Pursuing strength training the right way includes proper form, the right amount of weight, and realistic expectations. Training with weights is a great way to build muscle, get stronger, and define your muscles, but if it is done incorrectly not only will you not get the desired results, but you could also injure yourself.
There are many reasons to strength train. You may want to get in overall better shape or you may be training for something specific like a bodybuilding competition. Your goals will dictate your training as well as other aspects such as your nutrition regimen and cardio workouts.
Define Your Goals
As with any fitness program, setting specific goals will help keep you motivated and will help you put together a plan. If you want to get stronger, decide how you will measure your progress. If you want to tone up, take measurements before you start your strength training program and continue to take them throughout your regimen.
If you are more serious about strength training and are doing it for a show, such as a bodybuilding show, your goals will be loftier than someone lifting weights for personal reasons. You should do your homework and speak with professionals in order to put together a training plan, as your program will be affecting everything in your life.
Make sure to write your goals down. This makes them more real and will keep you accountable. Visit your goals regularly to see how well you are staying on track. You may find that you need to adjust your schedule along the way.
Scheduling is a big part of strength training correctly. A schedule will keep you on course and will keep you focused. Many newcomers to strength training make the mistake of doing too much too fast. In the strength-training world, less is more, according to the Muscle and Strength website.
Your strength-training sessions should only last between 30 and 60 minutes each time and you should only train each muscle group once each week, with the exception of your calves and abdominals, as these muscles recover faster. For each muscle group you really only need to perform three to four exercises during a workout session.
Make sure to rest in between sets and in between each exercise. Take about 60 to 90 seconds in between sets and two to three minutes in between exercises.
Use Proper Form
Once you have a schedule set up it is important to use proper form when strength training. If you are new to lifting weights, you should schedule an appointment with a trainer at your gym or do some Internet research if you are planning on lifting at home.
Incorrect technique can result in a couple of things. Not lifting correctly may mean that you are just wasting your time, as you won’t be actually doing anything to strengthen the muscles on which you are focusing.
The worst-case scenario is that incorrect lifting form can result in injury. The Mayo Clinic says that incorrect technique can result in fractures, strains, sprains, and other painful injuries.
Learn how to properly lift each weight for the muscle groups that you are working. Also make sure that you are lifting each body part so that you are balanced. If you lift your front leg muscles such as your thighs you also need to lift your hamstrings or else the imbalance can lead to injury.
If you know how to lift correctly but you feel like you are losing form while training, one reason may be that you are lifting too heavy of a weight. Go down one weight class and see if you are able to maintain the proper form, or decrease the number of reps that you are doing with the heavier weight.
Proper form also includes picking up your weights and returning them to the racks. Bend at the knees and keep your back straight so that you don’t pull the muscles in your lower back. You should never lock your joints, such as your elbows or knees, as this can lead to joint injury.
Use the Correct Weights
The amount of weight that you use needs to be appropriate as well. If it is too light you won’t get the benefit and if it is too heavy you won’t be able to maintain the proper form or do very many reps to reach your goal.
You should be able to lift the weight fairly comfortably for 12 to 15 reps, with a bit of a struggle during the last few reps. As that weight becomes easy you can move up to the next weight amount. Bally’s Fitness says that you should never increase the weight by more than 10% of your previous weight.
A strength-training routine is a great thing to add to your workout regimen. It is a great way to meet many of your fitness goals. However, if you do not train the right way you may find yourself injured or wasting your time.