The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2006 issue 8



Weight Training 101

If you are in your mid 30's or older, overweight, or haven't exercised in a while, you need to get a physical from your doctor before you start a weight training program.

A good warm up of 5 minutes of stretching exercises or mild calisthenics increases your blood flow to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments - and helps prepare them for your upcoming workout.  You should also start your workout by lifting a light weight or your first set and add weight on your following sets.  At the end of your workout cool down with another 5 minutes of stretching which helps reduce muscle soreness.

To increase your strength, flexibility, and improve your shape in the shortest amount of time - proper technique is a must!  You need to keep the weight you are lifting under control at all time, avoiding swinging, jerking, arching, or bouncing movements.  Pull or press the weight evenly through your full range of motion.  Don't be concerned with how much you lift, but how you lift it!

Your workout can vary from 20 minutes if you are just beginning, 45-60 for most weight trainers, or 2-3 hours for an advanced body-builder.  The length of your workout will depend upon your program, number of exercises, sets, repetitions, and the amount of rest you take between sets.

A set is a fixed number of repetitions (reps) or repeated movements of an exercise.  Most weight trainers attain their desired results in 2-3 sets.  If you are just getting started, 1-2 sets is recommended, and whereas serious lifters might perform 4-5 sets for each exercise.

The general rule for most weight trainers is 8-12 repetitions (reps).  Beginning weight trainers should start out easy by performing 15-20 reps with light weight and gradually work toward 8-12 reps.  In contrast, a power lifter will only lift a heavy weight 2-5 times.

Three workouts a week is the preferred number for most weight trainers.  A typical workout schedule is M-W-F or T-TH-S, with rest days following each workout.  If you are beginning or coming back after a long layoff, you might train 2-3 times a week, whereas a hard-core body-builder might train 4-6 times a week.

It is important to have days off, or rest days, between you workout days.  This allows your muscles the time needed to recover and build for the next workout.  Training too often and too much is counterproductive, a tremendous waste of time, and greatly increases your risk for injuries.

Resting between sets, usually 1-2 minutes, helps your muscles recover and get prepared for the next exercise.  However, if you want to burn more calories and attain greater stamina, reduce your rest time to 20-30 seconds.  Those lifting heavy weights need more time and require 2-3 minutes, or more to get ready.

Use the first couple of workouts to determine how much weight you should start out with.  Us as much weight as you can comfortably handle (with the last rep being difficult)  15-20 reps for beginners; 8-12 reps for most weight trainers; and 2-5 reps for pure strength and power lifters.

Once you are able to perform your sets and reps fairly easily, increase the weight.  Repeat, until sets and reps once again become easy - add weight and continue to repeat this pattern.

Inhale at the beginning of each repetition, momentarily holding your breath at the most difficult part, exhaling at the end of the repetition.  DO NOT hold your breath for the entire repetition, which can cause you to pass out, especially if you are lifting weights over your head.

To help you plan out your weight training program, write down your exercises, sets, reps, and weight you lift for each workout.  This will help you stay on course and allow you to see how you are progressing.

Free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and machines (Universal, Nautilus, Paramount, etc.) are both very effective for achieving excellent results in strength and improving your shape.  However, free weights develop coordination, balance, and strength machines can not, and are therefore preferred by many weight trainers, coaches, and athletes.

Most injuries occur when trying to lift too much too soon, missing workouts, using improper techniques, and by die hard weight trainers working so hard they exhaust their muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Having consistent workouts, giving your muscles time to develop, the rest they need, and warming up properly greatly reduces your chance of injuries.



Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Ball Push-ups

Sure, you could do close-grip or 'diamond' push-ups to work your triceps and chest, but because of the angle of your wrists during your descent, they can sometimes be uncomfortable.  You can get a really great workout and even make it more challenging by using a standard basketball.  Start by using both legs and both hands on the ball.  For more of a challenge, as well as more emphasis on stability, try using 1 leg as pictured above.

Chest and Triceps (pectoralis major and triceps brachii)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Starting in push-up position with your hands on the basketball.  Lower your chest to the ball and press back up to starting position.

Selecting Your Program

Before getting started, select a weight training program that fits your goals, level of fitness, and time availabe.

  • Beginning Program
    If you are just beginning or getting started after a long layoff, easing your muscles, tendons, and ligaments into working out is essential.  Workouts are 2-3 days a week, 30-45 minutes, lifting light weights many times (15-20 repetitions.)

  • General Weight Training Program
    This maintenance program used by most weight trainers develops muscle tone, endurance, strength, and improves your shape.  Workouts are typically 3 days a week, 45-60 minutes, lifting medium weights a medium number of times (8-12 repetitions).

  • Body-Building Program
    For those wanting to continually improve his or her body, not just maintain.  Depending upon the level, workouts can vary from 3 times a week for 45-60 minutes for a beginner to 6 times a week for 2-3 hours for an advanced or competitive body-builder.

  • Strength & Power Program
    Athletes and power lifters wanting to make great increases in strength, power, and size.  Workouts are designed to lift heavy weight very few times
    (2-5 repetitions)


It's Go Time!

So there you have it, some basic guidelines for weight training.  For those experienced with weight training, most of this is stuff you already knew... maybe you should take a break and go pump out a few of those one legged ball push-ups!  The weight training points still serve as basic guidelines that are worth listing in one issue.

There also comes a point when you have been sticking with the same program for too long and you are no longer seeing the same benefits that you once did.  Plateaus and overtraining are often the result of continuously using one training program approach.  Overtraining is characterized by persistent plateau or worsening in performance that is not improved by short-term rest periods or reduced training.  It also is associated with disturbances in mood and sleep, loss of appetite and weight, muscle soreness, a propensity for overuse injuries, and increased heart rate.

You can help minimize the possibility of plateaus and overtraining.  Initially, change the exercise sequence or the exercise itself, while leaving the relative intensity the same.  Next, manipulate frequency, intensity, and volume both up and down. 

Although the articles in this issue are targeted to weight training, the principles here can be applied to most types of resistance training workouts including resistance bands and tubes, bodyweight exercises, medicine ball training, etc...  Decide on your exercise type (mode) and get the most that you can out of it!

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Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

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