Okay, so hopefully we’ve convinced you that weight training is a vital part of your fat loss program (if not, go back and read our propaganda…err…articles on weight training and fat loss). Yes- lifting weights does help you lose pounds of body fat.
Naturally, you’re chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get started, but lo and behold, you’ve never stepped foot in a gym and you have no idea what to do when you get there.
Enter our beginner’s primer on weight training.
Now, this isn’t intended to be an end-all, be-all, individualized blueprint on weight training nor is it intended to be a polemic discussion on the merits of various weight training approaches, but it should answer most of your questions and enable you to get started without doing anything that will land you in a hospital waiting room.
First off, “What am I supposed to do?”
You need a plan. A solid plan of action, so you can go into the weight room, do your business, and get out with as little wasted time as possible (after all, we’re here to stimulate serious fat loss, not fraternize with the regulars).
For fat loss purposes, we’re not looking to pump up our biceps or feel the burn in our hip muscles (fat lot of good that’ll do anyone anyways). No, what we want is to increase metabolism through added muscle tissue.
1) Working multiple muscle groups at once.
2) Taking little rest between sets.
3) Using the twin principles of intensity and progression to maximize results.
P.S. No gym or equipment available? You can dive into our home workout program here.
Ready to get to lifting? Read on!
With these ideas in mind, let’s move onto your first weight training program:
Lower Body Push – Squat (Barbell) or substitute with Leg Press (machine)
Lower Body Pull – Deadlift (Barbell) or substitute with Leg Curl (machine)
Upper Body Push – Bench Press (Barbell) or substitute with Chest Press (machine)
Upper Body Pull – One Arm Row (Dumbbell) or substitute with Pulldown (machine)
One Arm Row
Now, I know what you’re thinking: only 4 exercises?
Yes. Only 4 – and here’s why. First off, these four exercises will work your body head to toe. It won’t completely and totally exhaust every single muscle you have, but the most important ones will be addressed, getting you in and out of the gym in a flash.
Secondly, we want you to actually do the exercises, so the more compact we make the workout, the more likely you’ll actually do it.
Lastly, since you aren’t performing these exercises under our watchful eye, we’ve decided to give you fewer exercises so you can sooner perfect your technique on each one.
“How much weight should I use, and how many times should I lift it?”
Your rep goal on all of these exercises is 15. Perfect for a newbie to strength training (allows for plenty of practice, since you’re doing a lot of reps) and great for an experienced exerciser (since getting to 15 reps with a sizable weight can be a real challenge).
Now, of course, the few times you do this workout, take it easy with the weights. You need time to perfect your technique and make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. As soon as you’re ready, however, start adding the weight, a little at a time.
The best way to go about it is using the single progression method:
Let’s say the rep goal is 15 reps (which, conveniently, it is!). You perform the Chest Press at 50 pounds and get 15 reps.
Wonderful! Write it down.
Next time you perform that exercise, add a little bit of weight, about 5 pounds (or whatever the smallest increment you can increase the weight by is).
It’s next time. You perform Chest Press for 55 pounds and get 15 reps. Fantastic. Same story.
The next time. You perform Chest Press for 60 pounds and only get 12 reps. Disaster? No – you simply keep the weight at 60 until you can hit the 15 rep mark. Then, start increasing the weight again.
Ah – simple, but elegant. Kind of like e=Mc^2.
“Should I work out everyday?”
No – you should not.
But I applaud you for your enthusiasm! If you can apply that same enthusiasm to your diet, then there’s no stopping you.
As we discussed in our program, Man on a Mission, exercise is merely a stimulus for muscle building. Muscle needs time to actually get built. After all, it’s not as if you pick the dumbbell up, you curl it a few times, and voila, your arm is instantly stronger.
What you’re doing is causing microtrauma to the muscle fibers, damage which your body is called upon to repair. It is only after this repair process occurs that you actually have more muscle and get stronger.
So, back to the issue at hand: How often should you work out?
I’m setting the cap at three times a week, on non-consecutive days. Monday-Wednesday-Friday works well, as does Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday. You could even get wacky and do Monday-Thursday-Saturday (and no one will be the wiser).
The only caveat is that you need to leave at least one day between weight training workouts.
To intercept the questions I know are already coming:
“Can I work out twice a week?”
Yes. Go right ahead, in fact.
“Can I work out once a week?”
I don’t recommend it for a beginner or for people interested in fat loss – but yes.
“I’m kind of working out already, and not getting any results. What am I doing wrong?”
Overwhelmingly, when Mike and I have coached clients who’d already been trying to lose weight on an exercise program, we found one thing to be consistently true –
They had NO idea what hard work was, or how to properly condition themselves to utilize that much effort!
That means when you’re giving your all to a hard set of exercise, you don’t stop when you “think” you’re done. Not when your muscles start to get a little shaky. Not when your muscles burn and you desperately want to drop the weights to the floor.
You’re done when you’re done – meaning, when you’ve either achieved your rep goals for that set or when you literally can’t lift the weight another inch. Hey, Ralph Waldo Emerson said nothing great was achieved without hard work, and building a great body is no different.
As far as building up tolerance to exercise, you do it bit by bit. Remember, we talked about progression a page or two ago? Our progression method will provide you with the slowly escalating momentum that you need in order to build up a good level of exercise tolerance. Of course, we’ve picked up a couple of little tricks that make the process easier.
This should get you off the ground and running. No more excuses; now get in that weight room and lift!