“No pain, no gain” seems to be the mantra of resistance training, or weight training. The only way you’ll get anywhere is if you push your body beyond sane limits for three hours a day every day, right?
Well, not necessarily. “No discomfort, no gain” is more realistic.
If you want to get a physique on par with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, then yes, you’ll be going through some serious physical pain to get there. However, if you just want to look good and feel healthy and energetic, then resistance training is nothing to fear.
Resistance training works by stressing a muscle or muscle group by pushing or pulling a weighted object, like a barbell, dumbbell, cable apparatus, etc. The body will synthesize new tissue to accommodate the demands placed on it by resistance training.
Resistance training differs from cardio in that cardio work is relatively long, and the degree of effort is low to moderate. With resistance training, the duration is very short, but the effort is much higher.
The key to weight training is communicating correctly with your body. Resistance training must reach a level that induces the body to change, which means you must tire your muscles out. As muscles fatigue, lactic acid builds up in them, which causes that familiar burning sensation. That burning is your body’s way of saying, “OK, I got the message!”
If you feel nothing, that’s exactly what’s happening to your body. If you see no changes from your efforts, then your body is telling you the exercises aren’t working and you should try something else. The body adapts very quickly, so you must be even quicker. Your routines should change every three to four weeks.
There are three types of resistance training: heavy, with the heaviest weights and only four to six reps per set; moderate, with lighter weights and eight to ten reps; and light, with the lightest weights and 20 reps per set. By switching the type of training every few weeks, you stress your body in different ways and force it to adapt.
To gauge how much weight you should be lifting, take your moderate weight, ten-rep cycle. If you can complete the last rep on the last set of each exercise without any difficulty, add more weight. Adjust your heavy and light cycles accordingly.
For most beginning and intermediate exercisers, training each body part (chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, abs) by doing two or three exercises, with three or four sets per exercise, is plenty. Two to three weight training sessions and two to three cardio sessions per week will bring you excellent results.
The secret is to focus and train hard. Most likely, you should only work two body parts per workout. The exception would be legs, which are the toughest to work because they’re the strongest muscles you have. Legs are usually worked by themselves.
Don’t be afraid of resistance training. Once you find what works for you and your body, you’ll see a whole new world of results.