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Weight training

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 5 minutes read
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Weight training is a form of exercise that is proven to help reduce stress and increase cardiovascular output. Weight training is a way to achieve different targets, such as gaining muscle, improving cardiovascular performance, and helping lose weight. However, for someone new to the exercise, this can be a minefield.

Pre-workout tips

Make sure you have a full understanding of the workout, the stages of your workout and the aims. If you use machines at a gym, familiarize yourself with the instructions to avoid any injuries. Here are our top tips.

Nutrient Timing

Consume a balanced meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and a moderate amount of fats 2-3 hours before your workout. If your workout is closer, have a smaller snack with easily digestible carbohydrates and a source of protein about 30-60 minutes before exercising.

Hydration

Ensure you are well-hydrated before starting your workout. Dehydration can negatively impact performance and energy levels. Aim to drink water throughout the day and consider having a small amount of water about 20-30 minutes before your workout.

Pre-workout supplements

Caffeine can enhance physical performance. Consider having a cup of coffee 30-60 minutes before your workout. The optimal dose varies among individuals, but a moderate amount (around 3-6 mg/kg body weight) is generally effective.

Beta-alanine can help buffer acid buildup in muscles, potentially improving performance during high-intensity exercise. A typical dose is 2-5 grams per day, taken regularly for the best results. This is more personal preference.

Carbohydrates

Having enough glycogen stored in your muscles is crucial for sustained energy during weight training. Ensure your overall diet includes an adequate amount of carbohydrates to support your energy needs.

Individualized Approach

Listen to your body and experiment to find what works best for you. Everyone responds differently to various nutritional strategies. Consider consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice based on your specific needs and goals.

Warmup

Make sure you always warm up well; warmups are the least intense part of your workout. Studies have shown that while stretching doesn’t help with performance, warmups stimulate and engage the muscles in preparation for exercise.

During the workout tips

Stay Hydrated

Continue to sip water throughout your workout to maintain hydration. Dehydration can impair performance and recovery.

Proper Form

Lift heavy, but don't compromise form. Always focus on form during your workout, especially while using heavier weights. Focus on each repetition (reps) until your set is complete. Rest for a few minutes between sets to recover, and then go again.

Controlled Movements

Perform each repetition with controlled and deliberate movements. Avoid using momentum to lift weights, as this ensures better muscle activation.

Breathing Techniques

Establish a proper breathing pattern. Exhale during the concentric phase (lifting) and inhale during each repetition's eccentric phase (lowering). Remember to breathe while lifting. Inhale deeply before the movement, tightening all the hip and torso muscles to steady and tense the abdomen. 'Hiss' to force air out between your clenched teeth and use the remaining air on the return until the weight stack comes to rest. Take two normal breaths while resting the weight stack, then start the next cycle.

Rest Periods

Adjust your rest periods based on your training goals. Shorter rest periods (30-60 seconds) can enhance muscle endurance, while longer rest periods (2-3 minutes) support strength and power.

Progressive Overload

Gradually increase the weight lifted or resistance to ensure continuous muscle adaptation and growth. This is a crucial principle in building strength.

Mind-Muscle Connection

Focus on the muscle you're working. This mind-muscle connection can enhance muscle activation and the overall effectiveness of your workout.

Adapt Workouts to Energy Levels

Adjust your workout intensity based on your energy levels. If you're fatigued, consider modifying your routine or reducing the weight to avoid compromising form.

Intra-Workout Nutrition

If your workout is particularly long or intense, consider consuming a source of carbohydrates during your session. This can help maintain energy levels.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to any discomfort or pain. If you experience unusual pain, stop the exercise and assess the situation to prevent injuries.

Compound exercises require more energy. Exercises that require several body parts will require more energy, hence it is difficult to do more repetitions, especially on heavier weights.

Supporting muscle growth

Try to increase your recovery time along with your muscle gain. You will need fewer gym sessions once you are getting either bigger or stronger. Muscle mass can increase 100% before reaching a genetic ceiling, while your recovering abilities might only improve 20–30%.

Never train to the point of tiredness; it is important not to overtrain. You should feel stronger after your lifting session rather than worn out. If this isn’t the case, try to reduce the workload and see if that makes a difference.

Post-workout tips

Protein Intake

Consume a source of protein soon after your workout. This helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis and supports muscle recovery. Aim for 20-30 grams of high-quality protein.

Carbohydrate Replenishment

Replenish glycogen stores by consuming carbohydrates after your workout. This is especially important if your training session is intense or prolonged. Aim for a combination of protein and carbohydrates in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio.

Hydration

Continue to hydrate after your workout. Replace fluids lost through sweat to support recovery and overall well-being.

Electrolyte Balance

If you've had an intense or prolonged workout, consider replenishing electrolytes lost through sweat. This can be achieved through electrolyte-rich beverages or foods.

Whole Foods vs. Supplements

While supplements can be convenient, whole food sources are also effective. Consider consuming a balanced post-workout meal with lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Include foods with anti-inflammatory and nutrient-rich properties in your post-workout meal. Examples include fatty fish, berries, leafy greens, and nuts.

Timing Matters

Consume your post-workout meal or snack as soon as possible after exercising to take advantage of the "anabolic window," where the body is more receptive to nutrient absorption.

Sleep and Recovery

Prioritize sufficient sleep as part of your recovery process. Quality sleep plays a crucial role in muscle repair and overall well-being.

Active Recovery

Engage in light, low-impact activities on your rest days to promote blood flow and aid in recovery. This could include activities like walking or gentle stretching.

Foam Rolling and Stretching

Incorporate foam rolling and stretching into your post-workout routine. This can help alleviate muscle soreness and improve flexibility.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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