Some Quick Myth Debunking
One of the most irritating things I’ll hear people say is that they don’t lift weights because they don’t want to get bulky (I usually hear this from women). They clearly have no comprehension of just how hard people have to work to “bulk up.”
The other thing that grinds my gears is when a fitness article or description of a product promises to “tone” your muscles. I hate to rock your world, but there’s no such thing.
You either build a muscle or you don’t. That’s it. You can’t “tone” it. When people talk about getting you toned, they’re really discussing ways that you can a) build your muscle, and b) get rid of the fat that is currently hiding your muscles.
Why Lift Weights?
If you aspire to be a body builder (or have that physique), it’s obvious why you need to lift weights. But what about the rest of us?
The truth is that building muscle is more important for physical fitness than cardio. Muscles help your body burn calories more efficiently, so when you increase your lean muscle mass, you burn more calories at rest, which will help you lose weight (or control your weight).
Also, after you’ve finished your cardio workout, you’re no longer burning calories. However, lifting weights keeps your metabolism chugging for an hour after your workout.
Here are some of the other benefits:
- Lifting stresses your bones in a good way! It will increase your bone density, which reduces your risk for osteoporosis.
- You’ll have more energy.
- Your balance will improve.
- Weight training can help you manage any chronic conditions you have, such as pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Like all physical activity, it will increase your cognitive function, which means an increased attention span.
Weight Lifting Workouts
First, as with any fitness program, talk to your doctor before you get started. Once he or she gives you the go ahead, you can start resistance training. Dr. Laskowski recommends doing 12 repetitions.
He said on the twelfth, “You should be just barely able to finish the motion.” That will let you know that you’re using the appropriate amount of weight.
You’ll want to make sure you rest your muscles one full day before working it again. Also, listen to your body. You may be a little sore, but if you feel sharp pains or your joints are swollen, you’ve pushed yourself too hard, too fast.
A study for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) discussed the importance of using a full range of motion. What that means is that you want to contract the muscle completely and then release it completely.
For example, if you’re doing a squat, you want to sit back as far as you can (your butt should get as close to the ground as possible), and then you want to stand straight up. This is giving your muscles the best workout. You also want to make sure that you’re making smooth—not jerky—motions.
Weight Lifting Routines
It’s important to remember that you can’t focus on one muscle. First, this could cause an injury. I published a blog about six-pack abs a few weeks ago, and in that article, I talked about how focusing too much on your abs can lead to a bad back. It’s the same with any muscle in your body. If you work your biceps, you better hit the triceps as well.
In that spirit, here is a plan that will get you through the first part of your week (Monday through Wednesday). You can do all of these exercises with free weights, and they are good for men or women. If you want more information, visit BodyBuilding.com where you can also watch videos showing you how to do the moves.
Today is the day to work your chest and back. The first five workouts work your chest and the last five work your back. You will do 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise.
1. Decline Bench Press: You’re going to do three different chest presses. For those who don’t know, a chest press is when you hold a bar in both hands. You’ll start with the bar just over your chest, and then you’ll push up until your arms are straight. Then, you’ll return the bar to your chest. Start on a declined bench. What this means is that you’re upper body is going to be leaned back.
2. Incline Bench Press: Next, you’re going to get on an inclined bench, which means you’ll be sitting up.
3. Flat Bench Press: You’re going to finish with the traditional, flat back chest press.
4. Cable Cross Over: You’re done with bench press! Now you need to find a cable machine. If you’re not at the gym, you can also do this with free weights, but it will feel slightly different. You’ll start with your arms at shoulder level, straight out at your sides. Then, you’ll pull the cable (or move the weights) in front of you until your arms cross in front of your stomach. Then, return to the starting position.
5. Dumbbell Flyes: Lying flat on your back on a bench, take two hand weights and hold them straight over your chest. Then, with your elbows bent slightly, smoothly move the weights straight down in a “T” position. You want to lower your arms until you feel a stretch in your chest, and then you’ll return to the starting position.
6. Stiff Leg Dumbbell Deadlift: Stand up straight with two hand weights at your side. Keeping your back very straight, bend over and lower the weights until they’re just above your feet. Then, still keeping your back straight, return to a standing position.
7. Hyperextensions: There will be a special bench for this at the gym. It will be a padded bench that’s sticking up in the air at a 45-degree angle. You’ll rest your thighs against it, but it should stop below your waist. Then, keeping your back straight, you’ll fold over the bench. As soon as you feel your back start to round, you’ll return to the starting position. It’s important to keep your back as straight as possible throughout the exercise.
8. Bent Over Dumbbell Row: Bending over at the waist, you will hold two hand weights right in front of your calves. Then, you will bend your elbows. Make sure that you keep your elbows close to your sides. You should feel this work the muscles in between your shoulder blades. Then, return to the starting position.
9. Lat Pulldown: This is one of those you’ll need to do at the gym. There will be a machine for it (remember to ask a friendly employee if you need help finding something. They’re there to help). You’ll sit facing the machine. You’ll start with your arms grasping the bar above your head. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You’ll then pull the bar down until it reaches the front of your chest. You’ll then return to the starting position.
10. Pullup: If you’re like me, you probably have nightmares about trying to do these in Middle School. You know the drill. You hang off of the bar, and your hands should hold the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width. Then, pull yourself up.
Today you’ll work your delts and abs. For the delt exercises (the first 4), you will do 3 sets of 12. For the ab work (the last 2), do 3 sets of 30.
1. Arnold Press: Sitting down, you will start with two hand weights level with your chin. You will be holding the weights so that your palms are facing your face. Then, you will lift your arms over your head. As you lift, you will rotate your arms so that your palms end up facing the wall in front of you. Return to the starting position.
2. Dumbbell Press: The dumbbell press looks similar to the bench presses you did the day before. Lying flat on a bench, you’ll hold the weights beside you. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle, with your palms facing the wall in front of you. You will then lift the weights so that they meet straight above your chest. Your arms should be straight. Then, return to the starting position.
3. Dumbbell Lateral Raises: Standing straight, you will hold the weights at your side. Then, lift your arms straight up so that you finish in a “T” position. Then, lower them back to your side.
4. Dumbbell Rear Delt Row: Sitting down, lean your body forward so that your stomach rests on your thighs. You’ll hold your hand weights straight down by your side, with your palms facing your legs.
Keeping your stomach on your thighs, you will lift your arms straight up, coming into a “T” position. You should feel this movement between your shoulder blades. Then, return to the starting position.
5. Plate Twists: Lie down on a mat, flat on your back. You can do this exercise with our without weight. If you do want to use weight, you can just use a single hand weight. Holding the weight in front of your chest, lift your shoulder blades and legs of the ground.
Your legs should be bent and in a tabletop position. They should remain stationary throughout the exercise. Once you are up, you will twist your body to the left. Hold for a moment, and then twist your body to the right. Return to center.
6. Hanging Knee Raises: Grasp the bar with your hands straight over your head. When you’re ready, lift your legs up so that your knees reach your chest. Then slowly release them down.
Time to work your biceps and triceps. You will do 3 sets of 10 reps for each of these exercises. The first 2 work your biceps, and the last 3 work your triceps.
1. Hammer Curls: Hold hand weights at your side. Your palms should face your legs. Then, keeping the weights in that position, bend your elbows until the weights are next to your shoulders. Return to the starting position.
2. Dumbbell Incline Curls: On an inclined bench, lie across it with your chest facing down. Start with your hand weights up, with your palms facing your face. Then, lower the weights until your arms are straight. Slowly return to the starting position.
3. Kick Backs: Find a flat bench. Put your left knee on the bench and hold yourself up with your right arm. Your left arm should hold a hand weight. Your left elbow should be bent at a 90-degree angle, and the weight should be close to your side. Then, straighten your arm. Slowly return to the starting position. After each set, switch arms.
4. Bench Dips: You can do these on a bench, chair, or any other flat surface. I was always fond of doing them on my coffee table before I joined a gym. Keep your legs straight out in front of you and grasp the flat surface with your hands.
Your fingers should face forward. You want your legs and body to be as straight as possible. Then, bend your elbows until your arms are at a 90-degree angle, and then lift yourself back up to the starting position.
5. Pushups – Close Tricep Position: This is pretty much just a pushup but with a slight variation. You want to keep your hands right under your shoulders. Then, when you lower yourself down, you want to keep your elbows as close to your body as possible. You should feel this in the muscles in the back of your arms—not your chest or your biceps.
Weight Lifting Equipment
Resistance training is great because you don’t need to invest in any equipment. However, if you do want to get serious, you can buy free weights or even some weight machines.
If you’re ready to go all in, this machine sells for $426.99. I would really recommend that you wait on a purchase like this, as you want to make sure that you’re serious about your workout regiment before you drop this sort of cash.
This equipment will allow you to do lat pull downs, squats, military presses, pull-ups, and many more. If you’re up for the price tag, this is what you’ll get:
- There are four storage pegs for your weight plates
- Four chrome weight bar supports
- Two squat safety bars
- Please note: you will NOT be getting the weight plates. You need to buy those separately.
This will give you a place to keep all of your weight plates, and it has a pulley and dumbbell. However, the price tag makes this purchase a bit unrealistic for people who are just starting to lift weights, especially considering you need to also purchase your own weights.
These are going for $299 on Amazon, and quite frankly, there are less expensive options out there. The reason that these cost so much more are that the weights range from 5 to 52.5 pounds, which gives you lots of room to grow and makes them good for multiple different workouts (I would still consider getting a less expensive set, though).
You use a dial system to switch the weights, and they move up or down in 2.5 pound increments.
If you’re tight on space, these weights will open up lots of workout options to you since there is such a range of weight (they move from 2.5 to 25 pounds each). You won’t need to buy a bunch of different hand weights. However, I’d really go for a less expensive option. I had a pair of Weider Speed Weights (which are a third of the price), and I loved them.
This is a standard barbell that you can use for chest presses, squats, and many other exercises. For $156.69, you get a standard bar, and 16 weight plates (6 – 2.5 pound plates, 5 – 5 pound plates, and 4 – 10 pound plates).
With the bar and all of the plates attached, you’ll be lifting 110 pounds. Quite frankly, this is not much, so you’ll need to invest in more plates.
A barbell is good to have around, but know that you’ll also need to buy a weight lifting bench to be able to do most exercises. I was able to pick up one cheap at a second hand store, so you may want to look around for one of those before you buy a bar.
No matter how you decide to do it, you need to have a resistance training program. It will help you maintain (or lose) weight, and your body will look fantastic.