Actually, the title of this article can be viewed a couple of different ways.
For example, this workout plan is set up for the use of free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells, and it is also a free workout plan dealing with weight lifting. Let’s talk about both of these views for a moment.
First, however, this free weight lifting workout plan is intended for those who presently have very little or no experience with weight lifting, weight training, or other forms of progressive resistance training. So if you do already have experience, you won’t find anything new here. These are just the basics to get folks started.
Next, let’s very briefly discuss this idea of weight lifting, or more accurately, weight training for purposes of health, fitness, and weight loss. People tend to get confused, you know, by all the different terms – bodybuilding, weight lifting, weight training, progressive resistance training, and so on. Well, while you can “lift weights” in any of these, “weight lifting” is generally a particular type of competition and probably NOT what you are interested in at this level.
Maybe later you will be, but for the moment we will stick with basics.
Bodybuilding is also something done mainly by means of “lifting weights” but may also be done with other forms of progressive resistance training, such as with the Bowflex exercise machine. Again, this may become a goal someday, but it too is specialized and still requires some basic “weight training” or “progressive resistance training” to build the basic structure which the bodybuilder molds into competition form.
What we are going to talk about is “weight training” with a workout using free weights as a means of achieving health, fitness, weight loss, enhanced sports performance, or as a basis for future training for and participation in weight lifting or bodybuilding.
Before we get to the actual workout, two last points:
1. Make sure you get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise program.
2. Take it easy. The goal is to train your body from the inside out, and this takes time. Two of the most common reasons people fail to stick with any exercise program, whether weight lifting, running, or yoga, is that they try to do too much too fast, and/or they expect too much too soon.
It took your body years to get out of shape or get into whatever shape it is currently in. It cannot be whipped back into shape in a few days or weeks. The changes you are hoping for will come over time as you regularly perform your weight lifting workout plan. The changes will also be mostly invisible at first, so don’t be upset if you don’t get bulging biceps, or drop a dress size, after only a couple of weeks. In fact, a program such as this may actually sometimes seem to be moving you in the wrong direction at first. If you give it time and stick with it, however, it WILL work.
You may have to adjust starting weights at first, but, a trip to Walmart can get the ladies a pair of dumbbells weighing 1 or 3 lbs each. Men might want to start with 5 to 10 lbs. Don’t overestimate your fitness level. If, after a couple of workouts you find that the idea of doing another workout is too tedious, it may be that your weights are too heavy and you may need to drop back a little. Don’t worry, you are still improving your body. People have started effective weight training programs lifting 10 ounce cans of Campbell soup. One man I knew was so weak at first that he bought a set of barbells, but could only exercise with the bar itself at first… no weights on it. Later, his picture was appearing in muscle mags.
By the way, I prefer dumbbells because they require a little more action out of supporting muscles and muscle groups that don’t get quite the same workout with barbells… and they are easier to store and travel with.
REPETITIONS, SETS, SCHEDULE, AND PROGRESSION
The basic goal is to start performing the following exercises three times a week, with at least one rest day between two exercise days. The most common schedule is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but you can do Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday if that fits your schedule better. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. If you miss two or more days, just get back onto your schedule as quickly as you can. You might have to drop the weight or repetitions back a little when you get back to your workout. Do NOT workout if sick.
Start your new workout plan with one set of ten reps for each exercise. A rep, or repetition, is each complete exercise movement. A set is a collection of repetitions. One press or curl equals a rep. Ten presses, and then taking a rest comprises one set of ten reps. After completion of each set, rest for approximately one minute before beginning the next set.
After two weeks, add a second set of reps. After two weeks at that level, add a third set of reps. After two weeks at that level, increase each weight by a pound or two and drop the repetitions to eight or even six if eight is too much. Every week or so, raise the repetitions back up until you are at ten repetitions again. If this progression is too fast, maybe you can increase the first set week by week until you are at ten reps and then begin increasing the second set until you get to ten, and so on. Some dumbbells come in fixed weights, and you may be stuck with 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. Some, however, are adjustable, but again, you can usually only adjust upward 5 pounds at a time, although there are some 1 1/4 pound plates which would allow you to increase 2 1/2 pounds at a time. Drop the reps, and if necessary, the sets, until you can begin raising reps and sets back up again.
Everyone is different, so take your time and try to pay attention to what works well for you. If you start getting that sluggish, stale feeling like you are slogging through each workout or that it is becoming something you dread, your body may be trying to tell you that you are trying to progress too rapidly. Back off a level or two, or even take a day off, and then go back to the workout routine. It doesn’t hurt to take a day off once in a while, either. Professionals may need to never miss a training day, but your goal is to make this a lifetime behavioral change, and getting fed up with it will not help.
Always warm up before any exercise period.
1. The press: Stand with feet shoulder width apart (vary for comfort), dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing inward, and alternately raise and lower each dumbbell overhead. Works the triceps (back of arms), deltoids (shoulder), trapezius (neck to shoulder), and upper portions of the chest and back. If you are having to throw the dumbbell up, the weight is too heavy. The motion should be smooth and controlled going up and going down.
2. The curl: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, dumbbells hanging at sides. Alternately curl each dumbbell upward to the shoulder (palm facing your shoulder) and back down. Works the biceps (front of arm) muscle… the one you ask the girls to feel when you flex! Again, if you are having to arch your back or throw the weight upwards, it is too heavy. You need to be able to always control the progress upwards and downwards.
3. Bench press: If you have a bench, great. I still have the one my father built for me when I was 15 years old (47 years ago). If you do not have a bench, you can do a little of this on the floor, or, with lighter weights, using a couple of pillows. However, I do recommend getting some sort of bench to do this on. If you decide to get into weight lifting or bodybuilding, you WILL NEED a good bench designed for this, or go to a gym that has one.
Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand and press (raise) the weights straight up and lower them again. Try to let your elbows go down as far as they comfortably can on either side. This works the pectorals, the big muscles of the chest, the triceps, and the front of the deltoids.
NOTE TO THE LADIES: This does NOT increase breast size. However, it DOES increase the size of the muscle pad underneath the breast, helping to raise and support your bosom, making it LOOK like your breast size has increased. Also, regular exercise does away with excess fat around the breast, allowing it to appear to “stand out” more. Improved health and fitness due to exercise will also cause you to straighten up and pull your shoulders back, raising your bustline even more.
4. Rowing motion: One hand at a time. Bend over and rest the hand without the weight against a support, such as a chair seat, or the bench, if you have one. Leg nearest the support arm should be forward, other leg back. Let the weight hang and then, using the back and shoulder muscles, raise the weight smoothly to your chest and lower it just as smoothly. Once you have completed one set with one hand, switch off and do the same with the other hand. This works the latissimus dorsi (V-shaped muscles along the upper outside of the back), and the back of the deltoid.
5. Squat/Deadlift: I like to do this as a deadlift because I have osteoarthritis and it is easier for me to do the movement that way. It also allows me to exercise my lower back a little at the same time.
– Squat: Hold both dumbbells at shoulder level. Rest your heels on a small book or piece of wood about 1″ thick and squat. Do NOT go beyond about half way as this can cause knee damage. If you want to get serious about exercising your legs, go to a gym and use their leg press machine. If you are not sure how far to go, do this exercise in front of a chair and sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, etc., making sure you are having your legs do the work smoothly. No thrusting upward or falling down into the seat. Control the movement all the way. This mainly works the quadriceps (big muscles in the front of the thighs), and the “glutes” or gluteus maximus (buttocks).
– Deadlift: Hold both dumbbells so they hang at your side. Squat as above. trying not to let the dumbbells pull you forward. There will be a tendency towards a little more forward movement than with the squat itself, and you may have to bend your back a little more. Be careful with this and be sure that you are not bending way over and putting a big strain on your lower back muscles as they try to straighten you back up.
6. Toe raises: Holding the dumbbells at shoulder level, place your feet about six to eight inches apart with toes pointed slightly inward. Raise yourself up on your toes and lower your heels back to the floor, Stay in control and make it smooth. There will be a slight tendency at first to lose your balance. You can increase the effectiveness by putting the ball of your foot on that board you had under your heels for the squat. This works the gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles).
7. Crunches: Lay on your back with your hands beside your head – not behind – or crossed on your chest. Bring your feet up towards your buttocks, and put them (the feet – stop laughing) flat on the floor. At the start of each rep, flatten the lower back against the floor and curl the upper body upwards in one smooth movement. At the top of each curl, briefly attempt to raise the body a little more. Lower the body back down. If the hands are placed behind the head, there is a tendency to pull on the head, and this can cause injury and does nothing to help the exercise. Crunches, or curl-ups as they are sometimes called, work the rectus abdominis (abdominal muscles).
The field of weight training, much less exercise in general, is very broad, and one of the major benefits of weight lifting for fitness is that there are innumerable specific variations on these basic exercises which can be used to target specific muscles or muscle groups, and a broad range of exercise equipment has sprung up to help bodybuilders and weightlifters in their pursuit of higher levels of performance or form. If you desire to go further in these areas, you will need a lot more guidance than is available here.
However, for the moment, this free weight lifting workout plan is enough to get you started.