beginning weight liftingTired of your current physique?  Looking to build some muscle?  Burn fat?  Gain Strength?

Done properly, weight lifting is the best exercise for all three goals.  Wanna lose fat while you sleep?  The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest.  Wanna look good in a t-shirt and shorts?  Build some curves by adding muscle.  Looking for extra power in your favorite sport?  Strength training with weights helps almost every sport.

But if you’re just starting out (or if you’ve been just toying around at the gym and need to get your butt into a serious routine), you need to remember these 19 things.

1. Don’t Read The Muscle Mags

Ok.  You’re fired up like a George Forman Grill, and ready to become Arnold Junior.  So where do most guys like you turn for advice?  The muscle mags.  But 50% of the muscle mags are pure ads.  And another 30% are ads disguised as articles.  And another 15% is either flat out bad advice or advice inappropriate for beginners.   That leaves 5% of goodness.  And the sad truth:  as a beginner, you won’t know the difference.  Skip the magazines and go for a serious book (see below).

2. Only Full Body, Compound Exercises For Your First 3 Months (No Curls!)

I know you want to do curls.  It’s ok to admit it.  Guys think big biceps are the sign of a real man.  Stop.  If you can’t do 15 chin-ups, you have no business doing curls. What you want to do – exclusively – for the first 3 months are compound movements.  Compound movements are those that involve more than one joint (and thus, recruit more than one muscle group).  Why?  You’ll burn more fat, you’ll get stronger, and you’ll build muscle more evenly throughout your body.  Plus, you won’t look like a ninny standing there doing curls for your full workout while your chicken legs squawk at all the serious lifters in the gym.  Most guys think the big guys at the gym will laugh if they do too little weight.  What the serious lifters really laugh at are men who think curls are going to do them much good.

3. Pick Somebody’s Program And Stick To It

This article is too short to give you specific routines.  After you read this, go to http://leanlifters.com/more/fullbodyattack.html and pick up a great $10 beginner program.  Or visit a bookstore or online and get a good weightlifting book with a routine that matches these principles.  There are so many good programs out there that follow these principles.  But only get one! As a beginner, just about anything is going to work.  Pick it, and stick to it for at least 6 weeks before changing it (probably more like 10 to 12 weeks).  If you don’t know where to start, get Full Body Attack.

4. Incline Your bench

If I’ve gotten you to skip the curls, the next male impulse is to run to the bench press.  Good news for you – benching is a compound movement!  But I’m going to suggest doing an incline bench – I typically go for a 35 to 40 degree incline.  This will work the upper part of your chest a little better and also bring in some shoulders (front deltoids). But use about 10% lighter weight than your flat bench.

5. Squat All The Way

Yes, you have to do legs.  Big time.  They are the biggest muscles in the body. And yet many guys seem to avoid working their legs.  Plus the guys who do squat, most of them only do half squats – they don’t go down!  Despite what your mom may have told you, it’s totally fine to squat past the 90 degree bend in your knees. There’s not much muscular advantage to go past the 80 degree point, but if you stop at a 120 or even 100 degree bend, you are losing a great opportunity to increase muscle and strength.

6. Deadlift As If Your Life Depended On It

Deadlifts are a power exercise where you lift the barbell of the floor.  Beginners tend to avoid it because they are afraid of getting hurt or looking silly.  And to be sure, done poorly, a deadlift can wreak havoc on your back.  But you need to add this to your routine right from the start.  Learn the proper form (see the next point) first.  And then be ready for the most exhausting exercise of your life, because deadlifts put your metabolism into hyperdrive.  You’ll thank me for it later.  I accept cash.

7. Practice Movements With Bodyweight/Light Weights Until You Are Doing Them Right

As a beginner, you might want to hit the weights hard on day 1 to prove yourself and start seeing results.  Hold on.  Get the proper form down first. Click here for a great resource on proper weight lifting exercises. I don’t care if you are embarrassed because you are bench pressing a broom stick – start out super light.  This is important.  It’s much harder to unlearn bad form later than it is to learn proper form to start with.  For many exercises (like squats), start out with just your own bodyweight.  But be careful of youtube – I have done scans of weight training videos online and most of them are horrible – just because they are lifting a lot of weight doesn’t mean they are doing it right.

8. Progressive Overload

At every workout, you want to advance in something.  Maybe it’s a little more weight on your lunges.  Maybe it’s one more rep on each set of pull-ups.  Maybe it’s one extra set of bent-over rows.  This is called progression and you’ll never progress if you just keep doing the same weights, reps, and sets every week.

9. Go 3x Per Week, Full Body

As a beginner, you want to do full-body workouts three times a week.  Note that full body means you do legs, back, chest, etc. all on the same day.  Everything.  After a couple months or so, you can consider split routines.  But not yet.

Next week – points 10 through 19!

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