To build muscle, you need to add resistance. To add resistance, you need to apply force. Force is generated when muscles are optimally positioned in the correct alignment. Weight training or resistance training is a critical addition to your fitness routine, but before you pick up a dumbbell, keep reading.
Proper form in lifting weights is extremely important. Correct posture is key in achieving the optimal technique. Since most of us spend the majority of our time hunched over a desk, our core musculature tends to be weak. Very simply put, the core is the center of gravity and the place from where all movement generates. It consists of the abdominal wall, spine, pelvic girdle, hip joint and the muscles attached to these areas. In exercise and in everyday actions, our core musculature provides a bracing mechanism for the body. We need to activate these muscles when performing any type of weight training to ensure we are exercising safely and effectively. To activate your stabilizing mechanism, stand tall with your shoulders back, and draw in your stomach. When standing, make sure your head, neck, shoulder and back are in straight line. You may want to use a mirror to check your posture. Now you’re ready to begin!
You don’t need alot of fancy equipment to start a weight training program. All that is really required are a set of dumbbells or free weights, a mat and a towel. There is no exact science to determine what size weights to use. It’s really dependent on your current fitness level and goals. When starting a weight training program, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Start with a weight that you can comfortably lift and add incrementally as you get stronger. Using a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing maximum exertion, is a good gauge for determining how heavy your weights should be. When lifting, you should be working somewhere between a 6 and a 7. Anything lower than that means you need to add more resistance. Anything higher means that you are working too hard and need to scale back.
Working only a few muscles during each session gives your body time to recover. When applying resistance or force to the body, microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibers. In between sessions, these tears repair themselves and the muscle becomes stronger. For this reason, it’s important to give yourself adequate rest in between sessions. Two to three weight training sessions per week with one to two days of rest is an appropriate guideline for beginners.
The following are some major muscle groups that can be significantly strengthened through weight training: biceps (front of the arm), triceps (back of the arm), deltoid (shoulder), trapezius and rhomboid muscles (located in the upper part of the back), erector spinae (bracing the spine), latissimus dorsi (under your arms), quadriceps (front of the leg) and hamstrings (back of the leg).
No matter which exercises you utimately incorporate into your regimen, “slow and controlled” is the catchphrase. The primary purpose of weight training is not to burn calories (that is what your cardio regimen is for), but to build strength. To accomplish this goal, you will need to perform the muscle and joint through its full range of motion. That can be difficult to do if you are moving too quickly. Also, the momentum can throw your bracing mechanism (or core) out of aligment, leading to serious injury.
Even if you plan to exercise at home, it is strongly advisable for beginners to spend a few sessions with a trained fitness professional. For beginners, having a visual reference for posture and alignment will increase the effectiveness of the workout. A personal trainer can also recommend specific exercises for each muscle group and monitor your form during the workout session.