17 tips for lifting weights

I've been lifting weights consistently for three-and-a-half years or so. I've had some good progress but also some prior weaknesses to work round, and a couple of minor injuries. The following tips are simple (so is weightlifting I guess - pick heavy shit up and put it down again, repeat until desired outcome is obtained) but they seem to keep me on track. 1. and 17. are my favourites.

  1. Unless otherwise instructed
    • pull your shoulder blades back, together and down
    • keep your head in line with the rest of your spine
    • squeeze your butt cheeks
  2. Start with the lowest weight and practice. Even if it feels like doing nothing. Use the same principle for warm ups.
  3. When you have less muscle, ligaments and tendons take up the strain. And they are a bitch to heal. Be really careful with bony bits - wrists (push ups, yoga), knees (squats, lunges) and elbows (heavy bicep curls, pull ups).
  4. Slow down. Especially returning the weight to its start position. If you can’t at the beginning of a set, get a lower weight (even, and this is the part I find oh so difficult, 5 people just saw you conspicuously pick up those bigger weights).
  5. Think very carefully before taking up a squat rack for anything other than barbell squats.
  6. Bodyweight moves (push ups, dips, pull ups) are in many programs, but were way too much for me at the start, even modified. Machines, dumbbells, cables - all safer ways to build muscle than putting your whole bodyweight on unprepared joints.
  7. Stretch. Doesn't matter when during the day. Don't make it complicated or long, just pick a few moves and do them consistently. (That’s the hard part, but ignoring mobility will bite you eventually Zoë.)
  8. Annoyingly, the most effective mobility moves for your body tend to be the ones you suck at.
  9. Mobility can take a frustratingly long time to improve. Very long term progress pics help motivation - I took pictures of my straddle a year apart and only now can I see the change.
  10. It’s ok to not have a clue what you’re doing in the gym (see 5. tho).
  11. No-one gives a flying fuck why you are doing that, we have seen much weirder shit before. In the name of glute development I have done things with a leg extension machine that would make you blush - but literally no-one noticed.
  12. No-one cares how much weight you're lifting. Be accountable to yourself, not to the imagined judgement of strangers.
  13. An overgeneralization perhaps, but has held true for me: the biggest, gruntiest people in the gym are often the most helpful and encouraging.
  14. Don’t stick slavishly to a program even when your body tells you that today is not the day for a particular move. Do something else. If nothing else feels better, go home.
  15. But do a program for a while. Which program matters less than you think.
  16. Tuning into the body is a work in progress. Failed rep or am I not pushing hard enough? Injury or DOMS? Need a recovery day or lazy af? What muscle is this meant to be working anyway? It’s taken me 3 years to feel lateral raises where I’m meant to.
  17. 8-12 good reps, 3-5 sets, 45s-2mins rest, more protein than before. Start there, then refine.