Read these 28 Weight Lifting Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Muscle Building tips and hundreds of other topics.
When you do weight training, one of your goals should be to get stronger. To do this, you have to increase, over time, the amount of weight you lift. How quickly you progress depends on genetic factors, where you start (beginners progress faster than experienced trainees), and your training technique and frequency. If you go several weeks without being able to progress, you should change your training routine. Overall, a person who progresses more rapidly will not necessarily do better in the long run than someone who progresses more slowly. Progressing too fast can be counterproductive. Work out consistently and progress when the weight you lift for a given exercise is no longer challenging. Add some variety to your workout and you can continue to progress for months, or even years.
You gain muscle by working out and eating more. The basic muscle building protocol is sets of 8-12 reps to fatigue (not failure), with rest between sets of no more than one minute. Concentrate on exercises that work the big muscle groups. Be careful to not overtrain. An intense workout of 45 minutes to an hour is enough. Change some part of your routine every four to six weeks. This can be exercises, sets, reps, or rest. You don't have to change everything. Make sure you get enough sleep. Two to four pounds of quality muscle per month is realistic. This may not seem enough, but another 15 pounds of muscle in six months would be a great achievement. Be patient and consistent.
A home gym may give you all the exercises you need but if you add some dumbbells and/or a barbell you can really be versatile and have more fun. Sometimes machines don't adjust to a comfortable angle for you on a particular exercise, and free weights can fill in for that. Add some free weights and other weight lifting equipment to your home gym and you will have a great strength training setup.
Can you gain 20 pounds, mostly muscle, in two months? Probably not, but it's hard to predict. To do your best, it's important to eat more than you're eating now, maybe 20% more, including overall up to one gram protein per pound of body weight. Eat extra portions, calorie dense foods, healthful fats like olive oil, and lots of juices. Three big meals and two snacks work best for most people, but do what is most acceptable to you. Work out using sets of 8-12 reps with one minute rest. Work your whole body, emphasizing the large muscles, but don't work the same muscle two days in a row. It's very important to get enough rest.
You can do some version of most weight lifting exercises with dumbbells. Dumbbells make sure both arms do their share of the work, so a stronger arm cannot take over for a weaker one, as with some equipment. You can use dumbbells to supplement machine exercises or you can use them for your whole workout. Dumbbells are easier to control than barbells, so may be better for free weight beginners. On the other hand, some bodybuilders have built great physiques with little equipment besides dumbbells and weight benches.
How much space do you need for your weight lifting equipment? Weight benches are compact, and can be used for extra seating when you're not working out. A barbell can be placed out of the way on the floor, but be sure to have enough room when you're working out that you don't poke a hole in the wall. Barbells range from 5 to 7 feet long. Your weight plates can be stacked on the floor or in a rack. There are now stacking dumbbells available, so your dumbbells don't take up more than a couple square feet. Accessories like gloves, wraps, and exercise bands take very little space.
Weight lifting benefits are huge. You can increase strength, build or tone muscle, and raise your metabolic rate so you burn more calories and better manage your weight. You will improve your mood and raise your self-esteem. Weight training has been shown to strengthen your bones and may improve insulin sensitivity. You will have more energy for everyday activities, and improve your sports performance.
To get stronger, and lift heavier weights, you should work in a range of three to eight repetitions per set. To get stronger in the bench press, for instance, do several sets of five or six reps to fatigue but not failure, with about three minutes between sets. You may want to do some assistance exercises for shoulders or triceps, but do those after your benches.
Straps are usually made of nylon or another fairly strong flexible material (see picture). They are put around the wrists and then wrapped around a barbell, dumbbell, or other bar to aid in gripping on heavy lifts. Essentially they make up for a lack of grip strength, therefore I don't recommend them unless you are doing extremely heavy Olympic style lifts or are very advanced and your grip strength is limiting you on an exercise. Doing exercises without straps will build your grip strength, therefore do them without unless absolutely necessary.
The preacher bench is used primarily for isolating the biceps muscle using a bar or dumbbells. The arm portion of the bench is triangular shaped when viewed from the side, and it either has an adjustable seat or can be used standing. Either side of the bench typically has a rack of some type to hold the barbell.
You should plan which weight lifting workout you are going to do on a given day and get your equipment ready before you start. Don't do weight training for the same muscle group two days in a row. You should work each muscle group at least once during the week. You can work your whole body two or three times a week, or work out more often as long as you work different muscles, like doing legs one day and upper body the next. You don't have to spend a lot of time on weight lifting if you choose a few good exercises.
Weight lifting is more important for older people, although they are less likely to be doing it. Weight training helps improve strength, balance, and bone density--all problems as we get older. Some people have to do weight training to get strong enough for an aerobic program. Weights lifted and exercises used have to be adjusted to the individual. Women can gain many benefits from weight training. The exercises and routines are not too different from those used by men, but women may want to emphasize different muscles.
The hack squat machine is used to work quads and hamstrings. The foot platform is typically at an angle with the exerciser positioned on the machine at an angle, with pads resting on their shoulders in addition to a padded back and head support. The weights are placed on either side on bars extending from the machine.
For circuit training, choose 8-10 exercises and set up your free weights or other equipment. Do 30 sec of one exercise, 30 sec of walking in place, jump rope, or exercise bike; then 30 sec on the next exercise and 30 sec aerobic, and so on. Circuits don't give you as much strength as regular weight training or as much aerobic fitness as aerobic workouts, but it gives you some of each. This training is good for variety or when you are short of time.
The Smith machine consists of a barbell on an upright track which enables a person to do many exercises such as bench press, squat, etc., in a safe and controlled manner, reduces need for spotting. However, it also has a fixed range of movement and therefore should not be used exclusively, or repetitive injury may occur.
It's unlikely that any weight gain will be 100% muscle, but if you've been lifting weights and haven't changed your eating habits, you can be confident your weight gain is mostly muscle. Even if you've been eating a little more, you probably won't gain much fat unless you've added a lot of high fat junk food.
The power cage is used with barbells, typically for squats, military press, pull-ups, knee raises for abs. Typically it has four upright posts with cross bars running between the four posts connecting the respective corners. These cages will have adjustable racks to place the barbell on, and also will probably have an adjustable bar on each side which can be used to limit range of motion, provide safety, and a place to set the bar down at different heights.
The barbell is a weight lifting staple. You can start out learning with just the bar, and then add resistance in the form of weight plates that fit on the ends of the bar, and come in many different weights. For some exercises you need a rack to hold the bar. Many weight benches come with bench press racks. Squats require a rack, but you can do many other exercises, such as curls and deadlifts, with just the bar. There's nothing like barbells if you want to build a high degree of strength.
Gloves are used to protect the hands and aid in gripping the bars and dumbbells when training with weights. Gloves range from very basic to ones with wrist wraps and more cushioning for the hands. You can easily get a quality pair of lifting gloves that will last for 15-20 dollars. One word of caution, if you want tough calloused hands, do not use gloves.
If you want a streamlined weight lifting workout, here are some examples of free weight exercises for different muscle groups.
Legs: dumbbell lunge or squat.
Chest: bench press.
Back: dumbbell rows.
Shoulders: military press or lateral raises.
These exercises will give you a good full-body workout, and there are dozens more,as well as variations of these, to choose from. You can learn from a book, a video, a friend, or a trainer (who you could hire for a few sessions).
Your essential weight lifting equipment is the weights (dumbbells and barbells), but there are a number of low-cost accessories that can make your workouts more comfortable and effective. Weight benches are highly recommended. Then you can get weight lifting gloves to protect your hands, straps to aid your grip, or a lifting belt to protect your back. You also need a mat for stretching after your workout.
To start with dumbbells, you should have more than one set, or some adjustable dumbbells where you can change the weight. You need lighter dumbbells for smaller muscles, and heavier ones for large muscles. Typically starting weights for women would be five or eight pounds for biceps, five for triceps, ten for one-arm rows (for back), and eight for bench presses. For squats or lunges, you could start with five pounds, but will be up to ten soon. Men will use heavier weights. You should choose a weight that makes your muscle tired after 12 repetitions, but be ready to move to something heavier when that gets easy.
There's a controversy about which is better, machines or free weights. The answer is, they're both good. Machines are safe, easy to use, and often let you use heavier weight. Weight lifting with free weights has the stength and muscle building or toning benefits of machines, but also includes balance and coordination training, which is minimal with most machines, as well as better sports conditioning.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|