If you're just beginning to strength train, you may be confused as to what you need to do to get the most out of your routine. At the most basic level, a good lifting routine works the major muscles of the body, encourages proper form and allows sufficient time for recovery. To stay safe, consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups in your body, both large and small. To train the lower body you might include the squat, which works your legs, lower back, and abdominals; and the deadlift, which works your lower back, legs, and abdominals. For your upper body the chin-up and the barbell row work your back, biceps and forearms; the bench press targets your chest, shoulders and triceps; and the military press works your shoulders and triceps directly, as well as recruiting the upper back, upper chest, and core for stability. For a full-body workout, be sure to include ab exercises such as crunches.
Your workout should be focused on good exercise selection, programming, intensity and duration. You should ensure that you perform the most technically demanding lifts and those that use the larger muscles of the body first, such as squatting. Never fatigue your lower back or abs before you squat, as this will increase you risk of injury. Some people will want to train their whole body in one session a couple times a week. Others will prefer to spread their workouts over several days, focusing on a the lower body one day and the upper body the next. In either case, give the muscles you worked two days to recover before working them again.
A key component to a successful workout routine is to ensure that you are getting plenty of rest, to get as much out of every workout as possible. By training only three days a week, you are giving yourself plenty of time to recover, beacuse your muscles grow while you are resting, not while you are training. Do not wear a muscle out the day before it is going to be utilized in heavy, compound lifting exercises. For example, wearing out your triceps the day before you perform a heavy bench and military press workout will limit your progress, and may cause injury.
While you're at the gym avoid doing only isolation exercises since compound exercises are more effective. Also, allow a brief rest period of 30 to 60 seconds between sets. If lifting heavy weights or if you are just starting out, never lift without a spotter or safety cage. To ensure that you have good technique, try videotaping your workouts or have a trainer watch you to double check your form and avoid injury.
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- "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research"; Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles; Chris Barnett et al.; 1995
- Pubmed: Electromyographic Validation of the Muscles Deltoid (Anterior Portion) and Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Portion) in Military Press Exercises with Open Grip
- "European Journal of Applied Physiology"; Acute Hormonal and Neuromuscular Responses to Hypertrophy, Strength and Power Type Resistance Exercise; GO McCaulley, et al; March 2009
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- "Strength Training Anatomy (3rd Edition - Sports Anatomy)"; Frederic Delavier; 2010
- IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.