Muscle building serves for more than just vanity. Aside from looking good, it helps with weight control, lessens bone loss, boosts energy levels, improves balance and can elevate one’s mood.
However, you have to understand what you can achieve with lifting weights and how to do it right to reap its full benefits.
Here, learn about the advantages of weight lifting, how to lift and how much to lift, as well as some handy muscle building workouts to add to your repertoire.
How Weight Lifting Builds Muscles?
Your body builds muscle when you challenge your muscles with higher levels of resistance or weights. This gradual process is called muscle hypertrophy.
For muscle hypertrophy to occur, fibers of the resisting muscle must first sustain an injury or tear. Your body then has to repair these injuries or tears by fusing the torn fibers. This fusion increases the size and mass of the muscle.
Muscle growth repair is, however, dependent on certain factors. These include testosterone, insulin growth factor, and human growth hormone.
These hormones function by:
- Inhibiting protein breakdown
- Optimizing the body’s utilization of protein
- Enhancing tissue growth
- Stimulating anabolic hormones, which in turn promotes protein synthesis and muscle growth
- Activating satellite cells which play a part in muscle development
On the other hand, strength and resistance training helps in:
- Stimulating testosterone release
- Release of growth hormones from the pituitary
- Improve muscle sensitivity to testosterone
How Much Weight Should I Lift To Gain Muscle?
The question in most beginner’s mind is ‘how much weight they should actually lift?’
This is a fair question because lifting too much, in the beginning, can impede your ability to have the proper lifting form. It can also cause injury.
The answer is, however, not clear cut. At times, it takes a bit of trial and error to get the correct balance.
If you go too low, you do not create adequate tension needed to build new muscles. If you go too high, you swing your body to lift, which is improper form.
A better strategy to go about this requires you to:
- Learn proper form
- Listen to your body
- Lift on an allotted time where you are not too sluggish, nor rushing through
People often ignore the level of movement involved in weight lifting. In any weight lifting session, you need to learn to isolate specific muscle groups.
Swinging your body makes lifting easier, but then you depend on momentum to lift. Doing this spreads out energy meant for one muscle to numerous muscles. This does nothing for muscle growth.
Other things like arching your back and grunting also do little to help you bulk up. Instead, start with smaller weights, using the proper form and gradually go from there.
Proper form: your back should remain flat at all times, taut core, relaxed neck and shoulders squared out.
Aside from preventing injury, proper form also helps direct which weight is appropriate for specific exercises.
To help determine ideal weight:
Pick a weight that lets you do your first ten reps with moderate difficulty. By the time you are getting to the 10th rep, you should be having some difficulty, though not enough for you to be shaking or holding your breath. Dropdown a little if this happens.
Rest for between 30 to 60 seconds before your next rep.
By the tenth lift of your third set, you should be struggling to lift, but should still be able to do so with proper form and without grunting. This is the intensity you want to hold up regardless of whether you are a beginner or a weightlifting veteran.
In time, you get to a point where you are lifting a weight with minimal effort. This is a signal to increase your weight, without which you plateau. This process is known as progressive overload and is a fundamental principle of weight gain.
However, if your current weight is too light, but the next one is too heavy, you can go about it in two ways.
The first is using the heavier weight but lowering your total reps. The second is sticking to the current weight, but increasing the reps by 2 to 5 more.
Lifting Safely: How to Prevent Injury
As you aim at getting all the benefits of weight training, safety should remain key. Injuries can cause both long and short term issues, and even put an end to your fitness goals indefinitely.
Here are some ways to prevent injury while weight training.
There are many resources to help you with this, including online videos, fitness instructors, and doctors. Aside from injuring yourself, improper form does nothing for the targeted muscle groups.
Do a proper warm-up for about five minutes before every lifting session. Light aerobic exercises and stretching are great warm-up options.
As eager as you might be to see results, you need to start slow. As a beginner, you might only be able to lift a few pounds.
This is okay. In time, your muscles, ligaments and tendons get accustomed to your weight training exercises.
If you follow proper form and start slow, you will be surprised at how quickly you progress.
Only use good quality, well-maintained equipment. Faulty weights and equipment significantly increase your risk of injury.
This aside, strive to learn their proper use. Small things like dropping equipment on the floor after a workout could hurt you. Instead, ease them back to the floor with a controlled movement.
Mind Your Breathing
While the temptation is always there to hold your breath when lifting becomes too intense, this is counterproductive.
Pay attention to your breathing to ensure you exhale during exertion and inhaling during the relaxation phase.
Use A Full Range Of Motion
Lifting a weight should travel through the full range of motion of a joint.
This comprehensively develops strength at all points and lessens over-stretching, which might cause injury.
Listen To Your Body
Pay attention to your body so that you are able to tell when something is wrong.
It’s essential to be able to differentiate between an injury and normal muscle soreness.
Do not train if you are unwell or have suffered an injury.
Benefits Of Lifting Weights
Here is a detailed look at some incredible benefits of lifting weights.
1. Keeps bones healthy and strong
After the age of 30, you start losing bone density by a certain percentage every year, with women being more susceptible to osteoporosis than men.
Weight lifting keeps bones strong by applying force on them. The bones then get stronger to enable them to endure and adopt to the force being applied on them.
2. Lowers inflammation and also regulates insulin
Weight lifting causes the body to utilize its glucose reserves, which is advantageous to people with type 2 diabetes.
Weight lifting also helps in fighting off inflammation. Studies have shown that regular weight lifting sessions can lead to significant weight loss in overweight women.
Such results have been observed in people that weightlift an average of two days a week in the least.
3. Improves endurance and strength
Weight lifting builds up muscle, which results in increased in strength.
However, to gain more strength, you have to increase the weight of the load you’re lifting gradually.
On the other hand, endurance is gained through lifting lighter weights but with more repetitions (reps).
In time, you’ll notice day to day activities feel much easier, and you will gain increased energy levels.
4. Increases flexibility
Proper weight lifting form calls for you to make controlled movements in the lowering portions of weight lifting. As you do this, your muscle fibers produce force and get stretched at the same time.
Your body adapts to these positions, gradually building strength.
Secondly, this movement increases the length of your muscle fascicles. This stretching strengthens the muscle and protects it against injury. Essentially, these actions increase one’s flexibility.
Muscle Building Workouts
Beginners in weightlifting are often at a loss on which exercises to include in their workout regime.
Here are a few muscle building workouts suggestions, including descriptions of how to perform them correctly.
Deadlift is a weight lifting exercise whereby a barbell is lifted off the ground from a stable bent over position and up to the hip level or until the lifter is in an upright position.
The number of reps will depend on what one is aiming for. For strength, one will lift heavy weight loads for lesser reps compared to endurance, where one lifts less heavyweights but for higher reps.
Focus: forearms, lower back, hips, quads, glutes, hams and upper traps.
2. Bench Press
This is a weight lifting exercise that strengthens the upper body.
Bench pressing involves one lying on a bench with both feet planted firmly on the ground and then using both hands to push a fixed weight /barbell upwards from the level of the chest to arm’s length and then back down to the chest. Movement from chest to arm’s length should be parallel.
It is advisable to have a spotter when doing this exercise to avoid injury. The spotter comes in handy when docking of the weight in case of fatigue and to help you balance the weight evenly.
Focus: triceps, pectorals, anterior deltoids.
This weightlifting exercise focuses on upper body strength, muscle tone, abdominal strength, and the fingers and the hands.
Pull-ups involve suspending the body by the hands and pulling up bringing the elbows towards the torso.
It is a convenient exercise as it can be done anywhere provided there is a strong bar or suspension point.
Focus: Forearms, biceps, lats, mid-traps, rhomboids, rear delts and brachialis.
This weight lifting exercise strengthens the upper body by training the triceps.
Dips can be done by first sitting on a bench or chair and gripping its edge just next to the hips with fingers pointed toward the feet, then, with legs extended, your feet and hip should be width apart with heels touching down.
Secondly, press down the arms to lift the body then slide forward just enough that your behind clears the bench/seat’s edge.
Lower yourself such that the elbows are at a 90 and 45-degree angle. Ease back up slowly to the neutral position and do another rep. Try your best to control your movement throughout the motion range. Also, if you’re gym provides a dip bar for its members, you can incorporate it into your dip exercise routine and use it as your main dips exercise equipment.
Focus: Triceps, pectorals, anterior deltoids
5. Barbell PullOver
This weight lifting exercise is excellent at expanding the thorax.
Barbell pullover is done by lying on a bench with the barbell is positioned over your forehead.
From this starting position, lower the barbell in an arc movement behind your head as smooth as possible while maintaining your arms as straight as possible. Remember to inhale throughout this movement.
Raise it back up smoothly in an arc movement until it is back over your forehead. Exhale throughout this movement.
Always avoid your hips from raising up too much during this movement. Keep in mind that the actual range of motion is highly dependent on the level of flexibility you have in your shoulders. Pay attention to your elbows by keeping them fixed and bent slightly. You can use a straight barbell or an EZ barbell for this exercise.
Focuses on: Triceps, upper pectorals, teres major, lats.
This weight lifting exercise works both the upper and lower body simultaneously and strengthens the core, which is good for improving balance. It is effective for day to day activities such as bending, walking, and athletic activities.
Squats are done by posing with feet apart a bit wider than the width of the hip.
The chest should be up, with hips pushed back to assume a sitting position while you shift weight to your heels.
Inhale deeply as you move your hips downward till the thighs are almost parallel or parallel to the floor.
Pause slightly with knees over but not beyond toes.
Start your exhale as you push back upwards to the starting point.
One can rest a barbell on top of the shoulders behind the neck and balance it. Grasp the bar with your hand at a width that is comfortable with elbows back.
You can also do this exercise with a dumbbell in each hand.
Arch back slightly by rotating pelvis forward. Tighten abdominal muscles and look forward to maintain balance.
Focus on: Lower back, hips, hams, quads, glutes
As we have established, how much weight you should lift for maximum muscle gain greatly depends on the goals that you have and other factors. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure that you are lifting recommended weights to prevent possible accidents or effects.