How do I make use of this weight lifting kit?
August 17, 2007 7:47 PM   Subscribe

I moved into a new apartment and in the closet was a discarded weight lifting kit: 3 bars and 100 lbs in weights, soplit between 2.5, 5 and 10 lb weights. How do I get into the routine?

I've never been "athletic" per-se, but I'm mostly healthy. In a day, I'll usually walk at least 2 or 3 miles and bike maybe twice that just in the course of getting to work and running errands. I'd like to rid myself of the tummy I got working in an ice cream shop (I jumped from 5"10, 150 lbs to 160 lbs, nearly all of it showing up on my belly) and also do a little bit of toning on the arms and chest. This weight lifting kit that showed up in my life seems to be the trick, but before I hurt myself I figured I'd turn to the hive-mind fitness experts.

Is it possible to just pick up and start? What should I look out for? I feel comfortable lifting around 30 pounds, that is, I can do 30 without any real strain.

Thanks hivemind!
posted by GilloD to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look for a personal trainer. Seriously.

I was in pretty much the same boat as you a year or so ago; a neighbor left a weight set behind when she left, and I grabbed it. I had no idea where to start so I flailed away with the help of and promptly hurt myself a lot and learned a lot of bad habits that I still have yet to shake off.

You relly don't want to ruin your rotator cuff, and you really really don't want to fuck up your back.

Don't me me; don't be stupid. Find a personal trainer.
posted by lekvar at 8:17 PM on August 17, 2007

You so do not need a personal trainer. I have had trainers in the past, and half (or more) of them will teach you really questionable form and inefficient exercises. Seriously, many of the trainers at my gym have people do squats in the smith machine. BAD. And really lazy on their part.
As always comes up when this subject is broached, male or female, Stumptuous is your friend. Take it SLOW, be careful, pay attention to your body and there is no reason you cannot learn good form on the basic exercises, no professional help necessary. I really doubt there's much you can do to hurt yourself with 100lbs, anyway.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:29 PM on August 17, 2007

One thing I will say: the best thing you can do to be careful is to watch your lower back. You should almost never lose the natural arch in your lower back. If you start to round your lower back (by tucking your butt in at the bottom of a squat or picking up a heavy weight with bad form) you can very easily injure yourself.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:31 PM on August 17, 2007

ch1x0r and I may disagree on the subject of personal trainers, but we stand together on Stumptuous being an excellent resource.
posted by lekvar at 8:34 PM on August 17, 2007

I'm sure you can go through a search for free weight regimens or someone can recommend a book. Hmm, this looks like an interesting little intro to freeweights.

For sure you can jump into lifting - low-weight high-repetition is a good way to start.

One secret is to have a set schedule and to keep to that schedule (which can be hard). If you're doiing a routine 3x or 5x a week, mark the days that you go through with it on a calander and - say, for every month you meet all your goals to then give yourself a treat. Or deny yourself something if you miss more than 2 in a row. Whatever works for you.

I have "mood swings" but I'll still force myself to go through my routine when I don't feel like it (and usually feel a little better by the end of the routine).

Also, start slow and light. One should work up their tendons and complementary muscles before really stressing major muscles.

Raising a weight involves work, but so is lowering it. Let the weight go down as slowly as you lift it up. This will really help work complementary muscles that are ignored by many.

I set "targets" for myself (usually a round/-ish number above the number that I can comfortably do) and keep pushing myself a little by little to reach the goal, then just try to meet the goal until it was a comfortable repetition and then go to a higher weight, then vice versa.

Once you develop a chunk of lean muscle mass, these new muscles will suck energy (given you're eating a calorically balanced diet) that won't go to the adipose tissue (even at rest, muscle cells - by weight - uses more energy than fat cells.
posted by porpoise at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2007

Great advice! I should add that personal trainers and gym memberships are NOT an option. Money is very, very tight at the moment and an expense like that just isn't feasible. Consider this DIY fitness.
posted by GilloD at 9:09 PM on August 17, 2007

If a trainer isn't an option, here's a few tips I picked up from a friend who is a trainer -

For exercises that only involve a single joint, do sets athat are low-weight and high reps, and exercise until you feel the burn/muscle failure*. For single-joint exercises, four sets of 15 repititions is a good maximum. When you reach this point, add more weight and reduce the reps and/or sets. Be careful with how much weight youu add with single-exercises, as these are the ones that are most likely to mess you up badly.

Compound exercises, or exercises that involve multible joints, are good for piling on the weight, but at low reps. For compound exercises, three sets of 10 are good. Once again, when you reach this point, pile on more weight and reduce the reps and/or sets.

*this doesn't mean you start bleeding all over the carpet, it just means until you can't complete any more reps.
posted by lekvar at 9:25 PM on August 17, 2007

I'm going to disagree with much of what is posted here:
--You don't need a trainer.
--Low weight, high rep work is a waste of time
--Isolation lifts (single-joint) are no different than compound (multi-join) lifts.
--Isolation work isn't needed.

A good starting routine (and a good routine overall, I still use this) is three times a week, working all your major muscle groups. Look these up on to see how to perform the movements correctly, and as always if you feel a sharp pain, STOP! Soreness is good, and will go away after you get used to lifting, but a sharp pain means you are doing something very, very wrong.

Sets x Reps : 3 x 8

Back Squat
Military Press
Bent Over Row
Bench Press
Reverse Pull-up (I'm assuming you can't spend money on a pull-up bar, and without a cable system this is the next best thing. Use a table edge.)
Weighted Crunches

These seven exercises will cover all your muscle groups, and working out three times a week will provide more than enough frequency with adequate rest time for great muscle and strength increases. With a good routine planned around compound movements, you won't need isolation movements(except for a bit of rotator cuff work, which I failed to include.

This is just a quick and dirty post, if you have any questions about this I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
posted by Loto at 10:03 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

--Low weight, high rep work is a waste of time
--Isolation lifts (single-joint) are no different than compound (multi-join) lifts.

The theory, as I understand it, is that if you have a problem, the stress will be spread through multiple joints, lessening the potential for damage to any of them. If you pile too much weight onto a single joint, all of the stress goes to that joint.

Also, low weight/high rep is helpful for n00bs, because it helps them learn to target specific muscles and muscle groups.
posted by lekvar at 10:34 PM on August 17, 2007

Oh wow, that is completely not what I wanted to say. I meant that there is no need for isolation lifts, as compound lifts are much better for your body in terms of muscle growth and strength/power increase.

It has been a long day.
posted by Loto at 10:40 PM on August 17, 2007

Some advice from someone who is not very athletic naturally:

if you've never or rarely done weight-lifting before don't start going to failure until you have a few weeks of conditioning, even with low weights high reps, or you are very likely to have to take 2-3 weeks off due to overworking something.

If you're starting from scratch, you'll still see steady improvement for the first couple months anyway without going to failure and risking overworking injuries.

Also, to minimize the risk of injury, wait until all soreness is gone before training that muscle group again. This might take a week when you are first starting, rather that 2-3 days. But then you minimize the risk of not being able to work out at all for a couple weeks. Plus some people think this is more efficient anyway.

I started with a trainer about 3 months ago, and I wish I'd done it a long time ago, because I'm doing much better than I ever managed on my own. I did some research and chose a company with a good reputation.

If you are not naturally muscular (sounds like you have a build similar to mine), the muscle you build will go away very quickly if you stop working out. This means that if you have no athletic performance goal you are trying to reach there is no advantage to trying to push it. Workout an amount you feel you can sustain indefinitely. That might not be 3 times a week, but so what? If you go from none to once a week, it will still make a big improvement in your energy, strength, & wellbeing.
posted by lastobelus at 2:38 AM on August 18, 2007

You say money is tight, but look into classes offered at local public or community colleges. My introduction to weight training came through a mini-class offered at the university. It was taught by a graduate student in kinesiology who was also a competitive weightlifter. It was informative and cheap. The textbook we used was James Hesson's Weight Training for Life.
posted by needled at 4:07 AM on August 18, 2007

I found this DVD and this book very helpful.

I've had some success doing light weightlifting at home, without ever seeing a personal trainer. However, I'm pretty cautious. Stick to correct "form", don't overstrain yourself, gradually increase the weights and don't take any risks with your back.

Good form is the key. Make slow gradual movements in the proper way. This means using smaller weights than you'd be able to lift with bad form, but it has more effect and most importantly makes you much less likely to be injured.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2007

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