Weight Training – Target the Big Ones

You’re at the gym.  Now what?

If you’re there for overall fitness benefits, don’t just find the cardio machines, hit the weights.

Cardio machines can be great for increasing your cardiovascular endurance and burning calories, but if you’re there for overall fitness, you need to do a little weight training.

No, I’m not suggesting you join Hans and Franz in ‘pumping up’, but, weight training is key to overall fitness. It helps continue to burn calories up to hours after you’ve finished working out and, more importantly, it will help prevent the loss of muscle mass that occurs naturally as we age…and getting stronger wouldn’t be a bad thing, right?

Look for the Nautilus* equipment that targets your large muscle groups: your chest, back, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  Go for the pieces of equipment that work the equivalent of the chest press, the row, and the squat.  There are folks who swear by free weights, but if you’re new to working out or don’t have a partner, the machines will help you keep your form and you won’t need a spotter.

If you can’t identify these machines, find a fitness center employee who should be able to point you to them, as well as make sure you’ve got the various settings right for your body size.  Just because these aren’t free weights, it doesn’t mean you can’t hurt yourself by being improperly aligned in the machine and/or using too much weight.

If you’ve never done this type of exercise before or it’s been a while, go easy at first. Pick a light weight.  Do the reps in slow, controlled movements, and remember to breathe.  Try to get eight reps in and try for three sets.  If this weight is too light, you can increase it a bit next time.  Unless you’re aiming to bulk up, you’re better off with light-ish weight and more reps and sets.

After you’ve finished your weight training, then find your favorite cardio machine and give it a good thirty minutes. My personal favorite cardio machine is the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT) (shown right).  It allows me to get full range of motion, even a little bit of stretch on the hip flexors if I adjust my stride, which is great when I have a tight hip flexor.  My normal 30 minute workout on this has me spend about 15 minutes in full stride then hitting two minutes of fast, stair stepping/running in place motion, then back into the full stride.  I really love machines that allow me get multiple angles or types of work done in one workout.  Of course, this is the commercial grade machine which comes with a price tag of about $9K.  If you’re looking for a more affordable version for home, there’s the Precor 100i model which also claims to be commercial quality, but at a more reasonable $2000.

This should put you at about an hour actually on the gym floor, not counting time in the locker room.  Most cardio machines will go into a cool down when they reach the end of the time you set for your workout.  You might want to consider a little stretching out and definitely drink plenty of water when you’re done.

Try to do this at least three times a week and within two to three weeks, you should be seeing an improvement in your overall fitness level.  If you aren’t, it may be time to have a quick chat with one of the fitness center staff who’ll listen to what you’ve been doing and make suggestions about how to improve your workout.  Of course, there are lots of personal trainers out there, too.

Please note, though, that if you add exercise (weight training and cardio) to your life, but then consume mass quantities of crappy food and alcohol, you’re counteracting the good work you’re doing at the gym.  I’m not saying to jump on a ‘magic diet’, but just think about what you’re putting in your body.


*Nautilus is one of many brand names in the exercise equipment business.  Universal and Weider are other well-known brands, among the many out there.

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