Strength Training 101 - Stay Safe
A lot of people jump into gym membership for one reasons or another and often neglect getting some necessary information about getting started with exercise. Whether you are new to exercise or a long time practitioner, it doesn’t hurt to go over the basics. A lot of these “rules” are for preventing injury, but following them will also maximize the effort you put in and you will notice results as you become stronger, leaner, and develop a beautiful body.
The first rule of proper form is range of motion. The most important thing to remember with range of motion, is body position. For almost all lifting positions, you want your center of gravity below your hips, which can be accomplished by keeping your feet apart the width of your shoulders and keeping your knees slightly bent—as well as keeping your core tight. We can accomplish this by tightening our abs/stomach and pulling them in towards our spine. Not only does this give you a little extra ab work during your exercise session, but it also helps to prevent injuries.
It’s important to use only the muscles you are trying to work for the full range of motion—all the way up, and all the way down—keeping the joints you are not using stable, but relaxed. Avoid hyper-extending joints, and don’t twist things that should not twist. Do not lift weights that are too heavy for you.
The second rule of proper form is correct speed. Using momentum is cheating. Explosive, jerky, fast movements don’t work the muscle you are trying to use. They fire type II muscle fibers which are not the ones you can really build, and they really don’t burn fat either. To work the right muscles, you need to lift slowly in two counts and lower in four. Yes, lower more slowly than you lift so that you actually work the muscle. Don’t let gravity do all the work for you, make the muscle work and get more out of it. Remember, most of the effective part of the exercise is the relaxation part. Taking time to lower the weight slowly can make a light weight seem challenging and give you an excellent workout.
The third rule of proper form is breathing. NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH! This creates an excess of pressure in your cardiovascular system, (in other words, you raise your blood pressure) which could facilitate a heart attack or stroke if you are already at risk. The proper way to breathe is to exhale whenever you are exerting, or straining against the weight - try crazy bulk. Sometimes this is pulling, sometimes this is pushing. You inhale as you are relaxing and allowing the weight to return to the resting position. By exhaling during the exertion you help to tighten your core and provide a good stable base of strength from which to lift the weight. Lifting with a “loose core” could result in preventable injury. Keep it tight and stay healthy.
And finally the fourth rule of proper form is lifting ENOUGH weight. You have to stress the muscle to make it stronger. Some men and women worry about bulking up but unless they are specifically trying hard, training properly, eating properly and resting properly with the GOAL of gaining size, they aren’t going to gain much if any. If anything, their body will lean up as the fat starts to come off. Strength training is just that, training to get stronger and you do have to lift progressively more weight, either in additional repetitions—which raise total weight lifted—or increase the weight. It should be your goal to increase total weight each session. The easiest way to do this is to add a rep. You should shoot for between 1 and 3 sets and 10-15 repetitions is all you need to develope strength and shape the body.
Knowledge is the most important factor in any endeavor. Knowing how to lift, when to lift, and what to lift will help to achieve fitness goals. If you have any questions, be sure to contact a fitness professional.