Health

Victoria Beckham lifts weights now and you should too — a guide to getting started

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kinny is out and curvy is in. “It’s an old-fashioned attitude, wanting to be really thin,” decreed Victoria Beckham this week. She is, of course, bang on the money (if a little slow off the mark). “I think women today want to look healthy, and curvy. They want to have some boobs – and a bum,” she said of her light bulb moment.

These days, more women than ever are taking up heavy lifting in an effort to (among many things) sculpt curves – including VB herself. A disciple of a notoriously strict diet and exercise routine, the designer has now, she says, finally “found my own balance between wanting to have fun and being disciplined about eating healthily and working out.” In a recent interview with Grazia, she revealed she has even swapped her cardio-heavy Tracy Anderson method for lifting heavy weights five to six times a week, with her husband David and personal trainer Bobby Rich.

And she appears to be reaping the rewards. “I’ve always been a bit scared of weights, but it turns out I love them. I’ve even got those special gloves to wear!” she told the magazine. “It’s good to switch things up and keep your body guessing. I’ve got so much more muscle tone now.”

The fact is that there are endless benefits to be gained from lifting weights, particularly for a woman — and I speak from my own personal experience. Aside from the physical effect it can have on the body, like improving metabolism, bone density and strengthening joints, there is just something incredibly empowering about getting strong. For me, it had a transformational effect on my mind and confidence, and recent studies have even suggested that resistance training may help to reduce symptoms of depression.

“Weight training is possibly the best training from a longevity stand point,” offers Lewis Prosser, personal trainer and sports performance nutrition coach at BXR City. “The more muscle mass we have, the better our lives will be. As we get older having a good amount of muscle will stop you from falls and accidents and it also strengthens our bones and joints.”

How to get started? Here’s your expert guide.

The aim of the game

Strength training is all based around a simple concept called progressive overload. “This is where you’re continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system (through increased reps and heavier weights) to make gains in strength, and endurance,” explains Héloïse Nangle, COO of Core Collective. Simply put, in order to get stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to.

Compound exercises, like squats and deadlifts, that work multiple muscle groups and joints at the same time, or unilateral movements (on one leg), such as lunges, are a great means of applying progressive overload. By contrast, isolation exercises like bicep curls don’t work as much stimulus, “so limiting your workout to these kinds of exercises will mean the rate of progression will be much slower,” she adds.

Know your niggles

Many of us have certain “niggles,” or areas we feel we need to be extra cautious of due to either previous injury or it just being an area that strains easily. This is is why it’s more important than ever to start your strength training journey with a qualified professional. For example, mine is my lower back, so Prosser suggests I do trap bar deadlifts with a barbell as opposed to regular deadlifts “because it puts us in a much more natural position to load heavier with,” he explains. “Deadlifts can be a very technical skill which if perform incorrectly can lead to injuries.”

Expect to feel hungrier (at first)

When I first started regular strength training I noticed I’d be absolutely ravenous after a session, but this subsided after a few weeks. This is due to the increased calorie expenditure from your training and subsequent recovery. “Our bodies adapt to pretty much every stimulus we throw at it so it will adapt over time but,” Prosser assures. “That’s why we want to work on progressive overload to increase our muscle mass and get stronger.”

So fuel up properly beforehand. “Carbohydrates before your session will reduce the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) which in turn will allow yourself to lift more weight, increase repetitions and push yourself harder leading to more stimulus and adaption.”

Adjust your breath

As with all exercise, don’t forget to breathe. “We want to focus on breathing in on the eccentric phase and out on the concentric, which means when we are contracting our muscles (and they are getting shorter) we want to breathe in and when we have to control the movement as they get longer we want to breath out,” Prosser says.

Small tweaks can have a big impact

Again, not to bang on about it, but this is why it’s helpful to train with a PT. “Changing the angle of how we hold dumbbells or other equipment can make a big difference in targeting certain muscle groups correctly,” Prosser says.

Slow down

You’ve heard it before, but correct form is the real winner here. “Controlling the tempo and moving through a full range of motion is what we should be aiming for and this sometimes means dropping our ego and moving to slightly less weight,” he recommends.

Don’t over do it

Finally, if you want to get stronger, be sure to build in sufficient rest time so that your muscles can rebuild and adapt to the stress of regular training. “Overtraining is only going to impact the results you want,” Nangle points out. “Keep in mind that you can increase either frequency or intensity, but not both, or you’ll burn out quickly. The best way to prevent this is to have a progressive programme designed for you by a personal trainer.”

Where to train

So where is best to train in London under the watchful eye of a professional who can ensure you’re nailing your form? Hit up one of these tried and tested spots.

The Foundry

Looking for a structured workout programme that includes both PT and group sweat sessions with plenty of heavy duty equipment? Head to The Foundry, which has locations in Bank, Vauxhall and Old Street and offers semi-private personal training memberships in groups of up to four, plus access to classes and plenty of strength and fitness testing along the way – I can personally vouch for the formula after completing an eight-week programme here. From £349/month.

StrongHer

Over in Bethnal Green StrongHer, became the capital’s first dedicated female only strength training facility when it opened in 2020. Owners Sam and Tig (above) offer both personal training and group classes, and bags of infectious enthusiasm. From £185/month for two small group training classes per week (in groups of upto four).

Grndhouse

In Paddington, five former Barry’s Bootcamp instructors opened Grndhouse, a new dedicated strength and conditioning training unit last year in a bid to “demystify the outdated stereotypes around strength training” and show how easily (and quickly) it can “transform your mind, body and happiness.” The brand offers online training alongside, for the days you can’t get down to the studio. From £25/class.

grndhouse.com

John Reed Fitness

At the shiny new John Reed Fitness opposite Liverpool Street station, aka London’s most Instagrammable gym, personal training is offered by the likes of @ms_stella_fitness on the huge gym floor, with every high-tech fitness machine you could think of, and loads of them, meaning you never have to wait your turn. Book into Body Lab, for a glute blast and booty shaping workout with wieghts that sculpts and hones the core with plenty of squats, lunges and deadlifts. Membership from £100/month.

Roar

Whether you sign up for a full-blown transformation programme, or simply book in for some Roar Metal strength training group classes, former Olympian Sarah Lindsay and her army of expert trainers has you nicely covered at three locations: Bank, Liverpool Street and High Street Kensington. From £25/class or packages from £2,200.

roar-fitness.com

Athletic London, the City

On Fenchurch Street, star trainers Maiken Brustad @ptmaiken and Caleb Bowen (@calebcrucialboxing) offer a wide range of group classes ang highly tailored personal training programmes. From £10/class or £249 for a six-week programme.

athletic-fitness.co.uk

Lift Studio LDN, Clapham

Lift Studio LDN is another female-only lifting studio which is based in Clapham. Intimate group sessions, one-on-one personal training and nutritional coaching is available to members. Expect to build strength (and confidence) fast. From £250/month for a foundation membership (which includes two classes per week).

liftstudiolondon.com

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