Posted On 11 Oct 2011
What’s the best weight lifting routine?
You may understand that getting stronger to build muscle mass is one of the two best ways to exercise for physical well-being. The other is cardio.
Because everyone understands how to walk or run or bicycle, there’s nothing initially intimidating about cardio.
The opposite is true when it comes to pumping iron. If you are inexperienced, just entering a gym can be intimidating and actually doing, for example, squats or deadlifts for the first time can be can be scary!
While the best way to do cardio is high intensity interval training, there is no best weight lifting routine.
Even if there were a best weight lifting routine, describing which exercises to do — as well as training frequency, number of sets, number of reps, length of pauses between sets, and so on — would be useless or counterproductive without detailed descriptions of how to perform the exercises.
I have posts on some major exercises. For example, click here for one on squats and click here for one on box squats. I plan to do more. I also plan to do some videos or DVD’s demonstrating perfect exercise technique. Even if I do, you may want immediate assistance.
Perhaps surprisingly, done correctly weight lifting is very safe. It has important psychological as well as physical benefits.
Though it’s impossible to describe even one weight lifting routine completely in a blog post, what is instead useful is providing you with a short list of excellent resources you can use to get started.
Permit me to provide 4: the first are web pages I’ve written and the other three are paperback books.
First, please make full use of all the relevant information that I have provided on the lasting-weight-loss.com site. It makes no difference whether or not you are interested in lasting weight loss: the information I provide there is, in my not so humble opinion, excellent for all trainees. (If nothing else, it’s a good review even for those who are already masters.)
The information is free as well as valuable. I recommend printing out the relevant pages on standard size, 3-holed paper and keeping it in a 3-ring binder for reference. When you actually begin training, you can keep your training log in the same binder.
Simply visit the website and look down the menu bar to find relevant sections on weight lifting. They will lead to other relevant sections as well. For example, there’s a section on core (mid-section) training. Here’s the site: click here.
Second, Stuart McRobert’s Build Muscle Lose Fat Look Great.I’ve never seen a better all-around book on strength training.
In addition to discussing the theory and psychology of strength training, he provides detailed exercise descriptions as well as information on putting together routines that will work well for you.
He emphasizes safety throughout. Training safely is not just about what you should do such stretching, warming up, or always using perfect exercise technique; it’s also about what you should not do.
In particular, there are a lot of exercises that you should never do because they are too dangerous (such as Smith machine squats [click here for my post on them] or behind-the-neck presses or pull-downs). If you limit yourself to doing only the exercises listed and described in McRobert’s book, you won’t go wrong.
Third, I recommend Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. He details a simple, effective weight lifting routine.
Since I just started it myself yesterday, it’s too early to report that it worked well for me. However, it’s based on sound training principles that should be the basis of any weight lifting routine. He provides all the details required to implement it, too.
Permit me to give you here just an overview of his weight lifting routine.
Using, as always, perfect exercise technique, step one is to determine your one rep max for each of four basic, compound exercises such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, and military press. (You are not limited to those four exercises.)
Step two is to use specific percentages of those one rep maximum poundages to determine the load you’ll use for your work sets. Using the percentages he provides is critical. Then you are ready to train.
In each training session you’ll do just one of the four exercises and, usually, some additional assistance work for it. Basically, you do 3 sets of 5 reps using weights that match the percentages you have determined in advance. However, you do as many reps as possible, going to near failure, on your third set. The assistance work consists of standard exercises such as dips, chins, push-ups, dumbbell rows, leg presses, and lunges.
I’ve decided on the option of spreading the four training sessions over two weeks. Monday of the first week is for squats. Thursday is for bench presses. Monday of the second week is for deadlifts. Thursday is for military presses. Because I’m older and recover from training more slowly, I know from experience that that training frequency will work well for me.
(I’ve made two other modifications. First, since I’m tall, I’ll be using a safety squat bar to do squats rather than a standard, straight Olympic bar. Second, because the basement where I train has a relatively low ceiling, I’ll replace the military presses with seated military presses.)
This is a weight lifting routine that, if executed properly, will work well for you whether you are a beginner, an intermediate trainee, or an advanced trainee.
Instead of using it twice a week as I am doing, you can use it just once a week or three times weekly or four times weekly. I suggest beginning with twice a week for a couple of months and then adjust your frequency based on feedback from your body.
Fourth, Brooks D. Kubik’s Dinosaur Training. Mr. Kubik is an attorney whose hobby is weight lifting.
If you read it, you’ll learn plenty of “secrets” of old time strength training.
The chief reason, though, that I recommend it is because you will learn how to think well about strength training. He won’t con you: “building a truly strong and muscular body will take years of steady effort.” He will help you keep your efforts in perspective.
He will also help you with the psychology of successful lifting. For example, “Don’t listen to negative influences . . .” Instead, “Write your favorite slogans on the cards – one per card – and post the cards where you are bound to see them every day.”
Many such psychological tips will help in your achieving goals that have nothing to do with strength training.
That’s it! If you use those four aids in the order listed, you’ll very soon have the ability to design for yourself an effective weight lifting routine.
Would you like a few more resources? If so, click here.
(If you happen to know any other resources that are as good or even better than these four, I hope that you’ll share them with the rest of us in the comments.)