figuring out weights
some potentially silly questions:
i'm just starting a blueprint-style training program, and am definitely past (as in built a bridge and got over it) dinky "girl" weights. basically, i'm just going up to the dumbells and grabbing the heaviest weights i can lift or deadlift for 5 sets of 5. this means i can make it through all 5 sets, with only a little "oh, g-d, save me now" style breathing at the other end. (right now, i'm using the dumbbell that has "40" on either side; you can clearly tell i know what i'm talking about.)
should i be sticking with where i am for a while? or challenge myself right away? to put it in perspective--the first Lift Heavy Things workout was Monday, and i only used 30 pounds then.
and one last thing: when i LHT, i try to do a push, a pull and a press style movement for 5x5, and then i go home. is that enough? should i add more? (it's taking about 15-20 minutes all in all.)
THANK YOU! i'd ask the trainers at the gym but i think they would give me 5lb weights like they seem to with all their mammary-possessing clients.
There is no point in "sticking with where you are" with weights - if you can do X, then next time you should be trying X+1 until you get to the point that a few times of trying and failing X+1 doesn't get you to the next step. That's a basic principle of training and program design, as opposed to just "working out," and you see it in programs from simplefit to starting strength. In other words if you can do now 40 lb dumbell press 5x5, then you are ready to try 45 dumbell press 5x5, or 40 lb 6x5, or whatever your program has you on. Continuing to do 40lb 5x5 isn't going to do much for you - you can already do that.
As for your lifts - a "press" is a "push" so I'm not sure what you are actually doing. overhead press, chinups, and dumbell deadlifts? OK, that's cool.
Ah, I started off there years ago until a football player friend of mine taught me how to lift weights. Below is everything I've learned...
First and foremost, always focus on the 'bread and butter'. What is the bread and butter? It's this:
- Bench press
- Military press
- Lateral pull down / pullups
And variations of these exercises...
However, if you haven't been lifting 'manly' weights, you will lack a lot of the stabalizer muscles necessary. As in, it's very different to bench press 200lbs on a machine than it is a bar. Don't worry. I started benching 105lbs and I couldn't do anything with weights over 25lbs (post shoulder injury I bench 225lbs and use 75lb to 80lb dumbbells for most exercises now -- not huge, but I'm usually one of the bigger guys in the gym). We all have to start somewhere.
In any event, make a plan depending on how frequently you want to go to the gym. If you can go 4 days a week, do a split like this:
Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps (bench press with bar, incline bench press, military press, etc.)
Wednesday: Back, biceps (lat pull downs, pullups, curls, deadlift)
Friday: Legs, abs (squats)
I might do 8 reps and 4 sets. That seems to get me the best results. Also, don't be afraid to start with just the bar if that's all you can do at first. Those stabalizer muscles take awhile. Here is what I view as a great program for beginners:
StrongLifts.com: Strength and Muscle Building Strategies without The Bull
StrongLifts 5x5: How to Gain Raw Muscle and Brute Strength | StrongLifts.com
A few of my non-weight lifter friends started with this and had very good results. Candidly, it was too basic for me, but if I were starting out that's probably what I would do. My gym partners had never lifted before and used that method.
The biggest mistakes I see people make are spending way too much time on 'small' muscles like biceps, wrists, or whatever. I don't even do arms and I nice guns. That might be genetic, but I think my biceps get worked enough on back day. In any case, focus on the bread and butter exercises, then if you feel the need to do smaller ones do them at the end. Machines are fine if you've already done your workout using bars and dumbbells.
The second biggest mistake I see are people without a plan. For instance, guy comes in, does a set of biceps, chest machine, some situps, and then a cheesy wrist exercise. I guess it's better than nothing, but not much. You have to work each muscle group pretty hard in order to see results. (though I've seen some pretty nifty circuit workouts where a guy would do all the bread and butter exercises in one setting. That might work if you did it 3 or 4 times a week, but it would be brutal... yet I digress.). Split up your muscles into chest, back, legs, arms, and shoulders. Make sure you work (and rest!) each group during the week -- don't just 'do stuff'. Have a plan on a attack that focuses on one or two muscle groups each time you go into the gym.
The third biggest mistake I see is people don't try and progress -- i.e., lift more weight. When a weight gets easy, you must try and up the weight at some point. If you come in every week and bang out 5x5 at 135lbs (like many guys do), you will never see results. Once you can do 12 reps of something, up the weight. Sometimes I want to walk up to guys in the gym and be like "You could totally be using 50lbs... why are you using 35lbs?"
Make sure you're not under-eating, and don't be afraid to throw down a sweet potato before and after a workout. Creatine works well but I've never liked any supplements and I shy away from whey protein. (well, multi-vitamin, vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin b complex).
There are lots of resources on sites like bodybuilding.com. Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle is probably my favorite book on sports nutrition and lifting weights.
To sum up a long post... weight lifting is pretty simple. It's only complex for a select group in the population who need to isolate certain muscles that you've never heard of. That's why workout regimes in bodybuilding magazines aren't appropriate for beginners. For 95% of the population, moving heavy stuff, and then moving heavier stuff, while targeting large groups of muscles will do the trick. The key is to focus on those very basic exercises (the bread and butter) and get progressively better (stronger) at them. That's really all it takes. Look around the gym -- the really fit / big guys aren't usually the ones spending the entire time on the bicep machine...
Hope that helps.
Last edited by cavemanj; 03-27-2011 at 09:28 PM.
Fully agree with cavemanj - do barbell work. Get yourself Rippetoes book though - Mehdi has become a bit closed off as of lately with his SL stuff, everything is members only, except he hasn't figured out what you need to do to become a member.... And in any case, he has just repackaged Rips and Bill Starr's work, so you might as well go to the original
@cavemanj - you gotta work on your metaphors - "bread and butter" is sooooo CW - after all it is both off limits for strict paleo folk :-)