Taken from here
If you want to lose fat or change your body, one of the most important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training wins hands down. If you’ve hesitated to start a strength training program, it may motivate you to know that lifting weights can:
- Help raise your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
- Strengthen bones, especially important for women
- Make you stronger and increase muscular endurance
- Help you avoid injuries
- Increase your confidence and self-esteem
- Improve coordination and balance
Getting started with strength training can be confusing–what exercises should you do? How many sets and reps? How much weight? The routine you choose will be based on your fitness goals as well as the equipment you have available and the time you have for workouts.
If you’re setting up your own program, you’ll need to know some basic strength training principles. These principles will teach you how to make sure you’re using enough weight, determine your sets and reps and insure you’re always progressing in your workouts.
- Overload: If you want to get stronger, you need to use more resistance than your muscles are used to. This is important because the more you do, the more your body is capable of doing, so you should increase your workload to avoid adaptation. In plain language, this means you should be lifting enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps. You should be able to finish your last rep with difficulty but also with good form.
- Progression. In order to avoid plateaus (or adaptation), you need to increase your intensity. With strength training, you can do this by increasing the amount of weight lifted, increasing the sets/reps, increasing or changing the exercises you’re doing and/or change the rest intervals between sets. You can also change the order of your exercises. This means increasing your intensity every week.
- Specificity. This principle states that the way your body adapts to exercise depends on the type of exercise you’re doing. That means, if you want to increase your strength, your program should be designed around that goal. To gain strength and mass, you want to train with heavier weights closer to your 1 RM (1 rep max). If you want to build endurance and strength, you’ll want to stick with lighter weights and a rep range of 8-12.
- Rest and Recovery. Rest days are just as important as workout days. It is during these rest periods that your muscles grow and change, so make sure you’re not working the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.
Before you get started on setting up your routine, keep a few key points in mind:
- Always warm up before you start lifting weights. This helps get your muscles warm and prevent injury. You can warm up with light cardio or by doing a light set of each exercise before going to heavier weights.
- Lift and lower your weights slowly. Don’t use momentum to lift the weight. If you have to swing to get the weight up, chances are you’re using too much weight.
- Breathe. Don’t hold your breath and make sure you’re using full range of motion throughout the movement.
- Stand up straight! If your mother could see you now, she’d probably slap a book on your head. Pay attention to your posture and keep everything straight. Engage your abs in every movement you’re doing to keep your balance and protect your spine.
Choosing Exercises, Sequence & Weight
Your first step in setting up a routine is to choose exercises to target all of your muscle groups. One way to make sure you’re doing this right is to work with a personal trainer who can help you set up the right program for you and educate you on proper form. If that’s not an option, consider renting or buying a workout video. Strength training videos can give you visual instruction without the cost of a personal trainer. The only limitation is that, once you adjust to that workout you might have to get another video! One more option is to hire an online personal trainer. It’s cheaper than hiring a trainer at the gym and, at My Fitness Expert, you get the same kind of personal treatment as you would at a gym or at home.
For beginners, choose at least one exercise per muscle group.
The list below offers some examples:
- Chest: bench press, chest press machine, pushups, pec deck machine
- Back: one-armed row, seated row machine, back extensions, lat pulldowns
- Shoulders: overhead press, lateral raise, front raise
- Biceps: bicep curls, hammer curls, concentration curls
- Triceps: tricep extensions, dips, kickbacks
- Quadriceps: Squats, lunges, leg extension and leg press machines
- Hamstrings: deadlifts, lunges, leg curl machine
- Abs: crunches, reverse crunches, oblique twists, pelvic tilts
Check out the strength training and cardio workouts available at Workout Central
Sequence of Exercises
- Make sure you choose at least one exercise for each major muscle group.
- The muscles to work include: Chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.
- If you leave any muscle group out, this could cause an imbalance in your muscles and possibly lead to injuries.
Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller muscle groups. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these exercises. For example, in a bench press your shoulders and triceps are involved in stabilizing your arms, so you want them to be strong so you don’t drop the weight on your chest. The bonus? By the time you get to your shoulder and triceps exercises, your muscles will be warmed up and ready to go. However, this isn’t written in blood so do what works for you. In addition, you don’t necessarily need to do as many sets with your smaller muscle groups since they’re used so much in other exercises.
How Much Weight To Use
The easiest way to determine how much weight you should use on each lift is to guess (not very scientific, huh?):
- Pick up a light weight and do a warm up set of the exercise of your choice, aiming for about 10 to 16 repetitions.
- For set 2, increase your weight by 5 or more pounds and perform your goal number of repetitions. If you can do more than your desired number of reps, heavy up again for your 3rd set.
- In general, you should be lifting enough weight that you can ONLY do the desired reps. You should be struggling by the last rep, but still able to finish it with good form.
- It may take awhile to find the right amount of weight for each exercise.
- In general, you can use heavier weights with larger muscle groups such as chest, back and legs. You’ll need smaller weights for the shoulders and arms.
Choosing Repetitions and Sets
How Many Reps/Sets To Do
You’ve figured out how much weight to use for your chosen exercises…what about the number of sets and repetitions? Your decision should be based on your goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 8-12 reps for muscular strength and 10-15 reps for muscular endurance. They also recommend at least 1 set of each exercise to fatigue although you’ll find that most people perform about 3 sets of each exercise. In general:
- For fat loss: Do 10-12 reps using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 1-3 sets (1 for beginners, 2-3 for intermediate and advanced exercisers). Rest about 30 seconds-1 minute between sets and at least one day between workout sessions
- For muscle gain: Do 6-8 reps enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 3 or more sets, resting for 1-2 minutes between sets and 3 or more days between sessions.
- For beginners, give yourself several weeks of conditioning before going to this level. You may need a spotter for many exercises.
- For health and muscular endurance: Do 12-16 reps using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 1-3 sets, resting 20-30 seconds between sets and at least one day between workout sessions.
How Long To Rest Between Exercises/Workout Sessions
Again, this will depend on your goal. Higher intensity (i.e., when lifting heavy) exercise requires a longer rest. When lifting to fatigue, it takes an average of 3 to 5 minutes for your muscles to rest for the next set. When using lighter weight and more repetitions, it takes between 30 seconds and 1 minute for your muscles to rest.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training each muscle group 2 to 3 times a week. But, the number of times you lift each week will depend on your training method. In order for muscles to repair and grow, you’ll need about 48 hours of rest between workout sessions. If you’re training at a high intensity, take a longer rest.
Where to Workout
You don’t have to join a gym to get a great strength training workout. A gym is nice because you’ll have access to both machines and free weights, so you have plenty of variety. If you do join a gym, it’s a good idea to incorporate both types of equipment into your workout routine for variety. What’s the difference? This article explains all.
If you decide to workout at home, here are a few items you might want to consider buying:
- Resistance bands are around $6 to $15. They’re small, light, travel well and you get get a full body workout with it.
- Dumbbells. They’re cheap and you can do a variety of exercise with them. Find them at your local Target or Walmart. Other options include a barbell set, an exercise ball and/or a weight bench.
- A step is more expensive (a good one goes for around $85 or so) but you can use for everything from step aerobics to weight bench to plant-holder (although I don’t recommend it for that).
- For tips on setting up your home gym, check out this in-depth article.
- For more, see Best Strength Training Equipment