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Weight Training 

Building Your Own Weight Training Workout
by Michael J. Merlino, ACE, BSMI (CPFT, RES), Cooper Institute
Owner, Merlino Fitness, MerlinoFitness.com

Check out these related MerlinoFitness.com articles on weight training:

- Getting The Most Out Of Weight Training
- Weight Training Exercises You May Want To Think Twice About
- Sets & Reps: The Building Blocks Of A Great Workout


In our previous articles above, we have discussed the basics of weight training, planned your workout schedule and the importance of sets and reps. In this article we will discuss what exercises are needed for each body part to design a well-rounded and realistic weight training routine. We are going to keep this simple for now and will cover more advanced routines and exercises in future articles. Before you read the rest of this article you may want to review my previous article on what exercises you may want to avoid to reduce your risk of injury in the weight room.

Keep It Simple
I am assuming that most of you have pretty busy lives and do not have lots of time to commit to exercise. In fact, time is the biggest excuse I get for why people don't show up at the gym. Most of us are not body builders or runway models so there really is no need to spend hours every day in the gym to get fit. Keeping things simple down to the muscle group also betters your chances of sticking with the program, which is really what exercise is all about. Consistent exercise is what creates results so once you build your plan, commit to it for 12 weeks or 90 days. Then assess your results and adjust as needed.

Avoid Movements/Exercises That Aggravate Previous Injuries or Weak Links
You know what these are. A previous sports injury, a weak low back or knee etc. I have included a small list of these under the "avoid" bullet with each body part below. When in doubt contact your physician, a physical therapist or certified trainer to confirm which exercises are safe for you based on your current health and fitness level.

Your goal and progression defines your set and rep pattern
Start with 12 rep sets progressing to 15 set reps and then keep your reps between 12 - 17 per set. For those that want more strength or muscle mass you can progress to a 8-12 set routine. Most will benefit regardless of the rep count if muscles are flexed every rep. Keep in mind that the heavy weight and low reps always increase your risk of injury especially if you are not ready for the additional weight. Also keep your weight increases to 10% bumps. This avoids injury and allows your body to build muscle more efficiently without stress on the joints.

Your available time determines your routine type
Whether its overall body, upper/lower split or a more specialized muscle group split (chest, shoulders, biceps, abs) (legs, back, triceps, abs), let the time you can commit to each week dictate the routine type. You can always change it up later as you free more time up for exercise so start on the conservative side. If you have 2 days per week to commit then complete 2 overall body workouts each week. If you have 3 days per week try 3 overall workouts or a 2-way split with an overall workout at the end of the week. If you have four days go with a 2-way split twice a week. When in doubt start with overall workouts and progress to splits as you gain strength, stability and stamina. Remember to allow 48 hours of recuperation between workouts for each muscle group.

Work every muscle group!
Leaving whole muscle groups out of your routine can create imbalances in the body that may cause future injuries. That means woman must work the chest and guys must work the legs. God put muscle there for a reason and every muscle in the body has a purpose so work everything. The last thing you want to do is create muscle imbalances by avoiding entire muscle groups.

Recommended Moves By Muscle Group
Grab a cafeteria tray and let's pick get ready to pick your exercises. This a complete list so there is no need to do all of these exercises every workout. If you complete all of these within a week you are hitting almost every strand of muscle in your body. Just Choose from our top picks to create balance and symmetry in your program for well-rounded and low-risk workouts. Do more sets for weaker links or areas you want to focus on. We have used exercise names that should be recognized by most fitness professionals or gym personnel. Additional exercise descriptions have been added where we think it is necessary. We will be reviewing specific exercises in more detail on the website soon so check back often for more exercise specific info.

Legs

  • Overall legs - Squat (smith machine), machine leg press or plate loaded leg press
  • Quadricep (mid thighs) - leg extensions
  • Hamstring - seated or prone (on stomach) machine leg curls
  • Glutes - smith machine or dumbbell stationary lunges, glute kicks
  • Calfs - duo or iso stair raises, rotary calf machine, seated calf - (plate loaded)
  • Outer thigh - lying iso side leg raises
  • Inner thigh - seated hip adduction machine
  • Hip flexors - seated iso leg raise/push
  • Training tips - Legs are big muscles and demand lots of energy. Try alternating between a leg exercise and an upper body exercise to give them a rest during your workout. Some like to just train legs by themselves.
  • What to avoid - Leg extension to full extension (locking knees out), squats with legs lower than 90 degrees and traveling lunges. If you have had previous acl knee surgery avoid leg extensions.

Back

  • Lats - seated lat pulls, assisted pull-ups, dumbbell iso rows
  • Mid back - seted machine or cable rows
  • Upper back (traps) - seated DB shrugs
  • Lower lumbar - Cybex platform extensions or Cybex machine extensions
  • Training tips - when training back think about lifting the shoulder blades not the shoulders. The shoulder blades are rotating downward on a pull down, upward on a shrug and tilting together on a row movement.
  • What to avoid - lat pull downs behind the head and excessive shoulder joint movement. If you have a very weak back avoid back extensions.

Chest

  • Dumbbell or barbell flat or incline press
  • Dumbbell or cable flat or incline flys
  • Training tips - pick a fly and press movement with one exercise in an incline position and one in a flat position. Squeeze or chest muscle or create muscle cleavage by gently shifting the shoulder blades forward on the bench, pressing the shoulder blades into the bench and squeezing the pecs together at the top of the movement
  • What to avoid - Cybex incline pec deck or any fly machine that puts tension on the shoulder (undue stress to shoulder joint)

Shoulders

  • Mid (medial) - standing or seated side dumbbell lateral raises, seated barbell military press (smith machine)
  • Front (anterior) - seated front duo dumbell raises
  • Rear (posterior) - prone (on stomach) incline or flat dumbbell raises or reverse flys
  • Rotator cuff - standing tube or dumbbell external rotation off side of hip, standing exercise tube internal rotation
  • Training tips - This muscle is one that is tough to flex so keep the movement slow on the negative phase. Hold the weight at the top of the movement for about a second forcing gravity to contract or "flex" the muscle.
  • What to avoid - rotating forearm by flexing the wrist or rotating the elbow joint. Also avoid excessive rotation of the shoulder joint which puts undue stress on the rotator cuffs (i.e. - arny presses)

Biceps

  • Dumbbell curls
  • Concentration iso dumbbell curls
  • Dumbbell or barbell preacher curls
  • Training tips - This is one muscle that most people can really flex so hold a good flex for one second at the top of the movement. Your biceps should feel like they are jumping out of your skin!
  • What to avoid - moving the shoulders or bending the back to help lift the weight. Only the elbow joints should be moving.

Forearms

  • Dumbell seated iso wrist curls
  • Dumbell iso standing hammer curls
  • Training tips - Use a weight that is less than what you are using for bicep curls. Iso moves (working right and left separate) work best for forearms.
  • What to avoid - training forearms early in your workout. They are used as assister muscles on almost every upper body exercise so wait until the end of your workout to train them

Triceps

  • Supine (on back) duo dumbbell or barbell extensions on bench
  • Cable pressdowns
  • Assisted dips (Cybex machine)
  • Training tips - Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together while flexing the triceps as the arms become straight
  • What to avoid - moving shoulder joint. Elbow is the only joint that should be moving while working triceps

Abs

  • Supine (on back) mat or fit ball crunches
  • Cross over crunches - on back or with feet anchored on bench
  • Side crunches - Off Cybex 45 degree platform, on mat or off the side of a fitness ball
  • Training tips - use varied angles by working the mid stomach and the sides (obliques). Really focus on squeezing or flexing the stomach muscles and drawing the stomach into the body with every rep. Thing of your stomach as an accordion that you squeeze together ever rep.
  • What to avoid - using or bending your upper spine. Your movement should come from the lower spine, lower vertebrae or low back.

That should give you more than enough to get started with your plan. Remember to work larger muscle groups like legs, back and chest first followed by smaller muscle groups like shoulders, triceps and biceps last. I would recommend doing abdominal work first since many of us tend to blow abs off if we are running short on time toward the end of the workout. Plan your workouts and workout your plan. Added muscle is just a few weeks away.

Michael Merlino is a Certified Professional Fitness Trainer and owner of Merlino Fitness and MerlinoFitness.com. He trains his clients at the Houston Downtown YMCA and his private fitness studio. Michael can be reached at 713.523.2577 or e-mail him at michael@merlinofitness.com. Click on one of the links below for more information on Michael and his fitness services.

View Michael's Bio
View Merlino Fitness Services




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
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