To put it simply if you want to lose fat and transform your body, lifting weights is absolutely key. Nutrition and cardio are also important, but to achieve the lean athletic look, weight training is vital.
The Benefits of weight training
Well if you are interested in achieving any of the following you will need to start a weight training program:
- Increase strength.
- Lose Weight.
- Promote Fat Loss.
- Speed up your metabolism which in turn leads to burning fat.
- Enhance your ability to perform day to day tasks.
- Have better balance and coordination.
- Decrease your risk of injuries.
- Boost your confidence.
- Increase your bone strength.
Starting a weight training program can be daunting. People have visions of massively oiled up and shaved down bodybuilders. These visions promote a fear that if you train with weights, you will end up looking like a bulked up muscled machine.
The truth is this is just a misconception. There are a number of reasons why this is a misconception, but to keep it simple it is a matter of with basic science.
If you don’t eat a surplus of calories, then in simple terms you won’t gain weight and look bulky. It is no different for males or females, your body doesn’t magically make muscle while you are lifting weights.
Weight training is the stimulus or stress on your body, you are actually breaking down muscle while you are lifting weight (at a microscopic level).
Your body’s response to this stimulation/stress is to repair the muscle and grow more muscle in order to be better prepared next time that sort of stress is placed on it again.
Now in very basic terms, you body needs a surplus of calories to grow more muscle. So if you are only eating a maintenance level of calories you will not add to your body weight and you will not become too bulky. Again this principle is no different for males or female.
After reading this you might be wondering, if your goal isn’t to get muscular and bulky, then what is the point of weight training. Good question.
The point is weight training will change you body composition as it has a drastic ability to speed up your metabolism.
Through correct weight training you can remain the same body weight but you can significantly reduce your body fat percentage whilst at the same time increase you lean muscle mass.
The end result is that you will look leaner and your actually body measurements will have reduced in areas of your body that typically store fat.
A primary example of this is myself, over the last 2 years, my body weight has only varied about 1-2kgs, however in that time I have increased my lean muscle mass and decreased my body fat levels from about 18% to 10% and my waist measurement has gone from 92cm to 81cm.
It is this increase in lean muscle mass that speeds your metabolism up. It takes your body more calories to support muscle than it does fat, so the more lean muscle mass you have the greater amount of calories your body needs to burn to support itself.
Even when you are sitting still you body is burning more calories, than that of a person who has less muscle mass than you.
For people that are trying to loss weight my advice is that weight training is probably the best form of training to transform you body shape due to these reasons.
But where to start? It can be confusing, just Google weight training and you will be flooded with articles and programs promising mind blowing results.
The program you choose should be based on you fitness goals, what equipment you have available to you and how it will fit into your lifestyle.
How to Choose a Weight Training Program
To be able to answer this questions you need to get gain an understanding of some basic weight training principles. Understanding these principles will assist you in choosing a routine that ensures you use sufficient weight for the right amount of reps and sets and will guarantee you are always making progress in your training.
Principle # 1: Overload
You need to place stress on you muscles for them to grow. How do you do this? Make your muscle perform a movement with more resistance than it is used to. Your body’s reaction to this stress is to repair and grow more muscle in order to be better prepared for next time the same stress is placed on it.
In terms of weight training you should be overloading your muscles to the point where you can only complete the specified number of reps in your routine. This means you need to select a weight that allows you to complete the specified number of reps with difficulty but whilst also maintaining good form.
Principle # 2: Progression
The body is an amazing and adaptable machine. To avoid adaptation or training plateaus, you need to train with consistency and intensity. What this means in real terms is every time you train you either need to lift more weight for the same amount of reps as your last session, or lift the same weight for more reps. If you continue to do the same thing week after week, your body will not change.
Sounds pretty simply doesn’t it? In theory, the principle is an easy one to understand, putting it in to practice is the hard part. It will take focus, determination and intensity to make progress with every workout, but it is achievable.
Principle # 3: Goal Setting
Your weight training should have a purpose. In order to achieve in our health and fitness endeavors, you need to know exactly what you are working towards. For each person the reason will differ, once you figure out your reason, use it as your motivating factor. If you start a weight training program and you don’t have goals, then you will fail. How do I know you will fail? Because if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, you don’t have a finish line.
Principle # 4: Rest and Recovery
Rest days are just as important as training days. The reason for this is with weight training, more is not better. Remember the weight training is the stress on your body, muscle growth occurs as a response to this stress on your body, WHEN YOU ARE RESTING. Muscle growth does not occur in the gym! You need to provide your muscles with adequate rest and good nutrition.
With this in mind training frequency dictates that a muscle group, such as legs, back, or chest, should only be trained once a week in order to allow the muscle enough time to fully recuperate and recover to handle the next workout. Since progressive overload is the key to muscle growth, you want your muscles to be well rested so that they may handle more weight or complete more reps with the same weight during your next training session.
If you train a body part too often you will risk over training, because the muscle has not had a chance to fully recover. Your muscle needs to fully recover from its previous stress, before it can handle additional stress.
There are numerous weight training principles out there. Some are good, some are bad, some even contradict one another. The important thing is to understand the basics as outlined in the above principles and attack you training with consistency and intensity.
Stay tuned for more articles about:
- How to chose the right program.
- How long your workouts should take.
- The optimal amount of reps and sets per workout.
- How long to rest between sets and exercises.
- How to choose the right exercises.
- Why training like a bodybuilder sucks.