Your Body Needs Weight Training

[Note: This article is still in progress.]

There are several surprises when it comes to weight training. Chief among them are:

How vital is weight training?

Whether you want to play a sport better, burn fat, or have a physique that people admire (inlcuding yourself, when you look in a mirror), you simply have to add weight training to your exercise regimen. Why? Well, the major reasons are:

Surprisingly, nothing comes as close to weight training for building muscle. I discovered this fact quite by accident after years of training in volleyball and martial arts. I had surgery for an unrelated knee injury, and did lots of supervised recovery work using light weights and high repetitions (like 5 lbs for 50 reps).

When the recovery process was complete, I was amazed to discover how much stronger those muscles were. Things that had been difficult before, like holding my leg out straight, suddenly became easy! I began to wonder: If that small amount of traning had such a large effect, what would a lot of training do?? That experience began an exploration of weight training that has continued to this day.

Will it get you into shape?

Defining the body you want is all about creating a certain shape. What makes a desirable shape? Let's review your choices. First, there's fat. Fat has a shape. Its large, round, and it just sits there, jiggling once in a while. Fat is not the shape you want. So what about skinny? For answer, look at a skeleton. That is the ultimate "skinny". Is that the shape you want? I think not. So, what's left? Muscle! And how do you build muscle? Weight training! (For women, that muscle is covered with a thin layer of extra body fat that produces a smooth surface instead of angular bulk. But it is still muscle that provides the underlying shape!)

Note, though, that while weight training is important for building shape, its not all there is to it. You also need cardiovascular training and abdominal training. And you need to eat right, too. The trick is to balance all the different kinds of training you need to do and have enough energy left over for minor things like making a living and taking care of your family! (These subjects will be covered in article #2 of this series, __nameOfArticle__; article #3, __nameOfArticle__; and article #4, __nameOfArticle__.)

It would be nice to think that the equation was as simple as "build muscle, burn fat", but its not. Its more like "build muscle, use muscle, burn fat". And while you're at it, eat right in order to do all of the above. (For more on eating right, see article #4 in this series, __nameOfArticle__.)

--reference the Men's Fitness article on what kinds of exercise burn fat

SERIES OF 5 ARTICLES: weight training, abdominal training, cardio training, nutrition, flexibility-- sell *first* North American Serial rights to Men's Fitness, so I can republish on my Web page.

abs--importance of weights (mention here and explain further in abs article

abs--reference the Men's Fitness article

How many exercises do you need?

--reference the Men's Fitness article

--describe the exercises. (one added: lat pull down)

--add description of lower back safety, and "good morning exericse" (part of the abs training program in article #2)--How would you like to be able to lift heavy objects safely for the rest of life, without worrying about injury to your lower back? You can. Pay close attention right here. You'll learn the skill you need to do the weight-training exercises safely, as well as to do all the other heavy lifting you encounter in your life. (One experienced athlete of my acquaintance pulled a back muscle while putting away the weights he was using. These are lessons you can, and should, use anytime.)

--why free weights: small muscles--balancing--example, balance on one leg. Lots of small muscles work together in a coordinated way to make that feat possible

--other muscles--power clean works traps

--only four exercises, 2 days per week, about 1/2 in the gym. not bad!

What is "overtraining"?

--fatigue, depression, lack of interest in or enthusiasm for work, sex, or just plain living

--its subtle, its sneaky, and it sneaks up on you

--you have to learn to recognize it. When you feel that way, leave off training for a week or two. Its amazing how much better you feel.

--its easy to get carried away and try to do too much

--the hardest thing has been to develop a sense of pace, to learn when its wiser to skip a workout instead of pushing through it, and still maintain a sense of consistency and progress. Hopefully, the regimen recommended in this series of articles will help shorten your learning curve or, with luck, avoid the problem entirely.

How slow does it go?

The right weight: 8-12 reps before "momentary muscular fatigue". In plain english, "you can't do another one".

Less that risks injury, more than that is not as effective for burning muscle

Colgan 7-10 days recovery time. So this program hits each muscle group once per week, which is about right. That's a week of growth time for every weight-training session.

Your measurement of strength is weight times reps. Only when you get outside the rep range do you add weight. So if you are working in the 8-12 rep range, you add weight when you can do 13 reps. My growth rate allows me to do one additional rep each week. (If you're in the prime of life you may grow faster, but count on about one rep per week.) So if you start out being able to do 8 reps at a given weight, it will take 6 weeks to move up to the next higher rate! That's slow. But you feel good, so its not so bad.

It will take some experimentation at first to find the right weight for each exercise. Keeping a progess chart makes it easier to "dial in" on the right weight, adding or subtracting from week to week until you find yourself in the right range. After that, it lets you set the ideal weight for an exercise each week, without any guesswork.

The amount of weight to add depends on the exerise. For are using major muscle groups like the legs, when you are using both legs at the same time, you can add 15 or 20 lbs. Try this out for starters. Use your progress chart to monitor yourself, and adjust it as necessary:


Weight to Add









Number of sets:

--the article recommends 5 sets. For me, that's overkill.

start with 1 set. This is your power set.

add a warm up set (70-75%?? -- 12-15 reps)

add a flush out set (50-60%?? -- 20 reps)

add a second power set

as you add sets, watch our for overtraining!

Why do you feel so good?

Although the process of building muscle is a long and slow, the benefits of doing it are immediate. First, there is the "pump" -- the feeling your body has after weight training. The muscles are pumped full of blood. They are physically expanded in size, and they feel bigger, more massive.

Then there are the endorphins. Those wonderful little natural pain-killers that give you "runners high" after even a short weight training session.

Finally, there is the sense of confidence you get. You are building muscle and creating shape. You are taking charge of your destiny and building the future you want. You stand straighter and walk taller. And that may be the best reason of all to start weight training!


Here is a summary of the program recommended in this article:

--what when, sets/reps

For more information on getting in top shape see:





Men's Fitness weight training article

Men's Fitness cardio training article

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