Samara Donald is: The Gym Coach

Make the most of your workout!

Working with weight

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “I want to be toned up, but I don’t want to get all bulky”. This is a tragedy, because it’s the number one misconception about working out. If I tell the women I coach to choose their own weight, they’ll pick a 5 or 8 lb pair of dumbbells, and I am screaming inside! So here’s where I’m going to tell you — you will NOT bulk up by using weights! On the contrary, weight training can have enormous benefit, including of course getting a ‘toned’ body, but also will help prevent injury and increase bone density.

Women body builders have to work really (really) hard to get the muscle mass they have. They take supplements, and lift SUPER heavy weights for a long period of time. They also change their diet to lose most of their fat, for many to an unhealthy level, AND they only sustain this form while in competition mode. If you ask a body builder how ‘easy’ it is to get the way they have they’ll laugh in your face. So take it from me, you will NOT bulk up, unless you really really try to (even then it’s HARD!).

Ok so now you’re past the mental issue of using weights, so how do you work with weights in the gym, to give you an awesome looking body? Here are my rules of working with weights:

First rule: You can probably lift about 2x what you think. If you’re like most women, you may have not ever worked with weights, or you may have taken a class or  met with a personal trainer. But has anyone ever told you how to pick a weight? Here’s the deal: Pick a weight where you are really struggling to lift it after 8 reps (maybe 6). Also, forget the notion you have to do 12 reps – or any preset number. Lift until your muscle reaches failure (that means, until you really can’t do anymore) and then try to do 1-2 more reps. The whole point of weight training is to exhaust your muscles – so you need to feel it getting tired (Tip: burn is great, pain is not great). Hint: If you’re using a 5 lb pair of dumbbells on bicep curls, it’s probably way too light. 🙂

Second rule: Don’t use the same weight for all body parts. You have big muscles (legs: quads, hamstrings), medium sized muscles (biceps, back, shoulders, calves) and smaller muscles (glutes, triceps). It stands to reason your bigger muscles can handle heavier weights, right? Right. So change your weight – again, using the method above to determine the right weight – depending on the muscle you are working.

Third rule: Lift weights before cardio, if you’re doing them in the same day that is. There’s a lot of debate about which order to do cardio vs. weight training in, but my rule of thumb is more about energy and safety. Cardio takes a lot more energy than weight lifting (literally — you burn more energy in the form of calories). So, if you do cardio first, you are really tired when you get to your weights. This not only is a safety issue (imagine dropping that dumbbell on your head – ouch!), but also minimizes your workout, because you’re likely to quit before you are truly at muscle failure.

Fourth rule: REST. Like I said above, the point of lifting weights is to exhaust your muscles. But the real trick is that your muscles build when you are at rest. For maximum effect, you need to rest at least 48 hours before working the same muscle group again.

Using these tips, I promise you are going to have a more effective and efficient workout. Like I say: Make the MOST of your workout!


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This entry was posted on July 21, 2010 by in fitness.
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