For someone who has never lifted weights before, the gym can be a scary place. I remember what it was like when I first started weightlifting; I was so nervous about everything. I had no idea what dumbbells to use or which exercises to do, and I felt like everyone was looking at me (they weren't). So if you want to start lifting weights more often but you don't know where to start, just know that I, and many other women, have been there before.
To help get you started, POPSUGAR spoke to Dee Gautham, NASM-certified personal trainer and NPC bikini competitor, who started out right where you are — and now she's a weightlifting pro. She runs a fitness Instagram account through which she constantly provides women with useful tips about weightlifting. Here's what she has to say to all the beginners out there.
Ease Into It
"Start with dumbbells to get fundamental movements down before progressing to using a larger barbell," Dee told POPSUGAR. "For example, if you've never used a squat rack before, you can try plié squats or split squats with a dumbbell to nail down the movement before moving on to full barbell squats." In other words: don't feel like you have to copy everything you see on Instagram or even at your gym. Remember that all those superfit women who are squatting and deadlifting huge weights have been doing this for a long time, and you don't have to try to match them.
Dee also recommends trying "some moves on the Smith machine" before you use the squat rack for your workouts. You'll feel much more stable while you get acquainted with exercises like squats and deadlifts. Before you know it, you'll be comfortable using a regular barbell.
Follow a Plan or Program
When you go into the gym without a plan, you end up "doing random exercises," Dee said, which won't get you the results you want. "You want to be sticking to a plan that will help you progress to your goals," she said. "Weights can be very intimidating to begin with, so having a structured program to follow can really help you get started and reach your goals more effectively."
Find an online program that works for you, whether it's Kayla Itsines's BBG or bodybuilding.com, and stick with it. These communities often have resources through which you can stay in touch with other women who are doing the same routine. Not only will this get you the best results, but it will also keep you motivated.
"This is the number one thing that has helped me with my form," Dee explained. "Even after lifting for several years, I still record myself if I'm doing new exercises." She admitted it might feel awkward at first, but it's so worth it. You'll be able to see your form and see where you have room to improve. Additionally, taking those pictures and videos along the way will help you keep track of your physical progress, and that's always a positive plus.
Consider Working With a Trainer in the Beginning
Personal trainers aren't cheap, but you don't have to work out with them every single week. Dee recommends doing a session or two with a trainer just so you can get the fundamental movements down, "especially for the heavier movements like barbell squats and deadlifts." These compound lifts are complicated at first, and you want to make sure you're doing them the right way to prevent injury.
"Even if you don't want to buy a whole pack of training sessions, just one or two sessions focused on form can go a long way to help make your workouts more effective!" Dee said.