Sculpt Your Muscles & Rev Up Your Metabolism With Weight Training

February 12th, 2013 posted by Karen Millard

The best thing about weight-training is that the results are so visible. Unlike cardiovascular exercise, where most of the benefits remain hidden inside, the benefits of weight-training are very quickly on display for all to see. That’s because weight-training is the most effective way to reshape your body. Of course, you can shed pounds and drastically reduce your overall size with a combination of diet and exercise, but with a properly designed program of weight-training you’ll be able to achieve a balance and symmetry that would be impossible without. With weights, you can streamline some areas and build up others. There are other benefits, too. A more muscular body burns calories more efficiently. Meaning that you’ll see greater results from your aerobic workouts. Muscles also mean strength. By lifting weights you condition your body for your other workouts, your sports activities and your everyday life. Weight-training can affect the mind too, resulting in greater self-confidence and a bolder outlook on life. A few moments checking your developing biceps in the mirror as you brush your teeth will make you want to keep going forever with this exercise thing! Nothing is more motivating! But weight-training, like many worthwhile activities, has to be done right. If you don’t understand the basic techniques, not only will you be disappointed, but worse, you risk serious injury. This month, we’re going to take a look at weight-training basics.

Reps and sets.

These are the terms you’ll see most often. “Reps” stands for repetitions and refers to the number of times you perform a particular movement. A set is a specific number of repetitions before a brief rest break. A popular program involves a pyramid system of lifting an increasing amount of weight with a decreasing amount of repetitions per set. For instance, you might begin with one set of twelve reps at five pounds; rest for thirty seconds or so, then continue with one set of ten reps at eight pounds, rest, and finish with one set of eight reps at ten or twelve pounds. This system allows the muscles to warm up gradually, decreasing the risk of injury.

Weight and repetition.

More of one means less of the other. If you want to build muscle, you do fewer reps of higher weights. For smaller, tighter muscles, you choose more repetitions and lower weights. This is why women usually choose lighter weights and men choose heavy weights. It’s also why women should choose light weights and three to five sets of fifteen to twenty-five reps when they’re working out the legs and butt. I haven’t met a woman yet who wants to bulk up in these areas!

Start slowly.

When you begin any new exercise program, it’s important to break in gently. To begin a weight-training program, you’ll need three sets of dumbbells at different weights or the equivalent on a weight machine. Younger women can start with sets of five, eight and ten pounds; older women may want to start with sets of two, five and eight pounds. Men, of course, can start much higher. Ten, twelve and fifteen for instance, or even more depending on their body weight. Later, but sooner than you might expect, you’ll be able to upgrade. When you can easily handle the last reps of the last sets, maintaining good form, it’s time to challenge yourself a bit more. This, I think, is one of the biggest rewards. When you can actually feel yourself getting stronger!

What is “good form”?

Form is important because it makes a difference in how a muscle develops. If the instructions tell you to flex your bicep all the way, do it. Don’t cheat. Half the effort will produce half the result. Obviously good form will vary with each exercise, but some general guidelines apply. When standing, maintain the natural arch of your back and don’t lock your knees. Conversely, when doing bench presses or any other exercise lying down be sure to keep your spine pressed to the floor. A good way to be sure of this is to keep your knees bent at all times. If you have to struggle, you can’t maintain good form. The weight is too heavy. Drop down or reduce the number of reps until your body adjusts.

Abdominals.

Form is especially important in abdominal work. The potential for severe muscle injury is enormous if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing.. Remember, it’s your abs that should be doing the work, not your shoulder and neck muscles. Do not haul yourself up by your neck! Keep your gaze fixed on a single spot on the ceiling as you do your crunches and don’t let your head trace an arc through the air. This will seem impossible at first. Just remember, you only need an inch or two of movement off the floor. Form is crucial in abdominal work. Perfect your form and only then begin to work on increasing your reps. Even if this means starting with only two or three reps per workout.

The program.

An effective program targets every muscle group in your body two to three times a week with forty-eight hours of rest in between. It’s during this rest period that a challenged muscle grows stronger. Ignore this rule and you defeat your purpose! It’s not such a confining rule as it may appear though. You can exercise your whole body twice a week. Or you could split the program to target upper and lower body separately and work out every day. Another option might be to combine weights and aerobics into a circuit-training routine one, two or even three days a week and get both at the same time. “The Firm” series of video tapes has had great success using this principle. Individual weight-training programs are beyond the scope of this column. Last month I discussed finding good exercise instruction materials. To recap, I recommended looking for books, videos and magazines to help you design a program you can live with.

Keep your program flexible.

It’s flexibility that will lead to your long-term success. Not only will it prevent boredom and burnout, but continually challenging your muscles with new and varied exercises will lead to greater fitness than sticking with the same old thing day after day.

Mirrors.

Mirrors, despite what I said earlier, are for more than just the vain appreciation of your good work! A mirror is the perfect way for you to keep an eye on your form as you exercise. Compare your body with the picture in the magazine or book and be sure to copy it exactly. Do this two to three times a week and you’ll soon be seeing more than just good form!

Karen Millard (11 Posts)


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Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!


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