Weight Training 101

Weight TrainingIf cardio is your main format of exercise, it might be time to incorporate strength training. Many individuals, especially women, tend to fear weight because they are afraid that they will bulk up. The fact is, it is very hard to do so if you are 1) a woman and 2) eating a regular diet. Although there are a variety of types of strength training that are effective (e.g., plyometrics, yoga, isometrics), weight training is probably one of the easiest to build into your routine. Weight training, like any form of strength training helps to build muscle, tone and strengthen your body. If you are new to weight training, here are some basics to keep in mind:

  1. Free Weights vs. Machine Weights: Free weights are better for weight training than machine weight exercises because they provide the fastest results. They engage more muscles for each exercise and you work the muscle three-dimensionally, as compared to two-dimensionally as with machines. This means you are relying on strength AND balance during the exercise.
  2. Repetitions (Reps):In order to effectively work your muscles, you need to perform several repetitions of an exercise. One repetition begins at the starting point, lifting the weight and bringing it back to the starting point. If you perform that same movement a second time, that is your second rep. How many repetitions you do depends on your goal:
    • 8 – 10 repetitions: Good for building muscle
    • 10 – 12 repetitions: Good for strength
    • 12 – 15 repetitions: Good for toning. This will help to shape the muscles more than anything.
  3. Sets: One set includes one complete collection of repetitions. There are different types of sets you can do and each one has a different purpose:
    • Single Sets: Sets that work one muscle with one exercise at a time. For instance, a set of bicep curls incorporating 8 to 15 repetitions.
    • Compound Sets: Combines opposite muscle groups together, back to back, with no rest in between. For instance, a set of bicep curls immediately followed by tricep extensions.
  4. Rest Interval: The rest interval refers to the amount of time you rest between sets. Rest intervals can vary between 60 and 90 seconds maximum.
  5. Weight and Weight Progression: How much weight you use depends on your level of strength. Too often I see individuals lifting weight that is either too lightor too heavy for them. When choosing the weight you use, consider the following:
    • It should be heavy enough that it is challenging to lift, but light enough so you can lift it several times (8 to 15)
    • Whatever number of times you lift the weight, the last one or two repetitions should be almost too difficult to complete.
    • Every time you exercise, you want to push yourself to do one more repetition or use heavier weight than the last time you exercised.
  6. Variation: Varying the exercises you do when you train is important in ensuring that you see continuous gains in strength and muscle tone, and to prevent boredom. For instance, if you do push ups one day, do chest flys another.
  7. Order of Muscle Groups: Whether you work all your muscle groups in one day, or divide them into sub-groups, it is best to work larger muscles before smaller muscles. When you exercise larger muscles, you also engage smaller surrounding muscles. If you were to start with smaller muscles, however, they would become fatigued making it difficult to maintain form and strength for larger muscles.
    Order for Upper Body Exercises:

    • Back
    • Chest
    • Shoulders
    • Biceps
    • Triceps
    Order for Lower Body Exercises:

    • Buttocks
    • Quadriceps
    • Inner Thighs
    • Outer Thighs
    • Hamstrings
    • Calves
    • Tibia
  8. Frequency and RestFrequency:  You should exercise your muscles twice a week to ensure you are getting the benefits. Make sure you rest muscles you work for at least 48 hours (except for abdominal muscles) before training that muscle again.

There are a wide variety of exercises you can do. One of my favorite books for weight training is the Body Sculpting Bible Series.

Also, feel free to check out my videos and reviews of P90X which demonstrates a whole host of exercises you can do.

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  • Ms. Seaweed

    It’s 2012. Women have been lifting (heavy) since the 50s? 60s? I started in the 70s. I thought all these myths had been laid to rest years ago.