Weight Training Fundamentals

by Doug Walker

Be safe.

Weight Training FundamentalsLifting weights, whether you do it for fun, training for sports or competition, can cause serious injury or even death. You can lift weights more safely & effectively by following these basic guidelines.

Proper Form/Technique

The most important thing to teach first-time lifters is the importance of proper lifting form and technique. All too often, teen-agers get caught up in trying to impress one another by lifting as much weight as they can. They do this without ever having had proper instruction, which in turn, leads to bad lifting habits and injury.

While it is important to be as strong as you can, it must be in relation to your form and technique. If you can’t lift any given weight slowly, smoothly and without jerking, then you need to go down to a weight that will allow you to do so. The objective is to lift weight that will get you as strong as possible yet not sacrifice technique.

The most common and critical training mistakes may be those of exercise technique. The tendency to use too much weight typically results in poor form, which decreases your ability to get results, and increases the risk of injury. Examples of poor form or technique are: bouncing the bar off the chest in the Bench Press; using hip and back extension to initiate Bicep Curls; arching the back or bending backward under Shoulder Presses; using any sort of momentum in any exercise; and training at fast speeds. These mistakes will not send the blood you need into your muscles and are counter productive. Be aware of these mistakes and eliminate them from your workouts.


  • Do use spotters when you try the major lifts.
  • Do keep your back straight when lifting.
  • Do use proper lifting technique when moving weights around the room.
  • Do wear shoes with good traction.
  • Do make sure the equipment you use is in good condition.


  • Don’t hyperventilate (breathe in and out fast) or hold your breath when you lift heavy weights. You may faint and lose control of the weights.
  • Breathe out when you lift.
  • Don’t continue lifting if you feel pain. Stop the painful exercise for a few days, or try it with less weight
  • Don’t exercise any set of muscles more than 3 times a week.
  • Don’t “cheat” on your technique to lift heavier weights than you can handle.
  • Don’t lift heavy weights without spotters.
  • Don’t lift more than you know you can lift safely.

Full Range of Motion

Perform each exercise through a full range of motion, with emphasis on the end of the positive phase. Full range exercise movements are advantageous for strengthening the prime-mover, or agonist muscles–the muscles directly trained in the exercise, such as the biceps in the biceps curl. Lifting in the full range of motion is also advantageous for stretching the antagonist muscles, the muscles that act in opposition to the agonist. In the Biceps Curl, the triceps is the antagonist. Training in the full range of motion enhances both muscle strength and joint flexibility.

Warm Up & Cool Down

A proper warm up gets the muscles ready for the action by increasing the speed at which they contract and relax and by mobilizing a greater number of motor units within the muscles. Warming up raises the body temperature which improves the oxygen supply to the muscles, and it stimulates the blood sugar and adrenaline readying them for action.

The preparation of the heart muscle for rigorous exercise is particularly important to individuals who have cardiovascular problems. Warm up reduces the workload on the cardiac muscle and helps to provide it an adequate blood supply.

Warm up also prepares our bodies for the stress of activity. The activity may help improve performance, but more importantly, it appears to help prevent or reduce muscle soreness, muscle strains, and the tearing of muscle fibers or tendons.

It takes only about 10 to 15 minutes to warm-up the body, although this time tends to increase with age. It also takes longer to warm-up on cool days. You should start your warm-up with some easy running, gradual stretching, general exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups. This should be the major part of your warm-up. Follow this with a more specific “loosening -up” that mimics the activity in which you are going to participate. If a part of your body is sore, work particularly on that area.

A cool down period does not seem to be as important as a good warm-up. However, to allow your body time to readjust, a cooling down period of about five minute is recommended. This should include decreasing the intensity of your activity and some walking or stretching.

Keep records of your workouts to track.

Taking the time to do this will give you a great foundation to start from, as well as an advantage over other boys who don’t incorporate lifting and proper nutrition into their lives.

The importance of protein

What you consume immediately following your exercise is almost as important as the exercise itself. Any well thought out exercise program should also give consideration to the state your hungry muscles will be in when you finish.

Regardless of your fitness goals you need to appreciate the increased nutritional demands that come with being active. For starters, every time you exercise, you deplete a significant amount of your stored muscle glycogen (carbohydrates) as well as your amino acid pool. In addition, the stress of that exercise breaks down and damages your muscle cells. The good news is that those muscle cells grow bigger and stronger as a result of that activity (provided they are properly nourished) so they can better handle that stress in the future.

Under construction

The effects of exercise are quite catabolic. You drain your fuel supplies, you eat up the circulating protein in your system, you distress your muscle cells and depending on the intensity of the activity, you can burn some muscle tissue for energy along the way.

All this adds up to a highly catabolic environment that breaks down, burns up and empties your reserves. However, you must take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. The first step forward is the recuperation and recovery that takes place after a workout. The second step is the growth, adaptation and improvement in muscle tone that occurs, rewarding you for your efforts.