Incorporating a weight training program into your fitness routine can help increase muscular strength and endurance while improving body composition. These are three of the five components of physical fitness necessary to be truly healthy. Weight training plays a key role in achieving optimal health.
Benefits of Weight Training
Lifting weights not only makes you stronger, but it also provides distinct health benefits.
- Increases muscle mass, which leads to an increase in metabolism
- Increases muscle strength and endurance, which helps improve quality of life
- Fights age-related muscle loss
- Lowers risk of heart disease and improves blood lipid profiles
- Decreases risk of injury
Weight Training Programs
The great thing about weight training is you can tailor the workouts to fit your personal fitness level. The two free weight training programs below are designed for beginners or intermediate weight lifters, and should be combined with cardiovascular training and stretching for a complete workout. Before undertaking any fitness program talk with your doctor. If you are new to weight training, consider scheduling an appointment with a personal trainer to address the proper weight training techniques.
Beginner Weight Training Program
Beginners need to take training slowly at first. It takes about six to eight weeks for ligaments and tendons to strengthen, and early stages of weight training seek to prepare your connective tissue for heavier work. If you do too much too soon, you may get injured. As a beginner, lift lighter weights that allow you to achieve 10 to 12 repetitions, and leave at least 48 hours between sessions so muscles and connective tissue can heal and grow stronger. Perform this routine two or three times per week for six to eight weeks, and gradually increase weights as you become easily able to perform the repetitions.
|Seated Leg Press||Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, hip flexors||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Leg Extensions||Quadriceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Leg Curls||Hamstrings||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Chest Press||Pectorals, front deltoids, triceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Pull Downs||Lats, rhomboids, rear deltoids, biceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Shoulder Press||Deltoids, rhomboids, triceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Biceps Curls||Biceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Triceps Kickbacks||Triceps||2 to 3||10 to 12|
|Abdominal Crunches||Abdominals, obliques||2 to 3||12 to 15|
Intermediate Weight Training Program
After about eight weeks, connective tissue is stronger and less susceptible to injury. While you can continue to do more of the same just using heavier weights, isolating additional muscle groups can help improve overall muscular balance and improve strength. You can also begin lifting heavier weights for all of your exercises, aiming for weights at which you can perform eight to ten repetitions to failure. Performing to failure means that by your eighth, ninth, or tenth repetition, you cannot squeeze out another.
This is also a good time to begin incorporating free weights into your routine, which require other muscle groups to help stabilize them. Because you are performing more exercises, break up your training sessions into two distinct workouts. Use the workout below on the following schedule:
|Monday||Chest, shoulders, triceps, abdominals|
|Tuesday||Back, biceps, and legs|
|Thursday||Chest, shoulders, triceps, abdominals|
|Friday||Back, biceps, and legs|
Monday and Thursday: Chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominals
|Bench press||Pectorals, front deltoids, triceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Seated pec deck||Pectorals||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Dumbbell military press||Deltoids, triceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Side lateral raises||Deltoids||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Rear lateral raises||Rear deltoids||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Front lateral raises||Front deltoids||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Barbell lying triceps extensions (skullcrushers)||Triceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Cable pushdowns||Triceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Cable crunches||Abdominals||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Oblique crunches||Abdominals||2 to 3||12 to 15|
Tuesday and Friday: Back, legs and biceps
|Pull ups (use a spotter, if necessary)||latissimus dorsi, rhomboids||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Seated rows||Lower latissimus dorsi||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Dumbbell shrugs||Rhomboids||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Hyperextensions||Lower back, erector spinae||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Squats||Quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Lunges||gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Leg extensions||Quadriceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Leg curls||Hamstrings||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Calf raises||Calves||2 to 3||12 to 15|
|Barbell biceps curls||Biceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
|Alternating dumbbell biceps curl||Biceps||2 to 3||8 to 10|
Starting Your Weightlifting Routine
Before you start lifting weights, establish the following habits.
- Warm up before exercising and cool down after.
- Stretch at the end of your workout.
- Start out light and build up.
- Use proper form and technique.
- Maintain proper body mechanics including:
- Use a full range of motion with slow and controlled movement.
- Breathe in as you start to lift, and exhale as you finish the repetition.
- Keep your spine neutral.
Create a workout to fit your goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of eight to twelve repetitions of 8-10 exercises twice a week at moderate intensity. How intense your weight training work out is depends on several things including the number of sets and repetitions as well as how much weight you're lifting.
Strength training via weightlifting is an essential part of a comprehensive workout program. Using these free weightlifting workouts, you can developed a well balanced, stronger body.