Saturday, April 10, 2010

How to Lift Weights

For many people, the very idea of lifting weights is intimidating. If you’re afraid to step up to a dumbbell because you think someone will expect you to oil up your skin and grunt like bull moose, you may be one of those people.

But don’t give up just yet. The health benefits of strength training are simply too important to miss. And with a bit of up-front guidance, you’ll find that weight lifting is surprisingly straightforward. In time, it can become just as comfortable as any other workout.

First, you need a solid set of running shoes, a basic set of weights (or membership in a fitness club that has them), and a bit of self-confidence. Next, you need to understand the sort of exercises you’ll do—mostly compound exercises that work muscles throughout your body. Finally, you should study the following sections, which explain the basic principles of successful strength training. Best of all, there’s no grunting required.

Aim for the point of exhaustion
Proper strength training works only if you challenge your muscles—in other words, when you lift a weight that’s not easy to lift. Beginners sometimes make the mistake of opting for lighter weights and longer workouts. This sort of workout may boost muscle endurance, but it won’t cause the microscopic tears that spur muscle growth. Of course, choosing a weight that’s too heavy is even worse, because it can cause injury. So how do you choose the right weight? The answer lies in understanding the 8/14 rule.

Every strength-training exercise involves repeating the same action several times in a row. This is called a set. Ideally, you repeat the exercise 8 to 14 times. The right weight is one that’s light enough for you to lift comfortably and stay in control, but heavy enough that you’re completely tapped out by the last repetition. This lets you work your muscles to the point of exhaustion.

Use good form
The secret to getting a good workout with weights is being fanatical about good form. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a championship weight lifter with the body mass of a middle-aged rhinoceros or a computer genius who hasn’t left his home office in years, the rule is the same. Lift weights sloppily and you’re more likely to cause an injury. But concentrate on carefully directed motion, and your muscles will get the maximum benefit in the minimum amount of time.

The key is control. If you find that you’re beginning to lose control over the weights you’re lifting—dropping them instead of lowering them slowly— you’re lifting too much. You should be able to raise and lower your weights at the same speed for each repetition, including the last one.

This rule isn’t just a safeguard against injury. It’s also a practical guideline that helps you get the most from your workouts. When you lower a weight, your muscle performs an eccentric contraction, which means it produces force as it lengthens. (When you lift a weight, your muscle performs a concentric contraction, exerting force as it shortens, or contracts.) Modernday exercise science suggests that eccentric contractions cause more of the microscopic muscle tearing that stimulates muscle growth.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when you approach an exercise:

• Relax. Concentrate on slow, efficient movement. Never swing a weight or use momentum to lift it. Lowering a weight should take more time than lifting it.

• Breathe. Exhale when you lift or push the weight, and inhale as you’re bringing it back to your starting position. Don’t hold your breath during an exercise.

• Stand up straight. Pay attention to your posture, keep your balance, and hold in your abdominal muscles.

• Pain is not OK. Not even if you like it. If you find that raising or lowering a weight past a certain point causes pain, don’t push it that far (or choose a different exercise). You should perform each exercise through the greatest range of motion you can achieve without pain.

• Listen to your body. At first, you’ll lift less weight than you might expect. Conversely, as you become stronger, you’ll need to increase the weight to maintain the same level of difficulty. Otherwise, your muscles will have a picnic.

• If you’re not sure, get help. The best option is to have an experienced professional show you how to do an exercise—for example, a personal trainer at a fitness club. If you can’t do that, search for an instructional video from a reputable fitness website that shows how to do an exercise.

Always warm up
Don’t go in cold. Warming up is essential before any type of exercise to prepare your muscles and prevent you from hurting yourself. A good weightlifting warm-up starts with 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise (for example, running in place, jumping up and down, and trying not to look ridiculous). It’s also a good idea to do a warm-up set before you start each individual exercise. For your warm-up, perform the same exercise but with a much lighter weight (or no weight at all).

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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