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15 Things we wish we knew when starting out!

Tips for Novice Weightlifters

Woman chalking hands for lifting
Let's begin!

Weightlifting  can be an intimidating activity for people just starting out.

Hoisting loaded barbells overhead. The crash of the weight on the floor. 

With every rep you fear your own demise.

One wrong move, you think, and BAM: death by clean and jerk.

But luckily for you we've been there, done that, and outgrown the t-shirt.

So, here's fifteen things we wish we knew when we started.

1) Preparation is key

Woman preparing to perform a snatch

Take advantage of beginner gains by learning about the main lifts: starting with Snatches and Clean & Jerks.

Then learn basic workout programming and goal specific terminology.

To build muscle, it is crucial that you understand the principles of hypertrophy.

To lift heavy you should know how to program your workout for strength and power gains.

And, while you're at it,  learn about the International Weightlifting Federation body weight classes, the athletes in them and the weights they can lift.

Not only will this will give you an idea of what to reach for, it will also give you a role model.

But remember:

2) Perfect technique is different for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all way to lift.

Olympic Lifters spend years of their lives optimising the ideal technique for their body. You will not progress as quickly if you try to copy your role model's quirks.

Everyone has to start somewhere!

Weight lifting techniques are complex, and should not be taken lightly. The only way to get better is to practice.

Lift with light weight until you find what works for your body type.

And the best way to do this is to...

3) Surround yourselves with fellow Lifters.

Crossfit class - find yourself a lifting community

Don't think us biased when we say this, but building yourself a lifting community will be crucial to your success.

Finding yourself a coach and some training buddies will improve your lifting by leaps and bounds.

Why? Because they'll care.

They'll empathise with your goals and stand by you in your lifting journey.

They'll be interested in your thoughts on the Soviet approach toward strength training, and they won't get annoyed when you bang on about hitting an all-time Personal Best on your clean

4) Hook grip on every lift

Not only will performing the hook grip give a stronger hold on the bar, it'll also allow you to relax and loosen your arms - - a necessity for good technique in Olympic lifts

But be warned: the hook grip hurts. Or at least, it does in the beginning.

Give it a try the next time you're at the gym.

I. Hook both thumbs around the bar first.

II. Secure both thumbs by overlapping your fingers and locking in the grip.

III. Lift

5) Don't be afraid of injury

Choosing weightlifting as your sport will mean having to accept the possibility of injury, just as with any sport. Being afraid will definitely slow your improvement...

You will not be risking your life every session. You will not have to live everyday like it's your last. And you will certainly not need to write a will.

But, mistakes happen, hook grip squeezes the life out your thumbs, and you will get DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

However,  you can minimise the chance of potential injury by:

Stretch to avoid injuries

I. Performing an adequate pre-workout warm-up, and post-workout cool down

II. Taking care not to over-train

III. Intermittently lessening your workout intensity

IV. Eating correctly

Oh and please, please please:

6) Pick the right gym

Whether you need to bail out of a squat, snatch, jerk, or whatever. The time will come where you'll need to drop the weight your lifting.

For this reason, we recommend you find a gym where you're allowed to... And:

7) Get comfortable dropping the weights

While this might freak you out at first, it is vital that you know how to bail out of a lift if needs be.

And remember when we said there are ways to reduce your chance of injury?

Doing this will help  a lot.

8) Buy weightlifting shoes

Yes there is such a thing.

Weightlifting shoes provide you with extra stability, and can help you into the correct lifting position if your mobility isn’t great.

While they're by  no means a replacement for good mobility, they're a great investment if you're serious about improving your weightlifting.

9) Avoid wraps and other accessories… most of the time

Wrist wraps and knee sleeves should be used when you're injured or have long term issues.

weightlifting belt

They're not a crutch to improve your lifts.

Using them to improve your lifts will only result in long term weaknesses.

But, under certain circumstances, some accessories are an excellent boost for your lifts.

For example, lifting straps are incredibly useful for increasing your pulls, and for technique drills. As well as wearing a belt could help you with heavy squats and maintaining a stable trunk in lifts.

But as a rule of thumb, only use them when your strength coach tells you to.

10) Give yourself time to warm up and stay mobile!

You will notice if you aren't warmed up - it usually means lots of missed lifts!

Warm up before your workout, cool down after, and if you get particularly immobile, do extra mobility work outside of training.

If you do this you'll achieve strength within a full range of motion.

It will also reduce your chance of injury, give you more control, better overall movement, and provided you keep it up: better muscle recovery.

So don't be stingy with your pre-workout warm-up. Give yourself plenty of time.

11) Film yourself

Watching yourself sweat out your gym clothes with heavy weights on your back is hardly a replacement for Netflix. But it's a great way to analyse your lifts and pick out room for improvement.

You can show the videos to coaches and fellow Lifters.

Lift analysis of an overhead squat
How taking videos can help with analysis

And you can even watch them a year later to see your improvement.

There's nothing better than seeing your progress.

Which is why you'll have to to regularly log your workout statistics in a notebook or something.

Doing this will allow you to keep track of the sets, reps, and weights your lifting on a regular basis.

12) Be conscious of your failures

At some point you'll miss a lift. You'll miss reps, sets, and sometimes entire workouts.

To be a good weightlifter, you'll have to accept these failures as a part of your growth.

You'll need to identify the problem, create a solution, and implement it.

Whether it's too heavy a weight, too early in the morning, or that a Spotify ad took you out of the zone - - what matters is how you solve the problem.

Drop the weight. Workout later. Invest in Spotify premium.

Just be willing to make improvements.

Be willing to adapt.

13) Accept feedback from others, and accept the commitment and dedication needed to achieve your goal.

Being able to take feedback from others will ultimately make you a better lifter.

We know it can be hard. Especially when you're convinced you've been doing it right all this time. But, taking the right advice at the right time will not only save you from injury, it will save you time. Which will help you achieve your goals faster.

So, if you're in the gym and someone tells you to straighten your back, do it.

And accept that your technique will need your constant work and attention.

Even with ample outside assistance, the main ingredients to become a good lifter are: commitment, dedication, and persistence.

14) Lifting is a great way to channel your anger

Power and aggression are vital components in lifting heavy.

Power gets the weights off the ground, and aggression drives you to complete the lift.

Metaphorically speaking, that weight is an obstacle between you and your goal. Your goal is stand with your head held high, and to drop that weight from overhead. You don't  want to crumble under its mass.

woman preparing to jerk the bar

- So develop your lifting persona. - Get in the zone. - Use your lifting time as a means to channel your anger.

Let the weights represent what frustrates you, then show those weights whose boss.

Now this  can be hard if you're a calm and quiet person, but when you lift you have to ‘mean it’. Always approach the bar as if you've already made the lift.

It's either you or the bar. And we'd rather it be you that wins.

15) Always follow gym etiquette

Aggressiveness, weight dropping, and self analysis are great. But always be mindful of the people around you.

Gym rules are meant to keep everybody safe and happy.

Always abide by them!

- Canterbury Strength Team & Phillip Nash

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