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Overcoming free weights fear(25 Posts)
I've been meaning to start weightlifting for a long while now. I recently lost 22 kg (~3.5 stone) by running and eating better, but I have never worked up the courage to walk over to the weights side of the gym.
I have so many questions but, I don't want to overload myself with info. I guess I just need instructions for a first set of exercises which I can repeat until I'm confident enough to branch out.
Although stories of how you first plucked up the courage to head over to the weights section of the gym might be even more helpful!
I'm genuinely thinking of getting a short term pass to a different gym. That way, if I make a fool of myself, I'll can just never go back there
Watch some you tube videos so you have an idea of what you should be doing (even better if you can get someone else to watch your technique)
Squats, deadlifts are the way to go at first - forget all those bicep curls and chest presses until you've got the two big ones for overall fitness sorted and you're comfortable over in the free weights.
To be honest it took me a while. I used to go when I knew the gym was quiet and do lots of internet research. I bough a TrainEatGain downloadable book and started with that. But tbh I never got the confidence to just wonder into the free weight section, untill I got my pt. Then I would train in there with him, but never alone. Eventually I just got over it. Can't put my finger on exactly when.
I am down 9 stone. Before I started lifting I was, mentally, a mess. Very self critical, pessimistic and far too hard on myself. Learning to lift has changed me mentally more than physically. It taught me how capable I am, how determined I am (it took a year to perfect squats) and I now feel much more confident.
Now I walk into the weights section without fear or feeling self conscious.
My advice would be to get a good guide (I really liked traineatgains) read it a few times over and pick a time when the gym is quiet if possible. Also try popping headphones and focus entirely on yourself even between sets. Focus on you and the weights and try and put everyone else out of your mind. Pretend they aren't even there. Once you start gaining confidence, you will find you don't even think twice about it.
My advice is to research, research, research. Start small as recommended above, so perhaps aim to do just squats or just bench press.
I started off with Stronglifts 5x5 but read quite a few pdfs and watched a lot of videos before I even touched a barbell. I like "Buff Dudes" on YouTube
Does your gym include regular programmes with a PT? Mine gives you a free session every six weeks to go through a programme. Then you can ask them to show you some compound free weights exercises with dumbells, barbell and body weight. The TRX is pretty good too and not so scary, as are the cable row machines. I think the barbell and squat rack are probably the scariest , so maybe start with step-ups, shoulder presses, chest press etc with dumbells? Start with light weights and do a few sets with progressively harder weights until it is challenging but you keep good form- you need warm up sets anyway so no-one would bat an eyelid at that . Explain you want to lift heavy (eventually) and they should be more than happy to steer you away from single muscle exercises with 'barbie weights' .
Squats, deadlifts, presses, cable rows, lunges etc are really good. Just remember that everyone has been a newbie at some point and most people are pretty happy to help.
If you've got a birthday coming up could you ask people to club together to buy you a few sessions of personal training? If not I agree with the others about research- youtube and books like The New Rules of Lifting for Women or Starting Strength.
Between sets I tend to focus on setting up for my next exercise and jotting down my weights in my little workout notebook, heading to the water fountain etc.
I was thinking that I should have explained I'm a bit of a purist; I don't touch the cable machines or smith machines
I'm the same! I'm very self conscious and it seems a very male dominated area! I'm yet to find a women's only gym close by. I'm worried my technique will be all wrong and everyone will be secretly laughing at me
I'm worried my technique will be all wrong and everyone will be secretly laughing at me
Choose one exercise and read about it, watch videos on good form and watch videos about what not to do. (Also, don't copy what you see in the gym. I see poor form more often than I see good form).
I'd agree about avoiding the Smith machines- they can force you into bad form.
I'm using the cable machine as it's in the NROLW programme .
Agree about not using others in the gym as a guide for form. If anything (warning, massive generalisation ahead) the women tend to have better form as women using weights are more likely to be following a programme, or have researched it.
Hate smith machines with a passion. Not entirely sure I actually know what they are good for.
I like cable, but usually stick to free weights.
Oh yes never copy someone in the gym. Bad habits are hard to break. Best not to start them.
it's not an easy place for women to be, I find it helps to wear earphones so I'm in my own little bubble and dont notice people too much, just venture in and do some stuff that you're comfortable with and take it from there.
I think men are often just shocked to see a woman in there
Watching this thread with interest, as I would love to lift free weights but have no idea where to start! I have a good mate who lifts but she's a bit far to visit regularly and is also what I'd call an advanced lifter/bodybuilder So a PT session is the way to go then?...sigh.... <watches wallet lighten considerably>
So a PT session is the way to go then?
Not necessarily in my opinion.
I agree with doing lots of research and looking at youtube videos to check for form.
Get to know your gym weights room so you know where everything is and how to adjust the benches etc. Choose a quiet time to have a nose around.
For squats (and probably all free weight exercises), start with a fairly low weight so you can 100% nail your technique and use the mirrors to help you.
Don't feel embarrassed when you see burly men hurling about massive weights - 9/10 their form will be shit and they won't know what they are doing!!
Hold your head high when you walk in, shoulders back, you have every right to be in there. And in my experience, most men are impressed (not that you should give a shit, but you know what I mean!).
I never used a PT, just did my research online. I also picked times when i knew the weights area would be fairly empty (early in the mornings etc).
Personally I'd book a session with a PT. It is very very easy to copy a video and still be doing the technique wrong. You can really do damage if you get it wrong. Don't just try to look confident, BE confident.
degust a pt isn't a necessity. I have one and can't imagine not training with him. But that's me and I think its best for me. I know more people who don't have one than do. There is alot to consider.
Most gyms provide someone to do you a programme every few weeks as part of the fee. I have never had one of these sessions so can't comment on how good they are.
In my experience, in chain gyms (like LA Fitness etc) the people who work at the gym and provide programmes etc are NOT trained PTs. That was certainly the case a few years ago. You might not get good advice on form etc from them.
If you want a proper PT then you will need to pay I think.
jackie I am under that impression too. But not a 100% and never used one.
I would (and did) get a session with a very good personal trainer who is pro women lifting heavy and get them to show you the big compound lifts with the Olympic bar. Once you've mastered the compound lifts then youtube and bodybuilding.com should become your friend.
I still just do the compound lifts plus flies with dumbells. I hog the Olympic bar and am a bit fearful of the cable.
I would advise getting a coach to show you how and what weights to use. A proper coach who can help you work out a routine that helps you achieve your objectives.
I did heavy weight training for rugby for adding body mass with an experienced weights coach. Some people do weights to strengthen specific areas of the body, some just for general tone but not adding weight.
There are so many different exercises you could potentially do with free weights but my biggest concern is that I would not do anything with free weights on my own (except with light weights). I was taught never to work alone with free weights. I now only use weights on my own in a frame (eg like multigym) so I can 'drop' the weight if I get into difficulty. It is easy to injure yourself with free weights.
If you can't afford a personal trainer for a couple of sessions, then I think this book is a really good starting point. It gives you easy to build routine and shows you, in pictures, what the movements should look like.
I think I'll probably start with a PT session then. You get one free session at my gym, and I've never used it in the two years I've been going there.
I did watch some basic squat/deadlift videos though. Then I spent 30 mins on the treadmill on my next gym visit, watching the weightlifters (if I pick the right treadmill - they are right in front of you). I'd never known what to look for before, but I realised that less than 10 of the people over there were doing barbell lifts, and many of those seemed to have bad form. Definitely gave me a little confidence boost.
I used to use the local body builder gym and was usually the only woman lifting there. I found that everyone was perfectly nice and the trainer were great for help and advice - actually were thrilled to see a woman lifting and would moan to me about women being scared to lift. I am now using the local council gym and again the trainer are delighted to see a woman deadlifting/squatting etc. Maybe I have been lucky though.
And yeah, lots of these guys you will see have bad form. Its all about lifting big rather than right.
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