10 Things to Know About Weight Training

Interesting Facts About Weights and Exercise

Leg Press Female
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1. You Don’t Have to Be Big to Be Strong

Strength training involves training the muscles and the nervous system--together they make what is called the neuromuscular system. Having big muscles doesn’t guarantee that you will be stronger than someone with smaller muscles who trains for strength. It depends on how you train--and natural ability, of course.

For example, in 2003 at the age of 40, Raija Koskinen of Finland set a world record for the women’s squat in the 97-pound (44 kilogram) bodyweight class.

She squatted 377 pounds (171 kilos).

Bodybuilders emphasize more repetitions with lighter weights while strength athletes lift heavier weights for fewer repetitions.

2. Free Weights Activate More Muscles than Machine Weights

Free weights generally require muscles other than those in the target muscle group to stabilize the weight when you move it. With machines, the weight path is restricted and controlled by the machinery structure and fewer ancillary muscles are required during the lift, pull, or push.

Even so, machine weights do an excellent job of challenging muscles. You can get variety and results if you do both free weights and machine weights.

3. Steroid Abuse Can Shrink the Testes, Promote Male Breasts, and Enlarge the Clitoris

Anabolic steroids are used to enhance muscle tissue growth and provide the ability to train harder and recover quickly from exercise-related stress. They are still widely used in non-competitive activities for the enhancement of body size and strength.

Most competitive sports have made anabolic steroid use illegal.

Because anabolic steroids act like the male hormone testosterone, the body tends to decrease its natural production of this and other important sex hormones when supplied with external steroids. Side effects of the hormonal disruption may include atrophy of the testes and male breast enlargement (gynecomastia).

In women, enlargement of the clitoris, a reduction in breast size, excess body hair and disrupted menstrual cycle can occur.

4. Eccentric Exercise Makes You Sore

When you bend your arm to lift a dumbbell, the action you take is concentric. This occurs when the joint angle decreases and the target muscle, the biceps, shortens. When you return the dumbbell to the starting position, you straighten the joint and lengthen the muscle in what is called "eccentric" movement.

As a general rule, eccentric exercise causes more muscle damage and soreness than concentric movement. Some weight trainers emphasize eccentric exercises because they believe it builds muscle faster. Either way, go easy on the eccentric exercise.

5. It’s Difficult to Increase Muscle While Losing Fat

I won’t say it’s impossible, but it is unlikely that you can lose body fat and increase muscle at the same time. The body does not deal well with contradictory metabolic phases--in this case losing and gaining at the same time. The best you can probably hope for is to maintain muscle while losing fat.

Experienced bodybuilders do it in two phases. First, they build up body bulk, including some fat, by overeating and weight training. In the second phase they trim the fat and maintain the muscle with a carefully constructed diet while continuing their muscle development program.

In a weight loss program, your best option is to ensure you continue to weight train during fat loss and after your weight stabilizes in order to maintain muscle at an optimum level.

6. Weight and Aerobic Training Affect the Heart in Different Ways

You may have heard the expression "enlarged heart" referring to an adverse health condition in which the heart muscle, including the chambers of the heart, are enlarged. This abnormal heart enlargement occurs because the heart muscle is weakened by an underlying disease process (heart disease); the heart dilates to partially compensate for the weakened pumping action of the heart as a result of disease.

In contrast, athletes tend to have enlarged hearts because of the amount of stress they place on the heart's pumping requirements to fuel their training and competing. So some degree of heart enlargement in athletes is usually a normal response to exercise. It is not unhealthy, and may even be beneficial. Endurance athletes, like marathoners, tend to have larger chamber sizes while strength athletes, like powerlifters, tend to have thicker muscle walls.

The best outcome may well be a combination of both types of exercise: weights and aerobics.

7. Most Novices Squat Incorrectly

The squat can be done with dumbbells or barbells. However, because of poor guidance or under the influence of restricted flexibility, many weight trainers squat with too much emphasis on the toes and the front of the foot. The guiding principle in the downward movement is to restrict the knees from extending over the toes and to ensure the heels remain flat on the floor.

Body shape and flexibility issues affect one’s ability to achieve this ideal form.

The consequence of this forward emphasis is stress to the knees and poor activation of the hamstring muscles at the rear of the thigh, possibly resulting in an imbalance of the muscle strength of the quads at the front of the thigh and the hamstrings at the rear.

8. The Largest, Longest, Strongest, Smallest, and Broadest Muscles of the Body are...

  • Largest – The gluteus maximus of the buttock. This is a big bulky muscle.
  • Longest – The sartorius, which winds from the knee to the hip on the inside of the leg
  • Strongest – Probably the masseter muscle of the jaw. Others say the rectus femoris of the thigh or the gluteus maximus. This is difficult to measure.
  • Smallest – The stapedius of the inner ear. At five hundredths of an inch (1.27 millimeters) this muscle helps conduct sound vibrations.
  • Broadest – The latissimus dorsi of the lower back has the most external muscle area.

    9. The Triceps Muscle is Larger than the Biceps

    When you see a hugely-muscled bodybuilder flexing his or her arm, you probably think that the biceps must be the largest arm muscle of all. Where could a bigger muscle possibly exist? The answer is at the back of the arm--the triceps. The triceps has three attachment points, called heads, while the biceps has only two.

    Overall, the triceps is a bigger muscle that contributes substantially to the look of big-muscled arms, even though the biceps always take center stage.

    10. The Most Dangerous Weight Training Exercise is. . .

    The bench press. Each year in the U.S. a few people die from dropping a barbell on their chest and choking. The barbell bench press is likely the most dangerous exercise of the common weightlifting exercises. Heavy weights are hazardous in all lifts, yet the consequences of dropping the barbell onto the chest or neck in the bench press are more profound. Simple rules apply.

    • Always use a spotter or two to monitor the safety of your lift.
    • Don’t lift beyond your capability too soon in your training program.

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