Weight Training for Beginners

Women always ask me where to begin when it comes to lifting weights.

How often?

Which exercises?

How heavy?

Today, I’ll share with you some important information that I’ve learned over the past 4 years since I took my own weight lifting from a cardio-afterthought to a serious part of my workout routine. I hope this information inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and into the weight room. It’s really not as scary as it seems.

  • Did you know that after the age of 35, muscle mass begins to decline at a rapid rate? According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.” I always recommend to my clients over the age of 35, that OVER HALF of their workouts per week are resistance training and not cardio-based. So in regards to how often, my recommendation for a schedule where you workout 5 hours a week is over 2.5 hours of that exercise time is resistance training. Personally, I workout for 9 hours a week which includes 4 hours of cardio and about 5 hours of weight lifting. I always take at least one full rest day per week, sometimes two.
  • There are many different ways to structure your weight lifting routines, so you will have to take into account how much time each week you can devote to your training. There are three different splits to consider which you can read more about here. Personally, I prefer the 4 day split, which I break into 5 total days. Here is how I structure my weight training days:
    • Mondays: Chest & Back
    • Tuesday: Legs & Glutes
    • Wednesday: Biceps & Abs
    • Thursday: Shoulders & Triceps
    • Friday: Legs & Calves

After you’ve determined which split you are going to follow you should buy yourself a small notebook and any other equipment that your gym lacks, so that you are ready to hit the ground running on Day 1. IMG_7570

Personally, I love these Phantom Fit resistance bands for warming up my glutes during leg day. I also use these ankle straps for cable kick-backs, since my gym does not offer them. At the beginning of each week, I write down the exercises that I am going to complete each day so when I start my workout, I know exactly what I am going to do. Then I write down my weights for each exercise and how long I rested between sets. If you don’t know which exercises you’re going to do, start with some of the circuit machines versus free weights. Machines are a good place to start for beginners because it forces you to practice perfect form, whereas free weights leave a lot of room for error. You’ll want to stick to the same routine for 4-6 weeks, and then change it up, so your body does not get bored. Focus on increasing your weights as the weeks go on. Aim for 4 sets of 15 reps one week, and then next week try 4 sets of 12 reps at a HEAVIER weight.

  • If you get nervous by the phrase “lift heavy” and you envision super bulky men with veins popping from their biceps, grunting and throwing their weights on the ground, think again. Here is an image of women a who lifts heavy. Not too shabby, eh?

    Jessie Hilgenberg

    A good rule of thumb when choosing a weight that is right for each exercise is to choose a weight that 1) allows you to practice perfect form, 2) makes it HARD to complete 12-15 reps, 3) you are STRUGGLING to complete your last set of reps with. If you can complete more than 30 reps at once using the weight you’ve chosen, that the weight is TOO LIGHT. Step it up! I always see men and women compromising their form in their effort to increase their weights. Remember, MOMENTUM IS NOT A MUSCLE! Perfect form first. Heavier weight second.

For more information on lifting weights check out bodybuilding.com for tips and free online programs. I also highly recommend any of Jessie Hilgenberg’s ebooks which you can learn about on her site: jessiefitness.com.

I hope to see you in the weight room one day very soon! XO, Mary