Weight-lifting tips for beginners, from a woman who deadlifts 300 lbs

Interested in strength training, but not sure where to start? Casey Johnston, cultural critic and creator of “LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell,” has been in your shoes.

“When I first started working out, I thought cardio was the only way to go,” says Johnston, who started “She’s the Beast,” a fitness newsletter. “It just seems like it’s healthy, and it’s also accessible.”

However, sticking to just cardio exercises reduces muscle mass, he told CNBC Make It. So, he turned to weightlifting to rebuild.

When Johnston first started lifting at the gym in 2014, he was bench-pressing 20 pounds and squatting with 40; since then, he squatted 265 pounds, “benched” 142 and deadlifted 300.

This is an incredible moment to take a heavy suitcase, and your suitcase does not feel heavy. It feels light.

Casey Johnston

Cultural Critic and Creator of “LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell”

Weight lifting tips for beginners

Here are some tips that we recommend when you start your own weight lifting process:

  1. Start at the gym if you can. Having access to different weights allows you to add a little weight to each session.
  2. Don’t take too much too soon. Take it slow.
  3. Remember that you are in control of the process.
  4. Create your own relationship with lifting weights and moving quickly.
  5. Get plenty of protein, but also eat carbs and healthy fats.
  6. Don’t feel discouraged by reminding yourself that this is a learning process.
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Note that you should not add weight to the session

When you lift, it’s important to know your limits, especially when you increase the weight over time.

You may need to stick to one weight class a bit longer than others; Here are some signs that you need to keep the weight off:

  • You cannot complete all the reps
  • Your shape breaks or changes when you lift
  • You are shaking so much

“It’s important to be patient with yourself, and start where it makes sense for you,” said Johnston.

“But if you complete all the repetitions and the session feels good, next time you should add less weight.”

Little things can give you clues about your progress in your weightlifting journey

Johnston began to see changes in his body after a few weeks to a few months of lifting weights, but he really saw a change when he could lift a package with ease, like cat litter.

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“Since I started lifting, I’ve never felt the same [knowing] my own ability to the best of my ability. I continue to be surprised by the amount, not of raw strength, but sometimes of physical stability or stamina,” he said.

“It’s really exciting to be rewarded in real moments. It’s like you pick up a heavy suitcase and you’re like ‘Hey, that’s a drag, I need to go to the gym more.’ [But] It’s an incredible time to go and take a heavy suitcase, and the suitcase doesn’t feel heavy. It feels light.”

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