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Weight Lifting Basics
Weight lifting or resistance training should be a part of everyone's weekly workout routine. I recently read an article about how weight lifting can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the fact that your muscles are stronger. This added strength takes stress off of your cardiovascular system in your day to day life. This guide will be geared towards the weight lifting beginners, but it will still contain some tips that apply to everyone.
First of all, make sure you get a really good stretch in before you begin your workout. Also, if you think you need to, consult your doctor before starting a resistance training or weight lifting program.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets start with what most lifters call core lifts. These lifts usually work your chest, back, and primary leg muscles. Also, I suggest doing your core exercises first. If you are a beginner, you probably just want to start with 1-2 sets. Within each of these sets, you want to do anywhere from 5 to 10 repetitions. After you get more used to lifting, you can up the amount of sets to 3 sets.
The most obvious place to start is with the chest. There are quite a few different lifts you can do to work your chest. You can use a bench press with either a bar or dumbbells, do push-ups, or do dumbbell flies. If you decide to bench press, make sure you use equal weight on both sides of the bar and that you have a spotter (person watching you in case you drop the weight) if you are using a bar. You don't need a spotter with the dumbbells. Make sure you DON'T overdue the amount of weight you are lifting. If you are brand new to this, I would suggest starting with 40-100 total pounds and then going up from there as you put on muscle. It may even be a good idea to start with push-ups before you start with bench pressing. If you are having trouble doing push-ups, a quick tip is to do the push-ups with your knees touching the ground instead of your feet. This will make the push-ups a bit easier to do. The last idea for working the chest is the dumbbell flies. To do this, you lie flat on a bench with the dumbbells above your chest with the arms fixed in a slightly bent position. Next, you lower the dumbbells to your sides until your chest muscles are stretched keeping your elbows fixed. To complete the lift, bring the dumbbells back together in a hugging motion until dumbbells are nearly together. This is more of an advanced lift, but it is another way to work your chest.
Next, you are going to want to do some sort of leg exercise. For beginners, I always suggest lunges, squats, or nautilus machines that work your legs. If you use the nautilus machines, the directions for their use will be on the machine. Yet again, do 1-2 sets of 5-10 repetitions when starting out. If it is your first time doing lunges or squats, I would suggest starting out with little or know weight. To do a lunge, lunge forward with your first leg. Land on your heal. Lower your body by flexing your knee and hip of your front leg until your knee of your rear leg is almost in contact with the floor. Return to the original standing position by forcibly extending the hip and knee of the forward leg. Repeat by alternating the lunge with your opposite leg. To execute a squat, bend the legs at the knees and hips, lowering your torso between your legs, and then reverse your direction to stand up straight again. Make sure that your are using your legs and not your back for this lift. Your upper body should stay upright during the whole lift.
You don't have to do all of the exercises described so far in this article. I would make sure to work your chest with at least one of the lifts and to work your legs with 1-2 of the exercises described above.
For the next part of the workout, you can do these lifts in any order and you don't have to do all of them. Lets start with one of my favorite exercises, the sit-up. I think everyone knows how to do a situp, and this is the one exercise I would suggest doing every time you do resistance training. When it comes to sit-ups, you are going to want to do a few sets of 10-30. If you want to spice it up a bit you can do crunches or get a fitness ball to do sit-ups on.
Next, I would suggest doing some type of biceps workout. You will get a bit of this in bench press or push-ups, but it is always a good idea to do some curls as well. To do a curl, pick up a dumbbell in each hand leaving them at your side. You then bring the weight up to your chest bending your arm at your elbow. Make sure to keep your upper arms tucked closely towards your torso. You can also do this lift with a barbell and the same motion.
A Triceps workout is another great and highly suggested addition to your routine. You can use a cable machine with the small bar to work your triceps. To do this, start with the cable and bar at your chest. You then push the bar towards your feet by bending at the elbows making sure to keep your upper arms against your torso. You can also do a lift called the skullcrusher. To do this, you hold a single dumbbell in both hand above your head with your arms fully extented. You then slowly move the dumbbell behind your head by bending your arms at the elbows. Last, you push the dumbbell upwards towards its original position.
One more muscle group you should work is your shoulders. You can do this in multiple ways. If you have access to a cable machine, you can use the large bar to work your shoulders. To do this lift, you simply sit at the cable machine and then pull the bar down until it comes close to the back of your kneck. You then let the bar go back up to its original position and then repeat. You can also do a lift that is called the military press. To do this, you have dumbbells in either hand starting at your shoulders. From this position, you simply press the weight straight up. Bring the dumbbells back down and repeat. You can also do this weight with a bar as well.
I have covered most of the major muscle groups, but here are a few suggestions of other lifts to add to your workout. Two simple ideas are dips and pull-ups. These can be tough to do if you are just starting out though. Another idea is calf raises. To do a calf raise, you raise your heels keeping the balls of your feet on the ground. It is much easer to do this on a step or on a calf block. You can add to the resistance by holding dumbbells in your hands when you do this exercise.
The workout and ideas above are enough to get most people as far as they need to go when it comes to resistance training. Here a few other tips to help you along your way:
- Make sure to stretch out.
- Don't overdue it when it comes to the amount of weight your are lifting, especially when you are just starting out.
- Your lifts should be slow and controlled.
- Make sure to use the full range of motion during the lift.
- If you feel intense pain or something starting to pull, STOP.
- Don't lift the same muscle groups two days in a row. You should take at least a day break in between. A good workout schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
- Drink plently of water during your workouts.
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