You’ve decided to make some personal changes beginning with your body! You likely have a few questions you need clarified in order to get started. Here is a look at some weight lifting basics.
Why Lift Weights?
- You want to look better! – Well yeah, this goes without saying, so let’s take a look at additional benefits:
- Burn fat and tone up – Muscle burns fat! By increasing your muscle mass your body will burn more calories.
- Health benefits – Exercise increases mental clarity, decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reduces stress, cuts risk of osteoporosis, and can prevent the onset of type II diabetes.
- Improved sleep – All of the other reasons mentioned here are boosted from a good night’s sleep. Being tired shows in the way you look, your body metabolizes better when you get deep sleep, and your body heals more effectively when you are rested.
- Increased energy – This is about self empowerment, to live your life the way you want to!
- Increased confidence – Something deeper happens to you when you increase your physical strength. You’ll find that your inner strength will also increase. You’ll find yourself better equipped to deal with challenges and will have more confidence to pursue your goals and dreams!
Weight Lifting 101
It won’t be easy. It’s going to take work. If you want to get smarter then you have to spend the time to learn, and if you want to get stronger, then you have to spend the time working out. Look at the Motivation section for some more focused advice about that.
Wear comfortable clothing that won’t prohibit your movement. You might want to consider comfortable shoes and gloves to protect your feet and hands. Have a glass or bottle of water nearby and a towel for cleaning up yourself and your equipment. Be considerate of others around you if you’re working out with or around others.
Seek out the advice of a trainer or a friend who is already familiar with movements and routines, and get information from fitness websites like JohnnyFit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll find that most people interested in fitness love to talk about techniques and provide information. Be considerate and sincere, and you’ll discover that most people will go out of their way to help you, if you only ask for it nicely.
Maximize time spent working out.
Life is short and you’ve got some living to do! Hit multiple muscle groups in combination exercises and you’ll be able to get a lot done in a short amount of time! Your workouts should average 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes tops.
One concern to quickly address here is that when people first begin a weight-training program there may be a fear of â€œbulkingâ€ instead of toning up. To be very clear, BULKING UP IS A MATTER OF CALORIE CONSUMPTION! Lifting weights does not make you get bulky, calories make you get bulky! For more on calories and diet, check out my Nutrition section.
- If you want to build muscle, choose a weight that will max out your repetitions in the 5-10 range. For instance, when doing bicep curls, really work and struggle to get that last rep. If you can do more than 10 reps, increase your weight. If you can’t do at least 5 repetitions then decrease your weight.
- For increased toning, follow the same advice as above except place your repetitions in the 11-15 range.
- Mix these rep rules up to break plateaus and prevent boredom. Avoid always doing the same moves in the same way for every workout.
Many people quit way too early here. To help you find your limit in either the 5-10 or 11-15 ranges, choose the appropriate weight and then repeat the move until you cannot do it again without losing good form. When you are unable to maintain good form, you’re done! Typically, go until you think you are done but instead of quitting try pumping out just 1 more rep to see best results. You should really feel the burn on the last couple reps.
- When doing body weight exercises like push-ups, simply do as many as you can. Fight for that extra rep, don’t quit too soon!
- Hit every part of your body at least once a week and never hit the same body part 2 days in a row. Giving body parts days off will increase your gains in strength and size. When you are pumping the iron, you are tearing down protein fibers in your muscles. Giving them time off allows them to repair, rebuild, and grow.
Become familiar with the parts of your body that you are working:
Biceps – Work these with various arm curls and chin ups.
Triceps – These are just as important as biceps in increasing arm size. They form the back three muscles of your arm.
Forearms – The area of muscles between your elbow and your wrist. Throw some supination twists into your bicep curls to work these at the same time.
Pecs – Your chest. Bench-press, pec-fly and various push-ups all work this body part.
Back Muscles – A large percentage of your body’s muscles are in your back, and these are large muscles. Don’t ignore the back, it’s every bit as important as your chest and arms for developing a nice upper body.
Delts – Three muscles in your shoulders. The link between your upper body and your arms. Don’t ignore the shoulders for a well rounded nice physique.
Abs and Obliques – Your front and side abdominal muscles. Various sit-ups and core exercises work these muscles. Many people starting out think that working the abs incessantly will give them a 6-pack. Remember that 6-pack abs are made in the kitchen and not the gym. You could do 1,000 sit ups a day and never see your abs if you are not following a meticulous, lean nutrition plan.
Glutes – Your butt muscles. Squats and lunges are good for developing these muscles.
Quads – The thighs. Legs are often neglected because many guys would rather work on their upper body. Like the back, a large percentage of your body’s muscles are located in the legs. You need to work your legs if you want a strong, nice, and toned body. You burn a LOT of calories when you work the legs. I admit that the legs are also my least favorite body part to work, but keep in mind that if you enjoy leg day…then you’re probably not working them hard enough!
Hamstrings – The back of your leg above the knee. Dead lifts are a great way to work these muscles.
Calves – The lower part of your legs.
Practice Being Safe!
Nothing will end your quest for a fitter, better you than being injured! Also, if you do have a body part that is giving you some trouble, don’t use that as an excuse not to work out at all. Work around the injury, but use good judgement. There is nothing to be gained from further injury.
- Pay attention to form. Using poor form will not only waste your time in the gym, but it will also lead to injury. You will develop better gains by following good form than you will with heavier weights and poor form!
- Protect your spine; don’t bend at the lower back.
- Always keep your head and chest up, particularly when you are picking up and putting down weights.
- Be helpful and considerate to those around you.
Always warm up your body and stretch before a workout, and stretch out the muscles you just worked after a workout. In fact, stretching should not be considered separate from your workout, it is part of it! Not sure of how to stretch properly? Ask your friend or a trainer for some assistance. There are plenty of videos that people have posted on YouTube. Use the resources around you.
Write It Down
Keep an ongoing journal of your weights and reps so that you know where to begin the next time you do these exercises. Write down if you need to go up or down in weight or reps and work for increases every week while maintaining good form.
If you’re not having fun then switch things up and do something different. There is an unlimited number of ways that you can develop muscle and be active! Don’t forget, as all things seem to be in life… It’s really about the journey and not so much the destination!
Become a better version of your current self, develop, grow.
Do you have more to add? Please contribute to the discussion below!