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I’ve been strength training for about five months now and the way I think about it is this: cardio burns fat while strength training builds muscle. When you’re starting to strength train you have to keep in mind that it’s not about numbers on a scale. You can gain weight simply by building muscle which, if you didn’t know already, is actually a good sign. So let’s check out some strength training basics.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Look, I get it. If we could all achieve a perfect athletic body overnight then I’m pretty sure most of us would, but that just isn’t the case. Setting realistic goals for yourself is about starting light. Don’t use heavy weights if you’re a beginner. Start with 15 to 20-pound dumbbells and move up from there which will eventually help you get the hang of barbells.

Push yourself to do more

This one kinda contradicts my last point but just hear me out. You can’t build muscle if you’re constantly doing the same thing. Your body will get used to that and you won’t see a lot of progress. Over time, you should start building up the weights, even if you can barely lift them. If your muscles are sore, then that means it’s working.

Food matters, too

Remember how I said numbers on a scale don’t matter? Well, keep that in mind when you’re eating. Now, you shouldn’t indulge in absolutely everything you see; that’s counterproductive. But, you also shouldn’t limit yourself because you’re afraid of gaining weight. With a good balance of exercise and some healthy meals, you’ll be fine. Try to limit your sugar intake because *SUGAR BUILDS FAT* and don’t forget about protein! Drink lots of protein shakes and I also suggest eating more white than red meat.

Lazy muscles

If you’ve done a hell of a lot of HIIT training before, then you most likely know that you can’t spot reduce fat. HIIT incorporates a lot of cardio to turn fat into definition whereas strength training is about making that fat into muscles. I used to love HIIT and it really does work. But, it won’t target lazy areas, such as your glutes, like strength training will. If you’re constantly working out a particular muscle, it is going to grow.

Rest matters

Don’t work out every single day; try five to six days a week for about one to two hours. Working out when you’re insanely sore is a major sign that you should not be working out. Muscle builds while resting (that’s why eating matters). But, if you don’t want to take my advice, do some lighter training until you feel up to taking on a heavier load.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re bound to gain weight when strength training. I mention that because I know that what a scale says can either push people to try harder or give up completely but here it doesn’t matter. You know your body best so do what feels right for you.

Katherine is a junior at the University of Connecticut majoring in English and Journalism with a minor in Public Policy. She is interested in news, politics, and youth culture.
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