A complete exercise program always includes both weight training and aerobic activity. Weight training strengthens the muscles of the body while aerobic activity conditions the cardiovascular system and burns calories. Both types of training will give you all the benefits of a total body workout. How both types of activity are combined in a workout is mostly personal preference. If you give equal importance to muscle building and calorie burning, do either one first. If your goal is to burn calories, do your aerobic work first, when you are fresh and alert. If your goal is to build muscle, do your weight training first for the same reason. As another option, some people break up their workout by alternating weight training and aerobic activity. For example, ten minutes on the bicycle, 15 minutes of weight training, 20 minutes on the treadmill, then 15 more minutes of weights. Others find it that doing weights one day and aerobic work the next day works best for them. Here’s some basic information to help you decide if weight training will put you on the path to realizing your goals:

Why to Strength Train

What Strength or Weight Training Can Do For You

  • Shape and define your body: Weight training can play a major role in enhancing your body composition and physical appearance. When you have a higher ratio of muscle to fat, your body takes on a leaner, firmer and fitter appearance.
  • Improve posture: Good posture is not automatic for most people. When you exercise with correct posture you train your muscles to hold themselves that way in everyday life. The payoff is that people who have good posture present an image of self-confidence.
  • Help control your weight: Weight training increases your muscle mass which in turn increases your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories). Although weight training alone will not let you achieve your weight loss goals, experts agree that it is an important component of any weight control program.
  • Increase muscular strength and endurance: A certain amount of muscular strength and endurance is necessary for us to live independent lives. It allows us to hold up the clippers as we trim our hedges, to walk up and down stairs with ease and to bicycle for an extended period without fatigue. It also keeps us independent as we age. Strong legs in later life mean we can get in and out of bed, the shower and use the toilet without assistance. When you have a good level of muscular strength you can move furniture on your own and carry heavy garbage cans to the curb with ease.
  • Keep bones strong: Both men and women are at risk of developing brittle bones as they age. Women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis after menopause, due to hormonal changes in the body. Weight bearing activity, such as lifting weights, can dramatically slow the rate of bone loss and may even reverse the process. Developing strong bones can help you to avoid the stooped posture that often accompanies older age. It will also lower your risk for bone fractures as a result of falls.
  • Boost your energy: When you are muscularly fit you are able to handle everyday tasks with ease and still have plenty of energy to run to the bus stop, play with your children or go dancing.
  • Improve your quality of life: Research shows that weight training improves self-esteem and self-confidence and can even help to relieve clinical depression
Getting Started

Understanding weight training terminology will better equip you to understand what you read in books and magazines and will help you to design your own program.

  • A repetition (“rep”) is the number of times a particular exercise is repeated. One repetition of a bicep curl would involve curling the bar up and lowering the bar down.
  • A set is a number of continuous repetitions performed without resting. One set of abdominal curls could be comprised of ten repetitions.
  • A program is a broad term that refers to all of the activities that are performed during your exercise regime. Normally, the repetitions and sets of each exercise are recorded in an exercise log to help you remember the order and specifics of each exercise and to track your progress. When you perform your program in a safe fashion, you significantly reduce the potential for injuries.
  • Warm up and cool down with an easy set. Ease your body into and out of the workout.
  • Always choose weights that allow you to exercise in a controlled fashion and will not cause you to strain. Lift the weights at a moderate pace, taking about two seconds to lift the weight and two seconds to lower it.
  • Use collars. These clamp-like safety devices secure weight plates onto a bar. The collar prevents them from sliding off should the bar tilt to one side.
  • Use a spotter. If you are increasing your weights or trying a new exercise, the weights may wobble as you lift. A spotter stands nearby and grabs the weights in case your muscles are unable to handle the load.
  • Drink water throughout your workout. Dehydration, as a result of sweating, can negatively affect your exercise performance.


“Don’t hold your breath” or “remember to breathe.” Chances are, you’ve heard this from a fitness instructor if you’ve ever set foot in a gym. While it’s an important rule to follow, what instructors often don’t tell you is why you should keep breathing, aside from the obvious. So here are the specifics on how to breathe properly and why it’s so important to focus on proper breathing technique during weight training:

  • Exhale on the exertion: Breathe out deeply during the most difficult part of the exercise. For example, during a bench press, exhale as you push the bar up.
  • Inhale deeply: Inhale on the least difficult phase of the exercise. During a leg extension, for example, inhale as the legs are lowered down to the starting position. There’s no need to focus too much on this phase of breathing. After deeply exhaling,a deep inhale should naturally follow.

The Importance of Proper Breathing

  • Muscles need oxygen to work.
  • Lifting weights temporarily causes your blood pressure to shoot up, which normally is not a problem. But when you hold your breath, your blood pressure rises even higher and then suddenly comes crashing down when you start breathing again. This drastic drop may cause you to become light-headed.
  • If you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, additional stresses placed upon the body by holding your breath could put you in serious jeopardy. Participants with either of these conditions should consult their physician before beginning any type of exercise program.
  • The deep exhale stabilizes the spine. It protects your lower back by building up muscular pressure in the trunk to act as a natural girdle.
  • Deep, regular breathing ensures that oxygen is delivered to the muscles as needed and keeps you from getting fatigued prematurely.

Free Weights Vs. Machine

Warm Up

Just like warming up for aerobic exercise, you need to warm up before a weight training session. A good warm up is an essential component of any good workout.
General Phase
The general phase of the warm up consists of easy, rhythmic moves like easy cycling, walking or slow jogging. These activities gradually begin to raise your heart rate and help warm up the body’s core temperature.
Specific Phase
The specific phase of the warm up consists of activities that mimic what you’ll be doing in the main portion of the workout. For example, weight trainers might do a light warm up set before their heavier sets.

Why is a warm up so important?

  • It prepares your mind for the workout ahead. Starting out slowly eases your mind and body into the workout. Troubles and stresses of the day gradually disappear as you are required increasingly to concentrate on your technique and performance.
  • It helps prevent injuries. The warm up increases your body’s core temperature and increases the elasticity of muscles and connective tissue. Muscles that are warm and flexible are much less prone to injury.
  • It enhances oxygen supply to the muscles. Blood flow increases and speeds oxygen to the muscles during the warm up. When the working muscles receive more oxygen and nutrients during a workout, the result is improved athletic performance.
  • Helps you pace yourself. If you rush into a workout without a warm up, you often tire quickly. A slow, gentle warm up involves all of the body’s energy systems and doesn’t produce large amounts of lactic acid, which causes muscle fatigue. Good pacing allows you to work comfortably for longer.
  • It improves heart function. The warm up prepares the heart for the demands that will be put upon it as the workout intensity builds. It also reduces the risk of electrical abnormalities occurring in the heart as a result of rushing into the workout.

Cool Down


To ensure maximum results from your weight training efforts, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Good form is essential. Learn how to perform the exercises properly. Don’t allow your body to find ways to cheat or perform less work.
  • Choose an appropriate amount of weight for each individual exercise. At the end of each set, aim to feel “comfortable fatigue.” Your muscles should feel tired but not completely exhausted.
  • Breathe deeply. Exhale during the most difficult part of the exercise. The inhale will take care of itself.
  • Perform the exercises at a slow to moderate speed. Try to eliminate any momentum or swinging actions.
  • Start all standing exercises with a stable base of support. Keep your knees slightly bent and abdominals tight.
  • Avoid “locking out” your joints. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows and knees keeps the joints safe and strong.

Here are some exercises to try:




Biceps Curl: Hold dumbbells or a barbell with palms facing the front and arms hanging. Keeping your elbows close to your sides and palms up, bring your hands towards your shoulders. Slowly return to the start position. (Variation: Hold onto the ends of two exercise bands or tubes and place the other ends under each foot. Perform the exercise as described above.)

Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl: Sit on an incline bench (head is higher than the feet.) Allow both arms to hang down towards the ground. Press your back into the bench. Curl the weights as described above.

Alternate Dumbbell Curl: Curl the weights as described above, but curl one arm at a time. (Variation: Hold onto the ends of two exercise bands or tubes and place the other ends under each foot. Perform the exercise as described above.)


  • Chest Press: Lie on a bench with the small of your back pressed down to stabilize the back. If your feet cannot be firmly planted on the floor place your feet on the end of the bench with knees bent. Press the weights towards the ceiling. Lower the weights, finishing with elbows out to the side at about shoulder level. Never let your upper arms sink below the bench. Keep your shoulder blades together during the entire exercise. (Variation: Hold onto the ends of an exercise band or tube. Lift the band up and over the body so that it is under the armpits. Perform the exercise as described above. This variation can also be performed standing.)
  • Incline Bench Press: Lie on an incline bench (head is higher than the feet). Bench press the weights as described above. (Variation: Perform the variation described for the chest press.)
  • Dumbbell Fly: Lie on a bench with the small of your back pressed down for support. With palms facing inwards and dumbbells directly above the chest, slowly open the arms until the upper arms are parallel to the ground. Slowly return to the start position.
  • Standing Cable Fly: With your back to the cable machine, grasp the upper pulleys and extend your arms to the side, keeping the elbows bent. Place one foot in front of the other and lean slightly forward from the hips. Keeping the elbows bent, pull your hands towards each other. Slowly return to the start position.
  • Pec Dec: Adjust the machine so that your forearms connect to the pads and your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Press your arms together until they meet in front of your body. Press your back into the back pad throughout the exercise. Slowly return to the start position.


Lat Pulldown: Position a bench directly below the pulley. Grasp the bar by the handles and lean back slightly. Start by pressing your shoulders down. Then try to pull your elbows into the sides of your torso. Slowly return to the start position. (Variation: Hold onto the ends of an exercise band or tube. Reach both arms directly above the head. Pull the elbow of one arm into the side of your torso.)

Bent-over Row: Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward from the hips so that your back is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your head in line with your back. Pull the bar to your navel, keeping your elbows close to your sides and your chest lifted. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the move. Slowly return to the start position.

One-arm Dumbbell Row: Kneel on a bench with your left leg and left arm supporting the body and a dumbbell in your right arm. Pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling and your hand brushes against your waist. Slowly return to the start position.

Seated Row: Sit facing the weight stack with your chest against the chest pad. Reach forward for the handles making sure your arms are fully extended. Pull the handles towards you pointing your elbows directly behind you. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to the start position. (Variation: Sit on the ground and extend your legs in front keeping them slightly bent. Holding onto the ends of an exercise band or tube, wrap the band around the bottom of the feet. Perform the exercise as described above.)

Back Extension: Place your hip bones just over the edge of the hip pad and lower your upper body until it is perpendicular to the floor. With hands across the chest or behind the head, slowly lift your torso-just until it is parallel to the floor. Slowly lower to the start position. For a safe and effective workout, avoid all temptations to swing the body!(Variation: Lying on your front on a mat, place your hands, palms down, under your face. Smoothly and slowly lift the torso just a few inches off the floor. Look directly towards the floor throughout the exercise. Hands may remain on the floor or lift with the torso for a greater challenge. Slowly return to the start position.)


Squat: Hold a dumbbell in each hand or place your hands on the hips. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes and knees pointed out just slightly. Slowly sit back and down as if trying to sit in a chair that has been placed just out of your reach. Keep your head and chest up, abdominal tight. When you feel your upper body wanting to fold forward over the thighs, tighten your legs and buttocks and slowly return to the start position. Never drop your hips below your knees! (Variation: Place a ball between your back and a wall. Step both feet away from the wall. Keeping the back tall, bend your knees and roll the ball down the wall. Perform the exercise as described above.)

Squat with Knee Lift: Perform the squat as described above. As you return to the start position, lift one knee. As you begin the next repetition, lower the knee.

Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold dumbbells in each hand. For the more advanced, place a barbell on your shoulders. Take a big step forward, ensuring that your heel strikes the ground first. Keep your head and chest up, abdominal tight. Your front knee should be over the ankle and should not wobble. Your back knee should be bending towards the floor. Squeeze your buttocks and push off with the front foot, to return to the start position. (Variation: Lunging without weights is an excellent workout for beginners.)

Lunge with Squat: Perform a lunge as described above. After returning to the start position, carefully perform a squat as described above.

Leg Press: Adjust the machine so that your knees form an angle of approximately 90 degrees. Slowly extend your legs until there is just a slight bend in them. Avoid “locking out,” that is, straightening your legs all the way. Slowly return to the start position.

Leg Extension: Adjust the machine so that you can sit with your back firmly against the back rest and your shins against the ankle pads. Extend your legs until they are almost straight. Slowly return to the start position. Avoid any swinging actions.


Hamstring Curl: Adjust the machine so that your ankles are tight against the pads and your knees are just over the edge of the bench. Pull your heels up and towards your buttocks. Slowly return to the start position. Don’t allow your hips to pop up off the bench. Avoid any swinging actions.


Heel Raise: Hang your heels off the edge of a platform. Slowly press up onto your toes and then lower down until your heels are below the platform. Keep your toes pointing straight ahead and your calves tightened throughout.


Abdominal Curl: Place your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides and hands separated. Slowly curl the body upward, trying to lift just your shoulder blades off of the floor. Look past your knees as you lift. Slowly return to the start position. (Variation: Lie on an exercise ball with your feet apart and firmly planted. Perform the exercise as described above.)

Curl with Twist: Curl, as described above, holding at the top of the lift. At this point reach one shoulder towards the opposite knee, keeping your elbows wide. Return to the previous position and lower down. Repeat to the other side. (Variation: Lie on an exercise ball with your feet apart and firmly planted. Perform the exercise as described above.)

Decline Curl: On a decline bench or stepping bench, position yourself so that your head is at the low end of the bench. Perform standard curls, as described above.

Reverse Curl with Extended Legs: On a bench or mat, extend your legs towards the ceiling. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet directly over your hips. Using the abdominal muscles, lift your hips. Keep your legs vertical and avoid any jerking motions. Your hips will lift only an inch or two. Place your hands lightly beside the thighs to guide the vertical lift of the legs.

Reverse Curl with Sustained Torso Lift: Perform a reverse curl, as described above, knees bent with heels in line with your hips on the floor. Lift and hold the torso, hands behind your head for the duration of the set.

Metabolic Rate
  • Most beginners are surprised to learn that weight training is an important key to losing fat. By increasing your body’s muscle size or mass you kick your body’s metabolism into a higher gear. Since muscle is denser than fat and it takes up less room, so your pants will feel looser and your arms won’t wobble when you reach for a towel. Plus, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn. The bigger the engine, the more fuel it takes to keep it working.Metabolism refers to the number of calories your body burns in order to function properly such as for your heart to beat, your stomach to digest, your kidneys to pump, and so on.Some people naturally have a very high metabolism. They can eat large amounts of food and do little exercise yet remain slim and trim. If you have a slower metabolism, your body tends to hang onto the calories you eat and store them as fat rather than burn them for energy.
  • How can you increase your metabolism?
  • Have the right genes: You can’t do much about this one. Genetics plays a significant role in metabolism. Some people are simply born to burn at a faster rate than others. The size of your body also influences your metabolism. The bigger your bones and organs and the more body tissue you have, the more calories your body needs for fuel.
  • Build more muscle: Here’s something you can do something about. Another reason that some people have a faster metabolism is that they have more muscle. Muscles are very active in calorie burning. They use up lots of energy moving the body from place to place, even when you aren’t exercising. Fat, on the other hand, is sluggish and inactive. Its role is to insulate and store energy.Try to avoid the bathroom scale to track your weight loss progress. Since muscle is denser than fat, it takes up less room than fat but weighs more per square inch. One pound of fat takes up three times as much space as a pound of muscle. With more muscle on your frame, you’ll look smaller and more toned but you may find that your total body weight doesn’t change too much or you could be like me, Joanne. When I started weight training, I gained 20 pounds but was three to four dress sizes smaller. That’s when I threw away the weight scales and that’s why you should too.The bottom line is that the more muscle you have, the speedier your metabolism. You can not change your genetics but you can significantly increase your muscle mass.
Toning vs. Muscle Mass
  • One of the biggest weight training misconceptions is that lifting weights always results in the development of big, bulging muscles. The fact is that the ultimate shape of your muscles is determined by: The number of repetitions of an exercise you perform. In general, if your goal is to build the largest, strongest muscles you can, you’ll need to perform relatively few repetitions of each exercise, about six to nine or even fewer. If you are seeking to create a more sleek, toned look, aim for 8 to 15 repetitions. No matter what number of repetitions you are doing, choose a weight that is heavy enough to make that last repetition a real challenge.
  • >Besides creating muscles with differing abilities and physical appearances, the number of repetitions performed will result in different functional capabilities for that particular muscle. For example, exercises performed for 8 to 15 repetitions create muscular endurance. This comes in handy for everyday tasks such as carrying heavy grocery bags into the house from the car. Exercises performed for six to nine repetitions build muscular strength. Muscular strength is what is required when a heavy box is lifted from your car’s trunk and placed on a cart. Determine whether increased muscular strength or increased muscular endurance will be more appropriate for your lifestyle. The number of sets of an exercise you perform. To gain moderate amounts of strength and a toned effect, one to three sets is probably as much as you’ll need to do. However, if your goal is to become significantly stronger and create muscle mass, you will need to perform a minimum of three sets for each muscle group.
  • >As hard as you may be willing to work, keep in mind that it’s virtually impossible to build large, bulky muscles if your genetic coding is not programmed to do so. If you are small boned and lean, weight training cannot make you more big and bulky than what’s normal for you and vice versa. You have to work within your body’s parameters. Also, the hormone testosterone controls the development of muscle bulk and, since women have significantly lower levels than men do, they are highly unlikely to develop bulging muscles.
Training Methods
  • There are many different methods of planning and grouping exercises to maximize your weight training workout. If you are interested in further muscle development and increasing the intensity of your workout, try one of the following weight training techniques. Keep in mind that it’s important to allow 48 hours for muscle recovery and repair before weight training the same muscle group again.
  • Single Set Training: If you are just starting out, single set training (performing one set per muscle group or body part) is a good place to begin. The advantages to performing single sets include time savings and the simplicity of the routine. Perform about six to 12 repetitions in a set, per muscle group or body part.
  • Supersets: A superset is defined as any combination of two different exercises and is performed with no rest in between exercises. Bodybuilders commonly superset, since it improves hypertrophy (muscle size) but not necessarily strength. Superset variations include same muscle group supersets, such as a bent arm lateral raise followed by a shoulder press or opposite muscle group supersets like a leg extension followed by a leg curl.
  • Giant Sets or Compound Sets: Giant sets or compound sets are groups of four to six exercises, followed by a rest period. An example of a six exercise giant set is as follows: abdominal curl with a twist, decline curl, reverse curl with extended legs, reverse curl with sustained torso lift, extended arm decline curl and elbow towards hip lateral flexion curl. Complete at least eight repetitions of each exercise. Repeat the giant set one or more times. Again, once you learn the different exercises and master the technique you can design your own routine.
  • Split Routines: If you like to weight train more than three days per week, a split routine can provide enough recovery time between training sessions to allow you to do so safely. There are many designs. One example of a four day split routine is to split the days so that Monday and Thursday workouts train the legs, buttocks, calves, lower back and abdominals, while the Tuesday and Friday workouts focus on the chest, upper back, shoulders and arms. We enjoy doing this type of workout as it allows you to adequately rest certain muscles while working others.
  • Circuit Training: This system moves you from one exercise to another in a specific order, performing one set (usually ten to 20 repetitions) at each station. A short 15 to 30 second rest is taken between exercises. For additional overload, the circuit may be repeated several times.
  • Pyramid Training: With this method, a number of sets are performed (with a rest interval after each set), and the intensity and number of repetitions performed are changed with each set. One example is the light-to-heavy pyramid. It involves a combination of sets in which the intensity gradually increases from set to set while the number of repetitions progressively decreases. Forced repetitions: You’ll need a partner to help you perform an additional three to four repetitions after you have reached your exhaustion point. With good spotting technique, this method safely challenges your muscles. But be careful; it should not be used daily because it can lead to over-training or mental burn out.
  • Periodization: Periodization has proven very successful for competitive athletes and very serious weight training enthusiasts. It consists of four phases of training, each lasting two to three weeks. The hypertrophy phase is often the endurance training phase. A large number of sets and repetitions are performed at a relatively moderate intensity. During the second phase, strength building, the number of repetitions and sets is reduced and the intensity increased. The third phase, the strength and power phase, again increases the intensity, and perhaps the frequency, of the workout. The last phase is an active rest phase during which a much lower number of sets and repetitions are performed and the intensity of the exercises is decreased.

Stretching lengthens muscles and loosens the joints to which they connect. Having long muscles doesn’t mean you get longer legs or arms, it just means the muscle is strong, flexible and healthy, allowing you move more freely, walk without stiffness and bend, reach and twist with ease. Adequate flexibility is also important in helping you avoid injuries and can improve your exercise performance.
The following total body stretching routine can be performed as part of a cool down for any physical activity. Before you start stretching, be sure you understand the basic rules of stretching:

  • Hold your stretches 8 to 20 seconds. The less flexible you are, the longer you will need to stretch the muscle.
  • Never ever bounce. Bouncing is for balls. For people, it can result in injuries.
  • Relax and breathe deeply as you stretch. Concentrate and focus. Some people like to close their eyes. Be sure that you feel the stretch where you’re supposed to feel it. It should never hurt.
  • Give priority to the muscles you use the most in your workouts and in everyday life. But don’t neglect any major muscle group.

Total Body Stretching Routine

  • Hamstrings: Sit on the floor and extend one leg out in front. Tuck the other foot in so that the sole of your foot is close to the inside of the opposite thigh. Keeping the extended leg relaxed and hands on the floor, reach your chest forward until you feel the stretch along the back of the thigh.
  • Quadriceps: Lie on your side, resting on your upper arm. Bend the top leg behind you and hold onto the foot. Keep your back arm straight and press your hips forward to feel the stretch all the way up the front thigh.
  • Back: Move to a hands and knees position, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Round your spine, tuck your chin and feel the stretch along both sides of the spine.
  • Abdominals: While lying on your tummy, prop yourself up on your elbows, elbows directly under the shoulders. Look straight ahead and reach the top of your head towards the ceiling. Be sure not to force the spine into this position. If you feel any discomfort or pressure in the back, move the elbows further away from the body.
  • Calves:
  • A) From a standing position, take a big step forward and rest your hands on your front thigh. Position your back foot so that your foot is in a straight line, heel to toe. Press the heel of your back foot down to the floor or ground. Keep your chest up and your hips pressed forward.
  • B) From this same position, move the back foot in three or four inches and bend the back knee slightly. Feel the stretch lower in the calf.
  • Chest:Standing with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, clasp your hands behind your back. Keeping your body still, slowly lift the arms behind you until you feel the stretch across your chest.
  • Triceps:Reach one hand down your back as if to scratch between your shoulder blades. With the other hand, hold onto the elbow. Carefully try to move the elbow so that it points towards to the ceiling and is close to the side of your head. Feel the stretch in the back of the upper arm.
Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a martial art developed to help protect the passive monks of China from the road bandits of those days. Many of the movements were developed from watching animals in nature. Notice how a cat stalks it’s prey. How a crane spreads it’s wings. The various forms are based on Kung-fu movements, creating a slow moving self-defense system for your physical body. The meditative principles are based on nature and the balance of all living things. Some like to practice barefoot, others prefer more supportive shoes, but the shoes should be flat-soled comfortable and flexible. Choose loose, comfortable clothes that allow for freedom of movement. Tai Chi will help maintain or increase muscle strength.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.