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.)
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.