You made it to the gym or found a quiet moment at home to do some serious strength training with weights. Now what? Knowing the right moves and techniques isn't exactly second nature to most people, and takes a little learning and concentration to master. The good news is, whether you're at home, at the gym, or even on the road, you can strength train with some basic equipment in a limited space.
First, you need to assess yourself and your goals. Why do you want to do strength training? To build muscle? To burn fat? To target certain problem areas? Your answer could be all of the above, and lucky for you, your routine can be modified to cover all areas. Some important concepts to think about are:
- amount of weight
- order of exercises
Order of Operations
When strength training, it is important to do things in an orderly fashion. For example, you don't want to start right off with your heaviest weight in an area you exercised yesterday.
A general rule is to do strength training every other day of the week, allowing your muscles at least 24 hours to rest. However, you can do strength training everyday by making sure that you switch muscle groups: legs one day, arms another day, etc. For the average routine, the order is warm up, build, and then cool down.
Warming up and stretching your muscles is important to avoid injury, and is a good time to get focused. You can do this by lifting some very light weights, doing basic dynamic stretches of all muscle groups, or some light cardio. During the building phase, the work is done. If you're trying to burn fat, you're going to want to do high reps with light weight. Conversely, if you're trying to build muscle, you will want to lift heavier weight with fewer reps. For the cool down period, remember to keep your body moving. This will help reduce the build-up of lactic acid, which is what causes cramping and sore muscles.
Some basic free weights are good for home and on the road, usually about 5-20lb dumbbells work best. Be sure to reference a good source for proper technique, as you can cause yourself serious damage with improper lifting. At the gym, be sure to follow the guidelines on the weight machines to ensure your safety. Don't try to over-exert yourself, the last thing you want is an injury.
Remember that results can take time, so stick with it! With the right tools, techniques, and order of operation, you can be well on your way to muscle tone, strength, and endurance.