Weight lifting is one of my favorite gym activities. While I will use certain machines, I especially like to use free weights. I think that everyone should do some kind of weight lifting (as long as their doctor says it's okay) to maintain strength, muscle tone, body movement capabilities and to fire up your metabolism. Studies have shown that even eighty-year-olds who start lifting light weights for the first time in their lives can see benefits.
I had the privilege of working out with a very good personal trainer through my gym, 24 Hour Fitness, when I lived in Colorado last year. Here are some of the things I learned that can keep you from making these common weight lifting mistakes:
1. Doing the same workout over and over--there's a reason why there are a variety of weight machines and free weights. Getting stuck in a rut doing the same exercises, or using the same machines over and over will yield less results. Plus, it's boring. You need to change your workout up at least every 4-6 weeks!
2. Raising and lowering weights too fast--how many times have you pumped your iron to the tempo of a favorite fast song that started playing in the gym or on your iPod? How many times have you seen someone tear through a set of reps in the blink of an eye? You need to go s-l-o-w, and you need to hold for a moment. You'd be surprised how much harder you work just by going slower and holding the rep a moment. You may even need to lower the size weight you use until you get used to this.
3. Not varying the number of reps and/or weight--another way to change up your weight workout is to do many reps with light weights or fewer reps with heavier weights. This way your muscles do not get used to a particular method. It also helps when you personally want to work out, but you are not as energetic on a particular day, or you are feeling great and feel like you can do anything. You can match your reps and weight to your ambition.
4. Failing to plan an exercise sequence--my trainer had me alternating exercises, so that I would get extra calorie burning. For example, after doing one set of a bicep exercise, I would do crunches, or a shoulder weight exercise, and then go back to the next set of the bicep exercise.
Another strategy was to do alternate sets of two or three types of exercises for the same muscle to really work it to fatigue. For example, a traditional bicep curl, a hammer curl and then a concentration curl. Sequencing of exercises can make a huge difference!
5. Not using a personal trainer--I thought that I knew it all when it came to my workouts as I read all the popular women's fitness magazines (Muscle & Fitness Hers is my personal favorite as it's more serious and focused on weight lifting, yet geared towards women), and had been working out pretty faithfully for years. The truth was I did not know it all, and learned a lot.
Personal training is not cheap, and you need someone who is a good match for your personality and abilities, but with the right match you can accomplish a great deal and its well worth the money. You don't have to always work out with a trainer, but even doing a multi-session package once a year can be beneficial to fine tune what you are doing.
Lastly, and this is especially true of guys at the gym. You don't have to grunt and groan with every rep or throw down your weights after every set. We know you're lifting a lot and are there. No need to constantly make your presence known :)
--Melanie R. Jordan, Author of Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too! Available 24/7 at http://www.HealthyEatingCoach.com
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