No matter what you set out to achieve in life, you must first set goals. It is difficult to get anywhere without first knowing where it is you are trying to end up. Goals give you direction and provide a platform to reach. Once you reach the platform of your goal, you know it is time to set new objectives and strive to reach new heights. It is also important that you adhere to ethical ways to realize your goals as there is no pride to be found in your accomplishments otherwise.
Weight lifting is no different than any other aspect of life. You cannot make strides forward until you know what it is you want to accomplish. Once you have determined what it is you want to attain from weight lifting, you can begin to pursue your objective. No matter what fitness goals you are try to reach through weight lifting, there are certain basic principals that work to further those goals. And again, as with any other goal you work to attain, you will only find satisfaction if you succeed ethically.
1. Cardio must be an integral part of your fitness schedule. Many weight lifters do not want to waste their time on performing cardio. They prefer to focus solely on building size through lifting weights. Although cardio will not build muscle for you and can actually result in some weight loss, it is essential to achieving optimal weight lifting results.
Cardio exercises have many health benefits that will help you reach your goals faster. When you perform cardio regularly, you improve your conditioning. Cardio improves the efficiency of your heart and lungs. You will increase your longevity and be able to perform more exercises within a single training session than you would if you don’t include cardio regularly. Additionally, cardio strengthens your heart which pumps all of the nutrients your body needs to build bigger muscles throughout your body.
Though you may initially see some weight loss, cardio will not cause you to lose muscle. The weight loss will be due to the loss of fat tissue. You want to trim the fat from your body to make it more efficient. And if you have fat layers covering your muscles, no matter how hard you work with weights you will not see definition. You could have a six pack but unless you burn the fat over top of the abdominal muscles it will remain hidden. This is true for any muscles in your body hidden beneath a layer of fat.
2. Use proper form. You have probably heard this piece of advice repeatedly. Using proper form makes the difference between an effective exercise and a waste of time. Do you really want to spend an hour lifting weights without making any gains? Even worse, performing the exercises incorrectly could result in injuries that may prevent you from lifting for several weeks or more. Imagine the set back you would endure if you incurred an injury that prevented you from lifting.
On the other hand, taking the time to perform each exercise properly will ensure you receive the maximum benefit from every exercise. Set yourself in the proper stance prior to beginning the exercise. Place your hands, feet, and weights where they should be. When you perform the movement, do it slowly and deliberately. Pause in between each repetition so you do not use the momentum from the previous rep to complete the next one. Make each repetition count!
3. Perform the movements slowly and deliberately. It can be tempting to rush your repetitions. We are often pressed for time. But rapid repetitions use as much momentum as muscle to complete the movement. You will get better results by taking your time with the movement. In fact, performing the exercise slow can take more muscle control and effort than at regular speed. This will help increase your muscle strength as it is increasing the size.
4. Have a personal trainer create your workout regiment for you. Every body is different; metabolisms vary, muscle growth differs. Your body has a composition unique to you. You can try to create your own workout based on various resources you may research or people you speak with. But what works well for one person may not work as well for another. Instead of wasting your time on a series of workouts that do not have a record of producing results with your body type, you could be completing workouts which help you achieve your goals and expedite your way to your next set of objectives.
A personal trainer can develop a plan that will give you the results you are seeking. Trainers have the knowledge and experience to create a weight lifting regiment tailored to your body and your personal fitness goals. Trainers can also administer the latest fitness evaluations to help find the right starting point for you so you don’t waste your time with a plan beneath your fitness level. Do you want to increase your size? Do you want to amplify your definition? No matter what you want to accomplish, an educated and experienced personal trainer can help you succeed.
Trainers are also effective motivators. A good personal trainer will keep you on track. Having someone help maintain your intensity level will keep you from declining while you are lifting. The trainer can also watch your form to ensure you aren’t sacrificing form for speed. Additionally, trainers will keep your work out current and diverse preventing boredom. And since you will be someone to keep you motivated, you will be hard-pressed to find an excuse good enough to miss a day.
5. And since we are already on the topic, intensity is essential to optimizing your results. As your body becomes accustomed to the intensity of your regular workout it will not respond to the exercise the way you want. You will be able to maintain your current fitness level by repeating your exercises at your usual intensity, but you will not see any growth and will more than likely find yourself at a plateau.
Increasing your intensity level will force your body to continuously step up its efforts in order to successfully perform the work you are requiring of it. The higher the fitness level you are at, the quicker your body will adapt to the weight training routine. Your body will only respond to exercises that present a challenge to your muscles.
Prevent your body from adapting to your routine resulting in sluggish progress by increasing the amount of weight you push. Or you could increase the number of repetitions you perform in a given set. You should up your intensity level at regular intervals. How often you increase will have to be determined by you. Once you are able to perform the exercise routine with relative ease then it is time to challenge your body again with something new.
6. Perform both concentric and eccentric exercises. Your muscles have a reciprocal relationship. In order to perform any exercise, one group of muscles must contract and shorten simultaneously with the corresponding group of muscles that must lengthen. If there is a delay in the response between the time one set of muscles is contracting and the other lengthening, injury could result. Both muscle groups need to be in equal fitness condition to prevent one from reacting faster than the other during a movement and causing injury.
Concentric exercises are those that shorten the muscles. The muscle contraction generally occurs during the lift portion of an exercise. For example, as you lift the weight towards your shoulder during a bicep curl the muscle is being contracted. Eccentric exercises lengthen the muscles as they are worked. This occurs usually when you lower the weight to complete the repetition. Many weight lifting exercises specifically train either concentrically or eccentrically. Most do not target both as the bicep curl will.
Devising a weight lifting routine that includes exercises specifically intended to train with both concentric and eccentric movements will maximize your results. Studies have indicated individuals who train using both methods achieve greater results. Strength and strength related tasks show much greater improvements in those who combine both types of exercises regularly in their weight lifting workouts.
7. Pack your workout with compound exercises. Weight lifting workouts are usually comprised of a variety of exercises intended to target a specific muscle group. The exercises performed are chosen based on the effectiveness of the movements; which is usually an individual choice due to preference. Each workout should include 10 exercises targeting the muscle group being worked on that particular day.
Exercises are may be either isolation or compound movements. Isolation exercises work only one muscle or muscle group. These exercises also only work one joint. Compound exercises, in contrast, work several muscles and groups at once; as well as more than one joint. The benefits of utilizing more compound exercises as opposed to working with more isolation movements are numerous.
Fitness experts recommend directing the majority of your workout towards compound exercises. Compound exercises will burn more calories than isolation movements as they require work from more muscles in your body. The more of your body you are working in one exercise, the more calories will be required to fuel the movements. The compound exercises help provide a full body workout while still targeting the specific muscle group you’re workout is centered on for the day. You will also be able to work out longer and at a higher intensity without tiring as quickly. Longer workouts achieve faster results.
8. Lift free weights. Gyms are packed with weight machines often referred to as circuit trainers. Though the machines do have many benefits, including helping you maintain good form while executing your repetitions, there are significant drawbacks to using them. The machines assume much of the workload required to lift the weights. So your muscles are not working as hard to complete the movement. You will burn fewer calories and build less muscle mass.
Machines are basically only providing isolation exercises. You will work one specific muscle or group and only one joint. These machines do not imitate real world movements in the least. You will not develop the muscle strength to which most people strive. You will only increase the strength for that one particular unrealistic movement. And if you never perform that particular movement in any of your daily life activities, of what use will it be?
Free weights are the best method of weight training. The entire load you lift is placed directly on your shoulders, literally. You will feel every movement and the movements do closely replicate those you perform in ‘real world’ tasks. Because they do, your muscle strength will increase as the movements are more natural to the body. Many of the exercises completed using free weights target multiple muscles and/or groups even just to stabilize your body for proper form. This, of course, means you will burn more calories with each rep you complete. Since you will be strengthening your entire body, you will lower the risk of injury. The strength in the varying muscle groups should be comparable to one another.
9. Vary your exercises. Weight lifting programs usually involve several different workouts targeting the various muscle groups of the body. Each workout includes six to ten different exercises targeting whichever muscle group is scheduled for the day. Though you vary the exercises based on the muscle groups, most people usually stick with the same exercises for each workout week after week.
Instead of using the same exercises to work a particular muscle group, you should vary the exercises. Though the exercises do target a specific muscle, using the same exercise repeatedly can diminish the effectiveness of the movement. You are working the muscle the exact same way repeatedly. Varying the exercises will target the muscle from different angles and with different motions. Your body won’t adapt as readily to a program if you are not always doing the same one. This is part of the principal often called muscle confusion.
10. Varying your workout is just as important as varying your exercises. Again it is important to remember your body adapts to your workouts, usually within a few weeks. Your body will respond to any challenge so you must continually up the ante. This is often referred to in the body building world as the principal of progression. So change up your exercises, the amount of weight you push, the number of sets, the number of reps, and the order in which you work.
Specificity is the idea that you gear your work out towards the goal you are striving to achieve. If you are trying to build size, tailor your workout towards building muscle and bulk. Limit the cardio, but don’t stop it. If you want to reduce your body fat ratio, increase the amount of cardio but still keep up with the weights. If you wanted to see more definition, find the work out that will achieve that goal.
No matter what your goal, you have to constantly challenge your body. Repeating the same workout for months on end will not serve your purpose. You will quickly find yourself at a plateau and probably very bored. Keep increasing and changing your routine so it doesn’t become exactly that, routine.
11. Allow sufficient time to rest your muscles. A dedicated weight lifter may feel any spare time devoted to rest is a waste. Even knowing your body requires rest to restore itself and prepare for the next challenge can sometimes not be enough to keep you from doing a ‘light’ workout. It is important to realize that rest is as essential to building muscle as the exercises are. If you do not rest you will not provide your body with the time it needs to support muscle growth.
The recommended period of time for sufficient restoration of the muscles is 48 hours. Some people believe allowing 24 hours between workouts will be sufficient. Though it can trigger restlessness contending with the downtime from your favorite workouts or the ones you believe are most needed, it is necessary to get the most from each workout. Without enough time to rest, the muscles cannot perform at 100% and will only supply a fraction of the effort you want and need.
12. Adhere to a nutritious diet. This premise is pretty simple. Consider television for a moment. The type of ‘feed’ you have going into your television set determines the variety and quality of picture and channels you receive. If you choose to skimp on your ‘feed’ type and use an antenna, you have limited picture clarity and channel selection. Your output or performance will be limited. But if you employ the use of cable or satellites, a higher quality ‘feed’, you get more of both.
Nutrition is a comparable principle. If you skimp on nutritious foods and choose to go with what whatever is available without regard for quality, well your performance will reflect that. You cannot expect your body to perform at optimal levels without providing it with the best fuel for the job. Your body requires a variety of nutrient dense foods to supply all of the vitamins and minerals it needs. Regularly indulging in fast food and junk food meals will interfere with your fitness goals. Eat well if you want to perform well.
A general nutritious diet should be adhered to in order to achieve the best results from weight training/lifting. If you want your muscles to grow, provide them with the fuel needed to promote growth. Some nutrition experts recommend a diet consisting of 40% proteins and carbohydrates each and 20% healthy fats for weight lifters. Try to stick with whole grain carbs for optimal nutrition without annoying sugar spikes and the less than favorable cravings associated with them. Limit, if you cannot cut out completely, unhealthy fats and junk. And make sure you eat six small meals intermittently throughout the day in lieu of the traditional, but not so healthy, three meals a day.
13. Eat enough protein. Experienced weight lifters understand the important role protein plays in muscle growth. Protein is known in the weight lifting community as the building block of muscle. Your body cannot repair, maintain, and/or grow muscle without protein. Protein also plays an integral role in tissue repair.
During a weightlifting workout, the tissues in the muscle usually tear due to the stress. During your period of rest, protein helps repair the injured muscle. This is also when the muscle usually experiences some growth. Without sufficient amounts of protein in your body, you will not see any muscle growth.
How much protein does your body require? The amount of protein usually varies. Weightlifters, athletes, and body builders require more protein than the average person. Since the bodies of weight lifters suffer more damage than the average person, it takes more protein to repair and grow the muscle. Sports nutritionists usually recommend a maximum of 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. The average person only requires around a gram per body weight per day. Too much protein could potentially cause harm to the body.
14. Always warm up. Many people skip this step believing that the first set of exercises will adequately warm them up. It probably will warm you up but at the expense of your first set or two of exercises. Your body, like a car, doesn’t go from zero to sixty without some warm up time necessary. You will not work at your highest potential until your body is primed.
The warm up allows the fluids to lubricate your joints and the blood to rush nutrients where they are needed. Don’t rush your body into a work out it isn’t ready to begin. You can warm up a variety of ways. You can do a short cardio workout just to get your blood flowing and your heart rate up. Or you could opt to start with a couple of warm up sets. Use light weights and perform twenty reps.
Remember these sets are not about working at your peak. You just want to prepare your body for the work ahead. Concentrate on performing the exercises using proper form. You can do these movements in rapid succession if you are comfortable with doing so. Don’t sacrifice form for speed though. Don’t try to “kill two birds with one stone” by attempting to combine your warm up with your first set. The two should be completely separate of one another. The warm up will provide you with a powerful start making your work out more effective right from the beginning.
15. Push your body. Many people do not get the results they want because they don’t push their bodies hard enough. Your body is capable of much more than even you realize. You won’t know what it can do until you push it to its limits. When you think you cannot do one more repetition, do one more set. The harder you push your body, the faster you will see results. Of course, there is a fine line between pushing to reach overload and pushing to the point of overkill. Always listen to what your body is telling you.