Enough talk. The time for you to put down that remote control (or candy bar, or baby, or whatever you happen to be holding right now) and pick up that dumbbell that you ended up kicking under your bed eight months ago and lift it up has come.
That’s right, pick it up. Now put it down. Now lift it up. Now put it down.
Voila. GOOD NIGHT EVERYBODY! Remember to tip your server, because this cheap ass place makes us pool tips!WEIGHT TRAINING
The most well-known muscle exercise, weight training is exercise that uses – ahem – weights to increase your strength and muscle size. There are other forms of strength training (resistance training, which involves what are essentially big rubber bands, and isometric training, which involves holding a weight at a fixed position) that work wonders and get results, but for the most part you are going to be using weight training for most of your exercises. But weight training is not a small category, not by a long shot. In fact, I’m going to have to take up a few posts on weight lifting alone so I can say all I want to on the matter without boring you into the ground.
There are many modes of weight training, and each come with their own benefits and downfalls.
The highest form of weight training, and what we all envision when we think of lifting weights. Free weights are called so because they do not include any mechanical assistance that helps you lift the weights, which consist mostly of a gripping bar (sized for either one or both hands) and “weight-discs” (more things should come in disc form; it makes me feel like I’m in the future) that can be added or subtracted to change the weight of the – oh christ – the weight. It’ll change the weight of the weight. I’m just banging on all cylinders over here.
The pros to free weights are vast. Because you have no other machinery to help you keep the weight in balance, you will be working your target muscles much more, as well as using more that your target muscle just trying to keep the damn weight steady. This may not seem like a big deal until you try to bench press something, and you find your arms shaking after a few seconds, no matter how light the weight. This ends up giving you faster results that impact more than one area. But it’s also versatile, allowing you to workout every part of your body with an array of positions and an adjustable bench.
The con is that it is much easier to injure yourself on free weights than with the other means of weight lifting because you are the one who has to do all the work. I’m going to talk about form in next week’s post, but suffice it to say that it’s not good enough to just lift the weight any way you want. There are exact and precise movements and positions that you must be able to maintain throughout the entire exercise or else you negate whatever effects you get from lifting. But with free weights, having bad form can and usually does lead directly to injury which means that although free weights can change your body faster, you will have to go slower while you learn good form.
There’s also the risk of dropping of these things on some one’s foot/hand/neck/head, which will require at least one trip to the hospital.
What I think of as “Weight Robots”, weight machines are either built-in weighted plates or weight-discs that are hooked together by a system of ropes, pulleys, bars and handles, and that by pulling or pushing on the right parts you lift the weights. The weight is adjusted by putting on more weight-discs or by hooking up more plates in the system. These machine can look as cool as they can scary, being a mix between either being a large mech suit –– or the machine that ate that lady in Superman 3.The good side to weight machines is that they make it easy for the user. “PULL THIS BAR! NOW SQUEEZE THESE PLATES! PUSH THAT THING!” And depending on how new the machine is, it might come with nice soft pads for your arms and tuchus, as well a handy how-to guide posted on the side of the machine. When first walking into the gym a person can get a little intimidated around the dozens, if not hundreds, of free weights, not to mention all the serious looking musclemen that usually live there.
Weight machines are great for the beginner as you can just go and start without a lot of know how, and can actually help teach you good form as sometimes the machines are designed to not give you a choice in the matter. They can also help teach you a little about anatomy as each machine is designed to work few muscle groups, which can aide in your process of sensing every part of your body.
The con is that with the loss of total control also goes the benefits of total control grants. It may be harder to injure yourself but it is also harder to get the same kind of impact that free weights give you. That may not seem like such a bad thing when you start off, but depending on what kind of body you want to end up with, you may not get there on a machine. Another big downer of weight machines is that they are expensive and not very economical. Each machine really only does one exercise, meaning you have to have a lot of machines to get a full work out. If you find one that includes everything, odds are it’s not going to be as effective or it’ll be fucking expensive. Amazon.com lists the cheapest machine at about $250, while the most expensive is around $2000. I just punched myself for even looking at a piece of exercise equipment that’s worth a month’s pay for me. In short, good for beginners but bad for the person who likes to keep their money. And if you’re one of those, then you should try . . .
For the financially challenged, or the incredibly independent, or the person who likes to be able to do everything without getting out of bed (ever), there is body weight lifting. These are exercises that, in lieu of buying weights, you push, lift and pull your own body mass to work your muscles. This is my favorite of all the strength training exercises because it is the most practical. What’s more useful: Being able to lift a car, or being able to lift yourself up over something, like a tree if a bear is chasing you, or a wall if it’s a bear dressed like a cop chasing you? I would like to be able to pick up an automobile, but even if I could I think being able to move my own body maybe more useful on a day to day basis.
The benefit to these exercises is that you can do them anywhere at any time. Waiting for the elevator? Do some push-ups. Waiting on an elevator? Do some squats. Climbing out of an elevator that has been stuck in between floors for a few hours? Do some chin-ups before climbing out. (sorry, I’m on an elevator while I’m writing this.) The form of these exercises are simple and easy to perfect, and it’s difficult to hurt yourself while doing them.
The down side is that you cannot escalate your work out as easily as you can with the other methods. Once you are able to lift your body with ease, there aren’t many ways to continue growing your strength. You may gain tone and endurance by doing more reps (which I will explain in the next post), and you can make your work out more intense by changing the angle of your body, but for the most part your overall strength will stop to increase.
This is not a technical term and I don’t have time to research what this method is actually called if I want to post this on time. I’M ON THE CLOCK HERE, PEOPLE, CUT ME SOME SLACK! These exercises use everyday objects to train your muscles, and by everyday objects I mean rocks, medicine balls (basketballs filled with sand), sandbags (bags . . . filled with sand), tractor tires, sledgehammers, weighted clothing and anything heavy that is in your general vicinity. You know that part in the movie Misery where James Caan lifts the typewriter over his head to get stronger? That’s alternative weight lifting.
The good part about this method is that it is working many muscle groups with one exercise. Flipping a gigantic tire down the street works your entire body all at once and has the added bonus of getting you to your optimal heart rate at the same time. These exercises are also included in what I like to call the “Fuck Gyms” attitude, as they are taking normal objects rather than normal weight lifting gear.
The bad part is that it is harder to keep track of just how much you are lifting, which is an important part of the entire process. I’m sure that rock seems heavy, but it’s hard to tell and I’m not going to start weighing rocks because that’s just silly. It’s also very easy to hurt yourself while performing these exercises because you are basically taking the role of a furniture mover or construction worker. Ask any one of those guys if it’s easy to hurt yourself while moving large heavy objects, and they’ll laugh at you and try to slap you in the face once they are able to fix their slipped disc and stand up straight again. And while some of the items may be lying around your house, I don’t know how many people have regular access to tractor tires.
So which of these should be the one you pick? Who said you had to choose just one?! Frankly, the best way to avoid the negative side of each of these is to do them all. That may sound like a lot more lifting than you were originally prepared to do, but the great thing is that these four groups can be mixed and matched to create uber-routines. Wear a weighted vest while doing push-ups. Match every bicep curl with a lunge. Use a medicine ball while you do squats. You can’t really add more exercises to the machine weights, but not all foods taste better pickled, if you know what I mean?
Okay, I’m a little delirious because it’s getting late, but case in point: Just as you can match a vast array of Jelli Bellies to create new flavors, you can match strength training methods to create a routine that is custom made to your body, and that is a big key to successful weight loss.