Weight training is not just for the bodybuilders on Muscle Beach. This type of exercise can help you with such everyday tasks as carrying groceries and shoveling snow, and can even help stop the loss of muscle tissue that comes with age. It’s also extremely versatile and will complement any routine.
POINTS FOR BEGINNERS
Weight training is useful at any age. It has helped even people in their nineties build muscle mass and stay mobile.
Experienced lifters often wear four- to six-inch training belts to protect back and stomach muscles. Beginners with a history of lower-back problems may also use a belt.
Dress in clothing that won’t restrict your movements. If handling weights gives you calluses, wear padded gloves.
When designing a muscle-building program, you can choose from free weights or weight-training machines.
Weight-lifting machines have several advantages for the beginner: they don’t require much instruction, and they are easy to set up.
Using weight-lifting machines often means belonging to a gym. Home gyms are available for a price. Check the want ads for good deals (for tips on buying equipment).
All weight-lifting machines have changeable settings, so adjust them to fit your body.
Free weights (such as dumbbells and barbells) can be intimidating to the novice. However, because they require more control and balance and stress muscles in a greater range of motion, they offer a more versatile workout than weight-lifting machines.
Ultimately, a well-balanced bodybuilding routine will require the use of both types of weights in a combination that best serves your body.
A BASIC ROUTINE
While the best routine is one that you have customized to your own needs, the six exercises on the bottom of these pages will get you started.
Begin with a warm-up set, completing 5 to 10 repetitions at 50 to 60 percent of the weight you will lift.
Next, complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions at the full weight that you are lifting. Either rest one minute between sets or use that time to exercise a different area.
Whatever order you find works best, be sure to save the abdominals for last.
You can use weight training to create either a toned or a muscular physique. These tips will help develop muscle size.
Exercise big muscles before small ones. When you work the back, chest, or shoulders, you’re actually working groups of muscles. It’s more efficient to work from large to small. For example, do bench presses, to exercise the chest area, before doing exercises that isolate the triceps.
Use heavier weights. Exercising at a higher level and doing only four to six repetitions is more effective for building muscle. This advice isn’t for beginners, who should use lower weights and higher repetitions during their first weeks.
Stay with it for six months. If you work out two to three times per week, you’ll see the fastest gains in this period. After six months, you may need to lift weights only once or twice a week to maintain what you’ve built.
Women worried about “bulking up” can relax. Because they have less of the hormone testosterone, women don’t gain as much muscle mass as men.
If your goal is to firm and tone your muscles, do more repetitions at a lower weight. This will also build endurance.
Start with 60 percent of the maximum amount you can lift. Complete 10 to 20 repetitions, doing 3 to 5 sets.
Traditional non-weight-bearing exercises, such as knee push-ups and seated leg lifts, are also effective for muscle toning. They may be right for those too frail to use even lightweights.
Breathe steadily; don’t hold your breath. Exhale during the lifting part of the exercise, and inhale during the recovery.
Go slowly: fast, jerky repetitions won’t give you as good a workout and may injure muscles and joints. Be sure to lift through a full range of motion.
The technique is more important than weight at the outset. Learn the correct way to do each exercise. Consider hiring a personal trainer to instruct you on proper form.
Whatever areas you build, also develop the opposite muscle group. For example, if you stress your chest muscles, also work the upper back. Other pairs include triceps and biceps, as well as quadriceps and hamstrings.
Try to do strength training for 30 minutes two or three times each week, with a day’s rest between sessions.
Pound for pound, muscles burn 40 to 50 more calories a day than fat does. Putting on just three pounds of muscle will consume an extra 120 to 150 extra calories every 24 hours-even while you sleep.