Become fearless with weight training!
It is a universally known fact that women tend to avoid the weight room or lifting heavy for fear of bulking up. This concern is completely unjustified because women only produce one-tenth of the testosterone that men produce and building large muscles like a bodybuilder requires intense muscular training and a specialised diet.
So ladies, if your goal is to achieve a toned, sculpted look, adding resistance training to your routine is an important factor. Weight training is an extremely beneficial form of resistance exercise that can play a huge role in body (and mind) transformations.
Not only will weight training help you build strength and lean muscle but it can also greatly increase your confidence and sense of empowerment. By strengthening your body and mind, weight training will have you feeling positively fit and fearless in no time!
What is weight training?
Weight training is a type of resistance/strength training used to develop muscle size and strength. It does this by placing stress on the muscles, causing them to adapt and get stronger. Weight training uses the force of gravity in the form of dumbbells, barbells, racks and machines to create resistance by opposing the force generated by muscles through concentric and eccentric contractions.
There are two forms of muscle contractions:
- Isometric contractions – the muscle doesn’t lengthen e.g. pushing against a wall.
- Isotonic contractions – the muscle shortens (concentric) and lengthens (eccentric).
The success of weight training falls on a combination of factors called FITT.
- Frequency — how often you train
- Intensity — how hard you train
- Time — the length of your workout session
- Type — which exercises you use
Types of weight training exercises
There is a large number of exercises that target a variety of muscles and muscle groups. These exercises can be completed with a range of equipment such as free weights, machines, racks, bodyweight-only, resistance bands, TRX and more.
There are two types of weight-training exercises:
- Compound exercises – involve more than one joint and muscle group e.g. squat, deadlift, push-up, lunge and lat pull-down
- Isolation exercises – includes only one joint and isolated target muscle group e.g. bicep curls, leg extension, tricep extension, deltoid raise.
So, the different exercises can be classified according to the type of exercise (isolation or compound), target muscles, equipment type or fitness goal.
The benefits of weight training
There are so many amazing benefits of weight training. These advantages are mental and physical, which are both equally as important.
- Transforms physique
- Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury
- The Afterburn – weight training allows for a higher caloric expenditure after a workout than one from a moderate aerobic session of the same training period. Meaning that you will be burning more calories while being sedentary
- Metabolic function: building muscle increases your overall metabolism especially while resting and for longer periods after a weight training session.
- Improved mobility, flexibility and balance
- Decreased risk of injury
- Better sleep.
- Improved posture
- Increased bone density
- Enhanced performance of everyday tasks.
- Increases muscular endurance
- Improved memory and mental focus
The importance of correct form
When it comes to exercise, quality is more important than quantity. Using the correct form when working out is critical and for multiple reasons:
1. Prevents injury – one of the most important reasons to maintain proper form during weight lifting exercises is to avoid injury. When you are lifting heavy weights with incorrect form, this can cause your body to become misaligned, placing stress on your tendons, muscles and joints can potentially cause strains or large tears.
2. Ensure correct muscle targeting – proper form also guarantees that you target the right muscles. For example, if you are swaying your whole body when completing a bicep curl, the chances are that you are working more of your core and shoulder girdles than your actual bicep muscle.
3. Assists with proper breathing techniques – using the right form helps to ensure proper breathing techniques during reps and sets. This is vital for weight training exercises because it helps you to generate more force and allows you to take in an adequate amount of oxygen so that you can focus on the exercise at hand.
4. Stops you from wasting energy – Improper form causes your body to use up unnecessary energy to make up for weight being moved by a less efficient range of motion. You can reserve your energy and increase your efficiency by focusing on completing each rep with the correct form.
5. Allows you to get the most out of each exercise – completing exercises with correct form ensures that you utilise the full potential of your body. This will make sure that your body is stressed properly so that it can adapt and strengthen in the most efficient way possible.
It’s important to remember to take things slow when adopting newexercises/forms of training into your routine. If you are a beginner, you should expect to devote some time to learning the proper form of each exercise. Experienced individuals can also benefit from form feedback as it can sometimes be hard to see whether your form is correct. Try training in front of a mirror (most gyms will have these placed around the workout areas) or training with a buddy and ask them to alert you to any potential form issues.
How to choose your weights
Along with using the correct form, choosing the appropriate weight to lift is extremely important. Whether you’re lifting to build muscle, get stronger, lean out or increase flexibility, selecting the correct weights for your goals is essential to your success.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all. The solution will be different depending on the situation. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you pick the correct weight to suit your objectives:
Listen to your body
It all depends on your experience level. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been lifting weights for years, it’s always important to progress gradually so that you can ensure proper form. You can always check in with your body by analysing your form. If you find that you are straining, swinging your body unnecessarily or feeling pain, then you should consider lowering the weight you use. On the other hand, if your form is perfect but you don’t feel your muscles working, then you might want to increase it. But, remember that maintaining proper form should always be your main priority!
Determine your target reps and sets:
The amount of weight you use relies on how many repetitions and sets you intend to complete. The weights you use should make you workfor those last few reps. Naturally, you’ll need to use a heavier weight for 8 repetitions than you will for 12 of the same exercise.
Pain is a no-no
Never lift an amount of weight that causes you pain. It’s better to lift too little than too much as your body slowly gets used to weight training. The rule of thumb is to lower the weight if you have to sway your body in order to lift it (e.g. as in bicep curls), you feel as though you are straining or if you start to feel pain. It’s always better to lift lighter with proper form than to lift heavy with poor form. Instead, work on gradually working your way up to the heavier weights safely and efficiently.
Each exercise is different
The weight you use should coincide to the strength and ability of the muscles you’re working. Typically, lower body muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes etc.) are much stronger than upper body muscles. Therefore, you’ll need to lift more weight on a lower-body exercise than you do on an upper-body exercise to get the same physical effect. The same can be said for larger muscle groups vs smaller muscle groups. For example, you may find that you can use more weight for a dumbbell chest press than you can for a dumbbell front deltoid raise.
Consider the type of weight
There is a wide range of different weight forms and equipment that you can use to perform an exercise i.e. dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, racks, sandbags, machines etc. Each form will determine how heavy you can go for any given exercise.
You may find that you need to go lighter with more functional, unstable weights such as sandbags. This is because the sand will shift as you move it around, causing your muscles to work a harder to keep you balanced. Similarly, free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells etc.) require that you use more stabiliser muscles in order to control the weight being used and depending on your exercise position (standing or seated) you may need to go a bit lighter when using free-weights vs fixed machines.
With that said, you may feel that because you can lift heavier with machines that they are the superior weight form, but this is not necessarily the case. In most cases, free weights activate more muscles than that of machines and therefore are essentially better for building muscle in the long-run.
If you’re stuck between weight levels
Gyms have certain weight progressions and unfortunately, these are not always suited to each individual. So, say your gym has 7,5 kg and 10 kg dumbbells, but the 7,5 kgs are too light and the 10 kgs are too heavy to complete the prescribed amount of reps. Complete half the rep count (or what you can manage using proper form) with the heavier weight then scale back down to the lighter weight for the remaining reps. Eventually, you will be able to do all the reps with that heavier weight.
The same goes for sets. If you find that you can only complete 2 sets with the heavier weight but your goal is to do 4, then complete the 1st two with the heavier weight and scale back down to lighter weight for the remaining sets.
A Final Note
Finding the appropriate weight for you may take some trial and error. You might have to try out a few different weights to find a fit, but it’s worth experimenting to learn what works best for you and the success of your goals. Explore different weights to see which give you the most suitable level of difficulty.
Recognise that “heavy” or “light” can mean something completely different to you than it does to someone else. Don’t be concerned with what weight others are lifting, only focus on what feels right to you! Choose weights that challenge your muscles without compromising your form.
Remember to take things slow and listen to the way your body feels – “Slow and steady wins the race”.
Are you ready to start weight training?
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