Weight training guide

weight training guide

An increasing amount of people are starting to exercise and workout. Nowadays, weight training is one of the most popular sports worldwide. This is not suprising since it can be done in many different environments and styles. In this article we will focus on weight training and weight training basics. We will try to describe what weight training is, what kind of weight training you can do and what weight training activities you should do.

Functions of weight training

When you do proper weight or strength training, you can improve your overall health and wellbeing. It may come as no suprise that weight training allows you to increase bone density, muscle strength, tendon strength, and ligament strength. But It also allows practitioners to improve joint function, metabolism and cardiac function. This may already seem like many benefits, but weight training has even more benefits then those just mentioned.

  • Body shape and body image

It has been increasingly shown that people are often dissatisfied with their body [1]. Therefore, people often start with weight training to improve their body shape. Not only are people able to improve their body shape, but weight training also allows them to increase their physical attractiveness. This is in line with studies that indicate that people who participate in weight training, attain more self-esteem and body cathexis in comparison to people who don’t do weight training [2].

  • Increased general physical health

Weight training also provides practitioners with some functional benefits. This is possible since the resulting muscles from weight training improve posture, provide increased support for joints, and reduce risk of injury from daily activities. Older people who start weight training can even prevent the loss of muscle tissue that normally occurs when people age [3]. This allows older people to regain some functional strength, which makes them less frail [3]. Weight training also helps to prevent osteoporosis and to improve bone strength in people who suffer from osteoporosis [4]. Therefore, weight training may even be able to help people avoid some types of physical disability.

It was also found that decent workouts are able to elevate metabolism for up to 14 hours after training [5]. Not only does weight training temporarely improve metabolism, but it is also important for metabolic and cardiovascular health. This importance stems from the fact that exercising decreases disease risk, including metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk.

  • Increased sports performance

An increased amount of muscles, due to weight training, also allows athletes to improve performance in many other sports. Therefore, many athletes who focus on other sports also do weight training. These athletes often participate in sport-specific weight training routines which mimic the speed of muscle contractions that are present in the sport of the athlete [6].

Which weight training method should I use ?

There are many training methods and training programs which can be adopted to achieve results. These training programs may differ in terms of: exercise types, amount of repetitions, amount of sets, tempo, and suggested weight. Many combinations are possible and most of them will be useful to a certain degree. In order to reach your goal as fast as possible, it is important to pay attention to the training method you choose. Which training method you use, should dependent on your goal. However, you should also take into account other factors such as: age, health, experience, equipment and time. Below you can find a table which can be used as a guideline:

In order to make this table more clear, we have described the most important terms down below.

  • Repetition (Rep): A repetition (rep) is one completion of an exercise and is used to indicate how many times you perform a specific movement in a set before you rest, such as one deadlift, one bench press, or one arm curl.
  • One Rep Max (1RM): Your one-rep max is the maximum weight you can lift for a single repetition for a given exercise.
  • Set: A set is a selected amount of repetitions before you rest. For example, ten repetitions can be one set of squats.

It is important to note that the weight for each exercise should be chosen so that the desired number of repetitions can just be achieved. This is recommended in order to achieve the best possible results based on the overload principle [7]. The overload principle means that you should lift increasingly heavy weights or increase the volume of work overtime (5 pull-up repetitions today, 6 pull-up repetitions next week). This is recommended since the overload principle is considered to be very important if you want to see faster results and improvements.

  • Building Strength

Strength training is different from training methods which focus on increasing muscle size or muscle endurance. It is often said that strength is created by training the neuromuscular system and the interaction between the muscles and nerves. In order to improve strength, it is often advised to use heavy weights, low amount of repetitions and longer rest periods between sets.

  • Building Muscle Size

Adding more muscle mass involves hypertrophy. By definition, hypertrophy is the enlargement of tissue (muscle) by increasing the size of its cells. Training for hypertrophy usually involves more repetitions, a lighter weight and less rest between sets in comparison to strength training.

  • Building Muscle Endurance

Usually, muscle endurance is trained by doing many repetitions. It is often said that 15-20 (or more) repetitions per set, improves muscle endurance rather than hypertrophy or strength. Muscle endurance training will also provide some improvements in hypertrophy and strength. However, not as much as training methods which are focused on hypertrophy or strength.

  • Building Muscle Power

Power is often associated with strength, but there is a slight difference. Power is often seen as the rate at which work is done. The faster you can lift a certain weight, the more power you have. Therefore, training for power involves increasing the speed of your lifts. This makes training for power useful for people who participate in other sports where both strength and speed are desirable. Training for power usually involves a low amount of repetitions with a high speed per repetition.

What muscles should I train ?

For most people we recommend training every muscle group in order to build a strong, healthy and symmetrical body. However, there are some exceptions. If you do certain sports where you should only have strength and power in a certain body part, it may be beneficial to only focus on this body part. It is important to realize that these are exceptions, and that most people should train all their muscles.

Theoretically, there are many muscles in our body. For simplicity, these are often combined into the following muscle groups: arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and abdomen. You can choose training programs where you train all muscle groups in a single session, but there are also training programs where you focus on a selected amount of muscle groups per session. Below, we describe which methods there are.

  • Full-body training: Full body training methods are designed to train the whole body in a single session. This often includes CrossFit, HIIT, 5×5 or similar fullbody workouts.
  • Split-training: Split-training methods let you focus on one or more muscle groups in a single session. For example, you can have a: upperbody day, lowerbody day, chest and biceps day, chest and tricep day. There are numerous options available with a split-type training method. But it is important to use a logical and effective schedule.

Many people are wondering if they should select a full-body training program or a split-type training program. Before you choose, it is important to realize that one method is not better than the other. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. In general, full-body programs are advised for beginners, people with limited time, and people who need to burn a lot of fat. Split-routines are advised for advanced lifters, bodybuilders and fitness models. But combining the two is often the best solution for most people.

These training methods can also be combined with specific training techniques such as supersets and dropsets. These techniques will change up basic workouts while also being effective and useful. More information regarding supersets and dropsets can be found in our other articles.

Which exercises are there and which ones should I do ?

There are many different exercises for each muscle group. Which exercises you do, should depend on factors such as: age, strength, experience, equipment, training-program, goals, and time. If you aren’t experienced enough to create your own training-program, we recommended using a general training-program which is in line with your goal. These training-programs show which exercises you should do, and how many sets and repetitions.

Due to the large amount of possible exercises, it is not possible to list all of them. It is important to realize that there are significant differences between most exercises. The most important difference is the muscles an exercise targets. However, exercises can also be classified by equipment type. When we look at the different equipment types, we can divide exercises based on: free weights, machines, racks and frames, body-only exercises, bands, balls and more. Another important difference is the distinction between compound and isolation exercises.

  • Compound exercises: Compound exercises are exercises where you use more than one joint, and often several muscle groups. Examples of compound exercises are: squats, deadlifts, seated cable rows, and lat pulldowns.
  • Isolation exercises: Isolation exercises are exercises involving only one joint and usually one specific muscle group. Examples of isolation exercises are: bicep curls and leg extensions.

Who should train

Exercising and weight training have many health benefits. Weight training is not only beneficial for young men, but also for older people and women. Therefore, weight training can be for everybody. Furthermore, weight and strength training are essential and central in multiple sports such as: Powerlifting, Crossfit, Bodybuilding, Weightlifting and Discus throw. Therefore, weight training is part of many training regiments, since it is often required to reach optimal performance. It is also common to do some sort of weight training if you participate in sports such as: Athletics, Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Hockey, Handball, Rowing, Swimming and more.


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  4. Body, J. J., Bergmann, P., Boonen, S., Boutsen, Y., Bruyere, O., Devogelaer, J. P., … & Rozenberg, S. (2011). Non-pharmacological management of osteoporosis: a consensus of the Belgian Bone Club. Osteoporosis international22(11), 2769-2788.
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