Most people are unaware of the fact that they can make significant amount of muscle and strength gains when they begin weight training. In fact, the initial phase is invaluable and should be carefully utilised to create a process by which you can continue to make gains, as well as remain injury-free. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case as most beginners end up underutilising this phase with inappropriate exercises, leading to injuries and stalled progress- sometimes even leading people to quit. Let's take a look at where most beginners go wrong, its consequences and also what are some of the saner approaches.
Learn the correct form
YouTube and other video blogs can give you a feel of what the exercise looks like, and how it should be performed. If you've never trained before, you probably have no clue about the correct form or whether you are capable enough to perform a particular exercise. Finding an experienced trainer who can assess your mobility, and teach you the correct form, is imperative. Doing an exercise incorrectly and then engraining that pattern over time, can lead to muscle imbalances and injuries down the line.
Choose the correct programme
If you're a newbie, don't look to start with a body part split programme. I see this all the time: A newcomer with an underdeveloped frame trying to follow a Ronnie Coleman programme. And no, you don't need a 'chest' day, or an 'arms' day either. This leads to excessive overloading of muscles for a beginner. Instead do a full body routine thrice a week, training on alternate days. This kind of programme adds load and frequency while starting up to recover, as well as stimulates future muscle growth.
Focus on compound exercises
Leave out exercises like the chest flyes, the front raises, the leg extensions, and concentration curls. Spend majority of your time on compound bi-lateral and unilateral exercises like bench presses, military presses, squats, deadlifts, rows, lunges, split squats and pull-ups. Isolation exercises might be okay for the bodybuilder who has spent years creating enough of a base to dilly-dally with 'shaping' exercises. You don't have that luxury yet! Here is a simple standard programme you should aim for, as a beginner-15 repetitions with your body weight on the bar on squats, bench press and rows. Also, get 15 repetitions on strict pull-ups-avoid skipping pull-ups. Once you get this right, follow it up with a slightly more complex programme. Beginners would need to perform compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, pull-up, rows etc with correct form. They would need to build a foundation with these exercises and make sure they get their diet right to fuel their growth-for healthy joints and muscle gains.
Avoid these, no matter what your gym bros say!
There are several exercises in the gym, which are supposed to target particular body parts really well, but only end up creating joint issues down the line.
For instance, a wide-grip bench press to the neck is supposed to 'isolate the pecs', but it actually only ends up wrecking your shoulder.
Instead, do regular bench presses with barbells, dumbbells etc.
Similarly upright rows and lateral raises with the pinky turned up, stresses the shoulders and can lead to shoulder impingement later on.
Instead, do laterals with the palms parallel to the floor, and do shrugs instead of upright rows.
A certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a black belt in Taekwondo (World Taekwondo Federation, Seoul), Kamal Singh is a specialist in post-rehab fitness, functional training and physical transformation. He has been training athletes, homemakers, actors and executives for over 15 years.