Don’t worry if you’ve just started strength training, and return from the gym feeling all sore and grumpy. It’s just a matter of time before your body adjusts to the new routine.
Lifting weights and other high intensity exercise often releases lactic acid, responsible for the burn you feel during your routine. New muscle tissue is being built, which requires the old to break up, leading to pain in some areas. But chill!
This will ease up, as your body gets used to the new regimen. Just make sure the soreness is not caused by a poor posture, or the wrong moves. Use these tips to improve your workout:
#1 Warm up for sure
A 7-10 minute warm-up increases blood flow to the muscles and gradually increases the body temperature, helping to prevent strains in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Your warm up should consist of large range-of-motions exercises and simple movements.
Another way to warm up is to do some low intensity activity prior to your workout, such as pedaling a bicycle in an easy gear for a mile or two. Mild stretching can be incorporated into the end of the warm-up period. Also, remember to eat food high in carbs half an hour before working out, for instant energy.
#2 Begin with the core
Most strength training exercises use the full range of motion of major joints, especially the knees, ankles, and hips. Most of us are enamored by big biceps, and start working with dumbbells to get that bulky look almost immediately.
However, it’s better to start working out with large muscle groups like legs, chest and back, before moving on to biceps, triceps and other smaller muscle groups. This is because large muscle groups require heavier workloads to achieve the proper training stimulus. So it’s best to exercise them, before fatigue begins to build.
Also, remember that any strength-training programme should first strengthen the core muscles, before it moves to the arms and legs. Core muscles act as shock absorbers during jumps or rebounds. They stabilize the body and represent a link between the legs and arms, so a poorly developed trunk is a weak support for hard-working limbs.
#3 Increase the load
Working out imposes stress on the muscles. After a certain period, the body gets comfortable with the weights being lifted, and you can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each without much of an effort. So increasing the number of repetitions using the same weights, doesn’t really help.
Instead, fitness experts advise an increase in the weight being lifted. You will know if the extra weight is working for you when the effort increases. Experts say you should start lifting weights with 6-8 repetitions in three sets. Once you reach 10 reps stage, increase the weight.
Strength training generally requires heavier weights and fewer repetitions, whereas endurance is built by lifting lighter weights, but increasing repetitions. Keep in mind that body posture is more important than the amount of weight. If you have to alter your posture to lift the bar, go for lighter weight.
#4 Rest at the right times
Experts recommend a good night’s sleep of 8-9 hours for weight lifters. The purpose of weight training is to stimulate muscle growth. For muscles to be repaired and new muscles need to be built, rest is crucial. Remember that more training does not equal more muscle growth!
You also need proper rest in between sets. A study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness suggests that down-time between sets allows muscles recover fully, allowing you to use the maximum amount of force in the next set.
Aim for a break of two to three minutes at the beginning of your workouts. But as your session progresses, lower the rest period lengths to one minute. Keep in mind that muscles should be allowed to rebuild over at least 48 hours: do not train the same muscle group two days in a row.
#5 Up those carbs and proteins
What you eat is crucial to help you build muscles. Your intake of protein should be increased to help build muscle- about 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day- but not more than 200 to 400 additional calories a day, not a buffet!
More protein can actually curtail weight gain because it’s expensive metabolically for your body to process. Experts recommend a protein snack or drink after 45 minutes of working out.
Combine this with adequate carbohydrate and a small amount of fat too. Carbohydrates are fundamental for strength training because unlike protein, carbohydrates are readily stored in your muscles for fuel during exercise.