Weight Lifting Basics

Weight lifting doesn’t have to end up with you looking like the Hulk. In fact, weight lifting can make you look firmer, trimmer, and toned without being bulky. Weight lifting can also help increase your bone density, improve your balance, enhance your endurance, and reduce your chance of injury. Moreover, when you weight lift and gain muscle, you burn more calories at rest than you otherwise would because muscle burns fat.

As usual, check with your doctor if you’re over thirty or if you have any medical limitations before starting any exercise program. Once the doctor pronounces you good to go, here’s the basics.

What You Need

  1. Gym Bag. You’ll need to carry everything to the gym in bag, so get one that’s big enough to hold the other items listed here.
  2. Gym Clothes. Find something comfortable and loose. You also might want to check to see if your gym has any dress regulations.
  3. Shoes. Any type of tennis shoe will work.
  4. Water. Weight lifting makes you sweat, so you’ll need to stay hydrated. Take a bottle of water with you to the gym.
  5. Weight Lifting Gloves. Gloves help prevent blisters, and they help you get a good grip on the weights particularly if you are lifting free weights.

Special Terms

  1. Fatigue. This is the point you lift to, which is just short of where your muscles fail. 
  2. Free Weights. Free weights are non-machine weights, such as dumbbells, barbells, etc. They are better to lose weight with and better to achieve mass.
  3. Full Range of motion. Full range of motion means the joint flexibility from the extended position to the flexed position. So, for example, in a bicep curl you would begin with a straight arm and end with the elbow bent.
  4. Machine Weights. Weight exercises achieved with the use of machine weights. Machine weights have an advantage in they allow you to work by yourself without a spotter, and they are easy to adjust the weight.
  5. Plateau. This is the point where no progress is made, and it indicates a change is needed in your routine.
  6. Rep. This is short for repetition, and it is a full movement.
  7. Routine. This is the workout you do.
  8. Set. A set is a certain number of reps, and usually you do 8 to 10 reps within a set. So, 3 sets of 10 would mean you do 10 reps, rest, 10 reps, rest, 10 reps, rest.

Things You Need to Know

  1. Warm Up. In order to avoid injury, you should always warm up before you start lifting weights. Warm up by doing 10-12 minutes of light cardio, such as jumping jacks, treadmill, or riding a stationary bike.
  2. Use Correct Form. Correct form is imperative to get results and avoid injury. When you lift weights don’t swing or jerk the weights. The weights should be heavy enough to create resistance, but not so heavy you have to swing them to lift them and the last rep should look as good as the first. If it doesn’t, go to a lighter weight. Additionally, make sure you go through the full range of motion with each rep.  
  3. Lift with a Friend. If you are lifting free weights it’s more important to have a spotter. So lift with a friend. If you’re strictly using machine weights, you can do it alone.
  4. Lift and Lower the Weights Slowly. A movement should last around 7 seconds, so spend 3 to 4 seconds lifting and then 3 or 4 seconds lowering the weight. Don’t do rapid movements, and although the last rep may be difficult, remember you still need good form. 
  5. Breath Properly. Don’t hold your breath. Exhale through your mouth when you lift the weight, and inhale through you nose when you lower the weight.
  6. Use Correct Posture. Stand up straight with good posture, and use your abs to protect your back and spine as you lift.
  7. Rest between sets. When you begin you might need to rest longer between sets. However, after a few weeks you should rest no longer than about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes between sets. If you’re going for mass you lift heavier weights and wait longer—up to 5 minutes—between sets. If you’re trying to lose weight and tone you lift lighter weights and use the 1 to 1-1/2 minute rule.
  8. Workout Time: Workout sessions should never be more than 40 minutes. In fact, the ideal time for a workout is between 20 and 30 minutes.
  9. Cool Down. There’s no actual cool down after a weight lifting session because you haven’t been continuously exercising; however, don’t hurry to hop in a hot shower either. The blood is pumped up from your training, so wait about 10 minutes before you take a hot shower. If you want you can also stretch out the muscles you’ve trained that day.
  10. Rest, Repair, and Recover. Your fatigued muscles need to rest, so they can repair and recover after a workout. This means you shouldn’t go back the next day and work the same muscles. However, you do need to do at least two weight lifting workouts a week, and it’s even better if you can do three. So, for instance, you could workout Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With either of these schedules, you allow time for the muscles to rest, repair, and recover. 

Workout Routine

Here’s a typical beginners workout routine:

 

 Body Part Action – Set x Reps
 Legs  Press – 3 x 10
 Leg Curl – 3 x 10
 Calves  Seated Calf Raises – 3 x 10
 Back  Barbell Rows – 3 x 10
 Lats  Pulldown – 3 x 10
 Chest  Bench Press – 3 x 10
 Abs  Crunches – 3 x 15
 Shoulders  Shrugs – 3 x 10
 Biceps  Dumbbell Curls – 3 x 10
 Triceps  Pushdown – 3 x 10

 

The same routine may work for a while, but to see continual improvement, you can’t get locked in to a set routine. If you reach a plateau, the only way to make progress is to change your routine by using heavier or lighter weights or by doing more reps or more sets. You have to keep your routine different if your want continual progress.

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