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Some weightlifting queries
December 1, 2009 8:42 PM   Subscribe

How often should I lift weights? and when I do, how much weight should I lift to achieve my goals?

Right now I try to work out four to five times a week, doing either 45 minutes of cardio and some weightlifting or just 60 minutes of cardio.

Question #1) I've heard before that you should wait two days after lifting weights to allow your body to recuperate and build muscle and such. Does this mean that I should wait before lifting weights using those muscles again, or lifting any weights again? Would it be detrimental/not useful to do some upper body weightlifting one day and some lower body weightlifting the next day?

Question #2) This question is kinda vain, but I'm kinda short, stocky, and as a result of some time spent doing lower body focused activities like running & such, I think my upper body should be larger compared to my lower body. Am I correct in thinking that in order to achieve this, but keep things good fitness-wise, I should be doing a significantly higher number of reps of a significantly lower weight when I do lower body weightlifting exercises?

For what it's worth, I'm about 20lbs away from being within the acceptable BMI range.
posted by miraimatt to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) You should do what works for you so long as you don't injure yourself. That said, working out the upper body one day and then the lower body the next is a fine way of letting each muscle group rest. Frankly, I have gone for periods where I've lifted every day and periods where I alternate and have never had a problem with either method. That said, I also don't try to lift maximum loads. I get to a particular amount of weight and then basically plateau there (by my choice) for a period of time. Some will see this as an odd method; it works for me, which is what is important.

2) You don't want to look disproportionate.
posted by dfriedman at 8:45 PM on December 1, 2009


I've heard before that you should wait two days after lifting weights to allow your body to recuperate and build muscle and such

Not true. Everyone from Westside-method powerlifters to pro cyclists has used programs that allow them to lift on consecutive days. It isn't a mandate that every training plan must do so, but there's no (publicized, anyway) physiological reason that it's a bad idea.

Would it be detrimental/not useful to do some upper body weightlifting one day and some lower body weightlifting the next day?

See above. It's easier to overtrain when you don't vary your routine in terms of volume/intensity/method, though.

I think my upper body should be larger compared to my lower body.

For most people, this just won't happen naturally. I question whether it's desirable, either: a "lightbulb" body is eminently less practical than a "brick" body unless you're an arm wrestler or similar. Aesthetically, I think it's funny-looking.

I think my upper body should be larger compared to my lower body. Am I correct in thinking that in order to achieve this, but keep things good fitness-wise, I should be doing a significantly higher number of reps of a significantly lower weight when I do lower body weightlifting exercises?

Low weight/high rep exercises can be good cardio work, apparently. Beyond that the standard advice from nearly every massively strong person seems to be "heavy weight, low(er) reps, significant program variation over time". Frankly, it'd be weird if you didn't squat/deadlift significantly more than you benched; others may have a sense where the "average" person falls in terms of Olympic lift:stationary press lift strength ratio.

There's a wealth of information out there on T-Nation, EliteFTS, Bodybuilding.com (occasionally spurious), etc.: unfortunately, it's trial and error for most people. The upside is that people who are relatively new to lifting weights, particularly people who haven't done a lot of heavy compound lifting, tend to benefit from any sensible program and only need to agonize over minute changes to beat plateaus later on.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:54 PM on December 1, 2009


The frequently-highly-recommended Starting Strength program (wiki, for before you get the book) answers those questions.
posted by ctmf at 9:10 PM on December 1, 2009


Question #1) I've heard before that you should wait two days after lifting weights to allow your body to recuperate and build muscle and such. Does this mean that I should wait before lifting weights using those muscles again, or lifting any weights again? Would it be detrimental/not useful to do some upper body weightlifting one day and some lower body weightlifting the next day?

This depends on what your exercise involves and how much stress it produces on your body. Olympic lifters are often to be able to train more frequently than other strength athletes because their lifting depends more on technique than absolute strength. But a trainee with the capability to deadlift heavy loads, for example, is able to create a large amount of stress in a single training session, such that it can take significantly more than two days to recover from that stress. As a novice trainee, your ability to recover will outstrip your ability to induce stress; however, the most effective method for training as a novices will involves a small group of heavy compound lifts each training session, and you will be unlikely to make progress for long on such a program with more than three workouts per week, barring the use of steroids. I'm guessing that you wouldn't benefit from doing an upper/lower split, but I can't say without seeing your numbers.


Question #2) This question is kinda vain, but I'm kinda short, stocky, and as a result of some time spent doing lower body focused activities like running & such, I think my upper body should be larger compared to my lower body. Am I correct in thinking that in order to achieve this, but keep things good fitness-wise, I should be doing a significantly higher number of reps of a significantly lower weight when I do lower body weightlifting exercises?

It seems unlikely that your lower body is overdeveloped due to running. I'd have to know how much you squat/dead/bench/press to tell you for sure. Your thinking regarding rep ranges is incorrect, however. Lower rep ranges with heavier weights tend to produce more enhanced neural efficiency, and higher rep work tends to produce more hypertrophy.

If you want to understand this stuff, read Practical Programming.

For what it's worth, I'm about 20lbs away from being within the acceptable BMI range.

BMI is not going to be very useful if you are lifting weights seriously. It's meant to be a rough indicator of bodyfat percentage in a sedentary population. You can measure your bodyfat directly with calipers, although these are known to be inaccurate as well. I'd recommend focusing on your performance rather than BMI.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:52 PM on December 1, 2009


a higher number of reps with lower weights will give you more defined muscles while the opposite generally makes them just bigger. I don't think you want to look bigger, you don't want to be pudgier, so smaller weights and more reps sounds pretty good to me.

hey, why are you working out without a proper personal trainer? these are pretty basic questions. I really strongly recommend finding someone with actual, professional knowledge to help you a little bit out. you really don't want to hurt yourself and you don't want to be wasting your time.
posted by krautland at 10:00 PM on December 1, 2009


a higher number of reps with lower weights will give you more defined muscles while the opposite generally makes them just bigger. I don't think you want to look bigger, you don't want to be pudgier, so smaller weights and more reps sounds pretty good to me.


This is incorrect.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:07 PM on December 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


#1) - I've always understood the "one day training, one day rest" rule to apply to muscle groups, not to training itself.

In theory, you could work something like chest & shoulders & triceps one day, back & biceps the next, rinse & repeat. Or vary upper body v lower body.

Having said that, I've never lifted weights every day in that manner.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:29 PM on December 1, 2009


The answers to the questions you pose above the fold: You should lift as often as you are able to recover. Recovery is determined by lots of factors: sleep, nutrition, stress, etc. Ludwig_van is spot on here: you will not be able to hit a big day squatting or deadlifting and be able to do much the following day.

How much should you be lifting? Your goals will dictate how much you want to lift. This is the most difficult question to answer about your training. What do you want out of it? An acceptable bmi? To get stronger? To look better naked? To put on 40 pounds of muscle? To feel better about yourself? The approach you take to your lifting will be determined by your goal. Loosing body fat might best be approached by adjusting you diet. Getting very strong and getting very big and looking very good naked probably start off the same in the beginning. Lifting heavy three times a week and eating lots of food are usually how this starts. Feeling better about yourself might also be accomplished by therapy of some kind.

Invest some time in reading some quality literature on the subject (Starting Strength is always highly recommended here). Staleytraining.com also has a bunch of good articles, as do the sites Inspector.Gadget mentioned.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:49 PM on December 1, 2009


#1) - I've always understood the "one day training, one day rest" rule to apply to muscle groups, not to training itself.

Fatigue occurs on a systemic level as well as on a local level, especially when an athlete is performing exercises that are highly taxing on the central nervous system, like a heavy squat or deadlift. Like Barry said, recovery can be a complicated process, especially with a more advanced trainee. The balance between overtraining, which is what happens when fatigue accumulates and cannot be recovered from, and training which is not sufficiently heavy to produce the desired adaptation. Fortunately, for novices things are much simpler, and two days will be enough time for recovery and adaptation to occur, provided proper rest and nutrition, absence of injuries, etc. So the novice can lift more weight with each training session on a three workout/week schedule.

It's important to remember that you don't get stronger by lifting weights; you get stronger by recovering from lifting weights.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:22 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been lifting weights for about four years now, specifically focusing on my arms and upper body, but without any professional guidance. I've recently been blown away by the difference that a good training program can make. In just five weeks my upper arms have gone from defined to sculpted-bordering-bulding.

The strength training book that I'm working my way through suggests working each muscle group once or twice a week when you're establishing a base for that group, then two or three times a week to continue building strength. It's a great book with illustrated explanations of common exercises, and suggested routines for beginner, intermediate and expert lifters.

I've been following the beginner recommendations, and I've seen much more visible muscle gains in my arms and shoulders than in my legs - though my legs are getting stronger, too. Here's my program: To start out, I try to determine the approximate weight at which I can do 8 repetitions of a specific lift with proper form, but can't do 9 reps. For four weeks, once or twice a week I do a single set of as many reps as I can at that weight. When I can do 12 reps, I increase the weight lifted by 5 pounds. After four weeks, I mix up the specific weight routines I'm doing, targeting mostly the same muscles but adding a few more, and continue the weight-increasing pattern, now doing two sets of each weight. I also commit to working each muscle group twice a week. I'm only in week five, so that's as much as I know in depth, but in the final phase there's more mixing it up and more sets.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:33 AM on December 2, 2009


that should read "sculpted-bordering-bulging
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:34 AM on December 2, 2009


Thanks for the input, everybody! I'd love to respond to everyone, but I have to go to work. I will do so this afternoon, if anybody's still following the thread.
posted by miraimatt at 4:47 AM on December 2, 2009


This is incorrect.
in that case disregard my comment.
posted by krautland at 5:11 AM on December 3, 2009


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