How to Lift Weights the Right Way in Westchester

Lifting weights can be a powerful tool in your workout arsenal, but it's important to do it right. Here's how to get started.

In real time while I write this, I’m fielding several panicked texts from multiple personal training clients about everything from random fads they saw on the Internet (“Should I be reverse running?”) to something their friend told them (“How can I tell if I’m biohacking?”).

The constant barrage of information about what’s healthy, what’s not, what used to be healthy and now isn’t, and the things you aren’t doing and should be, is overwhelming, overstimulating, and causes many people to quit their fitness journey before they even start. It’s hard to know which way to turn when there are thousands of people simultaneously screaming contradictions. So, let’s characterize fitness accurately: Fitness is an intimidating world, even if you’re used to it — but it doesn’t have to be an all-out horror show. This guide will help you navigate the confusion, answer the questions you may never have asked, and help you find what fitness means (and can do!) to you. And don’t forget: no pressure, no diamonds.

So, You Want to Learn How to Lift

It’s an idea that elicits a flurry of images of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a packed-out Gold’s Gym, and hundreds of pounds hoisted onto a barbell. Spoiler alert: Comfortably moving with weight doesn’t have to require any of that if you don’t want it to. In fact, effective and powerful exercises can be done exclusively with dumbbells if a barbell isn’t your jive.

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Maytal Adi, owner of Lucky’s Gym in Mamaroneck (affectionally named after her dog, FYI), says the first step is getting over the fear of lifting weights. “Fear is such a huge thing that a lot of people carry, usually because they’ve hurt themselves before,” says the Pain-Free Performance Coach. “In my training style, it’s not as much about hitting weightlifting goals as it is hitting milestones of mobility, functionality, and goals of what you want to be able to do in your daily life, easily and pain-free.”

Maytal Adi and Lucky of Lucky’s Gym
Maytal Adi and Lucky of Lucky’s Gym. Photo by Stefan Radtke.

There’s something to be said about strength training and longevity. The brass tacks of the exercise are that lifting weights not only improves muscle endurance and strength but can also lead to a reduction in fat retention and improved cardiovascular health. Now that you’re sold on the concept, let’s dive into the execution.

First, getting comfortable with your own body is key. If you don’t know your movement patterns, your form will falter. “I establish a nice solid foundation of strength or teach techniques like how to hinge, how to move, and balance,” says Adi. Learning where your weight should be shifted and understanding the mechanics and posture without loading yourself up will give you more confidence to go heavier once you’re ready.

Lucky’s Gym
Photo by Stefan Radtke.

From there, utilizing light weights until the movement can be done with ease (or until you’re bored, as she jokes) is important for foundational strength. For Adi, she doesn’t let her clients do backloaded movements until they’re totally ready. Still, those come at a modification as well. “I don’t really use the straight barbell,” she says. “I use safety squat bars and trap bars.”

Getting comfortable with your own body is key.

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With her whole gym designed around safety, Adi wants to drive home the point of knowing what you’re working with. Typically, with a barbell, you’re pulling from in front of you if you’re doing a motion like a deadlift. By switching to trap bars and having the weight in line with the side of your knees, you’re moving with your body, and your risk of injury is lessened.

Once you are officially on your way to lifting like a champion, Adi says recording yourself can be helpful in noticing weak areas and spots for improvement, coupled with consistency and practice. “People forget that bodies are meant to move,” says Adi. “It won’t be instant, but limiting yourself with fear will set you back more than a bad workout will.”

A Quick Guide on the Proper Form for a Deadlift:

Adobe Stock/ Leszekglasner
  1. Grab the bar or dumbbells with your knuckles facing away from you. Holding a flat back, tuck your hips, and engage your core.
  2. Keeping the weight close to your legs, shift your weight into your heels and prepare to drive them into the ground to move the weight.
  3. Look straight ahead, not down, so as to not cut off your oxygen.
  4. Your posture should be a flat back with your shoulders engaged. While squeezing your shoulder blades, imagine you’re holding something between them.
  5. Drive through your heels and lift the weight to thigh level, pause, squeeze your glutes, and then return to your starting position.
  6. Reset and correct form if needed as you progress along your set.
weight lifting
Adobe Stock/ Leszekglasner

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