The ins and outs of weight training- what you need to know
The days of conventional weight training being a male dominant industry are over. Australian males and females are now aiming to broaden their workout scope to get both anaerobic and aerobic benefits in one workout program. Diversified workout routines are at an all-time high with more and more data suggesting the benefits of ‘mixing it up’.
For many, weight training can be a scary venture and jumping on the ‘weight wagon’ can be all too confronting. Where would you start? How heavy should your weights be? What weights should you use? How do you use them? Much of this information can be beneficial for people that weight lift already, so keep reading if you want to brush up your Strength training knowledge.
Benefits of weight training
In a training program designed by a fitness professional no matter the context, there will always be a strength training session incorporated into the program. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults do muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
Here are some benefits to get you inspired to lift those weights:
Improved bone and joint function
The range of motion that is required in exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and shoulder presses require you to use the full range of motion (ROM) in the joints. Using these joints to their full ROM will increase your mobility over time.
Improved bone density
The weight or resistance that you use for strength training exercises put stress on your joints, don’t worry this is a good thing! Over time, your joints will adjust and be able to ‘handle’ the weights; which is why people can get stronger not only in muscles but in bones. Bone density is the thickness of your bones. Strength training can help to avoid diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis later on in life.
Greater muscle, tendon and ligament strength
By continuing with weight and strength training over a sustained period, your muscles, tendons and ligaments will adapt. Your muscles adapt quicker than your bones to strength training. You can feel stronger in a movement in as little as 3-4 weeks. Increasing your reps or weights will allow you to continue to gain strength.
Lifting weights, strength training and body weight resistance training puts stress on your body, which means that your body needs extra time to recover. While recovering the body is still working hard to repair itself hours after the training session.
Lower Body Fat
Your body fat will decrease due to your increased metabolism. Strength training will build lean muscle. It is the lean muscle that will help burn your body fat while you are working out. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you can burn during a workout and a rested state.
What not to do when lifting weights
Don’t spend all your time on weights
As mentioned previously diversifying your workout program is hugely beneficial for seeing results faster. Once you have executed the form of a weight lifting movement, you should only really be doing up to 5 sets of 8-12 reps per an individual action.
Don’t isolate your exercises on one muscle group
Compound exercises refer to the technique of doing exercises that activate more than just one muscle group at a time. Three great compound exercises to consider adding to your workout program are:
2. Bar pull-ups
Don’t hold your breath
Holding your breath while doing any form of exercise can be detrimental to your health and progress. The more you use your muscles, the more oxygen your body needs. Focus on a consistent breathing technique when lifting weights to decrease the risk of injury and high blood pressure.
Don’t skip out on recovery
After lifting weights, you need adequate time (see below) to allow your body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissue. You especially don’t want to push through an injury. By doing this, you can cause permanent damage or strain other muscles trying to compensate for the injury.
Principles of weight training
Make sure your overall fitness program is composed of various types of exercises such as aerobic training, flexibility training, strength training and balance activities.
Include a warm-up set before starting your weight training.
Use different weights or other types of resistance. For example, use 3 kg hand weight or fixed weight, body weight and rubber band for different exercises during your strength training session.
If you are focusing on a particular muscle group with a specific movement, ensure you get your form right first before adding weights.
Repetitions or ‘reps’
This refers to the number of times you continuously repeat each exercise in a set. When choosing your weights, keep in mind that you should be able to do between eight and twelve reps before muscle failure, no more and no less. This technique is known as progressive overload principle. The aim is to use an appropriate weight or resistant force that will challenge you while maintaining proper technique.
You need to rest between sets. The best rest period between sets ranges from 45 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the intensity.
It is beneficial to switch around your workout routine. Regularly introduce new exercises that challenge your muscles and force them to adapt, evolve and strengthen.
Your muscles need time to repair and adapt after a workout. A good rule of thumb is to rest the muscle group for at up to 48 hours before working the same muscle group again.
You should vary your program regularly throughout the year. Beginners can continue a strength program for 8-12 weeks; intermediates will need a new program every 6-8 weeks to maintain improvement and advanced athletes or people who have been training for many years will often have to change their program every 3-6 weeks. Variables that can impact on your results include:
- Repetitions (how many times you repeat the exercise e.g. 10 bicep curls)
- Sets (how many groups of repetitions you do e.g. 3 sets of 10 bicep curls)
- Exercises performed
- Intensity (weight of the equipment used)
- Frequency of sessions
- Rest between sets
If you vary your weight training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken, and weights used you will maintain any strength gains you make over a period of time.
There are many other areas within strength training to cover – watch this space for more blogs to come.