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Weight Workouts 101:
Part 4: Valuable Tips and Suggestions

There are, literally hundreds of different exercises you can perform with some dumbbells, a workout bench and a mat. Listing them all is beyond the scope of a web article. A trainer, or the previously mentioned books and tapes, will show you a lot of them. But here are some guidelines that apply to all the exercises you will be doing:

(Article continued below.)

Take a mindful approach towards weight workouts

Every exercise should involve both your body and your mind. If you're off in a daydream, or wishing you were somewhere else while you're lifting weights, you are definitely not getting all you can out of the experience and you are hampering your progress. Stay in the moment. How does the weight feel while you are holding it? How do your muscles and joints feel as you go through the movement? Focus on the muscle contraction. Focus on your posture and alignment. Form an intimate awareness of what happens to your body when you are performing the exercise. Keep in mind that you bring a different body to every workout - some days you may do better than others, so don't judge. Be aware of your body and give it what it needs - no more and no less. Awareness also helps prevent injuries.

Breathe!

This is part of awareness, but it's important enough to emphasize. If you are lifting weights for your health (as opposed to power lifting - a different animal altogether), you generally should be exhaling while you're performing the harder part of the move (the muscle's contracting and you're exerting yourself), and inhaling during the easier half (the muscle's relaxing). Inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. Take slow, deep breaths - those lungfuls of oxygen nourish your body - and move with that breath. This mindful approach to breathing will greatly enhance your exercise.

Fatigue those muscles

While this was mentioned earlier, it bears repeating. If you pick up a two-pound weight, lift it a bunch of times and put it down feeling the same way as you did when you first grabbed it, you are wasting your time. You need to put enough effort into your workout so that the muscle is challenged. You know that you have challenged the muscle when you can't do another lift with good form (and don't try to continue after this point, either unless you've got a spotter - that's an injury risk). Depending on your goals, this may happen in five reps or 15. The important thing is that it happens. Give yourself a minute to recover and do it again - perform the move until the muscle is fatigued. This will give you results. If you end each set too early, your progress will be slow and unsatisfying.

Rest

Do not work a muscle two days in a row. When you lift weights you are actually causing tiny tears in your muscle fibers, and they need time to heal (the healing part is what causes the muscles to ultimately grow stronger).You can certainly do weight workouts every day, if you wish - you just work different body parts every day. Try chest and biceps one day, for example, legs the next, back and triceps another day. Or you can break it down in other ways. For some reason, abs and calves seem to be able to take more frequent workouts, and some people will work them more often. Still, the day off rule is a good idea anyhow. If you worked out a body part extra hard (or if you overdid it), do take a couple of days off, or even more if you are really sore. Your body and mind will both rebel at working a muscle that isn't healed sufficiently.

Change up the exercises

If you do exactly the same exercises all the time, you'll get bored and so will your body. Your body reacts to boredom by not progressing, or even going backwards. You react to boredom by conveniently forgetting to do your workouts or by suddenly not having enough time for them. Keep your body and yourself challenged - once you know the basics of weight workouts, change the exercises you do every few weeks. With the hundreds of weight exercises that exist, you never have to repeat a routine unless you want to.

Proper posture is imperative

Every exercise has its specific posture that must be followed to the letter if you want results and if you want to avoid injury. But there are a few rules that apply to just about all exercises - heed them. Keep your elbows and knees a bit soft - never lock them out completely. Locking these joints while bearing weights can hurt them. Locking your knees can also stress your lower back. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in towards your spine (this should feel natural, not exaggerated). Tight abs will protect your lower back. Keep your shoulders down, not hunched, and your chin down just a touch to keep your neck alignment neutral. Keep your wrists firm; don't bend them too much. When it comes to leg exercises, never let your knees go past your toes. Keep your knee joints at a right angle so you don't put too much pressure on them. For exercises where you are standing, have your chest lifted comfortably (not at military erectness) and stand tall.

Enjoy the empowering feeling you get from weight workouts. If done properly, they will strengthen both your body and your mind. Happy lifting!

Back to Start >> Weight Workouts 101 - Dumbbells for Smart People >> Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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