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The basics of Weight Training

Most people who work out tend to favor one form of exercise over another. Some prefer serious cardio training. Others rely on weight training. But no matter your exercise and fitness goals, you can always benefit from some type of weight training.

It is safe to say that people who are just working toward general fitness may shy away from weight training for a variety of reasons. Some do not have a good understanding of what weight training involves. Others may avoid weight training because they do not want to bulk up too much. 

The truth about weight training is that it can be made to fit your fitness priorities. Whether you want serious muscle or just want to get into shape, weight training can be an integral part of your workout. 

What exactly is weight training? What does weight training involve? What are the benefits of weight training? And how do you make weight training work best for you? This guide will give you the basics of weight training. 

What is weight training?

Put simply, weight training is any form of exercise that uses weighted objects as a form of resistance primarily to build muscle tissue or improve muscle strength. Weighted objects include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and weight machines. 

The purpose of weight training is to apply measured amounts of stress and exertion to muscle systems so that the process of muscle regeneration leads to more muscle and more strength. This process involves small microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. As muscle cells work to repair and rebuild these microscopic tears, they rely on muscle protein synthesis which necessarily leads to more muscle tissue.   

Weight training works with the basic functions of muscles and muscle groups. Muscles operate with two types of contractions. These are: 

Isometric contractions: the muscle does not lengthen. An example would be when a muscle pushes against an object that offers resistance. 

Isotonic contractions: the muscle shortens and lengthens. The shortening phase is called concentric and the lengthening phase is called eccentric. An example would be a curl in which the muscle shortens as you pull the weight toward you and lengthens as you allow the weight to pull away from you. These eccentric contractions are what primarily leads to sore muscles. 

Joint movements are equally crucial to weight training. These include:

Flexion: This is a decrease in the angle of a joint. An example is the upward movement of an arm curl as the angle of the arm decreases as you move upward. 

Extension: This is the opposite of flexion in which you decrease the angle of a joint by extending it. 

Abduction: This is when you move the body part away from the middle of your body toward the side as when you raise a leg out to the side of your body. 

Adduction: This is when you bring a part of the body toward your center. 

Weight training generally focuses on one group of muscles at a time. Your arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, buttocks, and abdomen are all parts of different muscle groups. There are a variety of weight training methods that will allow you to focus on the various muscle groups in specific ways. 

These include: 

Methods that allow you to work for all muscle groups in one session like HIIT (High-intensity interval training), and CrossFit. 

Split methods: These allow you to focus on one muscle group for a workout and another group in the following workout. Examples include the upper body followed by the lower body. 

Focus on one specific muscle group. Major lifts like squats, bench press, deadlift, and snatch are designed to build one specific muscle group, usually for a particular athletic goal. 

Benefits of weight training

Build strength

The first and most obvious benefit of weight training is building muscle strength. It is a simple fact that the best way to build muscle and increase muscle strength is by weight training. There are numerous ways to go about weight training. You do not need to "pump iron" to do weight training. If you are looking to increase your strength, weight training is the best and most effective way to do this. 

Burns fat

Weight training burns fat and fast. The intensity of exertion that weight training entails burns fat faster than most other forms of exercise. What is more, that burn that comes with weight training means your body is still burning fat even after you have finished working out. 

Improves mental health

Research has shown that a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training improves mental health. One study showed weight training can decrease the symptoms of depression. 

Prevent injury

Building muscle and improving skeletal muscle health prevents injuries. This is particularly important as we get older. We are less likely to suffer common injuries when our bodies are strong and stable. 

Improve endurance

This may not be obvious to people who are mainly interested in the cardio benefits of aerobic training but increasing your weight training builds endurance. Weight training can be an important part of any athletic program. 

Builds confidence

By increasing strength, toning your body, and simply getting the lift from a solid workout you build confidence. Weight training will make you feel better about yourself. 

What to do before weight training

Warm-up

Always make sure you warm-up. Going into weight training cold is a recipe for injury. Stretch all muscle groups. Do a short run, cycle, or 5-10 minutes on an elliptical machine to get your body warmed up. 

Focus on intensity

It may sound counter-intuitive, but weight training means pushing the muscles until they fail. There is good muscle failure and bad muscle failure. What you are after is to push your muscles to their limit. It is always best to work with a trainer on this. 

Save snacks for post-workout

You may feel hungry part of the way through a workout. Save this for when you are finished when your body will need the calories and glycogen to begin healing muscles to allow building muscles. 

Breathe

Take regular breaths before and throughout your workout. Do not allow yourself to start an exhausting breath. 

How much weight is best?

At the heart of weight training is the process of doing multiple repetitions (reps) in groups of three sets of one exercise. If you are new to weight training, and you anticipate doing a ten-minute program that includes three sets of ten reps. This is pretty standard. 

To determine how much eight you should use, begin with the following: 

Choose a weight that allows you to do your first set of ten reps with only moderate difficulty. As you approach the last rep you should be straining but not struggling. 

Rest for about 30 seconds but no more than a minute. 

By the tenths rep of the third set, you should be struggling to pull that last rep. If you get to the last lift with no real difficulty, increase the weight for your workout. If you cannot do the last rep, decrease accordingly. 

Weight training is progressive. As you work with an appropriate weight you will begin to go through your sets with little difficulty. That is the time to increase the weight. Increase weight in small increments, usually five pounds at a time.

Types of weight training exercises

Part of the beauty of weight training is that technology has made it possible for there to be numerous varieties of weight training. Advances in sports science and the equipment available have led to highly specialized forms of weight training. There is almost certainly a form of weight training to suit your needs. 

Some basic types of weight training follow: 

No equipment

Yes, you can do weight training with no equipment. This simply involves using your body weight as an object of resistance. No-equipment weight training consists of tried and true exercises like pushups, squats, and lunges. 

Resistance bands

This is another way of doing weight training without heavy equipment. Resistance bands offer the resistance of an object with flexible bands. 

Dumbbells

These are free weights that come in specific weights and sizes. Starting at 3 pounds, dumbbells allow you to use weights without getting involved in complicated weights. Dumbbells have been around for decades and are highly effective. 

Machines

Weight machines have also been around for a long time. Most people join a gym to use weight machines since they are quite expensive. However, there are some fine-weight machines available for the home. 

Kettlebells

These are similar to dumbbells in terms of how they are used. There are, however, some specific weight training programs made for kettlebells. 

Weight training is safe and highly effective. If you are new to weight training, you should begin with a qualified trainer. This makes sense for at least two reasons. A good trainer will know how to set up a weight training program that is best for your fitness goals. Also, a qualified trainer can guide you through weight training in the best ways to avoid injuries. 

Supplements for weight training

There are a few fairly standard supplements for weight training. Each has its advantages, and each will work to accomplish certain goals. Below are some of the most common weight training supplements. 

Creatine

This is naturally produced in the body to provide energy for muscles and other tissues. When you supplement with creatine you make more energy available to the muscles. This is great for upping your training. With creatine supplements, you can increase creatine levels in the body by as much as 40 percent. This promotes workout performance and translates into more muscle. 

Protein supplements

Muscles are proteins. It stands to reason that feeding your body protein gives it what it needs to make more muscle. Protein supplements make more protein available to your metabolism for muscle protein synthesis. This is the physiological process of building muscle. 

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, consist of three important amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are found in a variety of foods, but they can be supplemented. Taking BCAA supplements has been clinically proven to increase muscle gains. 

Beta-alanine

this has been shown to reduce muscle fatigue from weight training. By reducing fatigue, you can increase performance. All of this converts into muscle gain. 

NF Sports provides a full range of supplements that will improve performance, help you reduce fatigue, and increase muscle and strength. Creatine supplements, protein, beta-alanine, and BCAAs are all available from NF Sports. All products in the NF Sports line are backed by science and proven to be effective in increasing performance and helping you gain muscle and strength. 

Conclusion

There is no need to be intimidated by weight training. The science and technology of fitness and exercise have advanced a long way since the days of simply pumping iron. You can still certainly use the established methods of barbells and free weights. But there are so many more options now. 

Whether you are simply trying to get in shape or you need to put on some serious muscle for athletic reasons, weight training provides the benefits that work. Weight training is a great way to burn fat and get fit. It is also the most effective way to build muscle. 

You can choose to stick with things like kettlebells to tighten and firm up your body. Or you can use a method of weight training that increases muscle for serious strength training. No matter how you approach weight training, it is a highly effective way of getting healthy and staying physically fit. 

It always makes sense to begin weight training with a qualified trainer. They can help you plan and implement a program that will achieve your fitness goals. They can also help you avoid injuries and setbacks in your training program. 

When you are ready to up your training and begin adding supplements to your program, NF Sports has the right supplements to build muscle, reduce fatigue, and help you build strength. 

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