How to take our weightlifting challenge (even if you’re a beginner)

August 22 2018

This week, we’re teaming up with British Weightlifting to inspire our customers to push themselves further in their fitness journey with our weightlifting challenge.

Whether you’re an experienced weightlifter or a complete beginner, the challenge is a great way for you to test your strength and take part in a fun competition designed to help you reach new heights.  

The Challenge

- Each competitor does 3 different weightlifting exercises: Power Clean, Front Squat and Strict Press.

- They can do a maximum of 3 reps per exercise

- The weight of each rep they do will be tallied up to give them a total weight lifted, which will be their final score

- The entrant who scores highest will be declared the winner

The challenge is available at all Fitness First clubs. There are some great prizes up for grabs for the winners, including a USN bundle, two British Weightlifting course places, some BWL baseball caps, and two bundles of exclusive England Weightlifting memorabilia.

What to do if you’re a beginner

If you haven’t done weightlifting before, you might find the idea of holding a heavy barbell over your head pretty intimidating.

Thankfully, weightlifting is easier to master than you might think. We believe that anyone can enjoy weightlifting as long as they learn the right technique first, starting with some of the basic weightlifting exercises before moving on to the more challenging ones.

Weights to start with if you’re a beginner

The truth is that the right weight to start with depends on many different factors, from the muscle group you’re working on to your bodyweight, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

If you’re an absolute beginner, the best way to start weightlifting is with a bar with no weights attached. If you’re conscious of what others might think, don’t be: we all start somewhere, and experienced weightlifters will care more about your form than the weights your lifting.

If the bar is too heavy at first, try light dumbbells instead, or use bodyweight training to build up your strength before taking on the bar again. If the bar is too light, try doing a few sets of reps on the exercise you’re trying out before adding more weight. Practising with the bar will give you time to warm up and tweak your form before you add weight gradually.

With that in mind, we’ve put together 3 beginner weightlifting exercises that you can use to get the best score you can in the challenge.

3 weightlifting exercises for beginners

1. Bench press

The barbell bench press primarily works your pectoral muscles, and when done right can be one of the positions in which you can lift a respectable amount of weight thanks to the support you get from lying on a bench.

Before doing the bench press, grab a nearby member of staff and ask them to help you learn the correct technique. Having someone who can help you work on your technique is especially important if you’re a beginner because flaws in your approach — which will be ironed out over time — can become dangerous if you let the bar drift too far forward with no one to help you take the weight.

When the bar starts to get heavier, consider getting a spotter to help you, whether that’s a friend or a member of staff.

How to do a barbell chest press

- Lie back on a flat bench. Lift the bar with a medium-width grip — that is, with your arms about shoulder-length apart — and hold it straight over you. Use this as your starting position.

- Breathe in and slowly lower the bar until it just touches the middle of your chest, holding the bar there for a second or two. Don’t let the weight bounce off your chest — you should be in full control of the barbell at all times.

- Breathe out and use your chest muscles to slowly push the bar back to the starting position. It should take you a little less time to raise the bar as it did to lower it.

- Repeat twice more for a total of 3 reps.

2. Barbell squat

Also known as the ‘back squat’, the barbell squat is a lift that helps you develop strength in your legs and hips by engaging your glutes and quads. Having a strong foundation is essential if you want to lift heavy weights in the future because it provides you with a strong and steady foundation.

Again, ask for help from a member of staff when you’re taking on this exercise and make sure the surrounding space is clear of any objects that could cause you to trip while you’re carrying the weight.

How to do a barbell squat

- Ensure the bar is placed in the rack at about chest height so that you can easily lift it out. Facing the rack (the metal shelving that holds the bars), place your hands on the bar, just a little wider than shoulder length apart. After trying this exercise a few times, you might find you need to adjust your grip to find one that gives you more control of the bar.

- Get under the bar, resting it in a high-bar position across your shoulders at the base of your neck. Breathe in a push the bar up out of the rack so that you’re carrying its full weight.

- Take one big step back with your right leg, then your left, and exhale. Make sure your heels are positioned directly beneath your shoulders.

- Keeping your back straight, slowly lower yourself as if you’re about to sit down until your hips are below your knees.

- Keep your weight on your heels as you slowly push yourself back up to a standing position.

- Repeat twice more, for a total of 3 reps.

3. Deadlift

Deadlifting is one of the best exercises you can do to build muscle, improve your posture, and give you balanced strength throughout your body.

Though you don’t need a spotter for deadlifting, it’s worthwhile asking someone more experienced or even a personal trainer to observe you and identify any problems in your form. Your form is the most important aspect of the deadlift; it will help you lift heavier weights in future while minimising your risk of injury.

How to do a deadlift

- Standing in front of the bar, space your feet about hip-width apart. They should be angled very slightly outwards. The bar should be over the middle of your feet.

- Lean over while keeping your legs straight and grab the bar with an overhand grip just outside the knees.

- Without moving the bar, lower your hips. Let your shins come forward until they touch the bar. Make sure you don’t hyperextend or hunch over and keep your back straight.

- Keeping your core tight and your chest up, pull the bar up while keeping your arms straight. Keep all of the weight on your heels and midfoot; it might help to imagine you’re “pushing” the ground away from the bar, rather than pulling it up. Keep going until you are stood up straight.

- Keep a tight grip on the bar and descend your body in the same way you ascended. Don’t take too long lowering the bar — this can take a lot out of you and lead to worse delayed onset muscle soreness.

- Repeat twice more, for a total of 3 reps.

Start your weightlifting journey

Weightlifting is a great way to improve the strength of a variety of different muscle groups. Even if it’s not the focus of your workouts, incorporating weight training into your exercise regime now will pay off massively further down the line.

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