Want to make use of that weightlifting gear that’s gathering dust in your basement and get in better shape? Here are 10 great tips for beginning weightlifters.

Before starting any weightlifting or exercise program, be sure to consult your physician, and be sure you know the proper safety measures, including having a spotter and knowing the right way to use your exercise equipment.

1. Choose a goal

What do you want to achieve? Do you want to bulk up, slim down, or get more defined? Try to make your goal as specific as possible, and set a timeframe.

2. Keep the right mental attitude

Once you’ve chosen a goal, keep focused on it. Post it on your wall to help you keep your goal in mind. Try to find someone to work out with (your training partner) to help keep you focused and accountable.

3. Know your limits

Start light. Remember, even Arnold Schwarzenegger had to start somewhere! Lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions (“reps”) builds muscle size and mass, whereas lifting lighter weights with more reps tones muscles.

4. Keep increasing the weight

Although you’ll have to start off with lighter weights, don’t get stuck in a routine where you keep lifting the same amount. Gradually increase the amount you lift. As a rough guide, try working towards adding 10 pounds per month to your bench presses.

5. Don’t work the same muscle group twice in a row

Muscle groups include your upper body (shoulders and back), mid body (biceps, triceps, and chest), and lower body (abs, thighs, hamstrings, and calves). Varying your workout ensures you won’t overwork one particular area.

6. Don’t forget to work your legs

Many beginners are so focused on having large arms and abs that they neglect other parts of their body. Who wants a huge upper body with tiny little chicken legs? That just looks weird!

7. Don’t overdo it

Don’t lift every day. You need at least two days of rest each week to allow your muscles to heal. Beginners should try lifting every other day. Also, make sure to get enough sleep, because without adequate rest you won’t build muscle.

8. Stretch and flex

Stretching both before you lift and afterwards helps avoid aching muscle pain the next day. Stretching and flexing your muscles during your workout between lifts keeps blood flowing in your muscles and helps prevent injury.

9. Keep proper posture

If you’re doing lots of lifting, but using poor technique, you’re wasting your time. Ask your training partner to critique your technique, or work out in front of a mirror.

10. Practice proper nutrition

Remember the GIGO principle: Garbage in, garbage out! Drinking a whey protein shake right after working out helps your body build muscle (without enough protein you can’t build muscle mass) but nutritional supplements won’t replace eating right and doing the hard work of doing the lifting itself.

This article was written by: Adam Hewer and Darren Hewer

Photo Credit: Ricardo Estefânio