I started lifting weights about a year and a half ago and have gone from strictly doing cardio and body-weight workouts to feeling my best physically and mentally while lifting weights. I learned exercise names, forms and workout splits through research, but there are many things that I discovered throughout my journey on my own.
- more volume ≠ More results
I used to think that more exercises were key when lifting weights and would aim for 7-8 exercises. I found it way more beneficial to give it my all on a couple of exercises instead of tiring myself out on too many. You can really push yourself to lift heavier weight and proper form when you do a smaller number of exercises, and you will usually get more effective results.
- Take progress photos
One thing I wish I did sooner is take progress pictures. I have a few pictures from when I started lifting, but there was no consistent angle or pose I did that can allow me to compare how much progress I have made. It's hard to see just how much you've grown or changed when you see yourself every day in the mirror, which is why progress photos are a great way to remind you how far you've come.
- form > Weight
"Ego-lifting" is when people lift heavier than they should and sacrifice their form in the process. I used to be hard on myself that I wasn't lifting as much as other people in the gym, and I would try to increase my weight often to look "impressive." With squats, for example, I would add weight when I wasn't going anywhere near low enough. I ended up restarting my squat when I realized I should focus on form and being able to do 10 stable squats with more than a 90-degree angle depth before increasing the weight.
- go hard on upper body days too
Leg days have always been my favorite from day one, but I always knew that to be well-rounded, I needed to work out my upper body as well. However, I didn't have the same motivation as I did for my leg workouts for a long time. I would go through the motions instead of pushing myself. Now I strive to have a defined and toned back and arms, so I'm pushing myself and progressing each week with my upper body workouts. I've also found that having upper body strength helps with lower body workouts.
- DO A LITTLE CARDIO
I used to want to lift when I first started because I thought doing any kind of cardio would "kill my gains." However, I have learned that just doing light cardio, such as inclined walking, a couple of times a week will not ruin your progress in growing muscles if you continue to push yourself while lifting. Cardio is good for your heart and overall health and can improve your endurance, so I highly recommend incorporating a bit before or after your workouts, whichever method you prefer.
- STOP COMPAring yourself to others
It's easy to look around your gym at the well-experienced lifters and compare yourself. I even still struggle with this, and I think most, if not all, people do. It's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and the people you look up to may have been in your shoes before you. Also, remember that each body is different. Even if you do the exact same workout plan and eat the exact same foods as someone else, you'll look different. But that's what makes us unique and interesting. Focus on being the best version of yourself instead of being like someone else.
Hopefully, if you're new to lifting weights or interested in starting, you can learn something from my mistakes and misconceptions. The biggest misconception about lifting weights is that it will make you bulky or masculine-looking. In reality, I've never felt more confident or strong. Remember that everyone starts somewhere and that we all have our workout journeys. Also, if weightlifting isn't for you, that's okay too. Any form of movement that makes you happy and motivates you is the best workout.