We see lots of sculpted bodies in the media. There are many people telling us to do what they do and we’ll look just like them: sculpted, lean, and with a beautiful member of the opposite sex hanging off of us. But do we trust the marketers? What’s the best way to workout if you’re just starting a weight training program? I’ve got your answers.
What is weight training?
Weight training is any exercise that uses body weight or resistance to create tension in muscles. It could be something simple like a pushup (your own body weight) or something structured like a circuit training system in a gym (machines to push and pull) or it could be mind/body like yoga or Pilates (a combination of body weight and pushing and pulling).
How often do I need to do weight training?
There are studies with different findings from two days a week to five days a week. There are quite a few muscleheads out there who will tell you to train each body part one day per week but at a very intense level, and then there are folks who will tell you twice a week is plenty. I’m in the two to three times per week camp myself. Twice a week will greatly improve your strength, your resistance to injury, and give you the muscle tone that you’re looking for. If you train three times per week, you’ll get to where you want to be about 20% faster. It’s a nice bump, but not one that is going to make or break you. If squeezing in a third weight training workout seems impossible then twice a week is just fine.
How should I start?
More than cardio, you want a little guidance with weight training. There’s a reason why gyms always offer two or three free personal training sessions when you join. They want to make sure that you know how to work the machines and that you have a program that is effective for you, that is tailored to your needs. If you can afford it, work with a trainer to develop a routine. If that’s out of the question then look for a book that covers the basics. Try to find one written by a physical therapist or doctor to stay as safe as possible. Avoid weight lifting magazines! Unless you’d like to join the musclehead tribe, there’s no point to reading these, and you’ll get sucked into all those supplement ads. Just avoid them!
When will I see results?
What I love about weight training is that you’ll start to see changes right away. Within two weeks you should start to see more tone or notice that your clothes fit a little better. It’s one of the best bangs for your buck in the fitness world and getting a quick response is great for keeping you motivated.
Is cardio more important than weight training?
Think of it as three legs of a stool; you need good nutrition, cardiovascular training, and weight training. Good nutrition and cardio will keep you slim and healthy but weight training will fight muscle atrophy as you age, help maintain joint mobility, and help prevent injuries, all very important to quality of life.
How long does it take?
A bare-bones, full-bodied weight training routine is about 10 – 12 exercises and takes about 20 minutes to do start to finish. Think of things like squats, lunges, pushups, ab crunches, oblique twists, back rows, bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder work, and side leg work. More sophisticated workouts can take about an hour and will hone in on more specific muscle groups. For instance, instead of working your “shoulder,” you’ll work your anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid (I know big words … but I’m an anatomy geek). Don’t get me started on the teres group; I’m a big fan!
What about the mind/body stuff?
I’m a big fan because it’s a two-fer; you get both a great weight training workout and a meditative one. Yoga is the obvious example here, but so is Pilates or Tai-Chi or other Asian movement disciplines. It’s efficient, you get stronger, and you leave feeling toned and mellow. What’s better than that? I recommend incorporating at least one mind/body workout per week if you can.
What’s my workout routine?
I’m a Pilates instructor so I have a clear bias, but I’m a big fan of variety in my weight training program. I mostly stick with Pilates for my weight training but I alternate between the machines (more extremity and posture work) and a mat class (more abdominal and stretching work). I’ll bop through a circuit at the gym about twice a year for kicks and giggles. Maybe once a month I’ll do free weights at home for variety and I’ll go to a yoga class every once in a blue moon. I don’t have any specific goals other than to make sure my back stays healthy and that I’m relatively happy with how my jeans fit. If I have a big event to go to I’ll do extra arms to make sure they look good in my little black dress.
Do you have any questions for me? Ask away and I’ll be happy to answer. Here are 5 Tips for Free Weights. Did you know that it’s one of the top reasons people wind up in an emergency room?
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