Weightlifting 101 (Audrie’s personal experience and advice)
Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a certified personal trainer (yet), and I don’t have any kind of “guide” or “program” to sell you. I have never competed in any kind of powerlifting , fitness, or physique competitions, and I probably never will. My only qualifications are my own research, and several years of experience. So when I say “weightlifting,” I simply mean strength training or resistance training. Using weights at the gym to build muscle and get stronger. No, it won’t make you look bulky (unless you’re trying REALLY hard to look bulky). With a good understanding of safe lifting form, and a do-able routine or schedule, weightlifting is a wonderful and sustainable way to stay healthy, fit, and happy.
This post is intended to be helpful for my girls who are getting into weightlifting, or who are looking to shake up their current fitness routine. I’m going to talk about why I’ve come to prefer weightlifting over other styles of fitness, how I structure my workout “split,” as well as how I create individual workouts. Stay tuned for another post coming soon with some of my tips and tricks for getting into fitness and sticking with it.
But for now, with no further ado, let’s get started.
Why I prefer weightlifting over other styles of fitness.
I started seriously getting into weights about three years ago, and with the exception of a couple of 5K’s and a half marathon, I have never looked back. Before I found weightlifting, I was a runner turned yogi turned marathoner. I dabble with ClassPass now and then when I’m in the mood for something different, but no other style of fitness makes me feel as good as I feel after crushing a gym sesh.
The “strong is the new sexy” mantra has been floating around for a while now. I can embrace this mantra to some extent because I believe it’s a healthier definition of “sexy” than the one I grew up with - namely, that the way to be beautiful was to be skinny, and the term “curvy” was a not-too-negative-sounding consolation prize to women who didn’t quite fit that mold. I’m here to tell you that strong IS sexy, but that’s not the only reason you’ll catch me in the gym 5 or 6 days a week.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the reasons why I have found a fitness passion in weightlifting: it is fun and different every time I go to the gym; it is my favorite form of stress relief; it is something easy I can do for myself every day; I love my body now more than I ever have; it feels satisfying to see progress, both in the shape of my body and in the weight I am able to move at the gym; if one part of my body is sore, I can still train a different body part and have a great workout; a basic gym membership is way less expensive than purchasing classes at boutique fitness studios; it just feels good to feel strong. I could go on forever.
Ultimately, the best fitness plan for you is the one that you enjoy and can stick with. For me, that is strength training.
My training “split.”
First things first - WTF is a training split??! “Split” is gym-rat lingo for your weekly gym routine. Some people keep a firm schedule, working a specific body part on the same day of the week every single week. Other people will run a “bro split,” which is a “push, pull, legs, rest” rotation.
Wait a minute… push?! Pull?! WTF do you mean?! More gym-rat lingo that I’ve picked up over the years. “Push day” refers to a workout centered around pushing movements, typically upper body, which engage your chest, shoulders, and triceps - the muscles you use to push things. Think bench press, pushups, and shoulder press. So with that in mind, “pull day” refers to a workout that focuses on pulling movements. These movements tend to engage the back musculature and the biceps. “Leg day” and “rest day” are more straightforward… on leg day, we focus on legs. On a rest day, we rest.
My current split is a bit random. It’s a bit of a modified bro split, because I like to prioritize leg days over other days. This is because after several years of lifting, my upper body looks exactly how I want it to look, and my goal now is to pretty much just maintain. So, I will do “leg day” pretty much any time my legs are no longer sore from my last leg day, with a goal of at least 2 leg days a week. In between leg days, I’ll fit in the push and pull days for upper body work. On push and pull days, I always make sure to include some ab work as well as some HIIT cardio.
I don’t stick to a rigid weekly schedule, but here is an example of what a given week might look like: Sunday - Legs; Monday - Push; Tuesday - Pull; Wednesday - Legs; Thursday - Push; Friday - Rest; Sunday - Legs.
Stay tuned to the Bae Blog for specific workout suggestions for each of these days!
How I structure an individual workout.
In my experience, the structure of each individual workout matters. To get the most bang for my buck in the gym, I like to start each workout with a compound movement, then move on to more isolation style movements afterwards. Compound movements use several muscles at once, so require more energy to perform - that’s why I do them first while I have the most energy. Because compound movements engage several muscles at once, they also burn more calories than isolation movements. Here’s a little template for how I structure a workout on any given day:
Warm up. Whether it’s a 5 minute walk on the treadmill, some dynamic stretching, some light band work or a warm-up set, I always warm up. Don’t skip the warm up - it’s important to prevent injuries and it helps get me in the zone.
First move: compound movement. On a leg day, this would be squats or deadlifts. On a pull day, I would do either banded pull-ups or bent-over barbell rows. On push days, I’ve been enjoying starting with bench press or a standing overhead press.
Second - fourth/fifth movements: The order of the next group of movements matters less to me because I’ve already finished my compound movement. On leg days, I’ve been loving banded hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts, split squats, hip adductors, and hamstring curls. On pull days, I’ll do lat pull-downs, rows using either cables or dumbbells, and face pulls. On a push day, I’ll do lateral raises, chest flys using dumbbells or the pec deck machine, and maybe some incline or narrow chest press.
Final movements: I typically try to end my leg workouts with some kind of high-rep, lower-weight movement to “burn out” my muscles. This could be walking lunges, kettle bell swings, glue kick-backs, banded glue bridges, jump squats or lunges, or some combination of these burner moves. At the end of my pull days, I’ve been loving straight bar pull-overs or some lighter bicep curls. At the end of push days, I’ll finish with some tricep moves and maybe some rear delt flys.
Abs + Cardio: I really only do abs and cardio on push and pull days. My favorites for HIIT cardio are treadmill sprints and jumprope, or other explosive full-body movements. I like doing abs circuit-style (i.e. 3 moves, rest, then repeat for 3 rounds).
I’m no trainer, but this style of training is what I’ve come to love and what I’ve done pretty consistently for the past few years. I can’t wait to share more workout tips, tricks and ideas here!