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A Rough Guide to Weight Training

A Rough Guide to Weight Training

We look at why weight training is important; give some tips on getting going, and advise how to recognise when you need to increase your weights.

If you regularly train with weights, the chances are you’re male and – if your exercise regime has been working out (no pun intended) the way you planned – strong. Weights shouldn’t be the preserve of the muscle-builder, though; everyone should be getting involved and toning those muscles. And if your muscles are already toned and rippling, do you know when you should be upping your game?  

Why weight train?

Weight training is one of the most important things you can do for your body, whether you’re male, female, young or old.  The health benefits of weight training cannot be understated. In fact, the American Heart Association now recommends that adults train all their muscle groups at least twice a week. That means women as well, not just the men. Not convinced yet? Here are a few key reasons why you should be giving your muscles a little TLC:

1.       Strong muscles are important for a healthy heart. If your muscles are strong, they need less oxygen to work. This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump oxygen round your body, which in turn helps to lower your blood pressure.

2.       Strengthen your muscles to strengthen your back. There are muscles all the way up your spine. The firmer they are, the less strain you put on your spine. As you get older, back pains and pulled muscles will become more frequent. The better your muscles, the less you will suffer. Your posture will improve, too, and as an added bonus, your stomach will flatten as your muscles stay taut around your middle.

3.       Strong muscles will protect your joints. The muscles around your joints are there for a purpose – to help you to move those joints. Weak muscles will put a huge strain on your ligaments and tendons when you use those joints.

4.       Arthritis? The strain put on your joints by weak muscles can lead to arthritis. Strengthening your muscles around your joints will help to prevent and ease arthritis.

5.       Toned muscles burn fat. In fact, toned muscles burn up to 15 times more calories per day than fat tissue. Even when you’re asleep. Strong muscles will boost your metabolism more than anything else. So if you wanted to know how to eat what you want and still stay slim, the answer lies in weight training. Women are often worried about bulking up; in fact, so long as you keep weights low and reps high, you will slim down rather than transform into the hulk.

Advice for the Beginner

If you’re a novice to the weight area of the gym or feel a bit daunted by the free weights, start with the weight machines, or resistance machines, which will help you to use your muscles properly and avoid injury. Keep the weights low – don’t over exert yourself by trying to push or press as much weight as you physically can – and instead try to do as many repetitions as you can.

Get a trainer to take you through the machines if you’ve never used them before. In the meantime, here is a brief introduction to some of the more popular weight machines:

  • the leg press - you push a weight away with your legs from a sitting position;
  • the leg extension - you lift a weight with your legs from a sitting position;
  • the leg curl - you lie on your front and raise a weight with your feet towards your bottom;
  • the bench press - you lie on your back and push a weight away from your chest;
  • the pull down - you pull a bar down towards your chest from a seated position;
  • the shoulder press - you lower a weight down to your shoulders then raise it again; and
  • the cable machine - you either pull or push down on a bar with your hands.

Advice for the experienced weight trainer

When you work your muscles, you should keep going until you feel like you can’t do any more; until you have reached the point of fatigue. That’s how you know you’ve given yourself a good workout. Don’t just keep upping your reps, though. You need to up your weights instead. The number of repetitions you are doing is how you can tell that your weights are too low.

If you’re male, you should be doing between 10 and 14 repetitions. So if you find you’re doing over 14 reps, that’s a sign you should be increasing your weight. Start by increasing your weight by ten to twenty per cent.

If you’re female, you should be doing between 12 and 18 repetitions. If you’re doing more than 18 reps, increase your weight by ten to twenty percent.

Remember you should be working out each muscle group once or twice a week, with at least a two day rest period in between.