Weight training is an excellent way to develop muscle endurance and strength, burn calories and condition for outdoor activities. So many different exercises can be done with weight training, it can fit almost anyone's needs.
A Word of Caution
Weight training places a demand on the heart. Especially if you are middle-aged or older, you should check with your doctor, health specialist or certified personal trainer before beginning a weight-training program. For individuals with heart problems or high blood pressure, check with your doctor in case you have specific limitations.
The Myth of Converting Fat to Muscle
Muscle and fat are different tissues, and fat does not convert to muscle through weight training or any other form of exercise. Muscles do burn calories, however, even when at rest, and when calories are burned in excess of the calories consumed, body fat is reduced. You may not lose weight from weight training alone (because muscle is denser than fat), but you can lose inches and redistribute weight as your muscles grow and become more toned. Alternate days of weight training with aerobics to quickly tone your muscles and reduce body fat.
Toning and Bulk
Everyone's metabolism and body type differ, so individual results from weight training will also differ. Generally, lifting light weights and doing many repetitions (15-20) will tone your body and increase muscle endurance. Lifting heavy weights with only a few repetitions (6-8) will increase muscle strength and bulk. So if the sports or outdoor activities you do require primarily muscle endurance rather than strength, begin with lighter weights and more repetitions. For the average person, the desire is to gain both muscle endurance and muscle strength.
Pain versus Gain
"No pain, no gain"? Not true. In the beginning stages of training you may feel a little stiff or sore, but this discomfort should dissipate within a week or two. If you're really in pain, reduce your weights and begin more slowly. If you try to lift too much with sore muscles, you may injure yourself and have to take more time off. To prevent injury and reduce soreness, start with weights you know are light and slowly increase each session. You can always add more weight in your next session.
Lifting weights will help you get stronger, get into shape, firm up, prepare for sports, or recover from an injury. And it's one of the best ways to help prevent osteoporosis. Weight training doesn't have to produce bulky muscle. Most women don't, because they have smaller amounts of testosterone, which results in less muscle mass than men. You can tailor your weight program to fit your personal goals.
Improper weight training may damage a child's bones and stunt growth and development. If your child wants to lift weights, we recommend that you consult an athletic trainer or your doctor for advice. With a proper program, weight training will help children gain strength, good habits and a strong self-image.
For seniors, weight training is crucial. Most degenerative processes associated with aging can be significantly delayed, and in some cases reversed, by means of a strength program. All seniors who weight train should have their doctor's approval. If continuous movement and breathing are emphasized during the exercises then there should not be any adverse affect on blood pressure. Consult with your physician or personal trainer for a safe and appropriate program.
Types of Programs
There are many variables in weight training-load, repetitions, sets, circuits and minutes of rest between sets. We recommend talking to a qualified fitness trainer who can help you choose a program suited to your fitness goals and interests. If you start your own program, make sure you choose exercises that work the large muscle groups of the body, exercise opposite muscle groups and exercise the largest muscles first and the smaller muscles last.
Don't Skip the Warm-Up
Doing some light calisthenics or aerobic type exercises, riding a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes, then doing some muscle-specific stretches, is important before starting any weight-lifting session. The warm-up will increase your heart rate and body temperature, making your muscles more efficient and less prone to injury.
Unless you're a serious athlete, two or three weight-training workouts a week probably is plenty, especially if you're combining weight training with aerobics or another sport. You shouldn't weight train two days in a row unless you exercise different muscle groups on succeeding days.