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How To Get Back Into Weight Training And Lifting After A Break

Ready to return to weight training after a long break? Getting back into lifting after a while away from the gym? Here’s a guide to help you plan your return to the gym safely and effectively, so you can get your strength and fitness back.

START SMALL

After an extended break, it’s normal to have lost some strength and in your fitness levels, but the good news is, you can build up to the strength and fitness you had prior. Whilst you may feel like you lost all the hard work you put in before your break, those efforts were not all in vain. If you were regularly weight training or lifting, you’ll likely reap the benefits of muscle memory to help you get back on track.

You may be tempted to get straight back to your usual weight training routine but it’s important to restart lifting at a reduced capacity, particularly in the first few weeks to allow your body to get used to weight training again and to prevent injury. How much you reduce this by will depend on how long you’ve been away from the gym. 

As a general guideline, if you’ve not been weight training for 4 weeks or more, you can start at give or take 50% of what you would have normally done in the first session. This session should primarily aim at getting used to being in the gym again and focus on your movement pattern when lifting weights, not about going hard and seeing how much you can lift. Reflect on the session over the next few days, checking in with how you’re recovering, and make sure to allow enough time for your body to recover.

By starting small you can always gradually build up and continue to make progress, which can also boost your confidence and build you up mentally in getting back into your weight lifting routine.

Remember to work at your own pace – keep in mind that getting back into things faster doesn’t necessarily mean that your results will be better or more sustainable.

SET SOME LIFTING GOALS

When getting back into weight training, it’s useful to set some goals you really want to achieve to help you stay motivated and allow that to direct what you do in the gym. Whether it’s a performance based goals such as achieving a 100kg back squat, an aesthetic goal such as building muscle on our back, or a goal based on neither – set ones that you want to achieve or gives purpose, and set some timeframes for when you can realistically achieve them by. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thinly by setting loads of goals – pick key ones you want to focus on now and break those down into smaller goals that you can implement into each session or on a weekly basis.

If you need some help with this, check our how guide on how to set fitness goals

CREATE SOME STRUCTURE

Now that you’ve decided on the goals you want to work on, you know your reason to train ( i.e. your purpose) and you’re prepared to get back into lifting, it can be helpful to give some structure to your weight training, based around your weekly schedule and needs.

Have a think about what commitments you might have, what your priorities are – taking into account things like your work life, time for family and friends and any other things that are important to you. Build your fitness routine into this so that you can address all your important things, and also do your fitness alongside.

Whilst we all may have 24 hours in a day, we all will have different priorities, needs and things going on in our lives. What matters is how you fit fitness into your life, not the other way around. If you can only realistically make it to the gym 3 times a week whilst you used to be able to go 5 times a week  – allocate 3 days in your diary for weight training. Ideally you would want to leave a rest day in between for this case if you can, for example training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having these set days to train, which fit around your schedule can help you get back into your lifting routine, and you can always adjust if necessary.

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Ab Workouts For Beginners

If you search for “ab exercises” on the internet you’ll probably come across hundreds of ab exercises to choose from, so it can be a little overwhelming and difficult to figure out which ab workouts are best suited for beginners. 

We’ve created this guide to help inform you about this incredible muscle group, as well as providing some advice about how to strengthen your abs (and even strive for a visible six pack). Read on to the end for an example beginners ab workout to get you started.

WHAT ARE ABS?

The abs are made up of four major muscle groups:

  • Rectus abdominis: These are probably the main muscles you’ll think of when considering abs – these two bands of muscle run from the sternum down to the pelvis over the front of the stomach. They have a distinctive ‘six pack’ or ‘eight pack’ look thanks to bands of connective tissue and these muscles help to flex you forwards.
  • External obliques: Positioned on either side of the upper stomach, these muscles help to support your torso as it performs twisting motions. 
  • Internal obliques: Work with the external obliques to support turning and twisting movements. They’re positioned on the lower, outer part of the stomach. 
  • Transverse abdominis: These muscles sit deep below the obliques, wrapped around the spine and help to stabilise and strengthen the torso. 

When working together, these muscles help to move your torso and support upper body motion. 

WHY SHOULD I WORK OUT MY ABS?

For many people, the goal for ab training is to either achieve a flatter-looking stomach or a muscular ‘six pack’ physique. If that’s your objective then great, but there are so many other benefits to strengthening and working out your abs than just how it physically shapes your body. These muscles support your entire upper body. If you play other sports, or enjoy running or weight training for example, building up your core strength will be sure to boost your stability and performance. You’ll feel both stronger, and more powerful. 

HOW DO BEGINNERS GET ABS? 

If ‘getting abs’ means seeing a visible six pack, then there’s no getting around the fact that this look takes a lot of work and perseverance, but if you’re willing to put in the time, then you’ll both look and feel stronger and more muscular. Incorporating exercises into your workout that focus on the rectus abdominis is the best place to start, and that means movements that flex your pelvis and lower ribs towards and away from each other, like crunches and sit ups. It’s also important to include total core strengthening exercises as well, as this will enable you to build a stable, strong foundation for your abs, so make sure to include movements like planks and twists as well. 

If you carry weight around your waist then you may not be able to see the effect of your ab training reflected in your physique, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abs, they might just be hidden from view. To overcome this, you’ll need to combine your workouts with a sustainable, healthy diet and aim to reduce your body fat percentage so the sculpted muscles are more visible. For men, this will most likely be between 6-13% and for women, you’ll need to lower your body fat to around 14-20%. 

IS IT OKAY TO WORK YOUR ABS OUT EVERY DAY? 

As with any kind of training, rest days are essential to building strength and fitness in a healthy way. Your muscles will undergo tension that causes tiny, microscopic tears – it’s the process of repair and recovery from these that helps you to become stronger.  If you don’t allow time for rejuvenation, you could increase the risk of muscle injuries that could set back your training. So make sure to rest your abs for at least 24 hours after giving them a full workout, perhaps instead focusing on gentle stretches or yoga to ease any sore muscles. Check out our ‘Why Rest Days Are Important’ guide for more information.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT TO GET ABS? 

A healthy diet is an important part of achieving any fitness goal, so it’s vital to fuel your body in the best way possible. To strengthen your abs and work towards a six pack, you’ll need to supply your muscles and core with the nutrients and energy they need to strengthen and sculpt. If you’re aiming for a six pack, you’ll also need to make sure your diet focuses on controlling your body fat percentage so your toned muscles are more visible. 

In general, we recommend focusing on a nutritionally balanced, well rounded diet plan that includes plenty of fibre, protein and healthy fats. Types of food to consider including as you build up your ab strength include:

  • lean protein such as chicken, fish, lentils or chickpeas to help build and maintain muscle growth
  • high fibre whole grains like quinoa, oats and barley – they’re packed full of vitamins and minerals, can aid in digestion and are filling, helping with your body composition
  • heart-healthy fats like salmon, nuts and avocado
  • Low calorie, nutrient rich fruit and vegetables such as broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes

Our Nutrition and Diet hub is packed full of advice pieces and healthy recipes that are the perfect accompaniment to a beginners ab training plan. 

HOW TO START TRAINING YOUR ABS

We recommend starting your ab training by integrating ab-focused exercises into your regular workouts, starting with 10 to 15 reps and increasing the intensity over time either by including more sets or by adding additional weights. As your body improves, you can begin to devote entire sessions to focusing solely on your abs, so you can give them your full energy and see greater, faster results. 

Crunches are not just a good way to start ab training, but they’re also one of the best exercises for building up these muscles. The most effective approach is to focus on slow, controlled movements, rather than solely on increasing your reps, as muscles grow best after spending time under tension. Regular crunches will focus on the upper section of your abs, and reverse crunches will focus on the hard-to-target lower abs. You can find out more about each of these movements in our guide to sit ups

Other exercises to include are core-strengthening movements such as planks, Russian twists and mountain climbers (as featured in our Functional Ab Workout guide). These will help to strengthen your abs, and also improve your balance and stability.

WHAT IS A GOOD AB WORKOUT FOR BEGINNERS? 

To help you get started, we’ve come up with a five move ab workout that’s both effective and beginner-friendly in building a solid foundation to a strong core.

All you need for this ab workout is a mat so you can try this out at home or in the gym. This workout roughly takes 10-15 minutes.

Watch the video below to see PureGym Insider @peterpuregym perform all the ab exercises in this workout so you can see how to do them and give the workout a go!

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HIIT Workouts You Can Do At Home

Over this year, many of us will have turned to HIIT training, tuning into Instagram lives and workout apps to stay active and get our hearts pumping while gyms were closed. Read on for some examples of a few of our favourite HIIT exercises for home. 

BENEFITS OF HOME HIIT WORKOUTS

  • You don’t need any kit – HIIT workouts can be completed using just your own bodyweight
  • They’re not weather dependent – you can work out come rain or shine
  • Easily fitted into your lifestyle – perfect for busier times
  • You can workout in a small space – you don’t need huge studios for these exercises
  • Tailored to suit you fitness levels – whether beginner or advanced, you can shape your home HIIT workout so it’s right for you

As a form of exercise which ticks all the boxes, it’s no surprise that this method of training has become a popular workout of choice. Even though gyms can now remain open across all three tiers in England, we know that there are days when you can’t make it to the gym, or maybe you’re not ready to return to the gym but you still want to break a sweat. HIIT can help you achieve this in the comfort of your home. The convenience of rolling a mat out and getting a workout done in a short amount of time, makes this workout an easy choice to fall back on.

If you’ve tried HIIT workouts before, you’ll know it doesn’t take long to work up a sweat, even with just your bodyweight. HIIT training can help to tone and strengthen, and improve cardio fitness so if you fancy doing a workout at home, here are some workouts you can try!

Ready to HIIT it? Let’s go!

5 MINUTE HIIT AT HOME

Being tight on time is no excuse not to squeeze a little HIIT into your day – this 5 minute workout will get you sweating in the time it takes to make a cup of tea.

  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks (start with your hands by your side and feet together. Jump so your feet spring out to the sides and lift your arms above your head, then jump back to the start position)
  • 30 seconds Mountain Climbers
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Alternating Forward Lunges
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Alternating Reverse Lunges
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Plank rows (holding a dumbbell in each hand, form a regular plank. Keeping your arm at a right angle and moving from the shoulder pull your right arm back until your hand is level with your body. Lower, then alternate with the other arm)
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Squats

7 MINUTE HIIT AT HOME

This 7 minute HIIT workout is a quick and efficient way to work out at home. Squeeze a few of these sessions in throughout the week and you’ll be sure to feel the benefit.

  • 30 second Jumping Jacks (start with your hands by your side and feet together. Jump so your feet spring out to the sides and lift your arms above your head, then jump back to the start position)
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Press ups
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Squats
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Dips (sitting on a chair, with your hands holding either side of your seat towards the front, keep your knees and move your torso and bottom forward off the chair. Bend and straighten your arms to raise and lower your  body)
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second High knees (stand, holding your hands out at around waist height. Alternating legs and keeping energy high, jog while aiming to reach your hands with your knees)
  • 10 second rest

Repeat and for the last 20 seconds finish with a plank hold.

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How to lose belly fat: the top calorie-burning exercises

When it comes to fitness goals, losing belly fat is probably one the most popular goals people have when they join the gym. Whilst doing endless crunches may help to make your core stronger, it’s not the most effective way to lose belly fat. A whole-body approach will be more optimal, combined with proper nutrition, along with other elements. 

We’ve combined two high-energy workouts consisting of full body movements to help strengthen and shape your body and help you achieve your fat loss goals. Watch them below and give them a go in the gym!

Also, make sure to check out our top calorie burning exercise list below for some exercise ideas.

WORKOUT ONE

  1. Burpee 8-10 reps
  2. Walkout into a push up  8-10 reps
  3. Mountain climbers 30 reps (15 per side)
  4. Bear crawl with resistance band 8-10 reps

Complete each exercise, back-to-back. Complete 3-4 rounds.

WORKOUT TWO

  1. Deadlifts. 5 reps
  2. Dumbbell thrusters 8-10 reps.
  3. Kettlebell swings8-12 reps.
  4. Jumping lunges 6-12 reps each leg.
  5. Mountain climbers 1-20 reps.

Make sure to warm up and cool down when performing these workouts.

WHAT ARE SOME GREAT CALORIE BURNING EXERCISES I CAN TRY IN THE GYM OTHER THAN CARDIO?

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 exercises personal trainers recommend when it comes to burning fat:

  1. Barbell or dumbbell thrusters
  2. Burpees
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Squats (and its variations – for example, jump squats).
  5. Deadlifts
  6. Lunges (and its variations – for example, jumping lunges).
  7. Pull ups
  8. Bent over rows
  9. Press ups
  10. Mountain climbers
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Ab workouts for a stronger core

Want to build a stronger core? Try these ab workouts which have been tried and tested by personal trainers!

When it comes to training abs, it’s common for people to focus on training this body part because they want to achieve a six pack or get defined abs. If that’s your goal, training your abs can help make them stronger but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically get defined abs. Getting defined abs requires a low body fat percentage which will be different from person to person, so a full-body training approach along with a healthy balanced diet is recommended.

Whilst having aesthetic goals is fine, let’s not forget that there are many functional benefits that comes with training your core. This includes maintaining correct posture, helping to reduce strain on your back and improving your functional performance so including some ab exercises as part of your overall fitness routine, can help you develop a stronger core and reap aforementioned benefits. 

AB MAT WORKOUT BY @KAYPUREGYM, PUREGYM INSIDER

  1. Cat cow (warm up) -10 reps
  2. Deadbugs –  3 sets of 5 reps each side
  3. High Plank, toes in and out
  4. Bird dog – 3 sets of 5 reps each side
  5. Leg raise holding a plate 3 sets of 20-30 seconds

Rest for 20-30 seconds in-between each set.

  • Cat Cow

This yoga move is a good exercise to start off with as it can help to bring flexibility to the spine, lightly stretch the back, torso, neck, abs and open the chest.

Start on all fours, with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Curl your toes under and slowly arch your back as you inhale and lift your gaze up. As you exhale, round for cat pose by rounding your spin and tucking your tailbone. Drop your head and take your gaze towards your navel as you do this.

Complete 10 reps.

  • Deadbugs

This exercise is great for working the core without putting strain on your lower back.

Lie flat on our back with your arms held out in front of you, pointing the ceiling. Bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degrees. Push your lower back into the ground by using your core and try to maintain this position. Next, slowly lower your right arm and left leg towards to floor as you exhale. Try not to raise your back off the ground. Slowly return back to starting position and repeat with the opposite hand and leg.

  • High plank

Planks are a great exercise not just the core but the entire body.

Plant your hands directly under shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes and core – your legs and arms should be working too. Press up into a plank position – keeping your core braced. Really push your hands into the ground to lift your back towards the ceiling.