Getting Started with Resistance Training

Making your steps onto the gym floor can be intimidating. I can remember my first ever weights session and the accompanying feeling of inadequacy along with it. Even though those emotions are only normal, after over three and a half decades of training, I can let you in on a couple of secrets.

First, the gym is full of people who are interested in only one person while they are in that environment – themselves! Most are on a personal quest to improve their physique and would not have any notion of your existence, let alone your status as a beginner. Those with the most intimidating bodies are the least to worry about because of their level of obsession.

Second, once you start lifting weights you are automatically a member of the “Brothers and Sisters of Iron” fraternity. You will find a certain acceptance among fellow trainers. Your decision to start a program also serves as your initiation; after all, everyone has had to start from the same point at one time or another.

Program Design

You have two options with regard to creating an effective program.

The first is to pay a qualified trainer. Experience and qualifications should be high on your list of desirable qualities offered. Personal presentation, personality and achievements may help your final decision.

The second is to DIY. We live in the Information Technology age where, with enough due diligence, a sound program can be constructed. If you do want to try and write your own, follow the steps below:

  1. Evaluate your current fitness level and program. Be honest. What condition are you really in? How difficult is your present program? How far do you have to go? If you are male and aged over 35 or female and over 40 it may be advisable to consult a doctor for a check up before beginning any new exercise regime.
  2. Determine your short and long term goals. What outcomes are realistic? Are you willing to put in the time and effort to achieve them?
  3. Approach your training with an emphasis on safety and proper execution of exercises. Always choose exercises and weights that you can effectively manage with proper lifting technique and optimal range of motion. Make sure you consistently perform a warm-up set prior to the more challenging exercises.
  4. For any adaptation in strength and muscle size to occur, the muscles must be progressively challenged past their normal level. To continue to challenge your muscles you have to change the amount of work you’re doing by manipulating one of five variables:
      • the number of repetitions
      • the number of sets
      • the number of exercises
      • the amount of weight, and
      • the frequency of resistance workouts
  5. Remember to only change one of the above variables at a time. For instance, you may wish to add two or three repetitions for each exercise. Or you may want to add an extra exercise. Just don’t try to do too much at once or put yourself at risk of overtraining and injury. Listen to your body and increase the work volume every week or two, or whenever you feel you are ready for more challenge.
  6. Keep in mind that no two people will ever respond exactly the same to training stimuli. Atraining program should always be personalised. If you start to experience any undue soreness, fatigue or discomfort, decrease the amount of exercise you are doing and increase your recovery time.