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We Tried Weightlifting For Six Weeks And Here's What Happened

A three-times-a-week program that even fitness newbies can do.

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Jon Premosch / Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

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 WORKOUTS

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.

Don't worry, there are gifs that show how to do all of these later in the post.
Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

Don't worry, there are gifs that show how to do all of these later in the post.

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.

THE EXERCISES

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

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: squat so deep that your low back rounds.

DO: keep your chest up, eyes forward, knees out.

(You can also elevate your heels a bit using a plate, as shown above.)

DB One-Arm Bent Over Row

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: round your back.

DO: row to your hip crease.

DB Step-Back Lunge

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: lean back — keep your shoulders in front of your hips (slight forward lean of your torso at all times).

DO: keep your front knee stacked above your ankle, not moving forward over your toe.

DB Alternate Floor Press

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your shoulder move up toward your ear when you press.

DO: keep your abs tight, and shoulders and hips in contact with the floor.

DB Single-Leg Deadlift

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: reach with your arms and round your back.

DO: slightly bend your support leg so you can balance.

DB Curl-To-Press

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your elbow move back as your curl.

DO: squeeze your glutes and abs when you press overhead.

DB Side Lunge

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your heel on the side you are lunging come off the ground

DO: keep your knee in line with your toes.

DB Windmill

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: ever take your eyes off the weight.

DO: control your breathing and move slowly.

DB Bent-Over Reverse Fly

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: go too heavy, or use muscles other than your upper back.

DO: squeeze your shoulder blades together.

DB Thruster

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: breathe while moving — inhale at the top before squatting, then exhale when you've come back up.

DO: squeeze your glutes at the top.

DB Romanian Deadlift

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: bend your knees or back, or bend beyond your ability to keep your back flat.

DO: do keep your chest and eyes up.

DB Walking Lunge

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your knee move forward over your toes. (i.e. do better than Arianna does here.)

DO: keep your abs tight during the motion; breathe at top while you're standing.

BW Push-Up

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your hips drop.

DO: keep your glutes and abs tight.

(You can also modify to elevated push-ups, seen above, if needed.)

DB Carries

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your shoulders round forward.

DO: hold the dumbbells as tightly as you can.

DB Bent-Over Raise

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your back round.

DO: keep your weight in your mid-foot, not your heel.

Jump Squat

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: land with straight legs.

DO: land as softly as you can.

V-Hold

DON'T: continue to hold the position if your back begins to hurt. If your back is being stressed, your abs are fatigued.DO: keep your body long — upper body long and arms straight, legs straight, toes pointed.
Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: continue to hold the position if your back begins to hurt. If your back is being stressed, your abs are fatigued.

DO: keep your body long — upper body long and arms straight, legs straight, toes pointed.

Lunge Complex w/ Curl

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: lean back.

DO: curl at the bottom of your lunge while holding the lunge.

Lunge Complex / Press

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: relax your abs when you press.

DO: finish the movement with the weight directly above your shoulders.

Lunge Complex w/ Curl-to-Press

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: swing the weights up.

DO: keep your eyes forward, and tense throughout your lower body.

DB Floor Press

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your feet come off the ground.

DO: push until your arms are full locked out, and let your elbows lightly touch the floor on the way down.

DB Renegade Row

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: lift up your butt or rotate your torso as you move.

DO: keep your hands planted under your shoulders, and brace with the support arm as you row.

DB One-Arm Thruster

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your hips shift to one side with the uneven load.

DO: focus on your abs to stabilize the weight.

DB Get Up Sit-Up

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your elbow bend.

DO: do keep your abs tight throughout the movement.

*We hated this move, and begged Albert to swap it out at week 4. He suggested doing side planks instead. Remember that it's OK to find moves that work better for you!

Plank

DON'T: let your hips drop or elbows move in front of your shoulders.DO: squeeze your glutes and maintain a straight line from your hips to shoulders to back of the head.
Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

DON'T: let your hips drop or elbows move in front of your shoulders.

DO: squeeze your glutes and maintain a straight line from your hips to shoulders to back of the head.

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.

THE RESULTS

Jon Premosch / Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed
Jon Premosch / Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

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.

Now get to the gym and take over that free weight area!

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