We Tried Weightlifting For Six Weeks And Here's What Happened
A three-times-a-week program that even fitness newbies can do.
Hi! We're Katie and Arianna, and recently we decided we wanted to become the strongest people alive.
Or, well, we decided we wanted to become at least a little bit stronger. Both of us are pretty fit people (averaging 2-5 workouts per week), but neither of us had any real prior experience with weight training. The free weight area always seemed like a scary, crowded, intimidating part of the gym. But both of us are prone to getting bored of our usual exercise routines, and eventually it started feeling dumb to keep avoiding an appealing exercise option just because it was intimidating.
So, a couple of months ago, we got in touch with fitness expert Albert Matheny (Soho Strength Lab and Promix Nutrition) (seen above), and asked him to help us come up with a weightlifting program that:
1. suited our beginner status
2. was easy to build upon as we got stronger
3. was six weeks long
4. ran no longer than 45 minutes per workout
5. required no more (or fewer) than 3 workouts per week
We both planned to keep up our other workouts on other days, whenever possible (running, elliptical, yoga, etc.), but would devote three days per week to lifting weights, as specified by the program Albert gave us, below.
The way these work is that you would do 10 reps of one move (or 10 reps on each side, if applicable — look for the asterisks in the chart), followed by 10 reps of the next move, and then repeat that cycle two more times. The moves are organized in clusters of two or three moves — finish a cluster three times through before moving onto the next one.
Rest only as needed. If you can't keep your form even though the weight is not too heavy for you, you need to rest a bit longer before continuing.
These workouts aren't meant to be done at top speed; remember, they're for strength; not cardio. The most important thing is that every rep (every single one!) is performed with control and perfect form. That's what gets you results and prevents getting injured.
And a few things to know before you start...
DB = dumbbells
BW = body weight
To figure out how much weight you should be lifting: If you can easily do 10 reps at a certain weight, go for a higher one, says Matheny. BUT if you can't do at least four reps with good form at the new weight, you've increased the weight too much. Remember that the most important thing is to be able to maintain perfect form no matter what weight you're working with.
If it doesn't feel hard, you're probably not lifting enough weight.
When we first started this program, we made the mistake of thinking it was "easy." This is probably because we continued using our starting-level weights (as low as 5 pounds for most movements) through our second week, not realizing how quickly we'd gained strength.
We emailed Albert to ask him what's up, and he invited us back to the gym so we could go through the routine and he could advise us on how to make it more challenging. The first thing he did was add a TON of weight to the moves — after just two weeks, we went up to 20-25 pounds for many of the moves (deadlifts, arm raises), and even went up to 35 pounds for the goblet squats. This, of course, made the workouts much harder, but in a good way.
And keep in mind, weightlifting is way different from other workouts you might be used to.
We're both people who love to feel super sweaty and sore after a workout (think Soulcycle, kickboxing class, etc.), but weightlifting doesn't (and shouldn't!) produce that kind of reaction. Matheny told us that most of the reason we get so sweaty in fitness classes is because they turn up the heat, anyway. Weightlifting is slow and methodical — but, if you keep increasing weight, it can still be very difficult.
See the gifs below to see how each move is done. Note: we are not professional fitness models (lol, obviously, please forgive any noticeable grimaces), but Matheny was on hand to make sure our form was on point (given our own mobility and fitness), so these demonstrations should represent how an average, non-expert person might perform each move.
If you want to see more advanced exercisers perform some of these moves, check out BuzzFeed Health's other fitness posts like this one.
And after the gifs, check out the "before" and "after" shots, as well as our thoughts about the program and our results!
DB Goblet Squat
DB One-Arm Bent Over Row
DB Step-Back Lunge
DB Alternate Floor Press
DB Single-Leg Deadlift
DB Side Lunge
DB Bent-Over Reverse Fly
DB Romanian Deadlift
DB Walking Lunge
DB Bent-Over Raise
Lunge Complex w/ Curl
Lunge Complex / Press
Lunge Complex w/ Curl-to-Press
DB Floor Press
DB Renegade Row
DB One-Arm Thruster
DB Get Up Sit-Up
Did we like it?
Katie: I really like this program. I looked forward to doing it every day, which is not often a feeling I have about going to the gym. It makes me feel good in a different way from my other workouts. I love feeling myself get stronger, and I especially loved that Albert told us we should eat a snack before and after the workout. An order I cannot refuse!!
I will say, though, that I still feel a little stressed whenever there are a lot of people (usually all men) in the weight area when I go to work out. I try to go at off-peak hours to avoid this, but there's only so much you can do in a gym in New York City. I wish I had more space, and I wish I didn't have to deal with a bunch of huge guys taking up a lot of room, grunting weirdly loudly, and gawking. I dream of a women-only weightlifting gym the size of a suburb. But I like it enough that I am willing to put up with these annoyances.
Arianna: Yes! I loved it. Both Katie and I have continued lifting past the six weeks, which, for me at least (as someone who gives up on 99% of things) is a testament to how satisfying it is. I like the pace of lifting; it's never monotonous and so I find I don't ever dread it the way I dread running on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Plus you get to check yourself out in the mirror while you're doing it, which is great.
How do we feel about the results?
Katie: Looking at the before and after photos, I don't really see a difference at all. But when I'm looking at myself, in the mirror, I think I can. My legs are more toned, for sure, and my butt is a little bigger, which I'm happy about. My stomach is probably a little more toned too. I would love if my arms were more shredded, but maybe I would have to work harder, and I don't want to work that much harder. So overall, I feel good. I think now (having done the program for ten weeks) I'm juuuust starting to get to the point of a little boredom, or maybe frustration with the gym environment. I have no plans to stop, though, and I think there are probably a lot of ways I could switch things up to keep this program fun and challenging for myself.
Arianna: Here's the thing — my main goal for this was weight loss. My main goal for all exercise is weight loss. It is what it is! But, since that is impossible without changing my diet accordingly, Albert (also a registered dietitian) and I worked out a general meal plan to go with the program. I didn't really follow it, so I didn't really lose weight. Oh, well. But I feel different. I feel good, strong, tighter. Plus, my cardio workouts are so much better with this new underlying strength! I actually gained a pound or two, but my clothes are a bit looser. The cool thing is, as I've seen my increase in strength, my goals have inherently shifted — I do still want to lose weight, but I'm honestly more motivated by the desire to just totally own every dude in the weight room with me.