Lifting weights is a great way to exercise. Training your muscles is essential to meeting exercise guidelines, plus being strong is basically living life on easy mode. So read on for some of the best tips and guides we published this year on what to do in the weight room.
How to get started
You’ll find tons of conflicting advice about weight training, and about exercise in general. Fortunately, that’s actually a good thing: there are many paths toward getting strong. Here, we have a guide to what’s important and what you don’t really have to worry about as a beginner. Among the things that are overrated: perfect form, newbie gains, warmup routines, and the “mind-muscle connection.”
What equipment you need to get started
Even if you don’t have a gym equipment (or the budget for a full home gym), you can do a lot with just a few pieces of equipment. Here we’ve got a rundown of the most basic equipment you need to work out at home. Depending on your budget and what exercises you like to do, you might not need much more than a pair of running shoes and a hefty kettlebell.
How to decide between barbells and dumbbells
Barbell workouts are often seen as the more serious option, and it’s true that they’re probably best for heavy strength training. But dumbbells have their place, too. Read up to figure out which one makes more sense for you—and don’t forget that you can use both.
What to do with a barbell
If you’ve decided to go with barbells—or even to try them out for the first time—here’s what you need to know. We cover everything from finding the gear you need in the gym, to loading the plates on the bar, to knowing what exercises to do and how to do them safely.
How to “tone” your muscles
“Toning” is a controversial word. Technically there is no such thing as “toning,” but if you use that word to describe the body type you’re going for, you clearly have something specific in mind. Here we break down what happens to your body physically when you train with weights, and what kinds of workouts will have the effects you’re looking for.
What to do when your progress stalls
As a beginner in the gym, you can see improvement with almost every workout. But eventually you’ll get to a point where you can’t lift as much today as you could last week. Did you do something wrong? Nope, you’ve probably just hit the phase where your “newbie gains” aren’t coming so easily anymore. Changing up your routine can help, but only if you’re smart about it.
The best app for finding a new workout routine
There are plenty of good lifting programs out there, but sometimes we want an app that lays everything out for us. Enter Boostcamp, which has dozens of well-regarded routines built in. When we first wrote about it, it had a bunch of Reddit-famous workout programs. Since then, tons more have been added, so check it out if you’re looking for a guide to your gym sessions.
How to get kids into strength training
Children can train with weights, if they’re taught and supervised properly. But what kinds of workout programs should they do? If your kids aren’t ready for adult style programs, try this routine that my own kids have found fun and engaging. It works their whole body and is quick to complete, leaving them plenty of time for playground games and other age-appropriate activities.
Which way to face in the squat rack
I’m going to save you some embarrassment here, and possibly injury. If you’re squatting with a barbell, you need to face toward the hooks, not away from them. This way you can rerack the weight easily, even after a tough set.
How to do front squats
Front squats are a great exercise for your legs and your core, but they’re notoriously difficult to do. One reason is that your wrists need to bend backwards to stabilize the bar...or do they? Often, some tweaks to your body and shoulder positioning can make the movement a lot more comfortable. Read our tips here.
How to use “negative” reps
A study came out this year that seemed to say the useful part of training weights is not lifting the weight up, but putting it down. While that summary is not exactly true—both parts are important—it’s long been known that these “negative” reps are a useful tool. If you can’t do a pullup yet, for example, you can use a bench to climb to the top of the bar and slowly lower yourself down.
What to do in a hotel gym
Hotels often don’t have enough equipment to let you do the same workouts you might be accustomed to. But we have you covered with three workouts you can do in almost any hotel gym, plus a guide to designing your own variations.
How to get into powerlifting
If you love lifting weights, and you have a competitive streak, you may want to give powerlifting a try. This is a sport where the winner is whoever can squat, bench press, and deadlift the most weight, and it’s surprisingly beginner-friendly.
When you need a women’s bar
Among the many barbells in a well-appointed gym, you might find one that’s known as a “women’s bar.” Or, if you’re a woman and your gym doesn’t have one of these, you might wonder what you’re missing. Well, wonder no more: A women’s bar is specific to the sport of Olympic weightlifting (and CrossFit). If you don’t do those sports, you’re not missing out. But if you want to give one a try, we have a complete rundown on how it differs from other types of barbells.
How to work your stabilizer muscles
“Stabilizer muscles” are important ones to work, according to people who prefer dumbbell and kettlebell lifts over machine exercises. But is that really true? Sort of. It turns out that the distinction between “stabilizers” and “main movers” is fuzzier than you might think. Read our guide for some practical advice on how to know if you’re working your stabilizers enough.
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