Weight lifting is an important part of any health and wellness plan. Not only does lifting weights make you stronger, but it can help you lose weight! If you are new to exercising or a bit intimidated by the thought of strength training, begin with machine-based exercises, the perfect way to “rehearse” movements and condition your muscles. But to continue reaping the rewards of strength training, it’s important to know when and how to progress from there.
If you followed our Level 1 weight lifting workout last month, you probably noticed the weight you started with on each exercise got easier pretty quickly! That’s common. You should typically see great gains in the first 4-6 weeks of any strength-based program as your muscles begin to “learn” how to work together and execute the movement. Your muscles also will begin to feel less sore after each workout as they acclimate to the stress. Once this occurs, you’ll need to either add more weight or change up the exercises you’re performing to continue to see results.
Incorporating Free Weights
Moving away from the machines and adding free weights to your routine is a great next step. Free weight exercises can challenge your muscles in new ways and more muscles are recruited for those actions, which leads to increased benefits! Research shows you might actually get stronger faster using free weights. Researcher Keith Spennewyn investigated the differences in strength and balance outcomes in participants using free weights vs. resistance-training machines in the January 2008 issue of “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” and found a 58% greater strength gain when using free weights.
When doing free weight exercises, you’ll want to pay close attention to your form and technique as there is less support and guidance for proper range of motion. Begin by engaging your core before every exercise. Then focus on the muscle that you are targeting as you move the weight (or your body). Avoid swinging weights and be sure to keep the repetitions slow and controlled.
If you’re unsure of what to do or how to do it, consult a fitness professional. A certified personal trainer can help with alignment and provide pointers for getting the most out of each exercise, as well as assist in proper weight selection.
Level 2 Strength Workouts
Our Level 2 workouts are designed to get you off Level 1 machines and into the free weight area. The exercises chosen require a bit more coordination and recruit more muscles (which means more calorie burn in the same amount of time!). We stuck with straightforward exercises that focus on all of your major muscle groups in both workouts. Focus on increasing the weight you’re lifting and work toward including the more functional, full-body exercises in Level 3 after 4-6 weeks.