A Beginner’s Guide To Lifting Weights

You're the cardio queen, but you want to get the toning and fat burning benefits of lifting weights. Here's how to get started.

GNC Squat Rack Amanda

So you’re already a bit of a regular down the gym, you’re BFFs with the treadmill, you never miss spin class and you blasted through couch to 5k like it was nobody’s business.

Great, sounds like you’ve got cardio down pat, but now you’re ready to start toning up and amping up your bod’s fat-burning ability by lifting weights. There’s just one problem: you’ve no idea how to get started.

That’s where personal trainer and keen weight lifter Amanda Moroney from Recalibrated Bodies comes in. We asked her how and why you should start lifting weights.

Why did you start weight lifting?

Following a debilitating car accident a few years ago, I had no choice physically but to stick to a weights-based program as cardio, classes and my beloved Bikram Yoga caused too much pain and aggravation to my injuries. Under the watchful eye of Daniel (the other half of Recalibrated Bodies) I began initially with a bodyweight program and as I rebuilt my core strength, the pain became less pronounced.

What physical changes did you notice when you started weight lifting?

I noticed my physique changed rapidly, even with the light resistance. From there, I was hooked! Gradually, I progressed to light barbell and dumbbell exercises. The challenge of the sessions was addictive and as resistance training increases the release of endorphins, I found I was less stressed and anxious.

I am at my leanest but more importantly, my healthiest.

The doctors and physio couldn’t believe the recovery I made as I was told that I would have lifelong limitations with exercise. From a psychological point, it was my saving grace. There is nothing more empowering than taking charge of your well-being.

To top it all off, I am at my leanest but more importantly, my healthiest. I have grown to love my body, found an activity that challenges me both mentally and physically and am virtually pain-free; something that was out of the question only a couple of years ago.

Amanda Recalibrated Bodies Dumbell press

What are the benefits of weight training?

  1. It will provide you with a higher bone density and has been shown in various studies to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. It delivers the most efficient results in dropping body fat. You will also build more lean muscle, which accelerates metabolic function.
  3. Research has shown that a weights-based program reduces the incidence of depression and anxiety due to it’s profound effect on releasing those happy hormones.
  4. It can be done from the comfort of your own home; simply invest in a pair of dumbbells.
  5. It will increase joint and muscle mobility over time, improve posture and strengthen core stability, making you less prone to injuries.

Amanda’s top tips for getting started in the weights room

Amanda Recalibrated Bodies

1. Consider personal training

“Most gyms provide training programs to members, so seek the help of a professional to get you started with a suitable program,” recommends Amanda. “It’s a worthwhile investment to pay a qualified Personal Trainer to take you through the program initially, especially to help with demonstrating the technique, correcting form and to provide you with guidance of choosing the correct weight.”

2. Know the lingo

“Sets and reps are common terms,” Amanda explains. “The rep range describes the number of times you complete the exercise, and depends on your goal. Reps in the one to five range build dense muscle and strength, while higher reps in the 12+ range build muscular endurance and lean muscle; so think tone and definition.

“Sets, on the other hand, are the amount of times you complete the given rep range and usually ranges from three to five” says Amanda. Confused? “Bear in mind, there are also plenty of trainers that provide online programs that do all the maths for you!” she assures.

3. Warm up

“Always begin your session with a warm up that includes mobility work,” instructs Amanda. “Start with five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular work on either the bike, cross-trainer or treadmill. This engages the larger muscles of the body and increases blood-flow to the muscles. Resistance training places a greater load on the joints and muscles so it’s important to spend the time to work on stretching and joint mobility.”

Regardless of whether you want to drop body-fat or build lean muscle, what you eat is going to affect how you perform in your session and how well you recover.

4. Recover

Feeling sore? “There is no denying the muscle soreness that comes with weight training,” says Amanda. “Invest in a good quality protein powder that will help accelerate the recovery process. Mix with water and consume within 30 minutes of finishing your session.”

5. Eat right

“Nutrition is of paramount importance when lifting weights,” Amanda explains. “Regardless of whether you want to drop body-fat or build lean muscle, what you eat is going to affect how you perform in your session and how well you recover. Remember, metabolic function increases substantially after a weights-based session and it is important you are eating enough of the right foods, particularly protein and carbohydrate-dense foods in the post-training window. As a rough guide, stick to 1.5-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight to assist with recovery.”

6. Don’t be afraid of lifting heavy weights

Reckon heavy lifting is only for the guys? Wrong. “The common myth that women lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine has almost been dispelled, thankfully,” says Amanda. “Heavier weights offer a higher metabolic rate and since you work against a higher degree of resistance, you will create tiny muscular tears in the muscle tissue throughout the body. The good news? You will expend a greater number of calories to repair those tiny tears, thus increasing overall calories burned.”