Let's clear something up: Weight training is not the same as body building. Weight training is about improving muscle strength and muscle tone. For men, who have naturally higher levels of testosterone, it usually does mean an increase in muscle size, called hypertrophy. On the other hand, women tend to increase the tone without significantly increasing the muscle size. Typically, muscle conditioning uses dumbbells and barbells (called free weights) and various types of weight machines (usually referred to by brand names such as Cybex and Nautilus).
What can weight training do for you?
Stronger muscles can improve your posture and help keep your body in balance.
Stronger muscles can prevent injuries.
Weight training helps to tone, lift, firm, and shape your body.
Stronger muscles can help with your everyday activities, such as lugging shopping bags, moving furniture, lifting kids and strollers, and so on.
Weight training can help prevent osteoporosis.
Weight training can help to reshape problem areas, such as your sagging arms and your butt. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “spot reducing”— zapping off fat from specific body parts. But don't fret, because the combination of a low-fat diet and aerobic activity burns total fat from all over your body, and chances are it will eventually come off your personal pudge.
Weight training can increase your lean body mass and therefore increase your metabolism.
Cardio or muscle conditioning: which comes first?
If you want to do cardio and weights on the same day, that's fine. It's also fine to alternate days, whichever you fancy. There is not, as of yet, a definite rule on which you should do first—merely personal preference. Some folks like to be good and sweaty before they hit the weights, whereas others prefer to get the weight training out of the way and then loosen up with cardio afterwards. The choice is yours.
Your Weekly Weight-Training Routine
Your weekly schedule is just as important as the exercises themselves. Set aside time for two to three muscle-conditioning workouts per week, targeting all of your major muscle groups. A major warning here is not to work the same muscles on consecutive days. Leave a day of rest in between to allow all those important biological changes to take place. In fact, resting is just as important as the workout itself. For instance, if you'd like to work all of your muscle groups on the same day, an effective schedule is Monday/Thursday/Saturday.
Another option is doing split routines. In this case, you can lift more often simply because you split up the muscles being worked over the week. In other words, train your upper body one day and your lower body the next. For those truly gung-ho types, train your chest, triceps, and shoulders on one day and your legs, back, and biceps on the next. Go ahead and plug in your abdominal exercises whichever day you like. Chest and triceps are involved in pushing-type activities, and your back and biceps are involved in pulling activities; therefore, they should be worked in pairs if you want to split up the upper-body workouts. One reason people prefer a split-routine workout is that they can devote more energy to the muscles worked on a particular day.
Cardio and Weight Training: The Perfect Combination
Some people ask, “Which is more important, cardio or weight work?” The answer is both. You need the combination of aerobic and weight training for overall fitness.
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