Weight training is an acquired skill. It requires education, focus, determination, patience and sweat. It is also a very rewarding and healthy practise when done in an intelligent, methodical and consistent fashion.
Weight training can also be costly and dangerous to a beginner. The following tips will assist you in making the right choices and help you avoid making the costly mistakes that many fellow gym regulars will make in their time at the gym.
1. Train to become the best lifting technician possible
Always ensure you develop correct technique for each and every exercise and every repetition. This is to ensure that you actually benefit from the exercise and what it is aiming to achieve. This will also help you avoid being plagued by injury. Proper alignment, optimal posture and pelvic positioning are essential components of correct technique and need to be learnt. All too often ego gets in the way of technique and the body pays a hefty price in injuries as a result.
2. Learn how to activate your core properly.
Correct core activation through a combination lifting of the pelvic floor, tightening of the gluteus muscles and abdominals and correct breathing will ensure that the lower back is protected by forming a block and creating intra-abdominal pressure. As the weight increases so should the level of activation. If you are unable to keep your core activated during a heavy lift then reduce the weight (which may be a little tough on your ego) until you can do so-or book in to see your chiropractor early.
2. Weight train no more than 2-3 times per week.
As a beginner you body needs to adjust to a new workload. This period called anatomical adaptation of approximately 4-6weeks will allow the body to strengthen its ligaments and tendons first and allow the practise of core activation. Less is definitely more. If you are working hard, no more than 2-3 sessions per week can really get the job done.
3. Avoid explosive lifting
Why? Are you a competitive athlete needing this to enhance your performance-if not forget it! If you are working through a periodized strength training program with a cycle for power and you have mastered a very good base level of strength then this may be not such a big issue. For most people who do not have this base level of strength or have not mastered the technique involved with explosive lifting, then give this one a miss if you want to train injury free for a lifetime. There are always those people that can do this, but remember they are a minority. Explosive lifting places undue strain, stress, shearing and loading through the joints. If you decide you still want to go ahead then spend some time mastering the lifts with a good trainer.
4. Eat 5-6 nutrient dense meals a day, preferably organic, and drink plenty of water
You need to fuel the machine properly if you want to see gains in size, strength and recovery.
5. Forget about magic pills, powders and supplements
Spend your money on good organic, nutrient dense food rather than the next magic potion.
Most supplements are full of sugars (anything that ends in “ose”) caffeine and an amalgamation of colours, flavours, preservatives and thus chemicals. So choose wisely. Supplementation is more about convenience rather than eating well (thus the meaning of the word supplement, which really means instead of, in this case supplementing a protein powder for a proper meal).
The latest scientific data however does suggest that resistance trained individuals may require as much as 1.2 to 1.76 grams per kilogram per day of protein for muscle mass increase. Supplementation with protein only and both protein and carbohydrate ingested immediately prior to and after exercise may be of value to bring about maximal increases in muscle mass when performing weight bearing exercises. This is due to the supplementation altering the acute hormone response to favour protein synthesis after a session. So if you want to get “massive” or need to accelerate recovery supplementation may be of assistance in the right amounts.
6. Avoid these exercises like the plague
Most machines exercises in general including Lat pull down behind the neck, bench press to the neck, stiff legged deadlifts off high blocks, just about smith machine anything, most machine hack squats, very heavy 45 degree leg press, hip abduction machines or doing super wide chins. For most people or for those who are into heavy resistance training, these exercises are known as body wreckers and should be avoided.
Most machines take the joints in a linear or translatory motion. This means a fixed path which takes the joint through a range of motion that is not natural. This causes a translatory force across the joints resulting in additional shearing to joint surfaces. Because no joint in the body is completely round or flat, all human joint motion is curvilinear. When choosing to move in a linear fashion as most exercises do, it will always take a compound movement of two or more joints and is best performed with body weight and free weights or cables that do not restrict the path of movement. This allows small shifts of the joints as they work within their natural curvilinear surfaces.
7. Do a few things well rather than many things badly.
Limit the amount of exercises to any workout to a maximum of 6 and even that is pushing it. A program doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.
8. Make sure your program has a balance of body parts.
All too often resistance trainers work only what they see in the mirror. This mentality will cause poor postural alignment, joint instability and injury. Programs need to be well rounded to be effective. Both upper and lower body parts needs to be worked and both front and back.
9. Check your ego at the door.
Don’t let your ego guide you while you’re lifting, or it will guide you to a chiropractor.
10. Keep a training log.
How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?
11. Get plenty of sleep.
Rest more than you think. If you are in doubt, rest more. Recovery is as vital part of your program as is the lifting itself. This way you will do as much quality work as possible whilst being fresh as possible. Don’t workout, especially the same muscles when you are sore. Train don’t drain.
12. Be patient, perseverant and persistent.
Base your training on the long term rather than the short term. Avoid the temptation to go too full on too quickly or you risk burning out, hitting a plateau or suffering an injury. Small increases add up to big gains over time.
13. Ensure that you hold the neutral spine position whilst performing most, if not all exercises.
Your lower back should never be rounded whilst doing bent over rows, deadlifts, squats, presses, benches. Lumbar vertebra injuries such as prolapsed or herniated discs are caused this way.
14. Belts, knee straps, tight lifting suits and expensive joggers are not needed.
They are nothing but aids to demonstrate strength, not build it. Don’t buy into the belief that they prevent injury, because they don’t. If you need to wear weight a belt around your torso, it should tell you something about excessive arching of your back or your lack of core activation. Unless you are a power lifter or competitive lifter then what are you doing it for?
In relation to footwear and gloves-The human body has a number of reflexes around the body that serve to protect it from injury, such as the extensor reflex in your legs and in your arms. By covering them up you send your body the wrong signals and affect the body’s ability to stabilise correctly. If there is a chunk of foam between your foot and the ground or your hand and the weight respectively what signals are your brain and body getting? Having a heel as those found in expensive joggers shifts the centre of gravity forward which increases stress on the knee, changes the position of the spine and range of motion in the neck and shoulders. Get rid of them in the weight training room unless you really require them or have Achilles/ heel problems. All you need to look at are body builders and power lifters to see what they wear-bare feet or a basic firm shoe such as converse all stars.
15. Forget about gadgets, gizmos and the latest fitness toys.
The real magic is adding weight to the bar little by little over time. Some exercises are great in theory but are rarely done well on the gym floor. Let’s take the Swiss ball ab curl, which the researchers have proven to have a superior training effect on the external trunk musculature such as the rectus abdominus (6 pack). Most of the times I see this exercise performed on a Swiss ball, the exerciser does not have sufficiently good technique to be gaining any significant benefit whatsoever. Many gym goers see trainers taking their clients through particular exercises, or read the latest health magazine and then try and copy the exercises without having any idea of alignment, core activation, and correct muscle recruitment and so on.
16. Focus on basic compound exercises.
There are some exercises in relation to strength training that have been constants in the regimen of strength trainers for a very long time. Any exercises that require you to support your body weight,
require you to move your torso through space and those that are multi joint exercises (compound) are best. These exercises are better options over isolation exercises and those exercises where your body is lying down, seated or supported. Forget isolation unless you are focussing on the aesthetic. Your body does not work in isolation. The joint stabilisation and muscle synchronicity that develop from these large compound movements all contribute to being a better athlete, getting a better workout and burning more calories.
16. Use a range of motion in your exercises suitable to your flexibility and structure without any exaggeration.
Don’t perform exercises with exaggerations in the stretch position that will again lead you down the path of injury.
17. If you are having a bad day, pack it in.
If you feel stiff or an old injury is flaring up, you have a cold, or you’re too tired or stressed-go home. Your world is not going to stop turning because you missed a workout. You may save yourself from an injury or falling into a bigger rut or hitting another plateau. Stress levels, lack of sleep and poor diet all have an effect on your ability to train well. Listen to your body and train don’t drain.
18. Get a good trainer for these reasons
You get much quicker results – Working with a qualified fitness trainer is your proven fast track to success. A trainer’s expertise, clear focus, and targeted resources will get you to your goals at maximum speed.
It’s much more effective and efficient – You don’t waste your precious time, energy, and other resources doing what doesn’t work. You do what works for YOU, you do it consistently, and you reach your goals much faster.
You get solid, consistent, unwavering support – As you may know, not everyone in life always has your best interest at heart. But your trainer’s only goal is your total success.
You join the winners! – The widespread use of personal trainers by successful people in all walks of life is the strongest testament to the difference a good fitness trainer will make in your life.
You’re way ahead of those who try to “go it alone” – Many people will be “penny wise and pound foolish” by trying to do it all by themselves. As a result, the success that could quickly have been theirs may come slowly—or not at all. Why put yourself through that and the possibility of serious injury?
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