Most fitness experts and exercise physiologists agree, a properly executed strength or weight lifting routine can do the following:
◦ Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar
◦ Increase bone density, strength, endurance, speed and flexibility
◦ Reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer
◦ Induce weight loss, tone muscles and create a more youthful appearance
◦ Increase strength, endurance and agility
This list goes on. And while you're deciding if strength training is right for you, here's a tidbit of information that may encourage you to partake - 20 or 30 minutes, two to four times per week. That's the time it takes to do ALL of the exercises necessary to share in the above benefits, including the transformation of your entire body. But there are guidelines that need to be followed to keep your program not only effective but also safe. An early injury will sideline you before you get a chance to see any real results.
Golden Rules of Strength Training
Rule One: Apply Perfect Form
Strict adherence to perfect form is absolutely crucial with any strength or weight lifting program. Be sure you get instruction from a reliable source (trainer, video or book) and follow it to the letter. Always move slowly through your full range of motion with every exercise, and don't allow speed and / or momentum to help you complete a lift in a haphazard or jerky manner.
Stay in control of the movement as you go through it smoothly and deliberately, utilizing proper breathing techniques. Be aware of speed and tempo. The part of the lift where you move the resistance against gravity is defined as the positive (concentration) phase, and when lowered with gravity the term negative (eccentric) phase is used. Keep the negative phase (a slow count of four) twice as long as the positive (a slow count of two). You can opt to move even more slowly (up to twice as long on both phases), as a way to intensify the set without adding resistance.
Rule Two: Proper Intensity
Applying the right amount of intensity to every set will speed progress, including muscle development and fat loss. Regardless of how much resistance you're working against, or how many sets and repetitions you do (see rule number three), ALWAYS work to some level of muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue is defined as the point in the set when you experience some local discomfort or slight pain in the targeted muscle group.
You needn't take the "no pain no gain" philosophy to the extreme, but you do need to feel a substantial burn to get real results. Lactic acid is the byproduct of anaerobic exercise and it's what causes that burning sensation in your muscles when you near the end of a set. Don't sacrifice perfect form or attempt to lift or go beyond a resistance level you can safely handle just to get that lactic acid burn.
Quite to the contrary, adherence to perfect form will bring upon muscle fatigue and associated burn much faster, and with a reduced risk of injury.
As mentioned in rule one, slowing speed and tempo is another way to increase intensity when you don't have the option of creating additional assistance. This works well with exercises that utilize body weight only.
Rule Three: Control Weight, Sets, Reps
Anyone embarking upon a new strength training program wants to know, "How much weight should I lift?" and "How many sets and repetitions should I do?" Your selections here will largely control the overall effect of each workout.
Select a resistance level (or weight) that allows you to hit fatigue in a pre-established rep range that coincides with the results you want. But remember the cardinal rule; don't "waste" a set because you initially picked too little resistance, work to some level of muscle fatigue regardless of the number or reps completed, and adjust resistance on subsequent sets.
The more intensely you train, the fewer sets are required to get the same results but limit total sets to two or three per exercise. If working at the proper intensity levels, your entire workout should be no more than 10 or 15 sets This can be accomplished in one session or split into two (see rule four for more details on frequency of exercise).
Keep your objectives in mind; the addition of any amount of lean muscle mass will burn more fat 24 hours a day.
Source: Michael Stefano