If you want to lose fat or change your body, one of the most
important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are
equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body
looks, weight training wins hands down. If you've hesitated to
start a strength training program, it may motivate you to know
that lifting weights can:
- Help raise your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories
than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories
you'll burn all day long.
- Strengthen bones, especially important for women
- Make you stronger and increase muscular endurance
- Help you avoid injuries
- Increase your confidence and self-esteem
- Improve coordination and balance
Getting started with strength training can be confusing--what
exercises should you do? How many sets and reps? How much
weight? The routine you choose will be based on your fitness
goals as well as the equipment you have available and the time
you have for workouts.
If you're setting up your own program, you'll need to know
some basic strength training principles. These principles will
teach you how to make sure you're using enough weight, determine
your sets and reps and insure you're always progressing in your
- Overload: To build muscle, you need to use more
resistance than your muscles are used to. This is important
because the more you do, the more your body is capable of
doing, so you should increase your workload to avoid plateaus.
In plain language, this means you should be lifting enough
weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps.
You should be able to finish your last rep with difficulty but
also with good form.
- Progression. To avoid plateaus (or adaptation), you
need to increase your intensity regularly. You can do this by
increasing the amount of weight lifted, changing your
sets/reps, changing the exercises and changing the type of
resistance. You can make these changes on a weekly or monthly
- Specificity. This principle means you should train
for your goal. That means, if you want to increase your
strength, your program should be designed around that goal
(e.g., train with heavier weights closer to your 1 RM (1 rep
max)). To lose weight, choose a variety of rep ranges to
target different muscle fibers.
- Rest and Recovery. Rest days are just as important
as workout days. It is 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.
Before you get started on setting up your routine, keep a few
key points in mind:
- Always warm up before you start lifting weights.
This helps get your muscles warm and prevent injury. You can
warm up with light cardio or by doing a light set of each
exercise before going to heavier weights.
- Lift and lower your weights slowly. Don't use
momentum to lift the weight. If you have to swing to get the
weight up, chances are you're using too much weight.
- Breathe. Don't hold your breath and make sure
you're using full range of motion throughout the
- Stand up straight. Pay attention to your posture
and engage your abs in every movement you're doing to keep
your balance and protect your spine.
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