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Ever wonder how to hit the gym or get those hands-on weights? Maybe strength training seems a bit too intimidating. Fear not! This article teaches anyone from any skill level how to get started with strength training by the well-known trainer, Nikki R. Veit.

pinterest image of kettlebells

You can find Nikki on her Instagram, @kettlebellatrix, swinging a kettlebell, offering weekly workouts and motivating women to build strength, power, and confidence within their bodies. Nikki offers strength training services, both online and in-person, through her website Check it out to find more information on how to get started! Nikki trains most of her clients at her home in midtown Memphis and also travels to clients’ homes and a gym in downtown Memphis.

Your Guide to Starting Strength Training

by Nikki R. Veit

Enter any gym in America, and you’re often greeted with an onslaught of cardio equipment. They make it so tempting to wander onto the machine of your choosing, power up the attached TV screen, and mindlessly walk for an entire episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. As satisfying as it might be to achieve your FitBit’s step goals each day, the real keys to unlocking your fitness goals lie in the weight room, not the cardio equipment. 

When I first got into fitness, I was intimidated by the weights and what the heck to do with them. I knew I wouldn’t achieve Michelle Obama-like arms by striding on an elliptical, so I was determined to learn how to lift. I quickly became a fitness fiend, and five years later I am a personal trainer and have made it my mission to educate and empower women on the benefits of strength training. I have specialized certifications in both Kettlebell and barbell training, and I use both regularly in my work with women. I call myself a “strength coach” because it is my job, above all else, to help you get strong(er) and become more confident in your body

What is strength training?

Strength training, which consists of using weights to complete movement patterns, is the most efficient way to increase overall strength, bone density, resting metabolic rate, and lean muscle mass. When you strength train, your body becomes more resilient and literally gets tighter. Whether your goals are weight, strength, aesthetics, or mobility-related, I am a fierce advocate for weight training as a regular part of your routine. More specifically, learning the proper squat, chest press, deadlift, and overhead press variations will provide you a more efficient route to achieving your goals.

While cardio helps to increase your endurance and burn calories, it does not have the same impact on overall strength and increased muscle tone as training with weights does. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, is this trainer encouraging me to skip the cardio?” Heck yes, I am! Replace your cardio workouts with weight lifting, and I promise you will see a bigger ROI

image of gym painted on concrete with arrow

What To Do In The Gym

Now let’s tackle the first big question: what should I be doing in the gym? What are the biggest “bang for my buck” exercises? While you may have heard of a “split routine plan,” training each muscle group as though it were detached from the rest of the body (leg day, arm day, core day, etc.), it is actually a very inefficient way to train. If you were only reserving one day to train one muscle group, well, heck! You’d have to be in the gym every weekday just to get through your entire body! Instead, try a “full-body plan” where you focus on doing full-body movement patterns and getting stronger in each one.

Remember those squats, deadlifts, and presses I mentioned? Think of these as your “movement patterns.” In fact, I like to break them down into five categories: the squat, the hinge, pushes, pulls and groundwork.

Here are a few examples of exercises in each category:

  • The squat: Goblet squats
  • The hinge: Kettlebell deadlifts and swings
  • Pushes: Chest press, overhead press and push-ups
  • Pulls: Dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns
  • Ground work: Planks, crawling variations, Turkish Get-Ups

How do I get started?

Learning these aforementioned movement patterns and including one from each category in your workout is the perfect place to start. Doing eight to twelve reps of each exercise, or 30 for each ground exercise, is a solid rep range for tackling a number of benefits, such as: increased heart rate and metabolism, strength and muscular development, and not overly exerting yourself with very heavy weights. You can either complete these movements as a circuit, starting with squats and ending with a plank variation, or do three sets of each movement before moving onto the next one. 

The Benefits of Lifting Weights

colorful row of kettlebells

Of course, when it comes to lifting weights, the most common concern is “am I going to get bulky?” While it’s a very legitimate question, it’s been pumped up with so much misinformation and fallacy that it’s the main culprit keeping women away from lifting weights.

The short answer? NO! Many case studies have shown that women actually get leaner and tighter after they consistently lift weights for a six week period. In fact, I have gotten that concern so often it inspired an article I wrote a few years ago, “#girlswholift: The Weightlifting Movement”. Magazines, social media and well-meaning friends have plagued women in their approach to fitness, somehow convincing us that weightlifting—one of the sure-fire ways to achieve results—is the one thing you should not do in the gym. I hope we have started to dismantle that assumption for you. 

Encouragement from a Strength Trainer

Now that it’s January, I know you’ve got many post-its around the house that read, “get to the gym more often!” I’m here to encourage that goal (it’s also an awesome way to dive headfirst into some self-care), but I’m also here to be a calming sounding board. In fact, I have three big pieces of advice for you to get started on your strength-training journey:

  1. Don’t get trapped in the mindset, “I’ve GOT to start lifting 3 times a week, 1 hour each time, or it doesn’t count.” Instead think, “I’m gonna lift on Wednesday for 30 minutes. I’m gonna do a few movements but leave the gym feeling refreshed, not exhausted.”
  2. Start with light weights! Doing eight to twelve reps of any exercise is the perfect range to start. Use weights with which the last one to two reps of each movement feels challenging, but you are still able to maintain good form.
  3. Hire a professional trainer. If you are still unsure about how to start, seek out guidance! I absolutely love my job because I get to work one on one with women in a safe, empowering environment. I believe in the accessibility of training and have started training folks from my home because I empathize with the gym being a daunting place for some. 

We have another mission in life: to create a movement of badass weightlifting women! It’s one of the reasons I started a small group training program in Chicago called “#girlswholift.” 

I can’t tell you how many clients have come to me two months into lifting in complete shock at how strong they have become, and how much they love lifting because we worked on it together. So next time you are gearing up to go to the gym, I hope you feel excited and confident to try some of those weights. Let’s treat our bodies with respect and radical self-care through the power of lifting! 

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