You might think weight training is just for young men who want to look bigger, but actually weight training can greatly benefit the health of women and older individuals as well, and today we offer a few hints to that should help you get better results.
Besides making you look better, weight training, done properly, can improve your posture, lower your blood pressure, improve your insulin and lipid metabolism, help protect your joints, and strengthen your bones, making fracture less likely.
Most people, even after they have gone to the gym for years, do not do it properly—they basically just move weights up and down without much thought or focus— and therefore do not benefit as much as they could. The best thing is to hire a qualified personal trainer. However, most of us don’t have the time or money for that, so Mais Saúde talked with several top trainers in Brazil for some hints on how anyone can get better results:
1) Proper warm up (general and specific muscles)
An overall warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging on the treadmill will warm up your muscles and joints and make injuries less likely. Then before you work on a specific muscle group, do one set with a lighter weight to warm up those muscles and help lubricate the joints used.
2) Before you start, focus on the muscle(s) you are working on
If you don’t know the muscles worked from a specific movement, ask the gym teacher. It might sound ridiculous, but there is a strong mind-muscle connection, and if you actually concentrate before you start on the specific muscle you will be using, you will get better results.
3) During the movements, only concentrate on activating that muscle, and breathing
Really feel the one specific muscle stretching and contracting during the exercise. Don’t’ think about who’s in the gym or what you are doing later in the day; just concentrate on contracting and then stretching the specific muscle…nothing else except keeping good form and breathing.
A full breath during each repetition is important. Breath holding can increase your blood pressure, and you need well-oxygenated blood for your muscles to work well. Breath out when you contract the muscle, and in when you slowly let the weight return to position.
4) Slow down a lot on the eccentric (or negative) motion!
The eccentric motion is the second phase of an exercise where you relax the muscle contraction you made with the first motion. It is where you allow the weight to return to the beginning position. Research shows that prolonging this phrase not only protects muscles and joints from injury, but helps build stronger muscles than if you emphasized the concentric (first) motion.
Most people do their movements much too quickly, and this decreases the “time under tension” of the muscle, and a longer tension time is important. Most people do a set of 10 repetitions in 15 to 25 seconds, but ideally it should be at least 30 to 40 seconds.
5) Concentrate on your positioning (your form) more than the weight
Much more important than the amount of weight used, is using proper form. If you use a heavy weight, but are “cheating” by using muscles other than the intended ones, you will not get good results. Here is where a trainer or gym teacher can help a lot. Even slight changes in position can make all the difference between success and failure. If you can’t do the exercise in perfect form, go to a lighter weight and do it correctly.
If you are starting out, and especially if you are not young, check with a doctor to make sure you are cleared for weight training, and ask about any limitations. All gyms have teachers available, and especially use them before using a new machine or new exercise, and later on to keep an eye on your form to make sure it’s correct!
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