Whether you’re trying to rehabilitate an injury, build your bone density, lose weight, or increase your functional strength, weight training should be an essential component of your exercise routine. If you’re just starting out, consider checking with your physician, especially if you have any medical concerns, and then get started.
You’ll want to start slow. Begin performing one or two exercises for each body part and start with two sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise. Once you’ve gotten the feel for the different exercises for various body parts, and after developing some joint strength to help reduce the risk of injury, begin to increase your intensity and exercise volume.
If you’re looking for muscle endurance, perform each exercise for 12 to 15 repetitions per set. If it’s muscle strength or size you’re looking for, shoot for eight to 12 reps per set. Anywhere from three to four sets of each exercise should work.
Now that you have an idea of what your workout volume should be, let’s talk about what exercises you should perform. A good weight-training program should include exercises for all major muscle groups: back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs and legs.
For your back, perform scapular retraction exercises like rows. Any rowing exercise develops the muscles between the shoulder blades and helps improve your posture. Also for your back, do pulldowns or machine assisted pull-ups to develop scapular depression strength in your lats.
Finally, make sure you exercise your lower back. Back extensions performed on a 45-degree bench with little or no weight can go a long way toward preventing lower back injuries.
To work out your chest, execute both incline bench and flat bench presses. Always begin light and make sure you’re well warmed up to prevent shoulder injuries. Cable crosses and machine flies are also good exercises for your chest.
When exercising your shoulders, be careful with shoulder presses. Many people have some problems with their shoulders that make shoulder presses more difficult. Begin with little weight and increase gradually, paying close attention to your form. Also perform shoulder raises to the front, side and rear. These will help assure that you develop strength in all ranges of motion for the shoulder.
For your biceps, perform both palm up curls and palm facing curls. Use barbells, dumbbells, or cable machines for these exercises.
Your triceps can be exercised by doing pressdowns, kickbacks or overhead extensions. Dumbbells and cables work best for triceps. Try changing your hand position anywhere from palm down to palm facing up to emphasize different areas of your triceps.
A beginning abdominal workout should contain single or double leg lifts, crunches and oblique crunches. Only a small range of motion is necessary and you should take care not to irritate your lower back, especially if you have a history of back problems. Also, abs can take higher volume training so work them out frequently.
Finally, you’ll need several exercises for your legs. Compound exercises like squats, leg presses and lunges should come at the beginning of your leg workout. These exercises work several different leg muscles at once and need to be done when you have the most energy.
Finish your leg workout by doing isolation exercises like extensions for your quads, curls for your hamstrings, adductors for your inner thighs and calf raises for your calves.
If you’re unsure how to perform any of these exercises or if you need further program design, help is available. Seek out a trained and certified fitness professional to make sure you get the right advice.
Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. Direct questions about the information or exercises in this column to him at 505.662.5232.