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How to Start Lifting Weights

A complete workout regimen that includes resistance training creates not only a healthier you, but a toned and trimmed you. Lifting weights increases muscle strength, muscle mass and bone density while also burning fat. Combining strength conditioning two to three times a week with a cardio routine will ensure a complete workout for your entire body. Beginning a weight training program can be scary if you've never done it before. If you're not sure where to begin, follow a few basic steps to ensure a safe and effective weight lifting routine.

Preparation

  1. Begin by becoming familiar with the machines if you are exercising at a gym. Most facilities offer a free demonstration by a certified trainer. Look for directions on each machine on how to perform the exercise correctly. If you are using free weights, choose a weight that is comfortable and will allow for correct form. If the weight is too heavy, you will compromise your form and possibly injure yourself.

  2. Warm up your muscles with a five- to 10-minute cardio routine. Running a couple of laps, hitting up the elliptical machine or jumping rope will all raise your heart rate and loosen your muscles.

  3. Stretch the muscle groups you will be focusing on that day. If you are working your upper body, stretch your biceps, triceps, chest and back. If you are focusing on your lower body, stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes and core. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.

Lifting Weights

  1. Practice each exercise using a light weight until you are confident with the correct form.

  2. Find the weight that is right for you by performing eight repetitions of the exercise where the last two repetitions are difficult to complete. You may feel a burning sensation during the final repetitions. This is the sign that you have chosen the correct weight.

  3. Perform three sets of eight repetitions of each exercise. To build strength, increase your weight without compromising your form. To build endurance, increase your repetitions, keeping the burning sensation on the last two reps of each set.

  4. Create a schedule for your weight training so that you are allowing for muscle recovery time. For example, focus on upper body muscles -- biceps, triceps, shoulders and back -- one day and lower body muscles -- glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and core -- the next day. Another option is to lift the total body then take a two-day break between workouts.

    Tip

    When beginning your weight lifting routine, write down the exercise name, beginning weight and number of repetitions. Tracking your progress will provide an opportunity for goal setting.

    Warning

    If you have joint issues, consult your health care provider before beginning a weight lifting routine. Taking precautions and focusing on correct form will help avoid injury. If at any time pain occurs during exercise, stop the exercise immediately. If pain persists, consult your health practitioner.

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About the Author

Katie Winterhof has taught physical education, health and nutrition at both the elementary and secondary levels. She has taught various fitness classes since 2000. Winterhof holds a Bachelor's degree in physical education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master's degree in the linguistically diverse from Regis University.

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