Muscle Training Basics And Tips For Beginners

Why Muscle Training ?

Muscle training or resistance training is even more important than cardio training. We can manage to get cardiovascular workouts through several activities like walking, swimming, cycling, trekking et al. But muscle training is what is going to hold us in good stead as we progress in age. Our bones are bound by muscles and give our bodies the shape that we all dream of, that shape that we sometimes envy on others.

Image courtesy : livestrong.com

Note : The words strength training, resistance training and muscle training are used interchangeably. Resistance training increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force. Different forms of resistance training include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands and your own body weight.

This blog post is the result of a query of a 23-year-old in the gym a few days ago. Her goal was to shed weight and slim down. My question, “how about muscle training” got her eyebrows up in wonder with a counter question, “isn’t muscle training for men only?” And then “can you help me with some basics if I have to do strength/muscle training?” I felt sad that even in these days of burgeoning fitness information on the net and social media, this young thing still remained seeped in that muscle myth. Hope this helps those like her. I have taken a lot of inputs from the American College of Sports Medicine to tabulate the following tips.

Generally healthy populations overlook the importance of resistance training, but the truth is that they need it too. For these reasons :

  • It increases the amount of muscle and elevates bone density in young adults.
  • Resistance training benefits both men and women with a sculpted and toned appearance.
  • In older adults, resistance training helps offset age related bone loss. It helps develop and maintain the strength and ability necessary to complete daily activities as well as fitness programs.
  • For all individuals, strength training allows more ease in daily activities and instills confidence and pride.
  • It enhances moods by releasing endorphin hormones.

How To Muscle Train ?

All beginners, make these your goals :

1) Learning the fundamental exercises correctly

2) Preventing injury by keeping proper form

3) Designing a program that will encourage adherence.

  • Begin with resistance training about twice or thrice a week and allow a day of rest between workout days.
  • Initial muscle soreness is inevitable for beginners..
  • Rest and recovery is crucial.
  • Proper warm-up is most essential. Five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise followed by gentle dynamic stretches.

In the beginning, any stimulation is progress.

  • Do not get stressed with the amount of weight, number of repetitions, or number of sets at first. They can wait for later.
  • Focus more on learning and executing proper exercise technique.

Your muscles are not the only tissues being strengthened. Connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments also adapting to the strain of the new workout. Your muscles will be the first to feel stronger after starting a training program, but your tendons need a few weeks to adapt to the new muscle activity and strength.

  • Injury in the first weeks is very likely if your focus is on increasing the weight instead of learning correct technique.
  • Give yourself as many sets and repetitions as you need to learn technique. Ask for proper supervision.
  • Avoid getting overly fatigued, mentally or physically, in this phase.
  • You cannot attain perfection on the first day. Stop an exercise if you become frustrated.
  • Tip : In the first three weeks perform one set with weights that will allow 12-15 repetitions. In the next few weeks progress to two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
  • Not all exercises require the same number of sets in a workout.
  • Heavier weights need longer rest periods.
  • One or two minutes of rest for light weights.
  • Two or three minutes for moderate weights.
  • More than three minutes for heavier weights.
  • Look out for signs of fatigue and adjust rest period lengths.
  • If dizziness or nausea occurs, it is time to stop the workout.
  • Increase the rest period, decrease the weight or sets.
  • Fatigue within prescribed ranges is natural, pain is not.
  • Relook at your technique or consult a medical practitioner.
  • Avoid temptation to do too much too soon. It can demotivate you or injure you.

How To Choose Muscle Training Exercises

Your choice of exercise must depend on your body type and condition, previous injuries, and flexibility. Focus on exercise technique and activating specific muscle groups.

  • You could start each training day with multiple-joint leg exercises (squats or lunges). These exercises activate a better hormone response than upper-body exercises.
  • In most individuals, these movements performed correctly, are safe, can improve coordination and prevent injuries from everyday activities.
  • Next, exercises that target the chest (i.e. bench press) and shoulders (shoulder raise) can be paired with exercises that target the back (seated rows and lateral pull-downs).
  • Abdominal and lower-back exercises help build stability and support. The bridge pose (top of a push up) or the bird-dog exercise top the chart.
  • A total body exercise program could look like this :

1) Proper leg presses or squats, dead lifts or leg curls, knee extensions (for those with healthy knees).

2) Bench press, horizontal rows, crunches (for those with a healthy lower back, and always balanced with lower-back exercise).

3) Lateral pull-downs, shoulder presses, arm curls, triceps extensions, and calf raises.

  • Beginners, performing a total-body workout may not take more than 45 minutes. It depends upon the rest period length and number of sets.
  • To progress, beginners can experiment with repetition ranges and increasing weights. Your muscles need to be pushed to do better.
  • After about nine workouts or three weeks, alternate heavier weight days with lighter weight days.

1) You could do sets of 12-15 repetitions, 8-10 repetitions, 4-6 repetitions, and back to 12-15 again.

2)Days with fewer repetitions can take more weight. On a 4-6 repetition day, lift a weight that you would be unable to, more than six times (or fewer than four).

  • But remember to maintain proper technique when increasing resistance from one day to the next.
  • In the learning phase of a training program, make sure a certified personal trainer monitors you.
  • Be it weights or machines, a certified trainer can guide you and help you.
  • Many free heavy weight exercises (particularly bench press) should never be done without a spotter.

Finding an exercise program that you can consistently perform is the key to effective strength training. Resistance or strength training is guaranteed to keep you fit and physically independent for the most part. With focus and emphasis on the fundamentals and basics, it can be rejuvenating and rewarding.

Caution : Beginners, please start your muscle training under the supervision of certified trainers. Do not attempt workouts on your own with charts downloaded from the internet or follow instructions from books blindly. We are all in a rush today, want quick results and turn to Google for anything and everything. Unfortunately, there are some areas like fitness and nutrition where Google can only give us pointers. Educate yourself and then take expert or professional help.

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