Monday, 3 December 2012

Weight Training for Beginners

So you've been thinking about weight training for a while and you've taken the first step and started to do some research. There are many benefits to weight training, including increase in strength, improving your appearance, strengthening bones, controlling your weight and more.

Perhaps your reason is that you want to increase body mass, tighten up the midsection of your body or lose some body fat. Or maybe you just want to feel good? For many, feeling physically fit and strong is part of being a well-rounded, confident person. This is possible with weight training (resistance training), provided that you stay motivated and that you do it correctly.

There are three main types of training which I will briefly explain below in its simplest form:

1. Strength: basically this is if you want to get stronger. This is typically followed by a muscular endurance program or a hypertophy program.
2. Hypertrophy: this is for actual muscle size increases; for example if you want bigger arms or bigger legs etc.
3. Endurance: this would be for those who want to have better stamina; for those who want to be able to lift heavier for a longer period of time.

Below is a table explaining the intensity, weight, repetitions, recovery, sets and frequency for each type of training (note: 1 RM is the maximum weight you can lift in 1 repetition):

Load as % of 1 RM
1 - 5
6 - 12
Recovery between sets
3 – 5 minutes
1 – 2 minutes
30 – 60 seconds
Sets per exercise
2 - 6
3 - 6
2 - 3
Frequency per muscle group
1-2 x per week
1-2 x per week
2-3 x per week

The key to any successful weight training programs starts with learning the basics. Below are some important pointers to help you achieve your goals and also to prevent you from serious injuries.

Warm up & stretching

Warming up and stretching before any weight training exercises will help prepare your muscle for work. It will improve your flexibility so you will be able to perform exercises without injuring yourself. A good tip is to do 5 minutes of cardio (running, bike or elliptical) and about 10 minutes of stretching exercises.

Concentration and Breathing

To get the most out of your weight training exercises you should really focus on the primary muscles you are working on. Concentration on every rep/set of every lift will more effectively build your muscles. You must also make sure you are breathing properly as doing it correctly with allow you to lift more weights. Do not hold your breath! During the most strenuous part of the exercise you should exhale deeply though your mouth and then inhale through the noise.

Proper form

It is important that any exercise you do should be done correctly. Signs of poor technique include swinging of the weights, lifting too heavy a weight or straining in the face. If you are ever unsure about how an exercise is properly done, ask an instructor or someone who knows. It is better to lift less and do it correctly than to lift weights incorrectly. Proper form will help prevent injuries and make your weight training program more efficient!

Rest your muscles

Weight training regimes should allow for a rest the day after working a specific muscle group. This allows the healing and recovery time for the muscles to repair and grow. Muscle growth has peaked after 36 to 48 hours, and thus those training for muscle growth should train again at this point. You should never work the same muscle area 2 days in a row as this is not enough time for full recovery.

Progressive weight lifting

In order for muscles to grow you need to progressively lift heavier weights. Weight bearing exercises work on the progressive principle where muscle size, strength and endurance will only improve if the resistance is periodically increased.

Once you don’t feel muscle fatigue with your weight training exercises then you will need to lift heavier weights. You should consider changing your workout routine every 1-2 months or so to achieve maximum results.

Correct workout order

For beginners to weight training it is a good idea to train the larger part of you muscles first. Larger muscles (thighs, chest, and back) should be trained before smaller ones such as (biceps, triceps, and forearms). For example if you work your triceps or biceps first you may find that you will be too tired to work on your primary muscles such as the chest or back later.

I hope you have found this blog useful and that it has given you a basic understanding of weight training. Look out for my next blog: A guide to Sports Supplements

Rich Palmer PT
Personal Training Services Sutton Coldfield
“making your fitness goals a reality”

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