Don’t Be A Dumbbell: A Weight Training Primer (Part One)

photo credit: MikeOliveri via photopin cc

photo credit: MikeOliveri via photopin cc

By Laura Petrolino

Often, the one missing ingredient that prevents people from achieving their goals is simply not having a plan of action. So if starting a consistent weight training program was one of your 2015 fitness goals, then this series can help you start, tackle, and conquer an effective weight training program.

In this article we are going to discuss weight training benefits, the main principals of any program, and the importance of body awareness.

Why Weight Train

First, let’s take a moment to really appreciate why weight training is not just an effective, but a necessary, form of exercise, no matter what your fitness goal, sport, or starting point (while obviously those details affect the make up of the individual weight training program).

Bodybuilding.com sums up the benefits really well:

HEALTH

  • Increases HDL – High Density Lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).
  • Reduces risk of diabetes and insulin needs.
  • Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Lower high blood pressure.
  • Lowers risk of breast cancer – reduces high estrogen levels linked to the disease.
  • Decreases or minimizes risk of osteoporosis by building bone mass.
  • Reduces symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Decreases colds and illness.

STRENGTH

Increased muscle strength, power, endurance and size. Enhanced performance of everyday tasks. You will be able to do everyday tasks like lifting, carrying and walking up stairs with greater ease.

FLEXIBILITY

By working the muscles through a full range of motion, weight training can improve your overall body flexibility. Increased flexibility reduces the risk of muscle pulls and back pain.

LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY

Strong muscles, tendons and ligaments are less likely to give way under stress and are less likely to be injured. Increased bone density and strength reduces back and knee pain by building muscle around these areas.

BODY COMPOSITION

Boosted metabolism (which means burning more calories when at rest). Reduced body fat. Your overall weight may not change, but you will gain muscle and lose fat. Over time you should notice decreases in waist measurements and bodyfat measurement.

MUSCLE TONE

The conditioning effect will result in firmer and better-defined muscles.

POSTURE

The way you sit and stand are influenced by the health of a network of neck, shoulder, back, hip and abdominal muscles. Stronger muscles can help you stand and sit straighter and more comfortably. Improved balance and stability.

STATE OF MIND

As you begin to notice the positive physical changes in your body and develop a regular exercise routine, your ability to handle stress effectively will improve. Weight training allows you to sleep better, i.e. fall asleep quicker and sleep deeper. Clinical studies have shown regular exercise to be one of the three best tools for effective stress management.

Ok, so now that we’ve got that settled, let’s get started!

Strength Made Simple

One mistake a lot make when just starting out is they try to make things too complicated. You might read an article about what this pro or this athlete does for their strength training program and think “well, hey…if it works for them.” But when you first start, the most important thing is to keep it simple and learn to be more aware of your body.

Often if you’ve been away from exercise for a long time you’ll lose that mind/body connection. Developing a strong awareness of your body is crucial to a quality and effective weight-training program. It will ensure you are pushing yourself the right amount and keeping proper form.

If this is something you struggle with, start each exercise with very light weights and go through the motion, focusing on that mental connect and making sure you are aware of every movement your body is making– where you are contracting, where you are releasing, areas you are tensing up that you should not be, and how you are breathing.

The Principals of a Successful Program

Strength training programs are developed from the following components:

Exercise Type: What you do. What muscles you target.

Intensity: How hard or light you exert yourself and your muscles.

Volume: How much your workout. In a beginning program you want to be very careful not to overdo volume. We recommend starting a program that has you lifting two to three times per week.

Variety: You don’t like to do the same things all the time, do you? Neither do your muscles. Variety in exercise selections makes sure you target a larger range of muscles and keep exercises and programs challenging.

Progressive Overload: Continuing to increase weight to challenge your muscles and body.

Rest and Recovery: Perhaps the most important part of your program. You must rest to improve.

We will stop there this time. Next week we will break down the individual principals further and look at how they apply to creating an actual program.

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