“Another post on muscles? Ugh. Fine, but look, can you please stop giving us definitions and just tell us what to do already?” BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you fool.
These terms/concepts/practices are not just important so you can talk with any muscleman without sounding like a noob, but they are also crucial in getting the most from your work out and also keep you relatively away from harm. Besides, isn’t that the point of the internet; to convey important and vital information in tiny, easily read chunks along with a bunch of “uncredited” photos? I will, however, meet you half way in the sense that I’m just going to jump right into it without too many introductory explanations, and for a few reasons:
- If you have been following, you’re head is probably already in the zone, so I don’t need to butter you up.
- Also, if you have been following, I am sure you are as sick of reading my “wit” as I am of listening to my great-aunt’s stories of when she bought her very first car back when the motors were on the outside, ran on oats and carrots, and looked like horses.
- The time that it takes me to make these things is eating into my Downton Abbey time, which I have recently started watching and will not rest until I am caught up.
I should have mentioned this back in my post about aerobics, but then I’m pretty sure I was drunk when I wrote that and time makes fools of us all.
Stretching before working out is important no matter what the activity, but with weight training it is incredibly imperative. Stretching helps to limber up joints, muscles and ligaments so you can get a full range of motion (more on that in a minute) and to get blood flowing to all the places you’re going to be working on. To go right into exercising without stretching can cause your body to seize up, leading to cramps and aches that will make it difficult to continue moving. It can also keep you from sensing the real pain of injury, which makes you more susceptible to actually hurting yourself.
While stretching is a part of warming up, it isn’t the entirety of it as we need to get your blood flowing faster than its normal rate. Muscles need blood to do their work, and if you want to be able to lift more and thereby get better results, you are going to need to get your blood pumping to all your muscles before you begin. This can be done by doing a couple of sets (again, I’ll get to that in a little bit) with very light weights, but an easier way is to do some light cardio before picking that dumbbell up. It doesn’t need to be long (five to ten minutes walking at a steady yet brisk pace will do). It may not seem like much, but you will be able to do more afterwards.
Form is one of the most important parts of weight training, if not the most important. Being able to lift 300 lbs. with one arm is all well and good, but you won’t get any stronger nor do yourself any favors if you don’t have good form. In weight training, form refers to the very specific method of executing an exercise properly, which means that you are utilizing the area(s) of your body in an exact manner that will work said area the most effectively.
. . .
Sorry, I had to take a moment there. I just confused myself with that last sentence.
What that really means is that, while exercising a part of your body, you do not try to make it easier on yourself by compensating with other parts of your body that aren’t meant for the occasion. In weight training, this manifests by a person using a separate set of muscle groups to handle a weight (e.g. using your back while doing a bicep curl). By doing so, you don’t work the muscles you are hoping to target and therefore will not get results you desire. In its simplest terms, having bad form is cheating, like looking at the answers to the crossword when you’re stuck. Yes, looking at the answers helps you finish the puzzle, but by doing so you miss the entire point of the thing. You’ll always be stuck cheating if you never take the time to learn and do it right.
If having bad form is effective in any way at all, it is very effective at injuring you. You have probably heard “lift with your knees, not with your back”, and if you haven’t, then shit, you need to read a book or something. That safety precaution is entirely about good form. While every exercise has a different form (that means you have to do some studying before you try out a new exercise) to most utilize whatever muscle you are focusing on, a general rule is to always keep your back straight, your feet shoulder width apart, and keep it that way through out the entire exercise.
RANGE OF MOTION
Every joint in your body has a limit to how much is can bend and straighten. The area between these two ends is called the range of motion and it basically represents how far your body can move in any given direction.
Range of motion is important because you will be stronger if you use your entire range of motion while lifting weights. In a normal day, we never utilize our full range of motion. Instead, the range of a given limb is shorter because we aren’t normally called to reach all the way above our heads, or straight out in front of us, or squat all the way to the ground. But this is why it is important that we do use our full range of motion while weight training because it forces us to use the muscles we never use during a given day. To lift with a limited range of motion is like playing the first level of Super Mario Bros.; of course it’s easy! We’ve played it 1,000 times in our lives, so there is no room for progress.
This does make weight training harder, as you will have to lower and lift weights past the point where it stops being entirely comfortable (uncomfortable ≠ pain, by the way), but that’s the whole point of exercising! It’s not supposed to be entirely comfortable, or else you’re not getting any where. Stop being such a big baby.
REPS & SETS
While aerobics are measured in time (how long you workout) and distance (how far you go while working out), weight training is measured with repetitions (reps) and sets. Reps are how many times you lift a weight without stopping. If you can do 50 push-ups before you have to take a break, you can do 50 reps of push-ups. A set is a group of repetitions (thank you thesaurus from helping me not say “a set is a set”). Splitting your reps into sets helps you work out for a longer period of time before you get to the “If I Try To Lift A Feather, My Arm Will Fall Off” stage by letting you rest between sets. Instead of doing those 50 push-ups, you could do three sets of 25. You won’t tire as quickly, and you’ll end up doing more push-ups. Not that doing fifty in one go is bad, not in the least, but it will help give your routine variety, and variety is a magic word in this case.
Not that how much you can lift isn’t important either (I’m getting to that next), but by adjusting your reps and sets you can workout with any amount of weight. If you are stuck with light weights you can do more reps and fewer sets, as you won’t need to take a break as often. If, on the other hand, you have heavier weights, doing fewer reps but more sets will help make the best workout.
The human body is incredibly good at adapting. It can get used to almost anything. This means, in a sort of logical leap that helps me save time because I want to get back to Downton Abbey, the more you do the more you will be able to do. This is where the concept of overloading comes in. Overloading refers to the act of always lifting just a little bit more that you are comfortable with (once again, uncomfortable ≠ pain). You can practice driving on a simulator all you want, but at some point you’re going to have to go outside your comfort zone and actually get in an automobile, just as you are going to need to start lifting heavier and heavier weights. I know I just said that reps and sets are very crucial to weight lifting, but in the end you will still need to add more weight if you want to progress with getting stronger.
Will you get bigger muscles by lifting heavier weights? The short answer is yes, but that’s not a bad thing. Muscle takes more energy to maintain, so the more muscle you have, the more fat you will end up burning. We get larger muscles through a process called hypertrophy –
– which is the growth of muscle cells. Every time you lift a weight, your muscles get these tiny tears in them. That sounds scary, I know, and it is (you are tearing yourself underneath your skin where you can’t see it, how disturbing) but it’s a perfectly normal process. As your body rests up and heals itself while you’re not working out, those tears don’t come back together perfectly as they scar a little. The more “scars” you create on your muscles, the bigger they get. Muscles are the scars of exercise.
This is a good thing, as the bigger your muscles get the more you will be able to lift, thus perpetuating a cycle of exercise that will end up pissing you off (“I can lift another five pounds? Shit, now I have to. Motherfucker.”). But for those of you who aren’t really going for big muscles (I’m looking at you ladies), don’t worry. It takes a lot of work to become one of those walking behemoths that you see at bodybuilding competitions, and you’ll have to lift a lot more than simply adding five more pounds to your weights.
Too much of a good thing ain’t so good, so it is important that you take a rest from lifting weights. If you don’t give yourself time to heal, those tiny tears in your muscles will only begin to get bigger and bigger without ever scarring up, and at some point you’ll end up injuring yourself. Luckily, you have many muscles in your body, and while some are healing you can be working a whole different group of muscles.
You don’t have to constantly exercise, as I can’t demand you do something that I myself can not do (my drinking gets in the way . . . of everything . . . even my drinking), but give yourself one or two days before you exercise the same muscle group again.
All right, we’ve only got one or two more muscles posts to go. We still have to go a little more in depth to all the different muscle groups you have, as well as the exercises that target them. And . . . there’s other stuff, but my whiskey and PBS show (public entertainment is good? What an age we live in) are screaming at me to rejoin the party.