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Anyone into lifting weights?

  1. Apr 9, 2013 #1


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    So I decided to go back to a gym membership and get back in shape. About 3 years ago when I was still in grad school I benched about 40 lb dumbells and squatted with 55 lb dumbells. I also rowed with 50 lb dumbells, and military pressed 35-40 lb dumbells. I went to the gym today for the first time in a while and could barely lift the 30 lb dumbells let alone bench press them. I am embarrassed lifting at the gym.

    I also could barely walk a mile at 3.8 miles/hr without getting extremely tired and my calves burning like hell.

    I feel like crap being so out of shape. For the guys out there, what do you start out lifting when you started out? I am tempted to use machines for a while to get my strength back up. When using machines it is harder to see how much I am lifting and it forces me to use good form.

    Back when I was somewhat fit I weighed 175 lbs at 6 ft. Now I am 200 lbs and I have LESS muscle than I had when I was 175 lbs. Terrible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2013 #2


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    oh, and my heart rate got up to 150 bpm even while just walking. My resting hr is around 75.
  4. Apr 9, 2013 #3


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    also, the girls in the gym were lifting more than me. The men were all watching me, I know it. Judgement free zone my ***.
  5. Apr 9, 2013 #4

    Ben Niehoff

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    I'm 150 lbs and 5'11''. I haven't tried dumbbells yet, I do all barbell exercises:

    Squat: 155 lbs
    Bench: 75 lbs
    Deadlift: 165 lbs
    Press: 55 lbs
    Power Clean: 75 lbs

    I think these are all pretty weak, although I see plenty of larger people doing lighter squats than I am. I see hardly anyone doing more weight and actually doing them properly (thighs parallel to floor). I think people just don't like squats.

    Occasionally I run on the elliptical for 20 minutes...I can do 30 if I just ate and I push myself. I try to keep it to a brisk jog, according to the machine it's about a mile every 10 minutes.

    My normal walking speed is probably almost 4 mph...I could do that without my calves burning for a long time.

    Nobody is watching you. Working out takes focus, you can't be staring at other people while trying to make sure your form is good. You should do the same...focus on what you're doing and forget everyone else. I would recommend free weights over machines, provided you learn good form. Barbells are easier than dumbbells because they require less effort to stabilize.
  6. Apr 9, 2013 #5


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    My lifting 3 yrs ago was about where you are now but that was after training relatively hard for a year prior. I think I am just a weak person physically.

    Also, I have never been able to run a 10 min mile. I can run about 2 miles without stopping at a 5 mph pace but I could never do a 10 min mile.
  7. Apr 9, 2013 #6
    I have been training on and off for about 4 years (I checked another post I made, in which I stated, in 2012, its about one year... so about 2 years???), I think. Sometimes work gets in the way and I don't have time (particularly approaching exam periods). This is really frustrating as when you start again after a short break I find I have to lower the weight and then you have a few days of just ache (so no training). This means a pattern of decrease and then increase in weight, and as you get back into it, you have to stop again.
    Why worry about what others think about the weight you do? There's always someone lifting more. Plus you often find a lot of people go heavy and don't have correct form - they 'swing' the weight up. I'm 5' 7'' and probably lifting on the lower end: 22kg on dumbell press, 17-18 kg arm curl.... about the same as you now, really.
    If you're worried about others, can't you find a time when its not busy?, we have 24 hour gyms and I train early so there's pretty much just a regular group of us there.
    Also, why use only free weights or machines, I do both. Keeps it interesting and means better all-round training I think.
    It's cool to see others into training, I started out for (mental) health reasons, and it's so much fun.
  8. Apr 9, 2013 #7
    Definitely want to ease in. Don't lift for performance in the beginning. You'll just end up hurting yourself. Do more low weight reps to help condition the muscles. Otherwise you'll end up with DOMS and be out a couple weeks. Try to lift during off hours if you feel uncomfortable. It is a great idea to combine lifting and cardio. Don't just be a meat head. Be able to run some miles too :)
  9. Apr 9, 2013 #8


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    Good advice. Also, working up to your (current) max weights with barbells requires a spotter. You don't want to hurt yourself.

    Dumbbell training is great for coordination and small-muscle development, but at some point, you'll be tempted to push the envelope, and that implies barbells (at least to me). You'll need a friend or two at the gym to pull that off safely. You need to be willing to spend some time spotting the same people that spot you. It doesn't take that much time, if you have developed routines that fit in well with each other.

    Good luck, however you decide to proceed. Remember that if you are frequenting a gym that uses mostly free-weights, you should make some friends there. Just be nice. A few decades back, it became popular for investors to throw up Nautilus-only machine "gyms" in strip malls. There were no colder, more uninviting places ever invented. Just a short stab at a "free membership" was enough.
  10. Apr 9, 2013 #9


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    Muscles lose strength if not used. I heard radio program last year that mentioned that someone in a sedentary situation, e.g., sitting at a desk for 8 hours, will undo any exercise that was done at or just before the beginning of that period.

    I have some 25 lb dumbbells in my office which I occasionally pick up for various arm exercises. I also try to walk at least 2 miles each day, and sometimes more. At home I have 40 lb dumbbells and a barbell on which I use 100 lbs (excluding the bar), 120 lbs or more, for various reps.

    I also do various horizontal push ups and vertical push ups.

    There was a period several years ago, when I hadn't done much lifting, and the 25 lb dumbbells felt heavy. Now they feel light.

    I'm no where near what I could do 30 years ago, but I do pretty well for an old man.
  11. Apr 9, 2013 #10


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    Does lifting 12 packs of coke count in preparation for a weekend long skyrim marathon.
  12. Apr 9, 2013 #11

    Ben Niehoff

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    No. Isn't there a weight room at your fancy New England institution?
  13. Apr 9, 2013 #12
    Like the other guys said, don't worry about how it looks that you are using light weight. Learn proper form on free weights. Don't be embarrassed about how much you are lifting, everyone has to start somewhere and you'll get stronger in time. Use that feeling to push yourself to getting stronger. But, use a weight that you feel comfortable lifting with good form between 10-15 reps. I generally stick to between 8-12 on most muscle groups.

    Machines aren't great for building strength early on, and in fact can be quite detrimental. There are many small stabilizing muscles surrounding most of your muscle groups (shoulders, chest, back, legs, etc) and the machines don't allow these to get the proper training they need. You risk injury if you lift heavy free weights after having trained on the machines, as these stabilizing muscles won't be able to properly support the major muscles.

    Do squats. Do deadlifts.
  14. Apr 9, 2013 #13


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    There might be, I've never ventured too close to those areas.
  15. Apr 9, 2013 #14

    I picture you now as:

  16. Apr 9, 2013 #15


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    These are some things that I've found that have helped me out...

    1. Aim for consistency. The best exercises are the ones that you actually do. Pushing yourself really hard can feel good while you're at it, but if you get to the point where you dred the gym it will be next to impossible to keep going over time. Keep it fun and start light.

    2. Buddy up. All through graduate school I hit the gym on a regular basis with a good friend. Gym time was social for us. We'd debate whatever the issue of the day was and sometimes it even got a little heated, but it was always interesting. (That said, it's also important to be mindful of others in the gym. Some people really despise 'socializing' when they're trying to get in a serious workout.)

    3. Set goals for yourself. If you're just starting out it might be worth getting a session with a personal trainer who can help you assess where you're at, and help you develop a plan for where you want to be, and show the most efficient way of getting there. Having a goal to work towards can also help you with consistency and give you a sense of purpose.

    Good luck!
  17. Apr 9, 2013 #16


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    I would avoid machines if possible. They give you a false sense of strength and typically leave to muscular imbalance. I would just fine a guy to give you pointers about proper form on free weights if you struggle with keeping it. That's the thing about most lifters, they hate to spot, but if you ask them for tips they'll follow you around 'helping' all day.

    Honestly, I wouldn't worry to much about what other guys are doing. We all started somewhere and no matter how strong you get, you always notice the guy who is stronger. Thus, must people ignore the new guy who is getting back into it, unless they are an accident waiting to happening. For example, here my stats (now/during my army career.)

    Bench Press: 280/325
    Squat: 225/350
    Deadlift: 380/450

    Yet, every morning I see that big guy lifting 280 as his warm up and deadlifting a mini-bus on bars. The key is to know what you are working towards. I just want to maintain my strength, so I don't body build or powerlift or do anything crazy. I keep it simple and short. If your goal is to get into better shape, then ignore everyone else in there and just focus on picking the weight up and that's it. I used to be the afternoon physical training instructor for fat people in the army, and I used to tell those guys that it's really just a battle of time. If you watch your diet, and train, the rest will take care of itself. The key is to live a healthy lifestyle and thus be consistent at it.

    When it comes to running and endurance it is a matter of practice. When I first joined the Army they gave me a 45 lb rucksack and said walk 4 miles within an hour, it sucked. By the time I deployed the 2nd time, I could do that with approximately 200 lbs and not throw up. However, it took about 5 years to get to that level. When I deployed the first time, I could do the standard infantry load but and the ranger standard but it wasn't a cake walk. The key is progression be safe progression. Some days are better than others, but you should have a way to mark overall progress. I personally wouldn't do heavy running for more than 12 weeks at a time before taking a break for a week or two. I encourage you to mix up your cardio. Plus walking with a friend or biking with a friend makes further distances go by quickly. Lastly, remember, even if it's a bad run, at least it's a run. That puts you in a better position today, than yesterday!
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013
  18. Apr 9, 2013 #17
    1. everybody starts somewhere. just look to make steady progress, even if it means only doing a couple more reps than your previous workout. add more weight when you think it's time. if you find yourself getting impatient, just look at where you were a couple weeks earlier. in 6-12 months you could easily be lifting more than you can imagine right now (something I've noticed with my training anyway)

    2. learn some basic lifting anatomy, like this book, to find good exercises to work on. it's actually very accessible & seems to be in every used bookstore. this is important especially if you notice a muscular imbalance later on that holds you back.


    3. focus on basic multijoint lifts (eg squats, deadlift, various presses & later on, olympic lifts) rather than single-joint ones. these are your lifting staples & they never go out of style or become obsolete.

    4. A good rule of thumb is to do a push, a pull & a squat every workout, at least in the beginning. There's a lot to choose from there when you've got dumbells, kettlebells, bars, incline benches, front/back squats, etc. At some point you'll probably want to do a split to focus on one or two lifts.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2013
  19. Apr 9, 2013 #18
    I think everyone is when they start out lifting. If members are giving you strange looks, you may want to enquire about your technique. If it is because you are new and improving your being, don't worry what they think. You pay your dues and have the same rights to the facilities they do.

    If you have a quarter mile track available, sprint the straights and walk the curves. See how many sprints you can do full on. Wind sprints significantly improve speed as well. Jog your 2 miles on the days you aren't increasing speed. Eating pasta is a good way to improve run times.

    What I want is a long term, manageable fitness. I can't have my boy out running me any time soon. Our bodies have their natural limits of growth, whether it is based on the meat our bones can hold, our ability to metabolize nutrients or cardiac health. Finding your limit can be exhausting and time consuming. Then you have to keep yourself at that level. It is a whole lot of work. and fun if you like testing your feats of strength.

    Being consistent about going to the gym is the best habit you can start practicing in your fitness. Pick a workout that you have time for and don't have ill feelings towards. Don't rush either. Make it easy for you to start back up and continue going. Consistency is key.

  20. Apr 9, 2013 #19

    Ben Niehoff

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    A 10 minute mile is not fast by any means. There's no need to do speed training to get there.

    My gym plays upbeat club music. Usually moving my feet in rhythm with the song will amount to a pretty brisk jog, so that's what I try to do.

    As for workouts, as others have mentioned, do the big, multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, etc. three days a week to start out. A more complex split like what Chiral is suggesting is for pushing your body further after you get the most you can out of the basic lifts.
  21. Apr 10, 2013 #20


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    Have you considered other methods of building strength? It seems like you're uncomfortable with the gym atmosphere.

    I used to work out in a gym. I just enjoy being outdoors so much that I started rock climbing about 5 years ago. I feel it's a good way to build strength, endurance, and flexibility while being able to enjoy the outdoors. I also mountain bike for cardio.
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