Strength Training BASICS

Woman Doing Push Ups with Resistance Bands

Learn the fundamentals of weightlifting!

Last week, you learned WHY strength training is so vitally important for everyone, especially women.  The benefits are VAST and not only impact you on the day that you strength train, but also carry on for weeks, months, and years with continued focus. Particularly for women in their child-bearing years, weight bearing exercises can be the perfect low-impact way to improve health, lose weight and “tone up.”

Today, we’ll discuss some STRENGTH TRAINING BASICS that you’ll need to know before walking into the weight room.  Because you should walk in there, knowing what you’re doing and having confidence in your form and approach.  Women belong in the weight room!

cow bell lifts at the gym


1) BREATHE! Exhale on the hardest part of the exercise.

Clients tend to hold their breath during strength training exercises.  We get so hyper-focused on what we’re trying to do, that a simple thing like breathing seems to fall by the wayside.  Try to exhale during the hardest part of the exercise.  For instance, if you’re performing a crunch, exhale on the way up, then inhale on the way back down.  Not only will your lungs thank you, but you’ll also unconsciously slow your movements down, which will allow for more intentional, precise movements.

2) Watch yourself in a mirror.

Gyms have mirrors for a reason (and it isn’t to make you feel so bad that you sign on for another year!). Do all of your exercises in front of a mirror so that you can really SEE your form. You can also more easily detect muscle imbalances and improper technique when you’re looking at yourself versus the wall.

3) Think about the muscle you’re working.

Don’t just go through the motions –  think about the muscle(s) you’re using during every exercise. For instance, if you’re performing a bicep curl, don’t just swing your arm up and down.  Slow down and turn your focus towards your bicep muscle contracting and then lengthening.  Doing so will give you a much better workout, physically AND mentally!

bicep curls in the gym

4) Allow your muscles to rest between sets.

The rest period that you choose will depend on your GOALS. If you’re strength training for the purpose of gaining PURE STRENGTH, you’ll want to aim for lower repetitions (5-8), longer sets (5-7) and LONGER rest periods (2-4 minutes).  If your goal is to lose weight and gain strength, you’ll want to aim for higher repetitions (12-15), lower sets (2-3) and SHORTER rest periods (60-90 seconds).

Resting between sets enables your central nervous system to “reboot,” and will allow for sustained performance throughout your workout.

5) Allow your muscles to rest between workouts.

Not only is it important to rest between sets, but it’s also vitally important to allow your muscles to rest BETWEEN WORKOUTS.  When you lift weights, you create tiny tears in your muscles. Your body is alerted to the “damage” and goes in and fixes it, but this time, it makes sure to do a better job and adds more muscle fiber to prevent against a future tear. All this takes time (and energy – which is why your metabolism is high post-workout). Your body needs AT LEAST 24 hours of complete rest to repair itself and restore energy levels.  Make sure you’re not strength training the same muscle groups two days in a row!

6) Be sure to refuel properly. 

Your post-workout meal could be the most important of the day!  This meal/snack allows for your body to replenish its glycogen stores and also aids in the repair of your muscles.  Within 30-60 minutes after you exercise, you’ll need to consume a combination of two things: PROTEIN and CARBOHYDRATES!  Some examples include:  Low-fat chocolate milk, whey protein shake made with skim milk or water, low-fat string cheese with deli meat, quinoa mixed into Greek yogurt!

protein shake

The biggest tip I can provide is to ASK FOR HELP!  If you need help with form, technique or just have general fitness questions, ask a certified personal trainer at your gym for help.  They’ll often give you one free session so you can “try them on” and see if you’d like to train further.  It can never hurt to ask!


For more fitness and health tips, please visit my healthy living blog, Lindsay’s List, and join in on the fun at the LL Facebook page, where I host giveaways and weekly workouts!