Weight Training Tips

Maintain Muscular Balance

When designing a program, select similar number of exercises and sets for opposing muscle groups. Some joints may become more susceptible to injury or altered posture when significantly greater training volume is preformed on one movement and not the opposite movement. See common muscular weaknesses and postural deficiencies.

Symmetry Tip

When performing a unilateral exercise, begin with the weaker side first. Then complete only as many repetitions on the stronger side as performed on the weaker side.

ROM Criteria

Barbell Shrug

Consider setting a range of motion (ROM) criteria on those exercises which have a peak tension curve (e.g. shrug, hip abduction, calf exercises, etc.). During a warm-up set with a light weight, take note of the angle or height the moving body segment or the position of the apparatus at full range. All subsequent workout repetitions should reach this benchmark without accelerating the weight through this harder portion of the exercise.

Starting Back After a Layoff

When starting back after a long layoff, it may be advisable to perform only one light set during the first workout(s). A warm-up and moderately intense workout set can be performed during subsequent workout(s). It will take longer to recuperate between workouts if you become too sore by performing too many sets and exercises. The body may adapt more efficiently with less chance of injury if the initial workout is brief and volume and intensity is increased systematically. Also see Low Volume Training and Designing Full Body Workout.

Monitor Muscle Gains

With an accurate body weight, a body composition test can measure both muscle mass and fat weight. Objectively monitor muscle mass gains every month. If muscle gains are not observed over time, exercise and dietary changes can be made in a timely manner.

Dip Bar Width

Illustration from Trainer ClipArt

Some dip bars allow for varied hand widths, narrower at one end and wider at the opposite end. The Cybex assisted dip machine, for example, allows for grip width adjustment by turning one or both handles in or out. The ideal width will depend upon one's size (ie: shoulder width) as well as intended target muscle group desired to emphasize. See differences of grip width and form between the Chest Dip versus the Triceps Dip. Even with a wide grip, the hand width should not exceed elbow width (determined when the elbow is at a right angle) to maintain the benefits of a basic exercise. Also see 'Too Wide of Grip' error.

Circuit Training

Circuit Training involves performing an entire routine with little rest between sets, only that which taken to go to the following exercise station. Circuits may consist of short cardio bouts performed in between weight training exercise or incorporate weight training exercise exclusively. See full body circuit workout templates:

Circuit training increases general muscular conditioning. Although circuit training can increase both muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance, these gains are smaller than what can be obtained from a program combining standard weight training and traditional cardio exercise. Since beginners come to the table with low initial levels of fitness, circuit training allows for sufficiently modest increases of fitness in the early stages of training. Circuit training may also be incorporated into more advanced programs, during recovery periods or short durations during the off season to maintain fitness and to break the monotony of regular training.

Weight Room Recommendations

Temperature 68 to 72° F (20 to 22° C)
Humidity 60% or less
Air Circulation 8 air exchanges per hour or more
Cleaning Clean equipment pads daily. Make disinfectant and cleaning towels available for use between uses.
Maintenance Cables, chains, guide rods checked weekly

ACSM (1997) ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines.

Arm Position During Waist Exercises

When performing body weight exercises for the waist, the arm position or leg position can be altered to vary resistance, until additional resistance is needed. During the sit-up or crunch, the easiest position is achieved with the arms to the sides of the body. Likewise, during hyperextension, the arms can be placed behind the hips during the warm-up set. More challenging positions can be achieved by placing the arms higher on the body. These alterations shift the body segments' center of gravity further away from the fulcrum, or articulating joint. See Lever Arm Length.

Here is an example of progressively harder arm positions that can be implemented during a sit-up or crunch:

  • Arms along sides of body
  • Arms on waist
  • Arms on chest
  • Arms on shoulders
  • Arms behind neck
  • Arms behind head
  • Arms on head
  • Arms bent, overhead
  • Arms straight, overhead

Usually an incline ab board and/or additional weight in the form of a weight plate is added before the hands are placed on or over the head. Attention should be given to the placement of the added weight. For example, placing the added weight higher behind the head (where far less weight would be required) would be more challenging than placing the weight on the lower chest.

Caution should be exercised if the hand-behind-the-head position is used during sit-ups or crunches. Don't confuse neck movement for movement through the waist (thoracic and lumbar spine articulation). Some individuals with a higher risk of neck injury may need to keep their neck in a neutral position so the added weight can be placed on the upper chest, just below the neck. Incidentally, the chance of neck injury may be increased when the exerciser places the hands higher behind the head and attempts to throw the body upward, jerking the head forward with greater force than to which the neck is accustomed.

A warm-up set for an exercise such as the hyper-extension can be performed with the hands behind the hips. During workout set(s), the arms can also be placed progressively higher-up on the body until additional weight is required.

Leg position can also be altered as well as the angle of incline on the leg raise or the leg hip raise (e.g.: Lying bent knee leg raise is easier than the straight leg vertical leg raise).

Programming for Continued Progress

Beginners can progress no matter what they do, even with a less than ideal program. They seem to get seeming bigger and stronger simply by walking into the weight room and touching the weights. As a result, newcomers often feel over confident in their achievements and continue to do "what works for them" even after their progress slows to an abrupt halt. You can only workout without a clear plan for so long until progress discontinues. At some point, the only type of training that will work is a well thought-out program with subtle variations and planned progressions. See:

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