Exercise! - Weights - What am I missing?

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04-17-2007, 04:48 PM
Hi all,

I think I have some conceptual confusion regarding weight-lifting. In some sense, I'm just not getting it. I never seem to actually make any progress with it and I rarely see results (and so I stop doing it and stick to a cardio-only regimen, which quickly ceases to engage my motivation once I reach my goal.)

Since I am so close to my goal (which I might move down to 140...not sure yet), I decided to create a new set of goals to keep me motivated and going to the gym. Gently sculpted arms and shoulders, I thought, would be just the ticket for summertime. I met with a personal trainer at my Y a couple of weeks ago, and she walked me through all the free-weight stuff I'm supposed to be doing. I've broken it down to doing arms one day, and then back and legs the next. And I do it *after* my cardio (which I know is naughty, but I really like cardio better and I fear that I won't be able to do my cardio after I work my legs.) I do 3 sets with the heaviest weight I can manage, and strive for 10-12 reps of each set.

The thing is though, that it takes me all of about 10 minutes to do my entire arm bit, and about the same to do legs and back. I have this feeling that it should be taking quite a bit more time than that, so I'm not sure what I'm missing. For my legs I just do that thing where you recline on a chair and then push the platform back and forth. And I use the little, seated machine for my hammys. I was doing the ab/adductor as well, but it hurts and I don't like it. Besides, I don't really care if my legs are sculpted or not--mostly I just want quads strong enough to spare my knees during cardio. For arms, I do 3x10 with 10lb weights on my biceps, do 3x10 with 5lb weights (I'm just starting!) for my shoulders (I do that exercise where you hold a weight in each hand and raise your arms out to the side to the level of your shoulders) and then I use this awkward contraption that allegedly works the triceps. I can't remember what she told me to do for my pecs, so I haven't been working those at all. And that's it. I do feel exhausted afterwards, and I am using the heaviest weight I can manage for 3x10 (and sometimes I crap out at 8 in the 3rd set), but I still feel as though I'm missing something, or should be doing more somehow.

My apologies for the rambling nature of my post. I suppose my problem is that I don't have a good sense of what my question is, only a nagging feeling that I'm missing something fundamental about building muscle. Does anyone have any flashes of insight here?

04-17-2007, 07:04 PM
I am not impressed with the personal trainer!

OK lets start with tempo. Try lifting a little slower. Lifting too fast uses momentum to lift instead of muscle. Wait 1 minute between sets.

You dont need to spend hours lifting especially if your goal is to build a bit of muscle mass and not specifically to define, but you do want to hit all the major groups. I personally go for multi muscle exercises over single muscle for efficiency.

Arms: You are missing most of the big muscles and working mostly smaller muscles. Muscles can generally be divided into PULL muscles (that pull weight into the body like bicep) and PUSH muscles (that push weight away like tricep) Try and do a balance of each.

Find your BENCH PRESS machine. That is your pectorals and triceps AND 2 of the deltoids.

A good complement to bench press is the SEATED ROW. This works the muscles of the back and pretty much all the other muscles that the bench press doesnt.

If you have an assisted dip machine and assisted pull up machine that is my second favorite for working lots of big muscles.

After those then bicep and tricep and delt flys or military press are good small muscles. I usually pick 2 and leave the rest because I dont have time. I personally cant stand machines for any of them, they hurt my joints. I use machines for bench and dips and pullups because I dont have a spotter

LEGS: You actually arent doing much for your quads. Leg press is mostly butt and some quads. I will say that most physical therapists are not fans of weight machines for legs. Squats and lunges with small hand weights will do more for your legs with less risk of injury. But you do need someone to show you how to do squats properly.

Pop on over to the "ladies who lift" section, someone might have a good link with photos and stuff

04-17-2007, 07:43 PM
Thanks Ennay. I might take me a few weeks to decode what you've written, but I certainly appreciate the advice :)

I'm not impressed with the personal trainer either. When I have a follow up meeting in a few months, I'm going ask for someone else. (By the same token, this is the only gym in a very rural town, 4 hours from the nearest city. I'm guessing one has to keep one's standards low). In her defense, however, she emphasized that I should do it all slowly, and actually, I am doing the actual exercises slowly...it just doesn't take that long to do them all.

I have been doing the seated row, but I've been counting that as back exercise; same with the lat pull down. Should I be doing those on 'arm' days instead?

What is wrong with bicep curls? Those dip machines are a tad scary also. I am not actually certain that I'm really muscular enough to haul my entire body weight up and down.

I'm scared of the bench presses because I'm a bit unco-ordinated and I still don't feel comfortable doing those exercises even after the trainer showed me how. Is there no way to work pecs standing up or sitting? (I don't like the weight machines either--they hurt my joints too.)

I could start doing some lunges, but I am afraid of hurting my knees, and, I'm probably wrong, but I tend to think my quads get a good workout on the treadmill and elliptical. No?

Finally, I will start reading the "Ladies Who Lift" forum. I had forgotton about that one! Thanks again, Ennay.

p.s. I think I used the words 'afraid' and 'scary' enough times in this post to alert me to the fact that I am a wee bit intimidated by weight training, despite having done it on and off in a half-hearted way for years. Ahhh well. Becoming aware of the problem is the first step towards overcoming it :)

04-18-2007, 10:45 AM
Generally, full body exercises are a great beginning. The work all muscle groups- large and small- to build a good foundation for more refined lifting later on, when you can then start to focus on isolation exercises..

Bench press- if you don't want to try the bar yet, use dumbbells for the bench press. They are a little safer until you learn the exercise. When you have more confidence, add in the bar. I usually alternate between them.

The back can be divided into 2 sections, upper and lower (core). The seated row and lat pulldown work your upper back. I love those two exercises. Your lower back is worked during squats, lunges, deadlift variations. I usually do abs and lower back exercises together.

There's nothing wrong with bicep curls, but they are not the only way to work your arms. You have to do variations of different exercises to work the whole of the muscle involved. For curls, there are hammer curls, regular curls, curls with a twist, preacher curls, concentration curls, etc.

Don't worry about doing tricep dips. That's one I will never be able to do. The beginning exercise for dips is to have your hands on a step and move your butt up and down. For triceps, I do what I call the step dip, extensions with dumbbells, pressdowns and rope pulls on a cable station.

Try out different exercises for the muscles. It keeps you interested and gives you a good idea of your favourite ones.

10-12 reps at the heaviest you can go- Just like the exercises should be varied over time, so should the workout. Throw in a light workout (15-20 reps at light weights), a heavy workout (4-6 reps at really heavy weight) and a medium workout like you are doing. The light workouts give your body a break and the heavy ones keep you progressing.

04-18-2007, 02:39 PM
There is nothing wrong with bicep curl...it just only works ONE muscle. I think to start, to build up muscle and get your body used to weights, the big muscles are better to work

I do bench press ONLY with a machine. I would never advise doing bench press with free weights without a spotter.

Dips - oh good GOD no, I wouldnt expect you to be able to dip your own weight. Some gyms have a machine where you kneel or stand on a pad that is counterweighted. When I started at 170 lbs I was using 120 lbs of counter weight so I was ACTUALLY only dipping 50 lbs. Same with pull-ups. They just hit big muscle groups. My dream is to someday do pullups and dips without assist.

04-18-2007, 02:46 PM
Ahh, I know the dip thing you're talking about. I've seen very lean, muscular women using it. I suppose if I wish to be one of them, I should try to use it too. Those are for working all the arm muscles?

I wasn't aware that there is a bench press machine. I'll have a look for it. The PT at the Y had me do a thing where I lie down on a bench and then lift a pair of dumbells up in an arc to meet above my chest. That's the exercise I had coordination troubles with.

Thanks for the advice!

04-18-2007, 09:14 PM
here's a good site for inspiration, she may set you straight


There are a number of ways to set up a routine, it can be push-pull, it could be complementary sets of muscles - for instance back and biceps one day, chest and triceps another.

It can be really confusing, even when you've been doing it a while. So rule number is keep it simple because your main goal is to challenge the muscles. Make sure you increase weight when you can and be consistent.

There are probably as many weight lifting routines on the Internet as there are porn sites so you should be able to find LOTS but start with the above site, it covers the basics and all the info you need to get started is literally right there.

04-19-2007, 12:50 AM
Ahh, I know the dip thing you're talking about. I've seen very lean, muscular women using it. I suppose if I wish to be one of them, I should try to use it too. Those are for working all the arm muscles? You get a lot of them if you do dips and pullups -

I wasn't aware that there is a bench press machineAlso called Chest Press and sometimes it is lying down and sometimes it is a sitting and pushing away machine. I'll have a look for it. The PT at the Y had me do a thing where I lie down on a bench and then lift a pair of dumbells up in an arc to meet above my chest. That's the exercise I had coordination troubles with. Thats pec flys

Thanks for the advice!

Sometimes the machines have either lists of muscles worked or pictures with the muscles colored in....that is a good way to get an idea of what is worked. BIG muscles and multi-muscles help you burn calories, isolated muscles help with definition, stability and tone.

pp is right, there are a lot of different theories so try not to overwhelm yourself.

04-19-2007, 01:55 AM
Hi guys,

I used that dip thing today, for both dips and pull-ups. Ouch! I used a 120lb counter-weight and I still couldn't finish all my reps! And I weigh less than 145... It was a bit pathetic. But it does go to show that I haven't been doing a very good job with the free weights so far. I think I'll stick with it. I'm lazy, and I definitely like the idea of working as many muscles as possible, with as few different exercises as possible. I do want muscle mass for calorie-burning, but, as I said, I would like my arms to look nice in tank tops this year. (No mean feat, either, since I seem to carry more fat in my arms than I do on my stomach, and I think having chunky arms makes me look chunky all over, when I'm really not.) Would it be wise to do the dip thing one day for the big muscles, and then do all the bicep and tricep things with free weights the next time I work my arms, and alternate between the two? Or should I be doing both each time?

I am a bit irritated that I am still so confused about lifting and developing an efficient regimen. This is *exactly* why I met with the trainer in the first place!

Thanks so much for your help! I wish one of you worked at my gym :)