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Getting Started In Strength

It's been a long hiatus, I took this time off because in a space that is crowded by almost too much information on how to do exercise I needed to figure out what my voice is going to be like. What things do I need to concentrate on what things are just left to people who are better equipped to deal with those things. Therefore, after a year and 3 months, I finally have identified my voice, and my clients were a huge influence in that process. I have realized that most of my readers are working professionals who are looking for answers. Why do theirs joints ache, why is their blood sugar levels crazy, why they are looking more sick even when they are on a diet consisting of almost no flavor and lots of pills to manage various ailments.

This post is dedicated to all my clients, who decided to get healthy and I'm cheering them on as they accomplish more and more of their goals. So without further ado let's dive right into the meat of the subject.

Strength training is one of the most important self-care one needs to do.

When I ask a person who walks into my studio that what his/her goal is to join the gym, the answers are along these lines:

  • I want to lose weight

  • I want to build more muscles

  • I want to be more athletic

  • I want to be more flexible

  • I want to manage my diabetes

  • I don't want to be get injured so easily

  • I want to live better with my RA

  • I want to manage my PCOS/Hashimoto's

  • I want to age like fine wine

So you can see the motivations are varied but what if I told you that there's one thing that helps with all these motivations. You'll probably report me for blasphemy but, I am going to say it -

Strength training can help with every single motivation listed above.

It is true! You're going to have to take my word for it at the moment. In time I'm going to write elaborate articles on how strength training helps with all the motivations listed above. For now, I want you to get started in strength training regardless of your motivations. This article gives you a blueprint on how to get started in strength training.

The 4 Ps of Strength training - Prepare, Practice, Perform, Persist - in that order

Prepare - When one starts coming to the gym with the idea of working out with weights, his mind might be ready but the body has still not yet got the memo. The head is still looking at the laptop screen, the back strenuously holding the head curving wildly, hips are ischemic from being sat on for 4-5 hours, abs are on vacation, and legs are just questioning their existence. To load the joints, and muscles at this stage means one thing and one thing only, i.e., disaster.

One needs to give a good amount of time to get the body going too - some gentle cardio, combined with dynamic stretching, and exercises performed with bodyweight itself scaled suitably is all one should concentrate on, this will give adequate stimulus to the body to drive more blood, oxygen, and food to the muscles, and joints that have just been worked and in turn making them stronger. It is very important to not rush this stage. This is also a good place to identify your weaknesses and imbalances, all the more reason to take your own sweet time to work through this stage.

How much time does one need to get through this stage? Well it depends, on your level of physical activity, level of stress, age, kind of work you do, etc. The most important factor though is age. Older you are more gradual you should be.

Practice - I can see, why most people can't see themselves doing strength training. It's because of tiktok, instagram, and all the other social media where people are often seen doing ridiculous things with their bodies, doing ridiculous movements, lifting ridiculous weights, and looking ridiculously sexy and the person on the precipice of a life changing decisions sees all that and says, well I cannot do that, or this is what I'll have to do to look as good as the social media influencer does. (This analysis isn't entirely fair because it leaves those out who get really excited by the ridiculous and can't wait to try them, but this article isn't speaking to them; at least not until they break something and then need a proper structure to their workouts.)

Let me ease the burden for you, it's not what you see your favorite social media influencer do on SM that gives them that ridiculous ability, and body. It is what they don't post it is that does. There are 7 basic human movement patterns - Squatting, Hinging, Horizontal Pushing, Vertical Pushing, Horizontal Pulling, and Vertical Pulling, and Walking. The question is why do they not post it, because it's not sexy, it won't get them the eyeballs.

That being said, if one sticks to these 7 fundamental movements and follows progressive overload one can continue to build muscles, and function for a long time. Should you do exactly the same movements? Not really, there are countless variations of these exercises. One can choose the variations that suits them the most and stick with them to reap the benefits.

Therefore, in the second stage of the starting strength it is important to practice these movement patterns. Because, practicing the movement itself, slowly and under control, is the best mobility drill one can do and it lays the foundation for the work that we are going to do with the heavy weights.

Perform - In this stage, ideally around week 3-4 you should start loading your movements with the implement of your choice. Barbell, kettlebell, dumbbells, pick your poison and keep improving the performance.

Improving and tracking performance is easy in strength training. Here's how to know if your performance is improving :

  • The weights used are increasing

  • Number of reps and sets done at a particular weight are increasing

  • You take less time to finish your workout

  • Your range of motion is more, i.e., you can control the weight through a larger range.

  • The movement at a certain weight becomes more smooth and controlled.

So as you can see there's a lot of things to see improvement. Therefore don't get hung up on things like your bodyweight or lack of a visible six pack as a sign of an ineffective workout. Track your workout using an excel sheet, or the old fashioned way of using pen, and a scratch pad. If you're improving on the metrics that I have listed above, at a certain point your body will have a accumulated enough stimulus to change itself into a better looking, better performing unit.

Persist - Now you can track your workouts, do all your mobility drills etc., but it will not do anything if you do not do it consistently. Strength training is more like a marathon than a sprint, one has to do it for a long time regularly to see results. Think of it as chipping away at a rock to give it shape. The less frequently you chip the longer it takes for the results to manifest themselves.

So there you have it, the 4P method to getting started in strength training. In the following blogs I will write more about the workouts, giving away a method to design an effective workout for you. Thanks for reading this far, cheers :)

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