Unless you know how to lift weights properly, you are likely to do more damage than good with your new weight training program. Beginners are often unsure of how much weight to lift, how quickly to lift it, and are often ignorant of proper weight training form. For these and many other reasons, it may be best to consult with a personal trainer before you begin a new weight training program; after a few initial sessions, you’ll be ready to make your own choices about which weight machines are best, the best order to do you exercises, and many times a week you want to work various muscle groups.

But for now, here are a few pointers if you’re new to weight training.

1. Always warm up.
Your muscles are more prone to injury when they are cold. All it takes is 5 minutes of light movement to get your muscles warm. If you are planning to work lower body muscles, walk briskly on the treadmill for 5 minutes or slowly pedal a bike. If your weight training plan calls for upper work, then use the elliptical machine, or any exercise machine that involves arm movement.

2. Concentrate on form.
Your focus should be firmly planted on whatever muscle is being worked at one time. Think about squeezing and contracting that muscle only. Unless you are specifically targeting the muscles in your neck, shoulders or back, they should not be engaged in the exercise. It’s far better to use lighter weights with proper form than risk injury with too much weight.

3. Increase weight with by the smallest available amount.
If you’re comfortably using 6-pound dumbbells, then it’s time to move up to 7. There is no reason to jump to 10 pounds until you have successfully moved through 7-8 pounds.


4. Breathe.
The key to breathing is to exhale each time you contract or work the muscle, and then inhale as your relax the muscle. Inhale through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Your muscles need oxygen to work efficiently. Just don’t overdo your breathing and become light headed.

5. Sit out during injuries.
It doesn’t take long to feel the difference between muscle burn and pain. Muscle burn is a good thing since it means you’ve worked your muscle to the point of exhaustion and lactic acid is now forming in the tissue, which is necessary for muscle growth. Pain is something else entirely. It means something is wrong. If you feel pain, stop the exercise. If the pain continues, see a doctor. Never try to work through an injury, it just isn’t worth the possible damage.

6. Balance your exercises for a total body workout. It can be tempting to do only the exercises we most enjoy, but those are usually the ones we need the least. A full body workout should work your hamstrings, glutes and calves one day, while focusing on your chest, back, shoulders and arms the next day. Abdominal exercises can be included in each day’s workout.

7. Don’t forget your back.
While not as obvious as biceps and hamstrings, back muscles may be the most important muscle group in your body. Your back muscles keep your spine in alignment and assist with just about every physical movement. If you can, include one or two yoga or Pilates classes in your weekly weight training program. If classes aren’t available, check out the rest of this website to learn a few basic yoga and Pilates poses, such as the Plank, that can strengthen your core and back muscles and add flexibility to your muscles.