A few months ago, a close friend of mine asked me why she had not lost a single pound of fat or put on an ounce of muscle in the last month, even though she had been following a grueling diet and exercise regimen.
Given the intensity of her workouts, her frustration was so great it was nearly palpable. Like most people, she understood that a beautiful figure is sculpted carefully through proper diet and exercise. What she did not realise, however, is that cardiovascular and body weight exercises like pushups and pull-ups only improve one’s physique to a certain point.
Weight training is a vital component of any efficacious workout routine, for both men and women. For my friend, it was the missing link. If you too wish to obtain the incredible curves of Shilpa Shetty or the lean muscle tone of Hrithik Roshan, weight training can help you reach your fitness goals.
Weight training increases testosterone, slows age-related muscle degeneration and sharpens the mind. It offers benefits that plyometric, callisthenic and cardiovascular exercises do not. Lifting utilises a wider, more functional range of motion. This strengthens the joints and forces muscles to do more work, resulting in a rounder, fuller look.
But before you throw on the sweatpants and head to the gym, there are some basics to know. The three most important
free-weight exercises are the bench press, the deadlift and the squat. Together, they target almost all of the major skeletal muscles to varying degrees, including those in the chest, triceps, shoulders, back, legs, gluteus, hips, neck and forearms.
Because each of these exercises hit multiple muscle groups at the same time, they are fantastic for increasing overall size in men and muscle tone in women. If you’re just starting out, it is best to learn these movements first. The aspiring weightlifter must also keep in mind the importance of learning and maintaining proper form. Incorrect form can lead to injury and decreases the effectiveness of these exercises.
Let’s not forget the importance of eating properly and getting adequate rest. Food and rest are just as important to physical and mental well-being as exercise. In order to maximise muscle gain, you should eat a high-calorie, high-protein diet with enough carbohydrates and fat to fuel your body. This does not give you license to gorge on greasy hamburgers and milkshakes; instead, your caloric intake should come from nutrient-rich, whole foods like fresh veggies, lean meat, low-fat milk and cottage cheese.Protein shakes can be a helpful addition to your daily meal
plan – they make it easier to meet your daily protein intake. The ones that are best for muscle growth and fat loss contain
fast-, medium- and slow-digesting proteins like whey, egg albumin and micellar casein. By adjusting your diet and daily caloric intake, you can use weight training to burn off fat and become toned or bulked up.
It’s also important to get as much sleep as possible when following an exercise programme, especially if your goal is to gain muscle. During sleep, your body releases growth hormones that stimulate muscle regeneration. Aim for seven to nine hours per night in order to recharge your mind and body.
Before performing any exercises, make sure you have a spotting partner who is ready and able to assist you.
- Before lifting the bar off the rack, squeeze your lats and glutes, and pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Plant both feet firmly on the floor.
- Carefully lift the bar off the rack and hold it in line with the centre of your chest, keeping your elbows slightly bent.
- Lower the bar to two inches above your chest in a slow, controlled manner whilst breathing in.
- Pause for one second at the bottom of the movement. Do not bounce the bar off your chest.
- Push the bar up to the starting position as quickly and explosively as possible whilst breathing out.
- Although you’re squeezing your shoulders, lats and glutes to maintain upper body stability, you should focus most of your attention on the chest muscles to ensure that they do all the heavy lifting.
- Stand with your toes pointed straight, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Walk up to the bar so that your shins nearly touch it.
- Stick your butt out as though you’re trying to sit on a chair behind you. Grab the bar.
- Squeeze your back muscles tightly.
- Straighten out your legs and back to slowly lift the bar whilst breathing out.
- As you lift the bar, straighten out your back and stick out your chest.
- Use your trapezius (top shoulder) to keep the bar steady.
- Lower the bar until the weight taps the ground, and come back up.
- Place your feet farther than shoulder-length apart, toes pointed slightly outward with a slight bend in the knees.
- Place the bar atop your shoulders, behind your head.
- Arch your back and stick your butt out slightly.
- Bend at the knees to lower the weight until your legs form a 90-degree angle; breathe in.
- To move back to starting position, push through the heels in one smooth movement whilst breathing out.
..... Kazim Zaidi