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Don’t be scared of weights

Sep 07, 2023

SHAPE, strengthen and tone, whatever your age, with fitness pro and Instagrammer Kelsey Wells.

If the thought of running, cycling, swimming or any form of cardio exercise fills you with dread, it’s time to seriously consider working out with weights.

Why? Because strength training won’t just get you the toned body you’ve been dreaming of, it will also protect your bones, improve your posture, help stave off illness and continue to burn fat long after your workout is over.

“Gone are the days when fitness was thought of as a punishment or a chore.

For me, weight training is enjoyable and it’s achievable – you can do it at home for free, without stepping inside a gym,” says US-based Kelsey Wells, founder of PWR weight-training programmes and trainer at the Sweat app.

“It’s a style of training you can do as you age. You can always adjust what you’re doing and lift heavier or lighter weights.

Moves such as squats, deadlifts and presses are classic, proven, weight-training techniques that you can do forever.”

Read on for how to start your weight-training journey…

“Get some resistance bands (the open-ended ones). These are strips of rubber fabric and usually come in sets of three,” says Kelsey.

“They are the perfect introductory equipment if you don’t want to start with dumb-bells.”

Resistance bands take up barely any space, will fit in an overnight bag and the weight and resistance is easily adjustable, depending on which band you’re using and how you’re gripping it.

Try Nyamba Pilates Elastic Resistance Band 2kg, £5.99, Decathlon. And download the Resistance Band Workouts by Fitify app for grip tips and exercises.

Want to invest in a set of dumb-bells? “Pick a pair and do 10 shoulder presses.

If you can do 10, and you feel the burn during the last few, that’s a good weight to start with,” says Kelsey.

“But it’s important to understand that when you’re using those same dumb-bells when doing squats, you’re going to have to do higher reps.”

Different muscle groups, and even different moves within muscle groups, might need different weights, so give some a test-run. Sports Direct has a good range of weights.

Or just look in your kitchen cupboard – bags of rice or food cans work just as well.

“A huge mistake beginners make is designing their own workouts.

They Google ‘shoulder exercises’ and rock up to the gym and do all the exercises they can find. But that can quickly lead to injury,” says Kelsey.

If you can afford it, hire a personal trainer to help you get started. Otherwise, check out an expert’s workouts.

Kelsey has 2.9m followers on her @Kelseywells Instagram page, where she posts easy-to-do workouts.

Alternatively, sign up to a fitness app, such as Sweat, for guidance.

“I eat protein within an hour or so of working out,” says Kelsey.

This nutrient helps muscles repair and grow, and after a weights workout, they’ll need a boost.

“I love a protein bar or protein smoothie, as the added carbohydrates replenish the energy I’ve just expended,” she adds.

Blend a scoop of protein powder with a banana, a handful of spinach and milk of your choice for a protein-packed boost.

Dividing your weight-training sessions to work specific muscle groups is a good way to build strength.

“I’m a huge advocate of muscle group splits. This helps you avoid overtraining and prevents injury,” says Kelsey.

If you’re lifting weights three to four times a week, she recommends a day for your back and shoulders, a chest-and-triceps day, one for glutes and hamstrings, and a day focusing on the abs.

Anxious about transitioning from home workouts to the gym?

“Everyone feels intimidated at first. It’s so normal to feel this. Every single human in that gym walked in there and had a day one,” says Kelsey.

“But no one cares – they’re not watching you, honestly.”

And if it’s easier for you, just stick with home workouts!

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumb-bell or tin can with both hands in front of your chest.

Pull your belly button back and lift your pelvic floor upwards, engaging your core.

Inhale, bend at the hips and knees and lower into a squat until thighs are parallel with the floor.

Keep your chest tall. Exhale, push through your heels and extend knees to return to the starting position.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a weight in each hand, palms facing inwards.

Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from your hips so your torso is parallel to the floor.

Extend arms directly below your chest. Inhale. Exhale.

Bend elbows and pull back to bring the weights in towards your body, ensuring elbows remain close to the sides of your body.

You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades. Inhale. Extend elbows and lower the weights.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand, palms facing inwards, arms down either side of your body.

Inhale. Bend elbows to bring weights in towards your chest, keeping elbows close to the body. Exhale.

Using the muscles in your shoulders and arms, extend elbows and press weights up overhead, arms in line with your ears.

Inhale. Extend elbows, lower the weights and return to the start position.

Lie face-up on the ground (or a bench)with a weight in each hand. Bend your knees, feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

Extend your elbows to hold the weights directly over your chest with palms facing toes and hands slightly wider than shoulders.

Inhale, bend your right elbow straight out to the side to lower the weight towards you, until your elbow is at chest height.

Exhale, extending your right elbow to push the weight away from you, then repeat with the left arm. Keep alternating.

Stand with both feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart and hold a weight in each hand.

Extend your arms above your head, keeping them in line with your ears.

Keep your shoulders as still as possible and bend your elbows to lower the weights behind your head.

Then immediately extend your elbows to return to the start position. Make sure you keep your shoulders, elbows and wrists in line at all times.