A basic guide to weight training

Have you been at the gym or watched a fitness video that talks about sets and repetitions? Weight lifting can sound intimidating to someone who's more used to lifting shopping bags than dumbbells, but it's really simple. Here's a basic guide to get you started on your way to strength training.

A basic guide to weight training

Repetitions (reps)

  • This term refers to the number of times you lift a weight or perform an exercise.
  • For example, squatting up and down once is considered one repetition.
  • So, squatting 10 times is 10 repetitions (or reps).


  • This is the number of times you perform groups of repetitions.
  • When you're asked to do two sets of 10 to 12 reps, it means that you should do 10 to 12 consecutive repetitions, take a 30-second break, and do a second set of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Weight selection

  • As a general rule, the weight you lift should be heavy enough to make the final two or three repetitions feel tough.
  • If you can do 15 reps without a problem, pick a heavier weight.
  • If you struggle to manage six reps, go lighter.
  • If an exercise is new to you, practice the movements without weights before your first workout.

A note on speed

  • Take your time.
  • Each repetition should take about six seconds, so slowly count "one-two-three" as you lift, then pause a moment and count "one-two-three" as you lower.
  • Counting like this will make sure that you're using your muscles and not momentum, to do the work.
  • That way you'll get better results from your efforts.

The importance of breathing

  • It may sound silly to remind someone to do something so automatic but many people hold their breath while they lift, which can be dangerous.
  • For the best results, exhale as you push the weight against gravity and inhale as you move with gravity.
  • Remember to keep a lifting pace that you're comfortable with.

Keep this basic guide to weight training in mind and you'll be able to start lifting weights with confidence. But, make sure you consult your doctor before starting any strength training or other new exercise regime.

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