Weight training: what you need to know to improve your body, build muscle and enhance your health

Weight training is now a popular activity. Men and women do it for fitness, using the force of gravity in opposition to that generated by the muscle.

There are four methods currently advocated: constance resistance, isometric, isokinetic and variable resistance, being the first, the most common.

Weight training improves strenght, that is well known, but there is still dispute on which methods are the best for achieving improvements in strength, endurance and power performance.

Some well known benefits are:

Improvements in cardiovascular measurements can be seen with this activity as reported by C.M Reid and etal in the British Journal of Sports and Medicine.

If you maintain a heart rate of aproximately 70% of the maximum rate, for at least 20 minutes, 3 times/week over an 8 week period you will see the improvement by yourself.

Cellular alterations occur with this exercise, which may result in an improvement in the oxidative capacity of the muscle. When this happens, the local muscle mass grows, then VO2 max also increases and lean weight is higher too. A notorious thing as well, is the loss of body fat.

What you see is that weight training, can increase your metabolism because the muscle burns more calories, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn all day long and most of this calories will be from fat.

This type of exercise can also strengthen bones, especially important for women.

Weight training also increases muscle strength and muscle endurance helping you to avoid injuries and improves coordination and balance. Finally, but not the least, with a good looking body, you will increase your confidence and self-esteem for sure.

Cardiovascular training and some of its benefits

How to burn fat efficiently

Weight training equipment

Guidelines

The American College of Sports and Medicine makes the following recommendations for Resistance Training Exercise(1995)

8 to 10 (max. 12) repetitions help to train the major muscle groups.

Workouts should not be too long, 20-30 min. is a good time.

A set of more than 8-12 repetitions may produce greater strength gains but the additional improvement is relatively small.

Is best to perform exercises at least 2 days per week, more is not recommended (improvement is small).

Adhere as closely to the specific exercise techniques.

Perform exercises through a full range of motion but don't elicit pain or discomfort.

Perform exercises in a controlled manner.

Maintain a normal breathing pattern.

If possible, exercise with a training partner, you can get feedback, assistance and motivation.

Healthy Adults (ACSM 2002)

Perform both concentric and eccentric muscle actions.

Both single and multiple joint exercises (without forcing the joint).

Exercise sequence:

+ Large before small muscle group exercises.

+ Multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises.

+ Higher intensity before lower intensity exercises.

When weight training at a specific resistance mode load:

2-10% increase in load.

One to two repetitions over the desired number.

Training frequency:

2-3 days per week for novice and intermediate training.

4-5 days per week for advanced training.

Novice training

A maximum of 8-12 repetitions.

Intermediate to advanced training

1-12 repetitions in periods. Make at least 3 minutes of rest between sets with moderate contraction velocity (1-2 seconds concentric, 1-2 seconds eccentric).

Power training

Two general loading strategies:

1) Strength training

Use of light loads with fast contraction velocity, 2-3 min of rest between sets for multiple sets per exercise.

Here you must emphasize multiple-joint exercises especially those involving the total body.

2) Local muscular endurance training

Use light to moderate loads with high repetitions (> 15) and short resting periods (< 90 s).

Muscles

Some observations on proceedings

Some observations for the practice of this activity were published by T. Reilly in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1978, though they are still applicable. I made a summary here:

Weight lifting is a heavy resistance weight bearing action demanding high explosive power and the ability to hold great loads momentarily under control.

The maximal efforts are employed against extreme resistances specially causing stress on the articuloskeletal system, being the reason to use correct techniques to minimize strain at body sites of vulnerability like: knees, back and wrist.

Avoid injuries during workouts, learning how to perform adequately

Breathing must not be suspended during the moment of extreme exertion. With the breath held and the epiglotis closed, the chest is compressed and intrathoracic pressure rises.

The Valsalva manouvre (holding your breath for a while) operates, resulting in reduced venous return to the heart and consequent rapid drop in blood pressure with possible loss of conciousness.

Conventional weight training exercises. What to take care of.

Risks demonstrated in a sample of typical exercises:

Arm and shoulder work.

1) Bench press.- 40 kg can lacerate the facial bones from half a metre's fall. Don't take the bar to close to high near the throat. Fill your chest with air then push the weight vertically. Exhale during weight ascension, inhale during its descent.

2) Overhead press.- Inflate chest to make it act as a platform while you press vertically from your chest or behind the neck until arms are fully extended.

3) Rowing.- It may produce lordosis (an abnormal curve at the lumbar or cervical region). Untrained persons tend to get more erect with succeeding repetitions in bent forward rowing. Use a mirror or exerting pressure lightly on the upper back.

4) Overarm pulls.- Don't use heavy loads during a weight training exercise like this. A mild flexion of the arms is recommended to reduce strain on the shoulder joint. Correct timing of breathing (inhale while weight descends).

5) Curls.- Performed with barbells or with one or two dumb-bells. Elbow flexion is implicated in this exercise. Care is needed with heavy loads to avoid lordosis.

Weight training during exercise with large muscle groups

1) Sit ups (trunk curls).- In the early stages o training permitting mild flexion at the knees will avoid straining the hip extensors.

2) Squats.- Many authors have criticised this weight training exercise because it is seen to cause knee joint degeneration (in the patellar bursae). Foam rubber or a towel can be used to alleviate pressure on the vertical vertebrae from a loaded barbell.

3) Power cleans.- Attention to technique is needed in the initial lifting movement. Lifting with the back straight prevents the spine being turned into a cantilever with subsequent spinal strain. Adequate head position is required. Keep the weight close to the body while being lifted.

4) High pulls.- Involve basically similar gross muscular action to the power clean. Work output can be increased in rising on to the toes to complete the lift, demanding additional coordination.

5) Squat jumps.- Good coordination is essential to avoid overbalancing on landing after jumping with loaded barbell supported on the shoulders. A cushion underneath the bar helps to reduce jarring.

6) Bench step ups.- Resistance additional to body weight is provided by a weighted barbell on the shoulders. The bench height should be compatible with the stature of the person, otherwise a quadriceps tear is a risk.

Alternative resistance training methods

Alternative resistance training methods

ISOMETRICS

Body segments or external objects provide resistance like the isometric racks.

Isometric rack




Isometric training effects may not appreciably assist dinamic performance. Also, there is compression of the vascular bed with occlusion of blood supply to the muscles under tension with a result of higher blood pressure which makes this exercise unsuitable for sedentary individuals.



ISOKINETICS, ANOTHER WEIGHT TRAINING METHOD

Describes the form of exercise permitted with machinery with the facility to adapt resistance to the force applied. This type of method is found superior than isometric regimes and is good for typical progressive programmes.

Isokinetic weight training

The use of heavy weights in weight training in its form of resistance training demands correct teaching of lifting techniques. Most injuries occur when heavy weights are lifted and most are back injuries when spinal flexion is permitted.

Special care should be given to young athletes to prevent undue over exertion in lifting.

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