Exercise goals vary from person to person. Maybe you want to lose weight, tighten up, maintain your weight, reduce your body fat, build lean muscle… The list goes on. It’s true that different methods are better for different goals. However, I think that if you choose just one, you are missing out. Running endlessly on the treadmill to lose weight is a common example. That is why I am excited to write this post about weight training!
Lifting weights actually burns more calories than cardio alone and of course builds muscle. If you are thinking that sounds too simple, well, you’re right. There are all sorts of other training methods that can give you more “bang for your buck” at the gym. But, for today I will stick to the topic of weight lifting.
As promised, I’ve got a breakdown of the different types of weight training goals and some real basic principles of how to get started. I collected this information over the last year or two, and tweaked it as I learned from other sources. Body Building is one of my go-to resources and has some really great articles! So here we go…
Think of these terms on a continuum: Conditioning, Hypertrophy, Strength, and Power.
Conditioning is used to increase endurance. With this strategy, you do a high number of reps (some agree 12 or more, others say more than 15) in 3-4 sets, with short rest (30 seconds to 1 minute) in between. At the gym, you will tend to do a higher number of exercises (AKA “volume”) with lower intensity. By intensity, I am referring to the amount of “force” you put behind each rep. Low intensity would mean that you are lifting about half of your max weight. If you are new to weight training this is probably a good place to start. Get a feel for the weights, machines, and focus on your form…then comes…
Hypertrophy is the fun stuff! This is when people start telling you that you have guns (it still counts even if it is right after a workout and your still swollen, right?) Hypertrophy refers to the the increase of muscle. If your goal is to visibly gain muscle (more than just “toning” up) you would decrease the number of reps to about 8-12, but use heavier weights. 3-4 is still appropriate, but increase the rest in between to 60-90 seconds because your muscles need recovery time! You can still do a high number of exercises, but (and here’s the important part) you must lift a weight that is heavy enough to build muscle. Here’s a good rule of thumb: choose a weight that you can lift for at least 6-8 reps, but no more than 12. Think of this as using 70-80% of your maximum weight.
Strength, well, means just that. To achieve this you would do 6-8 reps, but you can decrease your sets to 2-3. Some sources I’ve read say to rest anywhere between 2-4 minutes. Personally, I can’t imagine resting for 4 minutes…I think I would lose my stamina! For strength training, you would want to do a more moderate number of exercises so that you have more time and energy to focus on the muscle groups that you are training. You don’t need to max out on weight for strength training, use about 80-90% intensity.
Power refers to increasing your max strength, in which you go all out and lift 90-100% of your max weight but train with a lower volume. As you can imagine, you would do a low number of reps (1-5) per set (2-4) and need more rest in between.
My training goals fall somewhere in between hypertrophy and strength. I tend to do about 5-6 weight training exercises at the gym–3 sets of 6-8 . I have to really push myself and be mentally focused to use the greater intensity required for strength training. Some exercises I am in the “strength” stage, others I am still building up to. These are just some basic guidelines to give you a quick intro to weight training….do what feels right for you (especially when it comes to figuring out your max weight and rest period needed!)
Is weight training a part of your goals? Let me know in the comments section and use #happilyeverstronger to tweet about your gym adventures this week! next week as I prep for my Whole30!
And I will leave you with this motivational message I borrowed from PFit Blog (because I desperately need to take some pictures!)