Weight training is an incredibly efficient type of exercise, particularly when it comes to developing strength and muscle as you will only lose fat rather than lose both fat and muscle – which occurs when your routine solely revolves around aerobics.
The amount of calories burnt through weight training also tends to be greater as this type of exercise leads to a phenomenon called Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) – more commonly called the afterburn effect. This means your metabolism will stay elevated after you have stopped exercising to help the muscles to repair their fibres.
Before you begin and start enjoying these great benefits, there are a few things you need to know to optimise your weight training plan.
Know your goal
Weight training can be undertaken in different ways to tie in with your objectives. Therefore, you need to take your goals into consideration when it comes to developing a weight training plan.
If your goal is purely to build strength, you need to train near the maximum amount of force your body can produce. This means doing a low amount of reps with heavy weights. If your objective is more about increasing muscle size, you need to do more reps with slightly lighter weights. If you are striving for endurance, you need even lighter weights and add more reps.
Whatever your goal, you can choose between full-body workouts or upper and lower body splits.
Splitting your sessions can be highly beneficial to your routine, especially if you are not an advanced weightlifter as it is easier to burn out and get injured while doing full-body workouts. These splits also allow you to train your muscles with enough frequency while stimulating a lot of muscle mass.
Whichever splits you use, make sure you work on all opposing muscle groups to avoid strength imbalances. This is not only valid for the right and left side of the body, but also the front and back. For instance, do an exercise that targets the back of your body for every exercise that works the equivalent part of the front of your body (for instance triceps for biceps, or hamstrings for quadriceps).
Know your equipment
There is a choice of equipment for weight training, whether it is free weights, fixed machines, cable machines and resistance bands. You can pick the equipment that suits you depending on your goals:
- Free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls require that you stabilise yourself and the weight throughout the entire exercise, which is great to improve your core and stabilising muscles while working out.
- Fixed machines limit your movements to a predetermined path, which reduces the need for the body to stabilise while performing the exercise and therefore help isolating certain muscles. These are also great for beginners to maintain the correct form while exercising.
- Cables and resistance bands provide constant tension to the muscles being worked, and are great to exercise otherwise hard-to-reach muscles since the resistant force can be horizontal or diagonal rather than just straight up and down.
Ease into it
Everyone’s strength levels are different, and you need to start small to find yours in order to avoid injury. The higher the weight, the higher your risk of injury – so pick up small weights and gradually increase the load as you build your strength and confidence.
As you pick up heavier weights, you can assess the right resistance for you. If you are doing 10 reps, the last two reps should be tough and you should feel like you couldn’t physically do anymore. If you feel like you could do more, you need to increase the weights or number of reps until it is enough to exhaust your muscles. You should never need momentum to lift the right weights, and you should be able to maintain good form throughout.