Five Strength Training "Don'ts"

Time to get going on your fitness program! If you're thinking about lifting some weights at home or getting back into the gym, take note of a few strength training "Do not's", beginning with "Do not wait to get started!"

1) Do not start off too fast or increase too soon because you'll risk muscle soreness and strain.

Do start easy and increase the amount of weight gradually. Your muscles need to adjust to the new demands and starting gradually helps to minimize any muscle soreness. In addition, the tissue that connotes muscles and bones (tendons and ligaments) needs time to adapt. Even if you are naturally strong and capable of lifting heavy weights, you need to protect your joints by building up gradually.

2) Do not set unrealistic goals. People often become disillusioned and quit exercising when they can not meet the goals they've set.

Do start with a simple exercise plan on which you can build, and which will provide incentive for progressing. Choose between eight and ten exercises and do them consistently for two to three weeks. Once you have established your routine, then you can add or change the exercises in order to continue to stimulate the muscles.

3) Do not only use stored weight machines that support your body, since they allow the core muscles to be a little "lazy."

Do incorporate free weights into your program, since they require you to stabilize using your own core strength. They also challenge your co-ordination and highlight imbalances in the body, so that you become aware of which arm or leg is stronger and more stable. Free weights can be an effective tool for correcting these imbalances and for bringing the body into alignment.

4) Do not imitate other people in the gym, assuming that they know what they're doing because they do not!

Do get some professional advice regarding how to properly perform strength training exercises. Take advantage of a free orientation in the gym or hire a personal trainer for a consultation to set you up on a program and teach you proper form.

5) Do not use the scale to gauge the changes in your body because the scale can not differiate between fat pounds and muscle pounds.

Do measure yourself by the way your clothing fits – a favorite pair of jeans can be the perfect gauge. Changes that occur with weight training are reflected in your body composition, which is the quality of your weight as opposed to the quantity of your weight. As you develop lean body mass and shape up, your contours may literally be shaving even though the needle on the scale does not move.