When people think about exercise some people forget about lifting weights. They think about running, walking, biking etc. Lifting weights is the most important exercise you can do for your body. If you only have time to do one or the other meaning cardio or lift – lift!
Let’s refer to it as strength training from now on. This is because building muscle doesn’t mean just lifting a barbell. Exercises such as push ups count as well. Exercises that are included in strength training are lifting free weights such as barbells or dumbbells, weight machines, water exercises, or using your own body weight such as calisthenics.
What are the benefits of strength training? For weight loss purposes building muscle equals fat loss. It is that simple. The more muscle you have the more fat you can burn. This is not only when you are exercising but it is fat you will burn all the time, 24 hours a day! If you decrease your fat percentage in your body you will have more muscle to burn fat all the time.
Strength training also helps to strengthen your bones to help prevent osteoporosis. Even if you already have osteoporosis you should continue to exercise and build strength under the care of your doctor. Other benefits include, reducing your risk of diabetes, arthritis, back pain and depression.
How do I get started? There are many different ways to get started with strength training. If you are new to this kind of exercise the best choice would be to join a gym. There are so many different gyms out there today to fit different lifestyles. Again if you are new, join a gym that provides a free personal training session. A personal trainer will teach you the correct way to lift the free weights and use the machines. They will also teach you what muscles you are using with each exercise. This is very important because if you lift incorrectly you could not only hurt yourself but could neglect using the muscle that you are trying to work.
Another option is that if you have a friend who has experience lifting weights ask them to teach you how to use the exercise equipment. If that is not an option then it is up to you to read up about the correct way to lift. This is not to deter you from trying this it is to help you get started the right way so that you don’t hurt yourself and are able to continue building muscle for life!
How do I lift weights? When you are lifting go slow. It is recommended that you lift a weight for the count of 4 and then lower it for a count of 2. You should be able to lift the weight at least 8 times and no more than 12. You can still have benefits if you go outside that range. But if you can lift a weight more than 12 times in a row, increase the weight for more benefits. Again don’t feel tied down to the rules. The biggest rule is that you tire the muscle. This builds muscle. If one repetition tires your muscle or if 25 repetitions tires the muscle you are still building. For a while my husband and I worked a program where we just lifted a heavy weight once and held it for about 10 seconds. Don’t do this however without a partner to spot you.
How many sets should I do? Repetitions are how many times you lift a weight. This is what we just talked about in the last paragraph. Sets are how many times you perform the repetitions. For example, I may perform 8 bicep curls before my muscle becomes tired. I then rest for a minute or two and do it one more time. I just performed 2 sets. A study that I read a while back said that you only need to do one set of a specific exercise to gain muscle as long as you tire the muscle. You can do more but the muscle you gain from the extra sets are low. We all lead busy lives. If you only have time to perform one set of an exercise, great! Do 2-3 sets if you do have time. It will increase muscle a bit and burn more calories.
To convince yourself further read the pages titled Exercise and Exercise to Prevent Weight Gain. These pages explain more in depth the benefits of building muscle. There is no other option if you want to lose weight and support your body. Because we naturally lose muscle as we age we naturally burn less calories. Therefore to lose weight we have to eat less and less. Who wants to do that! Build your muscle, burn more calories and enjoy life!