- Machines control your range of motion.
Sounds like a good thing, right? Not really. Machines often eliminate a lot of work on your part. This is great for beginners, but once you’re past the rookie stage, it is much more effective to be in control of your movement and range of motion.
- Many machines put you in a seated position.
Whenever possible, a standing position is better. Standing while working with weights, pulleys, or bands loads your skeleton (good for bone health), requires you to engage your core muscles, and challenges your balance. It’s like a three for one.
- Many machines may isolate only one muscle group.
Our muscles rarely work in isolation. Although there’s nothing wrong with supplementing a good workout with exercises that isolate a muscle group. But exercises likes squats, lunges, and assisted pull-ups involve several joints which develops more muscle mass (muscle burns calories all day long), improves core strength, and shortens workout time.
Working out is no different. If you are going to make the effort to show up and exercise, you should do it right so you get the best results and the maximum benefit. What do you think is the most important part of resistance training? The amount of weight? The number of repetitions? The number of sets? The variety of exercises?
All good guesses, but when doing any type of exercise, especially weight training or resistance training, the correct form is the most important component. If you are lifting a weight that causes you to compromise your form, the weight is too heavy and you are wasting your time. Chances are you are barely working the muscle that you want to work, and you can really risk injuring yourself.
When proper form is followed, weight lifting not only increases your muscle strength but also:
- Helps to burn body fat
- Improves muscle tone
- Increases bone density
In order to maximize the benefits of your weight training program, you’ll want to start with the right amount of weight. To determine this amount for your personal routine, find a weight you are comfortable with. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to lift it 12-15 times. Don’t worry if you don’t choose the right weight on you first time. It can be a kind of trial and error, until you get that perfect poundage. As your strength increases, gradually up the amount of weight you lift. If the amount of weight you’re lifting affects your form, decrease it, or reduce the number of repetitions.
The more you focus on proper resistance training techniques and form, the more you’ll benefit from your weight training program.
Okay, great Musclemommy!, but how do I learn the right form? If you are primarily working out at a gym, speak with a trainer. This does not mean you have to hire a trainer, as most gyms have a handful of trainers that are not busy at any given time, and they should be happy to answer any form and technique questions. If you are doing exercises at home using DVDs or other equipment, there should always be an informational and instructional section or sheet. Please read it… it can make all the difference. If you’re unsure of the right form to follow after speaking with a trainer or reading instructions, you can always look at weight lifting pictures online or even videos on You Tube. I go to You Tube all the time to check out proper form. And of course there is ‘yours truly’. I will answer any questions you have about…well…most anything that has to do with fitness and nutrition.
Here are a few more tips to keep you safe and maximize your strength training benefits:
1. Before lifting, warm up for 5-10 minutes with cardio activity like walking.
2. As you become familiar with your routine, don’t be tempted to skip your warm up because it will leave you more prone to injury. I will always do a set of 10-15 reps with 2 pound weights, just to get the motion down and the blood pumping. I do this warm up for the first exercise per muscle group.
3. Breath. People are often tempted to hold their breath. In fact, you may not even realize you’re doing it. My trainer used to tell me to breathe all the time. I never realized how often I would hold my breath. Proper breathing is part of proper form. It’s important not to hold your breath because doing so can dangerously raise your blood pressure. Breathe out when you lift and in as you lower the weight. If you find it too hard to concentrate on when to breathe out and when to breathe in, just concentrate on your breathing so that you are taking consistent, deliberate breaths.
4. Don’t hurry through your routine. Keep movements controlled and slow, isolating the muscles you’re working. If you are in a hurry, opt for doing a fewer number of exercises, but focus on your form. Keeping it slow also prevents you from using momentum to lift the weight.
5. Don’t overdo it. If an exercise causes pain, stop immediately. Don’t try it for a few days or reduce the amount of weight you’re lifting.
Read, Set….Do It Right!