Principles of Weight Training
There are many misconceptions about weight training - it's not just for those big sweaty guys preening in front of the mirrors at the gym, but can range from lifting a can of tomato soup in each hand to bench pressing a Buick in the parking lot! Whatever level of training you choose, it is essential to all fitness programs.
There are many health benefits associated with lifting weights! Since muscle burns more calories than fat, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism. Weight training also strengthens bones which is especially important for women in preventing and even reversing osteoporosis. Stronger muscles also mean fewer injuries. And perhaps the biggest reason why people lift weights is because of how great it makes your body look. Weight training tones your muscles giving you a healthy and strong appearance. This may be the reason why studies have shown weight training to be a great builder of not just the body, but also self-confidence.
This week we will look at some of the basic terms in weight training; reps, sets, resistance and rest.
To improve your strength you have to adequately fatigue the muscle by overloading it with resistance. Resistance refers to the amount and type of weights you will be using. This can be free weights, machines, rubber bands or even your own body weight. The mode of weight training you choose will depend on your goals, budget and lifestyle. To greatly increase your muscle mass you need to use free-weights and/or machines such as Nautilis or Cybex. For more subtle changes, use your body weight (push ups or dips), bands or tubing.
The number of times that you perform the exercise or the repetitions will determine the strength and size of your muscles. 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.
Weight training is muscle specific which means that every muscle must be trained specifically to see changes in that muscle. For example, squats don't do anything for a muscle in the arm such as the bicep. A set refers to a specific group of exercises that you perform on specific muscles. The American College of Sports Medicine recommend at least 1 set of each exercise to fatigue although you'll find that many people perform about 3 sets of each exercise. There are many different theories on how many sets are best. Your best bet is to try different sets and see which one works best for your body!
Rest and Recovery. Rest days are just as important as workout days. It's 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. The rest period between your exercise again will depend on your goals. 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.
Next week we will look at specific exercises for each muscle group.