Episode #1: 5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight Room
I spent a great deal of time in a weight room growing up, and still do. The “Iron Church,” “The Metal Shop,” and “House of Pain” were all names I used to reference a place where I saw so much growth in myself, both physically and mentally. I remember watching one of my brothers train to power lift with the U.S. team when I was pretty young, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on all the stuff. Flash forward a few years and I was the one on the training side preparing for high school athletics. Man, there was nothing like the weight room! The feel of it, the smells (not always pleasant, but part of the charm), and the clanking of metal on metal were all rushed to the senses, signifying that a lot of hard work was about to go down!
I learned so much during that period of my life when I was in the gym every day; I definitely thought I had everything figured out on how to get strong and stay injury free. As I got older and wiser (okay, older and after many mistakes), I needed to find a way to lift so that I could lift another day. As fitness evolves, we learn bigger and better ways to get the most out of every workout.
5 Game-Changing Tips for the Weight Room
In the first installment of this beginner’s guide, I would like to share with you 5 game-changing tips to rock the weight room like you never have before. In future episodes, I will dig a little deeper into each of these tips (along with a few extras) and outline a guide that will allow you to get the most out of it.
1. Have a plan, ink the plan, and work the plan.
Going into a place full of things to do without a plan will usually result in meandering around and wasting time, extinguishing the metabolic fire. Get a workout log and write down your plan of attack for the week. This will keep you focused as well as give you a means to track your progress. I highly recommend consulting a fitness professional to help you set up your first program.
2. Get a super friend.
The benefits of working out with one or more partners are substantial, emotionally, mentally, and physiologically. Find a likeminded individual and link up your training times to provide support for each other and accountability. And if you are using the room for what it is intended (to GET STRONGER), you will eventually need a spotter.
3. Pair exercises.
If you want to get the most out of your time, not only from the clock, but from your ability to get stronger and lose fat, you must pair exercises. You may know this as “super setting.” No matter what it is called, DO IT! I prefer to pair exercises in this fashion: Push/Pull/Upper/Lower. We will spend more time on this in later posts, but here is a basic example:
- 1a. Front Squat
- 1b. Chin-ups
- 2a. Dead Lift
- 2b. DB Bench Press
4. Work unilaterally.
There are many fitness pros, me being one of them, who believe you are stronger unilaterally than you are bilaterally. I jokingly say that you have nothing to hang onto when you are working one side at a time. The core stability necessary to work unilaterally is also a huge benefit of working one side at a time. So next time you are planning to do a squat, try it on a single leg. You will love the feel and the results.
5. Utilize many different modes.
Many of us can get stuck using the same tools to perform the same exercises, and wonder why you continue to get the same results. Packing your workout with many different pieces of equipment and varying the movements themselves is similar to why your salads should have a bunch of color in them. It’s because different ingredients provide different nutrients, nutrients that we need. Lifting weights is the same thing; your body needs the different benefits that come from different movements using different pieces of equipment. Some refer to this as “muscle confusion”; I think that’s an industry term made up by those who like to dance around the living room and sell DVDs. I don’t really care what you call it; you just have to do it! Change up the movements and modes of training from time to time so you can taste all that a weight room has to offer and your body can enjoy the benefits of the different ingredients.
This is just the start of what will be a pretty handy guide to getting the most out of your weight room as you begin to lift weights. Keep your eyes open for the next episode, where I show you how to put together a program. Until then, I leave you with one more piece of advice to get you going. Absolute strength is the foundation to your fitness. The stronger you are, the more things you will be capable of across the fitness continuum. Bottom line: to get stronger, you have to lift heavy things. Do it right.
Tony Maloney is the Fitness Center Manager at NIFS in Indianapolis and leads group training on Sunday through Thursday.