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Published on February 4, 2021

5 Weight Lifting Exercises for Absolute Beginners

5 Weight Lifting Exercises for Absolute Beginners

January is the month of Fitness New Year’s Resolution and despite gyms being closed in most countries, the number of people jumping on the exercise and weight-loss train is higher than it has ever been.

Most people that are afraid of going to the gym have been converted to home-training over the pandemic (most of you Lifehack readers might even have purchased my Busy Yet Fit Home Workouts video course) and now—hungry for quicker results—are stocking up with dumbbells and barbells to add some juice to their home-workouts.

Adding beginner-friendly weight lifting exercises to a simple bodyweight routine is the next logical step to stimulate muscle growth, burn more calories, and increase overall strength.

The other side of the coin is that poorly executed exercises with weights can lead to serious injuries, and some exercises might not be very effective, ending up wasting your time doing something that doesn’t really bring you any benefits at all.

For the above-mentioned reasons, I’ll share with you my 5 favorite and most effective weight lifting exercises that every beginner should master before jumping into complicated routines.

Note: Nothing compares to having a trainer screening your movements. Most times, when I enroll a new client in my programs, I have to spend a lot of time addressing dangerous movement patterns or stiff and achy joints. If you are worried about your posture or have lower back, shoulder, or neck pain, please don’t try to lift heavy weights without guidance.

Weight Training Basics You Need to Know

Here are a few basic “gym jargon” you should familiarise yourself with if you want to lift weights.

One lift of weights or completion of an exercise movement is called “repetition” or “rep” for short. A series of repetitions is called a “set of reps” or a “set” for short.

A common exercise recommendation for beginners is to do three sets of ten repetitions of an exercise, often written as 3×10—for example, three sets of ten squats.

When starting, try one or two repetitions with a low weight to get the feel of the procedure. Then, try up to 10 repetitions consecutively (one set).

Try lighter or heavier weights for comfort with useful intensity. If you can only do less than eight reps, then you may be lifting too heavy a weight. If you can do more than 12 reps without too much effort, say 20, you may need to weight up a little, although some programs for strength endurance use this many reps. This applies to all exercises described.

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You should rest between sets so that your body replenishes its energy system for the next round. Time taken between sets can be as short as 60 seconds or as long as five minutes depending on the intensity and weight. One to two minutes is usually adequate rest time for a ten rep set of moderate to low intensity.

Safety Basics You Need to Know

When doing intense workouts, especially weight lifting exercises, you have to be cautious because improper practices may lead to injuries.

Rounded back

Exercises like the squat, leg press, and deadlift require movements that place the spine under pressure in ways that can precipitate injuries, particularly to the lumbar or lower spine. In such exercises, the importance of keeping the back straight or slightly arched in the neutral position cannot be overemphasized, especially for beginners. No rounded backs, please.

Hyperextension

Hyperextension means pushing a joint beyond its normal range of movement. This may produce injury when excessive joint movement stresses ligaments and tendons too much. This concern has led to the common advice not to lock out the arms at the elbow or the legs at the knees when doing any number of exercises with weights.

Okay, enough with the boring stuff. Now, let’s get to the meat—or should I say “let’s get to the iron.”

Compound Movements

These are the main exercises you would usually perform with a bar or with dumbbells. They are called compound movements because they involve several joints at once, and they engage a large number of muscles, making them your go-to exercises.

Every good weight lifting exercise program for beginners will focus mainly on compound movements to build a solid base of overall strength and muscle mass.

1. Squat

Targets:

Lower body

Equipment Needed: Barbell or 2 Dumbbells

The squat lift exercise is arguably one of the best overall weight lifting exercises for building lower body and leg power and strength. Because this is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscles and joints at once, it takes some instruction and practice to master safely.

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Squats build lower body muscle strength, endurance, and power.[1] Additionally, they engage the core and improve strength and stability in the trunk and upper body.

Barbell Squat

Dumbbell Squat

2. Chest Press

Targets:

Chest, arms, shoulders

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, barbell

This exercise targets the main muscle of the chest—the pectorals. It also uses the anterior deltoids of the shoulder and the triceps brachii of the upper arm.

Building chest support and definition is desirable for a fit look, but building this muscle is also functional. You need strong pecs for power for sports where you swing a bat, racket, or club. The chest press also helps you with any daily activities that require pushing or carrying.

Barbell Chest Press

Dumbbell Ches Press

3. Deadlift

Targets:

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Full body, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals, lower back, trapezius

Equipment Needed: Barbell or Dumbbells

The deadlift is a great way to build good-looking legs and backside. In a deadlift, you lift the weight from the ground to thigh-level using primarily your leg and hip muscles but with the assistance of most of the large muscle groups of your body.

The deadlift is usually performed with a bar and plates or a fixed barbell but can be done with dumbbells. It is a specialty of powerlifters that shouldn’t be ignored in general fitness weight training. To build muscle and functional fitness, make the deadlift part of your strength training workouts.

Barbell Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift

4. Overhead Press

Targets:

Shoulders

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

The dumbbell overhead press increases strength throughout the shoulders and engages the core for stability. It can be done in either a sitting or standing position and with dumbbells held horizontally at the shoulders or rotated in a hammer grip. A sitting position helps stabilize the back, while a standing position works a wider range of muscles.

Beginners should pick light weights to start, increasing it until you find a weight that you can lift with good form for 10 repetitions but feel fatigued at the final rep. Women might start with 5-pound dumbbells and men with 10-pound dumbbells. You can use this exercise in any upper body strength workout.

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Barbell Overhead Press

Dumbbell Overhed Press

5. Lat Pulldown (if you can’t perform pull-ups)

Targets:

Shoulders, back

Equipment Needed: Cable pulley machine

Most beginners won’t be able to pull themselves up, therefore, the Lat Pulldown machine offers a good starting option to build some back muscles. The pulldown exercise works the back muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi or the “lats.” It is performed at a workstation with adjustable resistance, usually plates.

While sitting with your upper thighs restrained under a thigh pad, you pull a hanging bar down toward you to reach chin level and then, release it back up with control for one repetition. This exercise can be used to achieve a V-shaped back.

 

What About Body Sculpting Exercises?

I often get asked questions on the line of “how do I get rid of my flabby arms?” or “how can I reduce my inner thighs or love handles?”

The brutal truth is that focusing on small body parts doesn’t bring results despite vigorous efforts. As a beginner, spending a lot of time training your biceps, stomach, or obliques won’t get you the body of your dreams.

Focusing on building a lot of strength and a solid base of muscle with compound movements while adding some postural corrective exercises will guarantee long term improvement. That’s why the five weight lifting exercises I listed above should be your main focus for the first 6 to 12 months of weight training.

More Weight Lifting Exercises for Beginners

Featured photo credit: Sam Sabourin via unsplash.com

Reference

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Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on February 24, 2021

Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It

Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It

I’ve done plenty of short and long diets in my life, successful and not-so-successful ones. What do all of these attempts have in common? In every single one of those endeavors, I’ve hit a weight loss plateau after a certain period of time. How I reacted to that weight loss plateau determined if the diet was turning out to be fruit-bearing or not.

In this article, you will learn how to overcome these inevitable setbacks on your journey and how to come back stronger than before.

Why You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

Our bodies do not like to give away our energy storage.

It’s very unlikely that we had an ancestor that was happily exhausting himself in an environment where food resources were scarce. Instead, our hunter and gatherer predecessors evolved to shun energy loss.

That’s why the first few minutes of exercising are always a pain, even for the most advanced of athletes. David Goggins, Ex-Navy-Seal and finisher of multiple continuous 100-mile races, said this about running:

“I hate to run.” -David Goggins, experienced, ultra endurance runner and probably the toughest man alive

What Mr. Goggins is telling us with that thorough statement is that excess energy usage for no apparent survival-related gain produces negative feelings for just about anyone.

The point is that hitting a plateau is normal. Our genomes have evolved to store energy instead of being energy wasters, and that’s a good thing.

However, first we have to find out if we’re truly hitting a plateau or our mind is tricking us into believing so.

Is It Really a Weight Loss Plateau?

In the fitness center I manage, a young and ambitious young man once complained to me about his lack of weight loss results.

After 2 months of being on a strict and sustainable diet, his scale still showed him a rather small decline of 4 pounds. He strictly followed his trainers’ advice yet couldn’t see the results he hoped for. He felt cheated and even asked for a refund.

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Promptly, I inquired if the scale was the only way he measured his progress, and it was. This means he wasn’t taking into account pounds gained by building muscle.

It turned out that the frequent gym-goer did, in fact, see results. He was extremely satisfied with the view in the mirror and even got compliments from his friends and family. However, he based the results of his success solely on the reduction of his body weight, which means he based his happiness on an irrelevant number.

This is not the way to do it, and it certainly isn’t the way to know if you’re hitting a weight loss plateau.

When starting a diet, try to get at least 2 variables that you can measure. For example:

  1. Your body weight, and before and after pictures.
  2. Before and after pictures, and the circumferences of your major body parts (upper arms, thighs, waist, etc.)

This way, you can objectively decide if you’re truly hitting a plateau or if your mind is simply playing tricks on you.

How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau

Once you’ve determined that you’ve indeed hit a plateau, here are a couple steps that you can follow to break through:

1. Take a Look at Your Goals

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” -Seneca

This is an old saying, yet so massively true in our day and age. You have to know where you’re going to be on the right path. That’s why it’s crucial that you’ve written down your goals before committing to this weight-loss journey.

If not, this is the time to do it. Reassess what you’re trying to reach and why. Humans are logical creatures, and we need a reason to do something in order to stay motivated.

Action:

Take at least 10 minutes out of your day, sit in a quite corner with a pen and paper, and get this step sorted. This the easiest step and probably the one that will create a big change in your life.

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2. Readjust Your Habits

If we’re following a diet long enough, we often let our habits slip without even noticing it. We unconsciously increase the portion size, decrease our effort in the gym, and buy unhealthier foods.

Just recently, I did a diet for a short vacation to Italy and hit a weight loss plateau. I struggled to find the reason until I noticed that I started to eat two reasonably-sized breakfasts every morning, instead of the usual one. One before the morning workout and one after.

This is quite common on a diet. We’re deluding ourselves and then rationalizing our behavior. “It’s just a one-time thing,” we say, or “I’ve earned that donut; it’s the way I treat myself.”

As weight loss is going against our ingrained nature, our brains are great at leading us subtly yet surely off-path. That’s why we need to reassess our goals, to now readjust our habits accordingly.

Action:

Take a picture of all the meals and beverages that you put in your body during the day. Are these aligned with your goals? Are you happy with what you put in your body?

Be honest with yourself, because our goals are not our goals if we don’t back them up with the right actions.

3. Be Urgently Patient

Once you’ve readjusted your nutrition and workout habits, the chances are pretty high that you’ve overcome the weight loss plateau already.

Now is the time to be urgently patient. This is a term Gary Vaynerchuk[1] uses when speaking of the business world. It means that, on the bigger scale, you should be patient, and on the smaller, minute-to-minute scale, you should act urgently.

Action:

Follow the proven steps noted above for at least 2 weeks, and give it your best effort. If you’ve seen a difference, go to step 1, and reassess your habits and goals. If you haven’t seen a difference, proceed to step 4.

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4. Add in Caffeine

There are numerous studies on green tea and its effectiveness on weight loss and health.

While green tea is an antioxidant-rich beverage that has been shown to slow down aging, it can also decrease your satiety and increase your overall weight loss.[2]

Implement 2 cups of green tea every single day to break through the plateau.

5. Eat This High-Calorie Food

Nuts contain a lot of calories, yet they’ve been shown to increase your weight loss by raising your calorie expenditure at the same time.

In fact, nuts, in addition to their dietary fiber, have been shown to be negatively correlated with weight gain over time.[3]

Add a handful of nuts to your breakfast to increase your satiety over the day.

6. Get Your Heart Working

Burning more calories by upping your work-load and re-energizing your exercise routine is one of the easiest ways to break through a weight loss plateau, but it’s also one of the most difficult.

In addition to breaking through weight-loss plateaus, this can help you have more energy and decrease your recovery time. I had to learn this the hard way.

Add 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio twice a week to boost your weight loss. To do this, check out Lifehack’s Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan to get closer to your weight loss goal and increase the number of calories you burn each day.

7. Extra Accountability Leads to Extra Progress

We’re social creatures, and a lot of the things that we do on a daily basis is to increase our reputation in the tribe that we live in.

Use this fact to your advantage. One of the easiest actions to exploit this natural human tendency is to post your progress pictures on Facebook or in a thread you have with family and friends.

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To put your accountability on steroids, train with a friend or hire a personal trainer for 3 months to kick-start your weight loss success.

8. Decrease Obesity-Causing Foods

Animal foods have been shown to be correlated with weight gain. But is it because vegetarians eat more plants, or less meat?

There was a study in 2012, observing over 3900 men and women, that found the group with increased meat consumption experienced more weight gain, even when both groups were controlled for fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, grain consumption, physical activity, and even calorie intake.[4]

Chicken was the meat most closely related with obesity. Decrease your intake of animal foods by substituting 3 chicken-based-meals per week with beans or legumes.

9. Take the Stairs

If you truly want to keep the weight off long-term and avoid the Yo-Yo effect, you need to adjust your habits.

Implement basic, physical activity in your day. You don’t need to run a marathon in the morning, but try to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the supermarket instead of using your car.

Little changes go a long way, so try it out by avoiding the elevator for the next 7-days.

Summing It up

Hitting a weight-loss plateau is normal when doing a diet to get into the best shape of your life. The question is just how you react to these setbacks along your journey.

We have to first make sure that we truly hit a weight-loss plateau and our mind is not playing tricks on us. To do that, we have to reassess our goals and readjust our habits accordingly. Then, we can implement specific strategies to break through and move forward with our goals.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Moqadam via unsplash.com

Reference

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