I’ve been lifting weights with my boys for a few days now (a little over a week, I think). In that short time I’ve already been through the first phase of starting a new exercise, or restarting an old one; the first bout of delayed onset muscle soreness.
The first one is always the worst; so bad that it can make or break your new exercise regimen. Now, an experienced athlete, such as I, knows this and plans for it. For the first workout with the boys, I chose to go with the minimum weight dumbbells possible (10 lbs., if you’re interested).
What starting light does is prevents you from overstressing your muscles in ways that they’re not used to, to levels they’re not used to going to.
Jeez, Andrew, for a guy who wants to be a professional writer, you dangled the hell out of the prepositions in that paragraph.
I know, but who is going to write, “…your muscles in ways to which they’re not used, and to levels to which they’re not used to going?”
All of this got me to thinking about some basic rules for getting into, or back into, resistance training. Rules to let you get through the first case of delayed onset muscle soreness, and prevent you from doing yourself an injury.
Rule Number 1:
Start at a lesser intensity than you think your body can take.
The other way to go, is as I did for recovering my regular back pain and posture yoga routine. With that I did my normal level of exercises, but I did fewer reps of them.
Rule Number 2:
Start with a lesser duration than you think your body can take.
With the weight workouts with the boys, I felt myself near my body’s limits with that first go around, so I really leaned on rule number 1. The boys decided to go with rule number 3
Rule Number 3:
Take breaks so you don’t over stress your body.
Now, we’re not talking about splitting a 15 minute workout into 3 sets, with 15 minute rests in between. The workout itself had brief rests between sets, but we paused the video and got a few sips of water, taking a maybe 30 second break into 90 seconds. Yes, it added a bit of time to the workout, but the boys felt strong all the way through.
This is very important because it leads to rule number 4.
Rule Number 4:
Don’t cheat your form.
You can cheat your form in different ways. For example, if you’re lifting weights, you can swing the dumbbells, and use momentum rather than muscle strength to cheat.
You can also change your posture to make the exercise easier while simultaneously compromising something else, such as your lumbar spine. This is common when you get tired, and lose focus on maintaining proper spinal alignment. Compromising your spine to get a few extra reps is bad, and a longer rest break can help avoid that. Which brings us to rule number 5.
Rule number 5:
Learn proper form.
When starting any new exercise, make sure you’re getting proper instruction in the form. I’ve had plenty of good (and bad, for that matter) instruction on weight lifting. The video the boys found is from a personal trainer, who goes over the basics of form in the video, and they’ve got me to keep an eye on them and remind them when they slip.
Following these 5 basic rules has gotten me through that first bout of DOMS. I had some soreness in my back and chest, but nothing particularly bad, and the boys had even less. And that soreness was on the level of, “you’ve worked your muscles, now they’re going to get stronger,” rather than, “oh my God, I think I’m going to die.”