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Last year I lost a bit of weight (20 lbs to be exact). It's been a big learning curve, and I've learnt loads about what's best for my body when it comes to achieving the results I want. But while the weight loss has been great, I’d like to gain a bit more tone and I’m hoping to do that with weights and yoga.
For many of us, a toned and lean look is desirable, and whilst doing cardio is a great place to start, in order to build strength and achieve that lean look weights need to be incorporated into your exercise regime. I know all too well though how tricky it can be when first starting out with weights. Do you go for free weights or machines? What weight should you start at? How often should you lift and should you segregate body parts to train or go for regular whole body sessions?
When you're just beginning, I'd recommend using free weights, which are easier to work out how to use than machines. With free weights you pretty much only have a few options, barbells and dumbbells. I'd also recommend splitting the body up into areas to train, to help with rest time, training legs one day and arms, shoulders and back another, whilst throwing in a few abs sessions at the end of a few workouts a week. Most of the tips below I've picked up at the gym, and some sound advice from the PT's thrown in.
Here's a brief guide to starting out with weights...
I love legs day, because you are training the biggest muscles in your body, so you know it's doing you a lot of good. When it comes to building strength and endurance, opt for medium level reps of around 8-12, and a minute rest in between sets. Give this a go when starting out.
1. Squats using the squat rack
The bar alone weights 20kg, so you may want to do your first set with the bar to warm up, or even for all your sets when you first start out, but when you're ready you can load the bar up with more weight. Position the bar across your shoulders so it's comfortable and steady before you get started. Don't know about you, but my bottom is always, ALWAYS, in the wrong position performing squats (practice makes perfect).
Try 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps. It can help when squatting to pop a small weight (1.5kg) under each heel as this can help you get lower.
For squat form
2. Spilt squats using the squat rack
Still at the squat rack with the bar on your shoulders, split squats are killers, they'll burn but are so good for definition in the front of the legs. Don't use weights under the feet for split squats, aim for similar reps and sets.
For split squat form
3. Straight leg dead lifts
Great for the back of the thighs, straight leg dead lifts are one of my favourite exercises to perform. Using the bar again, loaded up if you so wish perform 8-10 reps for 4-6 sets.
Back, Arms and shoulders..
Sculpt strong arms and a well defined back using these exercises, again working at mid reps with 4-6 sets.
1. Lat Pulldown:
The one and only machine I really bother using, because it's so straight forward. Make sure the curved bar is in use on the machine, and then simply sit down and pull the bar down to chest height, with out leaning back. Use your back rather than the whole body to pull the bar down. Do 4 sets of 8-12. The lat machine usually starts at 5kg and goes up in fives, start off low and see how you get on.
2. Barbell Bi Curls
Take a light barbell and add weights onto the ends, 5-10kg is probably a good place to start. 8-12 reps for 4 sets, to sculpt strong biceps.
For berbell bi curls
3. Bent over rows
Great for the back, bent over rows are performed with a barbell. Start out with the 20kg bar and add weight when necessary. 8-12 reps at 4 sets, minute rest in between sets.
For bend over row form
3. Overhead Press
Working the shoulders now, and overhead press should be performed with a barbell, as always 8-12 reps at 4 sets.
For overhead press form
4. Tricep Press
Not forgetting the triceps, a seated tricep press is really simple to carry out but very effective. Use a dumbbell for this, figure out what weight feels best for you to start with, and do 8-12 reps at 4 sets with rests in between.
At the end of each weights session add in ten minutes of abs, rather than training abs separately. Make sure you're allowing the muscles to rest afterwards so that they can repair and grow. The basic idea behind weight training is actually that you cause damage to the muscle, forcing it to repair to grow stronger, and this can't happen with out rest afterwards.
Try adding a weighted legs session and a back, arms and shoulders session into your weekly routine, aiming to put your weights up each week, and mixing up sessions with cardio a few times a week too.