Strength training, or weight training, means doing exercises that build muscle strength. To build muscle you can lift free weights, use weight machines, use resistance bands, use your own bodyweight (such as push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups), or use a variety of other equipment. Proper strength training makes muscles stronger by asking them to do more than usual. The body responds to this challenge by becoming stronger. Strength training must be done gradually and carefully, but can be done at any age.
Strength training helps you keep and even increase the range of movement in your joints. It strengthens bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and improves your fitness and health. It can help prevent injuries and speed up your recovery when injuries do occur. It also improves your ability to do everyday chores and activities.
Strength training has many more benefits including:
How often you should train depends on your overall health and is different from person to person. Most people can make excellent progress lifting 2 to 4 days per week for only 20 to 40 minutes per workout.
There are many exercises to choose from. Try to select a good balance of exercises so that you are doing exercises for your upper body, lower body, and abdominal muscles.
You can use either free weights or weight machines.
Rep: Rep is short for a repetition. A rep means that you have completed the range of motion once for an exercise. For example, doing 1 pull-up would be 1 rep.
Set: A set is the number of reps of a particular exercise that you should do before resting or moving to another exercise. For example, if a workout calls for 3 sets of 10 reps of bench press with 3 minutes of rest in between sets, you would bench press the bar 10 times, then rest for 3 minutes before doing another set of 10. (Rest times can range from no time between sets to 5 to 10 minutes between sets.)
One rep max (1RM): 1RM is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a given exercise for only one rep.
How you design your training program depends on your goal. If you want to become lean and lose body fat, you train differently than if you want to build your muscle size.
To become lean and lose body fat:
Strength training can really help you lose weight, because after a strength training workout your body burns calories at a faster rate for up to 24 hours. So, you are still helping your body lose weight hours after your workout. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you eat. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not eating enough protein. You need to eat fewer calories that come from sugar or carbohydrates, but make sure that you continue to eat enough of protein. Protein helps you build lean muscle.
One good way to weight train for fat loss is to do circuit training. In circuit training, you move quickly from one exercise to the next with little or no rest between sets. Because you are not taking a rest between sets, do not try to lift a lot of weight during each set (use a weight that is 40% to 60% of your 1RM for each exercise). So, for example, if your 1RM for leg curls is 100 pounds, then you should use 40 to 60 pounds for each set. Do 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. Rest no more than 90 seconds between sets.
Women do not need to worry that lifting weights will make them gain weight and get bulky. Since muscle takes up much less space than fat does, women who weight lift will start to notice their clothes fit more loosely. Also women are less likely to gain muscle size compared to men who lift weights because women have much lower (nearly 20 times) testosterone levels then men. Testosterone helps muscle growth.
To gain muscle size:
If your goal is to gain muscle size, then nutrition is very important. To build bigger muscles you need to eat more calories than you burn. You want to make sure you gain quality weight (lean body muscle) by eating enough quality protein (such as lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts) and doing a proper training program, otherwise you will just gain fat.
To gain muscle size, you need to increase the amount of weight you lift from one workout to the next. Try to train in the 4 to 8 rep range per set using a weight that is between 60% to 80% of your 1RM for a given exercise. So if your 1RM for bench press is 200 pounds, you should lift between 120 and 160 pounds for each set. Do 3 to 5 sets and rest about 1 to 3 minutes between sets.
There are many types of training programs. Ask a certified strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer to design a program that will work for you.
Before starting any strength training program, talk to your healthcare provider. You should also make sure to: