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Have You Been Lifting Weights? Should You?

Published on April 30, 2013 by in Fitness

What comes to mind when you think of strength workouts? Dudes clanging around weights in the Hulk section of the gym? Well, it certainly could be that type of workout, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several ways we can work on strengthening our bodies.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends working on strength at least twice a week – I agree. Strength exercises are beneficial for the obvious reason of building muscle (lean or bulk), but working on strength may also improve joint health, bone health, and overall body stabilization which can improve function and health in many areas of life (work, walking, and performing other sport or fitness activities).

 

Even with the known benefits of strength training that is taught to us and promoted by government agencies, health teachers in school, fitness magazines, and Internet sites, still many fear strength routines due to misconceptions. “Lifting weights will make me bulky,” or “I want to lose weight, not gain weight,” are a couple of misguided statements that reflect the way some view strength training. Training to improve muscle strength is not just for bodybuilders looking to build biceps as big as bowling balls and legs the size of small children. Strength training, which is in no way limited to weightlifting (i.e. push ups, pull ups, resistance bands, resistance machines, etc.), is an important part of fitness for men and women of all ages that can fulfill a wide range of goals relating to health and body composition.

 

To put myths to rest, strength training will not make you bulky – unless you want it to. Someone following a bodybuilding workout plan and eating a very large amount of calories can and will add bulk. On the other hand, someone that uses a combination of strength training exercises 2 or 3 times per week using relatively low-load weights, resistance tools, and bodyweight exercises with high repetitions will build strength and muscle tone without massive muscle gains. There are several other ways to go about strength training as well. Different styles of different resistance exercises produce different results. If you are someone that is missing strength training from your routine, try starting with a 20 or 30 minute circuit training session next time you go to the gym.

There are several ways that circuit training can be applied, but a general rule is to switch between muscle groups with each successive exercise in the circuit. Beyond that a circuit can involve a total body routine or focus on one area of the body. You might do an upper body circuit one day and a lower body circuit another day, for example. Another way to do it would be to focus on chest, shoulders, and triceps one day; on another workout day focus on back and biceps; for another workout day focus on legs and abs.

 

A way to do a total body circuit might look like this:

Push-ups (upper body)

Squats (lower body)

Crunches (abs)

Military Shoulder Press (upper body)

Leg Extensions (lower body)

Continue a sequence of working different muscles with different exercises

 

An upper body routine might look like this:

Push-ups (chest)

Pull-ups (back)

Dips (chest and triceps)

Rows (back)

Continue a sequence of working different muscles with different exercises

 

A way to not do a circuit might look like this:

Push-ups (chest)

Bench Press (chest)

Incline Press (chest)

Chest Fly (chest)

(Working the same muscle repeatedly without rest may be counterproductive)

 

Remember, this model applies to circuit training methods. Other weightlifting routines might involve working the same muscle groups with periods of rest in between. A bonus of the circuit training element is that it brings an elevated heart rate from the little or no rest between exercises. In this case we should switch between muscle groups or specific muscles to allow specific muscles to rest. So you are giving your chest a break while working your back, for example, but the body is continually moving allowing for heart to pump, muscles to work, sweat to break, and calories to burn.

 
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