Compound exercises are exercises which involve multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time. Examples of traditional compound exercises include squats, lunges, push ups, chin ups, pull ups, tricep dips and burpees. As a beginner to strength training, there is no immediate need to start off with weights - your body weight should be adequate to start building strength! Given that these whole body exercises workout multiple muscle groups at the same time, they often can help you lose weight (burning more calories) and are generally functional - which means you will benefit from carrying out your activities of daily living with less effort.
Perfect your form and technique
One of the main reasons why individuals injured themselves are as a result of poor form. There is no exact science to this as everyone's body is different as well as past medical history. If you have had previous injuries or had bad experiences with personal trainers, it is critical that you should seek professional advice. Exercising for long periods of time with poor form can make it very difficult to revise techniques and break bad habits. Starting off with less reps, lower resistance and simple exercises is highly recommended to provide you with strong foundations for progression.
Warm up properly
Research has shown warming up is generally more effective than stretching for reducing the risk of injuries. Rehearsing the movements with lower reps and weights and jumping on a short stint on a treadmill to increase your core body temperature are great ways to warm up. If in doubt, please speak to an exercise professional.
Start off with higher reps (> 10)
Focus on improving your form and technique by starting off with higher reps when you start a new exercise program. You can actually still build muscle mass and strength with greater than 10 reps per set! Once you start getting use to the exercises, then perhaps load up the weights and reduce your reps accordingly to ensure you are working out with a moderate level of difficulty. You are at relative lower risk of getting injured doing lower reps than higher resistance or weights to begin with.
Give yourself recovery days
Recovery days are critical to grow muscle mass and strength. The body needs to recover and the muscle fibres you have stimulated and caused micro-tears from weight training needs to re-model and grow at a cellular level. As a beginner, aim for 1-2 day rest in between preforming the same exercises. It is important to note that you do not have to stop exercising on these days. Perhaps go for a swim, join a pilates or yoga class, or go for a run, or train a different group of muscles!
Do cardio after weight lifting
You need fuel to do resistance training at your best. By doing too much cardio (particularly high intensity) before you start strength training can deplete your body's glycogen stores which primarily used when you try to build strength. Mild to moderate intensity cardio can be performed before resistance training to warm up, as it will primarily utilise fat as fuel.
Eat enough protein
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) most recent guidelines, it is recommended that about 10-35% of your daily energy intake comes from protein. The average individual should consumer 0.8 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight for general health. For a healthy individual that lifts weight regularly or training for a running or cycling event, it is recommended 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body daily for muscle maintenance and growth.