A Weight Training Plan

This article reviews the basic types of resitance training and how to begin a simple workout program.

Check with your doctor before you start an exercise program.

Beginning an exercise program can be a daunting endeavour and weight training is no exception. Often the image that comes to mind when we think of lifting weights is a room full of muscle-bound men grunting and groaning their way through muscling up a three-hundred pound weight.

It doesn't have to be this way. Weight training is not only an important addition to any exercise program, it can also be fun. Resistance training, if done correctly and at regular intervals can significantly increase muscle mass. Since muscle requires more energy than fat, it can speed up the metabolic rate and burn fat while resting.

Before beginning a weight training program, it's important to determine what your goals are. Do you want to have large, bulky muscles that are able to exert a great deal of power? Or, do you want toned, efficient muscles that are able to exert their power for longer periods of time?

"Bulking up" requires the use of quite heavy weights where the muscles are working at their maximum capacity for short, strong bursts. "Toning Up" is done by stressing the muscle with lighter weights, but for longer amounts of time. This will help to attain muscle endurance. This particular article will be dealing predominantly with the toning type of weight training since the most common goal seems to be to have toned, healthy muscles.

There are many ways to approach getting stronger and more toned, and different types of equipment that will help to achieve this goal. In the beginning a small investment into some hand-weights can easily get you started. Of course it is also possible to join the local gym and to use the equipment that is more specialized and state of the art.

First, let's compare the difference between free weights and those that are part of a machine.

Free weights: These actually facilitate a more complete workout since they require not only the muscles that are doing the work, but also the opposite muscles to help to stabilise the weight. Good form is important when using free weights and is sometimes a little tricky to achieve.

Weight Machines: These machines are large, bulky and usually require a gym membership in order to have access to enough of them to get a complete workout. They have stabilising pullies and chains within them and therefore don't work the opposing muscles as thoroughly as free weights. They do, however, make it almost impossible to use them with poor form.

Both have their benefits and it will be up to you to decide which is more appropriate for you. It is a personal choice, since all muscles that are targeted by machine can also be targeted with free weights.

When working on muscle endurance or toning, there is a saying: "low weights, high reps". What this means, is that each exercise needs to be done at least ten times in succession with a weight that makes it possible to do so. The last two repetitions (or "reps") should be a little bit more difficult but you should be able to complete the reps. If the weight you've chosen makes it impossible to do ten reps, then the weight is too heavy and the next lighter one should be chosen.

Getting Started: Once you've chosen your goal, and have decided to use either free weights or weight machines, the fun can begin! Any exercise program should always begin with a short warm-up to prepare the body for exertion. You need to warm up the muscles slightly with something aerobic, some peddling on a bike, walking up and down stairs or perhaps skipping rope. This should be a gradual warm-up of the muscles and should last until you are beginning to sweat. This usually takes about five minutes. Then, it is advisable to stretch out the arms, legs, torso and neck individually. This will save some muscle soreness and could prevent injury.

Once you have warmed up, you can move onto the actual workout. Again you have a few decisions to make. There are different ways to attack the workout and again, they are all effective, it's simply a matter of personal preference and how much time you have available for your workout.

You need to decide which exercises you'd like to do. For a beginner, two arm exercises, one or two shoulder exercises and two leg exercises will be adequate. Once you get stronger and more efficient at your workout, you may want to add more.

Usually, an exercise is grouped into repetitions and sets. A repetition is one execution of the exercise. A set is a group of reps. The most common beginning weight training program is comprised of ten reps per set and three sets per exercise. These sets can be done in a couple of ways. They can be done in a circuit, or all at once with a rest period between sets. Let's look more closely at these two options.

Circuit Training: This type of weight training program begins with one exercise, one set of ten reps. Then, when that set is done, one set of another exercise is done, and so on, until all of the exercises have been done once. This circuit is then repeated two more times. The circuit doesn't allow rest times between exercises, because different muscles are being targeted each time the exercise is changed, It speeds up the workout and becomes almost aerobic in nature.

Finishing One Exercise, Then Going Onto the Next: This method of weight training has the exerciser finishing three sets of one exercise before going onto the next exercise. If you are training in this manner it is essential to give your body a rest period between sets. It is best if these rest periods are uniform. They can be timed to be a minute or a minute and a half between sets. Or, if you are training with a partner, your rest period can be the time it takes for your partner to finish his/her set.

General Weight Training Tips:

1) Regardless of what method you choose, it is important to exercise the larger muscle groups first, then, go onto to the smaller ones. For example, if you are training your arms, you should train your biceps before you train your triceps, since the biceps are bigger.

2) You need to decide how often you want to train. The reason for this is because most muscles need a rest day between workouts. Usually, early on in your weight training career, it is possible to work all the muscles that you want to, in one day, take the next day off and then do the whole workout again on the third day. As you progress, you may want to train more often. The way to do this is by separating your body into legs and back one day and arms and shoulders the next day. This way, the whole body is being targeted, you're working out as much as you want to and your muscles get the required number of hours rest.

3) There are a few muscles that can be worked every day. The abdominal muscles, the triceps (the muscle in the back of the arm) and the calf muscles. You will see better results with the training of these muscles if they are taxed on an almost daily basis. Strengthening the abdominal muscles will also help with any lower back pain that you may be experiencing.

4) A muscle will get used to a weight or a number of reps and it will cease to be overloaded. Since the basic premise of weight training is to overload the muscle, it needs to be done to see results. In order to consistently overload the muscle, use this formula: Do three sets of ten reps for three workouts, then, move the reps up to eleven and do them for three workouts. Continue in this manner until the reps are at fifteen. Then, increase the weight by five pounds, and begin the cycle back at ten reps again. This will ensure a consistently overloaded muscle during workouts.

So, there you have it. The very basics of weight training. This is enough to get you well on your way to a healthy, more efficient body. Just remember to make in an enjoyable experience. Happy lifting!

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