Q: Erika, I don’t know when to incorporate the weights. What weight machines to use first. At what point in the weight loss do you start weights? What machines, weight exercises work for arms, legs, stomach? I have so many questions about weights, but I guess that is a good start.
I credit my current body to beginning weight training (and yoga) at an early point in the game. I’m not competition-ready yet, but happy to say that I’m getting there.
When you lose weight, there’s all these strange physical changes that we may not be prepared for – we may not even be thinking about them because we’re just so overjoyed to finally be losing. One of those changes is the “deflation effect.”
I spoke about this briefly last week, but I dealt with some serious skin issues when I first started losing without weight training. When you burn fat as quickly as I was (due to the major changes in my diet), you start to, essentially, deflate. Have you ever watched a balloon with a tiny helium leak deflate? When it’s done deflating, it’s misshapen… no longer taut like it was with all the air inside, no longer curved. Just kinda sloppy and… there.
It’s the same with weight loss…. only, a balloon has a finite point where it has to stop deflating. Your body may not. When you begin burning fat, your skin conforms to… more fat. Fat that has had holes burned in it because it’s melting away doesn’t have shape. And, I’m sorry to say, neither will you. The skin will just hang there. Chillin’. There used to be stuff there, but there isn’t anymore. And while the skin can and does rebound, it takes a while and requires lots of patience. Building muscle gives you something for the skin to conform to during that rebounding process.
Like I’ve said before… I can remember a particular day when I was doing that downward-facing dog position in yoga, opened my eyes to find that the skin from my thighs was literally hanging forward, and came down because I was mortified! I had never noticed that before, and needed to learn – quickly – how to deal with it. If I had to give a piece of advice to anyone, it’d be to start lifting early.
Lifting gives your skin something to conform to. It’s no longer simply a round shape, there will be muscular definition. There will be bends and curves. New possibilities, new opportunities. I had “thick thighs” and a “big booty,” but I resented the gut that came with both. My arms… I don’t even remember my arms. That should tell you something. With muscle definition, when the fat faded from my body I could make sure that there were big ginormous thigh muscles, properly defined muscles in my lower back and upper thigh for my booty as well as working my obliques so that I had a shapely waist.
I was a cardio freak at first, but I learned about the gym equipment from my gym’s trainer (who also happened to be the owner.) He offered me two free hours so that he could show me how to work all of the equipment and help me develop my own plan for rebuilding. I’d eventually leave that gym and focus on calisthenics, only to return again and go heavier on the lifting (for competition purposes)… and leave again after collecting the gym equipment I needed to work out at home.
I have to tell you, that if you’re in a gym environment, there should be someone there willing to walk you through the equipment, and I mean employees. Not some person who thinks they’re SuperLifter who wants to lord over you. Besides, not everyone who uses the machines uses them properly. I can’t give you a rundown of every piece of equipment because every gym contains different stuff (I could easily run down every piece of equipment in MY old gym and still not explain anything in yours), but I can give you tips as a newbie for getting acquainted with your environment and feeling more at home in your gym.
1) Pay close attention to your surroundings – each time you visit the gym, watch how people use the equipment. Don’t watch one person use the shoulder press. Watch several different people use it. Some people will grab it differently from others. Watch several people use the decline machine. It’s versatile – you can do a bajillion (!) different core exercises there, and always can learn something new.
2) Try what you see, keep what you like, discard what you don’t – when you see people trying moves that are new to you, if you like them, keep ’em! If they give you that nice burn, then go with ’em. If they cause sharp pain or you can’t get the form right (a good way you’ll know you’re doing it wrong because it won’t feel like a natural bodily motion, and execution will actually cause pain), then set them aside as something you might want to observe a little more.
3) Write down the names of the pieces of equipment you’re interested in (they’re usually on the equipment themselves) and search for the equipment names on youtube – There are tons of videos on youtube about gym equipment and how to get great use of different pieces in the gym. Take advantage – they’ve already done most of the leg work for you!
4) Be annoying and ask questions – I know I’m opening myself up for jokes here, but I believe in annoying the hell out of people ans asking questions if it betters my understanding and my well-being in the end. I’m not saying interrupt someone in the middle of their workout (there is nothing more rude than that) but bug the gym personnel! That’s what they’re there for! Surely, they’re not there to just stand around and look good.
5) Lastly, if you are still hitting brick walls, do what I did (even though you may have to pitch in a few dollars for it) and get a training session to educate yourself on how to best use the equipment. Find out which pieces will help you achieve what you want with your body, which pieces will inflame previous injuries and which pieces will build muscles for you in places where you may not want it. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself, or choose a machine that won’t further you in your goals.
A Q&A Wednesday from a few weeks ago might also be useful, here – Creating A Weight Training Routine – and there’s also the exercises section of the site to give you moves you can use in your workout routine, so be sure to check those out.
Anyone else have tips they’d like to share? Let’s hear it!