The subject of weight training could warrant a whole website of its own due to the amount of information that can be written about it so it would be impossible to go into great detail here.
Weight training is the movement of muscles, either in their contraction when the muscle shortens, or in elongation where the muscle lengthens against gravity using resistance.
An example of shortening the muscle is the bicep curl. When you ‘curl’ the bar, the bicep muscle contracts and shortens as you lift the bar and by adding weight to the bar, you move against gravity and ‘stress’ the bicep muscle. This will break the small fibres that make up the muscle which then repair themselves after a short while. The principle behind weight training is that each time the muscle repairs itself, it is slightly stronger than it was before.
The opposite movement when elongating the muscle, would be holding a heavy barbell at the top of the curl and lowering it slowly. This time the bicep muscle is trying to slow down the barbell from falling and elongates as the arms straighten.
Weight training comes in many forms and uses many different types of equipment. These include, barbells, dumbbells, pulley machines, stack machines and specialist machines such as leg presses but can also utilise the weight of the human body in the case of pull ups and chin ups. Whatever type of weight training you choose to adopt, it is vitally important that you complete the exercise with good form and not to cheat, which transfers the work from the muscle you are supposed to be training, to another which you are not.
A good example of cheating is when doing barbell curls. It seems to be a status thing in gyms where people get judged on how much weight they can curl on a barbell, as most people recognise the bicep as ‘the’ muscle to gauge somebody’s strength. You will often see people curling a barbell that is too heavy for them. Good form when performing barbell curls is to keep the back straight and fully extend the arms at the bottom of the curl and fully contract the bicep at the top of the curl. Cheating occurs when the trainer ‘swings’ the heavy barbell up into the curl and bends their back which transfer the work to the back (which can also result in injury!).
Whichever exercise you are performing, always use good form, otherwise you are wasting your time.
If your time is limited in the gym and you don’t have time to train each body part individually, then compound exercises can save time as they are powerful exercises that hit more than one muscle group at a time and build strength around the whole body. Examples of compound exercises include squats, bent over rowing, lateral pull downs and shoulder presses.
It is universally recognised that each muscle in the body should be trained once a week with sufficient rest in between sessions to allow the muscles to repair. Weight trainers will often train in a way that splits the body up into muscle groups and train each muscle individually.
A typical weekly plan may look something like this:
- Monday – Chest and Biceps
- Tuesday – Shoulders and triceps
- Wednesday – Rest
- Thursday – Back
- Friday – Legs
Each muscle can be trained using as many as five exercises which hit that muscle in a slightly different way, such as performing flat bench presses and then incline bench presses to train the pectoral muscles of the chest.
It is important that when weight training you keep yourself safe. Some people use very heavy weights that can cause injury if mishandled, so never weight train barefoot and ensure you have a spotter in place when necessary.