With weight training it is sensible to start light and see what you are capable of. Keep a training diary, if your first session is easy, then increase the weight in the next session. Do not over train, especially at the beginning, to avoid injury. Remember that weight training safety should come first.
When using free weights use a power rack (aka a cage) when lifting. One of the main advantages of a power rack is that it makes training to failure possible, and allows you to squat and press weights that you would not be able to do safely if you are just using a standard bench on its own. They also make changing the weights on the bar much easier, as with a small bench the bar can quickly become unbalanced and tip. Check out our review of Craig Ballantyne’s Turbulence Training which provides weight training workout plans.
Over the years many different approaches to weight lifting / weight training / body building have been developed. Depending on what your objectives are, you need to consider different systems in the long term. However, if you are a beginner, then an all round approach is probably best. To clarify, this is how I define the different objectives for “weight trainers”. I use the term weight training for any exercises done with weights throughout the site.
The objective is to train your body to be able to lift the heaviest weight possible, i.e. to increase your 1 rep maximum lift. The sole purpose of this is for entering weight lifting competitions, such as the ones held during the Olympics Games.
Exercises using weights with the purpose to supplement any other exercise you do, whether it be martial arts, swimming, running, yoga, golf, gymnastics etc. Your goals should be to boost your performance in your chosen field, not to lift the heaviest weights possible, and not to develop muscles that slow you down, reduce flexibility etc.
Exercises using weights to increase the size of your muscles for purely aesthetic purposes, and possibly to enter body building competitions.
They may all seem very similar to start with, and when you start out on your weight training program you may well try methods recommended by people that fall into any or all of these categories. But in the long term you need to set objectives.
A majority of people take up weight training to improve their appearance or to look more athletic. So really most people do bodybuilding, although they may not place themselves in the same category as Bodybuilding contestants.
- A muscle group requires a 24-36 hour period of rest between workouts. Working the same muscle multiple times within too short of a period results in overtraining, muscle fatigue, and possible injury. Muscular gains are made during the rest and recovery period.
- Spot reduction is not possible. For example, doing 100 crunches a day will not make stomach fat disappear. To reduce stomach fat, there must be an overall reduction in body fat. Reducing overall body fat results from eating well, regular exercise, and proper rest.
- Spot toning however, can occur. If one wants larger biceps, one can strength train for specific muscle growth. In other words, it is possible to focus on one specific muscle group. This is sometimes called targeted training.
- Strength training routines must be regular and consistent for results to take place. The best results from a fitness program comes from a lifestyle change. Terminating unhealthy behaviours while instituting healthier ones provides the greatest rewards.
- Strength training routines should be changed every 4-6 weeks. This prevents activity from becoming mundane and uninteresting. On a practical level, not changing a routine on a regular basis will eventually stop producing results. In order for a fitness program to yield results the muscle must be challenged with each workout.
- A strength training routine must be built according to specific goals. An example of a specific goals might be: fat loss, hypertrophy, maintaining weight or adding bulk. Each goal has a different method that is best suited for optimal results. A person who is interested in losing body fat will strength train differently than a person looking to increase muscle bulk.
- Strength training routines should work all of the major muscle groups in the body 1-3 times per week. This includes biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back, abs, quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Leaving out muscle groups will create imbalance.