The Sports Psychology Monthly Minute is a monthly article on some of the latest in sports.
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Lift a weight. Lower it. Repeat. When you first walk through the gym, strength training may seem easy. But in order to achieve genuine progress—and to do so safely—you must consider the big picture. Anyone can feel at ease with these five fundamental lifting ideas.
1. Warm up.
The most crucial component of strength training occurs before you even lift a weight. The goal of a warm-up is exactly what it sounds like: to increase your body’s core temperature and to give your muscles more oxygen and blood to give them the extra energy and range of motion they’ll need during your session. Additionally, it promotes mental momentum.
The length of your warm-up should increase as your workout intensity increases. However, you should aim for five to fifteen minutes of a few sets of dynamic exercises, such as walking planks with a push-up, walking lunges with rotation, and a minute of jumping rope. Sweaty? You should be. Before each lift, complete a couple of warm-up sets, gradually increasing the weight, to ensure your muscles are ready for load.
2. Focus on technique.
When your technique is sound, you will be safer, achieve better results, and reach more goals. Keep your knees aligned over the middle toe of each foot when performing any lower-body movement. Maintain a raised chest and back and lowered shoulders when performing upper-body motions. Additionally, regardless of what you’re doing, engage your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. There are strategies for every activity, plus many more, in addition to these general recommendations. When you have questions, seek the advice of a reputable professional or source. The more confident you are, and the stronger your motivation, the faster you will progress!
During your first week, you could begin with three sets of 10 reps if you are new to lifting or a particular technique. Remember that you should usually increase your intensity once a movement begins to seem effortless. As you gain strength, you should boost the difficulty to match your talents and maintain your momentum. You can continue to improve your fitness by increasing the weight you use, the volume you perform by increasing the reps and/or sets, or the tempo of your workouts (more on this in the section below).
4. Beginning with tempo.
Concentrate on tempo before moving on when you’re prepared to advance. You can extend the amount of time that a muscle is under tension during a rep by slowing down your movement. Your muscles have to work harder for a longer period of time at a slower speed. Depending on the exercise, you might even use your supporting muscles to help you maintain your balance and composure. However, divide your lift into two halves rather than slowing everything down equally. Slow down the positive portion of the exercise (lifting) so that it lasts at least twice as long as the negative portion (lowering). As an illustration, if you are performing a squat, it can take you three seconds to lower yourself and just one second to return to standing.
5. Stay mindful.
The next time you take on a challenging set, focus on each breath. Alternatively, while performing a compound movement like a deadlift, identify each muscle as it contracts (abdominals, lats, glutes, quads, hamstrings, etc.). Being mindful or paying attention to the moment while exercising has an impact on every aspect of it. You may be able to tell when you’ve fully warmed up or when you’ve had enough. You might have more willpower for the last rep. You’ll almost certainly improve your form. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll enjoy the experience more, which will keep you coming back for more.