Last month we talked about exercising smarter instead of longer aerobically by using interval training techniques. You can apply the same technique to weightlifting and calisthenics.
This is an exercise routine for the masses; not for those who want to get massive! Weight training was originally called progressive resistance weight training which means that you slowly increase the weights as your muscles get stronger and stronger. A great analogy I read once was about this woman who lived in a village in the hills. One day she adopted a baby pig and decided to carry it with her everywhere she went. As a suckling, the pig only weighed a few pounds and she could easily carry it up the hill. As it grew slowly over time, so did her strength and eventually she was carrying a full grown pig up that same hill. Because the load had slowly increased over time and not all at once, her body adapted to the load. She would never have been able to lift an adult pig if she had not slowly trained to do it.
When I was 15 and lifting weights in my neighbor’s basement, I made all kinds of stupid mistakes. After over 35 years in the gym I can say I’ve made just about every stupid mistake you can make weightlifting and still live to tell about it. A common mistake is trying to lift too much weight too fast and you get injured. You can feel strong the first time you exercise with weights but end up overtraining and then you are too sore to move for a week after. That usually puts an end to any further weight workouts! The key is to underachieve with weightlifting and not try to progress too fast. It is really about feeling the muscles contract and not about how much weight you are moving. By slowly increasing that resistance, over time, you will get stronger, have more bone mass and more energy.
A beginner is anyone who has not exercised with weights in the past 2 months. It doesn’t matter what you did back in high school or college but what you did last week or last month. If I lay off of training for a month I start back with this exercise routine myself. You should only work each body part 1-2 times a week at the most. By body part we are talking about a muscle or groups of muscles like the delts, pecs, biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, erectors, etc. Pick an exercise for the muscle you want to train, use a very light weight and try to do 50 repetitions. We are only trying to get the muscles to contract and build tone and not train for the World’s Strongest Man contest. The hardest part about weight training is creating that "mind to muscle" connection that makes the muscle fully contract. Using high reps helps to build that connection. I recommend you start with just one exercise per body part and train only 2-3 body parts per workout session. If you can do 50 reps then slightly increase the weight next workout. If you can’t do at least 35 reps, you started with a weight that is too heavy so next time use a lighter weight.
Dumbbell curls, overhead presses, one arm rows, triceps kick backs, squats, wall slides, leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, dumbbell bench press, bent over rear delt raises, etc are all examples of exercises to do with minimal equipment at home. There are plenty of books out there to give you examples of different exercises to do to strengthen different parts of the body and explain the proper way to do an exercise Bill Pearl’s, Keys to the Inner Universe is a great encyclopedia of exercises. If you have access to a gym or Rec Center you can also do the same, one set of 50 reps, routine on the machines. Just start with a light weight on the machine and work your way up. On some machines, the lightest weight may be too heavy for you to push out 50 reps. Just do the best you can and try to increase your reps each time you work out until you get 50 reps or switch to dumbbells and increase your strength there first. Women generally have stronger legs and a weaker upper body so the deltoid machine or overhead press may be too difficult even with one plate. This is when it would be better to grab two light dumbbells and do dumbbell presses instead.
After you have been training for several months, you can add a second set of heavier weights but this time do only 6-12 reps. So first warm up doing 1 set of 50 with light weights and then do a set of 6-12 with heavier weights. Increase the weight used when you can do 50 reps or 12 reps. For example, if you can curl 10 pounds for 50 reps and 30 pounds for 9 reps, the next time you do curls, increase the light weight to 12.5 pounds but leave the heavy weight the same. When you can curl the 30 pounds for 12 reps then increase it to 35 pounds, etc. You should keep your rest between the two sets to a minimum to keep the intensity high. You can now go to two or three exercises per body part but don’t go over three. You lose intensity and overtrain that body part. You should also be changing up the exercises you do every few weeks at the least and some suggest every workout. This makes it less likely for the muscles to adapt and you get more out of the exercise. This means you have to learn a half a dozen different ways to work a muscle to keep the muscles confused so you need to read books like Bill Pearl’s mentioned above or work with a trainer.
If you feel like you want more of an advanced program consult the bodybuilding magazines. Tons of books are available but I especially like Dorian Yates program. Good luck and happy dieting!
Calisthenics are exercises done using only your body weight and are very effective. They can also be too much for people with weak bodies. One push-up can be a lot harder than pressing 10 pound dumbbells while lying on your back. But, for those strong enough to do them they are a convenient way to exercise no matter where you are. You can combine calisthenics and interval training by doing them for time instead of reps. For example: do push-ups for 10 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Repeat this 4-8 times and you get a pretty good workout in. Increase your workout time to 20 seconds and your rest to 10 seconds as you get in better shape. You can combine different exercises to create a good workout that takes 10 minutes to do. Let’s say you do push-ups for 20 seconds and rest 10 seconds. Then sit-ups for 20 seconds and rest 10 seconds followed by squat-thrusts for 20 seconds and rest for ten seconds. Lastly, do jumping jacks for 20 seconds and rest for ten seconds. Repeat the above 4 exercises four more times for a total of 5 sets in 10 minutes and you are done. You will have gotten your heart rate up and worked your muscles at the same time. If this seems too hard to figure out on your own, you can go to www.quatrofitness.com and look at some of their programs but it really is pretty easy to create your own program.
If you really have resolved to live a healthier life this year I would recommend you read Paul Chek’s book, How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. I’ve mentioned the book before and I still think it has a lot of good information about how to take charge of your own health through exercise and eating the right foods for your body.
Gloria and I are taking a quick trip to Cancun for 3 days to get some beach time in. I will only be out of the office Monday March 5th but back in the office Tuesday morning the 6th. I need my sun, sea and sand fix! Remember, Spring is only 3 weeks away!