Introduction to weight training

Introduction to weight training

What is weight training?

Weight training is the practice of lifting weights, usually with the goal of personal development. Men usually do it to build muscle and strength, whereas women usually do it to develop shape and “tone”. The practice involves regularly performing a list of exercises using barbells, dumbbells, and weight machines, with each exercise designed to target a different muscle group or movement pattern of the body. Over time, the amount of stress that is placed on the muscles is progressively increased, forcing the muscles to adapt by developing greater strength, size, or endurance. The gradual increase in stress designed to stimulate muscle development is known as progressive overload.

Weight training is the most common form of strength training. Strength training is any physical exercise that involves contracting your muscles against resistance with the aim of muscular development. Strength training can also be done using resistance bands or your own body weight.

Why do weight training?

Weight training and other forms of strength training can be performed for a number of reasons, including:

  • improving your general health and fitness
  • enhancing your athletic or sporting abilities
  • building your muscles and strength
  • sculpting a more attractive body
  • rehabilitating your limbs after an injury
  • burning calories
  • losing weight
  • relieving stress.

What are the benefits of weight training?

The health benefits of weight training are well documented, and include everything from reducing body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol to increasing flexibility, bone density, and metabolic rate. Weight training also prevents certain common diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, and can bestow psychological benefits, such as reduce stress and improve mood. Weight training can even enhance your memory, concentration, and learning abilities.

How do you train?

You can train at home or in a gym, either with or without a training partner. Ideally, a training session should include a warmup, a workout, and a cool-down—all of which should take no more than 45 to 70 minutes. The longer your workouts take, the less likely you will be to stick to them.

The warmup is very important. It prepares your mind and body for exercise, reduces your risk of injuries, and gets you pumped up and ready to work out.

The cool-down, or post-workout stretch, involves gently stretching the muscles that you have trained, which can help to prevent stiffness and a reduction of range of motion.

The workout itself involves completing a list of exercises, of which there are numerous varieties. The types of exercises that you do depend on your goal, level of experience, and preferences. Popular exercises include the dumbbell curl, barbell bench press, and barbell squat.

For each exercise, you have to complete a certain number of reps and sets. A rep (short for repetition) is one complete unit of a weight training exercise, from the starting position to the point of maximum contraction and then back to the starting position. For example, you perform one rep of a dumbbell curl if you raise it to your chest and then lower it back down.

A set is a group of reps. For example, if you perform ten reps before resting, those ten reps count as one set. The list of exercises that you perform, along with the amount of weight that you lift for each exercise and the number of sets and reps that you complete for each exercise, are defined in your training program.

How often must you train?

Serious lifters with lots of experience undertake five or six workouts a week, each one targeting one or two different muscle groups. However, as few as three full-body workouts per week can produce decent results.

What kinds of equipment do you need?

Common types of weight training equipment include barbells and dumbbells, which are often used in conjunction with a bench. More technical types of equipment include weight machines, which come in a variety of forms, and often incorporate seats, cables, pulleys, and levers. Weight machines allow you to move your joints through a guided movement pattern using an adjustable amount of resistance.

Although technically not weights, resistance bands and your own body weight can also be used to develop muscles. Common bodyweight exercises include the push-up and pull-up. Resistance bands provide resistance when stretched and come in various forms. There are tubes with fixed handles, tubes without handles that you can stack/combine for extra resistance, flat bands that you can wrap around your hands, and loop bands that you can wear around your legs. Being lightweight, they can be taken with you on your travels or used at home, in front of the TV.

You should be able to find everything you need to effectively train in a gym. If you’re going to train at home, you will need at least a set of dumbbells, a pull-up bar, and a bench. An even better setup would include a barbell and a power rack for safety. You could also just make do with a set of stackable resistance bands, which now come with door anchors and ankle straps that allow you to perform full-body workouts at home without the need for any other equipment. However, you can achieve much more and better results with the dumbbell and barbell setup.

How long does it take to see results?

Results take time, patience, and dedication, but are worth the effort. As long as you follow an effective training program that also ensures adequate rest and recovery, you should start to see evidence of an increase in strength within the first few weeks of training, and evidence of an increase in the size of your muscles within six weeks. Provided you do not give up, as explained in the lesson How quickly can you gain muscle?, the average man could expect to gain between 20 and 25 pounds of muscle mass in his first year of proper training, whereas the average woman could expect to gain between 10 and 12.5 pounds (half as much as the average man).

What about diet?

Good nutrition is essential for the success of your training program. Your workouts will damage your muscles. Your diet must provide the raw materials necessary to repair them, as well as to build the muscles to make them stronger and less susceptible to damage. Your diet must also provide adequate fuel for your workouts. See the Nutrition Guide for everything you need to know about nutrition.

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