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    spakesneaker's Avatar
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    clueless about weightlifting

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    22yo female here... I want to remedy being a fat weakling by starting to lift heavy. I try to walk a little every day, do yoga and dance a few times a week, occasionally do jumping jacks or jump rope for 'sprints,' and I've been doing squats, planks, wall push-ups, etc. by myself, but I really want to start lifting free weights in the gym, to build more muscle and lose more fat. Despite strength training before (like, with those 5-10 pound dumbbells or the isolation machines in the gym), I could never really build muscle until last summer, when I started eating PB-style and was doing yoga nearly every day (or maybe I was just finally losing enough weight to see/feel my muscle). But I still have weak wrists and arms and cannot do a push-up or pull-up. I have access to a gym at my university but I get intimidated by all the athletes who seem to be in the weight room all the time, so I'm going to try to go on Sunday morning when they're probably all hung over.

    My question is--is it dangerous to attempt lifting free weights by myself?? If not, what should I do? Any advice on form? Any suggestions on what weights to start off at?? I'm 5'1" and 153 lbs.

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    federkeil's Avatar
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    I would suggest Starting Strength (info can be found here : http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:Introduction ), it's a 3 day a week program (2 day alternating) with 3 main exercises each day. The two places you might have trouble with are bench and press, if your gym is like mine it'll have pre weighted dumbbells that are lighter than a normal bar. And you can always substitute inverted rows for power cleans if you don't feel comfortable.

    That website also includes information for form, to supplement this I would look up videos on youtube (Mark Ripptoe has some good ones on squat form, I saw a good one on power cleans by a crossfit group, etc).

    It CAN be dangerous to work with free weights. what you should focus on is form at low weights (I would assume you would start with bar weight and do the minimal 5lb increases per workout) which will make it safer when you get to the higher weights. I would get one of the gym staff to check your form, or another lifter who knows what he/she is doing. Another option is to take a class on technique.

    And don't be intimidated by the athlete's, most of them would probably help you if asked for assistance. I'm actually disappointed that more people aren't fighting me for the squat rack (for real use, not the idiots doing stupid stuff), especially women, I've only seen 2 women use the squat rack at my gym in 2 months.
    I didn't like the rules you gave me, so I made some of my own.

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    Bushrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by federkeil View Post
    I would suggest Starting Strength (info can be found here : http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:Introduction ), it's a 3 day a week program (2 day alternating) with 3 main exercises each day. The two places you might have trouble with are bench and press, if your gym is like mine it'll have pre weighted dumbbells that are lighter than a normal bar. And you can always substitute inverted rows for power cleans if you don't feel comfortable.

    That website also includes information for form, to supplement this I would look up videos on youtube (Mark Ripptoe has some good ones on squat form, I saw a good one on power cleans by a crossfit group, etc).

    It CAN be dangerous to work with free weights. what you should focus on is form at low weights (I would assume you would start with bar weight and do the minimal 5lb increases per workout) which will make it safer when you get to the higher weights. I would get one of the gym staff to check your form, or another lifter who knows what he/she is doing. Another option is to take a class on technique.

    And don't be intimidated by the athlete's, most of them would probably help you if asked for assistance. I'm actually disappointed that more people aren't fighting me for the squat rack (for real use, not the idiots doing stupid stuff), especially women, I've only seen 2 women use the squat rack at my gym in 2 months.
    +1

    When it comes to determining your starting weight you'll find the answer at the wiki. You should read the introduction, then 'The Lifts' then 'The Program'. It will answer all your questions. For even more info you ought to buy his book.

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    It's not a bad idea to have a trainer or someone experienced walk you through the basic exercises once and teach you how to do them correctly

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    Quote Originally Posted by federkeil View Post
    I'm actually disappointed that more people aren't fighting me for the squat rack (for real use, not the idiots doing stupid stuff), especially women, I've only seen 2 women use the squat rack at my gym in 2 months.
    +1
    I get really annoyed when I see people taking up the real squat racks to do inverted rows, but there is no one on the smith machines *one of the dumbest things you can put in a gym in my book*
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    Look for somebody lifting heavy weights who looks like she knows what she's doing, and start oohing and ahhing about how you admire her. Then wait for the free advice to start rolling in.

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    Couple of ideas here:
    +1 to the whole starting strength thing. Buy the book and the video, at least, if you are not going to pay for coaching too. Honestly I learned much more from the video than I did from a personal trainer.
    If you are really weak, start with the empty bar, or a lighter bar, don't be ashamed of it. Your first workout should not even tax you, you should just focus on the form - wrist position, balance, etc.
    If you follow the actual program and not your own "take" on the program, you'll have plenty of weight on there within a month and get stronger faster than you imagine. Really, just do what Rip says until you try it out for a while and it's not working for you.

    As to using the gym - actual strong guys nearly always respect anyone lifting "real" weights, even if you are very weak at first. You'll be adding weight every single time you go to the gym, and soon those funny looks will turn into friendly nods. You'll also discover there are relatively few people who actually lift truly heavy. I just go in, do my thing, occasionally ask for a spot, and leave. Keep a little notebook and wear Chuck Taylors - the real lifters will see that and understand you've done your HW. People respect that, don't worry.
    Last edited by tfarny; 02-10-2011 at 04:52 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adventure8410 View Post
    +1
    I get really annoyed when I see people taking up the real squat racks to do inverted rows, but there is no one on the smith machines *one of the dumbest things you can put in a gym in my book*
    Not nearly as dumb as the abductor/adducter machine.

    Most lifters are very friendly. Don't be intimidated!! But yes, get the video or a trainer to show you proper form. Personally I would go for the video/books being recommended because I have seen a lot of trainers with poor form.
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    Saying an inverted row is stupid is like saying a pushup is stupid. Annoying if someone is doing it on the squat rack, but often gyms just don't have proper equipment such as rings or bars, and you have to do your stuff where you can. My gym also only has one squat rack, so if it's taken ill go use a benchpress rack to do barbell rows and shrugs because it is the only good alternative that doesn't change the exercise (pure machine movement).

    To the OP, I think bodyweight movements can be done safely with no training, but barbell work such as o-lifts, squat, row, benchpress should be taught to you by either a trainer or another gym rat so that you do them properly and don't set yourself up for injury
    Last edited by Pandadude; 02-10-2011 at 05:22 AM.

  10. #10
    federkeil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adventure8410 View Post
    +1
    I get really annoyed when I see people taking up the real squat racks to do inverted rows, but there is no one on the smith machines *one of the dumbest things you can put in a gym in my book*
    yesterday kinda topped it for me, one guy was doing behind the head "presses", looked like a bastardized jerk/press. while another guy loaded up a bar with 315lbs, put it on his back and then started to shrug.....
    I didn't like the rules you gave me, so I made some of my own.

    Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general. - Mark Rippetoe

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