who loves what they do and works hard to get where she wants to be. Tania taught me not only to lift correctly but also that I have as much right to be in the gym as anyone else. She gave me the confidence to walk about with my head high. There is no “fluffyness” with Tania but if you are prepared to get your head down and work hard she will support you every step of the way. I love her attitude to life and to training.

I have always loved Strongman events but I am more inspired by the athletes now that I know what they actually have to go through to achieve what they do. Laurence Shalaei is my strongman inspiration, again for his attitude to life and to his training. He is one of the most down to earth people I have ever met and just like Damian has not become arrogant with his success.

I have discovered that there are some amazing people out there who are happy to impart knowledge of the sports that they love and who will not laugh at you or put you down for having a go at something new that will push and stretch you. These are the people that I aspire to be like and if I can inspire just one person to try something new I will be happy.

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If you could give the females reading this one bit of training advice, what would it be?

You have as much right to walk in to a gym and lift weights as any man out there. If you want to have a go but don’t know how get advice from someone you trust or a PT. Listen to one person and learn from them until you are confident enough to go it alone.

I would also say remember it doesn’t matter what weight you lift as long as you lift it. Keep a log book to track your progress so that if you are having a “wobbly” moment you can look back see how much you have progressed.

What does the future hold for you?

Hopefully more competitions next year, the plan is to do the Scottish show again next year and then take the place in the Scotland team that I unfortunately had to pass on this year.

Before that though there are some exciting training sessions with Laurence Shalaei 🙂

Thank you for your time Patricia, is there anything you would like to add?

Never be afraid to try something new, you never know you might just enjoy it!