From bodybuilding to CrossFit, from barre workouts to bodyweight workouts, from free weights to machines, the options for weight lifting and strength training are almost denser than muscle mass itself.
Whether you’ve been a cardio rat your whole life or have never done any exercise at all, starting the process of getting into a strength training routine can be somewhat daunting and intimidating. Trust me, I know this feeling firsthand. I went from indulging in foods that are less than good from you and getting very little exercise to becoming a CrossFit coach, runner, yogi and lululemon® ambassador. It wasn’t easy, and I got frustrated at times. But as a physician assistant, I know that strength is critical to our health in particular as we age.
Here are my top "rules" for getting into strength training:
- Find a good coach/gym. Look at certifications and experience. I highly recommend those with a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) certification. These are knowledgeable individuals who have gone above and beyond to receive special recognition for their education.
- Start slow. Avoid the "more is better" mentality. Remember, you can't exercise if you’re constantly battling injuries.
- Don't focus on the numbers. Focus on technique. Develop a solid foundation to best avoid injury.
- At some point, your numbers will plateau. Early on, every beginning athlete gets excited because you begin to lift more and more weight. Don't sacrifice technique to lift a few more pounds.
- Don't underestimate the importance of rest. As you progress you may find yourself needed to go to bed a little earlier. Chronic fatigue is a source of overuse injuries.
- You can't outwork a bad diet. Avoid soda and fast food. Drink plenty of water. Prepare the majority of your meals at home (not from a box).
- Try a few different gyms or types of strength training to figure out which you really like the best or is best for your body. You may find you like to do several different types. Most gyms offer a free or discounted class or intro package.
- Strength training needs to be a "component" to your fitness regimen along with flexibility and endurance exercise. Multiple forms of fitness will keep you performing at your highest level.
Aaron Hewitt PA-C is a physician assistant with the OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Center. He is a former assistant athletic trainer with the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and is an orthopedic provider for UNC-Charlotte and Myers Park High School. He also is a physician assistant manager for OrthoCarolina's PA department and a clinical and surgical preceptor for Physician and Physician Assistant Students. In his free time, Aaron is an avid marathoner, CrossFitter, and yogi and serves as an ambassador for lululemon®.