Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

How to Start Lifting Weights, Part 1

By braeburn in Culture
Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 09:17:59 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I've been lifting weights in the gym (centering on what's traditionally called powerlifting) for about 2 1/2 years now. While that's not very long in terms of a weightlifting career, I was taught from my very first workout how to properly lift by very experienced people. In the years that I've been lifting, the same fact has struck me over and over again: very few people who frequent a gym and seriously want to lift weights know the proper ways of doing so. While this might strike some as elitist, it's a serious concern of mine: lifting improperly leads to injuries, sometimes serious ones, and spreads misinformation about the sport. Also, recently I've seen a lot of discussion at a lot of sites about the growing waistline of the average American, and in the spirit of other K5 content such as the Fat Bloke's Guide to Becoming Less Fat, I thought there might be some interest in an article about lifting, and how to get started doing it properly.

This article is mainly focused towards those of us in the audience who are hardgainers, that is to say, genetically typical. The consensus seems to be that anywhere from 70% to 90% of the population are "hardgainers", those people who have no special genetic gifts towards getting a large muscle mass, and are prone to easily overtraining, a term that will be discussed in a later paragraph. However, the advice applies to everyone; those of you who hit the genetic jackpot will just get to gain even faster now. :)

Right now, I plan to divide this series into 2 or possibly 3 articles: this first is a discussion of what I'll call the "golden rules" of lifting. Some practical details like rep selection, exercise selection, supplements, and the like, will come in article number 2, and finally in number 3 some discussion of common myths and mistakes I see in the gym.

Even though this article will be a bit abstract, you can apply these rules to your lifting program right now if you're too impatient for the next installment. Before I dive into the meat of this first article, though, I'd like to define a few terms that most people will probably know, but I just want to make sure we're all on the same page.

  • A rep is a complete movement, or unit, of one exercise. For nearly every exercise with weights, a rep has two phases: a positive phase and a negative phase. The positive phase is that phase where you are exerting the bulk of your strength against the weight: pushing up from the chest during a bench press, coming up from the bottom position during a squat, pulling yourself up to the bar during a chinup, or doing a crunch during abdominal work are all positive phases of a rep for that specific exercise.

    Likewise, the negative phase of a rep is the other part of the rep, where you are lowering the weight, your body, or "relaxing". Usually the positive phase of the rep is the hard part, and the negative phase is the easy bit, but this is not always the case, as sometimes it takes quite a bit of strength to lower a weight in a controlled way. When people in the gym talk about doing negatives, they're referring to the practice of (with a spotter) performing only the negative phase of a rep in an exercise, usually with much more weight than you could safely perform a positive with. Some people believe this can stimulate or shock your muscles into further growth if you happen to stagnate during a cycle.

  • A set is a group of reps. Most people measure how much work they have done in the gym by recording how many sets, how much weight for that set, and how many reps per set of a particular exercise they've done. A warmup set is simply a set done to warm up; a work set is a set where you are actively trying to work and increase weight in a certain exercise.

  • A cycle is a period of time, usually measured in weeks or months, during which you perform the same set of exercises with the goal of increasing your strength in those exercises. The average cycle lasts about 8-12 weeks. Many times cycles will be structured in such a way that as your cycle goes on, you reduce the number of reps and work sets, building to a climax where at the very end of your cycle you perform only one rep of an exercise on your last work set; this is the elusive "one-rep max", the maximum amount of weight you are capable of lifting safely in a particular exercise.

  • Overtraining is when, either because of not enough rest, lifting too much weight, or simply just exhausting your body's recovery abilities by extending your cycle too long, your gains start to dry up, and you can no longer consistently increase the weight you're lifting on a weekly basis. If more than 2 or 3 weeks go by, and you're not increasing your weight on a specific exercise, you've probably overtrained yourself, and it's time to rest. More on this is described below.

With that out of the way, let's begin! Here are what I think of as the cardinal or "golden" rules of lifting:

  1. If you lift patiently, consistently, and in good form, while maintaining a good diet and resting enough, you will become stronger.

    This probably seems like one of the more obvious statements one could make about exercise, but let's examine the requirements more closely.

    • Patiently - Never try to rush your progress in the gym. Never, ever try to lift more weight than you know you are ready for. Never shortchange yourself on rest in an effort to do more work in the gym. Be patient - most hardgainers should work one exercise or body part once or (at most) twice per week.

      If you are not patient, if you try to rush your gains, if you wear yourself too thin, you will overtrain quickly, get frustrated, and want to quit. Worse, if you try to lift more than you're ready for, you're asking for an injury. If done properly, your lifting career can and will last years and into old age.

    • Consistently - You need to work out on a schedule. Once you have this schedule tuned to what works for you, you need to make every effort not to let yourself fall away from it. Of course, maintaining a schedule 100% isn't always possible - we all have times where because of jobs, children, illness, etc., we can't be completely consistent. Still, try to get into the habit of going to the gym consistently. Buy a notebook and record your workout every time you go. Get into the habit.

    • In good form - this is one of the most important points in lifting. More important than how much weight you lift is how you lift it; more important than how many times you lift a weight is how many times you correctly lift that weight. Buy a book that teaches proper exercise form for each exercise you plan to do (I'll make some recommendations later), or have someone who knows what they're doing teach you and watch you. In the big movements, like squat, deadlift, and others, perfect form is absolutely crucial. People often avoid squats and deadlifts because they've heard stories about how they'll ruin your knees and your back. This is a shame, since in my opinion the squat and deadlift are two of the most productive exercises you can do, if done properly. If you lift with improper form, you can indeed damage your knees and back. However, if you learn to perform these exercises in good form, not only will you remain injury-free, you'll probably be amazed with the gains that you make.

      When you start an unfamiliar exercise, resign yourself to the fact that you may need to take as much as 3 to 4 weeks of performing that exercise with light weight, or no weight, and simply concentrate on mastering the form. Having someone watch you during this phase and correct your form is invaluable. After a while, you'll be so conscious of the proper form and your body that you'll know when you start to deviate. I can't stress enough how important the proper form is. I see so many people in the gym who are on the road to injury, and I think that's a damn shame.

      Accordingly, if you can't complete a set of a certain weight with great form (although you know you could cheat a little and get the set), you shouldn't go up in weight the next time you perform that exercise.

      Good form also includes good breathing - breathing properly is a part of your form. The most important rule about breathing is that you should never hold your breath at any time while performing a rep. Ideally, you should breate out on the positive phase, and in on the negative phase. You may need to take more than one breath on a hard rep - this is okay, as long as you do not hold your breath at any point.

    • Diet and rest - if you want to gain muscle, you need to give your body the materials to make that muscle out of. Also, most people will find when they start lifting that their metabolism skyrockets; Henry Rollins once wrote in an article that a few weeks after he started lifting, his father took to calling him "the locust" because of his tendency to move through the house devouring anything edible.

      You will discover through trial and error how much food is appropriate for you without getting fat or crippling your gains. One thing that can really help you nail this down is calorie-counting. This is a really complex subject, so I don't really want to go into it too much here. However, for a good while after you first start lifting, your diet will not be the most important thing towards making gains, so it can be something you start to research later.

      Getting enough rest and sleep is also very important. Try to get at least a good 8 hours a night of sleep, and if, on your rest days from the gym, you find yourself running around and generally not resting, increase the number of rest days in your schedule. Not enough rest will cause overtraining.

  2. Structure your cycles sensibly to avoid overtraining; know when you've overtrained and how to overcome it.

    Almost everyone will overtrain sooner or later, be it due to lack of rest, nutrition, or simply because your body cannot recover anymore. A natural way to structure your cycles, once you get to know your body better, is to try and arrange things so that you are just at the point of overtraining at the end of your cycle.

    When you overtrain, you'll find that suddenly you can't add 5 pounds to the bar like you've been doing, or you may even find that you have to go down in weight to complete a set in good form. The solution for overtraining is simple: rest. At the end of a cycle, when you've started to overtrain, you should take 7 to 10 days completely off of lifting, and I mean completely off. Sit around. Eat something fun - you only live once. Sleep. Enjoy the outdoors. If you must exercise, make it something extremely easy and low-impact.

    Then, when you return to the gym, start a new cycle at, say, 75% of your best weight for the previous cycle (these numbers may differ if your last cycle ended with you doing one-rep maxes - in which case, you should know enough about cycles not to need to read this). This workout will likely feel pretty easy, and you may feel a bit lazy for doing such an easy lift. Don't worry, it'll get harder.

    Assuming everything's going smoothly, proceed over the next few workouts at 85%, 90%, 95%, and then finally 100% or perhaps include an extra week at 97.5%. Once you get to about 95% of your previous best, the workouts should be getting pretty hard. However, you'll find that because you took that full 7-10 days off and then slowly built back up, you now have recovery ability to spare, and you should be able to increase your previous personal best. Continue until the end of your cycle, and repeat. This slow, steady process of increasing your personal best, like drops of water into a bucket, will have a cumulative effect, and eventually you'll be lifting impressive amounts of weight.

  3. Everyone's body is different.

    There are people in the gym who can eat what they want, do a lot of curls and nothing else, sleep 5 hours a night, and still look great, all bulgy and buff in the right places. These people hit the genetic jackpot. Unfortunately, most people are not so lucky, and if you're not one of these people, trying to compare yourself to an easy gainer will only make you frustrated. And, even among those who are hardgainers, there is a huge amount of variation genetically, and in body type. For example, some people simply cannot gain well on the squat - their body type is not suitable to it as an exercise. No matter how hard they try, they can only eke out very slow gains with very hard work. Note that even these people, if they continue to apply themselves to the squat, will indeed make gains, because they are following rule #1. But it's probably not the best exercise for them.

    People who perform poorly in the squat (and I'm one of these people) tend to be taller and lankier, with long limbs and narrow torsos. People with shorter limbs and wider torsos tend to be able to simply terrorize on the squat, making enviable gains. However, these people tend to have more trouble with the deadlift, while people with longer limbs (again, I'm one of these people) tend to excel on it. My deadlift personal record is a good 60-70 pounds better than my squat personal record; the movement is just so much more natural for me. If you have a body structure that makes you particularly suited to a specific exercise, my advice to you is to work that exercise for all it's worth. Sure, you may have one exercise that's light-years ahead of another, but what's so bad about that? Exploit your genetic gifts as much as possible.

  4. Prefer the big, compound movements to smaller movements or isolation exercises; prefer free weights to machines, if you're able to lift free weights.

    For your average lifter, unless you are a bodybuilder, or already really defined, isolation exercises are pretty useless. By performing a big, compound movement, such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, pullup, or stiff-legged deadlift (to name a few), you are working a large amount of muscle mass, and the gains you make will increase the size and strength of muscles throughout your body. If you're too weak to perform a rep in one of the large movements (for example, you're not strong enough yet to do a full chinup unassisted), perform a smaller movement or use smaller weight until you can (in the chinup example, do a pulldown on the machine until you can do a pulldown with about 90% bodyweight - at this point, you should be strong enough to do at least one chinup).

    If, for some other reason, you can't perform one of the big movements, try to do as big a movement as you can; for example, though both are productive, squat is more productive than leg press. Both are much, much more productive than, say, a leg extension. Therefore, you should favor squat over leg press if possible, and leg press over leg extension.

    Hard work in the larger movements will produce better gains than hard work in smaller movements, and much better gains than isolation exercises will do. It is very hard to get a very strong body, overall, just doing isolation exercises. They do have their place, but are not very useful until much later in your lifting career.

    Machines have their place, but free weights, again, will be more productive, since they involve various muscle groups for stabilization. Also, some machines enforce a particular form on you that may not be proper or may not suit your body type. As such, you'll get more benefit from a free-weight squat than you would with one of the machine squats, such as with a Smith machine, which will eliminate some of the stabilization musculature you'd otherwise be exercising, and enforce a particular path that, for me, requires me to lean forward more than is safe for a squat.

Hopefully, these rules will help most of you who are interested in lifting. If it seems like the K5 community is interested in this article, I'll continue the series with a discussion of the common myths, misconceptions, and downright mistakes I see in the gym. In the meantime, for those of you who want more explanation, here's a list of some books and websites that should help you out:

  • The Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight Training Technique, by Stuart McRobert. Despite a really silly title and cover design, I consider this book to be required reading for anyone lifting weights. It describes in detail the proper form for nearly every valuable exercise you can do in the gym, with lots of pictures of both good and bad form, and descriptions of common mistakes people make in certain exercises. If you want to know the correct form for any exercise worth doing, you should read this book. I've found it at several different libraries, so you can check there if you're interested.
  • Beyond Brawn, by the same author (and featuring the same silly cover design). This book talks in great detail about pretty much everything else related to lifting, including nutrition, rest, mental preparation, support gear, and the like. Very valuable.
  • Hardgainer, the online presence of Hardgainer magazine, also affiliated with Stuart McRobert. Lots of articles have been reprinted online and make for educational reading.
  • Cyberpump, a site which I personally haven't explored too much, but a lot of people have been talking about, and seems to have the right idea. This site has lots of resources including forums, Q+A, articles, and the like.

Good luck, and good lifting.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o the Fat Bloke's Guide to Becoming Less Fat
o The Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight Training Technique
o Beyond Brawn
o Hardgainer
o Cyberpump
o Also by braeburn

Display: Sort:
How to Start Lifting Weights, Part 1 | 152 comments (123 topical, 29 editorial, 2 hidden)
Side notes (2.50 / 2) (#21)
by Silent Chris on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 06:11:34 PM EST

I mentioned this in a previous diary, but I really like Body-for-Life.  This program goes hand and hand with what this guy is saying.  It's important to lift weights period, not just if you're trying to "gain" mass (in, fact, you're more likely to tone down and shape).

Through BFL (which, incidently, consists just of eating normal foods, weight training and aerobics) I've lost 30 pounds.  I feel a lot better about myself.  Most importantly, I've cemented something I knew all along: I like girls who workout.  Going to the gym to train has that added bonus.  ;)

Body-for-Life (none / 0) (#133)
by maxpower582 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:42:35 PM EST

I used this program too. Bill Phillips' program is right on the money for me. I have not lost much weight, but my body fat has gone down from 20% to 14%. My waist went from 34 to 31 in 12 weeks. That was so cool and I look fantastic. I am currently doing another 12 week cycle and should get my body fat down below 10%. That is my goal.

What I like about the BFL program is that it is easy to follow and doesn't take much time out of the day to do. Bill points out exactly what a person needs to do to have success. Plus this program can become a part of a person's lifestyle unlike many other programs that I have seen. The Atkin's diet is just smoke and mirrors.

That is my $0.05 of free advice :-)

[ Parent ]
Gym Bunnies (none / 0) (#135)
by maxpower582 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 03:47:36 PM EST


Gym bunnies are cool. I have met two of my best friends at the gym. It is good to find someone who has the same interest as you. And if you like healthy people, the gym is a good place to go.

[ Parent ]
bad form (4.33 / 3) (#26)
by garlic on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 06:30:04 PM EST

Which is easier do you think, using free weights for an exercise and having bad form, or using a machine for an exercise and having bad form? Personally I'd say it's easier for a beginner to have bad form doing free weights than using a machine. The key with a machine is adjusting it correctly for yourself.

Using a machine also has the advantage that it's much safer to lift by yourself. If you surprise yourself with too much weight or 1 too many reps, you aren't going to crush yourself.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.

bad form, and lifting by yourself (4.66 / 3) (#29)
by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 06:36:54 PM EST

Machines usually make it hard to have bad form, which is why they have value if you are injured or your stabilizer muscles are weak. Whether the actual movement is easier (using bad form) on a machine or with free weights depends on the exercise.

One thing I'd like to point out (and will talk about more in the next article) is that if you know what do you it's perfectly safe to lift by yourself most of the time. If you squat, squat in a cage or a power rack. A squat cage is basically a big metal wireframe box, with holes in the supports for the pins (which is where you put the bar in the rest position), and holes for safeties, metal bars that will catch the weight if you drop it.

If you put the safeties at the proper position and you are squatting and your form starts to break, you can quickly return to just below the bottom position and the safeties will stop the bar. Then you stop squatting for the day. :)

You can even bench safely in a squat cage, among other things.

[ Parent ]

s/do you/to do/ (n/t) (none / 0) (#30)
by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 06:38:37 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Actually... (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by RackMount on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:53:49 PM EST

it depends on the machine.

For instance, squats on the Smith machine are bad form by definition.  The body does not naturally move in a straigh up-and-down motion, so people do all kinds of bad things just to complete a smith machine squat.  One popular way is to stick your knees way out in front of your toes, which puts a lot of stress on them.  

Your point about "crushing yourself" can be easily solved.  First of all, in most free weight exercises you can safely drop the weight or just stop the exercise - the only dangerous exercise that I can think of is the bench press and its variants.  Anyway, you shouldn't be going "to failure" - many people do, and it's very tempting to try to squeeze out one more rep on the off chance that the hot chick on the other side of the room will glance in your direction.  However, there really isn't any point for beginners, or even intermediates, to go to failure.  Maybe occasionally as a test, but it's very easy to overtrain when you're pushing your muscles to their limit.  And once you've got a couple of workouts under your belt, it's not common to just "surprise yourself" with too much weight.  

Machines have their uses, but the origional article is correct.  All- or mostly-machine workouts are the AOL of the gym.  They're easy to use, but there are hidden dangers and they are not as powerful as real weights.

[ Parent ]

"to failure" (none / 0) (#53)
by jjayson on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:52:52 PM EST

Anyway, you shouldn't be going "to failure"
That is really strange. Every personal trainer and all the huge guys in the gyms that I have ever spoken to always go to failure. That last rep should require a light spot. You grow by making small tears in your muscle and failure means that you at your natural limit. If you hit failure too early, then you have too much weight are not pushing yourself to your limits. What do you have to back this up. From personal experience and the experience of others, going to failure is how you get best results.

This all assume free-weights with a spotter. I almost never do free-weight without a spot and use machines instead, because I can go to failure on them.

"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

to failure, or not to failure (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:20:20 PM EST

You should take much of the conventional wisdom held by personal trainers and huge guys in the gym with a grain of salt - most of the huge guys in the gym are genetically atypical and can get away with "blasting" their quads or their abs or their biceps 7 days a week and still gain. Of course there are exceptions to this rule.

As for to failure, or not to failure, this depends very much on the exercise, I think. You can work your abs or your biceps, and even most exercises to failure, and be fine (although if I work my biceps to failure on every workout, I overtrain them within 4 or 5 workouts); on some exercises like squat and deadlift, the proper form is so important and so hard to maintain that working to failure makes the risk of injury much greater. It's simply too hard to work some exercises to failure while still maintaining good form. You can perform these exercises and not fail on the last rep, and not lose anything productivity-wise.

By the way, when I think of "to failure", it means to me that you keep performing reps until you attempt to perform a rep and are unable to complete it - your muscles have failed.

[ Parent ]

intensity versus frequency (none / 0) (#63)
by jjayson on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:42:01 PM EST

I overtrain my arms and chest very easily, too. My legs I can blast week after week until there are no more plates to add to the leg press.

However, from what I have seen and heard, I appear to not be alone this: favor intensity to frequency. If you overtrain easily, don't lessen the intensity, instead do it less ofter and give your body more time to repair itself and build those muscles. This seems to make sense, too. When you overtrain you tire the muscle to where it does not rebuild quickly, so you give it more time. Having less intensity would seem to accomplish the same, but you are not maximizing your time because you are not working to the limits then repairing.

One of the real dangers of working at low intensity is the propensity to not improve, build muscle, get stronger, and get bigger. It becomes too easy to be lax, and before you know it, you have been on the same weight for the last 3 months on the bench.

I agree that with squats your really need somebody who knows how to spot for that lift (and that isn't a homophobe) or two people that can at least lower it slowly.

"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

I completely agree with you on this one (5.00 / 1) (#100)
by theR on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:56:23 PM EST

You should go to the point of failure on most exercises. That is the way you get stronger, more endurance, or both. If you don't go to the point of failure, you will not have anywhere near the gains that you will by pushing yourself. It shouldn't matter what your genetics are like. Good genes for gaining muscle or bad genes, you have to push yourself. Your genes will help determine how fast and how much you improve, but higher intensity will always show more improvement than lower intensity as long as you stay within reason.

[ Parent ]
To Failure (none / 0) (#112)
by TheSleeper on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 11:25:14 AM EST

From personal experience and the experience of others, going to failure is how you get best results.

As in everything, different strokes for different folks. I've personally found that consistently going to failure slows down or stops my progress. I'd been taught the 'lift to failure' approach when I first started. When I started reading comments from other lifters on misc.fitness.weights that it wasn't such a great idea, I quit. I immediately started seeing significant gains in strength, where I'd been stagnant before.

[ Parent ]

time off (none / 0) (#115)
by jjayson on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:20:07 PM EST

This more than likely means that you were overtraining and not taking enough time off between lifts. I usually tend to follow experience, and that is what the experience shows. I have am a real hard gainer in my arms and chest, and I had to same problem of being stagnant with my bench. I tried less intensity and saw improvement, too. After taking to a few people in the gym though I went full intensity against and decided that 3-days rest was not enough, so I gave myself a week off, and I was seeing even better results with just that one day of lifting that with two of lower intensity.

Look at my other comment in a sibling thread, saying to favor intensity to frequency. TheR is pretty well built, so I tend to follow advice of people like that.

"Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
[ Parent ]

More information (4.63 / 11) (#31)
by onyxruby on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 06:49:33 PM EST

I'm 27 and have spent at least a decade of those years lifting weights. I have done so to the extent that I have trouble finding clothes that fit properly. I have taken also taken formal weight training classes. Thus, I claim to know of what I speak.

I agree with most of what you wrote, but do have to disagree in part. What I have personally used over the years, and was taught in weight training classes was to alternate muscle groups on a daily basis. In a typical week (speaking of the past) I would go the gym 6 days a week. I would do arms one day, and legs the next, repeating the pattern. I then took the 7th day off as this is important to give your muscles some extra recovery time. What you never ever want to do is the same weight sets (bench press for example) day after day.

I will do this pattern for three weeks and then spend the fourth week off from heavier weights. The fourth week I focus on the same exercises but use a much lighter amount of weight - enough that I can do 50 reps with it. This has three benefits. First it gives muscles a reprieve from heavy lifting and lets them heal better. The second benefit is that this works very well for toning muscles. The third benefit is that it allows one to focus on perfect form.

I would like to expound on what the author was saying for why time not lifting weights is just as important as the time spent lifting. When you exert yourself and feel sore afterwords it is because you have damaged part of your muscle. You have literally broken it down - this is a good thing. When the muscle breaks down it repairs itself by growing stronger. This is referred to as a "good burn". As long as you don't over do it, this is healthy. However, your muscles need the following day to repair themselves. After they have repaired themselves they are slightly stronger than they were. If you particularly over do things, you'll need more time off. Over lifting can strain and damage muscles and tendons is very much not healthy.

On a daily level the practice I have used to great benefit is what is called 15-10-5. I pick a weight typically 75% to 80% of what I can lift on any given exercise and do this weight 15 times. On a daily basis this gives me endurance. I then go up one set of weight plates and do this amount 10 times for bulk. I then go up one additional set of weight plates and do this set 5 times. This pushes what I can do and helps lead to increasing max weight capacity. Once I no longer have to push myself to do the reps I shift my sets up. What was my 15 becomes by 10 and so on. Thus I steadily increase my strength, bulk and endurance.

One thing I have not seen you mention yet, but assume you will be mentioning in the follow up articles is the significant benefit gained from having a spotter.

There are additional benefits to weightlifting beyond merely bulking up. As some others have already mentioned you will burn fat faster. This is typically a benefit that many Women in my experience do not know of. Additional muscle will also help you look better, which always has social and dating benefits. Being muscularly built also helps in dangerous situations. I have been in many dangerous environments over the years, and have never been "harassed", my strength is obvious and speaks for me. Simply put, it allows me to be left alone and be in peace. Additional strength gives additional confidence, and comes in handy in many daily situations.

On a more personal note, my strength training literally saved me at least a broken neck not too long ago. I was rear-ended by a full size truck on the freeway and sent into another full size truck (gawkers jam from another accident just ahead). The speed differential was enough that a normal person would have snapped their neck and or their back.

This would have at least paralyzed, and quite realistically could have killed a normal person. When the ambulance crew got to my car (they were at the first accident scene and saw the accident) they didn't believe that I had been able to walk away from my car until the State Trooper confirmed that I was the driver of said car. Simply put, the additional muscle mass I had provided reinforcing bracing to my neck and back - this allowed my muscles to absorb the blow and avoided breaking my neck and back. I have had this confirmed by multiple doctors, a chiropractor and two different physical therapists.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

YMMV (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:07:28 PM EST

As I said, everyone tends to be different - I know that, personally, I burn out pretty quick on the body-part-rotation style. But it works very well for many people, and it obviously works well for you - and that's what's important. I would encourage people, as long as they're lifting safely, to try several different kinds of programs (except for the obviously wrong ones), including the rotation style.

Also, I've heard from a couple of people stories like the one you related - more muscle can really help you if you're injured or even prevent injury, especially in major parts of the body like the neck. Even with a broken arm or leg, muscle (and tendon) strength can mean the difference between a hairline, simple, or even complex fracture.

[ Parent ]

Different programs (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by onyxruby on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 09:40:03 PM EST

I wholeheartedly agree with you about different programs. Different bodies react differently to various types of training. What works for me may indeed not work for someone else. I must also agree with you completely with regards to lifting safely. I have never once injured myself weightlifting, and it's not for lack of hard work. Safety can't be reinforced enough. I have upon more than one occasion talked to a fellow weight lifter who had bad form and was inevitably going to injure himself. Of course doing so requires a great deal of tact. I look forward to the rest of your articles.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

how about 4 days a week? (none / 0) (#78)
by florin on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 03:03:36 AM EST

Does the alternating method works well if you only do 4 days a week? Say, monday, tuesday, thursday and friday.
Will this method give better results for strong, muscular people, or for the thin, long-limbed?

[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#83)
by onyxruby on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 04:40:22 AM EST

That will also work well for 4 day a week training. If you do five day a week training, than I would recommend three arms and two legs. The important is that you just do it. Consistently going to the gym week after week is the important thing. The method I use is a balance between endurance, bulk and strength (max lift).

One method is not neccasarily better than any other. The question is what you want for results. For instance if you wanted to be very tone, but are not that concerned with bulk or strength doing high number of reps at lower weight will work wonders. This is fairly common with Women who want the tone look, but don't want to look muscular. If you really want to buld you'll do a lot of reps at about 80% to 85% of what you can do. A typical bulk workout would be 10-10-10. One of the best things you can do is to have a spotter work with you. If you wanted to focus on strength and not bulk, I would recommend just 10 of about 90% - 95% of what you can lift. If your long limbed and want to "fill out" I would recommend a bulking routine.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 0) (#144)
by RandomPeon on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 11:54:32 AM EST

I also use this method, and one thing I find is that it becomes very routine. For example, if you do Sunday-Thursday working out becomes something you do every night on weekdays. I've tried other methods, but for me personally it's far too easy to get off track.

[ Parent ]
My Workout (5.00 / 3) (#34)
by MicroBerto on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:29:55 PM EST

Everyone is different, but I'll post my workout rotation for comments, along with a few notes. My workout is 4 times a week, and I'm going for strength and muscle mass (I need to get bigger).. So i work the negatives (when you are putting the weight down) nice and slowly with as good of technique as I can:

  • Monday: Chest, triceps, and legs (I should really do more legs than I do, especially as a water polo player). I used to do back instead of triceps on this day, but my triceps get worked with the chest so much that I put them together.
  • Tuesday: Back, shoulders (my fav), biceps.
  • Wednesday: Rest (=warcraft3 after work all day for me!)
  • Thursday: Chest,triceps,legs again.
  • Friday (This sometimes turns into Saturday:) - Back, shoulders, biceps again.

    Then I rest until Monday.

    Think about this while you're lifting: Are you thirsty? Because your muscles sure are. I basically think that there's absolutely no point to lifting if you don't drink a shitload of water. Bust open that protein too, I've been using Optimum Nutrition's 100% Whey -- best thing I can get for the money.

    I change up workouts all the itme, but lately have been doing 3 exercies of each muscle group, with 5 sets. My reps go something like 10,8,8,6,6... with the 6s hopefully getting a good failure on the last one.

    For bench press I work a pyramid. Yesterday I did this for warmup:

    8x135 (warmup)
    1x200 (3 tiems).
    Then back down -- 3x175
    5x155... and by then i'm unable to move much!
    I was very happy to hit 200 lbs... obviously i'm not the strongest guy, I have been serious about it for a year and have made EXCELLENT gains in the last 4 months. I am now 6'0, 180lbs.

    If you're having a bad day, remember that a short, but intense workout is WAY better than a non-intense long and boring workout. No point in my coming unless i'm ready to rip up some shit.

    But everyone's different, and I'm welcome to all comments, flames, and pats on the back :)

    - GAIM: MicroBerto
    Bertoline - My comic strip

  • One last thing (4.00 / 1) (#35)
    by MicroBerto on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:33:55 PM EST

    One more thing -- If you're looking to get nice, ripped muscles (I am not there yet, so heed any of my advice!), there's a good Arnold quote out there:
    "An unflexed muscle is like an unshined pearl"
    So stand in front of the mirror, and do a few sets of flexing for 25 seconds or so... It should knock you out!

    I'm also 20 years old. Sometimes I use caffeine to get pumped up after a long day -- and yes, I know this isn't the best thing, but drink tons of water and get the blood flowing.

    OH! 5 or 6 minutes of cardio warmup (i hit the treadmill) before you lift is also very smart -- get the blood pumping!

    - GAIM: MicroBerto
    Bertoline - My comic strip
    [ Parent ]

    Cardio (none / 0) (#54)
    by chroma on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:06:05 PM EST

    Cardiovascular exercise is pretty important; the American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes 3 times a week at 50-80% of your max heart rate.

    [ Parent ]
    I know (none / 0) (#91)
    by MicroBerto on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 11:49:07 AM EST

    You're right, I know I haven't done any of that this summer. Only so much time, and I put weightlifting at a precedence. I'm going to be back in the pool getting ready for the fall polo season. Yuck, swimming at 6am won't be fun!

    - GAIM: MicroBerto
    Bertoline - My comic strip
    [ Parent ]
    Nothing wrong with caffeine IMO (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by der on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 12:59:23 AM EST

    I'm a pretty serious bodybuilder (although I havn't been for very long) and I drink caffeine (from various sources.. coffee, tea mostly) like a fiend. Pretty much every single commercial fat burner out there (not that I advocate those nasty things) has caffeine as a primary ingredient... there's a reason for that.

    And I personally don't believe coffee and tea have any real negative side effects (coffee isn't even a diuretic like many seem to think it is), so drink up. ;)

    [ Parent ]
    This brings up a question I've had for a while. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by haflinger on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:29:22 PM EST

    I have real problems in many ways putting on weight. But this is a big part of it.
    Are you thirsty? Because your muscles sure are. I basically think that there's absolutely no point to lifting if you don't drink a shitload of water.
    I drink a shitload of water, just getting up. I am absolutely always thirsty. If it wasn't for problems with availability (oh, how I long for an infinitely long hose) I would probably be drinking in the region of 8-10 litres of water a day, and that's without exercising. (For a frame of reference, right now I weigh 145.)

    I dehydrate really, really quickly. This causes problems in so many ways. I sweat whenever it gets hotter than about 12 C, which means that I sweat all the time when I'm indoors, unless it's a rather intemperate climate and the heat is out.

    Is there any way to deal with this, other than getting a Gatorade IV?

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    A few ideas? (4.00 / 1) (#92)
    by MicroBerto on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 11:54:42 AM EST

    That's a good question, and I'm no doctor, and maybe you should search or call around to find out. But a few questions -- Do you have a high sodium intake? Maybe that's throwing off your equilibrium. Also, are you at high elevation? People at high elevations need to drink more water, or so I've read. Or maybe you're at an area that's always with low humidity? If nothing checks out, I'd do some research. Perhaps its a precursor to a kidney problem or diabetes? :-(

    But, take that comment with a grain of salt, because I'm nowhere close to being a doctor

    - GAIM: MicroBerto
    Bertoline - My comic strip
    [ Parent ]

    Nope, it's metabolic. (5.00 / 1) (#95)
    by haflinger on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 12:32:28 PM EST

    Do you have a high sodium intake? Maybe that's throwing off your equilibrium.
    I don't think so. What would high be? I don't add salt to any of my food, or my cooking, except for bread. I mostly eat my own cooking.
    Also, are you at high elevation? People at high elevations need to drink more water, or so I've read.
    Not currently. 278m.
    Or maybe you're at an area that's always with low humidity?
    Absolutely, certainly not. 100% humidity for quite some time now. And most of my life has been spent in cities on the coast of one ocean or another, and this has always been a problem.

    No, it's a consequence of being genetically atypical. I was just wondering if there was a way to deal.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    See a doctor (none / 0) (#148)
    by jgp on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:10:34 AM EST

    If nothing checks out, I'd do some research. Perhaps its a precursor to a kidney problem or diabetes? :-(

    An early 20's friend of mine complained to his surgeon-father about very similar water drinking patterns, and his father thought it reason enough to see a doctor[1]. It was diabetes[2].

    So, see your doctore because of [1], even if [2] doesn't turn out to be true.

    [ Parent ]
    I've been tested for diabetes, I believe. (none / 0) (#151)
    by haflinger on Sat Jul 20, 2002 at 02:07:55 PM EST

    I'm accident-prone enough so that I wind up in hospitals reasonably often. I've had batteries of blood tests performed on me.

    They always come back the same: the testers are in awe of my amazing blood-health.

    Is diabetes a blood test? If yes, then I've certainly had it done.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    body-based exercises? (4.50 / 2) (#37)
    by hoskoteinos on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:38:28 PM EST

    Thanks for the informative article. It comes at a very opportune time for me.

    One issue I have that I don't see addressed much is what to do if you don't have easy access to a gym or exercise equipment -- which is my current circumstance. Are there body-based exercises one can do which would be comparable to what you'd get in a gym? I do pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups, but are there better ones? How do these kinds of exercises compare to equipment-based exercises?

    Info or pointers on this topic would be helpful.

    Non-weight conditioning (5.00 / 4) (#40)
    by Osiris on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 08:00:58 PM EST

    Pretty much the best exercise you can do for general fitness is running.  Work your way into it, all the equipment you need is a pair of shoes, and keep with it.  The best pattern is to run every other day, or maybe three days a week.

    Aside from the well-known exercises you mention, there are a few more I do.

    Yoga, chinese, or indian push ups (I've heard them called all three) start you with your feet spread, and your waist bent at a 90 degree angle, hands on the ground.  You ease down and forward, bending your arms, then arch your back, look toward the ceiling, and push up.  Hold, and reverse the motion to go back to the start.  This builds up your shoulders, back, and arms.

    There are a couple of variations on squats you can do without weights.

    A jumprope is $3.00 or so.  Get a good one, and it will last forever.

    Back arches: hands and feet flat on the floor, belly up.  Push up with everything, you'll be looking at the wall behind you.  Try to hold for 30 seconds or so at the beginning, it's damn hard.

    A variety of kick and punch techniques are useful for building speed, coordination, and control.  An easy way to do this, I'm sad to say, is to pick up a basic tae bo tape.  As a martial art, not so much, but it works for fitness :)

    Eventually you might work your way up to handstand pushups, which is fairly self-explanatory.  Use a wall to help balance.

    How do these compare to weight lifting?  I can't say for sure, but in my experience, high-rep low-weight exercises like these build strength well.  When I lift weights, I tend to go for a while and plateau.  Empty hand conditioning will push me through it every time.

    Calisthenics like these won't make you a beast like weights will, but they will make you fit, and able to get into weightlifting relatively easily if you ever get the desire/opportunity.

    [ Parent ]

    high-rep low weight (none / 0) (#85)
    by ronnya on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 06:24:25 AM EST

    If I remember correctly, there are two main muscle fibers: slow and fast. When doing high-rep low weight training you work your slow muscle fibers, which is good for stamina. But when you do few/medium-rep heavy/medium weight training you work your fast muscle fibers, which is good for strength and mass.

    [ Parent ]
    Possibly (none / 0) (#89)
    by Osiris on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 09:47:53 AM EST

    I imagine, though, that the fast and slow-twitch muscle thing is one of those greatly expanded modern "common knowledges".  It's true in a narrow scientific sense, but people devote entirely too much effort to trying to build a workout routine to build 'both'.

    I just know that when I was lifting hard a couple of years ago, I maxed out benching at a given weight and couldn't really crack it.  I took like 8 months off from the gym for various reasons, and when I went back my max was 40 pounds higher, and above my own body weight for the first time.  I credit the pushups.

    [ Parent ]

    arches can be hard (none / 0) (#141)
    by aigeek on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:04:49 PM EST

    Don't be discouraged if you can't do an arch (a.k.a. a bridge) at all.  It takes decent flexibility in your back and shoulders.  If you don't have it, you won't be able to get into position and it won't matter how strong you are.

    [ Parent ]
    Pilates (none / 0) (#73)
    by The Solitaire on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 02:06:17 AM EST

    While I have no personal experience with it, I've heard that pilates is a good program that doesn't require much in the way of equipment. My girlfriend's mom is a physiotherapist, and IIRC she thought it was pretty good...

    Has anyone out there had any experience (bad or good) with this?

    I need a new sig.
    [ Parent ]

    Hotel Room Workout? (none / 0) (#147)
    by Christopher on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 01:28:00 PM EST

    I've been curious about this ever since I started lifting: What to do when I'm on the road and don't have access to a gym?

    A quick Google search for "hotel room workout" turned up some promising results, but I have yet to talk to an actual trainer about something like this. It'd be great to have a full-body workout that can be done with nothing but an open floor and a chair.

    Has anyone had any personal experience with something like this? What worked for you? Especially, how did you do your shoulders, back & biceps?

    more and more to do, less and less to prove
    [ Parent ]

    Hardgainer drivel (4.00 / 2) (#39)
    by MicroBerto on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 07:58:05 PM EST

    I just went to Hardgainer, and clicked on this page -- Why conventional bodybuilding methods suck.

    This was clearly the worst read I've EVER had. The first 60 pages are PURE drivel of why this guy is angry at the weightlifting world. Basically, its 60 pages of him saying that drugs ruin the weightlifting world and that the workouts that these people do cannot be done successfully by us normal, genetically-challenged people. 60 pages of that.. simply awful.

    Then he goes on to claim what works -- and makes it sound like it works for EVERYBODY. That part takes up a mere 4 pages or so, and gives no details at all. Sorry buddy, but we're all not like you (thank god).

    Don't waste your time on that page. I'll give the rest of hardgainer.com a chance though.

    - GAIM: MicroBerto
    Bertoline - My comic strip

    Ooh, yeah. You know it baby :) (none / 0) (#51)
    by haflinger on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:37:37 PM EST

    You gotta love his font sizes though. 10 words per page, here we come! :)

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]
    Yeah (none / 0) (#59)
    by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:25:20 PM EST

    Some of their pages are pretty embarassing. I like most of the articles, though.

    [ Parent ]
    One thing is true, though (5.00 / 1) (#99)
    by theR on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:48:27 PM EST

    The majority of workouts you read about in the muscle magazines (not necessarily the more rounded fitness magazines) are geared towards people on steroids or supplements, whether legal or illegal. Typically, these are articles telling you about some enourmous bodybuilder's weightlifting routine so that you can try it. The numbers of reps, sets, and amount of rest will often not work the same way for someone trying to build muscle "naturally." You need to take a lot of these magazines with a grain of salt, particularly the ones that are mainly about building muscle rather than overall fitness.

    It is a good point you make that what works for one person won't work for everybody. One must figure out what works and what doesn't.

    [ Parent ]
    So.. (3.33 / 3) (#41)
    by petis on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 08:45:45 PM EST

    .. could you include suggestions of what to do with all muscles in the next part? :)

    Utility (none / 0) (#55)
    by chroma on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:09:21 PM EST

    Hey, don't underestimate the usefulness of being to lift heavy objects.

    [ Parent ]
    Helping people move (5.00 / 3) (#58)
    by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:23:42 PM EST

    It's actually a lot of fun to help people move. They're impressed when you pick up a box they say is "really heavy", and if you lift a lot of heavy stuff for them, I've found your chances of getting more free beer/dinner/etc afterwards increase. See, direct, tangible payback!

    [ Parent ]
    A small list (none / 0) (#68)
    by jjayson on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 12:17:08 AM EST

    • Sit around all day, eat anything you want, and still burn it off
    • Get chicks
    • Go climbing
    • Play basketball (or other sport)
    • Lift things and impress the girls
    • Feel good about your physique
    • Get chicks

    "Even I can do poler co-ordinates and i can't even spell my own name." - nodsmasher
    You better take care of me, Lord. If you don't
    [ Parent ]
    You Stronger == Everything Easier (4.00 / 1) (#82)
    by kojo on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 04:31:25 AM EST

    I was talking to a female friend (who's very out of shape, but working out) about the benefits of lifting, even a little.

    Basically, the stronger you get, the easier the rest of your life becomes. All the things you normally have to pick up or move on a day to day basis don't get heavier as you work out. You get stronger!

    Walking across a parking lot, or up a flight of stairs is much less tiring when your legs are stronger. Why? They don't have to work as hard.

    Physically, life doesn't scale up in difficulty because you get stronger. What'cha gonna do (What'cha gonna do!?!) with those new muscles? Just about everything a lot easier, that's what.


    [ Parent ]
    For me, (1.11 / 9) (#43)
    by Icehouseman on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 09:12:07 PM EST

    I already know this stuff; so I don't care.
    Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
    Fitness (none / 0) (#44)
    by Rhodes on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 09:32:02 PM EST

    I still think it's important to focus on overall fitness, where restinance exercises are joined with fleability and cardio / endurance training. Martial arts and dancing are a good way to do at least 2 of the 3 (wrestling, judo , ... combine all three better than any exercise routinue I've found).

    I did enjoy the perspective, though you might mention the cycling by the name given by the first developers - periodization. Otherwise, I found it written to a good level (suggesting people find a workout partner would be valuable also, avoiding guilt motivates both parties to workout).

    Fitness (4.20 / 5) (#45)
    by Rhodes on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 09:34:10 PM EST

    I still think it's important to focus on overall fitness, where restinance exercises are joined with fleability and cardio / endurance training. Martial arts and dancing are a good way to do at least 2 of the 3 (wrestling, judo , ... combine all three better than any exercise routinue I've found).

    I did enjoy the perspective, though you might mention the cycling by the name given by the first developers - periodization. Otherwise, I found it written to a good level (suggesting people find a workout partner would be valuable also, avoiding guilt motivates both parties to workout).

    An isolation exercise which should help a lot as the weight increases is working on the forearms- particuarly doing the deadlift- the maximum amount is sometimes more limited by my forearm strength than the primary muscle groups.

    Great article! (4.00 / 1) (#48)
    by strlen on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:22:15 PM EST

    I've been following pretty much what's outline above, since April and I've greatly improved. The changes come very fast, and you'll see results within two weeks. The way I do is at 45 minutes of exercsize per day, 3 days a week. That was enough for me. Of course I missed a couple days, worked out only 30 mins a couple of days,worked more than normal a couple of days, but overall I've noted a great change. No, working out won't many you any less of a geek, if that's whats really worries you.

    [T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
    If you're looking for a home workout.. (none / 0) (#50)
    by insta on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:34:37 PM EST

    If you're looking for a home workout and you've got enough room, search the local papers for a used Soloflex with all the attachments. I picked up one with all the attachments (leg attachment and butterfly attachment) for $300 USD. I've been using it for about a month using their workout plan and I've never felt better in my life.

    There are a lot of benefits to using one of these machines, you don't need someone to spot you and you can do many more exercises than just a regular bench/freeweights.

    Oh PLEASE Don't Do This!!! (5.00 / 4) (#75)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 02:36:41 AM EST

    If you are one of the people to whom this article is prescribed, this is the worst advice you could take, other than to concentrate on cardio!

    As an inexperienced weight lifter, you absolutely NEED the experience of working out in an environment where other people are around to learn from and to support you. You also need the change in environment in order to make this a sustainable endeavor and not fall back to whatever you used to do in your new "home gym" room.

    I'll start by saying this poster might be the exception to the rule. But if you are one of the inexperienced this article speaks to, you should look for the support of a good gym! Whether that is an all women's gym, a hard-core sweat shop, or a fitness center with "consultants" (don't use them btw, see below), pick a spot that is convenient to your current lifestyle (e.g., between work/school and home) and get other people involved!

    I am not a trained fitness expert, it's simply bullshit to think that you need one to keep your own body healthy. Find the people in the gym that look like you want to and PIN THEM DOWN!! Ask them questions. If you feel intimidated by them because they are in too good of shape, find someone who represents a mid-point and PIN THEM DOWN FIRST!! Then get to that mid point steadily, sustain it, and go looking for the first group of "advisors".

    Get the idea? Don't get a do-it-at-home-kit, don't buy a "program". Buy a gym membership at a place you drive by every day, or just down the street, that's to your liking, and ASK THE PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE YOU WANT TO.

    Last but not least, start slowly! One set of each exercise for the first two weeks. Got it? I know you can do more, DON'T. Make the foolhardy go through the 2nd day pains from too much too soon. Two weeks, go through the motions, next, learn the ropes from people already there.

    And have a Great Workout!


    [ Parent ]

    A different point of view (4.00 / 1) (#52)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 10:51:21 PM EST

    I guess I disagree with about every point of this article - not because I think you won't get results this way (you almost certainly will) but because it represents one narrow reason for weight lifting.

    Body building is only one reason for lifting. Personally, when I weighed 310 pounds, the last think I wanted to do was bulk up.

    On the other hand, having a skl machine (to do the cardio) and a bowflex (what, my 5' nothing wife is going to spot for me?) were just what I needed to finally lose weight, gain strength and stamina, and a great deal of confidence as well.

    Now, I work with guys who do or did serious body building, and I know that only my 5 year old daughter thinks I'm "ripped". By bowflex standards I do well, pressing 220 pounds and curling 135, but I'm pretty sure that's more like pressing 160-170 pounds and curling 100 in freeweight land. On the other hand, I'm now able to bicycle 7-8 miles of very hilly terrain 3 times a week - when I started on the bowflex I literally couldn't run 50 yards.


    bulking up (none / 0) (#56)
    by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:12:47 PM EST

    If only it were so easy to get big.

    I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that I was espousing weightlifting as a means of simply getting big, because I'm not. I lift weights to become strong, rather than big - often the 2 are tied together, but genetically, I know that I'll never be what most people would consider "big"; my body's just not set up that way. However, I have gotten and can get much stronger than I am, and I will indeed get a bit bigger in time.

    I personally wouldn't consider myself a bodybuilder; if I had to pick anything, I would call myself a powerlifter. Different philosophies, although sometimes the training ideas overlap.

    Again, I'm sorry if that's the impression the article gave you.

    [ Parent ]

    Eh. (none / 0) (#60)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:28:46 PM EST

    Perhaps I was reacting to the "don't forget to pose in the mirror" posts. (grin)

    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    I disagree with your disagreement.. Nice Article! (none / 0) (#80)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 03:37:54 AM EST

    I don't see much in here eluding to advice for bulking up. It seems to be more about how to work out with free weights.

    And it all looks like sound advice.

    Great Article!

    [ Parent ]

    Oh, there's a lot to like in the article (none / 0) (#128)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:45:38 AM EST

    I guess I just get cheesed off by people who can lift more than me.


    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    Free weights vs. machines (none / 0) (#61)
    by chroma on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:30:00 PM EST

    One reason that I like machines is that they can get you through a workout much faster. Adjust the seat, set the weight pin, and go at it. Want a heavier or lighter weight? Just move the pin.

    Plus, at the gym, the freeweight section is typically more crowded; the benches and chairs are always in use.

    Finally, some machines exercise muscles in ways that would be impossible with freeweights. My favorite chest machine of all time was a Cybex that  had a motion that was like a bench press and a fly built into one. The press and fly were actually separate motions. I've worked out in many places around the USA, but I only ever saw that machine once, at a gym in Little Rock, Arkansas, of all places.

    machines (none / 0) (#84)
    by ronnya on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 06:06:47 AM EST

    Also, machines ensure good form. Less risk of injuries, especially if you don't have a spotter. In books and magazines they seem to recommend using both free weights and machines, and I couldn't agree more.

    [ Parent ]
    all the most important details left out (none / 0) (#62)
    by zzzeek on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:35:11 PM EST

    Lifting freeweights for the purpose of gaining large amounts of muscle mass is great, but this article left out very important things that anyone working out in a gym needs to know, i.e. the development of a strong core, importance of cardio, and stretching.  

    If you dont have a strong core (the various abdominal muscles, the obliques, etc), you greatly raise the likelihood of hurting yourself or otherwise building up a body that is inherently out of balance, since all of your new muscle mass has to be supported properly, and the focus of this support is the core.  You should insure that you are doing an abdominal workout every time, which includes a wide variety of exercises as well as continuous variation.  You should learn techniques from a class or an instructor.   There are four separate sets of muscles, and only one of them (the "6 pack", or rectus abdominis) is clearly visible.  All four need to be strengthened for the body to support additional muscle mass and strength.

    Similiarly, cardio training is extremely important, and is far more directly involved with weight loss (as is diet) than lifting freeweights.

    Stretching is yet another thing that is best learned from classes or trainers, and is vital in preventing injury and insuring healthy muscle growth.  A full stretching regimen should be performed with every workout (some people say before using weights, after the muscles have been warmed with a little cardio, others say after the workout is complete), particularly those muscles that were worked with weights.  Stretching after exertion greatly enhances the muscles ability to heal, which means you will achieve your desired results more effectively with proper stretching.

    For most people that are out of shape, cardio, core, and stretching are where they have the most immediate need, in addition to development of overall muscle mass.  But hitting the big freeweights is not something that should be emphasized in the beginning, as the body needs to be in good cardiovascular condition and have a strong core to support it all first.

    details (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:46:38 PM EST

    Some of the things you mention (like stretching and abdominals) will be coming in the next article. If you're doing the big stuff like I've mentioned, your stomach and support muscles will get worked, and it will probably be later your career until you absolutely need to incorporate several specific abdominal workouts, although starting them early is a good idea.

    As far as lifting not being something good to begin with, I have to disagree, just from personal experience. I started as an overweight, unhealthy college kid with a rest pulse of 85/90. I started lifting and look and feel completely different. My rest pulse is 60. I don't espouse lifting as being a panacea, or being the only thing you should do for fitness, but I believe pretty much anybody in any physical condition can start and benefit from it. Again, YMMV.

    [ Parent ]

    Good points, but Yikes!... (5.00 / 1) (#79)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 03:31:24 AM EST

    The stretching advice, dead on! Get some stretches in in between sets as well. You'd be surprised how fast you can improve your muscle gains by stretching for 30 seconds between sets. This is outstanding on biceps!

    I STRONGLY disagree with doing abdominals every workout. This is blatant overtraining of the muscle groups. These are no different than any other muscles. Train them, then give them a break. And don't worry about an instructor, this isn't rocket science, just ask someone with nice abs to show you (the opposite sex is always a nice start).

    Definately don't do abs more than you do lower back. It's a good point about not neglecting your core (or trunk), so do the front and back an equal amount.

    The cardio training part, is absolute BUNK! This is classical thinking gone horribly wrong! Muscle mass burns fat while idling, and you do not have to have good cardio to start in on free weights! If you are overweight, start with light weight training (it will seem ridiculous at first, that's ok) and a mild diet change, introduce low impact cardio and more diet changes, then move on from there.

    So in short, I counter-suggest starting with a light weight training workout, mild diet change, and stretching until you get to a healthy size for low impact cardio, then get more agressive all the way around. But don't take my word for it. Ask someone at your newfound home away from home (the gym) who actually looks like you want to.

    And have a Great Workout! It can be real fun if you let it!

    [ Parent ]

    Watch out if you stop! (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by fencepost on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:44:45 PM EST

    As with any kind of significant exercise, you're going to be eating more - perhaps not as much more as your body might like and not the same things you were eating before, but likely still more quantity-wise.

    If you stop exercising, watch what you eat really closely for a week or two afterwards - you and your body have gotten used to consuming for hard exercise, and if you don't watch what you eat when you stop you'll keep eating that way for a week or two or more. All those extra calories that you're no longer burning will stay right where your body stored them.

    "nothing really says "don't hire me, I'm an idiot" quite as well as misspelling "pom-pom" on your resume." -- former Grinnellian

    yes (none / 0) (#67)
    by braeburn on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:51:42 PM EST

    In fact, this is where one of the urban legends about lifting comes from (my Dad believes this one, sadly), that if you get muscles and then stop working out your muscles will transform into fat. Which is bunk. :)

    [ Parent ]

    Great Advice (n/t) (none / 0) (#77)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 03:00:03 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    On "naturals" (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by fencepost on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 11:50:56 PM EST

    They are out there, but putting on muscle easily is not always a real blessing.

    I dated a "natural" for a while, and she'd actually had to give up a lot of working out because of how much muscle mass she was building. She had a pretty square body already, and apparently if she worked out regularly she started to look like the archetypical D&D dwarf - broad, blocky, and muscled. Heck, she was in a class outside the office for a few weeks, one that was walkable (somewhere around a mile from the train station). Walking a little over two miles a day, by the end of the class she was having problems with jeans - her calves were on the verge of too big to fit them.

    "nothing really says "don't hire me, I'm an idiot" quite as well as misspelling "pom-pom" on your resume." -- former Grinnellian

    two words - mark leyner (n/t) (none / 0) (#70)
    by vyesue on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:07:35 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    lifting is great and all (none / 0) (#71)
    by techwolf on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:12:14 AM EST

    but what about those that want/need to build fast muscle mass (under 10-12 weeks)and have no access to gyms or free weights? what then?

    "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson

    Join the army. :) (none / 0) (#72)
    by braeburn on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:27:44 AM EST

    In all seriousness, as much as you may want to build fast muscle mass, not having access to a gym is going to hinder you, and be careful not to get obsessed with fast gains.

    That said, three months is a while, and if you have relatively little muscle mass, you might want to try something like running (combined with proper eating), pullups, pushups, and the like. Other people will probably know more about this than I do; I've always had access to a gym.

    And while I was joking about the army, if you're really motivated some armed forces branches (specifically the Navy SEALs, I think), have some of their physical training programs posted online, but they're really, really hardcore, something like a ton of running, pushups, etc. I seem to remember that each "phase" of the SEAL one is 9 weeks, and I'm sure if you did one of those, you'd gain some. Google should help you out if you're interested.

    [ Parent ]

    Seriously? Talk to a Gymnastics instructor. (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 02:56:58 AM EST

    Before I turned 16 and was able to drive to the gym, I tried to fulfill a childhood dream and joined a gymnastics club. Unfortunately, I didn't fulfill another childhood dream of becoming independently wealthy first, so I had to quit (didn't want my parents to pay).

    While I was taking classes though, I made the BEST strength gains I EVER had in a short period of time. And I made noticeable mass gains. (Note they are different. Power Lifter != Bodybuilder.)

    So one suggestion is to find a gymnastics center, explain your plight (or better yet, that your kinda interested but not sure), and sit and watch a few classes. Take notes, figure out what they are doing and emulate it at home.

    Some hints:
    Milk Cartons = dumbbells
    Chin-up bars can be found everywhere. Or hung if need be.
    Controlled Push-ups are extremely useful.
    Pushing a car in a parking lot works great on the legs. Make sure you have someone capable steering it though. With the engine off. In neutral. Off the brake.

    Finally, most schools (Teenage and up) have a gym. Join a class to use it, or ask permission after school, etc.

    [ Parent ]

    How to Start Lifting Weights (2.80 / 5) (#74)
    by LilDebbie on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 02:23:11 AM EST

    Step 1: Find weight
    Step 2: Lift weight
    Step 3: Put down weight
    * Repeat as necessary

    Yeah, give me a break, I'm drunk.

    My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
    - hugin -

    WTF is up with me? (none / 0) (#81)
    by sephalix on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 04:25:35 AM EST

    i dunno if I would fall under the category of and "easygainer", but what i do to my body seems to have a tremendous impact. when i was in martial arts(tae kwon do and judo mostly) and working out i gained muscle like mad. i was well defined and had great endurance, however i have since stopped practicing martial arts and working out and have found that my shape deteriorated extremely quickly. and the brief stints of working out since then have improved upon me with an astounding quickness. i seem to improve and regress faster than all of my friends and family according to what i am doing. what's up with that?

    Congratulations (5.00 / 1) (#102)
    by p3d0 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 04:51:43 PM EST

    Wow, you must be a tremendous physical specimen. I envy you. I wish I could meet you. You must be a genetic freak. In fact, I bet humans are evolving into something like you. Eventually, mankind will be a race of super-men just like you. I feel so unworthy, I might just sterilize myself right now and take my inferior genes out of the gene pool, and I really think everyone who's not like you should do the same.
    Patrick Doyle
    My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
    [ Parent ]
    RE: Congratulations (4.00 / 1) (#105)
    by sephalix on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 12:04:05 AM EST

    lol, i didn't mean that i'm in great shape and it only took me a few days, i'm actually in quite bad shape i would say. I was just stating that changes seem to happen faster to me than most other people i know. i lose/gain weight faster than most. i've become pretty lazy this summer so i'm not in very good shape.

    [ Parent ]
    I beg to disagree (4.50 / 2) (#86)
    by psychologist on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 07:46:00 AM EST

    From what I have picked up, you are using the term hardgainer wrong. Normal people are just normal. Hardgainers are those thin people who never gain mass. Then there are the genetic freaks.

    Let me offer some alternate advice here:

    Huge muscles are not good. Think about it - if you have huge muscles, you will need special clothes, and you will have to eat a lot to maintain those muscles. Once you get used to eating, and stop training, you will first lose the muscles, then gain fat. It will be very difficult to slim down if you were a former body builder. And when you are old, you will belong to the man-boobies club.

    What I do is combat conditioning. Basically, it is training without any weights - and is specifically geared towards extreme situation. You stay slim, and gain very hard muscles, and be able to withstand pressure over a long period of time.

    Look here for an example.

    It means twisting your body into various shapes daily, building flexibility, driving your body to the edge, basically. You won't bulk quickly, but you will gain rock hard muscles that will stay for long.

    Also, stuff like cycling 50Km or running 400 meters at full throttle.

    Combat conditioning (none / 0) (#137)
    by Ghost Ganz on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:38:28 PM EST

    Thanks for the link.

    I'll try some of those exercises for a while. I'm not likely to get into any "extreme situations", but at least these exercises are more fun than lifting weights! :-)

    [Bottle 'B' is for the monkeys only]
    [ Parent ]

    "Sensible Training" by Ken Leistner (5.00 / 2) (#87)
    by MeanGene on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 09:21:16 AM EST

    Here is a very good (IMHO) article from the Google's USENET database.

    I'd post the text right here (from my archive), but there's nothing like hundreds of body-builders chasing after you for copyright violations... ;-)

    Can you make this a bit easier for me? (5.00 / 1) (#88)
    by mami on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 09:40:44 AM EST

    You can save me from breaking my hip and legs, right now. If you could put your answer in simple terms.

    Here is a realistic situation. I am not overweight, but I am loosing muscles big time since menopause. This process is so rapid and so unexpected that together with too few real life situations, where you actually have to use your muscles, it's getting pretty scary. Considering osteoporosis is best fought by increasing muscle strenght, which will then strengthen your bones, I wanted to start doing this.

    Now, I have never exercised in my life and hate to go to Gyms. I also know that if I exercise I can't do it in rooms, which have no open windows and an influx of fresh air. I have run out of Gyms before just because I couldn't bear the lack of oxygen in the surrounding air.

    In addition I have two badly worn out knees. Though I didn't exercise in my life, I did a lot of heavy lifting during my normal course of doing all housework which included constant moving of household goods. My knees swell and hurt these days as soon as I just do a little bit of work, which I used to consider quite normal in earlier years. I am like this about for five years now.

    I want to strengthen my upper leg and body muscles, I don't need to strengthen my arm and chest muscles.

    Tell me in four or five simple sentences, how much and with what kind of torture machines I can achieve that at home.


    How about one link? (5.00 / 1) (#97)
    by RackMount on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:07:42 PM EST


    Or, for just the basics, with no special machines: http://www.stumptuous.com/program7.html

    That site is aimed a women, but the author seems to be a bit younger than you.  I would check with your doctor about your knees.

    [ Parent ]

    Thanks (nt) (5.00 / 1) (#110)
    by mami on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 09:53:02 AM EST

    [ Parent ]
    Ok, in Five sentences or less... (none / 0) (#101)
    by 955301 on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 01:56:42 PM EST

    I read your story about five times now, and you seem to have a pretty good idea of what doesn't work for you. So here goes...

    You might consider getting a bicycle and finding a fairly flat neighborhood to ride it around in first. I hope your own roads work for you, but leave it at a friends house and drive over if they have a quieter/more pleasant better spot/park. As you get better, ride a little harder, and find some more hills as a fun challenge.

    Give this some time, then buy yourself some small dumbbells, and do some simple routines to start down this path. One of the legendary gyms of bodybuilding is actually outside, so get out in the sun while you excercise.

    So that's it! As simple as it sounds, I think the "torture machine" might well have been waiting in your garage all this time! If not, find one, and spend your time outside. But whatever your do, don't neglect your upper body, even if you feel you don't need it.

    And get some other people involved. Exercise can actually be a very fun "sport"!

    [ Parent ]

    the sad thing is (5.00 / 1) (#109)
    by mami on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 09:50:46 AM EST

    that I am scared to run and bicycle in my neighborhood parks. We have had a couple of disappearing women and two found dead in there and I don't feel comfortable.

    I got those weights, which you put on your ankles and wrists and it's actually working to just wear them. I know an ideal flat place, where I would feel comfortable to bicycle and run, but it's a hassle to get there by car and find a parking space, so that's unrealistic to get it accomplished in the time I have aside my job.

    BTW, I had no torture machine in my garage so far. Well, I guess I have to give it a bit more committment.

    [ Parent ]

    Go swimming (none / 0) (#150)
    by nlaporte on Thu Jul 18, 2002 at 09:23:04 AM EST

    You say that your joints are worn  out.  Why not try and excercise in a joint-friendly environment i.e. the pool?  Doing crawl and breaststroke will strengthen exactly what you ask, and will not put any strain on hurn joints.

    The only problem is that you might not be able to find a pool, but look around.  My local public high school has one which is open to the public for free, and you might always be able to join a local Y.

    Good luck!

    John Shydoubie. Shydoubie. John Shydoubie. John Shydoubie.
    [ Parent ]

    Good Article, but you left something out... (4.00 / 1) (#90)
    by traxman on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 11:08:31 AM EST

    The best way to be successful at weightlifting, or excercising of any kind, is to do something you like doing! Many people are motivated to work out or lift weights because they a) feel guilty, b) have a poor self image, c) have some alternate goal they want to acheive. While these aren't necissarily the wrong reasons to work out, they are not one's that will keep you working out. The logic is simple. People can do something they hate for a while, and when they acheive the result they want, they quit, because they punished themsleves by doing something they didn't enjoy. That's a big problem, and one reason why Gym membership skyrockets in January. (The "new year's resolution" syndrome. ;) ) If you want to get strong, be in shape or lose weight. I say the only way to be successful is to do something you like! Lifting doesn't have to be done with weights. Anything around the house can be lifted enough to be an effective training device. I am currently using a 30-gallon barrel for my current lifting. It cost me $39, and is just as effective as a $40/month gym membership. Plus I get to be outside, and I don't have to drive anywhere to work out! So, find something you like, that you can do safely, and that above all, is fun! And then get out there and start sweating! Also, if you can find a friend that likes to do the same things you do, it will make it that much easier. Good Luck! traxman


    Kuro5hin/Slashdot exercise plan (4.33 / 3) (#94)
    by thesync on Sat Jul 13, 2002 at 12:19:26 PM EST

    Set up...
    1) Schwinn recumbent stationary bike
    2) Heart monitor watch to help me stay keep in aerobic mode
    3) Fujitsu Stylistic 1200 tablet computer (under $300 on Ebay)
    4) Cable modem Internet connection
    5) Music stand for computer

     every day after work, repeat:
    1) Get on bike
    2) Read Slashdot
    3) Read Kuro5hin
    4) Oh, I've been on the bike for 45 minutes already?

    I like mine better :-) (none / 0) (#119)
    by brad3378 on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:38:37 AM EST

    I've got an old gateway destination system.
    It's a 31 (yes Thirty-one) inch monitor that I put in front of my treadmill.  I've even got a place to put my wireless keyboard.

    Slightly more than $300.00 on E-bay though..
    I think they're now going for about 5-600 or so.

    [ Parent ]

    I bounce up and down too much (none / 0) (#129)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:47:11 AM EST

    I can't read on my norditrack - I bounce up and down too much.

    I just put the latest anime video from Netflix on my TV to keep my attention off how much my legs hurt.

    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    Newbiet! (5.00 / 1) (#106)
    by a boy and his bike on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 12:12:33 AM EST

    Been lurking a while, this place looks cool.

    Ok, check it out. I cycle a lot and have huge legs, but a tiny upper body, which makes me unhappy. So since I got laid off last year, I started going to the local community center gym. It's small, there's no trainer and there's one of each machine. Usually, I'm alone.

    1) What does the bar weigh? When you say how much you bench press, do you include the bar or do people just mention the plates? I'm guessing there's a difference between free weights and a Smith machine? I know I can feel one.

    2) Is there a difference in say, shoulder pressing two 45lb dumbells at 2 seconds per rep vs. two 25lbs at 8 seconds per rep? I feel more burn with 25lbs at 8 seconds, and I mean 4 seconds 'positive' all the way, and then 4 seconds 'negative'. I'm guessing you get a better workout with lower weights at slower speed? It's less macho but less dangerous no?

    3) I have 17" calves at 5"10 170lbs, but they're just big and round, that's it. No 'implant look', no upside down heart, no big network of yucky varicose veins (thank God). How do people get those big-ass calves anyways? I'm already at the limit of the calf raise machine, but I'm starting to slow these down too, but I'm still too strong. What exercises can I do to get bigger calves or am I too big already?

    4) And just what is the difference between a leg press and a squat? For me, I need ALL the 45 lbs plates and 35 lbs plates in the place just to get a good leg press, but a squat, I can use two 45 and two 35 and I get the same feeling as the leg press. Scoop anyone?

    answers (5.00 / 1) (#107)
    by braeburn on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:40:04 AM EST

    1. An unloaded full-size barbell weighs 45 pounds. When you talk about how much you can lift, include the bar; thus 2 of the big plates (the 45-pounders) on a bar is 135. There is a huge difference between free weights and a Smith machine - check out my answer to #4 below, the same logic applies.

    2. Lower speed reps are indeed harder than higher speed ones, and some people find it easier to focus on the form at slower speeds. As long as you're in control of the weights and not jerking, you can lift at faster speed without it being more dangerous.

    3. How do people get big/small/well-formed calves? Genetics. It's a very hard muscle to change the size of via exercise. Stronger, yes; larger and more defined, usually no.

    4. A leg press is much easier than a squat; that's why you can lift so much more on a leg press. Squat involves a lot more musculature at a lot higher intensity, notably almost all of your back musculature, and some other stabilizer muscles. The leg press is pretty much just your hamstrings and quads.

    [ Parent ]

    answers (5.00 / 2) (#117)
    by BOredAtWork on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 06:00:27 PM EST

    1) A standard Olympic straight barbell weighs 45 pounds. (Olympic Bar - The ends have about a 2.5" diameter cylinder on the end that you slide the plates onto.) A non-olympic straight barbell can be anyhing from 25 to 35 pounds, from what I've seen, depending on the manufacturer. A curl bar is less (I don't use them often, and don't recall how much they weigh). Most people include the weight of the bar when they thump their chest and brag about how much they bench. A Smith Machine definately makes lifting a given weight easier, because it eliminates balancing the weight. Normally, when you bench press, you have to balance the bar, and that takes strength, lots of secondary muscles, and good form. With a Smith Machine, you can contort and wiggle all over the place and put all your strength into moving the weight. They're a great way to lift "heavy", but also a great way to mess up your back or shoulders if you're not disciplined enough to keep your form when you're moving the weight. On a standard bench press, if you start to favor one arm, or push forward/backward instead of straight up (thereby putting stress on your shoulders and elbows), the natural feedback is feeling the weight start to become unbalanced, and you're forced to correct yourself, or break a few ribs when you lose control of the weight. With a Smith Machine, this feedback doesn't apply.

    Dumbells require even more balance than a straight bar; if you try benching 2 60 pound dumbells, you'll find it MUCH harder than benching a single 120 pound barbell.

    2) It is less dangerous in the sense that you don't have as much stress on your joints, and that if you do miss a rep (ie drop the weight) it's liable to do less damage if it's lighter. Generally, most people aim for a balance between weight and number of reps. The "standard" phrase is high reps to tone muscle, and high weight to build muscle. For a balanced approach, do some of both.

    3) Well, if I had 17 inch calves, I wouldn't be looking to get bigger. If you're looking for more definition, make sure you're stretching well, and that you're going through your full range of motion when do you calf raises. Other than that, and some time in the squat cage, I don't know what else to tell you.

    4) Leg presses are to squats what the Smith Machine is to a standard bench press. Leg Press machines are all about strength in the major muscles; a squat requires balance, and just about every secondary muscle group in the legs and back. If you want a good balance between the two, try squatting inside a Smith Machine. That will let you squat without worrying so much about balance, but not let you stack up 800 pounds like a leg press machine might. Be sure to read the warnings on the Smith Machine, though... I think some might only be supposed to hold up to 600 pounds or so.

    [ Parent ]

    curl bar (none / 0) (#143)
    by nsadhal on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 05:34:15 AM EST

    I believe the standard curl bar weighs 25 lbs.

    [ Parent ]
    ExRx.net (5.00 / 3) (#108)
    by childlike on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:04:43 AM EST

    If you're looking for a comprehensive reference for all of the exercises mentioned, and many more, check out ExRx.net

    There are animations of someone performing each exercise, as well as details of which muscles an exercise makes use of.

    You missed a few (4.75 / 4) (#111)
    by BOredAtWork on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 10:37:26 AM EST

    You missed a few major points that really ought to be included in ANY "introduction" to weight training.

    • Have a spotter. - One can't overstress the importance of having a spotter who knows what they're doing, ESPECIALLY when first starting out. Not only could a spotter save you from serious injury and tell you about problems in your form before they become a bad habit, they can actually help you get the most reps out of each set. Your spotter can help you as much or as little as needed to get that 11th or 12th rep that you'd not be able to complete yourself.

    • Use dumbells (Dumbell - the weight is in two separate pieces, you hold one in each hand. Barbell - the weight is a single piece.) - Generally, machines are good. Freeweights are better. Dumbells are best. With a machine, one can just throw the weight up, and drop it again. With a straight bar and plates, one develops the muscles required to balance the weight, as well as move it. With dumbells, balance becomes even more critical.

      If you lift with dumbells, you can't favor one arm over the other the way you can with a barbell or machine. Just as you can lift more on a machine than with a barbell, you can lift more with a barbell than with the equivilent pair of dumbells. A guy who can bench 200 pounds on a machine usually can do 170 or so with a barbell. The same guy will usually have to drop down to 2 70 pound dumbells. Dumbells use more muscle groups than anything else, so they'll result in a better overall look, as well as better overall strength. They also put less stress on joints, and allow beginners to start with less weight; a standard barbell with NO weight plates is 45 pounds, most gyms have assorted dumbells as low as 5 pounds each. Dumbells are also the best option for beginners, because they can see faster improvement than with a machine or straight bar. Their basic ability to balance dumbells will increase dramatically by just their second day lifting and keep increasing like that for a week or two, and it's incredibly beneficial for a beginner to see immediate results.

    • Muscles come in pairs. USE BOTH. - Muscles are paired. To keep a good appearance and lift safely, you MUST use both muscles in the pair. If you don't understand why, ask anyone who has ever rowed for a crew team. Rowers work the muscles in the back harder than any other atheletes. Hours of practice in the boat, essentially doing thousands of reps. If they don't spend time on their own working their abdominals, they risk tearing them, or cracking a rib when they row, because their backs are so strong. The same basic principle applies to any muscle in a pair - if you develop one extensively without developing the other, you risk damage to the smaller of the two, or the joint or organ it's supposed to be protecting.

    • Vary your workouts. Overtraining is a real danger, but perhaps just as dangerous is having a routine you grow tired of doing. Boring routines result in less motivation, which means poorer performance. Vary your workouts. Everyone has different opinions on what's "fun" when exercising, and you'll be much happier and much more likely to continue exercising if you find what's fun for you. Don't just lift the same muscle groups day after day, even if you do rest each group 48 hours between lifts. Try alternating a 3 day schedule - lift upper body one day, lower body the next, and swim or run the next day. Cardio development is important; it'll give you better stamina and increased lung capacity (both helpful when lifting), and reduce your risk for heart disease.

    If you're seriously considering lifting weights, be sure to lift with someone who has experience and preferably professional certification as an instructor for your first month or two. Learn the basics; gym safety, good form, safe incremental increases. If you get a good grasp on the basics, you'll be well on your way to becoming stronger and healthier.

    Thanks (4.00 / 1) (#113)
    by endquotedotcom on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 01:53:03 PM EST

    Just thought I'd say thanks for the article, and I'm looking forward to the next one. I'm 6'2", 165lbs, and have wanted to do some lifting for a while, but lack motivation, other than "Gee it sure would be nice if my stomach and arms looked nicer." The fact that I could probably hurt myself pretty easily, and don't know anyone who lifts is a convenient reason to not do it. I went to a gym a few times a week for about a month, but didn't stick with it because I found it so boring.

    I recently moved into an apartment building that includes a "fitness room" with a benchpress, bike and a multi-doing-everything machine (dunno what it's called), but it sounds like from this I'd be better off just getting some dumbbells and a chin-up bar of my own?

    Home weights (none / 0) (#114)
    by bouncing on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:08:32 PM EST

    I would like to solicit some advice from the workout experts out there. My apartment complex has a room with a variety of exercise equipment. While it's not a Bally's gym, it's free and more importantly, just a few yards away. What they don't have however, is weights.

    So, I would like advice on purchasing my own set of weights. I'm not interested in becoming a huge body builder, I just want to feel better and look better. Is there any advice someone could give on a cheap, effective home weight system that fits in my closet? I don't want a machine that requires assembly. I don't have room, or money for that.

    Lifting alone...? (5.00 / 2) (#116)
    by BOredAtWork on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 02:36:31 PM EST

    Well, if you're lifting alone, I'd _really_ recommend machines, or dumbells. Lifting alone isn't nearly as safe as lifting with a spotter. Again, if possible, lift with a spotter, or at least where you're in view of other people

    I can't condemn anyone for lifting alone; I do it myself. The trick to lifting alone is to be sure that you can get out of ANY situation you could get yourself into. If I'm on a bench press machine, and suddenly an arm decides to collapse, I drop the weight, and I don't get hurt. If I'm on a flat bench with 2 dumbells and an arm decides to collapse, I push the dumbells away, drop them, and the worst that happens is I have to explain a dent in the floor to my landlord. If I'm on a flat bench with a barbell, and my arm decides to collapse, the BEST I can hope for is a seriously bruised rib cage when the bar hits it. At worst, my neck gets snapped by the bar as it comes down. Barbells are a BIG no-no if you lift alone.

    As far as what you can buy, my advice would be one pair of dumbell bars, weight plates, and a single bench, with an adjustable back. The bars should be <$15 each, probably less if you buy a pair. Make sure they have some sort of screw-on cap on the ends to hold the plates on. Get plates so that you can increment by 5 pounds whenever you need to. For example, 4 2.5's, 4 5's, 8 10's. They'll run you somewhere around $1/pound, likely less if you buy a package. As for the bench, make sure it can be adjusted so you can do overhead and incline presses, as well as flat bench exercises. Decline bench press/situps would be a bonus, but not a lot of low-end benches adjust like this. All in all, this is probably under $200, fits in your closet (or under a bed), and will let you do at minimum: <p>

    • Bench press - chest
    • Incline press - chest + shoulders
    • Military(overhead) press - shoulders
    • Butterfly press - chest
    • Curls (101 ways) - biceps
    • Tricep extensions - triceps
    • Standing butterfly - shoulders
    • Lat pulls - back

    An adjustable bench and dumbells can give you pretty much a full upper body workout, and since your apartment has a workout room, you can get a lower body workout there. As an added bonus, take off your shirt, and show off your new sculpted physique to the women on the stairmasters there ;-).

    [ Parent ]

    Cheap or effective? (none / 0) (#126)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:41:45 AM EST

    It isn't cheap, but I love my bowflex. It folds up small (important in an apartment) and allows you to exercise just about every muscle in your body.

    The important thing to remember though, is that machines aren't the same as free weights and you shouldn't try to compare your performance in one with the other. In particular, the composite rods on the bowflex mean that weights start out lighter than rated but end up heavier - because the resistance steadily increases the further you pull the handles.

    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    good website (none / 0) (#118)
    by czb0150 on Sun Jul 14, 2002 at 07:53:05 PM EST



    How does one weight train shin muscles? (4.00 / 1) (#120)
    by DodgyGeezer on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 01:04:46 AM EST

    Sorry, I don't remember the muscle name, but how does one stretch and weight train the muscles down the shin? Calf muscles are easy to train with weights, yet I haven't figured out a way to do the shin. In fact, I'm a beginner runner trying to avoid shin splints. I do a lot of calf stretches, but I want to build the shin muscle more, especially considering running builds up calf muscles faster. I want to do this at home, and I've found it quite difficult... trying to hold a dumbell between one's feet as some people suggest is not easy (I spend most of the time trying not to drop it when I relax). Oh, and is there a good way to wieght train hip flexor muscles too?

    Tibialis Anterior (4.00 / 1) (#122)
    by timbomb on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 05:12:52 AM EST

    ... and to train it you need to do something where you hook a weight on a chain over your toe and lift your toe. Here's a menu of exercises! Tim

    [ Parent ]
    Great web site! (none / 0) (#140)
    by DodgyGeezer on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 09:54:06 PM EST

    Reverse calf raise... interesting idea. It seems hard to get much affect from the weight. Perhaps I need to try more.

    [ Parent ]
    You can do it on a leg press... (none / 0) (#123)
    by lateral on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:18:40 AM EST

    Put some weight on the leg press (start light) and push your legs straight. Now move your feet to the top of the plate on the leg press so that only your heels are on the plate. Your toes should be over the edge, in fresh air. Pull your toes towards you and push through your heels keeping your legs straight. I suppose you could also do this on a box or a step in the manner of a reverse calf raise.

    Take it from an ex-rower with unintentionally well developed shins that you might also like to try the rowing machines.


    [ Parent ]

    Hip flexors.... (none / 0) (#125)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:37:54 AM EST

    On the bowflex, at least, you can hook one of the handles over your ankle and then (basically) do a sort of ballerina kick. (And in the video they spend a lot of time emphasizing that you ain't John Claude Van Damme so don't try to kick too high.)

    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    Beginning runner? (none / 0) (#131)
    by lb008d on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 10:47:25 AM EST

    Same here. To train that muscle, focus on pointing your toes up when you run. That forces that muscle to work, and it promotes good running form by forcing you to hit heel-first, which should also help ward off shin splints.

    Don't over train tho!

    [ Parent ]

    Shin Splints, the Saga (none / 0) (#145)
    by Hobbes2100 on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 12:10:03 PM EST

    I have a lot of experience in this area (however, this is not a good thing).

    To answer your question, you need to go grab one of those big rubber bands that are used in rehabilitation medicine. Thicker bands can be used for more resistence. Now, you can wrap this band around your foot (or have a partner help you) and you can do extensions of your foot in any direction (with resistence). Hooking the band on the top of your foot and pulling the foot towards your shin will get the muscles you are looking at.

    You should be able to get these bands (they are called TheraBands) from any rehab clinic. A nursing home may have them as well. Don't know what kind of store would have them but a fitness store might.

    About shin splints in general:

    What happens is that the muscles of the lower leg and ankle are not strong enough to absorb the impact of running properly (this can also result form improper alignment of the foot ... do you have good running shoes ... and have you seen a podiatrist? (a foot doctor) ).

    B/c of this, the stress of running is placed on the bones of the lower leg. This can manifest itself as shin splints and it can also work its way to a full blown stress fracture (what I had to deal with). Trust me, you don't want to get to this point.

    If you have good insurance and you can get to a sports medicine specialist, I would get there as soon as possible to get a professional opinion.

    Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
    But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
    [ Parent ]

    my own 2 cents (4.50 / 2) (#121)
    by Phantros on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 02:55:28 AM EST

    Good article. A few more tips:

    You are not competing against anyone else in the gym. You are competing against yourself. Don't worry about that guy that has so many muscles he looks like a He-Man action figure; if you try to be him, you'll either hurt yourself or be discouraged and quit.

    Set short term goals. Odd days I do upper body, even days I do lower body. I know exactly what I did last time for weight and reps on each exercise, and I try to at least match that each time. If I can't match it, I know that I've overtrained that muscle group recently (or else am not eating or sleeping properly) and I give those muscles a rest of a couple days.

    Set long-term goals. Know what you want to achieve and monitor your progress. The feeling of accomplishment is the one thing that will keep you going, because it's very easy to skip and instead spend that extra hour on the internet or something. ;)

    When starting a new exercise I choose an amount of weight such that I can do about 15 reps. Over a number of weeks/months I increase the reps. Once I get to 35-40, I increase the amount of weight, and decrease the reps, then repeat the process. More importantly though, do what works for you.

    This talk against machines is bodybuilder elitism. Machines are a simple tradeoff. Bad side: They isolate a more restricted set of muscles at a time, so be careful to remain well-rounded. Good side: Good form is much easier, no need for a spotter, you won't hurt yourself unless you do something silly. Either machines or free-weights are fine, so long as you know how to compensate while using them.

    Don't try to be macho. Don't use more weight than you can realistically do, don't continue til you're grunting and groaning and the weight is gyrating around, don't continue til you're so exhausted you've got to drop the weights. You're there to improve yourself, not hurt yourself and look silly.

    Drink water while exercising. You will sweat a lot if you are really exerting yourself. Replace that fluid or suffer.

    A good gym probably has someone that works there that will be more than glad to take you on a tour of the place, show you how to do each exercise properly and safely, etc. They can show you things that an article can't.

    For large muscles, high weight with low reps. For endurance, low weight with high reps and cardiovascular exercises like running, rowing, swimming, and biking. If you're smart you'll concentrate on both kinds of exercises.

    4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

    Good points. (none / 0) (#124)
    by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:33:28 AM EST

    I'd also point out that the machines make exercising certain muscles much easier. Of course, they make exercising other muscle groups much harder - the fact that the cords on my bowflex are pulling about 10 degrees off vertical means that I have a heck of a time doing bicep curls without arching my back to keep my balance - and that can't be good. :-P

    The gift that lasts a lifetime: Give your child "mental blocks" this christmas!

    [ Parent ]
    This explains my experience with strength training (4.00 / 1) (#130)
    by jolly st nick on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 08:56:44 AM EST

    For your average lifter, unless you are a bodybuilder, or already really defined, isolation exercises are pretty useless.

    I spent about two years going to the local Y,where they steer everyone to the machines that isolate individual muscle groups. Gradually, I began to lift greater weights, but not only was progress slow, it was really confined to just that -- setting the machines on higher weights. I didn't feel any different. It is possible that I was not doing the exercises with the proper form or weights, but I don't think so. I had the staff check my form many times, I adjusted the weights so I was completely exhausted after the prescribed number of reps, and performed each phase of each rep in the prescribed time. I have an unusually high tolerance for boring, repetitive and precise work.

    Afterwards, I went back to martial arts after a ten year hiatus. It wasn't an either/or thing, I just dropped going to the gym and later on went back to the kwoon. An interesting thing happened when picked up the staff, that made me think of all those hours I'd spent in the Y's weight room. The northern style staff I was doing emphasized large, fluid motions that coordinated many muscle groups. Despite the fact that the stick is very light, no more than two or three pounds I'd guess, in ten weeks of stick training I began to feel stronger. This had never happened to me when I was religiously doing the machines three times a week.

    I think I would like to go back and try some free weight training, although at this stage of my life there's not a lot of time for my martial arts training and for another program. They seem like excercise regimes that are made to complement each other. But I'd never waste my time on the machines again.

    busted leg recovery... (none / 0) (#132)
    by davidfsmith on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 12:02:29 PM EST

    I'm interested in people's experiences here... (and recovery times)

    I was knocked off my motorbike june last year and broke my thigh bone, this now has a metal pin and some screws in it, due to an issue with the length of the pin and setting of the screws it didn't start healing properly until after a second operation to remove the top screws in decemeber.

    Before, I was very active (fitness rather than body building) but my typical training was running (30K a week) gym sessions with free weights 4-5 times plus sailing and windsurfing at weekends...

    The recovery is taking forever, with gym sessions now only just back to 5 times a week but having to take it easy, it is also likely that in September I'll be back in to have the metal work in my leg removed... so the main question is, will I be able to get back to the level of exercise that I was at prior to the accident, and if so how long will it take (I'm looking for comments advice from people who broken bones and had them pinned or just plain know... the doctors don't really seem to know and the physio tried to get me walking within 6 weeks when i was at risk from snapping the metal work) and also any tips ?


    Fractures (none / 0) (#142)
    by Nuff on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 11:05:07 PM EST

    I had a fractured knee 10 years ago and I had one metal pin in it. It took me around 4 months to regain enough muscle mass to have another operation where the pin was taken out (since swelling in my knee wouldn't go away). After that I didn't do that many sports and I wasn't very active, but I assume that in 6 to 8 months my muscle would have recovered to the same level before the operation.

    Your recovery will depend on how much muscle mass you have lost. It might also take upto 2 to 3 months for some fractures to heal. Also you might want to know that it takes 6 months for the skeleton to get fully replaced, by that time you shouldn't have any more problems with your bones.

    Recently (5 weeks ago) I have fractured my right ankle while playing soccer. It took me around 3 weeks to heal. It wasn't in plaster which allowed me to retain some flexibility in it. I have been streaching the muscles in/around my ankle for the past 2 weeks and they are close to where they should be, it's still sort of painful, but I assume that in around month and half it should be perfect again streght and flexibility wise.

    [ Parent ]

    Nice article (3.00 / 1) (#134)
    by plyons on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 01:24:44 PM EST

    If readers are looking for a workout you can do in less time , I would suggest looking at HIT training (High Intensity Training). I found the book: A Practical Approach to Strength Training by Matt Brzycki to be an excellent introduction to the techniques.  All the basic rules you mention apply: use good form, don't overtrain but it espouses doing as few as 1 set of an exercise, 2 to 3 times a week.  Doing only one intense set instead of three saves a lot of time and I've had very consistent strength gains over the past 6 months that I've been following the routine.

    Bowflex? (3.00 / 1) (#136)
    by Puppetman on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 04:21:19 PM EST

    Any comments on this? It's small, and when you have to move from one house to the other, you aren't moving 700lbs of weights. Seems the safety of a machine, with the more-rounded-workout of free weights. If you are using free weights, a spotter can be a life-saver. I worked at a hotel during a renovation. One of the dry-wallers would power-lift in the gym at night. I guess he was power-lifting, and the barbell slipped, or something, and it crushed his throat. No spotter. Wasn't discovered till the next morning.

    no bowflex (3.00 / 1) (#149)
    by RickySilk on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 12:21:35 PM EST

    Don't spend your hard earned money on bowflex or any of those other crappy machines. Just get freeweights. If you're worried about getting hurt or don't have a spotter than use less weight and do more reps. That's what I do.

    kung foo let us waste your time
    [ Parent ]
    Things that worked for me. (4.00 / 1) (#138)
    by confrontationman on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 06:50:15 PM EST

    I recommend Arnold's bodybuilder encyclopedia, even if you don't want to look like Arnold. It covers everything, and I mean everything.

    You don't need to go to the extremes described in the book, but if you want results it will tell you how. It covers exercises for all muscle groups, techniques, trainging schedules, how to deal with injury and most importantly diet.

    I trained for a few years before reading the book and was convinced I was not genetically suited to weight training, but it was mostly just that my diet wasn't right.

    diet (none / 0) (#139)
    by ronnya on Mon Jul 15, 2002 at 07:32:51 PM EST

    Same for me, only got some real progress when I started with protein shakes. Calculate your protein intake. If your daily intake is less than 1.5 grams of protein per kilo body weight, then try to add more protein to your diet. E.g., I'm 93 kilos and am getting at least 130-140 grams of protein every day (spread over 5 meals, where two are shakes). Of course, this is if you want to add muscles, ymmv.

    [ Parent ]
    Progress and tips for the (re)beginner (5.00 / 1) (#146)
    by RandomPeon on Tue Jul 16, 2002 at 12:21:14 PM EST

    For some people, meaninful performance data is a big motivator. If you are like me and belong to this group, keeping track of how much you lift each workout for extended periods of time is really helpful.

    The third best motivational tool I ever had for working hard and consistently was a little card with blocks for weights and reps for each exercises that coaches gave me in high school.

    The second best motivational tool I created myself - an SQL database with the same information, which is even better because it's far more high-tech (an intrinsic good, if you're a geek), it never fills up, and you can query it to see your performance. (The best was the US Army, where high levels of fitness are an occupational requirement, and screaming sergeants are available for motivation. Potentially disapproving troops often prove even more motivating for those in charge, IMHO).

    Second, for those who are starting out, or just starting to work out after a long break, some tips:

    Your first couple workouts should be easy. You should not hit failure. A couple workouts where you establish a good training regimen and also practice proper form are important. Even if you've previously been in great shape, two weeks spent doing high-rep, low-intesity lifts will help your body remember the correct way to lift much better than jumping right in.

    Particularly for those who have been in excellent physical condition, it's easy to get discouraged. Make some kind of schedule and stick to it religously. Don't be overly ambitious - if you plan to work out seven days a week, two hours a day you are likely to quit in frustration when you don't see very immediate gains. This is easy for people who have been in outstanding physical conditon to do - it will take time to get back in gear and you can't rush it.

    few more points (none / 0) (#152)
    by jago25 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:19:23 AM EST

    Dizzy / feel week: water & carbohydrates (sweet /sugar).

    Sick? / Indegestion: 1-3 hours after eating

    Shaking?: Energy ain't getting to muscles. You probably did an aerobic exercise b4 doing your weights, suggest turning it round.

    How to Start Lifting Weights, Part 1 | 152 comments (123 topical, 29 editorial, 2 hidden)
    Display: Sort:


    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!