Weight training: Improve your muscular fitness

Build muscle with only one set of repetitions

Weight training is a type of strength training that uses weights for resistance. Weight training challenges your muscles by forcing them to adapt to the stress of the weights. Theories on the best way to approach weight training abound, including countless repetitions and hours at the gym. But research shows that a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle just as efficiently as can three sets of the same exercise.

"Use a weight heavy enough to tire your muscles after 12 repetitions," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "At the proper weight, you should be just barely able to finish the 12th repetition."

  • Increase muscle tone
  • Improve overall health
  • Helps control weight
  • Help alleviate shoulder, back, neck pain
  • Fight depression
  • Improves mood and overall outlook on life

Start slowly

If you're a beginner, you may find that you're able to lift only a few pounds. That's OK. Once your muscles, tendons and ligaments get used to weight training exercises, you may be surprised at how quickly you progress. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions with a particular weight, increase the weight by up to 10 percent at a time.

Take time to rest

To give your muscles time to recover, rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. Many people choose to work the major muscle groups at a single session two or three times a week. If you'd rather lift weights every day, plan daily sessions for specific muscle groups. For example, on Monday work your arms and shoulders, on Tuesday work your legs, and so on.

For most people, short sessions just two or three times a week are more practical than extended daily workouts. "You don't have to be in the weight room for 90 minutes a day to see results," Dr. Laskowski says. "You can be there 20 to 30 minutes two to three times a week and see significant improvement."

Reap the rewards

Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. If you don't do anything to replace the muscle loss, it'll be replaced with fat. But weight training can help you reverse the trend — at any age. Studies show that weight training and other types of strength training can improve quality of life and the ability to complete daily tasks for adults even in their 80s and 90s.

 As your muscle mass increases, you'll be able to work harder and longer before you get tired. You'll maintain joint flexibility, increase bone density and better manage your weight. You may even improve your mental health and reduce the risk of depression — all heavy reasons to include weight training in your fitness program.

It is a fact that exercise of any kind will help strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility, improve mobility, and of course, it has great advantages for the vital organs. In other words, exercise and you increase you chances of a longer, healthier, and happier life even if you can only exercise from your wheelchair.

Weight training can help you tone your muscles, improve your appearance and fight age-related muscle loss. And it doesn't take as long as you might think.

Your friends enjoy using the weight machines and free weights at the fitness center. And you see the results of their hard work — toned muscles and an overall improved physique. You'd like to start a weight training program, but you're not sure you have the time. Think again! Weight training might not be as time-consuming as you think.

In just 20 to 30 minutes, you can do a complete series of weight training exercises for your arms, shoulders, abdomen, chest, back and legs.

  • Increase range of motion
  • Strengthen joints
  • Reduce shoulder injuries
  • Improves the ability to perform daily activities
  • Get a complete workout
  • Creates opportunities to make new friends

The benefits of working out:

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