You don’t just want to lose fat, you want to build a physique that looks amazing and does amazing things.
Weight training is the fastest way to build muscle and strength and has some amazing benefits you might have overlooked.
Today, we’re going to share a brief guide so that you can get started building a body that looks, and is, amazing!
The Benefits of Weight Training
Weight training isn’t just about building the muscles, however.
With a wide variety of benefits on performance, health and mood, it can improve your life in many ways.
We’re going to start with the way that muscles can help, but it’s important to remember that you’re going to gain a lot more than just size and appearance!
Size and Strength
The fastest way to gain size and strength, weight training contributes to developing the body you want and achieving your performance goals. Olympians and professional athletes take their weight training seriously because it works!
Being stronger is never a weakness, and you probably don’t just want a lean physique, but a muscular one too. This means that whether you’re improving performance or simply want to look amazing, weight training is going to speed you along your journey and make sure that you are at your very best.
Muscular strength is also important for healthy aging. As you age, you lose muscle mass and start to struggle with day-to-day tasks like standing or even walking. Developing strength and muscle mass in youth is a great way to keep yourself healthy and move independently as you get older.
Muscle: Everything They Don’t Tell You!
Muscles aren’t just for improving your physique and looking good. They’re also not just for lifting heavy weights and performing amazing feats of athleticism.
Muscles are a key player in your metabolism and they have a variety of amazing, health-promoting effects that nobody seems to talk about. First, they boost your resting metabolism: even when you’re not doing anything, more muscle will mean you burn more calories and keep a more regular metabolism.
This is a great way of losing weight and staying leaner. Muscle also contributes to a healthier blood sugar, reduced diabetes risk, and even reduces your risk of all-cause mortality. You’re not going to live forever, but having more muscle means a better quality of life for longer!
While there are lots of benefits to simply being stronger and more muscular, the main benefits to your health are actually related to things like joints and bones, which are also strengthened by weight training.
Loading the body strengthens bones and increases bone mineral density. This is a key part of the way that bones become stronger, and studies show that you have a reduced risk of problems like osteoporosis if you engage in sensible weight-training.
This is also important as strength training and power are great predictors of health and longevity. Improving your strength and power reduce the risk of injury from falls, which cause serious harm to the quality of life of many older individuals.
In short, you’re going to have healthier bones and reduced risk of serious injury. This is a great reason to get to the gym and workout, even if you don’t want great biceps!
Weight training also keeps the heart healthy.
By subjecting your body to hard weight training, you can increase the strength of the heart and the health of the veins and arteries.
This is a key factor in reducing the risk of heart problems like stroke, heart attack and even heart disease.
Weight training should be combined with regular endurance training/cardio to develop the best heart health.
This combination is a great way to lower blood pressure and improve all of the markers associated with obesity, heart disease and other common killers!
Posture is simply how you stand or sit when resting. This is an overlooked benefit of weight training, but it is an important part of your health and how you present yourself.
Studies show that people with good posture are more successful, effective, and even more attractive to the opposite sex.
Lifting weights and strengthening the muscles will put you in the right positions and ensure that you are well-balanced. This can reduce the risk of back and hip pain, which are common complaints.
Posture is also a great way of demonstrating confidence and health. This will make you more likeable and attractive – never bad things!
Finally, weight training is a great way to improve your mental health.
Studies show that progressive weight training can boost mood and a bunch of other variables that keep you healthy and reduce the risk of mental health problems.
If you’re already a fitness enthusiast, you know how profound these effects can be!
Training is one of the fastest ways to improve your mood and well-being.
Weight training contributes to the amazing feeling of success in exercise and can pick you up when you’re feeling down.
It is a well-known stress relief and especially useful for venting frustration in a healthy, constructive way.
Exercise in general is a great way of combatting the negative effects of depression.
Weight training is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t like endurance exercise or simply wants to achieve better results with their physique.
Depression can be an awful process, so it is important to give weight training a try when you’re feeling particularly blue and it may surprise you with its potent benefits!
If you practice weight training and get better at it, you’ll grow in confidence.
This isn’t only because you’ve developed an amazing physique, but because you set yourself goals and achieved them. Getting stronger and fitter is a great way to improve your self-concept and how you think about yourself.
Confidence is cumulative: the more things you achieve, the more you will believe in yourself and the more you will be able to achieve.
Degenerative Brain Diseases
Exercise has also been linked to reduced risk of common brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Weight training is a great way of gaining these benefits while also strengthening the body.
Things to Know About Weight Training
Weight training might be the most enjoyable, interesting way of improving your health and fitness, but it is no shortcut!
This approach to developing an incredibly physique and athletic excellent is all about challenging yourself and setting/achieving goals.
This is a process that requires a proper perspective and attitude for the best results.
The first thing to remember is that you need to stick with it: weight training is a slow progress that will pay off in the years ahead.
Many people want results quickly but it is important to remember that your dream body could be years away: you’re going to have a great time on the way and improve month on month, but it is important to look at weight training as a lifestyle change rather than a solution to being out of shape.
The best way to achieve your goals is to keep working towards them no matter what happens. Even if you don’t take training too seriously, you can achieve amazing results in a few years if you just keep turning up and putting in the work.
3 hours a week for a year is a huge 156 hours: imagine how much better your body and performance will be!
This is the partner of persistence: keep consistent with your approach to training and diet.
This is all about trying your best when you can and treating things seriously week-in, week-out. If you try hard sometimes and then eat pizza and skip 3 days in the gym every month, you’re going to see less results and are more likely to quit.
If you keep turning up and avoid long breaks between exercise, you’re going to ensure that you stay motivated. The goal for consistency is simply making exercise an unquestioned part of your life: if your training becomes a habit, you’re going to see amazing results instead of ‘falling off the wagon’.
Patience and Humility
There’s nothing worse than ‘ego-lifting’: lifting more weight than you can handle, in order to show off or because you don’t realise your limits.
This is common in many gyms and is the cause of poor technique, which often causes injuries and pain. Thus, it is important to be patient and humble: the best athletes are the ones who want to get better more than they want to show off!
This is obvious when you look at any elite athlete or bodybuilder: they are patient and humble individuals. This is because humility is the key to progressing and achieving the best results: you have to be able to admit your weaknesses in order to work and improve on them. This is going to be key to approaching your training properly.
Remember that there is always someone bigger or stronger than you, and that you don’t need to show off in the gym. “Run your own race” – it’s all about progress, not perfection.
Types of Weight Training
All types of weight training are going to improve your physique and health, but they have different goals and different methods.
The type of weight training you aim for is going to determine how you should train and how to structure your workouts.
We’re going to cover the 4 most popular ways that people incorporate weight training into their lives, as well as how they work (briefly) and the main benefits and difficulties.
Bodybuilding is what most people think about when they think of weight training. It’s all about big muscles, crazy physiques and getting lean. You see this in most gyms, as many people are there to get bigger and look better.
Bodybuilding training is all about high-rep sets and developing muscles to produce a symmetrical and well-rounded physique. You’re going to see machines and cables being used as well as free weights. Many bodybuilders chase the ‘pump’: focusing on squeezing the muscles and feeling the burn.
The hard part of bodybuilding is keeping up with the huge discipline that the diet requires and ensuring that you stay disciplined. Bodybuilders are renowned for their strict diets and this is definitely harder than training for muscle growth!
Powerlifting is the sport of raw strength. It is judged on the squat, bench and deadlift, and is a test of who is the strongest. This means developing muscular strength and size, but with more of a focus on performance than physique.
Powerlifting training is an eclectic mix of high- and low-rep training and tends to focus on strength and size as necessary partners. You can’t just get big, you have to get strong (and vice versa), and this training can take years.
Powerlifting is a sport that requires a baseline of technique, after which it’s all about building as much strength as possible. In many ways, patience is the key to success in powerlifting: it will take years for the muscles and nervous system to lift huge weights, and training reflects this.
Weightlifting (or ‘Olympic weightlifting’) is the sport of putting big weights overhead. This is the oldest sport on our list and has been involved in the Olympics since 1896. Weightlifting is tested on the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. The Snatch is a single movement from the floor to overhead, while the clean and jerk is a movement from the floor to the shoulders, followed by moving the barbell from the shoulders overhead.
This type of training is famed for requiring huge technical accuracy, speed, power and strength. With less focus on raw strength than powerlifting, Weightlifting training is about getting strong in the right positions, rather than just getting the weight up. This means lower reps, lots of technique work, and lots of movement practice!
Weightlifting requires as much patience as powerlifting, though in different aspects. It requires dedication to technical practice and a focus on specificity: there is less bodybuilding and general strength work than seen in powerlifting or CrossFit, but far more technical demand.
CrossFit is a recently-popular form of exercise that combines weight training with a variety of other movements, often in a HIIT pattern. It has become popular because it focuses on constantly-varied movements and a class format that builds community.
The workouts for CrossFit are varied, so you might not expect much uniformity, though it will develop a wide variety of athletic traits. CrossFit’s key elements are weightlifting, basic gymnastics and a variety of conditioning pieces like sleds, tyres, skipping and conventional forms of cardio. This means that you’ll become better at everything, rather than great at a few things.
The challenge of CrossFit is developing your abilities across a wide variety of skills. The challenge of balancing your time and developing the fitness and skills necessary is a real challenge for competitors. However, it is still a great way of getting in shape and combines various forms of awesome exercise.
The equipment you’re going to need will depend on the type of training that you do, but there are some key pieces that everyone will benefit from.
We’ve discussed some of these items and their uses individually, but we’re going to provide a quick overview so you can get to grips with the basics straight away.
Shoes and Footwear
Weightlifting shoes started out as a way for Olympic Weightlifters to perform better in their sport, but they have been adopted by every form of weight training for their amazing benefits. They are often seen on Powerlifters and some Bodybuilders also use these shoes.
Weightlifting shoes are designed for any movements involving a squat: they provide ankle support and stability, with a raised heel to improve positions and put more weight through the front of the legs. They also provide a flat, non-compressible sole which improves force transfer into the ground, helping with all lifts.
These shoes are available from different brands at different price points, but have primarily been sold by Nike, adidas, and reebok (also owned by adidas). Which shoe will suit you best is a matter of your own goals and budget, but we’ve covered this topic in depth in another article.
You can also buy dedicated deadlifting shoes/slippers, which are very flat and have a thin, hard sole. The point of these shoes is to put you as close t the ground as possible and reduce the amount of cushioning so that the force from your legs and hips is transferred through the ground, rather than being absorbed by sponge!
These both help you to lift more weight in their respective lift, but they also adjust the muscles that are used. The weightlifting shoe is used by bodybuilders to target the quads, with legends like Tom Platz relying on them to improve the size and definition of their legs. Deadlift slippers are a great way of improving your deadlift and recruiting the hamstrings and glutes, but they are not essential: you can just deadlift in your socks, unless you plan on competing in powerlifting.
The weightlifting belt is a key piece of equipment for both safety and performance: it is designed to help you activate your core and increase the pressure around the spine during heavy lifts. This stabilises the spine and avoids and jerky movements that might cause injury.
Because all types of weight training involve a certain degree of heavy lifting, you will see weightlifting belts being used by almost every type of athlete. At the extreme opposite ends, bodybuilders and powerlifters both use these belts, though they tend to be designed to maximise their effectiveness. The powerlifting belt, for example, is a huge belt designed specifically for heavy 1-repetition squats and deadlifts.
A weightlifting belt is one of the first pieces of equipment you should acquire, as it is a matter of safety and performance. It isn’t essential, but it’s incredibly useful for protecting your lower back and ensuring that you’re performing movements safely with every possible precaution.
Developing grip strength is a great aspect of the way that weight training works, but it is also useful to be able to lift without grip being the limiting factor. Weightlifting straps exist for this very reason. Being cut from some form of fabric, they are wrapped around the wrist and around the bar to ensure that you don’t fail because of grip strength.
Lifting straps, like belts, come in various forms depending on what sort of training you perform and what your goals are. Weightlifting straps, for example, are designed with an ‘open’ loop to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself if you miss a snatch – where the bar could easily go backwards from the overhead position.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters often opt for straps that have a closed loop around the wrist due to the lack of overhead work, and the reduced risks associated with it. These straps are provide greater stability and will not come off during long sets of rows or heavy deadlifts, making them a great choice for getting out those last few reps or giving your hands a rest when they’re all churned up!
Lifting straps are, like other equipment, dependent on what you’re looking to achieve. We’ve covered these in a whole article to themselves, so we’re just going to leave you with the basics: buy weightlifting straps unless you know you want to do powerlifting. These straps are cheap and easy, and they provide a versatility that other straps don’t.
Wrist wraps and supports can be seen in any of the weight training sports we discussed above. Their purpose is simple: support the wrists and reduce injuries. You will see these items in use during high-level competitive weightlifting and powerlifting, where heavy weights are being held overhead or with the arms.
They are a great way of reducing injury risk and keeping the wrists healthy but should not be considered a necessity. One of the key aspects of developing strength is balance and developing strength and conditioning through the wrists is an important part of training properly. Be sure to develop your grip strength and use proper positions for all pressing movements.
With that said, if you’re planning on going heavy, these supports can be a great choice. Be sure to find a pair that fit your needs and are comfortable but supportive. These should be a last choice for buying equipment, as they are only necessary for going heavy – something that isn’t important for the beginner!
Weight Training for the Beginner
Weight training for the beginner is all about 2 simple principles:
⦁Learn the movements
⦁Develop basic athletic characteristics
Learn the Movements
Learning the basics of movement, and the basic movements used in strength training, is a key part of developing in weight training. This means avoiding heavy weights initially and focusing on performing exercises with the correct posture, positions, and control. Rushing into movements like the squat and deadlift is an easy way to get hurt and ruin your progress.
This means lots of practice with a variety of simple movements and developing effective, safe movement patterns. It might not be as glamorous as moving big weights but developing a wide foundation of muscle quality and movement safety is one way that world-class powerlifting and weightlifting coaches develop the best athletes. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you!
Movements should be performed at lower weights for higher reps, and we’ll discuss this further in the ‘program/routine’ section below!
Develop Basic Athletic Characteristics
If you’re new to weight training, it’s quite likely you don’t have the essential characteristics for peak performance yet. Developing these physical characteristics takes a little bit of time, but a novice program is a great way of doing this.
This covers a few simple traits that you need to achieve the best results:
These are commonly missing from novice athletes and a beginner should focus on developing them. They are essential to your long-term progression: if you want to do amazing things with your physique and performance, you’ll need to train each of these!
We’re going to show you how with the sample programs, but it is important to remember that you’re building general skills as a beginner so that you can achieve amazing heights with your specific sport and exercise style!
As a beginner, you will be able to rapidly improve the weights you are lifting and develop your muscles and abilities very quickly. This means that you need to be careful to move effectively or you are at risk of injury, but you can make huge progress in a short space of time. Programs for beginners need to focus on developing movement quality through a wide variety of exercises and progressively overloading them.
Progressive overload is a key principle of getting better at weight training and simply means that your sessions should have increased demands. The only way to improve is to push yourself, and this means more reps, more weight, or more control/difficulty. For the beginner, a combination is going to be ideal, and this sample program is a great way of how to develop in a balanced, healthy way.
True Novice Training
The best plan for the true novice is Boris Sheiko’s novice routine. Sheiko is the world’s most decorated powerlifting coach and has been involved in the development of Russian powerlifters’ long-term development for decades. This plan is all about developing basic skills and learning to move while under load.
This program is a simple 3-day schedule that includes some of the most important movements for developing the early muscular and coordination foundation necessary for any of the sports discussed above.
This means that, whatever your goals, an approach to weight training that prioritises simple movements and balanced development for as little as 6 weeks is a great way to develop key skills and traits.
There are no weights on this program because you’re meant to be watched by a coach. However, it is important to be sure that you’re patient with the weights and prioritise technique.
Committing to the 6-week program means spending 6 weeks of careful training to ensure that you’re ready to load the movements into the future.
This is the best way of approaching training: if you develop an efficient movement pattern, you will be able to add weight faster and more safely in the long-term. This phase is simply about learning and being a student, rather than trying to prove yourself!
The Sheiko program is a great place to start, but it isn’t going to cover your whole time as a novice. Once you’ve completed this 6-week routine, you can proceed to start loading the basic movements in a way that contributes to strength and power. If you were patient and paid attention to detail in the 6-week program, this is the time to start getting strong!
The Grey-Skull Linear Progression program is a great way of improving your specific strength in the key movements and developing overall strength that will prepare you well for the various types of weight training discussed in this article. It develops huge strength in key compound lifts, and you can add specific movements for your sport.
For example, CrossFit enthusiasts can add a variety of cardio set-pieces to the end of workouts to ensure that they’re developing a well-rounded approach to fitness rather than focusing purely on strength. Bodybuilders can add a variety of “pump” work at the end of sessions to increase overall volume and the muscle-size response.
This is a great base program that includes key strength exercises for each body part, contributing to a balanced and effective physique.
Intermediate athletes are well-trained and have a good idea of their goals.
By this time, you should be abandoning the general approach of weight training and develop an idea of what your goals are, and what suits you best.
This means narrowing down on your key ideas about what you want to achieve from training so that you can adopt a suitable methodology to achieve maximum results.
There is overlap between the way that you train for different styles (Such as powerlifting and bodybuilding, which both require muscle size, but the latter requires more strength), but achieving the best results means choosing a style that you enjoy and training specifically.
Efficiency, Overload and Progression
As an intermediate with experience training, progress is going to slow down, and every achievement is going to take more time and effort than the last.
However, if you train hard and smart, it’s going to improve your results and ensure that you keep progressing.
Training at this level is going to depend on what approach you want to take (bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit, or any combination of them).
No matter what you choose, structure is going to be important, and patience will be necessary. You may be waiting 1-2 weeks before adding weight and overloading, depending on how you train.
During this period, you can focus on developing strength, size, speed and power. If you were patient with your beginner program and developed a strong foundation, you’re going to see huge progress here.
This is all about developing efficiency in movement, a more-effective physique and the specific demands of your approach.
Intermediate athletes need to take a longer-term approach to training and ensure that they focus on the big picture. If you’re at this point, you may only be making serious progress in terms of weight every week, and it is about knowing that consistency makes champions, whereas ego-lifting can seriously hurt you.
Programs at this level focus on weekly overload rather than daily overload, increasing how long they can be used for. Program I is a great example of a basic progression, whereas program II is a 2-week general routine that will allow more-advanced athletes to continue progressing.
Because intermediate athletes have chosen a sport, programs at this level are very different depending on the goals they have.
In Powerlifting, popular programs include the Texas method, madcow’s 5x5 and Candito’s 6-week program. Personalised training plans are available from experienced coaches, and are likely to provide better results, though they can be more expensive.
In Bodybuilding, intermediate programs should move from a full-body approach to an upper/lower split, providing greater specificity to each day and increasing the amount of training volume that can be sustained for each bodypart.
In Weightlifting, the technical demands make stock programs difficult: each lifter’s technical problems need to be treated specifically.
Catalyst athletics are a well-known team and provide programs that you can use to meet your needs, but it’s always better to have an experienced coach.
CrossFit avoids the problem of programming in two ways: (1) each box provides workouts so that you don’t need your own, and (2) CrossFit doesn’t follow a structured program. The whole point of this training is to vary constantly and get better at everything.
Advanced training in any sport is a serious matter. This is for those who are looking to develop amazing physiques, huge strength, fantastic power or a well-rounded performance with great endurance.
It is no small task to get to this level, nor is it possible to provide a “sample routine” – for advanced athletes, only individualised programs are going to work well.
Advanced athletes are going to need specialist coaches for their sport, who understand the needs and best methods for producing amazing effects.
At this level, athletes require well-planned programs: as competitive athletes, these often involve monthly plans culminating in a test event like a competition.
If you reach this level and wish to continue training for general strength, health, physique and wellbeing, it is possible to continue to develop.
However, this will require a serious approach to training and planning, involving periodisation: the development of a training plan with defined phases and goals.
We’re going to discuss principles of advanced training for each sport, but sample programs simply don’t work at this level! If you’re looking to advance past this, you’ll need a coach.
Closing Remarks: Success and Progress
Weight training is a great way of improving your health, fitness, physique and athletic performance.
The best results come about when you approach weight training properly and put emphasis on the movement and performance aspects first, rather than worrying about your ego or what you’re lifting right now.
Weight training is an amazing part of life that can increase your confidence, strength, appearance and mental health.
Take a long-term view and remember that if you simply stick with it and try hard a few hours a week, you can make huge progress in the long term. Invest in yourself and keep going – you’ll achieve your goals!