… Confidence-Boosting, and Good For You (and how to get started)
Of all the various ways to exercise, strength training is my favorite. I’ve been an athlete since I was a young boy, and have a ton of experience with exercise under my belt. I’ve trained for baseball, football, basketball, and even did some long distance running during college.
In spite of everything I’ve tried, strength training has always been my preferred activity. I don’t care much for team sports because you’re forced to rely on someone else, and I despise any training that requires mostly aerobic energy.
Yes, I dislike running, biking and swimming.
It’s for good reason. My natural build is one that gravitates toward explosive movements. Consequently strength training, sprinting and jumping is my preferred way to stay in shape.
I’m not here to bash traditional cardio, or any other activity I don’t like. Just because I’m not a fan of jogging and swimming doesn’t mean they are not great activities. In fact, they’re wonderful ways to exercise.
However I am here to help explain some of the benefits associated with strength training, both physically and mentally, and to share with you how to get started if you’re new to this type of exercise.
Strength Training Is Sexy and Confidence-Boosting
Okay, it may not seem so at first. What’s sexy about lifting a heavy barbell over and over again, getting sweaty with a bunch of other people, and feeling sore most of the week?
Doesn’t sound too sexy to me. But it is… eventually.
Most of the physiques we admire today are built using some form of strength training. Just about every actor in Hollywood (who is in good shape) is doing some type of resistance training whether it is free weights, conditioning or body weight movements.
Almost every physique that is muscular, lean and curvy is a result of progressive overload, ala strength training. Granted there are some outliers who can do virtually any type of training and look amazing, but this is not who we’re addressing here.
Strength training is sexy because it allows you to change your body’s shape by means of building muscle mass, losing fat and is actually an amazing way to build confidence in yourself.
When someone is new to strength training, or any type of exercise, they are typically pretty weak, uncoordinated, and deconditioned. It’s hard to feel confident when you struggle to balance a barbell without shaking during an incline press.
But over time, and with much practice, your nervous system learns the new patterns. Movements become fluid and you begin adding weight to the bar.
This is when it gets exciting.
Have you ever sucked at doing something? Like really, really sucked at it? It’s not much fun, is it?
But what happens when you start to suck less, and less, and then eventually start to become good at [insert task here]? You begin to do the task more efficiently.
Doing something well breeds confidence.
And confidence is sexy. This is also applied to strength training, or any other form exercise.
The more you train, the better you become. Within months, you can be much stronger and more agile than before.
This is true for both men and women.
For most, especially those who’ve never trained before, it can be quite intimidating. Being a skinny or chubby guy (I’m a former fat boy) next to those who are in shape is worrisome for many guys.
The same goes for women. The thought of going into the barbell section of the gym and training with men can be terrifying for some. Many fear of getting hit on or even being ridiculed.
But most men (in my experience) have reverence for a woman who commands respect in the weight room. To me, there’s nothing sexier than a lady lifting with confidence and attitude.
Well, okay. There might be some sexier things, but it’s up there for certain.
While strength training can be awesome for your physique and confidence, it also does wonders for your overall health.
For starters while resistance training is good for the development of our skeletal muscle, which can help support and protect our joints, it’s also great for our bones. As we age, and this is especially true for women, we lose bone density, which can result in osteoporosis and fractures.
A good way to combat the perils of aging is to do some form of resistance training, which keeps our bones strong and healthy.
Lifting weight through full range of motion can improve your mobility and flexibility. When a good training program is accompanied by a good mobility routine (exercises that promote full range of motion in our joints), the benefits are difficult to overlook.
Some of them are improved posture, decrease in joint pain, improvements in movement patterns, less wear and tear on joints due to bad habits/tight muscles being corrected, and an overall improvement in quality of life.
How To Get Started
There are many ways to get started and we’re going to cover what I feel are the best methods.
1. Do It Yourself Method
2. Hire a Coach
3. Join a Lifting Team
4. Join a Dedicated Training Space
With every method there are pros and cons. I will cover each one in detail and give you the good along with the bad.
1. The DIY method is one that many have used with much success. It usually starts with getting your hands on a few books, reading some articles, using routines from various magazines or a combination of these options.
Starting off can be rough. Do you use barbells? Dumbbells? Kettlebells? Body weight exercises? It’s really up to you and whatever fits your training preference and temperament.
This method is exactly what it entails – walking into the gym and just figuring it out. While I didn’t utilize this method, as I was involved in team sports which had a strength coach, it would be my preferred method if I were starting on my own.
Luckily, there are many great programs available on the Internet these days that allow you to learn the basics of strength training. I’ve linked mine on the right, but feel free to find some on your own.
Pros: The DIY Method requires a lot of reading and self-application. No one is going to do the work for you, so you must educate yourself before lifting a single weight. Sure, you can lollygag around the gym, but most who are serious will do their research and at least have a template to work from.
This method requires you to pay attention to the details. Without having a trainer to tell you what to do, it’s all on you to figure it out.
The best part of this method, in my opinion, is that you tend to learn a lot better than if someone were just telling you want to do all the time.
Also, this method is incredibly inexpensive.
Cons: It’s easy to mess things up. Without having someone to check your form and teach you proper techniques, it can often take much longer to learn than if someone more experienced were guiding you.
Bad habits can be created by not having that form check. You may start squatting before you’re actually ready. As a result, you may end up developing a bad movement pattern, causing hip and back pain, which could lead to injury.
2. Hiring a Coach or a Trainer is an option many people go for – especially during January when gyms begin to fill up. This method can be the best decision you’ve ever made, or can quickly become a nightmare – see Pros and Cons below.
Pros: A good coach can help you learn the proper technique rather quickly and will help you reinforce good habits while by giving you stuff to work on outside of the gym.
A watchful eye while you’re performing major compound movements such as the deadlift, squat, bench press, chin ups, etc is a major asset when you’re focusing on doing the movements correctly.
Coaches can also be good motivators and can help push you past the limits you’d normally impose upon yourself.
Cons: A good trainer is an investment and great trainers are hard to come by, it seems. Commercial training is big business and patrons are usually looked upon as commissions instead of someone to build a mutually beneficial relationship with.
Sometimes, by hiring a trainer you neglect the education aspect and merely rely on them to create your training routine. You simply do what they say as opposed to trying to understand what they’re having you do.
3. Joining a Lifting Team is another method that might help you immerse yourself in strength training. If you join a local recreational team (Olympic lifting or powerlifting), you will be able to train with other like-minded individuals and even compete in their respective federations if you want.
Pros: Training with other folks who are chasing a similar goal is extremely motivating. It’s also a good chance to be coached by others with much more experience and practical application.
You also get to witness the camaraderie of a team environment, which is especially motivating if you ever decide to compete.
Cons: Some of these gyms/clubs can be pricey. They’re also somewhat hard to find and can be selective of who they let into their club. Most aren’t looking for casual gym-goers wishing to lose a few pounds or get a bigger set of biceps.
4. Another example is a dedicated space like a Crossfit box – they’re popping up everywhere it seems these days. There are other group exercise facilities, but Crossfit’s a good example because it’s so popular. With this type of environment, you get a chance to learn from others fairly frequently and are usually grouped with others of a similar experience level.
Pros: Like a training club, the team environment is awesome. Everyone is competing which can be highly motivating. With growing popularity, there are plenty of group sessions going on each week, so it’s easy to fit it into your schedule.
Cons: Depending on how big the group is you might not get the attention you need if you’re a budding beginner. You also might not get a chance to slowly ramp up the intensity if you’re thrown into a group that doesn’t do much for accommodating beginners.
If you’re serious about getting started in strength training, there are a few more ideas I’d like you to consider.
Deadlifts, squats, presses, rows and chins are not easy movements to master. They will take a lot of practice, consistency and close attention to detail when learning them. Don’t skimp on the basics – take your time and learn these movements correctly the first time. This way you’re not having to correct yourself a year later due to sloppy form and bad habits you developed from being over eager.
Don’t slack on making progress either. Too many people on the Internet get their Jimmies rustled when someone’s back rounds as they pull 600lbs from the floor. But here’s an idea for you… if they never lifted with good form, and didn’t spend time nailing the basics, they’d never have been able to pull 600 in the first place.
So before all you keyboard warriors continue giving your two cents on lifting technique, think fast and type slow.
If you have the urge to pick up a barbell and build a body you want to be proud of, I dare you to get after it.