Bodybuilding Exercises - How to Weight Train


1. WARM-UP and STRETCH before you lift.
2. Practice good mechanics. Don't sacrifice technique for too much weight.
3. Lift the weight SMOOTHLY with strict control.
4. Do not jerk or bounce the weight. Don't squirm or angle to gain a leverage advantage.
5. ISOLATE the muscle groups or body parts involved in the exercise. All other body parts are to remain static and work as stabilizers.
6. Utilize a full range of motion on every exercise. Pre-stretch the muscle at the beginning of the exercise and finish with a complete contraction or until there is no range of movement left.
7. Choose the weight carefully. It is better to start too light rather than too heavy.
8. Do ALL OF THE SETS in each exercise before moving to the next exercise.
9. Always THINK SAFETY. Use spotters when performing heavy lifts. Check the condition of the equipment you will be using. Wear a weight belt, especially for overhead lifts.
10. You can never have too much common sense. Trust your own judgement and body awareness. Don't try to lift through pain. Know the difference between muscle fatigue and actual pain. Don't predispose yourself to injury by not paying attention to what your body is telling you.


Machines - Pro.....If you're low on time, using machines can be an efficient way to get in a workout. Putting a pin into the weight stack is quicker than loading up a barbell, plus the arrangement of machines in a gym facilitates changing exercises efficiently. If you're new to the gym, and without a trainer, machines are a safe way to go. Most machines have diagrams to help you with proper lifting form. If you have injuries, machines will help stabilize your body. With the extra support, you can focus on healthy muscles, and give the injuries time to heal. If you want to lift heavy weights without assistance, machines will help. The security of the machine allows you to lift more, without fear of dropping weights. If you want to train one specific muscle group, machines aid in focus. It is difficult to do certain exercises (like a leg curl) with free weights, and a machine will hone right in on your desired goal.

Machines - Con..... Machines let you cruise through an exercise without bringing in stabilizing muscles. You don't get true strength that relates to the movement in your daily life. Machines don't fit all bodies. If you are very small or very tall, the machines may not fit your size, and the exercise won't be mechanically efficient, leading to frustration or injury. Machines don't give you much variation. Most machines create a forced or guided two-dimensional movement pattern, so you are limited in how your muscles develop.The same old same old: not only do your muscles get bored, so does your brain. Loss of motivation can lead you to dropping out of your fitness program. Machines get filled if the gym is busy. Your time is valuable. Standing around, waiting for someone to get off the machine that you want, is a hassle and a turn-off when you want to get in shape.

Free Weights- Pro.... Free weight equipment Get more bang for your buck with barbells and dumbells. There are so many more exercises that you can do with free weights, at home or at the gym, than with big, expensive machines. You can fit the exercise to your body. Since there are no range of motion inhibitors, almost anyone can use free weights. Motor skills are enhanced. With free weights, more demands are made on your muscles to stabilize and balance your body and the weight, giving you more work completed per exercise, getting you fitter, faster. Keep your interest up. Every workout with free weights can be different. Changing the angle of movement or rotation at a joint will challenge your body and brain. You can exercise anywhere. Once you get accustomed to free weights, you can go into any gym and feel comfortable. Plus, you can design your own home gym easily and inexpensively.

Free Weights- Con.... You'll need to get advice to help you get the right workout program design. Hiring a trainer or researching the best exercises for you must come first. Proper form is paramount. Again, hiring a trainer will get you started out right, before you get into bad habits. Imbalances in the body are heightened. You will have to concentrate to keep your body aligned, and add some balancing work. Greater chance of getting injured. If you don't know what you're doing, free weights can hurt you faster than get you fit. You'll need a lifting partner if you plan on pumping heavy iron. Get a partner or trainer to help check your form: it's easy to get sloppy, even when you know what to do. For example, don't try a heavy weight in the squat or bench press without a "spotter". Make sure that you can control the weight and do the exercise in perfect position. All in all, a combination of machines and free weights in your program is the best. For optimal use of your time, plan your workouts according to what you need. Do you want general strength or sports performance? What is more important to you, better balance or bigger muscles? Get advice from a professional, and stay motivated with a variety of exercises.


A repetition is a single completed movement of an exercise from starting position, through the entire movement, then back to the starting position. If a person lifts 300 lb. in the bench press twice, he or she is doing two repetitions with 300 lb.. (Abbreviated as "reps".)

A set is a specific number of reps performed consecutively without resting. A bodybuilder who lifts 250 lb. in the bench press for eight reps, takes a short rest, and then does another eight reps has done two sets of eight reps. (Workout representation: 2 x 8).

Repetition Maximum is the maximum weight (or resistance) you can lift for a specific number of repetitions to exhaustion. In a 6 RM test, a lifter is able to lift 6 reps with a specific resistance. Strength coaches can determine a 1 RM to design a percentage of load for a specific exercise.

Say an athlete has a personal best (1 RM) of 400 lb. His workout demand is an exercise intensity level of 80% for a predetermined number of repetitions. The athlete will use 320 lb. for the exercise (80% of 400 lb. =320 lb.). When your major goal is to increase the power output of a muscle and not just its ability to lift maximal loads, increase the intensity of an exercise by increasing the velocity of movement.
Research shows most people can complete eight repetitions with 85% of their maximum resistance and 12 repetitions with 75% of their maximum resistance. Thus 75-85% of your maximum resistance provides optimum training intensity for building muscle. This is the reason why 8-12 reps are popular in body-building exercises.

You determine by trial the exact amount of weight that fills that requirement. In the past, people determined resistance from the maximum amount of weight you could use for one repetition. However that method presents a high risk of injury. Research proves that training at 60% of 1 RM for 10 reps is enough to build muscle strength. If your concern is strength fitness, 10-15 reps with an intensity of 60-70% of 1 RM will give all you need.

Strength training is at the opposite end of the continuum from endurance training. You develop endurance by performing low-intensity exercise for a relatively long time; strength is developed by performing high-intensity exercise for a relatively short time. In athletic strength training the intensity is high and is normally in the range of 4-6 RM and at times as low as 2 RM. RM Load: Repetition Maximum is a range from strength to endurance. Use it as a guide to determine which primary muscle feature you want to develop.


When you use 6 RM or less as a set, you primarily develop STRENGTH. When you use 8-12 RM you define MUSCLE.

Routines: A routine is a combination of exercises to work a specific muscle group. An example of a routine for working the pectorals would consist of several sets of exercises that incorporate bench presses, dips and crossover cable movements.

Positive and Negative: In strength training, when the lifter lowers the bar, he or she is performing negative work, whereas raising the bar is positive work. When you lower a specific weight, you allow muscle to lengthen along with the resistance. This is called eccentric action (not eccentric contraction) or negative resistance. An example of this form of exercise is when you lower the bar weight to your pectorals during a bench press exercise. We don't recommend lifters do negative bench press exercises. Heavy negative training increases your muscle's ability to handle eccentric work, but limits growth in your ability to handle positive loads. Doing a lot of negative training is also associated with delayed muscle soreness that increases recuperation time between each workout. Weight lifters must use positive and negative work in all exercises.

Maximal Muscular Contraction: The most effective way to increase muscular strength seems to be voluntary maximal muscular contractions, often referred to as overloading the muscle. In other words, the muscle must contract against a resistance it normally does not encounter. This process stimulates physiological changes which cause an increase in muscle strength and size. The last repetition in a set to failure is a voluntary maximal muscular contraction even though the force produced is not the maximal force possible during the set. Many resistance training systems use sets to failure and/or RMs to overload the muscle and its associated training effects.

Muscle Action: The activity of muscle: In a concentric action the ends of the muscle are drawn closer together. In an isometric action, the ends of the muscle are prevented from drawing closer together, with no change in length. In an eccentric action, a force external to the muscle overcomes the muscle force and the ends of the muscle are drawn further apart. The strength of a muscle or muscle group is the maximal force generated at a specific or determined speed.

Muscle Tone: refers to the firmness of the muscle. Hypertrophy: an increase in the size of a muscle, organ, or other body part caused by enlargement of the cells that make it up.


1. Range of Motion:
The complete movement capability of a joint. You must perform each and every exercise through a complete range of motion (except the squat). For example, if you work on the triceps push-down machine, ensure your triceps initial starting point is at neck level and extend until your elbows are straight. Range of motion is important when we talk about the second R.

2. Resistance
Pick a resistance level so you can perform an exercise through its full range of motion without excessive "cheating," or using body swing. (momentum) Yet that chosen resistance must also tax the muscles for the desired number of repetitions, the third R.

3. Repetitions
When choosing the number of repetitions (how many times the exercise can be done), you must first decide what results you want from the program. Generally, lower repetitions (up to 12 reps) produce muscle strength. High repetitions (15 to 30 reps) produce muscle endurance. The bodybuilder (training for increased muscle mass) does many sets of many repetitions to exhaustion. Yet they will not have the same absolute strength as the athlete who trains for strength rather than for muscle definition or build.

4. Rest
Your body needs about three minutes rest between each set of repetitions before it is ready to work near full capacity again. Say you do several repetitions of the curl for one set of curls. Begin your second set of repetitions after about three minutes of rest. The first set will have depleted the cells' store of phosphocreatine (PC), the body's high energy reservoir. PC cannot be fully replenished in less than about three minutes. CIRCUIT TRAINING, a different approach to using resistance, taxes the cardiovascular system by continuous muscle contractions. The rest period is shorter and resistance is considerably less than mentioned above.

5. Recovery
Allow adequate time between one workout and the next to help your body recover. As a general rule, don't exercise the same muscle group two days in a row, nor more than three times a week. If you do your body will fatigue to a stale, overstrained state. If you don't give your body a rest, it will take one on its own; you will get injured. In sports medicine circles, this is commonly called overuse syndrome.

6. Routine
For successful resistance training, a lifter must develop some type of routine. Routines will vary due to such things as time, availability of equipment and skill level of the lifter. Evaluate yourself and your environment to determine what routine will be best.


A. Selection, Choice & Order of Exercises

1. Selection of Exercise

To reduce the risk of injuries and produce balanced muscle development, you must strengthen the major muscle groups. The twelve key groups are your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, pectorals, trapezius, lats, erector spinae, deltoids, triceps, biceps, abdominals and gluteus. Work also on your obliques and adductors/abductors. If you train some muscles and exclude others you may get poorer overall results and perhaps eventually muscle injuries.

2. Choice of Exercise

When designing a resistance program, think about your "choice of exercise". Exercises can be either body part or structural. In a body part exercises you usually isolate a muscle. In structural exercise you use many muscles to produce a movement. Remember that every time you change the order of an exercise you functionally change that exercise. You can also change that exercise as you cycle through the year.

3. Order of Exercises
The order of the exercise will affect the severity of the workout. The order will develop the basic framework for the workout. Basic questions to ask:
(1) Does your workout progress from upper to lower body or vice-versa?
(2) Does your workout progress from body part (small muscle group) to structural (large muscle group) or just the opposite?

The classical exercise order is from UPPER BODY to LOWER, and LARGE muscle group to SMALL. Order your exercise based on your athletic training level. If you are a beginner, start with a less severe workout order; use an upper to lower body progression.
Here is a typical program showing order variations (small muscle groups before large):

Program A: single leg extension 10 10
hamstring curl 10 10
squats 8 6 4 6 8

Typical upper to lower body progression:

Program B: bench press 10 10 10
military press 10 10 10
leg press 10 10 10
standing calf raise 10 10 10

B: Intensity:
Training intensity is set primarily by the amount of resistance (load). In strength training based on 1RM loads are light (70-79% effort), medium (80-89%) or heavy (90-100%). Intensity is also affected by the number of sets and reps, the rest interval, exercise speed and the duration of the work-out.

Training Variables
Basic Strength Fitness Athletic Strength Training Body-Building Definition Combo Training

Exercises Per Muscle Group
1 to 2 exercises 1 to 2 exercises 3 to 5 exercises 2 to 3 exercises
Repetitions Per Set (Intensity) 10 to 15 reps. (60-70% of 1 RM) 4 to 6 RM (sometimes 2-3) 8 to 12 RM 4 to 10 RM

Number Of Sets per Exercise
2 sets 3-6 RM 3-5 sets 3-4 sets
Total Sets Per Body Part
2 or more sets for larger parts 4-8 sets 9 to 20 sets 6 to 20 sets
Recovery Time between Sets
Up to 1 minute 2.5 to 3 mins 1 to 1.5 mins 1.5 to 2 mins
Frequency of Training per wk
2 to 3 days 3 to 4 days up to 6 days 4 days
Training Volume (Reps x Sets)
low medium high high
Length of Workout 30 to 45 mins 3/4 to 1 hr. 1-2 hours (depending on total no. parts) 1 to 1.5 hours

References: Joy DuMay, Certified Fitness Trainer
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