Improve your muscular fitness
Weight training can help you tone your muscles,
improve your appearance and fight age-related muscle loss.
By Mayo Clinic staff
Your friends enjoy using the weight machines and free weights
at the fitness center. And you see the results of their hard
work — toned muscles and an overall improved physique. You'd
like to start a weight training program, but you're not sure you
have the time. Think again.
Weight training 101
Weight training is a type of strength training that uses
weights for resistance. Weight training provides a stress to the
muscles that causes them to adapt and get stronger, similar to
the way aerobic conditioning strengthens your heart. Weight
training can be performed with free weights, such as barbells
and dumbbells, or by using weight machines.
Weight training: How much is enough?
You don't have to be in the weight room for 90 minutes a day
to see results. For most people, short weight training sessions
a couple of times a week are more practical than are extended
You can see significant improvement in your strength with
just two or three 20- or 30-minute weight training sessions a
week. That frequency also meets activity recommendations for
healthy adults, which call for strength training at least twice
a week — in addition to at least 150 minutes a week of moderate
Weight training: It's all about
Weight training offers important health benefits when done
properly. But it can lead to injuries, such as sprains, strains
and fractures, if it's not done correctly.
For best results, consider these basic weight training
- Learn proper technique. If you're a
novice, work with a trainer or other fitness specialist to
learn correct technique. Even experienced athletes may need to
brush up on their form from time to time.
- Do a single set of repetitions. Theories
on the best way to approach weight training abound, including
countless repetitions and hours at the gym. But research shows
that a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can
build muscle efficiently in most people and can be as
effective as three sets of the same exercise.
- Use the proper weight. How do you know
what's the proper weight? It's one that's heavy enough to tire
your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions. You should be
just barely able to finish the last repetition.
- Start slowly. If you're a beginner, you
may find that you're able to lift only a few pounds. That's
OK. Once your muscles, tendons and ligaments get used to
weight training exercises, you may be surprised at how quickly
you progress. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions with a
particular weight, gradually increase the weight.
- Take time to rest. To give your muscles
time to recover, rest one full day between exercising each
specific muscle group. You might choose to work the major
muscle groups at a single session two or three times a week —
or plan daily sessions for specific muscle groups. For
example, on Monday work your arms and shoulders, on Tuesday
work your legs, and so on.
Reap the rewards of weight training
Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. If you don't
do anything to replace the muscle loss, it'll be replaced with
fat. But weight training can help you reverse the trend — at any
age. As your muscle mass increases, you'll be able to work
harder and longer before you get tired. You'll maintain joint
flexibility, increase bone density and better manage your
weight. So don't wait. Get started today.
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