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Weight Lifting 101


Last updated 2/23/2011 at Noon

To obtain the greatest results from your workouts it does require an understanding of the basics. Learning the basic fundamentals will help you achieve your goals quickly and, most importantly, safely. Practice these rules every time you exercise. They are the foundation to avoiding injuries and maximizing results.

Get in the habit of always doing something. It's not always how much you do, but how you do it. The greatest result of practicing this habit is that it greatly reduces the chances of you falling off your routine. After three weeks it will become natural.

If you exercise a muscle independently, such as a one arm curl with a dumbbell versus a two arm curl with a barbell, the exercise using the one arm usually gets more work, it will do a better job because there is little or no assistance from other muscle groups. That’s muscle focus.

You must have adequate nutrition to accomplish anything for your health. Eating more food does not necessarily give you adequate nutrition. Eating a balance of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and proteins is what gives your body the energy to operate. Your eating habits should be based around your goals. A person who is trying to gain muscle mass will eat differently then someone running in a marathon. Fast food is never an option.

Your body will adapt to your exercise routine. Most people get their greatest results in the first few months of their exercise program. Ideally, you should change some of your routine about every four weeks. Changing your routine helps keep the body fresh and prevents adaptivity. If you like using videotapes, get a new one. They are all good if you use them. If you're into bench-pressing, try doing dumbbell presses instead of using a barbell, or do pushups.

Doctors get paid a lot of money for you doing things that do not feel good. If it hurts, do not do it. You should never feel pain in the joints (i.e. elbows, shoulders, and knees). Listen to your body! You should feel better after you workout. It’s not a test in suffering (Your first week you will feel some muscle soreness and that is natural).

Once you have achieved your goals, staying there is actually the success. For instance, weight loss is important, weight maintenance is more important. Always set realistic goals. It's easier to maintain them and stay with them

Ever watch someone lifting more weight then they can handle? It's not a pretty sight! Good form is a basic necessity to exercising. Good form allows you to minimize the chance for injuries and focuses the workload on the intended muscles.

Stay to good lifting form at all times. Stay focused. Start at the bottom. Separate your feet, creating a wider base for your body and better balance. Grab the floor with your toes; this will keep you from leaning backwards.

Locking out your knees can put stress on your back and can cause you to pass out. Keep a slight bend in your knees at all times.

Keep your pelvis tucked into your body. Think of this techniques as having a seat. Imagine a stool behind you and just a few inches below your butt. Have a seat.

The sternum is the notch right between the two rib cages. Imagine lifting it upwards (notice how your abs will tighten when you do this).

Pull back your shoulder blades and keep your shoulders down and relaxed. This will keep you from rolling in your shoulders.

I know this sounds like a lot to do, however, think how many things you have to do just to drive your car, yet you do that automatically. Practice these control movements and you should notice that when you do any weight lifting exercise standing up, (i.e. arm curls, cable exercises) the weight you normally lift will feel heavier and more isolated to the muscle group you are working.

Remember, its not how much you can lift but how you life the weight you are lifting. Done wrong, you can hurt yourself and never understand why. It can be something like a sore arm, pulled back muscle, strained leg, but the majority of time it comes from improper form.

A good place to go to that will show proper form for most gym exercises is

Greg Burkett, Greg the Trainer, is a fitness advisor in the Orange County area. For more information go to or call 409-550-0777.


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