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How do I Choose the Best Weight Training Techniques?

By J. Schuessler
Updated May 17, 2024
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When selecting weight training techniques for any exercise program, the first and most important step is to identify your personal exercise goals, because these will have a great impact on which exercises and techniques will be most appropriate for you. It is always a good idea to include exercises for all of the major muscle groups in any weight training routine, but details such as which exercises to include, how many sets of each exercise to do and how many repetitions, or reps, to perform in each set will depend on what you are looking to get out of your time spent exercising. Knowing your personal preferences and goals is the key to choosing the best weight training techniques for an effective and enjoyable workout program.

If you are a recreational exerciser looking for an all-around strength and conditioning program, start by selecting a few basic exercises for each major muscle group. The major muscle groups are generally broken down into categories such as the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms and abdominals in the upper body. The categories in the lower body include the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, glutes and calves.

The exercises for each muscle group can to some extent be chosen according to personal preference, but it is important to pick exercises that compliment each other by working the muscle from different angles or by working different parts of the muscle. For instance, chest presses and dumbbell flyes are a good basic combination for the chest. The total number of exercises you utilize will depend on the overall intensity of the program you are on. If you are a beginning weightlifter, it’s a good idea to start with about two exercises per muscle group. You can always add more later if you want to increase the intensity of your workout.

If you are interested in training for a sport, you will want to tailor your workout to the needs of your specific sport, picking your weight training techniques accordingly. Choose exercises that specifically target the muscles most important to your sport, but don’t neglect to train the other muscle groups as well, because your body needs to be strong in all areas to work to its fullest potential. If your sport requires short bursts of anaerobic strength, fewer reps with more weight work best. If your sport calls for stamina and muscular endurance, aim for higher reps with less weight. An experienced coach or sports trainer can help with the finer points of constructing a sport training program.

Whatever type of program you are on, you might want to sometimes swap out certain exercises for others that work the same muscle group. This will increase the variety of your workouts, as well as work a greater range of muscle fibers over time. It is perfectly acceptable, for instance, to do dumbbell flyes for one workout and cable flyes for the next. You might even wish to establish a slightly different routine for each workout of the week in order to take full advantage of this strategy.

Most weight training techniques are equally beneficial for men and women. Depending on individual goals, however, men and women sometimes wish to utilize them differently. Men are more often interested in developing increased muscular size and strength, and they therefore use heavier weights with fewer reps and more sets. Women, on the other hand, might be interested in the fitness benefits of weight training without increased muscle size, so they might opt for a program of lower weight with higher reps and fewer sets. Circuit training, a type of fast-paced weight training program with light weights and short rest periods, is especially popular with women for this reason, though both sexes might make use of it for its cardiovascular benefits and fat-burning potential.

Remember, too, that there is considerable room for creativity in weight training programs, and not every exercise is right for everyone. Weight training techniques should be challenging, but none are meant to cause the lifter undue discomfort or pain. If you feel particularly uncomfortable when performing a given exercise with proper technique, it probably is a good idea to exchange it for a different one.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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