Along with a healthy diet, weight lifting and other strength training activities are the two most important ingredients in creating an effective weight loss program. Adding a cardiovascular (cardio for short) component to your program rounds out the essentials. More on diet and cardio can be found elsewhere on this site.
When weight lifting is mentioned to those who have never participated in it before, their minds typically conjure up images of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Depending on your genetics, some men can get this big and ripped (slang for having lots of lean muscle mass with visible muscle fibers). If that is your goal, find a personal trainer with a body building background. That takes very specific techniques.
For the rest of us men and women, fear not. You won't look like that. You can, however, develop your figure from round and rolling to smooth and fit. Eventually, you will get toned muscles that help you look great at the beach. How far you take it is up to you. But....let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. My goal here is to help you get educated on the weight training aspect of your weight loss fitness program.
You will see me use weight lifting and strength training pretty interchangeably as I write. As we age (and we all do), the condition of our joints may necessitate backing away from lifting weights to using lower impact methods of strength training. As I mentioned on another page, I want to help you make your weight loss program be life-long and adjustable to your age and fitness level.
Lifting weights can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Essentially, weight lifting simply adds resistance to natural human movements. In doing so, the muscles used to perform those movements get stronger. Here's an example....
Let's say you work in an office environment. Most likely, you work in a chair sitting at a desk. You sit down and stand up a several times a day. Each time you do this you work thigh muscles, calf muscles, back muscles, gluteus muscles (your butt) and many others. They stay strong enough for you to do that activity each day.
A strength training exercise that is similar to this normal activity would be squats. Add weight by holding bar bells, dumb bells or maybe wearing a weighted vest. Then we squat down as if we were going to sit (but we don't sit). Hold the position briefly and stand back up. By adding resistance (weight) to the sitting/standing cycle, all the muscles involved get stronger than when just using your body weight.
The effectiveness of the exercise is impacted by the amount of weight you add to the movement, the number of times you repeat the movement (known as reps), how rapidly you perform the movement and how long you rest before doing it again (each group of movements separated by rest is called a set). Together, all the factors are referred to as intensity. Find a normal human movement and there is a corresponding strength training exercise that can be performed.
Now that you have somewhat of an understanding, I want to help you create a basic workout to get you started. When I first started lifting, I didn't really understand the relationships between working all the different muscle groups. Weight training knowledge has grown leaps and bounds since the 1970's (it's been that long).
What we all need to do is to be sure that our major and minor muscle groups all get worked upon. We won't hit them all every day, mind you. But over the course of a week, we need to hit every group at least once. Consistency is key; as is tracking the amount of weight used and number of reps & sets on each exercise.
There are many ways to group weight lifting exercises to create a workout. We can work all of the upper-body muscle groups; lower-body muscle groups; the "pushing" muscles; the "pulling muscles", for example. We can super-set muscle groups. This is when we work a push muscle followed immediately by its pull counterpart; like the biceps (pull) and triceps (push) muscles of the arm. It's good to mix it up over the course of a year to "surprise" your muscles. It also keeps your mind from getting bored. That is the worst thing for a strength training program.
Let's start with a full-body circuit training workout designed to jump start your weight loss program. Circuit training is simply doing one exercise after another with very little rest. It starts to build strength and burn fat right out of the gate. If you start to not feel good during the workout. Stop for the day. It is very likely you may have to work up to this. No matter what, come back the next day and build on the previous day's results. Consistency is key.
The following exercises should be performed in the exact order given:
Dumbbell Lunges - 1 x 15 Reps
Bench Press - 1 x 15 Reps
Leg Curls - 1 x 15 Reps
Military Press - 1 x 15 Reps
Leg Extensions - 1 x 15 Reps
Seated Rows - 1 x 15 Reps
Leg Press - 1 x 15 Reps
Dumbbell Curls - 1 x 15 Reps
Calf Raises - 1 x 15 Reps
Triceps Rope Pushdown - 1 x 15 Reps
Ab Bicycles - 1 x 15 Reps
*See pictures & descriptions of weight lifting exercises
Perform 1 Set 3 days this week. 30 minutes of cardio after the weight training is recommended to further boost
fat loss. Cardio can be anything that keeps your heart rate up. More on my Cardio Page.
Perform 2 Sets 3 days this week. Add 20 minutes of cardio after the weight training
Depending on your level of soreness from the previous week, you can either stick to 2 Sets or move up to 3 Sets 3x this week. Add 20 minutes of cardio after the weight training .
Perform 3 Set 3 days this week. Cardio becomes optional at this point depending on your level of fatigue. Rest becomes more important as work out intensity increases.
Perform 3 or 4 Sets 3 days this week. Cardio is no longer recommended on the days you lift weights. Its better to
incorporate cardio on non-weight training days. Do no more than 1 cardio day in addition to the weight training. Good rest equals good workouts.
Perform 4 Sets 3 days this week. Cardio is no longer recommended on the days you lift weights. Its better to incorporate cardio on non-weight training days. Do no more than 1 cardio day in addition to the weight training. Good rest equals good workouts.
Congratulations!!! You have learned how to lift weights! Don't stop now.....
At this point, you will have gotten a feel for strength training. Time to switch it up and add a new workout to keep your program fresh. I have provided some resources for that on the Weight Workout page. Best of luck and see you on another page.
Do you have a favorite workout? Share it!