The Benefits of Weight Training
Improving or maintaining health should be a primary goal of an exercise program. Health not only refers to the absence of disease or illness but may include the way a person feels about their body, their confidence about participating in a variety of activities, and their overall attitude towards life. For many people feeling physically fit and strong is part of being a well-rounded, confident person. Resistance training (weight training) can play an important role in the development of self-confidence and body satisfaction by increasing strength, building and toning muscles, and increasing muscular endurance. It can also help maintain lean body mass (important for individuals attempting weight loss), decrease the risk of osteoporosis, develop coordination and balance, and prevent injuries resulting from weak muscles.
Is Weight Training For You?
The degree of muscularity considered physically attractive can vary greatly from person to person and between sexes. Men many times desire more muscular "bulk" whereas women may be more concerned with "toning" muscles. Even though weight training has many health benefits, the way it will effect a person's body shape is usually very important. Understanding how your body will respond to a training program can eliminate many of the myths associated with lifting weights and will enable you to design a program specific to your needs. A common fear among women is that weight training will cause them to look excessively muscular or masculine.
It is important to understand that a woman's body will respond differently to weight training than a man's because of hormonal differences. The hormone testosterone plays a major role in muscular development. Because women have very little of this hormone, they tend not to "bulk-up" with weight training.
Although illegal and potentially very harmful, many professional bodybuilders (men and women) take performance enhancing drugs which upset their hormonal balance and build more muscle. The risks associated with taking these drugs (anabolic androgenic steroids) include testicular atrophy in men, the development of male characteristics in women, acne, liver damage, and mood swings. People interested in weight training should understand that their bodies will not respond to lifting weights in the same way as someone taking anabolic steroids. Every individual also has genetic characteristics that will affect the way they develop strength and change their body shape in response to weight training.
Principles of Weight Training
The Overload Principle states that muscle size, strength and endurance will only improve when the stress (weight or repetitions) is greater than that usually encountered.
The Progressive Resistance Principle demonstrates that as muscle strength and endurance increase, the resistance (weight used) must be periodically increased if further gains are desired.
The Principle of Specificity shows that the development of muscular fitness is specific to the muscles trained. Weight training for sport is most beneficial to performance when the intensity and movement of the exercise closely resembles the action of the sport.
Weight training may be dangerous if performed improperly or without supervision. Individuals with high blood pressure, back problems, or hernias should consult a physician prior to engaging in a weight training program.
Entering a weight room or a gym full of hard bodies can be intimidating for a beginner. Therefore, the right frame of mind and a realistic attitude is essential to a successful weight training program. It is important to remember that everyone has at some time been a beginner. Most people will respect and understand that you are a novice and are many times helpful. Be sure to address qualified instructors with any questions you may have or participate in an orientation class if available.
Repetitions and Sets
A repetition (one full range of motion) refers to how many times an exercise is repeated during one set. For example, doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions on a bench press means doing 10 bench presses, resting, and then repeating two more times. Once you have learned the technique of the exercise , you should find a weight you can do 8-12 times for 1-2 sets. If you can't do eight, the weight is too heavy. If you are comfortably completing 12 repetitions, you may wish to increase the weight you're working with.
Warm-ups and Cool-downs
Warm-up activities should precede each training session. A proper warm-up includes 5 minutes of light aerobic activity (walking, cycling, stair machine) followed by stretching of all the major muscle groups. In addition, a warm-up set with a light weight should be performed before each exercise. A cool-down should always consist of stretching all the major muscle groups. Stretching after lifting weights helps maintain flexibility and prevent injuries.
Rest Between Sets
In general, resting approximately 1 minute between sets is recommended for beginning weight training. The rest period can be varied according to your goals for muscular strength or endurance development.
Order of Exercises
Exercises which work several muscle groups should be done prior to exercises which isolate a single muscle group. For example, bench press and squats should be done before tricep push-downs and leg extensions.
Strength vs. Endurance
When repetitions are low (3-5 per set), strength development is primarily promoted. With higher repetitions (15-20 per set), muscle endurance and toning can be achieved. For most people, however, working with a weight that can be done 8-12 times per set is most appropriate because muscle growth, strength and endurance improve. For maximum strength and muscle development, sets should be done with a weight great enough to cause muscle fatigue (the inability to do another repetition).
How Often Should I Lift?
For most people, lifting 2 to 3 times per week (each training session separated by a day off) is appropriate to make significant gains in strength. On these days, all the major muscle groups should be exercised. Different exercises that work the same muscle groups can be alternated from workout to workout. More advanced weight trainers or bodybuilders often lift weights 4 to 6 times per week, exercising different muscle groups on different days
Circuit Training consists of a series of resistance exercises performed one after another with little rest between exercises. Its major advantage is the ability to perform a lot of different exercises in a short period of time. Circuit training can improve both strength and muscular endurance, however strength development is generally greater when longer rest periods are used. Little cardiovascular benefit is gained from circuit training if the "circuit" is made up of only resistance exercises from free weights or weight machines. However, many circuits consist of resistance exercises and aerobic equipment (cycles, rowers etc.), and therefore can provide significant cardiovascular benefits.
Gaining Weight Through Resistance Training
Many recreational and competitive athletes use weight training to help them gain muscle mass. However, individuals many times train hard without the proper diet to add extra pounds of muscle. Some individuals find it very difficult to gain weight simply because of their genetic make-up. Just as losing weight takes patience and perseverance, so does gaining weight for many individuals.
Because muscle is mostly water, only 2500 extra calories are needed to gain a pound of muscle, compared to 3500 excess calories to make a pound of fat. Most of the extra calories needed for weight gain should come from complex carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, potatoes, and pasta. The need for extra protein has been highly publicized in bodybuilding magazines and gyms around the country. The body does use more protein with weight training, compared to being sedentary. However, because the average American diet is already high in protein, most individuals do not need to worry about eating extra protein. In general, eating meals and snacks that contain a variety of foods from all the food groups will ensure adequate protein for muscle development. For most people, protein supplements or amino acid tablets are not needed and are simply a waste of money. A good rule of thumb when trying to gain weight is to add 300-500 calories per day for a goal weight gain of 1/2 to 1 pound per week.
Remember that weight training is meant to supplement other activities within a fitness program. Although there are many benefits associated with resistance training, aerobic exercise (walking, cycling rowing, swimming etc.) is still best to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, develop cardiovascular endurance and burn extra calories.
Top 18 Benefits of Weight Training
Author: Greg Landry
Starting or continuing your weight training program is much easier if you know some of the benefits derived from weight training:
1. Weight training tones your muscles which looks great and raises your basal metabolism.. which causes you to burn more calories 24 hours-a-day. You'll even burn more calories while you're sleeping.
2. Weight training can *reverse* the natural decline in your metabolism which begins around age 30.
3. Weight training energizes you.
4. Weight training has a positive affect on almost all of your 650+ muscles.
5. Weight training strengthens your bones reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
6. Weight training improves your muscular endurance.
7. Weight training will NOT develop big muscles on women.. just toned muscles!
8. Weight training makes you strong. Strength gives you confidence and makes daily activities easier.
9. Weight training makes you less prone to low-back injuries.
10. Weight training decreases your resting blood pressure.
11. Weight training decreases your risk of developing adult onset diabetes.
12. Weight training decreases your gastrointestinal transit time, reducing your risk for developing colon cancer.
13. Weight training increases your blood level of HDL cholesterol (the good type).
14. Weight training improves your posture.
15. Weight training improves the functioning of your immune system.
16. Weight training lowers your resting heart rate, a sign of a more efficient heart.
17. Weight training improves your balance and coordination.
18. Weight training elevates your mood.
Additionally, did you know, that jogging rather than walking one day per week increases weight loss by 10%, and 2 days by 20%!
I hope that you all take time to seriously consider the many many benefits of adding a weight/resistance training program to your workout!