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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

by Bhavya Pulugujju

We’ve all seen those jaw-dropping gym feats on social media — individuals effortlessly moving barbells that seem to defy the laws of gravity. And let’s not forget the clanging weights and the metallic scent of the weight room. If you’ve ever looked at those dumbbells and thought, “Where do I even start?” — this one’s for you. 

I started weightlifting about three years ago, and it’s safe to say that I was intimidated at first. It helped to know that there are other people out there who are just beginning their journey as well. I also noticed that when I went with a friend or two, it made the experience much more fun and made me want to keep going back every day. When I came to VCU, adjusting to a new schedule was a bit difficult but I found that making time before class tended to make me more productive throughout the day. Going to the gym and getting in movement also made me less stressed or overwhelmed when it came to schoolwork. I have enjoyed weight training since I started three years ago and hopefully you will too!

It’s essential first to identify your goals. For example, are you trying to lose fat, build muscle or both? Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need weights or equipment to build muscle mass, however, it does help and encourage exposure in a public gym. Here are a few things to keep in mind when beginning your weightlifting journey, from one girl to another.

Warm-up

Warming up before weightlifting prevents injuries by increasing blood flow, enhancing muscle performance, improving joint flexibility and ultimately making your weightlifting sessions more effective and safe. It’s important not to skip this step in your fitness routine. Warm-ups can consist of cardio, stretching, or both. 

Start with lighter weights

Starting with lighter weights is a must. It helps you nail down your form, avoid injuries and build a solid base. Think of it as laying the groundwork for heavier lifting down the road. So, don’t rush it; take your time to get those basics right.

Gradually increase the weight with a progressive overload

Progressively increasing weight is key for building strength and muscle over time while avoiding a plateau in your journey. Think of it as leveling up in your fitness journey — steady progress for lasting results. 

Don’t skip rest days

Rest days are your body’s way of hitting the refresh button. They give your muscles the time they need to repair and grow stronger. Skipping these breaks can lead to burnout, decreased performance and a higher risk of injuries. Make sure to incorporate these days into your routine. 

Form a workout routine that works for you

Here is a workout routine you could use to get started and ensure you are hitting all the important muscle groups. Be sure to look up the proper form and techniques for exercises you need to become more familiar with before getting started. The routine below is a simplified version of my current routine. I have found that starting with three or four days and then adding more days or exercises tends to help ease into the new routine.

Day 1: Upper Body 

  • Flat Dumbbell bench 3×6-8
  • Lateral raises 3×8-12
  • Lat bias pull downs 3×8-12
  • Rope tricep pushdowns 3×8-12
  • Dumbbell bicep curls 3×8-12

Day 2: Lower Body

  • Seated hamstring curls 2×8-10
  • Hack Squat or barbell squats 3×8-10
  • 45-degree back extension 3×8-10
  • Single leg press 3×8-10 (each leg)

Day 3: Upper Body

  • Incline dumbbell press 3×8-12
  • T-bar row 4×8-10
  • Upper back pull-down 4×8-10
  • Cable rear delt flies 3×6-8

Day 4: Lower Body

  • Glute bridges 3×8-12
  • Romanian Deadlifts 3×8-12
  • Leg extensions 3×8-12
  • Glute-biased Step-ups 3×8-12

Whether you’re stepping into the weight room for the first time or looking to level up your lifting game, remember that every fitness journey starts with a single step. Starting with a clear goal, nailing your form, and gradually progressing are the keys to success with weightlifting. So, put on your workout gear, head to the gym, and let the weights be your new best friends on this exciting journey to a fitter, stronger you!

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