EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of us put on some “sympathy weight” when our kids come into the world… but with the craziness of family, jobs, and life that weight has a way of sticking around. Getting yourself back into shape is one of the best investments of time and energy you can give yourself and your family. THE FATHER LIFE is committed to helping you live a healthy lifestyle, so we’ll keep these type or articles coming your way!
At any given moment, there are thousands of people working out in gyms across the country and they can all be categorized in one of three ways: First, there is a small minority of experienced lifters who challenge themselves, training intensely with form and focus. The second is a group of intermediate trainees who have a degree of knowledge, work hard and have made some early progress. In the third and largest group are beginners and usually they are completely lost. They don’t understand the basic techniques, the principles of training, or how to design an effective program. They go haphazardly through the motions, flirt with injury, see minimal improvement and usually drop out. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
The fundamental principles of weight training are simple. Here are the top five that will take you a long way toward becoming lean, strong and fit.
1. FORM AND FUNCTION. You have to understand the movement and the purpose of each exercise. To learn, you can refer to a book or one of many online video demonstrations; forget about the “muscle mags”. The best and most thorough way is to hire an experienced, certified personal trainer to teach you how to lift. With each exercise, make sure you understand exactly which muscles you are training and learn to feel them work.
2. SLOW DOWN. This is related to form but deserves special attention. Throughout the entire exercise, you must be in complete control of the weight. Most trainees perform the movements too quickly. When you swing a heavy weight out of control you increase the risk of injury, but you also allow inertia to do the work instead of fully challenging the muscle.
TEMPO is important. Use a weight that allows you to perform the exercise in a controlled and steady manner. A good norm is to lower the weight to a count of three (3), raise powerfully to a count of one (1) and pause in the contracted position for a one (1) count before lowering again. This can be expressed as a 3.1.1 cadence.
3. COMPOUND EXERCISES. You should be training to develop full-body, functional strength and conditioning. Also, you probably want to burn calories and lose weight. This is done by emphasizing basic, compound exercises. These are the ones that work the body’s largest muscle groups in conjunction with one another.
Primary muscles are the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, back, chest and shoulders. The primary compound exercises are squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rowing and overhead presses. DO NOT waste time doing isolation exercises for biceps, triceps, forearms and the individual small muscles of the shoulder. These are worked adequately as part of the large compound movements.
4. USE THE CORRECT WEIGHT. Beginners use too little weight and then, if they are bold, progress to using weights that are too heavy. The definition of the correct weight is one that challenges you to work VERY HARD on the last repetition of your exercise but allows you to do so in PERFECT FORM. If the weight is too light you will not overload the muscle sufficiently to stimulate growth. If the weight is too heavy you will cheat, swinging and swaying and allowing inertia to do the work for you.
5. EXERCISE PERSISTENCE AND PATIENCE. All good things are earned and take time. PERSISTENCE says that consistency is critical and that you will see real results in about twelve weeks if… you DON’T SKIP WORKOUTS and if you challenge yourself to work hard during every session.
PATIENCE says that you should not switch to a new workout plan every time you see one in a magazine. Give your current routine a chance to work. Patience also says that more is not necessarily better. You need at least forty-eight hours rest between weight workouts and when you are stronger you may need seventy-two hours or more to recover. Get a good night’s sleep and CLEAN UP YOUR DIET, especially if you want to lose weight.
Resistance training is the fastest way to lose weight, change your body shape, increase strength and improve your health. You can do it if you learn to make a sport out of it (or better yet, a game). Take the time to learn proper technique, apply a high degree of vigor to every workout and see just how good you can get.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: HOWARD McGARITY is a “Human Performance Specialist”, Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach who has studied nutrition and exercise science for most of his fifty-six years. He creates online programs for http://www.MyVirtualGym.com as an effective way to help busy people learn the best ways to get permanently lean, strong and healthy. Get the Free e-book, “The Five Fastest Ways to Fitness” at http://www.MyVirtualGym.com.
Images: Nathaniel Dodson