The Almighty did not set these ten unofficial commandments in stone and sent them down to me through the clouds. Therefore, of course, they are always open to discussions.
But having worked in gyms for over 30 years and teaching clients the beauty of strength training for the last 13 years, I've learned a thing or two about lifting weights like this pearl of wisdom from the great Dan John.
"If you want to get stronger, lift weights."
This one is free because sometimes we overlook the obvious. Anyway, there are a lot of options when it comes to getting stronger. A quick Google search for the term strength training generates 1,140,000,000 results. But this is a case of information overload, so you don't need to see strength training from 10,000 feet to the minors in my opinion.
Consider these strength training rules as a guide to best navigating dumbbells and barbells. Hopefully you and the man above - and your gym owner - will agree.
1. You should engage in progressive overload
This little thing called homeostasis means the body is always trying to find a balance. When you do the same sets, reps, and weight, the body says, "This is easy. I know that; no need to stress.” And it doesn't. That's not to say it doesn't have health benefits, because it does.
But you're not getting stronger, and that's the name of the game when it comes to strength training. To get stronger you have to overload the body, allow the body to recover, and hey presto, you're stronger. Also known as progressive load. The best form of progressive overload is to put more weight on the bar, but it's not the only way. You can
- Do more reps with the same weight.
- Do more sets
- Finish your workout earlier
- Increase the frequency of your training
- Add more time under tension by adding rests, adding a half rep, or increasing the tempo
Do one or two of these methods per session and you're sure to get stronger.
2. You should warm up before every workout
You've all seen this guy walking in off the street, slap some weight on the bar and go right into it. The guy might think that's a warm-up, but it's not. Do you know what that is? A surefire way to hurt yourself. Maybe not that day, but it's coming.
A proper warm-up gets blood from your internal organs to your working limbs, preparing your body for the action. A warm-up will also:
- Increase your body temperature to get your body ready to move
- Supplies the muscles with valuable blood flow and oxygen
- Helps you mentally prepare for training
- Promotes the release of synovial fluid in your joints to prepare them for lifting
- And when you see your muscles are warm, you're less likely to injure yourself.
That's worth five minutes of your time.
3. Thou shalt not train through pain
When you push the limits and go hard and heavy, there will be times when the body will say enough is enough. This can manifest itself in the form of joint pain, back pain, excessive muscle soreness and reduced performance. Or you could get these things because of this little thing called life.
Then the choice is yours. You can ignore it and work through it because it's no pain, no gain, right? Or you can choose a different exercise or exercise method to train around the pain rather than through it. Say a cup squat instead of a back squat. You train the same movement without putting your body through the wringer.
You don't have to be a hero to do strength training. Retire and live to fight again another day.
4. You will never miss a Monday workout
Besides, who wants to miss International Breast Day?
A weight, a bodyweight, or even—God forbid—a cardio workout sets the tone for the rest of the week. Granted, that doesn't mean hellfire and brimstone will rain down on you if you miss a Monday - life happens. At the core of this imperative is consistency. Good things will happen if you train 3 times a week for 52 weeks a year.
Trust me - I'm a coach.
5. Thou shalt not demonize cardio
Many lifters will argue that anything over five reps is cardio, and prolonged cardio will eat away at your gains. The cardio eat your gains theory has long been debunked by various studies, but many lifters still believe in it. The trick to training simultaneously (strength and cardio) is to find your sweet spot.
If your goal is fat loss or hypertrophy, mixing it up will burn off a few calories in a few cardio sessions and help improve your recovery through a more efficient aerobic system. A larger aerobic motor improves your recovery between sets and workouts when your goal is absolute strength.
And there's this thing called heart disease, which is the number one killer in the world. And regular cardio exercise can help reduce the risk of death. Remember, training isn't always about muscle - it's about your health, too.
6. They share - and take care of - the gear
It's all part of being a good gym citizen, because nobody likes that guy who sits on the bench and plays on his phone while other lifters wait behind them. Or when a lifter uses the lat pulldown machine, sits on it for 3 minutes between sets, and says no when asked if you can work on it. body likes this guy.
The answer should always be yes; of course you can work in. Just put it on the weight it was on before. And let's not even start with the people who don't wipe their sweat off the machine or bench after use. That's just plain rude, and while you're at it refer to Commandment 8, because there's no excuse for laziness and recklessness.
7. You must use the Squat Rack as intended
The curls of the lifters in the squat rack have been mimicked many times and there have been many social media posts, including mine. Well, no matter which side you're on in the squat rack curling debate, there's one thing most lifters can agree on. You can do bicep curls anywhere. Barbell squats, rack pulls, and overhead presses, not so much.
So if you get a dirty look from the guy behind you while curling in the rack, finish your set, repin the barbell and walk away.
And while we're at it, to the guy who puts his deadlifts in front of the squat rack so NOBODY can actually use them - please find a new gym.
8. You pick up after yourself
On my early morning days when I opened the gym, I spent a lot of time picking up plates and dumbbells off the floor and offloading plates from machines and barbells. These strength athletes were lazy, didn't care about others, or were too weak to differentiate themselves. Many swear words were said softly and loudly.
t only is it a health hazard to leave your weights on the floor, but it only takes a moment and you'll be lifting and burning extra calories as well. Besides, it's the right thing to do, because didn't your mom teach you to pick up behind you?
Some beginners aren't strong enough to lift heavy dumbbells off the floor or 100-pound slabs off the barbell to re-stack them. Being considerate of all the people gracing the gym is of the utmost importance.
9. You must not limit yourself to free weights
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Barbells and dumbbells are the best tools for burning fat and building strength and muscle, but they're not the only tools in the toolbox. Your body doesn't know the difference between a dumbbell and a punching bag, because resistance is resistance in any form.
As great as free weights are, there are times when you can't face the barbell or your joints are turning the bird. If that's the case, strength machines with a fixed range of motion and increased stability might be what the doctor ordered.
- Lifters often disparage weight machines as a waste of time, but they're great for building muscle because the increased stability allows you to focus more on the working muscle and do more reps.
- Resistance bands are also easier on your joints because when they're not being stretched, they put less stress on them. Your increasing resistance (getting more challenging as the band stretches) improves your lockout strength and makes you strong where you are weakest, on the periphery.
- Kettlebells, sandbags, medicine and stability balls are all beneficial. Limiting yourself to free weights will limit your gains and increase your boredom.
10. Thou shalt not shame others
There's a reason shows like The Biggest Loser aren't a thing. The yelling, the screaming, and that go-hard-or-go-home mentality that ripped down these overweight people to build them back up is not in tune with today's society.
Instead of shaming overweight people at the gym with stares, taunts, and talking behind their backs, offer them encouragement, advice, and support on their weight loss journey. You never know what it would take to get them going to the gym, so please don't scare them away.
And before you record on your camera phone someone doing something idiotic because they don't know any better, please stop. There are already enough workout fail videos on YouTube and social media to last you a lifetime. need to add it.
So, before that person wants to hurt themselves, be polite, stop them, and give them advice on how to do it. And think about how you would feel if someone taped you doing something stupid. Thank goodness camera phones didn't exist in the gym when I was in my prime. My goodness.
Are these good enough to be set in stone? Maybe not, but if you follow these ten commandments, you'll lift longer, stronger, and be a good gym citizen. w only if these people would stop filling the gallon water jug at the water fountain.